Posts tagged Church and State
Sometimes you hear of things that you can never imagine happening. Like teachers threatened with fines if they say Merry Christmas and Christmas trees being renamed ‘holiday’ trees because of the religious undertones (except for the fact that the Christmas tree has zero religious significance and is actually a pagan symbol). Anyway, now there is another situation to add to this list.
In the world of the strange a student has been suspended for wearing a Christian t-shirt.
Does it depict people burning in hell like in Dante’s Inferno. Nope. Is it a pro-life shirt with an aborted fetus crying out? Not even close.
It is simply a shirt that states: Life is wasted without Jesus.
AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!! THE HORROR!!!
According to this article:
Nancy Pynch-Worthylake, board superintendent, said some students and teachers found the T-shirt offensive. “When one is able or others are able to interpret it as, ‘If you don’t share my belief then your life is wasted,’ that can be interpreted by some as being inappropriate,” she said.
Can you believe a High School student being so freakin’ evil? I know! What a jerk. Doesn’t he know he is not allowed to hurt anyone’s feelings? Dumb kid.
Obviously, I am kidding. This is a ridiculous situation. These officials are ridiculous. You have to wonder if he had worn a shirt that said Satan is my buddy! if officials would have been as upset. Probably not.
Now, the only saving grace in all this is that that this is not happening in America. Right?
Actually, I almost got suspended for nearly the same thing 20 years ago in High School (yes, I am that old and, yes, I wore some stupid Christians shirts every once in a while). Like this kid, I refused to listen to the assistant principal warning me citing ‘separation of church and state.’
So when I was called into the assistant principal’s office for an official reprimand, I asked for her to show me this policy in the student handbook. She couldn’t. And I was free to wear my cheesy religious shirts whenever I wanted.
Just some interesting news I thought you should know about happening up in America’s hat, aye (Canada, that is).
I’m not uptight. I’m not one to take issue with things that push the limits. Recently, Red Bull made an ad with Jesus in it. Yes, I do find this one to be in bad taste. Especially the part where Jesus cusses (takes his own name in vain).
Here is an heated news report from the land down under and to the right a little (New Zealand). It is a segment about a church that has put “Jesus Heals Cancer” on it’s billboard outside (pictured to the left).
The sign has created quite a stir because some people say it is false advertising since there is no way to verify this claim. And they are trying to get it taken down via government regulations to that end.
In particular, there is a mom in the report whose son has leukemia. Obviously, this is a grievous situation for any parent to deal with. Since Jesus didn’t or isn’t healing her son, she wants this sign taken down forcibly.
Also interesting is the second half of this segment. It really brings into question what free speech is and to what end the government, with regard to faith, can curb speech for the sake of the ‘safety’ of the general population. You know, because religion only hurts society since it holds and promotes ideas that allegedly can’t be proven.
It makes you wonder how far this can all go. If you have 7 minutes definitely watch it below.
Homeschooling is more common among people of faith more than any other demographic. Think what you want about it, but, to me, it comes down to a matter of personal choice and liberty. In other words, parents should be free to make the choice and free to pursue it. Besides, we have spent a fortune on public education over the last 40 years with little to no measurable improvements. The solution is not throwing more money at the problem. The solution is to do something different.
Among other reasons, this has lead to the proliferation of homeschooling. Homeschool kids on average score higher than public school kids–and even on par with charter and private school kids. Even with this evidence, here’s my question:
Could homeschooling ever be made illegal?
It has been in Sweden. There, it is extremely frowned upon. Unless there is a legitimate reason–like sickness or disability–it is not allowed. According to this article:
On January 26, Rabbi Alexander Namdar and his wife Leah, representatives of the worldwide Chassidic movement to Sweden for the past 21 years, were served at their home with a notice by the Gothenburg school authorities.
According to the notice, four of their children who currently study at an international online school must be delivered to a Swedish school by today (Wednesday). Failure to do so could result in a fine of 16000 crown – the equivalent of $2,400 — per week.
No longer are religious convictions (like wanting to give your children a Jewish education, as in this case) valid reasons for a family to homeschool in Sweden. And if you don’t like it, you can pay $2,400.00 a day! Wow.
So why would Swedish officials do this?
Well, because you parents just aren’t qualified or smart enough to educate and socialize your children in the ways of the world. You’re ignorant primitive doofs, of course. At least that’s how I read the situation. Do I need to mention that the Rabbi’s children test just fine? In fact, they test higher than most of their Swedish peers.
Sweden prides itself on tolerance and equality. It is considered a fundamental value of the nation. In practice, not so much. This is always where big centralized government leads. This is always where social engineering leads. Authoritarianism always squashes liberty, you know ‘for the good of the people.’ No matter how you slice it, when government grows liberty shrinks. Just something to think about. So my question is:
Could homeschooling ever be banned in the land of freedom and liberty–the USA?
I think so.
Today we intersect with current events. There is an interesting development with regard to Obamacare (the new national healthcare law coming into effect little by little over the next two years) and religion.
>Specifically, healthcare law mandates that employers provide coverage for their employees that incudes coverage for contraception and abortions.
As you can imagine, some view this as a violation of religious conscience and, therefore, practice. As such, it is a violation of the First Amendment–you know, the whole separation of church and state. The government is supposed to be barred Constitutionally from dictating how we may worship, right?
