Sunday, March 18, 2007

American religions "education" revealed!

From Hell's Handmaiden I followed a link going to to this Wonkette article about LA Times article. So works the blogosphere. Someone needs to link me, next, and thus continue the cycle of life.

Anyway, it's about how even religious Americans know next to nothing about the Bible, even tho' many of us feel that it is the inerrant word of the Fairy in the Sky.

Some quotations! We love cherry-picked quotations, right? Right!

U.S. citizens know almost nothing about the Bible. Although most regard it as the word of God, few read it anymore. Even evangelicals from the Bible Belt seem more focused on loving Jesus than on learning what he had to say.

In the course of talking to people about writing Simon Peter, I have to say that this is largely the case, yeah. Even people who claim to be Christians know, at best, a few stock phrases out of the Bible, generally meant to "prove" a very specific point. My favorite being that the Bible isn't really anti-gay. I never get tired of hearing how the Bible isn't anti-gay, really. Let's ignore the part about murdering them.

Surveys that are more scientific have found that only one out of three U.S. citizens is able to name the four Gospels, and one out of 10 think that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. No wonder pollster George Gallup has concluded that the United States is "a nation of biblical illiterates."

The depths of ignorance astonish me. Most Christians can't name the Gospels (accepting that around 70% of the populaton is nominally Christian). The irony here is that many atheists are pretty well versed in the Bible. Go figure.

Then, of course, they swoop in for the kill. The Bible should be taught -- in a secular fashion -- in schools, and specifically the Bible.

Some have argued against Bible courses in public schools on the theory that they would unconstitutionally "establish" Judeo-Christianity. For Scripture courses to be lawful, this argument goes, teachers must give equal time to all the world's scriptures, treating the Bible as one scripture among many. But the Bible is of sufficient importance in Western civilization to merit its own course. Treating it no differently from, say, the Zend-Avesta of the Zoroastrians or Scientology's Dianetics makes no educational sense.

Which, if I had any confidence that such a course would factually be taught with the Bible as literature I'd be all about it. Indeed, I'm also thinking that it would be better to teach the Bible as sacred writ -- it's so bad, boring, nonsensical and altogether banal that it would drive people away from Christianity in droves. However, since it is Georgia that is pioneering a program to teach the Bible as literature as an elective . . . well, I think that we all know what's really gonna go on in those classrooms. It is a (transparent) attempt to establish religion which is still illegal.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Christians. Huh.

Centurion, who posted on this blog's comment sections, mentioned me on his own blog. So I commented. Perhaps it wasn't the most polite post I've ever made, but since he was making fun of me -- including the fact that I've been in a couple of college classes, which was weird because you'd think education was good, right? -- I was quite restrained. Also, I wanted to give the people who read his blog a chance to see my site.

So, what does he do? He gives me an angry clown face icon -- that's not my icon -- and he replaces my webpage link! Then he is praised for this by the people who on his board.

Huh. V. interesting, I think. Sure, I wouldn't have expected much of a fair shake on his board, and it's not like I'm in the habit of giving Christians a fair shake on my board, tho' my policy is to be firm but polite (I think they are very wrong, largely, and I am not shy about saying that, but I try to do it in a way that avoids personal attacks), and on every other blog I've posted on, even the ones where I radically disagree with the content of the blog, I've tried to be polite or at least jovial in my disagreement . . . so this treatment, I admit, comes as a surprise.

Particularly from a Christian. My favorite Bible quotation on this subject is Matthew 7:15-23:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.

Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?' Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.'

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Why Do I Hate Christians?

Is that title risible enough? I hope so. Anyway, the origin of this post was that after posting the stuff about, er, y'know, raping Jesus and attacking the idea of liberal Christians several people told me they were uncomfortable with how I thought about Christians.

I don't hate Christians, though many might think I do, even after I explain why my problems are far more with Christianity. However, I understand and accept that when a person attacks a religion they are attacking one of the absolutely core beliefs of a large group of people. You can't attack Christianity (or any living religion) without attacking a lot of people. Still, to me the distinction is important: I don't hate Christians, my problem is with Christianity in general and those specific individuals that do a lot of horrible things in the name of Christianity. That said, I don't think that the damage done by attacking Christianity (in the sense that Christians will be hurt) is sufficient to deter me from doing it. I feel that Christianity needs to be attacked.

And by attacked, I don't mean that Christians should be attacked physically or even verbally for being Christian. I think that the ideas that support and buttress Christianity need to be attacked, such as the idea that Jesus was the “Son of God” or rose from the dead, or that Christianity provides a solid ground for a moral code.

