How To Persuade An Atheist to Become a Christian II

May 2, 2017 5 comments

Continuing last week’s post. Here’s the primary source.

This is a weird instruction manual. It’s broken up into steps, that’s obvious, but it’s also broken up into parts. Yet there’s no real indication that each part/step should be building off of the previous. I’m not sure I should even call them “steps” but I did last week so I’m going to continue with that.

Part II: Talking About Your Faith

Step I: Tell Your Friend What Christianity Means to You

This one comes with a picture of the atheist wearing blue rectangular sunglasses. It’s just weird and I have no further comment on it. I just want to know if he’s supposed to be blind, and if so, is that metaphorical? The advice here is for Ned (remember that’s the name we’re using for the Christian), to just say that being Christian is making him happier. He knows people, there’s a community, etc. Just like how we’re all vegans because a recent convert explained how awesome it is that they don’t eat meat anymore, the cool people they meet at the co-op, and how paying three times as much for arugula is so totes awesome. This isn’t really advice for Ned because everyone hates that person who won’t shut the hell up about the new thing they do. Whether it’s the person who just quit drinking, the aforementioned vegan, or the douche in the soul patch that totally doesn’t get why people watch television. However there’s a further bullet point, “In general, it’s best to avoid discussing the concept of eternal punishment for non-Christians with an atheist, which will turn into a debate. If someone feels like you’re trying to “save” them, it can seem condescending and frustrating for your friend.”

Yeah best to avoid the bad parts, once they’re sucked in they can deal with all of that then. Look, the Hell thing is integral. The reason it starts the debate is because the atheist isn’t going to go along with the plan. Hell is a problem because depending on the type of Christian there are different reasons you get eternally tortured. Is it because you weren’t a good person? Maybe, but “good” is a vague concept, and if you didn’t say the right magic words it doesn’t matter how good you are. If you weren’t baptized, according to some versions, you go to hell no matter what you did in life. Then there’s the question of purpose: eternal torture = justice. How? There’s no possibility of parole, even if you fully recant all of your sins. Best to avoid the tricky subjects we wouldn’t want Ned to begin questioning his own religion.

Step II: Establish a common language

Another excellent point, and not just for this conversation. In any kind of debate it’s best to lay down what the words mean. I do this in my conspiracy course, and it’s especially important in religious conversations.

Step III: Don’t try to debate the specifics of the Bible

A discussion between a believer and a non-believer doesn’t need to be a debate about science, or creationism, or an intricate dissection of the creation of the world as discussed in Genesis. Discuss faith in terms of your church, writings of Early church and personal experience of it. What does it mean to you, to be a Christian? That’s got nothing to do with dinosaur bones and the age of the earth. Avoid these subjects. 

This guide is telling Ned to avoid the subject of talking about the specifics of the book which lay down the foundation for the entire religion. I’ll say this to Ned, it’s probably best you heed this advice but not for them, for you. Pew Research polls indicate time and time again, that atheists/non-believers know the most about the Bible coming in second only to Orthodox Jews. So Ned, don’t get into this fight it won’t work for you. You don’t want to find out that there is no Old Testament prophecy regarding Jesus, and the one everyone keeps referring to, within the context of it being given, has to do with an utterly different situation. You also don’t want to get into an argument that reveals an omniscient deity getting very little correct in his book and making some egregious errors (rabbits chewing their cud for instance). That’s before we even start on the contradictions, the weird laws, the horrible moral advice, treatment of women, and the rules that are laid out that the average evangelical wouldn’t want to follow anyway. Definitely avoid the book, at all cost.

Step IV: Try to understand the perspective of your friend

Good solid advice here. The author even assumes that not all atheists are mad at god, or were hurt by someone religious pushing them into non-belief. This is a huge step. Occasionally when someone finds out that I’m an Atheist, they’ll ask, “so what happened?” They expect that I have a dead relative or some kind of abuse, and I just say I had lots of questions and then there’s Tom Cruise (seriously). No tragedy pushed me into it but Christian media seems to think this is the only path for a believer to apostasy. The problem with the questions, I’ll explain, is that no one had answers other than “we don’t ask those types of questions.” Ned, if he’s coming at me, will have to answer those questions, and yes I’ll want empirical evidence as well.

