Archive of articles classified as' "Apologetics"

Back home

STFU, Preacher Man

17/08/2016

Before we begin, let me state for anybody who thinks anything that follows is a back-handed reference to those in my own family — immediate and extended — who are ministers: NO. None of them have crossed this line.

I understand the concept of “hold your nose” voting and why many people find it distasteful. It is possible for people of goodwill to look at two or more flawed candidates for office (and gawd noze they’re all flawed to some degree) and come to entirely different choices about who should fill a particular office. A farmer who thinks Candidate A has a better grasp on agricultural issues would need some pretty compelling evidence that they’d be terrible at everything else to vote against his own self-interest. A city dweller who thinks Candidate B would be harmful to urban areas would need compelling evidence they’d be so much better at everything else as to be worth voting for.

As Robert A. Heinlein famously observed, you may never ever find anybody you want to vote for but I guarantee you’ll always find somebody to vote against.

And I understand that most people make choices for ultimately irrational reasons — and by “irrational” I do not mean “insane” but “emotional”.

“I do not like thee, Doctor Fell
The reason why I cannot tell
But this I know and know full well
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.”

So, as much as I might disagree with their reasons, I can understand a person deciding to vote for Donald Trump.

No, my peeve is with those so-called minsters of God who proclaim Trump is God’s anointed.[1]

There is a precise theological term for this sort of thing and it’s called bullshit.

I was all prepared to call out specific offenders by name, but the sad truth is that there’s just too damned many of them. Unlike Albert Mohler and Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention — two men with whom I typically can find precious little to agree with — who said they couldn’t endorse Trump without losing all claim to moral credibility, much less proclaim him God’s chosen candidate, we have numerous prominent fundamentalist and evangelical media hogs[2] spokespersons trotting out their hoary[3] rationales why voting for a twice-divorced three time philanderer with a history of compulsive lying[4] and a string of billion dollar bankruptcies in which he cheated business partners, employees, contractors, investors, and clients[5] is not merely a justifiable act but rather a mitzvah, a righteous deed, and one ordained by God.

The political aspect of this is not my topic for discussion, at least not in this post. I cannot imagine the set of circumstances that would convince the average voter that Donald Trump would make a superior president than Jill Stein, much less Gary Johnson or Hillary Clinton.

Rather, it’s the God damned naked greed and avarice and lust for power of the so-called “religious right” that rouses my ire.

And I use the term “God damned”
in its correct theological context.

What these bozologists have done is to wipe their asses with the Bible.

If you’re a Christian, I want you to take all the time you need to let that image settle in deep within your psyche. Imagine your favorite old family Bible, the one with the scuffed leather cover that’s been handed down from generation to generation.

Imagine this fat pink[6] perfumed crew of choir boys[7] slowly and gleefully ripping those thin-thin-thin pages out of that Bible and cramming them between their fat cheeks to wipe the filth off their bottoms.

Got that image in your skull? Good.

I want it there, and I want it associated with them, because I want you to understand that they have just led millions of people away from Christ, away from the Good News.

I don’t care how many Bible verses they cite, I don’t care how many theological exegesis they execute, I don’t care how many hours in prayer they have spent on the matter.

They have demonstrated to the world that they are no different from the other greedy power mad rat finks out there, and are in fact more contemptible than most because they are such blatant hypocrites.

You might be able to rationalize Trump as being the least bad choice[8] and maintain your integrity: Having a toe amputated is bad, but having a leg amputated is even worse; preferring to have a toe amputated over a leg may be Hobson’s choice, but if one of the two are going to happen, there’s no sin in preferring it to be the least traumatic.

But the people claiming Trump is God’s own anointed are not saying make the choice with the least potential harm; they are saying not only is losing your leg a good thing, it’s a Monumental Good Thing, and if you don’t cheerfully support said amputation, you are sinning against God and man.

