religion

17
Sep

Islam's Anger Is Islam's Shame

When all Hell broke loose in Benghazi, Libya, last week, the first casulty was U.S. Ambassador, Christopher Stevens, who lost his life when protesters stormed the United States embassy. The violence has spread nearly two dozen countries. At least four people are dead, many more injured, as American embassies in Lybia, Egypt, with protesters chanting "Death to America". The reason for this spate of violence? A movie trailer on YouTube called, "Innocense of Muslims".

The first thing you notice about this film is that it's really, really bad, with production values that the average 8th grader could easily match. Anti-islam and anti-Mohammad message aside, the 14 miinute film looks like it's meant to be sort of like an Islamic "Life of Brian" spoof. Unfortunately, some members of the "Religion of Peace" apparently don't have a sense of humour.It's frankly incredible that a short film clip featuring Muhammad is cited as the spark that launched the latest wave of Islamic violence.  Think of it as the Mohammad Cartoon, version 2.0.

The link below contains the  clip which you can watch on YouTube. As I write this, the video (as seen on YouTube below) has 3.8 million views with 3/4 of the votes being 'dislikes.  Have I mentioned the production values are dreadful? Let's not mince words; this film, if you can call it that, is a piece of crap.

28
Aug

The Rape of Mary. Legitimate or not?

Image via WikipediaLast week was the week where the world was introduced to the concept of "legitimate rape". In case you missed it, Todd Akin, a US Senate hopeful for Missouri, suggested that in the case of 'legitimate rape', a woman rarely ever gets pregnant, because her body somehow knows this isn't the guy she wants to have babies with at which point it just fights off the invading sperm. Or something like that. Akin, a Republican, was trying to shore up his party's no-exception position on abortion by explaining that even in the case of rape, abortion isn't necessary because a woman wouldn't get pregnant. 

If she does, she's probably lying.

Outside a deep-seated hatred of women, the reasoning behind Republican and right-wing Christian America comes from the Holy Bible. The Bible, being filled with sex and violence, plenty of rape, and some good old-fashioned incest, is an excellent source of mysogenistic writing and does tend to explain how the brains of guys like Akin work. Or don't work as the case may be. That old collection of stories is also where they learn about science and reproductive biology.

Thinking about the Bible's richness on the subject of rape and the general sanctity of life, I was drawn to thinking about the most famous case of rape in the Bible, the rape of Mary, mother of Jesus. Technically, she was just a girl, so in our modern Western world, forcing a 14 year old girl to give birth to  your baby is statutory rape. But these were dark times, well before satellite television or the Internet. There were lots of 14 year old mothers around. 

Still, Mary was bethrothed to Joseph when God came calling. Did Mary's body know it had been raped? You would think it didn't because her body still got pregnant & gave birth to Jesus. So, in the logic of Akin, it wasn't a legitimate rape. I'm saying it had to have been rape because Mary didn't have a choice in the matter. Did she really have the opportunity to refuse? Could she? Let's take a look in the Bible and see what it had to say on the matter.

Several news sources made a story out of this one, including CNN (click here to read that one) who trumpeted "Bill Nye slams creationism". 

And so he should. So should we all. Teaching kids that the literal story of creation (I'm going with the Christian version since that's usually the one people get all excited about) is fact is a good way to make sure they grow up ignorant, gullible, and an object of ridicule to educated people, much like those who push that story in the first place. 

13
Aug

Working on the Sabbath is a Deadly Mistake

When the weekend comes, I like to avoid work as much as possible. And that's probably a good thing because working on either Saturday or Sunday could get you killed by friends, neighbors, and possibly your loved ones, assuming they are devout Christians. Or Jews. You see, in the Bible, it specifically states that working on the Sabbath is a no-no punishable by death. Death by stoning no less. 

Harken to the word;

Numbers 15:32-35
King James Version (KJV)

32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.

33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.

34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.

35 And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.

36 And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.

According to the Bible, the perfect and unchanging word of God, it's okay to kill someone for working on the Sabbath because God says so.

Now I have to say that I find this just a wee bit harsh. The guy was collecting sticks. I grant you that not being a Christian, I may be a little more forgiving about these sorts of transgressions, but killing someone for gathering sticks on a Saturday just seems over the top and maybe even uncalled for. There could have plenty of good reasons for this guy to be collecting sticks. Maybe the meat had gone off and rather than throw it out, he wanted to cook it, perhaps to feed his wife and eight kids (who were then fatherless).

Of course, back then Saturday was the Sabbath.These days, if you're a Christian, you probably want to avoid any kind of labour on Sunday because that's what the Catholic church changed the Sabbath to; Sunday.  