Step V: Let your friend try to convert you

This is also good advice. See things from both sides, I think my side will always win because there’s no faith at work over here, but nevertheless I can turn each one of these examples on Ned. What’s so great about being an atheist? I get to do all the things you do, and I can sleep in on Sunday. I do all the holidays, but don’t have to go to Church for any of them. It’s fantastic. I get to read whatever book I want, and only like the books that mean something to me, without having any of them forced on me. It’s good stuff. My morality isn’t bogged down by Bronze age agricultural rules and tribal law, I can adapt to changing circumstances. If someone isn’t bothering me, I don’t have to think about it or condemn that person. Now, Ned, what have you got?

 

How to Persuade an Atheist to Become a Christian

April 25, 2017 Leave a comment

I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled upon this article. In my personal life there’s been significant changes, and it was probably an idle search for something that led to me go down a hole…you know how that goes. Anyway this is an article written on wikihow as a step by step instruction for a Christian (assuming evangelical) to convince their atheist friend to abandon their non-theistic ways. I quickly bookmarked the page for use here. Usually these kinds of guides are full of bible quotes: which are genuinely ineffective because it’s a clear case of special pleading. You have to believe in the authority of the Bible to be convinced of the quotes to begin with. Same goes with people who claim “you should be a [insert religion here] because my [priest/imam/rabbi] said you will find only eternal suffering if you don’t.” If you don’t believe these people have any authority, their words aren’t going to convince you either. It’s why I’m always skeptical of stories of atheists who are convinced by the Bible or story of Jesus: that story isn’t convincing unless you already accept a number of premises which by doing so means you were already a believer. I haven’t read through this in anything other than a brief skim so it’s happening in the closest thing to real time for this medium. It’s broken into subsections which I’m labelling with letters and then steps that I’m using numbers for. My readers aren’t stupid, you’ll figure it out. Also we’re just going to call the Christian “Ned” (as in Flanders) for the sake of brevity.

A: Approaching the Subject

1: Put yourself in your friend’s shoes: The writer notes that Ned should imagine that someone is trying to convince them “to reject your salvation in Christ.” This should show Ned that high pressure sales aren’t going to work, and that this may be a long process. They shouldn’t lecture either. Alright, that’s good advice. If you’re going to have the conversation this is a good starting point. An outright attack will make anyone defensive, it’s not a good strategy and it cuts both ways. Pointing out contradictions and inaccuracies in the bible, for instance, only confuses people who think that it’s a literal record, but it doesn’t convince them to be atheists. So far so good but then this happens: “Realize that a large percentage of atheists used to believe in God, but was hurt somehow in their faith (at church, by another religious person, church goer, such as a Christian, etc.) and have converted to atheism. This is not true for another large percentage of atheists, of course.”

There’s a lot to unpack here. First off, yes a lot atheists used to be believers, that’s just simple numbers. Atheists in the US are between 9-18% of the population so a simple numbers game would tell us that the odds of a person being born and raised atheist is low. However, the “hurt somehow in their faith” is bullshit. This is an accusation that goes around popularized by movies like “God’s Not Dead” and it’s sequel. I was never hurt in my faith by a person. I’m not angry at god, I don’t believe that it exists or that if it does, it has any interest in us or our religious devotion. This is a problem of definition, if a person isn’t Christian because they are angry at god, it doesn’t make them an atheist. You also don’t convert to atheism, you just top being religious. There’s no organization to join, or book you have to buy. You just stop going to Church and stop praying. Ned’s going to have a weird conversation if he walks into it thinking this. Another point is that the author is just making up percentages. A large percentage are this? Give me a number, or a citation. Then we should also note that this isn’t true for a different large percentage either.