Co-religionists, please…

You can sell that bullshit to the bigots and the cowards, to the fanatical and the fearful, but you can’t sell it to anybody with a pair of eyes and a pair of brain cells rubbing together.

They can read.

They can compare the actual teachings of Christ with the bogus crap issued forth from our contemporary Pharisees, and they can recognize the enormous disconnect.

This is not someone saying “hold your nose and vote for the candidate who will do the least harm” but rather a crowd of con artists telling us that the exact opposite of what Christ taught is what God wants us to do.

The unchurched[9] see through that phoniness. There is no way to win them back by convincing them the con artists are really holy saints of God; there is no way to win them back to the old and failing mainstream denominations.

There is a way to unite them in the community of Christian believers, but you can bet the heart transplant money on this: Whatever that way is, it is not going to resemble church the way North Americans have been doing it.

animated nightmare trump

[1] Fair is fair; I’m sure there are some people somewhere who have made similar claims about Clinton (in a country of 320,000,000 there has to be a few). But there aren’t as many and they’re nowhere near as vocal as the blasphemers on the religious right.

[2] I was originally going to type “media whores” but that would have been a gratuitous insult to sex workers worldwide, most of whom hold to a far higher ethical standard.

[3]  Not “whorey” and certainly not “holy”.

[4] A con artist lying in order to steal your money is lying for a rational reason (i.e., profiting off your loss), they will cheerfully tell the truth if it makes them money. A compulsive liar will lie even when the truth will suffice!

[5] And these are just the things that have been proven in courts of law; I’m not even touching the really salacious stuff!

[6] Mostly.

[7] Mostly.

[8] You’d be wrong, but you could rationalize it.

[9] More and more this is coming to mean not those who have never been exposed to the Gospel message — because c’mon, who hasn’t been exposed to it through sheer osmosis if they live in the US of A? – but rather those who grew up in the Christian community and now willingly walk away from it. Contrary to what the con artists would tell us, they are not walking away because they have been seduced by the blandishments of sin, but because they have seen first hand how most Christians and most churches have made no genuine effort to live a Christ-like life.

No Comments

“Never Give An Order You Can’t Enforce”

12/07/2016

That is the very first thing every officer is taught in military school.

All laws, even the most mundane, end in the death penalty.

They have to.

If you get a parking ticket…
…and you refuse to pay it…
…and you resist the state’s attempt to collect…
…you must either agree challenge their interpretation through their own courts
(thus tacitly agreeing they have the authority to take your property)
…or you flee their jurisdiction
(and thus tacitly agreeing they have the authority to take your property)
…or you must passively surrender
(which again tacitly agrees they have the authority they claim)
…or you physically resist…
…and you either resist and win
(thus destroying the state and its authority)
…or you lose…
…and they kill you…

The state cannot allow its authority to go unchallenged.

And absolutely this includes the most benign, citizen-participatory grass-roots democracies imaginable. The state cannot pass laws unless they can enforce the laws, and they cannot ignore those who refuse to acknowledge their authority.

This includes those within the government who are corrupt or attempt to circumvent the law for their own purposes. Those officials must be identified and brought in line with the true authority of the state, or else the state loses all credibility as a governing force.

Many states are reluctant to escalate confrontations too quickly and there is much wisdom in that: Better by far to let a minor traffic offender escape for the moment than to launch a dangerous high speed chase that might result in innocent people being hurt; the state can always track the offender down later and deal with them.

And many states will use or encourage banishment to avoid a head on confrontation with a problematic citizen. That serves both parties’ goals: The state has its authority recognized by someone fleeing their jurisdiction in order to avoid that authority, and the person banished can rightfully claim they have not submitted to what they feel is an unjust authority.

Every state, even the most totalitarian, governs through the consent of those governed, and that consent is the basis of their authority.

Laws against premeditated homicide were just as valid in Nazi Germany as they are in modern day Israel.