The first to take a stand? Catholics. And we should stand with them.
While the requirement doesn’t apply to houses of worship, it will force Catholic colleges, hospitals and other Christian groups to provide these drugs despite their faith-based opposition to them.
So Catholic leaders began their stand this weekend. Catholic churches across America read a letter to congregants that perfectly summarized the church’s stance against the coming federal requirements. It is posted below. It will be interesting to see how this develops.
>We need to bring attention to this issue and stand with them as people of faith.
Here’s the letter:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith. The federal government, which claims to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just been dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people — the Catholic population — and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers,
including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees’ health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.
In so ruling, the Obama Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to either violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The Obama Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.
We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture,
only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.
And therefore, I would ask of you two things. First, as a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible. Second, I would also recommend visiting www.usccb.org/conscience,to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the Obama Administration’s decision.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Alexander K. Sample
Most Reverend Alexander K. Sample
Bishop of Marquette
So I am easing back into the saddle with posts. Good to be back and I hope you’ll stay tuned. I’ve been on a family road trip for the past two weeks. I have been getting several requests… Don’t worry, a highlight video is coming soon.
Although I have been pretty out of touch with the news and currents events (this was vacation after all), I couldn’t help but notice something going on in Texas. This article reports:
Attorney Jeff Mateer… says the cemetery director won’t allow the use of “God” or “Jesus” unless the family submits the prayer in writing for her approval.” In addition, director Arleen Ocasio has stated the National Memorial Ladies cannot tell families ‘God Bless,’ they cannot communicate in writing or orally,” says Mateer. “And that violates the U.S. Constitution.”
So let me get this straight, veterans fight to defend our Constitution and now they can’t exercise their First Amendment Rights? They once risked their lives to fight for our country and now they have to fight against it in court? What the heck!
This is a clear violation and overreach of the whole “separation of church and state” thing. And it is shameful. Allow these families to grieve and heal however they derive comfort. And if that is through faith, then so be it.
Even stranger is that this isn’t Connecticut or California. This is Texas. Shame on you Texas!
This is something that comes up from time to time. Last week Federal Judge Fred Biery banned prayer at a High School Graduation. What’s even stranger is that it was Texas! You’d expect something like this in Massachusetts or California, but Texas?
Anyway, this article reports:
A federal judge has ordered a Texas school district to prohibit public prayer at a high school graduation ceremony.
Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery’s order against the Medina Valley Independent School District also forbids students from using specific religious words including “prayer” and “amen.” He also banned phrases like “join in prayer,” “bow their heads,”
He also ordered the school district to remove words like “invocation” and “benediction” from the graduation program.
The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by Christa and Danny Schultz. Their son is among those scheduled to participate in Saturday’s graduation ceremony. The judge declared that the Schultz family and their son would “suffer irreparable harm” if anyone prayed at the ceremony.
AHHHH….THE HORROR! Suffer irreparable harm? Are you kidding me! There’s worse things that hearing “amen” or “prayer” on primetime television or in your average pop-song found on any radio station, which I’m sure this family consumes. There you will likely here “damn” or “hell” or “ass”. You’ll probably find “loose and fast” sexual activity. Alcohol consumption will seem “normal” and “fun”–maybe even some drug experimentation. In fact, I saw part of a show last night in which a girl got an abortion. She was distraught but reasoned that it was at 6 weeks so “it wasn’t a baby yet.”
No biggie, right? All that crap is just fine. Just don’t say “amen.” That’s really unhealthy impressionable young adults.
It’s one thing to argue the point from a strictly “separation of church and state” basis, but to this whole psychological point is so ridiculous. It just shows how biased the judge is. He certainly fits the description of an “activist judge” based on his reasoning. Worse yet, he does a disservice to the legal system with reasoning like this.
It just reveals the animosity for religion that both these parents and the judge has.
I consider this a Free Speech and First Amendment issue. Sure, this may be a public school graduation ceremony, but certainly any student speaking deserves to have their own Civil Rights protected as well. In fact, and appellate court judge agrees with me. As of Friday, the decision was overturned.
Thank God inflicting irreparable harm is back on! Woops. Did I say that? Amen.
According to this article, students at Hicksville High School New York wanted to start a Christian Club (called the Frontline Group) at their school. They were denied. In fact, the principal said, “I don’t want any of these Christian clubs at my school.”
Once the school started to get some heat, the principal changed the story. Then the club couldn’t be approved because the school couldn’t afford it, even though the school sponsors 35 other clubs–including a ping pong club, a ski club, and a debate club.
Well, the students have filed a lawsuit claiming their rights have been violated. The suit is built on the premise that just because a club is religious and the school is public, doesn’t mean students don’t have a right to gather and discuss their religious beliefs.
Do you agree?
Something similar happened to me and my friends in High School. My friends and I wanted to start a similar club and meet after school to discuss our beliefs. I will spare you the dorky name our club had due to the humiliation it brings me.
We were also denied.
No, we didn’t file a lawsuit. But we did secretly meet anyway. There was about a dozen of us and we met every Thursday for three years until I graduated.
Seems like things haven’t changed all that much. Strange times we’re living in. Could one of the next big civil rights issues be against people of faith? Maybe not, but it gets me thinking when I hear things like this.
Call them Spring Spheres-or else!
