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The Big Picture

'Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.' -- Vizzini from "The Princess Bride"

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Shameless Grovelling before all you Christians who want to convert me to Christ

Well, my birthday recently passed (I share it with such luminaries as Lincoln and Darwin) and we are headed full speed into the Easter season.. So what better time than to ask all you Christians out there who visit my humble blog and debate with me the "facts" and "truths" of Christianity in order to prove that Christianity is true (or is it, True??) or bring me back to Christ or whatever. Now is the time to pony up for your cause.

There are a number of Christian apologetics resources that I have either read but do not own, or have not read and want to. If you believe in your mission to spread the message of Christ to everyone, then here is your chance to bring it to my front door, literally. Below is a list of some of the books and other materials I would like to read but cannot bring myself to spend my hard-earned money on:

First up is this tome from Coral Ridge Ministries. Who Is This Jesus; Is He Risen?- Book and DVD

Next is the book by Norman Geisler, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Paperback)

Otherwise I would love to have copies of Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ and C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. Both of which I have read before but were not my copies and I had to give them back.

Please email me for my mailing address. If you have ideas for some other books in the apologetics vein which you think would be useful, please let me know in comments.

And let the love and evangelical power of Jesus flow through you to bring me around to Jesus...

Update: In comments I have been having a discussion with Rhology (again). He seems to be concerned with pigs and jewelry. This quote seems to be his focal point:

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you [Matthew 7:6 KJV]
His message here seems to be that Christians everywhere should ignore and cast out anyone who is not a believer. Why? Because if you offer the non-believer the knowledge of Jesus, then they will use it against you to destroy you. This one simple quote completely destroys the entire evangelical movement and the need to spread the loving message of Jesus, if Christians are banned from spreading it to those who may be unwilling to accept it at face value.

But I really want to focus in on the imagery here. We have two elements here to work with, pigs and jewelry. Let us look and see what else the New Testament has to say about those:

30 Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. 31 So the demons begged Him, saying, “If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.” 32 And He said to them, “Go.” So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water. [Matthew 8:30-32]
Here we have Jesus taking orders from demons. But what really disturbs me is that this herd of pigs could have fed many hungry people. And Jesus, as God, had the power to simply cast the demons out into nothingness. So why allow hungry people to go hungry just to satisfy the desires of some demons? Wouldn't the magical depositing of those pigs upon the plates of the hungry have been a much greater and humane miracle than simply destroying them? But I guess thus is the message of Jesus: Let the hungry go hungry if it will increase the comfort of some demons. (After all, Jesus fed the multitudes with loaves and fishes, twice)

But what about jewelry? Paul tells us this:
8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. [1 Timothy 2:8-10 NKJV]
So good Christian women should not wear gold wedding bands in church, or pearls, or costly clothing. I have to wonder just how many goodly Christian women take off their wedding bands when they go to church, or even refuse to put them on at their wedding in church, in order to remain within the God/Jesus commands found in the New Testament?

Rhology has a problem with sending me any of the requested Christian texts on the grounds that I am not Christian. But I wonder just what his grounds really are if Christianity is as contradictory as I just sketched out? The bible has many flaws that make it unpalatable to people like me (rational beings), and the only way that Christianity can therefore be acceptable is if today's Christian apologists explain all those contradictions. But Rhology disagrees. He just wants to follow the lone swine/pearl doctrine and laugh at the entire evangelical movement simply to save himself from sending me Christian works. So all you other Christians out there, how does this strike you? What would you all rather do, follow Jesus' dictates and spread the gospel, or follow Rhology's personal worldview, and simply cast off all current non-Christians into the pit of fire for nothing more than entertainment's purpose?

The message I take away from Rhology is simple and clear: If you are not Christian, you don't deserve to become Christian; and if you refuse Christian teachings, then you should never receive them. Heh, Rhology and brotherly love go together like oil and water.. Or should I say like torture and Jesus? (Who knew that the answer to "would Jesus torture?" is a Rhology-approved "YES!!!1!!!1!1!!") Peace and torture all the same to Rhology. Only us Jesus-hating types would hate torture and love actual peace (no war) and freedom (the right and priveledge to believe what one wants and act upon it as long as it does not harm others).