If authority cannot enforce its laws, then there are no laws, and if there are no laws, then there is no authority.

We the people have the right to set limits and decide how those limits are enforced in our various cultures and societies. Those cultures and societies (i.e., the state) have the authority we give them to enforce those limits.

If we don’t like it, we can either try to persuade others to support a change in those limits, or we can leave.

Or we can fight and hope to destroy the state and replace it with something we prefer.

Secular readers can stop here;
religious readers can follow after the jump.

Read the rest of this article »

No Comments

If You Want To See The Hand Of God

5/04/2016

NGC 2174 Stars Versus MountainsIf God is not the creator of this universe there is no point in believing in Him, much less worshipping Him.

If God is not a transcendent being, outside of the limitations of time and space, there is no point in believing in Him, much less worshipping him.

If God can be fooled / bamboozled / cheated, if He can change His mind, He is not a God worthy of worship.

If God does not know all, He cannot see all, He cannot forgive all.  He would be in no position to do so as He would be operating out of ignorance.

We are moral creatures only because we can choose between good and evil.  If we were compelled to do evil it would not be our fault because we could not choose to be good; if we were compelled to do good, it would not be to our credit because we could not choose to do evil.  Only by being able to choose are we moral actors.

If God does not compel us to do either good or evil, He must want us to be moral creatures.  He has assigned us free will.

If free will does not exist, then our entire existence is futile.  Without an ability to choose, we are incapable of being either good or evil.

If free will exists, then only by choosing to serve God can we be good.

Since God created everything and is greater than this universe, there is nothing we can do for God that He cannot do for Himself except to chose to love one another.

If the only way to love God is to obey Him,
then God wants us to choose
to love our fellow human beings.

God can provide Himself
with anything else He wants.
Our offerings are pointless.

Since God cannot force human behavior without robbing us of our free will and moral choice, He can only act when He is asked to act, and only in a way that affects the person asking for help.

Since God will not force human behavior, He desires all to choose to behave in a way that helps His creation.

God helps humanity through the voluntary actions of those humans who choose to do good.

If the objective was merely to put food in bellies, to heal physical infirmities, then God could do that with a snap of His fingers (metaphorically speaking).

But that’s not the objective —
or at least not the sole objective.

The main objective seems to be to get human beings to voluntarily change their hearts and minds, to put aside selfish behaviors and thoughts and to be more loving and accepting and caring of one another.

This life is short and filled with suffering.
It is gone in the blink of an eye.

Nothing we do here matters in the long run.

Eventually this universe and everything in it will unravel and turn into something else and it will be as if we never existed.

We don’t want to be here when that happens.  We want to be part of something else, something much bigger, much better.

And the only way to be part of that is to love one another as God loves us.

If you want to see the hand of God, look at the end of your wrist;
if you want to stare down the devil, look in a mirror.

Religion is a metaphor for the ineffable.

 

No Comments

A Coffin For God

28/03/2016

The worst piece of art in the history of the world hangs under the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo_-_Creation_of_Adam

It is not, in and of itself, a technical or aesthetic failure.

Quite the contrary.

Indeed, if it were called

“Zeus Tricks Prometheus Into Pulling His Finger”
or
“Jor-El Sends Kal-El To Earth”

it would be great.

But as it is, it’s proven to be a destructive and divisive instrument to the Good News, a tribute to humanity’s vainglorious lust for ambition and power and not to the spiritual truths that bind us all.

It is — and without the least sense of irony by either artist or patron — in direct violation to one of the revered Ten Commandments:  “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”

There’s a reason for that, folks;
it’s not just a petty tribal taboo.

Creating an image of the Divine basically puts God in a box.

A box of human making.

A box that serves human purposes.

A box to keep God confined.

A box in which God is dead and buried.

The Sistine Chapel exists very specifically to put a human face on the Divine[1], to change the Divine, in fact, into God, and to depict God as part of humanity’s authoritarian power hierarchy.[2]

That’s nonsense, of course.