That’s what happened to 16-yr-old Jessica who volunteering in a third grade class in her local public school. At the end of the week of her service project she decided she wanted to bring some treats in for the kids. This article reports:
“At the end of the week I had an idea to fill little plastic eggs with treats and jelly beans and other candy, but I was kind of unsure how the teacher would feel about that,” Jessica said.
“I went to the teacher to get her approval and she wanted to ask the administration to see if it was okay,” Jessica explained. “She said that I could do it as long as I called this treat ‘spring spheres.’ I couldn’t call them Easter eggs.”
This is quite ridiculous. Is this what our civilization has come to? Besides, that teacher is clearly an idiot of an educator. Eggs are not spheres. They are ovoids. Get it right!
They should be called Spring Ovoids then. Nice ring, huh? Let me tell you something else, besides a principled stance against such stupid political correctness, I would never bring my kids to a Spring Ovoid Hunt. It just sounds dirty.
Yesterday, I mentioned a High School student who got suspended for bringing a Bible to Public School with him because it allegedly violated the “separation of church and state.” Today there is a story on the opposite end of the spectrum. The article states:
“I Heart Boobies” bracelets are sold across the nation and have been banned in many U.S schools… U.S. District Judge Mary McLaughlin sided with students Tuesday in a free-speech test case filed in Pennsylvania by the American Civil Liberties Union. She issued a temporary injunction that bars the Easton Area School District from enforcing its ban… School officials argue the slogan suggests a sexual double meaning and leads to in-school distractions… A few weeks ago, a student at Mountain Empire High School wore a bracelet to school. School administrators say the bracelet led to a “big” disruption in class and that’s why it was banned.
This is an interesting contrast to the story about the kid with the Bible. A “boobies” bracelet with a double entendre meaning in order to attract attention and awareness to the cause of breast cancer is okay, while the a religious symbol is not? It’s just ridiculous.
The bracelet doesn’t particularly bother me, although my kids won’t wear it. It’s just the contradictions that do bother me. I have to wonder if it would be okay to wear bracelets that say “I Heart Butts” to create awareness for colon cancer or “I Heart Weiners” to promote prostate cancer awareness or “I Heart Vajayjays” to promote cervical cancer awareness? Would that be appropriate? Or how about if a teacher whore any of these, would parents, the principal, or a judge be okay with it?
I’m just sayin’.
Here’s an interesting story about a about a High School student in El Cajon, CA who got suspended for bring a Bible to school. It also invokes the memory of something similar that happened to me in High School. The article reports:
According to the suit, in January 2010, a teacher told Dominguez he should not talk about his faith at school because of the “separation of church and state.” After Dominguez continued to share his Christian beliefs with other students, he was then ordered not to bring his Bible to school. Two days later, the teacher confiscated his Bible and Dominguez was suspended for two days, according to the suit.
“He didn’t give any sermons or yell or scream… just sharing his faith with other students. That was it,” said Brad Dacus, Dominguez’s attorney.
A school representative says “there’s a lot more to the story.” I’m sure there is, but I thought it is an interesting situation to follow.
I became a Christian when I was in High School. Yes, I was also a bit obnoxious (even more than today!). One of things I did was wear loud shirts (and other gear) professing my faith. I wanted to start conversations.
At one point, it got the attention of one of the Assistant Principles. I was taken aside and instructed on the issue of “separation of church and state”. I was also told, for that reason, I couldn’t wear any clothes that spoke of my faith.
So what did I do? I resisted. Surprised? Probably not.
Something didn’t seem right. I said I was going to research the matter in the Student Handbook and get back to her. And I did.
Know what I found? Nothing.
I brought that to the principle, who conceded my point. And off I was–free to wear all the annoying Christian gear I wanted.
Spring Egg Hunt. Nice ring, huh? NO! Here is a news segment of a town that has taken the ‘Easter’ of its annual egg hunt? Because it is a city sponsored event and officials think there should be a “separation of church and state.” Watch for yourself and roll you eyes with me at the lunacy.
First Lady Michelle Obama is invading my church (North Point Community Church) today. Okay, that was a bit of an overstatement (and it sounds like I am trying to stir up controversy). Today is the 1-year anniversary of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative and she asked if she could come talk about it and celebrate the program at our church. From their own website it is: America’s Move To Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids. Of course, our church said yes. I probably shouldn’t comment on this, but, well, you know me…
Am I going? No.
And it’s not because I have to work today. I am home doing stuff getting ready to welcome our new son (#4) on Friday. And it’s not because I am a fatty or that I feel guilty about raising fat kids (I’m not, by the way. Raising fat kids, that is. But I am a bit of a fatty myself). I could go. So that no is an emphatic one.
I’m not going because I am very uncomfortable with the decision. Now, I love my church. My family has been serving and giving there for 6 years. And we are not going anywhere (ie. not leaving because of this). So this is not a detrimental decision. I am not going to talk trash. I support my church in all their decisions and trust them. It’s probably the right decision, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some cautionary thoughts or opinions of my own. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever said anything like this because I love “all things North Point”.
I just don’t like the idea of government officials or representatives coming into churches, especially those with a philosophy of big, centralized government. It creates too many contradictions, too much hypocrisy, breeds corruption (since power attracts the corrupt and the corrupt seek more power), leads to blatant opportunism (since it seeks to sustain it’s control/power) and often not principled (which is built on core values, and if opportunism and control is your desire there is no room for core values).