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Flash! Chaplain knows God's Mind

Apparently, Pat Robertson is not the only conservative Christan who knows for a fact what God is thinking:

An evangelical chaplain who leads Bible studies for California lawmakers says God is disgusted with a rival fellowship group that includes people of all faiths.

My first thought is God is "disgusted" with people worshipping Him? My second thought is how can anyone know the mind of God and therefore know how to worship Him "properly"? MY third thought is the rather more esoteric question of using the bible as any sort of guide to worship, considering it is completely disjointed in its teachings; Jesus' compassion and forgiveness for sinners, and Paul's firey condemnation of the same classes of sinners, etc.

Drollinger said "progressive religious tolerance" is an offense against God and causes harm to its practitioners.
He said the other Bible study group was perpetrating a "deadly lie" by presenting Jesus as "a good moral teacher who loves everyone without distinction."
So then I take it that Jesus was not a good moral teacher? How stupid is this?? One can talk about the good moral teachings of Jesus completely seperate from his supposed divinity. I can only presume that stupidity is a prerequisite for being a conservative evangelical chaplain. I mean even the most casual glancing of the gospels shows that Jesus loved an adulterer, a prostitute (if Mary Magdaline was actually a prostitute) but He hates non-evangelical Christians? Where do you draw the line on who Jesus loves and hates. He himself said to love your enemies [Matthew 5:43-44 NKJV] and hate your family [Luke 14:26 NKJV]. Am I to take it then that if Jesus does not love this "other" bible study group, they are His family, and if he loves Drollinger, then he is Jesus' enemy? Again, the logic here has to be astounding (and not in the good way). Of course, only in fundamentalist Christianity could loving your enemy and hating your family make any sense at all to begin with. But then turn around and ignore that to simply condemn another Christian group is just as absurd.

But to be honest, I still cannot get past the notion that this chaplain, Drollinger, thinks he knows the mind of God. Because no matter how you rationalize it, as a Christian, to claim you know what God really thinks is to put yourself into the same knowledge category as God and that is elevating yourself to diety levels. And I do believe there is a commandment against that, if I'm not mistaken.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

New Religion Survey Out

The AP, via CNN, has an article out about a new survey of religious attitudes in the US. The survey was quite large for this type -- 35,000 Americans were interviewed. The main point:

While much of the study confirms earlier findings -- mainline Protestant churches are in decline, non-denominational churches are gaining and the ranks of the unaffiliated are growing -- it also provides a deeper look behind those trends, and of smaller religious groups.

Some of the interesting numbers:

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey estimates the United States is 78 percent Christian and about to lose its status as a majority Protestant nation, at 51 percent and slipping.
More than one-quarter of American adults have left the faith of their childhood for another religion or no religion at all, the survey found. Factoring in moves from one stream or denomination of Protestantism to another, the number rises to 44 percent.
One in four adults ages 18 to 29 claim no affiliation with a religious institution.
The majority of the unaffiliated -- 12 percent of the overall population -- describe their religion as "nothing in particular," and about half of those say faith is at least somewhat important to them.
Atheists or agnostics account for 4 percent of the total population.
Although evangelical churches strive to win new Christian believers from the "unchurched," the survey found most converts to evangelical churches were raised Protestant.

Obviously there is a lot of meat in this survey, and the story itself is rather dry, so here is my rather humble opinion.

First off, I really have to wonder just how many people are completely honest in a survey like this, and what is the methodology to check that... I mean only one in 25 Americans is an atheist? Whereas, the number of self-identified Christians certainly seems about right -- it is in line with most all previous surveys indicating about 80% of Americans are Christian. Secondly, the battle for the minds of those learning about their place in the world and universe, are turning away from religion, calling themselves unaffiliated with religion.

But my main thought on all this is rather simple. The numbers presented here does bode well for the future of atheism/agnosticism. The reason is that if more and more Americans are switching their religious affiliations within Christianity, and/or becoming one of those "nothing at all" people, then eventually religion will recede. This must necessarily happen because as people switch affiliations, things they once believed or were taught will then become "wrong" in the new religious doctrine. And as those people begin to wonder why they will realize that the source of all that confusion is the only source for their religion, the bible. And if the bible is such a muddled mess, maybe it could just be wrong.