Human power hierarchies are meaningless to the Divine.

It’s like trying to confine the vast reality of the oceans into the tiny word “sea” written on an index card and then claiming that because you are holding that card, you are the chosen representative of that “sea” and invested with the power and authority to decide who gets wet.[3]

Putting the Divine into God|box|coffin only benefits the makers of the box.

This is an old, old problem.

It first cropped up immediately after the Divine offered the Covenant from Mt. Sinai to the collected nation of Israel.

The collected nation of Israel freaked, and turned to a substitute God of their own making.

No, not the golden calf:

Moses.

They wanted Moses to be their intercessor, because they could not conceive of the Divine as anything other than a ruthless, merciless, violent tyrant.

Because ruthless, merciless, violent tyrants were the only authority they understood, and authority was the only social structure they could comprehend after having been subjugated to tyrants for centuries.

So Moses obliged.[4]

Moses did not so much interpret the Covenant so much as create loopholes.

“Thou shalt not kill” — unless you violated this, that, or the other tribal taboo.

“Thou shalt not commit adultery” — unless you’re a guy wanting to trade up to a newer, hotter model.

“Thou shalt not covet” — unless you’re part of Moses’ own tribe, and in that case you don’t have to actually own anything ‘cuz you can just tell people you’ll turn off the God spigot unless they give you their best stuff.

He crafted laws that — outside the context of building a unique national identity among people without one — are at times insane excursions into pointless minutia.

What you eat?  How you cut your hair?  The type of clothes you wear?  The number of brass rings on the curtain rods in the Tabernacle?

Who cares?

The Divine certainly doesn’t.[5]

But we as the Church in the 21st century are stuck with the finely crafted coffin our predecessors have made for the Divine.

A coffin that imposes human concepts of gender and human concepts of emotion and human concepts of form and even human concepts of physicality onto the Divine.

As was said in only a slightly different context:

“Why seek ye the living among the dead? 
He is not here, but is risen.”

.

.

.

[1]  The Divine already did that a millennium and a half early, and with much better results.

[2]  And very explicitly to link God’s authority to that of Pope Julius II (Michelangelo’s patron) so he could justify laying the smack-down on anyone who rejected him as Head Honcho Of Everything On Earth.

[3]  It could be argued that water is a much better metaphor of the Divine than God the Father:  Water permeates every living thing, is comprised of basic, simple, easy to grasp characteristics, yet moves in its own way without regard to the desires of humans; indeed, humans who attempt to defy water invariably come to a bad end, while those who learn to move with and accommodate water find it a limitless bounty.  And while Jesus used many metaphors for the Divine, he was certainly fond of the water one.

[4]  No, we’re not trashing Moses; he had a tough job re transforming a mob of slaves into a nation of believers.  But the Bible is pretty clear he was a hot tempered, impetuous, judgmental, violent, murderous man and the laws he felt inspired to write often reflect those prejudices and peccadillos.  That he was even able to articulate “an eye for an eye” as a proportional limit to justice marks a significant positive growth and change in his worldview and probably one of the few genuine Divinely inspired laws he laid down.

[5]  Just ask Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah, or Zechariah.

No Comments

Mr. Brunelle Has Jesus Explain It All

25/03/2016

Mr Brunelle has Jesus explain it all

from Robert Waldo Brunelle’s delightful webcomic

No Comments

Thinkage

12/03/2016

“If I hate a person because I’m mean, well, then that’s just mean. But if I hate a person because ‘Jesus told me to hate him,’ this is not just mean, this is satanically mean.

“This is why the lack of love – especially the lack of love from people who claim to follow Jesus – is the worst heresy in all.

“When we hate and hurt and kill ‘in Jesus name’ – we are the greatest arch-heretics the world has ever seen.

“Which is worse: to teach others that Jesus was not God, or to burn such a person ‘in the name of Jesus’ for not believing that Jesus is God?