For example, you know what’s really unhealthy for children? Abortion. That kills kids 100% of the time. In fact, it kills about 1.4 million children every year and has killed about 43 million since it became legal in 1973. I’m just sayin’. [source: whitehouse.gov]
I also don’t like government officials or representatives coming into churches who come from a philosophy that is constantly trying to secularize and sanitize religion from the public square or sector (unless it is politically beneficial, of course).
For example, I wrote about a person in my small group (community group, Bible study, discussion group, or whatever you want to call it) that teaches at a public school up the street. During the holidays the school had to take the decorations off of the Christmas tree because a parent complained. I don’t really get that one (being that Christmas trees are actually pagan and not Christian, or leaving it up bare being an amicable solution). And then there are the anecdotal stories of public school teachers warned not to hand out Christmas cards or say “Merry Christmas”.
So let me get this right, we can’t say Merry Christmas in the public sector more and more, but Michelle can come into churches and say Merry Government? Woo-hoo!
Beyond that, there is often criticism of religious groups trying to affect public policy (like with abortion)–you know, allegedly trying to create a ‘theocracy’. For some reason, faith is an illegitimate source for values. But there is no problem with government coming into churches to influence public policy? Let’s be honest, that’s what this is. I guess government is a legitimate source for values?
You might be thinking, “Jason, you’re so judgmental and jaded. Isn’t this neutral ground? You’re making a big deal out of nothing. We can all agree on making our kids healthier, can’t we?”
Sure, then let’s meet on truly neutral ground–like an event center or something (there are plenty in Atlanta). Then Washington could ask local churches to partner and support the agenda. That way we have a real choice. I mean, how much of a choice do you have when the President’s wife asks to speak at your church? You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
There’s really nothing neutral when it comes to politics. And that’s the point: Politicians use political power to promise policies that will benefit certain people in order to harvest votes. Make no mistake, this initiative is about increasing government regulations and spending. As it is, speculations are that there will be more sin taxes on certain foods, salt limits in food production, and portion control for restaruants. Either way, the government is set to spend over half a BILLION dollars EVERY year on this initiative (and related ones). Read that again…$$$HALF A BILLION DOLLARS EVERY YEAR$$$
In general, this is not a legitimate use of tax-payer dollars (which is in reality being borrowed from China, by the way, so it is not even payed for), especially when we are all broke. It’s not the government’s job to tell us what to eat or what to do. I’m sorry there are so many fat kids sitting around and eating Doritos while playing X-Box. If we’re going to spend money on kids, let’s spend it something useful–like literacy, English, science, math, technical programs, marriage and family classes, etc.
I can’t help but also think that Michelle is trying to indirectly muster support for her husband with one base that is not supporting him all that much right now. Who’s that? White evangelicals. I’m just being honest, because that’s the main demographic at my church. It seems manipulative. Make no mistake, the election cycle has begun.
Our church is now officially on the radar of the government. That makes me uncomfortable. It should make everyone uncomfortable, both the religious and irreligious. This all begs the question, what will my church say when President Barack Obama calls and asks to speak when he is campaigning for president again? It probably won’t happen. But if it does, what do you say? Again, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Plus, I can’t help but worry if this is a jump-the-shark moment for my church with regard to political influences. It’s hard to resist the exposure, for sure.
And this tension is really what the First Amendment was all about:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It was meant to protect the religious citizens from government, not to sanitize the government of religion or religious citizens.
Just some thoughts from a ‘religious’ fatty.
So we had some friends over last night. We were relating some hilarious stories from our past weekend’s events (Thanksgiving). Mine included getting food poisoning on vacation, my 3-yr-old eating the pellets from the candy machine meant for feeding the ducks (because he thought they were candy, since they were in the candy dispenser), and my 6-yr-old running head first full stride into a mirror (in a mirror maze). Good stuff.
Anyway, a friend was relating the events of the weeks. Now, it was only Tuesday, so what could possibly be going on already?
He works at the public school up the street. This weekend they put up all the Christmas decorations around the school. But who could ever imagine Christmas decorations would mean trouble? Unfortunately, it does in this day-and-age where people cling to the false virtues of political correctness and ‘tolerance’ (because those crying about tolerance, never seem to be themselves).
First, everyone on staff (all the teachers etc.) were instructed to call the trees “Holiday Trees” and not Christmas Trees–because Christmas Trees are highly offensive, right?. As if that weren’t enough, a parent complained the first day the decorations were up (Monday) about the “Holiday Trees” being lit. So they had to take down all the lights on all the trees.
And it makes me wonder, who complained? it must have been either an Atheist, Agnostic, Jewish person, Muslim, or Hindu (or something). And why? Why is someone so annoyed or angry or bored, as a person, that they have to create controversy where there is none?
I’m sure you’ve heard about this nonsense in the news in some distant California town, but it’s another story to hear about this firsthand down the street in Atlanta. It’s sad really. How have we decided we have a human right in the US not to be offended? And we’ll spend money and effort defending that?
Besides, who gets offended by a Christmas Tree? Because the Christmas Tree is not actually a religious symbol (not even a Christian one). That’s the implied tension in this dispute–that a Christmas Tree is a Christian symbol and therefore not appropriate at a public school. Actually, that’s all false.
The Christmas Tree is actually a pagan symbol. The irony.