And if it could be wrong, then those people would be much more likely to listen to the rationale behind atheism/agnosticism.

Update: Rob Boston has a different and interesting take on this survey. His background is roughly similar to mine -- Catholic family, siblings change religions -- and I think adds another dimension to why I wrote what I did in this post, and why I write what I do on this blog.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Saint Patty's Day Ruined this Year?

In case you are unaware, St. Patrick's Day falls on Monday of Holy Week this year. Within the Catholic Church there is a moldy old rule that says that this holy day, therefore, cannot be celebrated; Holy Monday precedes in importance. See this CNN article for more. The money quote:
For the first time since 1940, St. Patrick's Day will fall during Holy Week, the sacred seven days preceding Easter.
Because of the overlap, liturgical rules dictate that no Mass in honor of the saint can be celebrated on Monday, March 17, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
But a few Roman Catholic leaders are asking for even more moderation in their dioceses: They want parades and other festivities kept out of Holy Week as well.

Maybe its just that cynical streak in me, but does this strike you as odd as well? I mean God, in all his perfection, couldn't come up with a way to honor a saint, a man who did His bidding, every year? Was God snoozing at the time He should have been guiding the paths of men who made up the rules for Holy Week and for when St. Patrick's Day would be celebrated? And could a slip-up in perpetual scheduling of the celebration of a man of God be considered a flaw in the character of God?

Simply food for thought..

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Christian Morals Put into action -- Finally

We have discussed the morality found in the bible -- specifically the New Testament -- many times here. When a person actually reads the New Testament specifically for the reason of learning the moral tenets of Christianity; many are found which are today cast aside by even fundamentalist Christians.

However, today we have one example of a group of Christians who actually adhere to one New Testament moral largely ignored by all others. Saint Mary's Academy in Kansas apparently read the epistles of Paul and decided to live by its dictates.

Kansas activities officials are investigating a religious school's refusal to let a female referee call a boys' high school basketball game.
The Kansas State High School Activities Association said referees reported that Michelle Campbell was preparing to officiate at St. Mary's Academy near Topeka on Feb. 2 when a school official insisted that Campbell could not call the game.
The reason given, according to the referees: Campbell, as a woman, could not be put in a position of authority over boys because of the academy's beliefs.

The biblical reason for this is:
And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be
in silence.
[1 Timothy 2:12 NKJV]

Here we clearly have a case where the morality espoused in the bible today is now considered immoral by all rational and moral people. The irony, it burns...

This only one small example of where the supposed perfect morality of the bible is actually exactly the opposite of the actual morals of civilization.

As a side issue, the group that is in charge of this school, the Society of St. Pius X, has been excommunicated from the Catholic church. The apostolic letter from Pope John Paul II is here. Reading this letter shows just how screwed up the entire Christian Church (not just Catholics) truly are. (But this is another topic for another time.)

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Henry Rollins and Anger

Atheists are almost always described as "angry" by Christians. In reality, that is about as true as atheists describing all Christians as "deluded" because of their magical sky-god beliefs. However, there is a grain of truth to both perceptions. I don't think I need to go into my reasons for accusing Christians of any form magical delusion; they are enumerated throughout my blog. But I will consider the Christian claim of angry atheists. Henry Rollins is angry:

Penn & Teller and their "Bullshit" series also shows flashes of "anger."

But what is atheist anger really?

Christians may desire to portray it as anger against God; thus "proving" that atheists actually do believe in God but simply want to deny him. What we see in reality is that atheists are angry because there is nothing to religion outside ritual and tradition. Atheists are angry because religion causes as much misery in the world as it does good (if not more). And atheists are angry because they (we) cannot fathom how religion still exists and is trumpeted as superior to human trial and knowledge. (The bible is after all nothing but ancient human trial and knowledge.)

Atheists are angry because we are told that we are inferior because we lack faith in magical sky-god beliefs.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

God Delusion Index

I saw this on PZ Myers' blog and thought it would be fun to show here... I should point out that this test is not aimed at any one religion, rather only the degree and type of belief in a god.

You probably already guessed that my score was a big fat zero.

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