2: Choose a Convenient Place and Time to have a Dialog on Matters of Believing in God

Another solid piece of advice. I worked at a cable company in Toledo OH, and once some co-workers found out I wasn’t religious they just wanted to chat and chat about it. I wasn’t even a solid atheist then but they really went after me about it. No real criticism on this point.

3: Have a Genuine arms-length conversation

In short, the idea is to actually have a conversation and not lecture the other person about sins, accusations, or getting preachy. I guess here, the author should have written: “don’t make it personal” because I’m not entirely sure what a “arms-length” conversation is. Also I’m unclear about what a shock-jock approach is supposed to be as well. Ned is supposed to be open and honest or else he could end up causing irreparable harm to the friendship. Yeah that might be something to worry about while you are thinking that despite your friend’s good behavior he’s still going to hell because he doesn’t believe the right words. If you want to avoid harming the friendship maybe don’t try and change their entire way of thinking. Then this happens, “Discriminating tastes in food and in life’s issues, for some good stuff, means you have an angle (a stand), a point of view.” I don’t know what this means.

4: Don’t Try to Convert Your friend or to Present Ultimate Ideas (don’t ask for conclusions or offer stark dilemmas of Heaven versus Hell)

Ned is supposed to get the person interested by presenting “Jesus Christ as the Son of God in your personal, fulfilling life, following Jesus. Show the Christian life as fulfilling, exciting, attractive to others and they’ll be more interested, curious to learn more about the way you live your life as a Christian.”

In other words Ned is supposed to make his pitch by saying that it works for him. He’s happy and wouldn’t you like to be happy as well? Alright, it’s not a bad method but I don’t see how that will work. The problem that the author has, is that he doesn’t understand what an Atheist is. I lead a fulfilling life, it’s relatively exciting, but I also get to sleep in on Sundays and I don’t have to avoid eating meat on Fridays during Lent. I’m also not afraid of Hell, or Demons, or whether or not two guys get married. Ned isn’t offering me anything here. I could also say that I get to read/watch whatever I want (depending on the sect of Christianity). As an Atheist, you’ve got to give me something more than just “I like X, so you should do X as well.” That doesn’t work when Mac users try to convince me it’s not going to work here either.

Again the author has some decent advice, one is to realize that you should not be arguing facts. Yeah, that’s a good point: because Ned won’t be arguing facts, he’ll be arguing religion. Now there are facts regarding religion, but not observable, independent facts that don’t require a shared perspective for them to be true. Ned is cautioned against getting into a “tic-for-tat” conversation. What the hell is that? I think he meant to say “tit-for-tat” but couldn’t. If you’re going to try and make the conversion as an adult you have to be unafraid of talking like one. This isn’t about dropping “fuck” every now and then, but if the saying is “tit-for-tat” use that. Otherwise it comes across as childish and silly.

We’ll break here and continue next week. There’s some good stuff coming in the next section so be sure to “tune in.”

 

The Religious Easter

April 18, 2017 Leave a comment

I’m an atheist, so I don’t do Easter. At least I don’t do the church thing on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. I don’t do the Passover thing, or whatever other vernal equinox holidays exist, or have existed. I don’t do the whole “keep Eoster/Ishtar in Easter” thing either. I know that Easter comes a couple Sundays after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. I tried to double check this on Wikipedia, but seriously, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Pope Francis, you want to get on my good side for a few weeks, just set a fixed date. It’s not that hard, the Bible describes an eclipse on Good Friday so just figure out when that was (between 30-36 CE) and just make that the day. As Noah Ludgeons in last week’s Scathing Atheist podcast: it’s now now, we don’t need a complex algorithm for a specific day anymore. We have calendars and stuff.

Every November, right after Halloween, the Christmas shit comes out. It’s very rare that we see it before Halloween as the retail industry makes too much money to mess with Halloween much. Right after the decorations and ads come out, we begin to see the calls online about “keeping Christ in Christmas,” the various rants about how offensive “happy holidays” is to the delicate Christian snowflakes, and the calls against the over commercialization of Jesus’ birthday. It’s the same every year. So the important question is: where are the same calls for Easter?