(I also think that the separation of church and state we have in the US doesn't go nearly far enough. I think it is time to move beyond the establishment of one religion over another being forbidden to the idea that, truly, no religions at all should be established. And by this I mean removing the special rights that religions – all religions – possess. I do not think that religious people should have rights to confidentiality for their parishioners. I don't think that churches should be tax exempt. I think that these sorts of laws establish not a specific religion but religion, generally, by making it easier for religions to exist.)

Still, is Christianity so bad that it needs to be attacked? My answer is, “Yes.”

Right now, in the United States, it is clear that fundamentalist Christianity is the most politically powerful form of Christianity. That would be bad enough in any country. But the damage that fundamentalism can do is magnified by the power of the United States. The US is the “sole remaining superpower”. The authority the US wields, globally, is immense. Fundamentalist Christians can, and certainly do, manipulate the power of the US to enact a global agenda that suits their ends.

For instance, virtually every country in the world believes that the US should stop supporting Israel's conquest of Gaza and the West Bank. One of the key components of continued support of the policy of supporting Israel with three billion dollars of military assistance every year is fundamentalist Christians. They see the existence of Israel as one of the necessary preconditions of their eschatology – meaning that the Second Coming and the end of the world can't happen unless the Jews possess Israel, which is traditionally seen as incorporating Gaza and the West Bank. To at least some extent, US foreign policy is being shaped by the beliefs of fundamentalist Christians and effecting millions of people in Palestine.

Likewise, it is now forbidden for the US to give aid to organizations that provide abortions. While liberal forces in the US are unlikely to allow abortion to be criminalized at home, they aren't willing to fight hard enough to prevent foreign aid being so restricted. Again, international policy is being set to fit fundamentalist priorities.

The forces of fundamentalism in the United States have, through their insinuation into American government, a truly global reach.

Additionally, I don't see or feel, really, Christian attempts to stop fundamentalism from being the dominate political force in America. I can go to the NY Times best-seller lists and find five books, right now, that are attacks on various sorts of religious fundamentalism written by atheists. I can find no attacks on Christian religious fundamentalism written by Christians on that same list. It is trivially easy to find fundamentalist attacks on just about anything done by liberals, leftists or atheists – including attempts to end abortion choices, stop the teaching of evolution in schools, all manner of warmongering, homophobia, sexism, racism, classism by conservative forces. You just have to turn on Fox News or the Christian Broadcasting Channel. Where is the liberal Christian response to this? Scant to the point of being invisible.

Christian religions in other countries also don't seem to be doing very much to stop American fundamentalism. This strikes me as huge cop out. I understand that most religions are pretty local – that truly international denominations are pretty rare. On what grounds would, say, the Danish Lutheran Church condemn the Southern Baptist Convention? I would say “morality”. But, like with liberal Christians in American, if they are challenging US fundamentalists they aren't making a very big noise about it. (This is ironic to me because Christians have little problem telling liberal and moderate Muslims in Western nations that they are morally obligated to control Islam's fundamentalist sects in Middle Eastern countries.)

So, what does a person do? They see a problem – Christian fundamentalism – and they see that Christians aren't doing anything about it. They believe that something, in fact, does need to be done about it. What do they do?

Different people, of course, would do different things. The thing I'm doing, of course, is writing a book about Jesus, Simon Peter and the formation of Christianity and writing on my blog about it. I'm also fixing to try to get speaking gigs on the subject.

Still, this isn't driven by a hatred of Christians, but a deep distrust of Christianity – and the fundamentalists that are trying to wreck the world and the moderates and liberals who aren't doing jack shit about it.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Good Christian Blogs - Give a Brother a Break!

I'm looking for some good Christian blogs and I can't seem to find any. I'm looking for some that are either intelligently written liberal or leftist Christian blogs or frothing at the mouth fundie conservative blogs. I've been able to find a few with the appropriate content but almost uniformly they've been agonizing to read with hideous color schemes and terrible layouts - so I guess that's a priority, too, that it be readable in a purely aesthetic sense that doesn't defile my eyes.

So, can I get some help, here? Seriously. I promise not to troll . . . well, not too much, and to be as respectful as I possibly can.

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Friday, March 9, 2007

“Liberal Christians”

Over at No God Blog, I was briefly confused for being a liberal Christian. It was very brief.

I don't think a liberal Christians exist. Maybe before MLK took a bullet they existed, but since then it seems they have gone extinct – if they ever were at all. Today, liberal Christians must be lumped in with what, during the Cold War, were referred to as “fellow travelers” - but in league with the forces of fundamentalism. Sure, they might not be fundamentalist conservative Christians but they are part of the soil out of which fundamentalism grows.

This might be too harsh, but I don't think so. Fairly often in discussion, a Christian will go, effectively, “Not all of us are that way. A lot of Christians are good people of conscience who deplore fundamentalists at least as much as you do.” But it makes me wonder, then, why there isn't more of a visible sign of struggle in American Christianity? I'm sure that fundamentalists and liberal Christians will point to things such as the struggles that are convulsing a small number of churches for letting gays in or being authority figures. And, to them, I'm sure that those struggles seem quite epic. From the outside? It doesn't look so good.