Today is a BIG day in America. I have talked about having an unauthorized approach to Christianity. Today, it would seem to some that I also have an unauthorized approach to voting too. And perhaps, you might consider not voting. Let me explain.
I have been accused of wanting to create a theocracy because my Christian faith informs and influences my voting decisions. It seems like some people think that “separation of church and state” means you can’t let that happen, like I talked about with this Christian flag making waves at a war memorial. But, for me, it is unavoidable.
The truth is, most people don’t realize there was never a theocracy in the Bible. What? That’s right. Let me say it again: NO WHERE is there a theocracy in the Bible in the sense that it is used on the political discourse today.
Random House defines a theocracy as:
“a form of government in which god or a deity is recognizedas the supreme civil ruler, the God’s or deity’s laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities.”
In the Old Testament, there are two forms of government that appear. There is a monarchy (King David, King Saul, King Solomon etc), but that is not the type of ‘government’ God intended for the Jews.
What God intended for the Jews was more like a commonwealth. What’s a commonwealth? Random House defines it as:
“a group of sovereign states and their dependencies associated by their own choice and linked with common objectives and interests.”
This is what happens in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Acts. That is to say, all the people were to choose individuals of character, honesty, integrity, and wisdom to lead them in the day-day-day matters and decide between disputes that arise based on the evidence presented before them.
They were also warned about not taking money to influence their decisions and to make sure to treat everyone equally: the poor and rich. If they become corrupt, there were harsh consequences.
Although the United States of America is technically a Constitutional Republic, the commonwealth form of government is what inspired the Framers of the Constitution. Essentially, America was an improved hybrid form of a commonwealth. (Believe it or not, we are not a democracy…but we do employ democratic principles.)
It was a form of government not of might or birthright, but one chosen by the people to represent the people–and it was revolutionary.
This seems to be a far cry from where we are today in our political scene, doesn’t it? Backroom deals, earmarks, dishonest brokering, and lying have become common, all in order to get re-elected. That’s seems to be the only endgame too often. Politicians make promises to get re-elected and line their pockets. Not protecting the people’s rights. Not applying equal justice. Not being self-serving. Not leaving people alone to live their own lives.
So last night I spent 2 hours researching candidates and issues on the ballot in my area. And I tried to pick people of character. It’s not easy. Do I want to create a theocracy? No way. But I will allow, against what some people prefer, my faith to inform my values and voting decisions. And I did.
Lastly, I would like to end in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson who once said:
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” –Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:384
So if you haven’t researched the issues:
If you haven’t researched the candidates:
If you don’t care about the leader so long as he fits your agenda:
Don’t vote. (It will always bite you back, in the end)
And on a personal note, if you believe in large, expansive, authoritarian, ever-growing government:
PS-Have a great day!
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Remember that? It’s the First Amendment from the Constitution. People love quoting it. People love beating it over the brow of others (both the religious and non-religious) in order to change something in culture.
That’s what’s going in in the small town of King, NC:
“The city council decided last month to remove the flag from above the monument in Central Park after a resident complained, and after city leaders got letters from the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State urging them to remove it.” (source here)
The ruling has upset veterans groups, churches, and many residents. The question is, of course, is this a proper application of the First Amendment?
There’s a part of the Constitution that often gets left out in these type of court rulings. It’s this “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That means if the residents want it, it’s fine. So long as the opportunity is open to every faith, it’s fine.
This amendment is not, and never was, meant to be used as a white-washing secularization of society (or for creating a theocracy, for that matter). So long as there is no law mandating people worship via a prescribed religion, this flag flying is fine. Again, if there is no law mandating it, flying the flag is actually protected under the law (or should be).
So is a Christian symbol okay on a public memorial? You betcha! And so would a symbol from any other religion. Although that may make you comfortable, it’s the law. It’s always sad, and a bit scary, to see a misapplication of the law.
So let’s continue.
Context doesn’t matter. That one was a little jab. Of course, this is not a stated value of the book, but this is certainly the practical application as the arguments play out. The authors have little regard for context in regards to the areas of Scripture they do analyze. As a result, they are completely incapable (or unwilling) of determining if a particular area of Scripture is meant to be a special circumstance or a timeless principle. For me, this is a daily and mandatory discipline. But rather than try to determine the context, they liberally vacillate between the literal and metaphorical understandings—depending on which will more readily support their current point or eviscerate Christianity more.
In the same vein, they also make no distinction between the religion of Christianity and those actually desiring to be a follower of Jesus. For example, I did not join a ‘religion’ or belief system (and I did not grow up a Christian). I simply wanted to try to follow the teachings of Jesus and apply them to my life.
Religion kills, Christianity is the worst, and Atheism is all sunny days and yummy milkshakes. If someone in history has claimed to be Christian and done horrible things, like Timothy McVeigh (He is a favorite example of Atheists, although McVeigh was a self-proclaimed agnostic, but I’ll let it stand for the sake of argument.), it was because he was a religious nut and religion is to blame (it made him that way). However, if someone was an Atheist or agnostic and did terrible things, like Mao Zedong, his godless worldview is not responsible. It was just because he was crazy or bad. Christianity is held accountable while Atheism gets a pass.
Plus, Atheism is awesome because it has never had missionaries corrupting societies or hurt anyone. So in the “Age of Reason” France never banished pastors, converted churches to temples of reason, and punished people for claiming to “know the truth” I guess? This is a good place to introduce the 2nd major flaw of the book.