This might be a controversial claim, but Easter is more important than Christmas to the Christians. It was for me, as a religious day, when I was one. Boil it down to the essential elements of the story and Christmas is just a baby being born, not that special, happens all of the time. Easter is the story of a dead guy coming back to life. That literally never happens. Death is final. It’s also the event that proves Jesus was not just some end-times preacher but the real deal. So where are the people demanding that we remove all of the pagan imagery from Easter displays?

There was one complaint I could find concerning Cadbury didn’t put the word “easter” on their packaging, but that was it. And it was really in England, and…it didn’t happen, it was on the display boxes the entire time. Just not on the individual eggs, which while a ridiculously insecure complaint, it is at least consistent with the type of reaction that we see in the states when Starbucks releases a red cup with nothing else on it.

I guess I just want to know what the difference is? Because this year, while I didn’t do Easter, I did easter. With the exception of a complete lack of church attendance there was only one other significant difference between Easter now and Easter then, which was I didn’t hunt for a basket: my kids did.

Nothing is different. Right? Hide a basket full of sugar somewhere in a house, let the kids find it, then there’s actual food. If you live where I do, sometimes there’s a butter shaped ostensibly like a lamb with two cloves for eyes. After that is an egg hunt for the kids where plastic eggs containing more candy are hidden throughout an area, and that’s Easter. Let’s me put the fine point on it: the only difference that I could perceive was that I didn’t go to mass.

I didn’t censor any religious behaviors nor imagery. It’s just that no one seemed to care about it. Admittedly, there is the possibility that they don’t bring it up around me, but they’d have no motive to do so. I simply just check out of those conversations unless one of my kids gets brought into it.

So the important question still stands: why was there no continuous outcry? Eggs are not Christian symbols, neither are rabbits, nor is chocolate, or any other kind of candy with images of rabbits or again, chocolate. It seems that every ancillary celebration of this holiday is designed to distract people from the actual purpose of the event, and again, the mystery is why no one has a problem with it. The entire thing reeks of a forced nostalgia to keep people celebrating completely devoid of the actual meaning. It’s literally what Lewis argued with in his Screwtape letters.

Is it because if they keep the children focused on what the day actually is about, they won’t be able to keep the kids interested in it. A, “look here’s some candy, now Jesus came back today, want to see what happens when you put a peep in a microwave?”

If you look at the whole purpose of the holiday, and indeed, the story: ignoring all other aspects of the day you’d get a pretty frightening lesson. Jesus came down and then died for our sins so that we could gain eternal salvation. Our sin in this case, was being born. The very act, which none of us chose, was somehow sinful because of what some other guy who is so far in the past that only DNA connects us ate a fruit he wasn’t supposed to. In order to give us that salvation, a different innocent person had to be brutally executed, in what amounts to such a gross miscarriage of the very concept of justice that for it to work it has to render that concept meaningless. An innocent person cannot die for a guilty person (in this case all people), and have that still be called “justice.” Also, the further lesson is that the individual who made the rule that we are all condemned for, needed to satiate a weird bloodlust in order to forgive us, instead of just changing the rule, because he (God the father) is either subject to those rule, which means there’s a higher authority, or just did it for kicks.

Maybe it would force people to recognize that other than four incoherent and contradictory stories, there’s little evidence that any of it did happen. This is just speculation because the lack of the outrage is a total mystery. Not that I want it, I’m just curious as to where it is. Now if you’ll excuse me I have some sweet-tarts shaped like R2D2 to steal out my three year old’s basket.

