Relevant to Kim Davis’s situation.
Posts specifically regarding Christianity
This story is horrific. In the year 2010 we still have people accusing others of witchcraft and satanic possession. It was bad enough 300 years ago when people were accused of witchcraft in Salem, Ma. but at least the people involved were adults. Now there is a Nigerian woman named Helen Ukpabio who suggests that Satan likes to posses young children. Some of the children that have been “outed” have actually been burned, splashed with acid or, if they are fortunate enough, only abandoned. Remember, the year is 2010!
An HBO documentary will be airing tonight called, “Saving Africaâ€™s Witch Children.” It follows the horrible story of these criminally and religiously abused children. Sometimes it’s hard to believe we live in the current century.
This morning, I read an article written by Reverend Michael Bresciani titled “National Day of Prayer out says federal judge — America’s identity eroding.” It’s generally more of the ignorance commonly displayed by the religious right when claiming the United States is a “Christian Nation,” though Bresciani does claim that label is inaccurate. He does, however, display much ignorance over the issue in general.
Let me show what he got right, first, though. Regarding the ruling declaring the national day of prayer unconstitutional, Rev. Bresciani says…
With mid-term elections looming only months from now any decision to drop the day would surely add to the growing dissatisfaction with the Obama administration. The move to restrain himself is seen as politically motivated by most and, it is not consistent with his previous stand on Christianity. [sic]
I couldn’t agree more… except for the last bit because I’m not sure what Bresciani is referring to when he talks about Obama’s “previous stand on Christianity.” However, any decision that continues the day of prayer will most definitely be political. The outrage from Christians over their false sense of “persecution” would probably be overwhelming. Obama knows that, and even though the federal judge who ruled the day of prayer unconstitutional did so lucidly, logically, and correctly, the sense of entitlement that many Christians feel because of their religion will most likely compel him to still issue the “Day of Prayer” proclamation. The point that Bresciani makes about it being political is true. It certainly isn’t Constitutional.
Here’s another point of agreement I have with Bresciani… taken slightly out of context because the surrounding text contains points of disagreement.
[…] President Obama’s administration started off in the same vein with his now famous proclamation that America is “not a Christian nation” Of course we are not a “Christian” nation because there is no such thing.
Christianity is something each individual must decide upon for themselves. […]
In fact whenever any religion becomes the “national religion” it ceases to be spiritual and can only become tyrannical. If by not ascribing to the national religion you become a law breaker what would most people do?
Aside from leaving out the key “at least not just” phrase of the “no longer a Christian nation” quote, Bresciani seems to agree that we are not a Christian nation… because Christianity is something personal. I’m not sure he’ll get all that much agreement from many on the religious right, but I’m with him when he says that we’re not a Christian nation… and that Christianity (and religion in general) is an individual decision. His point about a national religion ceasing to be spiritual is another point of agreement, though I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. That it can only become tyrannical is arguable. I don’t think I would consider the Church of England to be tyrannical.
Sadly, that’s about the extent of our agreement. The rest of his article is packed solidly full of straw men, hyperbole, bible quotes, and outright falsehoods. I’m going to hit a few key points, but read his entire article to get the full gist of how “off the mark” Bresciani’s thinking is.
Our national identity and our Christian roots are being ignored, denied or challenged on every level.
Really? Our national identity? Our Christian roots? I have a sneaking suspicion that, to Bresciani, those two are one and the same. If he is absurdly assigning Christianity to our nation’s identity, which seems to be the case, wouldn’t it be right to challenge that nation, given the purely secular nation of our Constitution… that Constitution that prohibits any laws respecting an establishment of religion? As for Christian roots, that’s just more misguided propaganda by the religious right.
More accurately we are a nation that was founded on Christian principles and up to now has had more praying Christians than any other nation in history.
No. No we are not a nation founded on Christian principles. We are a nation founded on secular principles as specifically spelled out in the Constitution. I can’t refute that we have more “praying Christians” than any other nation but praying or not, it doesn’t mean that Christians should be afforded any special rights or privileges. That would most certainly go against the founding principles of our country!