Flaw #2-“The Original Sin”. What is the Original Sin of this book? It takes shape as a HUGE oversight. It does not even delve into the very reason for religion. That is to say, it doesn’t offer one thought as to how this all started or where we all come from. More fundamentally, it does not even do a cursory mention or a courtesy bow to the idea of how you get something from nothing. If you’re going to write a whole reference-type book on debunking Christianity, you better offer something on this.
That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? That’s why I believe at all. Where did this all start? What about our origins? Saying “Darwin” or “Evolution” isn’t enough. Give me “Cosmic Goo” or “X” the “Big Bang.” It isn’t an explanation, but its something. What started this all? Did aliens seed all this as noted Atheist Richard Dawkins said could be possible? To not offer anything is a major flaw of a book seeking to destroy Christianity and promote Atheism. You better offer something, or at least say why you’re not offering anything. But let me say, in offering something you may only put forward what science can prove and test. Remember, the natural (or physical) world is all that we may believe in or that can guide us. That means nothing that can be construed as “extraordinary” or hint at something “supernatural” may be proposed. I suppose that may be why our origins is ignored in this book. It is difficult to explain.
How do you get something from nothing?
Christianity can’t be because it isn’t. Christianity can’t be true because it probably isn’t the only religion you (or I) tried. That’s a major contention. They hold that I must treat every religion with the same amount of validity. If I want to have any integrity I must flush out and try each one before I am allowed to decide.
The Outsider Test For Faith. What I gather to be one of the benchmarks of the book is described as the Outsider Test For Faith (OTF). This is somewhat related to the point above. It is something the editor and main contributor, John Loftus, builds his very Atheism on. Unfortunately, he never stated exactly what the Outsider Test For Faith is. I read the chapter several times to try and find it. He laid out questions that he uses to guide his skepticism based on the OTF, answered objections based on the OTF, but never defined clearly what the OTF was/is. In addition, I know he wants us (Christians) to subject the same amount of skepticism to Christianity as we do other religions. I suppose that is what it is. Still, I’m not sure. Nowhere did Loftus say “The OTF can essentially be summarized as…” and then build from there. Perhaps, I missed it. I guess I failed the test.
Marxism and Atheism. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that most Atheists are Marxists in regards to their socio-political philosophy (most are Socialists and a few admit to being Communists). And I extend this assessment beyond the confines of this book. I find this somewhat inconsistent and even humorous. It is a true lapse of the ‘unwavering’ logic they profess. They don’t have the integrity or decency to be anarchists at best (the only ‘survival of the fittest’ socio-political philosophy) or Libertarians at worst (the only amoral one). Atheists are so often averse and upset about the influence of religion on society and its ‘oppressive’ morality. Their perfect, reasoned, and logical solution? To revert to another form of moralism. They seek to employ all the authoritarianism of a theocracy, minus the God part.
*The book alleges that the Bible promotes a “flat earth” view of cosmology because it employs such terms as the “four corners of the earth”. This is to show how primitive framers of the Bible were and, subsequently, must have been wrong about God too. Somehow there is no understanding of the poetry and parallelism in Hebrew writings and banter. For example, Jesus once said to take the plank out your own eye before pointing out the piece of sawdust in someone else’s (in regard to being judgmental). This may come as a surprise, but Jesus did not in fact think we are all actually made of wood. It was a creative metaphor.
*The book contends that we are all moral relativists because we view someone else’s view of morality as relative to ours (often a clear distinction between belief and non-belief). But that’s not what I view as moral relativism. I am not a moral relativist because I believe in absolutes that are intrinsic and fixed. Perhaps we are operating from two different meanings of ‘relative/ist.’
*Christians must give opponents of Christianity more validity than promoters of it if they want to truly find the truth. Of course, no one ever does this. Do the environmentalists look to skeptics to learn how to protect the earth? Do pro-choice advocates glean wisdom from pro-lifers when weighing their decision? (And so on) This is simply hedging and an air of moral superiority, because we’re all guilty here—even Atheists.
*Science picks up where philosophy leaves off, is what they say in this book. In direct contrast, I say the exact opposite in my book. Philosophy offers a theory or explanation when science can’t.
*Atheists get mad that Atheism often gets called a religion by Christian apologists. While I understand Atheism is not a religion, in that it is not a belief system and is more accurately non-belief or non-religion, can we agree that sometimes this is an argument about semantics? Religion can be defined as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe. Does Atheism not sometimes fit that description when having these debates? Perhaps Atheism can sometimes be viewed as a religion with a little “r” and not a big “R”, as it is not an organized and formal religion. But you get the idea, academically speaking, when we’re having these talks, don’t you?
*Atheists also dispute Christianity because there are so many variations of it (with the denominations, non-denominations, and cults, to a lesser degree). In essence, Christianity (and Christians) can’t agree with itself, so it must be false. So am I to understand that because there are varying viewpoints on a particular subject (the result of free will, mind you) then none can be correct or worth considering? That makes no sense. Bring that into a marriage or friendship and see where that gets you. Not to mention, this isn’t exactly a fair point to make at all. Atheists only have to agree on ONE THING: there is no God. In the inverse, Christians unanimously agree on this point (that there is a God). And they agree on the most important element of Christianity: Jesus. Beyond that, there can be no more comparing, since we have doctrine, principles, and lessons to learn from and interpret. If Atheists had the same to consider they would obviously find themselves in the same predicament.