Categories: Uncategorized

Re-Writing the Bible for the Christian Right II

April 11, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve been kind of big on hypocrisy lately. Not that I’ve been actively hypocritical but in calling it out, mostly on various political arguments. For instance it’s pretty hypocritical to continue with a rule change that you once condemned as anti-democratic and a threat to the functioning of the country. It’s just the simple definition of the word. A more complex version might be to say that you can’t support an action with regard to, say, the Syrian people being attacked while at the same time denying those people refuge from those attacks. That version is a little more subtle and nuanced, but the label still fits. This isn’t a politically focused blog so I’ll just leave those there (feel free to agree/disagree in the comments though): but one problem that I had back during the ACA proposal says was in the stark disconnect between the Christian Right and social programs from the government. Notably was the idea that providing health care to those that cannot afford it was hurting the country and stealing their tax dollars. The former complaint is a technical matter. Would the financial burden of the government be too much if it were to provide subsidized health insurance? Turns out, no it wasn’t, but at the time there was no way to really know that unless you went to the CBO and asked for their economic prediction.

The latter objection was mysterious to me, not because of the sentiment but because of who it came from. Notably the Christian right were the ones against the ACA and any kind of healthcare reform that involved using tax money to pay for poor people’s health. It’s literally in the bible that a person ought to render unto Caesar and sell their belongings to take care of the poor. Did they miss that part in their churches? Because it was a lesson in the songs, the readings, the homilies so much that even someone half paying attention couldn’t walk away without thinking, “that Jesus guy has got a real thing for poor people.” I guess they missed all of those parts when they concentrated on the times that Jesus said it was ok to hate the gays (which is zero by the way). It’s just one of those weird things that keeps coming up even from those apologists who think I should like Jesus because he was a moral philosopher–a point which I strenuously disagree with–but that’s for a different post.

So I guess that it’s time to rewrite the Bible so that their position fits with their book. While Jesus mentions taking care of the poor a bunch of times, I think it’s better to go with Matthew 19 as that’s the book and chapter which explicitly talk about giving your belongings to the poor and how the rich people are least likely to make it to heaven. It needs some work so that the Joel Olsteens and Krefro Dollars of the world can feel justified. I’m going to ignore the frankly weird stuff about when it’s ok to divorce and that it’s preferable to be a eunuch, because I’m not sure what the hell the lesson is there. For those playing at home we’re starting with 19:16.

16: And Behold, one came and said unto him, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”

17: And he said unto him, “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”

18: He saith unto him, “Which?”

Jesus said, “Though shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, though shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, 19: honor thy father and thy mother: and, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

20: The young man saith in reply unto him, “Master? That last one, isn’t one of the commandments. It sounds great, but it’s not in there, unless I have missed it in my scrolls.”

21: And he said back unto him: “It’s implied, the lesson of all the commandments is thus.”

22: A Greek wanderer then spoke up, “Teacher, does this forbid slavery and forced relations as well?”

23: Jesus ignored the stranger and then addressed the young man again, “Have you kept the commandments that I have thus told unto you?”

24: “Yes, but the other man asked a question…”

25: “Of course I know that.”

26: “Fair enough…,” the young man cleared his throat, looked upon the audience, lifted his shoulders, then saith unto him, “So, all these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?”

27: Jesus said unto him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Unless by doing so you create a culture of need and dependence in which thou shalt surely leave them lying in the dust. For better they learn not to be poor through their own sandal thongs than they become like the locust feeding off the crops of others.”

28: The young man nodded, “So if a man be starving, I should not help that man?”

29: Then Jesus said unto him, “For the rabble in Rome rely on the bread of others, thus they have no impetus to feed thyselves. In doing so, such charity breeds sin.”

30: The Greek wanderer then spoke up: “Teacher, what if the difference is thus between life and death, or their ability to feed their children?”

31: This time Jesus addressed the man, “A poor man who relies on the charity of others shall surely not enter into the kingdom of heaven, it is a far better charity to let that man die lest he become full of sin on the need of others.”

32: And Jesus said unto the mob, “Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

33: And everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

34: The young man and the Greek man looked at each other vexed, then the young man spoketh: “We should not give unto the destitute but unto you?”

