Saturday, March 26, 2011

Japan disaster a sign from God. Apparently God is good and ticked

I know this has already gone around plenty but I wanted to it highlight it one more time for some personal reasons.

I am often accused of focusing criticism on a group that is a small fringe group with little political or social presence. It is neither small or un-influential. Religious fundamentalists make up a larger portion of the population than moderates seem to be willing to admit. Everyone seems to think that everyone else is more moderate than they are and many people are less moderate then they think themselves to be.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Bible told me to...

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Point 1. There seems to be much more to the story of their relationship than is discussed in this video clip. The written article adds only more murkiness. Perhaps the younger man was being abused, perhaps it was greed, much of it is speculation at this point.

Point 2. I think it is relatively obvious that the young man was disturbed, either clinically or as a response to the relationship he had with the victim.

Point 3. Without more information, much discussion on this story is speculation and speculation based analysis is pretty pointless. There are a few facts and they alone warrant discussion, at least they do to me.

Point 4. He is totally correct in saying that the OT calls for the stoning death of homosexuals.


Even if the young man was deeply disturbed and even if it could be reasonably argued that he would have found another reason to kill this man, isn’t this still a very real condemnation of his Holy Book - that he derives his motivation from an accurate reading of its text?

People point to Catcher in the Rye as a book that has been inspiring to people, some of which have gone on to commit terrible crimes - including murder. Is this not the same thing?


Catcher in the Rye is not held up by significant portions of our culture as the moral guidebook from the ultimate divine authority. Catcher in the Rye itself makes no claim of authority of any kind. Catcher in the Rye doesn’t explicitly call for (or glorify in) the killing, torture, rape or slavery of anyone let alone whole groups of people.

Disturbed people will find motivation for their crazy just about anywhere, true enough. However here we are, as a society, revering a book that explicitly calls for it. We endorse it and we give it special influence and privilege. Even if it could be argued that it is a “misinterpretation” – it’s not. Even if the same book says we should NOT kill. When the book is given unique and divine authority- its words, all of its words, take on the virtue of that authority, all of its words not just the ones we like.

The Bible is not anymore evil than any other book, as long as it is just a book. Once we start saying that passages such as the ones that justify the stoning of disobedient children are divinely inspired or the inerrant word of God that is something altogether different.

Many Christians, Jews and Muslims don’t hang their religious faith on the less popular and more bloody/bigoted passages in the Bible. Many of them will say those passages are irrelevant to their understanding of God and his message. That’s great. I applaud that. It just doesn’t change the urgency of this problem. The folks that hold these relatively moderate religious views do not make up a large majority of the faithful, especially not in America, as we often want to think

We cannot ignore that many people DO take these passages seriously and it’s NOT a small fringe group. The majority of Americans still oppose equal rights for Gays, the vast majority of them with biblical justification.

(55% oppose Gay marriage, and 51% oppose civil unions :

That is just one of many statistics that support the Religious Right in their agenda to create a fundamentalist theocracy in this country.

I’m not saying all people that revere this book are bigots or violent, or even a majority. I’m saying that the book itself can be reasonably interpreted to endorse those things and it takes a more creative interpretation to disavow those messages. I’m saying that this book has too much influence in modern America and should be dismissed as a divine book, let alone an inerrant one. It is time for us as a society to renounce the special status of this book. Allowing us to more freely preserve what good messages are there (Charity, love, forgiveness) and dismiss the destructive ones. As long as the book is holy we will have to argue to establish any passage as immoral or irrelevant. Without that distinction each story, assertion, or value stands on its own, for better or worse, as what it is - the wisdom and understandings of an ancient culture, sometimes noble, often barbaric, simply what it is.

Indulge me a moment of even deeper and less founded speculation:

If it turns out that this killing was motivated in part due to a young homosexual being conflicted by his nature vs. his faith, as too many suicides have been, there also is a condemnation of the aspects of our culture that use this book, (as he did) to justify hatred against homosexuals, against self.