If you're curious about this change, follow this link to the Catholic Mirror, "official organ of Cardinal Gibbons, Sept. 23, 1893".  Interestingly enough, most Protestant Christian groups just went along with the Catholic renaming of the Sabbath, or at least didn't kick up much of a fuss. Sunday as the Sabbath wasn't made official until January of 1910 when Pope Pius X gave it his 'apostolic blessing'.  About the only Protestants who really don't like this whole Sabbath on a Sunday thing are the Seventh Day Adventists. 

So whether you are looking to do a little work around the yard on Saturday or Sunday, just make sure you do it out of sight of your Christian (or Jewish) friends, family, or neighbours. In 2012, they probably won't stone you in the public square, but you sure as heck wouldn't want to be wrong on this one, even if they can no longer attend church because Jesus said it was a bad idea.

13
Aug

Spiritual Experience for the Non-Religious

As an atheist, I am occasionally presented with the question of spirituality. Many will point out that spirituality is the hallmark of the religious experience. It follows then, that if I can claim to have experienced what might be called a spiritual experience, then I must allow for religion. Conversely, if someone is a non-believer, the spiritual experience must be alien to them; something they can't possibly understand. 

Not so. The spiritual experience is part of being human and one can feel it without the slightest nod to a god or that god's peculiar collection of rules and rituals. Awe and wonder are not shut out to me because I choose to eat whatever the heck I damn well please on Friday. Transcendent joy isn't locked away where I can never feel it because I choose to play with my children on Sunday mornings rather than taking them to a shaman who will do his best to close off their minds and chain them with the fear of a non-existent deity. 

I have had, and continue to have, real and powerful spiritual experiences. These include, in no particular order, and at various times in my life :

  • holding my wife in my arms
  • seeing my children being born
  • hearing my oldest son (who has autism) say something new, without prompting
  • figuring out a complex problem I have been working on
  • reading a really great book
  • looking out into a clear, starlit night
  • sex (one of the most powerful spiritual experiences a human being can have)
  • having someone do something kind for me, without my asking
  • standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon
  • seeing protozoa through my microscope
  • seeing the Rocky Mountains looming high above me as we drive ever closer
  • my first solo flight in an airplane
  • a loving kiss
  • seeing the impact marks from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in my backyard telescope
  • coming to grasp with some new learning (science books do this for me)
  • standing in front of the large tank at Marineland and watching the Orca swim by, inches away
  • catching the wispy ring of the Crab Nebula in my telescope
  • holding a copy of my first book, fresh from the box
  • getting hugs from my kids with an "I love you" thrown in for good measure

Without reservation or exaggeration, I can honestly say that some of these moments are spiritual, even transcendent.

All those things . . . love, friendship, the appreciation of nature, the feeling of being carried away by music, the exploration of the self . . . none of these things require religion. Nor do they require a holy book of any kind. The Bible, the Qur'an, or the Talmud are no better moral guides, nor divinely inspired, than "Horton Hears A Who" or "Harold and the Purple Crayon". And in terms of enriching the human experience, I'd go with Horton and Harold.

Religion and its associated holy books are the trappings. If anything, they take away from the spiritual experience by providing you with a ready-made set of guidelines and rules that you must follow. They chain your mind and restrict your spiritual growth by teaching that the only path to true spirituality is through its complex maze of justification and fear. 

I'll close this post by suggesting that the path to spritituality and personal growth actually opens up when you reject God.

Incidentally, in a recent post I responded to a related argument where a couple of friends argued that since I believed in love, I must (obviously) believe in God. You can read my reply to that by clicking here.

An amendment to the state constitution that says "no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs," may be coming to Missouri shortly. Does evolution violate your belief system? No worries. You can skip that class.

What if your religion teaches that members of other religions are inherently evil or not quite human? Or perhaps your religion teaches that women do not deserve equality and any course that shows them to be equal to men should be avoided. And what if the history curriculum promotes racial equality when your religion disagrees or paints your particular brand of faith in a bad light? Witch burnings, anyone? How far should this farce be allowed to progress?

For more on this nutty idea, read the USA Today story here.

30
Jul

Jesus doesn't want you to go to church

Many of us live for the weekend. Time to kick back and slack off a little. You've worked hard all week and you deserve a break. But the day after Saturday is Sunday, and for many Christians, it means a mandatory trip to the local church to do a little praying and worshipping.

As an non-believer, Sunday is just another day off, like Saturday. But on Sunday, many Christians believe they should be going down to the house of God for a little shot of the Almighty. The only catch is that Jesus was totally against this idea. That's right. By going to church and praying with friends and family, you are disobeying the very man around whom the whole church is built.

Harken to the Word . . . Matthew 6:5-7
New King James Version (NKJV)

5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.[a] 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

So you see, Jesus doesn't go for that whole getting together in Church and praising God thing. If you're going to pray, Jesus wants you to do it quietly, at home, in your own room. He also doesn't think you should recite prayers. God likes original content and that stuff in the Bible or the other holy books . . . He's heard it all before.