35: Jesus replieth, “Yes, for many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Religion and “Safe Spaces”

April 3, 2017 Leave a comment

The general myth about “safe spaces” is that ultra leftie liberal types need them to be protected from things that they don’t like. Typically this is a pejorative levelled at them by conservative-right wing types who still want to call homosexuals “fag” or “dike” and not have to worry about being confronted by a person who is bothered by it. It’s often used in the same breath as “trigger warning” which is allegedly for students who don’t want to see certain kinds of images or have to read certain ideas. I teach at a liberal arts college, with a heavy science department, and have never once been instructed to offer either of these things. I only use the phrase “trigger warning” ironically, and usually after the thing that would have needed the warning. None of my students have reported any kind of instruction about either of these things, and one of them, said that she had also only heard the term “trigger warning” as a joke.

Legitimately these are issues that require these types of things. Trigger warnings came about in response to people who are suffering from PTSD. Someone that has gone through war, for example, may react badly to scenes of violence. Safe spaces usually have to do with harassment, and the space involves a refuge from that. In both cases I don’t see the problem with either concept.

So what makes this interesting to me and relevant to this blog, is the type of person that actually takes action to demand a safe space is also the type of person that so casually dismisses them while deriding the stereotype of who they think uses them. Typically it’s ultra conservative religious individuals who can’t stomach any kind of criticism or even the existence of belief systems that aren’t there own. They especially don’t like the competing idea of “nothing” and sue, take to social media, to air their outrage that someone thinks different than they do.

Let’s take Pakistan who has approached both Facebook and Twitter with a request to allow them to track down those individuals who use the platforms to utter blasphemous things about god. To my knowledge,  a of this writing, neither platform has agreed. This request has been made to help Pakistan enforce its blasphemy laws which are enforceable with the death penalty in some cases, though extra-judicial enforcement usually takes care of things as well. According to the BBC, some critics claim that these laws are problematic because they are used to oppress minorities….yeah, that’s really not nailing the issue at hand.

The issue is that the religious conservatives in Pakistan (and other Islamic countries where these kinds of laws are on the books) can’t stand to have their delicate sensibilities frightened by the specter of someone thinking differently. However this is an extreme example in a country where the theocrats can get away with it. In New Zealand there’s some moderate outcry over a Satanist group that is holding a charity drive–Soles for Satan–which is taking donations of clothing for the poor in New Zealand. One religious group has likened it to a good deed from a gang. To which the reply ought to be, “so?”

In the US, we see the same thing. Some Christian doesn’t like the fact that the girl at Starbucks doesn’t wish them a “Merry Christmas” and they get so upset they start a ban Starbucks movement, or some other store where the aforementioned “insult” occurred. They protest the teaching of science in science classes, of sex in sex ed classes, and really don’t like when they are just aware of the existence of homosexuals.

Whereas atheists like myself drive to work and pass 15 churches (I have a long commute) on the way to and then 15 on the way back yet require nothing to help myself deal with it. Every time I go grocery shopping around this time of year I pass a rather large Easter display and those disgusting cadberry eggs in celebration of an event that I don’t believe in and am pretty sure never happened. I suppose in this, I share an equal outrage amongst the Christian extremists who also hate Cadberry because they didn’t put “Happy Easter” on the box…even though it’s totally on there.

Which one of us requires the safe space? My only offense at the Easter display is that my three year old wants candy, and she can’t have it because she’s got an allergy to an ingredient so I have to deal with that. However I’m not personally offended. Just a little annoyed at the pleadings of a sad three year old with giant doe eyes.

If it offends you, fine, I get part of it I used to be really religious, but remember when you accuse others of needing a safe space that you’re asking for literally the same thing. It’s just blatant hypocrisy, though that’s kind of their thing though.