Bresciani goes off the deep end the more he writes.
We know that it’s universally acceptable to refer to some places as Muslim nations but somehow we are ashamed to be called a Christian nation. We also know that if Muslims were denied their right to pray five times per day facing Mecca in Saudi Arabia they would riot, war and die fighting against that ruling.
Interestingly enough. those “Muslim nations” have governments that are very, very specifically Islam-based. They don’t have anything resembling our secular government or our secular founding documents, so it’s quite appropriate to call them a “Muslim nation.” However, given our government and our founding documents, it’s wholly inappropriate and inaccurate to call the United States a “Christian nation.”
The second point speculating about Muslims being denied their right to pray is, I’m assuming, a reference to the “National Day of Prayer” ruling, but it’s an entirely inaccurate comparison. Nobody is this country is denied their right to pray… any time, any place. The NDOP ruling doesn’t take away that right. It doesn’t affect it in the slightest. What it does, is prevent the US government from promoting a call to religious action… something the judge very clearly spelled out in the ruling. Bresciani obviously misses the point.
Going further off the deep end…
If viewed in its converse form, we could say that when secular forces of atheism, agnosticism and anti-Christian bigotry go to the law against prayer in our national life, it is they who have decided to get the fed to make laws regarding the establishment or more accurately, the dis-establishment of religion. This may be the very argument used to challenge the ruling.
Again… completely wrong on multiple counts. The challenges to nationally-sponsored prayer or religious practice are not an attempt to make laws, they are attempts to enforce already existing laws. They are attempts to enforce the basic tenants of our Constitution. None of the laws try to “dis-establish” religion. They keep religion from intruding in government matters… just as the Constitution dictates. Despite what Bresciani seems to think, preventing someone from breaking a law is not the same thing as creating a law.
While the ACLU and others spend big bucks to fight crosses at memorials, nativity scenes, prayer in the congress or any public place, prayer in the military and classroom mentions of God why haven’t we equated that with a huge move to violate our right to religion and a willingness to engage the powers that be to make laws that adversely affect the establishment of religion?
Wow. That entire paragraph is a monstrosity of logical and factual failure. Bresciani not only misses the point, but he misses it to such a large degree that he seems to be arguing against a straw man of monumental proportions.
The ACLU does not fight nativity scenes. They fight governmental displays of nativity scenes (which amounts to illegally promoting a specific religion… again with that pesky Constitution!). Nativity scenes are not banned in non-government public places, as is evidenced by their widespread use by churches, private organizations, and homeowners all throughout the holiday season. The ACLU rightly fights against government-sponsored prayer, but not in “any public place.” They would vehemently fight for your right to pray wherever you want to pray… as long your prayer is not being sponsored or promoted by the government.
Nothing the ACLU does violates a right to religion. The converse is true. They protect people from having religion forced on them by the government and, once again, they are backed up by our Constitution. Bresciani is portraying Christians as being stripped of their privileges and entitlements… as poor, sad, abused victims of persecution… because they are not being allowed to force the government to give them special privileges or special treatment.
This is not a matter of atheists (or any other non-Christian demographic) forcing their beliefs down the throats of Christians. The notion is absurd. The ACLU and other supporting groups are watchdog groups who prevent Christians from doing what they falsely accuse others of doing.
While some atheists will loudly proclaim their beliefs and vociferously decry any sort of religious belief as harmful and ignorant, it is well within their rights to do so. It is also well within someone’s rights to decry atheism… to mercilessly criticize those who do not belief in a personal God who answers prayers. Freedom of speech is a precious right in this country and I (and the ACLU) fully support it. Promote your religious beliefs as loudly as you dare.
They line gets drawn, however, when the government is used to promote your religious beliefs. That’s such a huge key point and is so often missed (or blatantly ignored) by the Christian right when they’re spouting off about attacks on their faith or unfair treatment or persecution. They complain when they can’t use government property to display their religious icons. They complain when they can’t have government-funded public schools promote prayer. They complain when they can’t have the government create a special day calling for religious action. They complain when they can’t make government-funded schools teach a biblical creation stories. They complain when they aren’t allowed to display their bible verses in government courtrooms.