From the outside, what I see, and what other non-Christians see, is a whole lot of fundamentalism. We see so much fundamentalism – only fundies seem to make the news and fundamentalism's influence on the schools and politics, how fundamentalists are courted by businesses and leaders, how fundamentalists are fighting back against secularism and liberalism. We don't see liberal Christians standing up against the fundamentalists. Which isn't to say that people who are liberal Christians don't stand up to fundamentalists, but they almost always do so from a secular position – as humanists, or Democrats, or whatever. Except in a very small number of cases (such homosexuality), liberal Christians fail to address the theological grounds that fundamentalists use to attack everything from evolution to the invasion of Iraq. At least, this doesn't happen publicly.

What does happen publicly is fundamentalists attack human rights, science, propose bloody wars, are sexists and racists. They do this loudly, and without shame.

The denunciations of fundamentalist Christians by liberal Christians are all mincing affairs. There are no nationally televised liberal Christian preachers going on about inclusion – but there are a dozen fundie conservative ones! They have their own network.

I don't know why this actually is. My experience is that liberal Christians are, well, to be honest, less committed to their religion than fundamentalists. They don't let it consume their life. They leave room to be things other than a Christian. Which might be healthy for them, excepting its consequences – that they are railroaded by their fundamentalist co-religionists and have totally lost control of Christianity.

Whenever a liberal Christian tries to defend Christians with the “we're not all that way” argument, I ask them, “Then why are you talking to me? Why aren't you saying this in church, to the press, to everyone who can hear you? Why aren't you trying to reform your religion? And if you are, why are you failing?” I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer as to why they'll often express tremendous anger and work hard to sway atheists but won't fight their co-religionists. (The usual answer I get is, “My church isn't that way.” In the Internet age it's easy to check that. In every case I can think of, they lie and their church is very much “that way”.)

I have a simple term for this: cowardice. Rather than face their neighbors with a fight that needs to get fought for the metaphorical soul of Christianity, they find it easier to brace atheists, or just to shut up and . . . what? Hope the fundies go away? That some metaphorical pendulum swing? I don't know. It just strikes me as entirely fucking gutless for liberal Christians, who claim to be the majority of Christians, sit down and take the shit that their fundie siblings in religion are forcing down on them. And the rest of the world.

So I say, liberal Christians are either extinct or nearly so, replaced by cowardly Christians. I guess they don't want to be the next Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Thursday, March 8, 2007

What are Christians teaching their children, again?

Objective: 4 Kidz with Lambuel! This is a creepy, creepy, creepy website that has some deeply funny and creepy flash animations. Edit: And, it seems, this is a parody site. So the rest of what I said about this subject has to be taken as me being terribly wrong. I am, it seems, very good at being wrong, but I shall keep on and, perhaps, through being wrong I will some day become right. Hey, it could happen! For the record, I toyed with the idea of it being a parody site and decided against it because on their main page they have banner ads to fundie Christian sites that are real. It's beautiful subversion! They're probably getting paid for those banner ads that then fund the parody. Great work, guys. The best parody is one that people take seriously./edit

So, in Habu's Corner, you have an elephant-esque "Hindu", I'm guessing, here, and it says this:

Hey, Habu... How many gods do you have?

"I don't know! I lost count!"

Wouldn't you rather have just one God who loves you a bunch than a bunch of gods that don't love you at all?

Jesus loves everybody, even the unsaved like Habu! Remember to pray for Habu and others like him that they may find Jesus and accept Him into their hearts!

Yeah, Jesus loves Habu so much that unless Habu changes his ways, Jesus is gonna pitch Habu into a pit of fire forever and ever. If that's infinite love, I'll content myself with the mortal variety.


What should you do if you find an Atheist?

If you find an Atheist in your neighborhood,

You may be moved to try and witness to
these poor lost souls yourself, however

Atheists are often very grumpy and bitter and will lash out at children or they may even try to trick you into neglecting God's Word.

Very advanced witnessing techniques are needed for these grouches. Let the adults handle them.

Folks, there's a word for this. Religious discrimination. Could you imagine the uproar if an atheist website said, openly, that if atheist children encounter Christians that the atheists should run away, do not talk to the Christian, tell some adults because the Christian is so threatening so the atheist child's parents could come to convert the Christian? It would be decried as discrimination and they'd be right. Well, this is also discrimination - but it is interesting, too. Note the fear of atheism suggested by this. Children needed to be warned about us, so they can flee our mere presence.

Remember, click on the little figures and things will happen! They move and stuff!

Also of particular note is the Kanga-Jew. I can't make this kind of shit up. I am not that funny.

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