Categories: Uncategorized

A New Gospel

March 27, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve gotten into a lot of arguments in the last ten years or so concerning the mixture of politics and religion. My consistent position is that politics and religion should not officially mix. I stress “officially” because it would be wrong to prevent a religious person from entering politics, but their should be no official religious position of the government. What irks me is the faux oppression they try and brag about. “I don’t know why people hate us just for worshipping Jesus,” or “They just hate us because our conservative views are just like Jesus.” Or some variation of that theme.

Let’s clear the air, no one hates these people because they are Christian, what I hate is the sheer blatant hypocrisy of the religious right’s position. I mean, they can’t stand up and talk about how the country is going to hell because we’re abandoning religion while they vote, or tell others to vote, in a manner that is completely contradictory to the very words of the book that allegedly instructs their entire life. A frequent rejoinder in the podcast “God Awful Movies” is that the people who are trying to end war, feed everyone, and cure disease are portrayed as the villains (especially in the apocalypse movies) who must be stopped at all costs. Despite the gospels explaining that feeding the sick, ending war (sort of), and curing illness is the duty of the Christians. I’m obviously not a religious person, but if there is a god, I doubt it appreciates the lip service instead of actions.

Issues such as poverty and healthcare the self-proclaimed, most religious, seem to have the position that the poor should starve and the sick die unless they can find a way to help themselves. Refugees and those in dire situations need to be turned away unless we can 100% certify that they are not dangerous. Both of those positions are in absolute stark contrast to the teachings of the bible, and apparently it’s up to an atheist to elucidate this (to be fair I’ve mentioned the various Christian groups that have come out publicly against the immigration bans).

With all that in mind, I’ve decided to undertake the task of rewriting some of the stories so that Christian theocrats, the ultra right, and the oddly named “freedom caucus” can have a biblical basis for their political views. We’re starting with “The Good Samaritan.”

Luke 10:25|And, Behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (26) He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? (27) And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all they mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” (28) And he said unto him, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (29) But he, realizing that he hadn’t read the law because there was a lot of it, and the answer he gave isn’t actually in there, sought clarification, “And who is my neighbor?” (30) And Jesus answering said, “A certain man went from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stole his raiment, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. (31) And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him he thought, “meh, that’s probably someone else’s problem and I have these scrolls to pass out to all of the farmers so that they become aware of the crime of planting two different crops in the same fields.” (32) Likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side thinking, “I will tell the first Legion I see, but for now I must protest those natural philosophers who are claiming that rabbits don’t chew their cuds.” (33) But a certain Samaritan as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him he thought, “This person is in great need of care, probably due to a vicious assault. I should help that person.” (34) As he was getting ready to help, another Samaritan approached and lo, he did ask, “What are you doing?” (35) The man did answer, “helping this man who was attacked.” (36) The second man did answer in reply, “You know not what you do, for this man could be a robber himself, he could be a murderer, or beggar. Do you know this man, of where he is from, or wherefore he ends up lying in this road?” (37) “I do not, he is to me as you are.” (38) “Then must needs, leave him be. For these questions we know the answer not, and the risk be too great if we bring him to our hearth. No, better to leave him to help himself, rather than he learn to live on the charity of others.” (39)  Jesus finished asking, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?” (40) And he said, “All save one, the first thus because his errand was to spread the law, the second as to dispute teaching contrary to the law, and the fourth thus for making sure that the injured person was no threat.” (41) Teacher, the lawyer replied, “what about the third?” (42) “The third only invites calamity unto his house. For is it not written in the law that one should take care with those in whom thy charity lies?” (43) Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. (44) And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. (45) Martha, was busy with the serving, and came to him, and said, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.” (46) And Jesus answered and said unto her, “No.”

 

The Outrage Machine

March 20, 2017 Leave a comment

Is it just me or do people want to be outraged at something? Not real things, not things that actually matter or things that are true. In some way I get it, it’s easier to just read a headline and repost. It’s much easier than reading an article and finding out what actually happened, or reading a few articles on the same subject because then, and only then, will the reader actually understand what is going on. It’s closely related to what is now the slander of being called an “elitist” in reference to someone who knows things. If you have an education, if you understand things, that is now apparently a bad thing. Why? Because anyone can be stupid, but being smart, being versed in a subject is hard. It takes work, while having mere emotional reactions armed with a few contrite phrases (“political reasons,” “fake news,” “elitist”) doesn’t take any work.