Here is my question: How can we call this book (the Bible) a good book or a moral book without disavowing the “naughty bits”? If we disavow the naughty bits how can we claim divine authority for any single part of the book without establishing divine authority for all of it?

Monday, March 21, 2011

She said it pretty good...

Ever since I heard about the passing of House Continuing Resolution 13 today I have been unable to put any real thought into it but I wanted to make an observation none-the-less. Trying to get a little info on it I came across this observation and I liked it so I'm just going to do the lazy thing and copy it into here and give Megyn in Las Vegas some big props...

House Republicans come out swinging on job creation:

Last November, House Republicans rode to an overwhelming electoral victory on three little words: "Where's the jobs?" And since taking over the House in January, Republicans have worked tirelessly to answer that question by attempting to curb equal rights, defund family planning (except for horses), and tackling that top-of-the-list-concern for voters, redefining rape.

And now that horses can safely screw like rabbits, the GOP is making their next bold moves, and have:

... introduced the English Language Unity Act of 2011 on Friday, a bill that requires that all official United States government functions be conducted in English.

H. Con. Res. 13, the “Reaffirming ‘In God We Trust’ as the official motto of the United States and supporting and encouraging the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions”

The potential job creation from those two acts alone are practically limitless ...

And not only that, Republicans have answered that question they asked so many times last year: They don't know. And apparently they don't care.

I don't care to make any assumptions about how much or how little the Republicans and/or Tea Party care about jobs, but I will say that they sure seem to care a LOT about how much of their religious views we can nationalize. Chalk up a 'victory' for Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pagans are Snakes

Atheists and Agnostics tend to get a “party pooper” image for ruining everyone’s fun on holidays by pointing out the not so fun aspects of said holidays. So I find it interesting that, in the usual forums, I have heard so little regarding the darker side of St. Patrick’s Day.

Obviously I can’t let this go by un-downered! Don’t worry I have some good things to say about it too. I actually celebrate this day a little more than some. My ancestry is primarily Scots-Irish. My kids set traps for leprechauns, we wear green, and we attend parades (when convenient). So don’t think it’s all anger and objections at my house. I will go into why I celebrate the holiday at the end, but first my issue with the main tradition of the holiday that I don’t celebrate - the story of St. Patrick himself.

There isn’t much in the way of actual historical fact regarding the person of St. Patrick. The short, short version that is celebrated as the fundamental basis for the holiday is that as a Catholic missionary in Ireland he performed a miracle and drove all the snakes off the island.

There never were snakes in post glacial Ireland.*So what was it that St. Patrick is really being credited with driving out? The pagans. There isn’t any real history that I can find in my superficial researching (I intend to do more) on the spirit in which this was done. It may have been a peaceful conversion or it may not have been. Considering the common methods of the time I am inclined to assume the latter, but my assumptions are irrelevant. There are some indications and publications from the time period that indicate that the Christian attitude toward non-believers wasn’t too congenial, but that doesn’t mean anything about how St. Patrick approached his mission. What is relevant is the imagery. The druids were snakes to be driven out. It smacks of the religious persecution that was just gearing up as Christianity was starting to come into real power.

That having been said I still like St. Paddy’s day. Why? Because, like Christmas, I have infused it with new meaning, separate from its Christian origin story. I enjoy it as a celebration of the Celtic culture of my ancestry. I also like the role the holiday played in helping overcome the terrible prejudice the Irish faced in America after the potato famine migrations of the mid 1800’s. This is discussed in an excerpt from below.

So, yet again we have a holiday where there is good reason to question the claims and the morality of its origin story. And yet again we can still enjoy the “spirit of the holiday” – not sure what that is really in this case, except to drink lots of green beer.