But do they complain that they can’t put nativity scenes in the church’s front yard? Do they complain that personal prayer is banned in a national park? Do they complain that they can’t teach their own children their religious beliefs? Do they complain that they aren’t allowed to meet with like-minded people to worship?
No. No they don’t. And the reason they don’t is that they are allowed to do all these things. They have an unprecedented level of freedom to practice their religion as they choose, when they choose, and where they choose.
The only two caveats are that they can’t infringe on the rights of others and they can’t be funded or promoted or organized by the government. Shouldn’t that be enough? Shouldn’t that freedom be enough?
Evidently, many Christians don’t seem to think so. They want the government to support them… and only them… and to relegate the rest of the citizenry to a lesser standing in society. When they demand the government sponsor a national day of prayer, when they expect the government to display their religious icons, when they expect the government to encourage everyone to participate in their religion… what they are doing is calling for a theocracy.
If the Christian right got their way, our government would be as outwardly religious as the governments in some Middle Eastern countries. Freedom of religion, in their minds, seems to mean freedom to practice the Christian religion… and if you happen to have other beliefs, you should just shut up and keep them to yourself.
Perhaps they don’t want Christianity to become the governmentally-declared religion of our country (because as Bresciani says, it would make it political instead of spiritual), but I have no doubt that many of them would have Christianity as our “official” religion… complete with special privileges and entitlements (much like they have now, in some cases) so that it would be the official state religion in every way except for a legal proclamation. They won’t be happy until we are a Christian nation… and people like Bresciani are pushing for it more every day.
If they could only get rid of that pesky Constitution.
One of the biggest reasons that I dislike religion is because it is considered infallible and therefore can not be questioned. There are so many reasons to dislike religion from the hypocrisy of those in leadership, silly superstitious beliefs, etc. Of all the things to dislike, I think it is the unquestioning nature of religion I hate the most. Don’t question the priest, don’t question the Imam, don’t question the bible. Everywhere you turn are "answers" but no questions. This leads me to the title of this article.
I received this comment recently on an article I wrote:
youâ€™re ignorant. go to church you sick pig. find god in your life, maybe then youâ€™ll have different views."
Oh…I’m sure I’d have different views alright. I wanted to start this article with the obvious comments:
…but I didn’t want to take the easy road, so I’m not going to make any of those comments, *ahem*.
You, CCB, are the reason this website exists. Well, maybe not "you" specifically but people like you. When you suggest I go to church, which one should it be? Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or is any God ok, as long as there is one in my life? I have a sneaking suspicion that two out of those three Gods would not be on your approved God list. Your unquestioning and insulting nature is what fuels this site and those like it. You may not like my style of sarcastic humor but you can’t argue with the facts of the article you commented about.
The Pope was involved with a cover-up of child rape. The Pope did ignore rape allegations. The Vatican will not accept responsibility for it’s lack of oversight of priests. These are facts. You may not like them but they are true.
So, CCB (if that is your real name… and if it is, it’s a weird name) thanks for reading and keep the insightful comments coming.
This topic of the United States as a “Christian Nation” is abused so often by the religious right that it’s gotten beyond tedious, but Sarah Palin managed to stir it up again with her ignorant ramblings at the Women of Joy conference in Louisville, Kentucky.
According to an ABC News story, Palin thinks it’s “mind boggling” to suggest that the United States is not a Christian nation.
From the article:
“God truly has shed his grace on thee — on this country,” Palin told the Women of Joy conference. “He’s blessed us, and we better not blow it.”
“And then, hearing any leader declare that America isn’t a Christian nation and poking an ally like Israel in the eye, it’s mind-boggling to see some of our nation’s actions recently, but politics truly is a topic for another day.”
“Lest anyone try to convince you that God should be separated from the state, our founding fathers, they were believers,” said Palin. “And George Washington, he saw faith in God as basic to life.”
