Fight Church

 Posted by on 20 June 2012 at 8:00 am  Christianity, Religion, Sports
Jun 202012

I must admit, I’m a bit alarmed by any pairing of Christianity and violence. However, this Fight Church Trailer is so strange as to be funny:

Yes, it’s real, not satire. See the Kickstarter project and this USA Today article.


Pastor John Hagee is no friend of the separation of church and state:

As it happens, I discussed whether the United States is a Christian nation in a recent episode of Philosophy in Action Radio. It’s Question 4 of the 3 June 2012 Q&A. The question was:

Is the United States a Christian nation? People often claim that the United States is “a Christian nation.” What do people mean by that? Why does it matter? Is it true or not?
Listen Now
You can also download the MP3 Segment. It’s just over 14 minutes long.

Dan Savage on the Bible

 Posted by on 29 May 2012 at 8:00 am  Bible, Christianity, GLBT, Religion
May 292012

Dan Savage has taken a lot of heat for these critical comments on the Bible, but dammit, he’s right! Just as modern Christians ignore the Bible’s teachings on shellfish, masturbation, and slavery, they should ignore the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality.

(This post is not any kind of general endorsement of Dan Savage.)

The Aerial Feats of Jesus

 Posted by on 4 May 2012 at 9:00 am  Christianity, Funny, Religion
May 042012

Forget the phrase “Jesus Christ on a pogo stick!” The proper phrase is clearly “Jesus Christ on a trampoline!”

From what I’ve read, the early Enlightenment approach to the historical claims of the Bible was pretty similar. In particular, many scholars assumed that the miracles in the Bible accurately reported what people experienced, and they attempted to find some kind of natural explanation for them. For example, they would say that Jesus only appeared to walk on water, but in fact, the disciples must not have known that the tide was really low, such that Jesus was actually walking in shallow water.

In contrast to that naive view, David Hume cast serious doubt on the reliability of the reports Bible in his chapter Of Miracles in the Enquiry. I always enjoyed teaching that to undergrads.

Also, this kind of silly image is precisely the kind of potentially offensive posting that I discussed in my recent webcast on poking fun of friends’ ideas online. I don’t post this kind of material to annoy my religious conservative friends: I post it simply because I find it funny. They ignore such posts, thankfully — just as I ignore their “inspirational” status updates quoting scripture.

The Disciple

 Posted by on 19 April 2012 at 8:00 am  Christianity, Poetry, Religion
Apr 192012

Lately, I’ve been re-reading the Greek Bible (a.k.a. “The New Testament”) while listening to Prof. Luke Timothy Johnson’s lecture course, Jesus and the Gospels. Johnson is a believer, unlike Bart Ehrman. But he’s a scholarly, thinking Roman Catholic — not a knee-jerk Biblical literalist. So I’m enjoying the course far more than expected.

When William Stoddard recommended the poem “The Disciple” by Rudyard Kipling on another comment thread, I was intrigued! Better yet, I was not disappointed on reading the poem.

The Disciple Rudyard Kipling

He that hath a Gospel To loose upon Mankind, Though he serve it utterly– Body, soul and mind– Though he go to Calvary Daily for its gain– It is His Disciple Shall make his labour vain.

He that hath a Gospel For all earth to own– Though he etch it on the steel, Or carve it on the stone– Not to be misdoubted Through the after-days– It is His Disciple Shall read it many ways.

It is His Disciple (Ere Those Bones are dust ) Who shall change the Charter, Who shall split the Trust– Amplify distinctions, Rationalize the Claim; Preaching that the Master Would have done the same.

It is His Disciple Who shall tell us how Much the Master would have scrapped Had he lived till now– What he would have modified Of what he said before. It is His Disciple Shall do this and more….

He that hath a Gospel Whereby Heaven is won ( Carpenter, or cameleer, Or Maya’s dreaming son ), Many swords shell pierce Him, Mingling blood with gall; But His Own Disciple Shall wound Him worst of all!

In the years that I’ve been studying the history and texts of early Christianity, I’ve grown to love and appreciate the Gospels as literature. They’re rich, complex, and philosophical. I’ve also developed some sympathy for Jesus — as much as I disagree with every bit of his preaching — because his message was so quickly and wildly distorted by his followers. To use Bart Ehrman’s language, there’s a gap between the religion proclaimed by Jesus and the religion about Jesus. And it’s huge.

Santorum Versus Free Speech, Again

 Posted by on 27 March 2012 at 7:00 am  Christianity, Election, Free Speech, Politics, Religion, Rick Santorum
Mar 272012

Rick Santorum wants to ban hard-core pornography:

Rick Santorum wants to put an end to the distribution of pornography in the United States.

“America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography,” Santorum’s official website reads. “Pornography is toxic to marriages and relationships. It contributes to misogyny and violence against women. It is a contributing factor to prostitution and sex trafficking.” The former Pennsylvania senator states that, “as a parent, I am concerned about the widespread distribution of illegal obscene pornography and its profound effects on our culture.”

Santorum criticized the Obama administration for turning “a blind eye … to the scourge of pornography” and for refusing to enforce obscenity laws. “If elected President, I will appoint an Attorney General who will do so,” Santorum writes. “While the Obama Department of Justice seems to favor pornographers over children and families, that will change under a Santorum Administration.”