Flaw #1-“The Epic Fail”. The very title “The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails” is an epic fail. That is to say, the very premise of the book fails. Why? Because Christianity is alive and well. In fact, it started with just 12 followers 2,000 years ago and has bad BILLIONS of followers since then. If we put this in an empirical and scientific context, as Atheists claim to guide their lives with, we see that the evidence proves that the title breaks down in a major way with very little analysis—because faith hasn’t failed.
In fact, the very first sentence of the first chapter confirms my point. It opens with, “One of the great mysteries is why, despite the best arguments against it, religion survives.” There it is: an inadvertent admission that the title does not stand up under the weight of its own scrutiny. And if that’s the case, then doesn’t the whole premise of the book fail? Perhaps a better subtitle would be something like “Why Faith Should Fail”. A title with a qualitative word in it helps to deliver on the promise. This is something I learned writing my own book. With all the contributors claims of intellect, experience in academia, and fancy letters after their names, how did they miss this epic fail?
Lastly, a word to Atheists:
I do not hate you. I am not trying to convert you. I do not want to control you. I do not want to create a theocracy. I understand your frustrations and doubts—I have them weekly. I believe in God. You do not. I believe there is a spiritual element to life. You do not. I believe Jesus was the Son of God. You do not. But make no mistake:
I believe because I know it to be personally true. Sometimes resolute and sometimes strong. And sometimes a little more dimly. But I know this:
I will always believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. To me, that’s just the best news ever.
I recently finished reading The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails (TCD) in order to review it on my site www.jasonberggren.com. It was recommended to me by one of the contributors, Edward Babinski, who is a reader of my blog (named above). I’ve had many pleasant back-and-forths with him and was excited at the prospect.
I suspect I was approached to read TCD because of the title of my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith —that I am perhaps a borderline Atheist convert, or a “New Atheist” as they’re called. It’s a fair point, but it is not the case as many Atheists have discovered (and then gotten mad about). I suppose there is a frustration that I used such a shocking title, but used it for good (to build faith and bring attention to Jesus) and used it before they did/could. The irony is, much that is covered in TCD I discuss in my own book.
So what about The Christian Delusion?
Following are my overall impressions and thoughts. By the end of this, I will also reveal the three major flaws of the book, as I see them. Please keep in mind, when I refer to Atheists in this review, I am referring to the contributors of this book only unless otherwise noted.
I appreciate the content of the book. It was well written and presents many valid points. I think it’s important to constantly review the objections many raise concerning Christianity. They are questions worth asking and discussing. We, as Christians, should never resist these dialogues. We should be committed to healthy, productive, and respectful discussions regarding our faith. Unfortunately, the ‘respect’ part is difficult in this heated subject from both sides of this aisle.
Let’s get started.
Summarizing Atheism. Let’s begin at the foundation. From what I gather, Atheism hinges on two rejections (in regard to religion in general): 1) there is no spiritual element to life and 2) there is no such thing as the supernatural. That’s my bottom-line description. For this reason, the physical world can be the only guide. What can be tested and proven with scientific methods can be the only evidence for living. This is summed up quite well by Richard Carrier, PhD on page 296, “That’s why I don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead: it simply isn’t a plausible event, and is not supported by any sources I trust.”
Intellectual honesty. That was perhaps the favorite phrase in this book when critiquing Christianity. Much was made of our (Christians) intellectual dishonesty. In other words, Christians would cease to be Christians if they were intellectually honest about…(and so on). But anyone who is intellectually honest will realize that much of the counterpoints to faith in this book are not exactly intellectually honest themselves. But then again, I am no intellectual, to be honest.
For example, there is a railing of Christian apologists for not being authentic in their approach since they seek to prove their faith—that they shouldn’t enter into the endeavor with a defined bias. It’s a fair point. But nothing is said of many apologists becoming converts by doing precisely this. At face value the Atheists make the same mistake (regardless of what they may say). They also enter into their undertaking with a defined bias: they seek to disprove God and Christianity. Personally, I could care less. Just be honest about it rather than assuming some level of moral superiority, especially when you do the same.
Humorless, condescending, and cynical. That is the overall tone of the book. One of the last lines of the introduction is, “To honest believers who are seeking to test their own inherited religious faith, this book is for you.” Sounds so magnanimous and polite, right? As if we are all just sitting around a coffee table together after Thanksgiving Dinner just shuckin-n-jivin. Unfortunately, up to that point the introduction spends a great deal of time talking down to people of faith.
For example, if you are a Christian, have faith, or believe in God this book has no lack of descriptions or directions for you. Allow me to elaborate about you (and these are no exaggerations). You are mentally ill, an obstacle to society, unenlightened, uneducated, brainwashed, sexist, prejudice, primitive, stupid, gullible, superstitious, uncivilized, racist, ridiculous, inferior, embarrassingly incompetent, perversely dishonest, wildly deluded, a liar for Christ, a tragedy, programmed to distrust skeptics, in a cult, and scary. You will hopefully evolve out of your need to believe, must realize that Rome didn’t really persecute Christians all that much, should know there has never been much of an effort to destroy the canonical evidence of Scripture or supportive artifacts, must be open to Atheists ideas (but not vice versa), may not use the Bible when discussing faith with Atheists (although Atheists can use the bible in every argument against it they make and are allowed any other bit of supporting work, theory, innuendo, or otherwise to proselytize their non-God worldview), believe in a savior (Jesus) who was an ignorant xenophobe, should be a socialist, should follow Marxism at least (according to most) and Communism at best (according to a few), contribute to the violence in the world, need to appreciate that Atheists are patient enough to ‘deal’ with you, and need to realize that the Apostle Paul hallucinated himself into belief because of guilt. Oh yes, and you have also likely hallucinated and have low self-esteem (which explains your need to believe).