Needless to say, her comments ruffled a few feathers and sparked a lot of commentary… mostly because she’s factually incorrect on multiple points, something that isn’t surprising based on her track record.
First, Obama didn’t say we are not a Christian nation, as is often mis-quoted. What he said was…
Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation â€“ at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.
Note the prepared remarks stated “we are no longer just a Christian nation” but he stumbled over it a bit during his speech. The key word, which tends to be omitted by the religious right when going off on a rant about how persecuted they are, is “just.” Factually speaking, we are not just a nation of Christians. There are many other religions practiced in our country and, as Obama stated, people who practice no religion (even if they’re not explicitly atheists).
So if the definition of “Christian Nation” is a nation populated by those of the Christian faith, then yes, we are a Christian nation. However, that same definition means that we are a Jewish nation… a Buddhist nation… a Hindu nation… a Scientologist nation… an Islamic nation… a Wiccan nation… and the list could go on and on and on.
However, I doubt the religious right goes with that definition. Their definition is probably more likely that we are a nation founded and based on Judeo-Christian principles, blessed and ordained by the Judeo-Christian god, and protected by Divine Providence. Of course, that’s nonsense and has no factual basis whatsoever.
Those who promote the idea that we’re a Christian nation frequently note the reference to “Nature’s God” and “their Creator” in the Declaration of Independence as bits of evidence in their favor. They also harp on the religious beliefs of our founding fathers. It’s true that many of the founding fathers were religious men. That argument is largely irrelevant, but if taken seriously, gives them no real support. Not all the founding fathers were religious men. Some had no affiliation and some were deists. Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence was a deist… so presumably, when he refers to “Nature’s God” or “their Creator,” he is referring to a god who created the universe and then walked away, never to be heard from again. He certainly was not referring to the Christian notion of a God who listens to and answers prayers or is otherwise involved in the daily workings of the world.
That aside, the Declaration of Independence is not a governing document. The Constitution is our governing document… and the only mention of anything godly in our Constitution is “In the Year of our Lord” when referring to the date… hardly an indication of Christian divine providence. There is nothing… nothing… in the Constitution that mentions God, Jesus, or anything else in the Christian faith. It is a decidedly secular document, regardless of the personal beliefs of the founding fathers.
Actually, the fact that many of the founders were religious men, yet chose to omit any kind of religious references in the Constitution, is a huge indication that they specifically did not want the country to be a “Christian nation.” So quoting a founder’s view on religious faith is mostly irrelevant because the document is what governs our country… not the personal views of select founders.
It’s disingenuous for Palin (and the religious right) to claim that this is a nation based on the Christian faith… disingenuous and dishonest. Based on the actual facts, it’s blatantly untrue. There isn’t really a valid debate to be had.
The religious right, however, is a group that considers faith without evidence to be a virtue, so I’m sure the issue, much to the dismay of those who know better, will continue to come up.
No doubt Sarah Palin will make sure of that.
The Thinking Atheist has a new video about Noah’s Ark and the Genesis flood. Very well done and very funny!
I’ll bet Ken Ham has answers for all those questions, though.
I’ll also bet his answers are nonsense.
By allowing our children to participate in the Santa myth and find their own way out of it through skeptical inquiry, we give them a priceless opportunity to see a mass cultural illusion first from the inside, then from the outside. A very casual line of post-Santa questioning can lead kids to recognize how completely we all can snow ourselves if the enticements are attractive enough. Such a lesson, viewed from the top of the hill after exiting a belief system under their own power, can gird kids against the best efforts of the evangelists â€“ and far better than secondhand knowledge could ever hope to do.
My daughter is eight years old and has plied me with numerous questions about Santa, which I’ve handled much as Dale has handled his children’s questions. She hasn’t brought it up in a couple months (oddly enough), but I’m pretty sure she’s very close to the point where she’s going to determine that Santa is fictional. I’m also pretty sure that she’ll handle it just the way Dale’s son handled it.