In fact, America is suffering a pandemic of harm from meddling statist politicians, particularly of the theocratic variety, such as … Rick Santorum!

Oh, and if that’s not alarming enough, see for yourself how preacher Chris Terry introduces Rick Santorum:

For more, see Pastor Dennis Terry Introduces Rick Santorum, Tells Liberals and Non-Christians to ‘Get Out’ of America.

Feb 242012

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed judging religions as better and worse. The question was:

Are some religions better than others? Do certain religions encourage rationality more than others? Do some promote better moral systems than others? I am curious both about different forms of Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, Unitarian, Mormon, etc.), as well as other religions (Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Baha’i, etc.). Should rational atheists respect followers of certain religions more than others?

My answer, in brief:

Religions are better or worse in their core doctrines and in their effects on a culture. However, due to the complexity of religions – not merely as ideologies but also as a cultural movements – they can’t be easily judged as better or worse. Also, just because a person claims to be an adherent of a given religion doesn’t tell much about what he believes or practices, nor whether they are honest.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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In the Facebook Group for Front Range Objectivism, a reasonable person posted the following remarks:

Fabulous discussion last night [at an event where some Front Range Objectivists spoke]. However, I was truly disturbed to meet some among us, who are influential in the Objectivist community, who express prejudice against Muslims in general. I was hoping this kind of racism was going away, but it appears to be alive and well. We alienate reasonable people who might otherwise ally themselves with us when we make statements about all Muslims being terrorists. Yes, there are Muslims who are subversive terrorists. Unfortunately we have one in the White House right now. But we don’t do ourselves any favors by stating that the Koran itself promotes terrorism, and that anyone who is a Muslim wants the world to be run by Sharia law. If you look carefully at the Bible, there are lots of dated and outrageous statements which no good Christian would incorporate into their lives today.

I have been fortunate to have many Pakistani Muslim friends, who are American citizens, who are patriots. Most if them are conservatives, too, and quite closely aligned with the Objectivist philosophy. They are disturbed and alienated by the kind of prejudice I heard last night. And they are voting with their votes and their substantial campaign donations. So am I.

Those themes are common, and I wanted to lay out my own view. So here’s my reply, slightly edited. I could have done better, rhetorically speaking. Still, I think that I articulated my own position reasonably well.

Islam is a chosen religion, not a race. So it’s not “racism” to criticize Islam or Muslims, any more than it’s racism to criticize Christianity or to regard theocratic Christians as a major threat to liberty in the America. It’s not proper to discriminate based on race, because race is unchosen, and has nothing to do with moral character. Religion is chosen, and has a huge impact on a person’s character, values, and actions. A person should be judged for his chosen religion, not given a free pass.

As for how many Muslims are jihadists — or support that — that’s another question. Given that Muslim violence against “the infidel” and others is not strongly and loudly condemned by Muslims in the US (and elsewhere), but instead often excused, condoned, and urged on, I can only regard most Muslims as either active or passive supporters of violent jihad. In contrast, that’s not true of Christians in America. While the political views of most Americans are influenced (for the worse) by Christianity, most American Christians oppose attempts to impose sectarian dogmas by law, and they deplore violence. That’s because Christianity, unlike Islam, has been tempered by the Enlightenment. (Alas, that’s disappearing slowly…)

Muslims opposed to violent jihad are disobeying the explicit commands of their religion. If that’s their true view, however, then they ought to stand up and say that, particularly given the barbaric acts of their fellow adherents. But they’re almost entirely silent. Hence, the rest of us are entitled to assume that they really don’t have a huge problem with fellow Muslims blowing up Jewish children, murdering daughters for being too western, executing gays, stoning rape victims, killing apostates, and so on.

Of course, if you know particular Muslims who support American values… that’s AWESOME. However, just as with Christians, those Muslims ought to abandon their religious beliefs, because they’re wholly incompatible with any concern or respect for individual rights.

Update: There’s a bunch of comments already posted to the copy of this post on the blog of the Coalition for Secular Government.

Jul 152011

I refuse to vote for politicians whose votes are determined by prayer. I’m looking at you, Michelle Bachmann!

She’s speaking about the 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that denying marriage rights to same-sex couples violated the state constitution. Here’s the transcript:

When that happened, I heard the news on my local Christian radio station in Minneapolis, St. Paul and I was devastated. And I took a walk and I just went to prayer and I said Lord, what would you have me do in the Minnesota state senate? And just through prayer I knew that I was to introduce the marriage amendment in Minnesota.

While we’re here, don’t forget about the varieties of marriage that God sanctions in His Holy Scriptures. (Click to read the fabulous details!)

Maybe, Michelle, if you pray real hard, God will make you some powerful man’s concubine! Alas, that’s one of the better alternatives.

Biblical Marriage

 Posted by on 15 June 2011 at 7:30 am  Christianity, Law, Love/Sex, Religion
Jun 152011

The religious right claims to advocate “biblical marriage”… but what does that actually mean? Take a look, and be sure to click on the image to read the fine print.

Hooray for family values!

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