Now you may be wondering why I included so many direct descriptions. Believe it or not, this is just a small percentage of what the book included. I think it’s important to point out that the book attempts to cloak itself in a guise of respect, reason, and magnanimity (as I stated before). But as you can see, these words are quite antagonistic. This dialogue environment is not egalitarian and altruistic as it claims to want to create. These are words of anger and revenge. And if that’s the purpose, again, then just be honest about it.
“Insiders” of Christianity. That is the claim of nearly all the contributors—that they were former ones, that is. I am very suspicious of this because of the blatant disregard for context (which I will get into later). It just seems to me, if this is true, there is quite a but of willful ignorance as the arguments play out. Or perhaps they had very bad mentors when they were “insiders”.
The Bible has NO credibility. Any source seems to be more valid than the Bible to them. Even one with only one or two copies citing a particular event holds more weight (so long as it casts doubt on Christianity) than the thousands of manuscripts of the Scripture. If two books record the same event, the Bible is automatically wrong. Why? Well, because it’s the Bible, of course! Aren’t you paying attention? This is a good place to introduce the 1st major flaw of the book (in descending order) and end part 1 of this review (part 2 posts tomorrow).
Flaw #3-“The Idiot Genius Contradiction”. In my observation, this is a major pillar of the Atheists (again, I refer to the contributors of this book) contention to Christianity. And in order to accept it, you must accept two contradictory theories at the same time and believe them both simultaneously. Although they should largely negate each other (if we are ‘intellectually honest’), somehow they survive each other, together.
The contradiction is this: Christianity (and Judaism to a lesser degree) is built on the brilliantly maniacal manipulative writings of an elite group of people (i.e., the Bible). This group has been able to translate, re-translate, craft, and re-craft the Bible in a way that has enabled them to control the masses, proliferate their religion throughout the centuries, and maintain their own positions of power. With it and through it they prey on fears, promise rewards, and punish disobedience.
And at the same time…
Somehow this elite group was not smart enough to make God perfect, his followers flawless, and his will universal and clear as the Caribbean waters in those same writings. Obviously, this would require no apologies and phony justifications while helping this elite ensure more power, influence, and amass more money. Instead, in the Bible, they make much of alleging God (and often his followers) is an ethical tyrant, moral monster, racial hatemonger, oppressive master, violent father, indifferent to suffering, and permissive of evil. But somehow we were all tricked into following this God while reading all this. In short, this elite crowd was not smart enough to frame a God that didn’t seem bi-polar and is at least good, yet somehow invented the most successful religion (Christianity) ever. It’s very similar to the 9/11 conspiracy theories: somehow President Bush was an evil genius that destroyed the Word Trade Center to line his (and his cohorts) pockets by starting a war for oil without leaving a hint of evidence but was the biggest bumbling idiot at the same time.
So the Bible is brilliant and stupid all at once. Somehow both are true. That’s the Idiot Genius Contradiction.
School officials have determined that rosary beads have become a gang-related symbol. But that didn’t stop Raymond. They have become a symbol of comfort to him as he copes with the death of his brother and uncle.
I understand the need to be cautious, protect the kids, and prevent gang activity, but at what point does this protect reward the guilty (the gang members) over the victims (like Raymond).
It’s one thing if it was a particular gang sign, drawing, etc. But rosary beads?
This is a normal part of culture. If gangs adopted carrying #2 pencils, or wearing white t-shirts, or walking with hands in your pockets would all that have to be banned? At what point do you stop?
This is stupid. I think school officials have crossed over the line. You can’t ban everything. Sometimes you have to find a different approach rather than infringe on the rights on the innocent.
Right? Or is my point a Hail Mary?
Here’s an interesting situation. Seniors at this retirement home were recently told they had to stop praying as a group together before eating. Now let me be clear, they can pray to themselves. They just can’t pray as a group.
Because the meals for the senior citizens at the program are mostly covered with federal money.
Now it’s not that a resident complained or anything. It’s that an employee from the company that caters the food said it might be a violation of federal guidelines–the separation of church and state–for him not to report it. So he did. And the city attorney is looking into it.
This is so ridiculous. People need to get a life. Separation of church and state had nothing to do with a group of old farts sitting around and praying before the eat a federally funded meal. Give them a break (and me too).
This is such a stupid over reaction. Let’s no forget that the “separation of church and state” clause isn’t actually in the Constitution. And let’s not also forget that the government can not prevent the free exercise of religion either. I mean, many seniors live off federal funds (and many people live on welfare, for that matter). Does this mean they can’t participate in prayer too? Or are we allowed to pray while driving on federally funded roads? How far can this go?
I think there’s a case here in defense of the seniors. I think this a violation of their rights.