We’ve had discussions about God, religion, and what other people believe. She knows I’m an atheist, but also knows that many people believe many different things and that she’s allowed to make up her own mind. She’s been to a Christian pre-school and has been to a church “music camp” for the past two years in the summer, so she’s been exposed to religion and Jesus and God. When my wife asked her if she believed in God, her response was that she was too young to know one way or the other. I thought that was an exceptionally reasonable answer for an 8-year-old.
Now we’ll see how the Santa thing plays out.
I came across this very, very funny video while perusing the Exploring Our Matrix blog and, since it’s based on one of my favorite horrid passages in the bible, I’d share it.
The passage in question is 2 Kings 2:23-25.
23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.
25 And he went from thence to mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.
Here’s the funny video. Serious commentary follows.
Theists can spin this story any way they want, but it remains an example of reprehensible morality… period. Bible.org has an article on this bible story and attempt just such spin. I find it very telling that it takes so much text to rationalize the barbarity of this passage… or try to rationalize, I should say. It’s a failure.
From correcting the translation “little children” to “young men,” they seem to imply that killing them was somehow more acceptable.
This was a crowd of young men, perhaps students of the false prophets, who were here as antagonists to Elishaâ€™s prophetic ministry and authority. If not students, they were sent by the false prophets or idolatrous priests of Bethel to stop Elisha from entering the city.
There seems to be a bit of speculation there as well. “…perhaps students of false prophets…” and “If not students, they were sent by false prophets…” Pure speculation and pointless speculation.
Then, of course, the men weren’t just mocking Elisha, but were mocking God…
But the greatest disrespect here is in relation to God. These young men, undoubtedly under Satanâ€™s influence, were attacking not just Elisha, the man, but they were also attacking his message. But the issue was, regardless of the personality of the man, his physical appearance, or even his short comings, Elisha was Godâ€™s man with Godâ€™s message. As a result, in the final analysis they were mocking or rejecting God and what He was attempting to do through Elisha as Godâ€™s spokesman.
So it’s not really about Elisha. It’s about God… who seems to be so thin-skinned that he just can’t contain himself when “young men” insult him and has to go into a frenzy of ursine violence.
But wait. There’s more!
Baldness was regarded by the lower orders as a kind of disgrace; for as it was one of the usual consequences of leprosy, so it was accounted a sign of personal and mental degradation. Hence, in using this opprobrious epithet, the young profligates had a most malicious intention. Their expressions are not to be viewed as a mere burst of youthful wantonness; but as poisoned arrows, pointed and directed by refined and satanic malignity.
Wait… so it is about Elisha? Certainly, God isn’t bald, is he? Otherwise, baldness wouldn’t be a “kind of disgrace.” So are the young men were really insulting Elisha? It sounds like it’s not so much a case of the men insulting God as it is a case of the men insulting someone that God likes… sort of like a man getting upset if you insult his wife. Again, that would portray God as a petulant narcissist, getting upset that everyone doesn’t like his favorites.
The article goes on, but it doesn’t get any better or any more convincing. In the conclusion, it states:
God does not take it lightly when we ignore His Word or hinder its propagation in the world among His people. This is serious business
I’d say that, from the perspective of the 42 young men, it certainly is serious business.
Here’s one more article about the bible passage, and it’s even worse, with more wanton speculation and more feeble attempts to justify God’s (and/or Elisha’s) actions. The more they attempt to rationalize, the less their god looks omnipotent… or loving… or fair… or just.
Angry and jealous, maybe.
A Redding, California woman has decided to make it her mission to require schools to “provide children the opportunity to listen to or perform Christmas carols” or face litigation. According to redding.com, Merry Hyatt is collecting signatures (she needs 433, 971 by March 29th) in order to get her initiative put on the ballot next year.
According to the article…
Schools currently are allowed to offer Christmas music as long as it is used for academic purposes rather than devotional purposes and isn’t used to promote a particular religious belief, according to an analysis by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office.
That sounds reasonable. Given that this country is comprised of people of many different ethnicities, cultures, and religions, it makes sense to avoid singling out one particular religion for favoritism. It’s also constitutional, which is no small thing.