“While the first person might be wrong about the nature of Jesus, the second person is completely wrong about everything related to Jesus, for if they think that Jesus wants them to burn people who don’t understand Him, they haven’t understood the first thing about Him, and should incinerate themselves first.” – Jeremy Myers, “The Biggest Heresy of All Time (Are You Guilty of It?)

No Comments

The White Evangelical Christian Nightmare

29/02/2016

.

.

.

Jesus returns

.

.

.

leading an angelic army

.

.

.

of black lesbians

No Comments

The One And Only Original Sin

22/02/2016

The one sin that underlies all other sins is indifference to suffering. God and Jesus both pound home on this.  If you don’t care if other people suffer then you’re fully capable of justifying racism, rape, robbery, and murder. If you do care, then you will refrain from harming others because you wouldn’t want to be harmed yourself, and you will act charitably because you would like charity extended to you when you need it.

Specific acts are not in and of themselves selfish. On May 23, 1939 Electrician’s Mate Third Class Lloyd Maness slammed a steel hatch shut aboard the USS Squalus, locking 26 crewmen in the flooding after section of the sub and drowning them.

Squakus Guppy_Book_guppy_1A_watertight_door

 

Maness did this to save the 33 men in the forward section of the sub, since waiting even a few seconds would have allowed the rushing wall of water to push open the hatch and flood the rest of the sub.

Now, that sailor killed those 26 men just as surely as if he had shoved their heads into a bucket of water and held them down until they drowned. But did he sin? If he hadn’t locked them in, the entire crew would have perished. Maness was not indifferent to suffering; rather, he instantly knew from his experience as a submariner that those men in the aft section of the sub were already doomed, but there was a chance to save the rest of the crew (and they were; click on the story, it’s pretty amazing).

Now, if we stick by hard and fast rules such as Moses’ Old Testament purity laws, we end up in situations where suffering is magnified because it would be a sin to intercede (Jesus cites example after example after example of the Pharisees doing this). But if we stick to Jesus’ principles then there is freedom and leeway in our actions; we may do a thing under one set of circumstances that would be wrong under another so long as the motivation is one of love, charity, and a desire to prevent unjust suffering.

This orbits us back to the issue of slavery, and the horrid racism it fostered. Slave owners didn’t want to lose their “property” and their free labor, so they ignored Jesus’ principle treat others the way you want to be treated and found willing stooges to promote a heretofore justifiably discarded inaccurate literal interpretation of the Bible.

They focused on the rules, as it were,
instead of the reason.

Because of this, and because they deliberately fed into a pre-existing stream of willful ignorance embraced by the poor southern whites, the woefully inaccurate, grossly distorted, and factually wrong teaching of Biblical literalism took root and spread.

Case in point:
Human beings refer to the covenant offered on Mt Sinai as “the Ten Commandments” when God never referred to them as such either by number or by that definition. God offered a contract that the Israelites were free to accept or refuse. If they wanted God to be their God they would do certain thing; if they didn’t want to do those things then God would have let them go off on their own.

The term we humans translate as “commandments” is the result of translators working for an established king or government translating the term to impart maximum authority…which the king or government would then claim to share. The proper Jewish term is translated into Greek as the Decalogue, and means literally “the Ten Words”.

Not commandments,
words.

Yes, Jesus referred to them as laws and commandments but again remember, he was talking to people already steeped in about 1,600 years of a particular tradition; they understood the covenant to mean something it didn’t, but there was no point trying to straighten that out at the time, it was just too culturally ingrained.*

So trying to figure out precisely what was said or meant is a problematic task, but taking the longer view of God’s principles as voiced in Jesus’ teachings, we see it’s basically very simple and no complicated at all: Love God, love your neighbor, everything else is commentary.

.

.

.

*  And further, Jesus spoke in Aramaic, which was translated and written down in Greek, and then further translated into Latin and other languages, all of which went through meaning and culture shifts over time.