And so, when the next weekend rolls around, take a pass on the whole church thing. Not going is what Jesus would want you to do. 

19
Jul

Is God Love?

Someone recently suggested that I might, in fact, believe in God. (A closet theist?) The supporting evidence for this suggestion is that I often write about religion and even quote scripture to support my arguments. Another person suggested that since I profess a belief in love, that I must, ipso facto, believe in God. Allow me a few moments to address both of these suggestions. 

I don't believe in vampires and I have been known to post about them from time to time; I am a huge fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and thought "Angel" was pretty cool, though not as cool as Buffy by a long shot. That said, while I am interested in vampires (Twilight and True Blood both suck, for the record), I am utterly and completely fascinated by religion. And so you'll find me posting on religious topics more often than about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Also, my postings about religion don't tend to flatter religion or gods of any sort; quite the opposite. So, no, I do not believe in any god nor will I ever. 

The truth is that, and this is a topic for a future post, I can not imagine a scenario where I could be convinced (without the use of mind-altering drugs and other coersive methods) that any being you present to me is the one true, omnipotent, omnipresent, creator of the universe as depicted by insert-your-favorite-religion-or-holy-book-here. I have written before that I can easily imagine someone creating the our universe, but that's not the same thing as a god.

When this argument was in full swing, another person said, "Marcel hates religion," and to that charge, I must concede, but with an explanation. I don't hate religion, per se, though I believe firmly that it has no place in the world of today. What I really hate is what people do to each other in God's name. I hate how women are marginalized by religion. I hate the class structure or religion. I hate the absolutist lawgivers, priests, and assorted shamen that hand down their rules from the high heavens, seeking to enslave hearts and shackle minds. I hate the idea that people submit to worshipping the most vile being ever created by humans, and yes, I do mean God.

I could go on, but it's only fair that I answer this accusation. And so I attack religion as good people should always attack evil. And before you answer that statement, make sure you read and understand my  post titled "Attacking Your Religion: An Open Letter" as it lays it out reasonably well.

On to "love". Of course I believe in love. Whether love is something deeply human that defines us spiritually, or whether it's the firing of neurons and chemical triggers put in place by evolution to insure the survival of our progeny and our gene line, I don't care. Love is real and so I 'believe' in it in the same way that I can believe in any demonstrable fact. 

If you want to claim that Marcel believes in God because he believes in love, then you are going to seriously redefine the word 'God' and strip it of any bibles or assorted holy books, any churches, any religious ritual, and anything having to do with anything that you currently ascribe to god, with the possible exception of love. If you're referring to the Biblical God (or the Quranic or the Talmudic versions), you are talking about one of the most vile, vicious, capricious, vengeful, cruel, and pathetically childish creatures ever created by human imagination. 

Anything good you can attach to this being (at least through scripture) is pure chance brought about by the fact that if you have enough pages of text, you're bound to find support of any ideas. Good and bad. 

God is not love. Not by a long shot.

And so, yes, I believe in love. God, on the other hand, is pure Bogeyman and Freddie and Michael and every other horror movie monster you can conjure up. Fear is what keeps people at his feet. Fear of dying. Fear of eternal punishment. Fear of being cast out from your community. And just plain fear.

13
Jul

The Jesus vs Ayn Rand Cage Match

I don't go for wrestling, mixed martial arts, or any of these so-called sports. However, I'd pay good money to see Ayn Rand and Jesus in a cage match.

In this corner, we have Jesus, with his opening salvo. 

Jesus says, "If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven." -- Matthew 19:21

That's gotta hurt! Go ahead, my conservative Christian friends. I dare you! I double-dare you. I triple-dog-dare you. House, car, property, television, major and minor appliances . . . what do you need that for? 

While you're busy selling all your possessions and giving the money to the poor, let me direct your attention to the speaker in the opposite corner, Ms. Ayn Rand. Let's give it up for Ayn Rand as she tries to pin Jesus to the mat.

"Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society. Today, the conflict has reached its ultimate climax; the choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequences of freedom, justice, progress and man’s happiness on earth—or the primordial morality of altruism, with its consequences of slavery, brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces."

Ooooh! A real smackdown for Jesus! Not quite a knock-out, but it looks like we're in for an exciting match tonight. Pull up a chair, my friends, and enjoy the fight.

The "American Family Association" (with a name like that, you know they don't like them homo sapien gays and lesbians) is trying to figure out how to boycott Google over it's "Legalize Love" campaign to promote gay rights. The biggest hurdle for them is . . . hint, it's not their intolerance . . . how to boycott a product so many of them depend on. Google search. Gmail. Calendars. Android phone. Android tablets.

Oh, the humanity.

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