Last month (February 2017) a Pennsylvania school board agreed to remove a monument of the ten commandments from Valley Junior-Senior High School. A lawsuit was originally filed in 2012, but due to some technical issues had to make it’s way through the circuits. The school district settled and is going to have to reimburse legal fees to the FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation) to the tune of 40,000 dollars. In a settlement this is a normal practice. The defendant agreed with the plaintiff and in any lawsuit where money is changing hands the agreement usually confers some recompense to the winner of the case. The school’s insurance company is going to pay the money, not the school. I’m not sure how exactly this translates into tax dollars, but it’s fact that must be stated.

Understanding this type of issue is a complicated endeavor. One must first understand why the lawsuit was brought in the first place. Unlike most of the sites that I checked, it was not to line the pockets of the FFRF, who received the 40K of the 163k settlement. An amount, which they claimed was not a full reimbursement and which we have no reason to think that a five year settlement going through three different courts was going to cost less than 40k. I note it also because in Pennsylvania, a law is being offered in response, that would ban legal fees from being a part of settlement amounts. Or at least legislation is being drafted, which is a terrible idea: because it means that if I sue for negligence because of something objectively negligent against McDonalds, they can bury me with lawyers knowing that I won’t be able financially to fight them even if they know they are wrong. Again, I don’t know how much it costs to hire a lawyer to put on one of these lawsuits, so I’ll just have to take their word for it. Just as I don’t know how much it costs to move a statue.

The removal of the monument is not about money, it’s about not allowing a public institution to endorse a particular religion. Despite what the theocrats want you to think: there’s no way that a ten commandments statue isn’t a religious statue. They like to claim that the laws of the US were founded on the Ten Commandments, which is patently false. The first four are purely religious. The fifth, while not religious is not a legally enforceable item (honor your parents). Rules 6 & 8, are the legally punishable (Murder and Stealing respectively), 7 only matters within a specific type of legal situation (divorce proceedings). Nine is trickier because there’s some debate over what it actually means. If it means the common thing: thou shalt not lie, then it’s not a legal issue. However if it is a prohibition against bearing false witness in legal matters, then that’s the legal issue of perjury. The final commandment, it is just a prohibition on thought crime and not legally actionable either. In all we only have two commandments that could be said to be legally inspiring with two more that could be considered “sort of…but…”

It’s difficult to understand that while the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, it’s part of our system. The Bill of Rights specifically prohibits the state from endorsing or prohibiting any particular religion, and placing a religious statue in a school does that. Jefferson explained the purpose of the amendment as being just that. The legal result is that you have an all or nothing situation: either you have to allow all of the religions or none of them. Why? Because we don’t want the government getting into the situation of deciding which religions are true and which are not. This is especially important when you consider historical context in which Catholics and Puritans in the 18th century would not have considered themselves members of the same religion. Some Evangelical Christians don’t consider Catholics and Mormons to be Christians now, but imagine how it must have been two hundred years ago. Wisely they decided that it was not the business of the state to make these kinds of adjudications (Scientology and Raeliens included).

Yet, that’s not the issue getting thrown around the internet. It’s all about how this settlement, the court, and the lawsuit; are all about persecuting Christians. Why? Because it’s easier to sell the outrage without really having to understand the issue. Nothing will get a news story spread around faster than a headline which conveys the message that Christians are continuing to be persecuted in a country where it is a) not happening and b) where the religion makes up a strong majority (when you put all of the denominations under the same banner). The headline “School board settles Constitutional violation law suit” isn’t going to get the same travel.

Interestingly some more digging unearthed the reason for the statue in the first place: as a promotion for the movie “The Ten Commandments.” So if we think about, a monument to a religion wasn’t removed a film advertisement was.