No Comments

Racism / Slavery / Literalism / Creationism

12/02/2016

Let us speak the truth:
The people who pushed for Biblical literalism were the anti-abolitionists of the slaveholding South. The Northern abolitionists pointed to the golden rule as proof slavery had to be done away with even though there are both Old Testament and New Testament verses recognizing slavery as a given. To counter that the Southern slaveholders promoted a literal interpretation of the Bible that would justify whites owning blacks, and after the fall of slavery, to justify Jim Crow.

The chief promoters of creationism are white Christians who see themselves no longer being deferred to and are trying to shore up their rapidly declining social status.

Their belief has nothing to
do with religion or truth.

This was a country built for white people on the graves of Native Americans and off the backs of enslaved Africans. The pro-slavery forces marshaled a lot of effort to keep the issue of slavery from ever being discussed, including but not limited to hiring public speakers and subsidizing pastors and college professors who would speak out in favor of the extermination of native Americans and the enslavement of Africans.

And in fairness the pro-slavery side plied both sides of the street:
They also hired Darwinian social evolutionists to argue that Africans were biologically inferior to humans — ‘scuse me, white people — and deserved to be enslaved.

The abolitionists were no great paragons of racial justice, and many of them were motivated by the fact the South had an unfair economic edge on them by virtue of not having to pay for their labor, but they saw it was impossible to reconcile Christ’s teachings with slavery and if one of ’em had to go, it should be slavery.

The one thing the slave owners used to keep “poor white trash” (i.e., 80% of the Southern white population) in line was the racist message that as bad off as they were, at least they weren’t black. This poison seeped out of the South and infested the whole country; what Jim Crow codified under law, the North did as well under custom.

The largest Protestant denomination in the states — the Southern Baptists — was formed to split off from northern churches who advocated abolition. They preached sermons before, during, and long after the Civil War promoting white supremacy and the brutal subjugation of African-Americans using their literal interpretation of the Bible to justify these evils. They continued doing so well into the civil rights era, with the lion’s share of the Ku Klux Klan coming from Baptists churches (tho all Protestant denominations were represented), they kept fighting into the 1970s and 80s: Led by Jerry Falwell and others, first they started private Christian schools and colleges that kept blacks out, then when forced to admit blacks began encouraging home schooling to keep white kids out of the clutches of a multi-racial, multi-faith society.

The writer Andrew Sullivan identifies them as “Christianists”, people who have adopted the superficial trappings of Christianity without applying the actual principles to their daily lives, people who use human tradition and cupidity to justify maintaining a social order where they get to be on top.

What we’re seeing today is the last long, lonely, ugly bleat of this white Christianist patriarchy going down hard. Demographics are changing, and by 2048 non-Hispanic whites are going to represent only 49% of the population.

But go ahead, cling to your non-Biblical,
non-Christian, wholly erroneous beliefs.
Your grandchildren will be
the ones who have to suffer.

No Comments

Still More On The Virgin Birth

19/12/2015

Well, this is interesting. In a report released two years ago but which apparently got very little media play, the British Medical Journal reported a survey of pregnancies in the US that indicated 1 in 200 such pregnancies were self-reported as occurring without sexual intercourse; in other words, human parthenogenesis.

Now…BIG caveat with this survey:
The women reporting are self-reporting; there is no objective way to verify their sexual activity or lack there of. Some of them may not have understood what was meant by sexual activity (for example, what we’d refer to as heavy petting over clothing), others may have been lying either consciously or unconsciously.

Any woman who had child that doesn’t match
the mother’s DNA exactly may be presumed
to have had some sort of sexual contact

But…at the very least this report would suggest that the idea of human parthenogenesis, long pooh-poohed by skeptics, may not be beyond the realm of possibility after all.

See also:

The Science Of The Virgin Birth

More On The Virgin Birth

No Comments