No Irish Need Apply
Up until the mid-19th century, most Irish immigrants in America were members of the Protestant middle class. When the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to a million poor and uneducated Irish Catholics began pouring into America to escape starvation. Despised for their religious beliefs and funny accents by the American Protestant majority, the immigrants had trouble finding even menial jobs. When Irish Americans in the country's cities took to the streets on St. Patrick's Day to celebrate their heritage, newspapers portrayed them in cartoons as drunk, violent monkeys.
However, the Irish soon began to realize that their great numbers endowed them with a political power that had yet to be exploited. They started to organize, and their voting block, known as the "green machine," became an important swing vote for political hopefuls. Suddenly, annual St. Patrick's Day parades became a show of strength for Irish Americans, as well as a must-attend event for a slew of political candidates. In 1948, President Truman attended New York City 's St. Patrick's Day parade, a proud moment for the many Irish whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find acceptance in America.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Indiana joins the anti-abortion rampage, legislating lies.

Thanks to The Young Turks for turning me onto this story.

Indiana has several new abortion bills before the state legislator. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things in some of these bills. The link to the senate website is below so you can read them for yourself.

Some would mandate the telling of outright lies like abortions increase the risk of breast cancer, fetuses in the first trimester might feel pain.  
 - HB-1210: Out of committee, in first house
 - SB-0328: Passed first house
 - SB-0457: In committee, first house

Some are just shaming – forcing the mother to see an ultrasound and/or hear the heart beat if there is one. With a little 18 hour delay tactic, which is tossed into several of the bills.
  - SB-0050: In committee, first house

Some are unfunded mandates, requiring the mother to pay for the aforementioned ultrasound.
- SB-0050: In committee, first house

There is, of course, the increasingly popular “conscious clause” not just allowing doctors to refuse treatment but it makes is a criminal act, (Class D felony on second offence) for an employer to take any disciplinary against a doctor or pharmacist that refuses treatment – no exceptions for life of the mother.
 - HB-1228: In committee, first house.

They even have one that simply outlaws them altogether. Not late term, ALL of them.
 - SB-0290: In committee, first house

Cuts any state funding for, and ends all contracts with any entity or facility that performs an abortion – no exceptions. So they don’t want to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, they want to cut funding to any clinic, any hospital that perform abortions.
 - HB-1205: In committee, first house.

This one also requires the doctor to make a metaphysical declaration to the mother - that life begins at conception. Phased differently in two different bills
- SB-0328: Passed first house: “an embryo formed by the fertilization of a human ovum by a human sperm 
immediately begins to divide and grow as human physical life.”
 - SB-0457: In committee, first house:  “That human physical life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm.”

Honorable mention is SB-0522: prohibition of abortions after 20 weeks.
 My favorite part of this one? “Creates the special litigation defense fund to provide reimbursement of the costs and expenses incurred by the attorney general in defending the constitutionality of this act, and continuously appropriates the fund. Provides for severability of provisions if a court determines that any of the law is unconstitutional, and specifies prior law returns to effect if the amended law is found by the court to be unconstitutional.”

Indiana State Legislature bills under the topic “Abortion”

Reference on fetal pain susceptibility:
 According to Dr. Paul Ranalli,  Vice-President of Canadian Physicians For Life, it is likely 20 weeks before fetus’s can feel pain.

Reference on breast cancer risk:
In 2003 the National Cancer Institute said not only is there no increased risk, they said that taking a baby to full term might ADD to your risk of breast cancer if you are of “late age” and it’s your first child.  

Colbert's Lent

Warning: There is some pretty crude and irreverent humor in this. I know what you're thinking, Colbert? Never! Anyway, if you are easily offended...I wouldn't watch..

Supreme Court upholds "In God We Trust"  

My question, for those that may understand better than I do how this makes sense is this - isn't this pure bunk? 

Is there some legal technicality that explains this or does the decision really come down to justifications like this quote from the 1970 decision referenced: "the use of the motto on U.S. coins and bills is of a patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise."

Patriotic? How can we say that this is nationalistic without saying that we are theocratic in nature?

Ceremonial?  What ceremony?

Not a religious exercise? What kind of exercise is it then?  