However, it seems it’s not enough for Erin Ryan, president of the Redding Tea Party Patriots, who seems to lack quite a bit of understanding about this country, our constitution, and the existence of other holidays.
“Bottom line is Christmas is about Christmas,” said Erin Ryan, president of the Redding Tea Party Patriots. “That’s why we have it. It’s not about winter solstice or Kwanzaa. It’s like, ‘wow you guys, it’s called Christmas for a reason.’ “
I can’t argue that Christmas is about Christmas. That’s like saying that blue is blue. Her second sentence, however, is a bit puzzling.
I’m not positive, but I think she’s implying that December is the “Christmas” season… to the exclusion of all other December religious holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Ashura, Litha, Hijra, and Zarathosht Diso. She must feel that she, as a Christian, has an entitlement that gives her special privileges, allowing her to place her religion on a high pedestal above anyone else’s religion. Either that or she just is so blindly ignorant of the existence of other religions that she can’t quite grasp the idea that someone else might not share her beliefs… though I doubt that’s the case.
Rob Boston, senior policy analyst for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says that Hyatt’s initiative is “blatantly unconstitutional” and has little hope of passage. Even if the absurd happened and Hyatt got enough signatures, got it on the ballot, and it got enough votes, the courts would strike it down.
Boston said he thinks Hyatt’s initiative represents a larger issue of religious conservatives being unhappy with the changes resulting from American society becoming more diverse.
“The frustration some religious conservatives have is they want a mythological religious America that probably never existed,” he said.
I think that’s a huge, huge part of the problem. The more diverse this country becomes, the more diverse the religious beliefs become and that frustrates religious conservatives who feel their religion should have favored status in our culture (it already does) and our legal system (it does, but it shouldn’t). Whenever anyone makes a move to treat people of differing beliefs with equal respect, they cry foul.
Hyatt, a substitute teacher who moved to Redding from Riverside, said her motivation for the initiative was to help restore children’s moral compasses by inviting Jesus to school Christmas parties.
“He’s the prince of peace; he’s the only one who can get these kids to stop being so violent,” she said in November.
That, in a nutshell, is one of the biggest problems in this country today. Whether it’s Christians, Muslims, Catholics, Jews or any other religion, when one group starts trying to force its beliefs onto the rest of society, our freedom is diminished. Discussing beliefs, arguing beliefs, criticizing beliefs, even proselytizing… that’s all fine, but when the attempt is made to base legislation or public policy on religious beliefs or to favor a particular religion, it not only becomes unconstitutional, but it becomes morally and ethically irresponsible. Policy should be based on rational thinking that creates conditions of equal treatment, not the morally questionable “teachings” of ancient religious texts.
Hyatt said she believes it is Americans’ First Amendment right to worship.
“It’s our right to have freedom to worship,” she said. “That’s why we came to this country. They came to be Christians and they’re trying to take that away. They’re out of line; we’re not.”
Yes. It is a First Amendment right that we have a freedom to worship (or not) as we please. What Hyatt doesn’t seem to understand is that nobody is trying to take that away. This country is inundated with churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious buildings and establishments, all of which enjoy a special tax-exempt status and a freedom of operation. Anyone in this country has free and open access to worship as they please, anytime they please, without government intrusion or interference… in church or out. The religious right will cry from the rooftops that they’re being oppressed and that their right to worship is being stripped away by an increasingly secular society, but it’s nonsense. Religion, Christianity in particular in this country, gets an absurdly high level of preferential treatment from our government and from the population in general.
“They’re looking to the public schools system or the government to provide them a religious experience at Christmas,” he said. “If you want a full-throttle religious Christmas experience, it’s at church … there’s no shortage of those.”
The religious right seem to forget that they have churches… on practically every street corner… in which they can have their religious experiences, teach their religion to others, worship to their hearts’ content, and put up displays of their faithfulness. I can count at least twelve churches on my thirty-minute drive to work and there are three churches within a quarter mile of where I live.
We don’t need to turn our schools into churches, too.