How does any of that survive any kind of scrutiny? Of course I'm not even close to educated on the legal intricacies here so I know there is LOTS I don't know. Maybe someone here can help me understand.
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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Traditions Today #2: Noah and the Flood

Considering the heated and in depth discussion that my last post got going (thanks Mike D.)I would say that this series is a supreme success. 

Seriously though, I doubt that I have enough readers to get something like the discussion I would like but I think I’m going to run with it anyway. I also realize these may be exhausted topics for some of the more active apologists, and disbelievers alike, but I hope some will find it worth a read, and a comment. Maybe at some point these will prove a useful collection of musings on the morality and relevance of the Bible. That has a much better chance of being true if it’s more than just my meager thoughts being documented here. 

Up next, one of the worst stories of them all, Noah and the flood. 

Not that most people need a summary of this one but I thought I would hit the highlights. There are a couple things here that often get overlooked in Sunday school:

1.       Genesis 6:2: The sons of God marry the daughters of man – this is an affront, there are different thoughts on how but let me just point out they marry. The only real way this could be an affront that I see is that those who were worthy (angels, or worthy men chose to commit themselves to the unworthy women of the land). Note that we are only in the 6th chapter of this book and the women once again are the vessels of destruction for worthy men. Poor, silly men.

2.       Genesis 6:3-6: More discussion of the evil and wickedness of men. “the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”. Giants are mentioned here for the first but not the last time. 

3.       Genesis 6:7:: God decides to destroy all man, beast and foul – “for it repenteth me that I have made them.” God regrets making man? Is he second guessing himself?

4.       Genesis 6:8: God looks on Noah and finds favor in him decides not to kill him or is family. 

5.       Genesis 7 & 8: The ark, the flood. Since this is a discussion of the morality/relevance of this story we don’t need to get too much in to the logistic arguments for or against the possibility of the flood. Let’s just assume it could have happened. Everything but Noah and his family and preserved species on the ark dies, horrifically. Children, infants, kittens everything. The thought of any child panicked and gasping for air is monstrous, but all the children of existing humanity?

I have a really hard time with this one. Not just this one, but it makes my top 5 for sure. I will be less antagonistic on most topics but on this one it’s difficult to strike even the pretense of objectivity. It might have to do with the fact that I personally took part in the teaching of this story to my children, and other children, toddlers on up.

This is one of the first stories children learn. This is the one that invariably is depicted in cheery cartoon scenes.  We teach children that God’s morality is perfect and that he was directly responsible for the most complete genocide ever to occur. They are too young to question so they simply accept that it makes sense that some people deserve to die, if they are wicked enough. 

This is a story that should give them nightmares (and for some it does) but most children take it in stride, why?
What is the moral lesson here? Death is better than wickedness? Was God sparing those innocent children before they could be corrupted? I really would like someone’s perspective on this one. Is this defensible? If so, how?

Secondly, aside from the morality of it, is there anything to take from this story that is relevant to us today? If so how do you apply the lessons of this story in your life?

I look forward to your comments, I really hope people are willing to participate in a discussion on this one, sooner or later.

Little Mormon trivia: 
According to Mormon Doctrine Noah was also the angel Gabriel. Gabriel lived his earthly life as Noah.

Little belated Mormon trivia that should have gone with last post: 
According to Mormon Doctrine the Garden of Eden was actually located in present day Missouri. The references to Ethiopia and the Euphrates River, is explained by these landmarks being located there prior to the super continent Pangaea being split up buy the great flood (so I guess it’s a little topical) and the renaming of geographic areas and landmarks after. 

I guess this brings up a bonus question. For someone to believe in this Eden revelation by Joseph Smith, doesn’t the flood have to be a literal, historical account? If it was more metaphorical how then would the names be preserved? I can see how the creation story might be allegorical and therefore not present a challenge to a faithful LDS member that also accepts the science of evolution, but this little tidbit doesn’t seem to work the same way. This one pretty much requires young earth theory. If I am wrong in this, I preemptively apologize and I look forward to being set straight.   

Thank you for making it through all that. I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you.