Category Archives: Christianity
In the New York Times today there is an article how gay marriages are causing some clergy to opt-out of official state licensing of marriages. Good riddance.
Gay marriage as a singular issue isn’t a big deal to me. It’s been settled in my mind a long, long time ago: of course gays should get married if they want to. It was never even a moral dilemma that I had to struggle with, there was no moment in time when I had to come to that conclusion, it’s been a no-brainer for me from day one. But then, I’m not religious and I don’t revere a holy book that says the following (taken from King James because that’s what I have handy, and for extra dramatic effect of Elizabethan/Jacobean delivery):
First a lovely scene depicting the sexual wickedness of Sodom
Genesis 19:5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.
I didn’t continue with the verses directly following this where Lot offered up his virgin daughters to be raped by the men in streets. That’s a story for another day — make sure you bring the children for that story time! But back to the wickedness of gay sex, let’s bookend this lovely Genesis story with something from the New Testament, the much more reasonable Testament:
Jude 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
And if destroying a couple cities in no small part due to gay sex wasn’t a big enough hint that God doesn’t like homosexuality, it is spelled out clearly here:
Leviticus 18:22 Thou Shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
And repeated here in case you missed it, but now of course in case you didn’t get the hint about destroying the cities and clearly stating that homosexuality is an abomination, the penalty is clearly stated in this lovely verse (hint: death):
Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
Anyway, there are more: there are a few awful passages about it in Romans and elsewhere. But even though it’s fun to quote nasty Bible passages, I bring them up to show that Christians have to come to terms with this sort of thing if they also want to be socially relevant in an age that has long passed up the morality and values contained within scripture.
I say: Christians stick to your guns. Hold onto the Bible as the inerrant word of God and you can continue to marginalize yourselves out of existence in a generation or two. I actually agree with the ministers in this article, they shouldn’t be officiating in any sort of state capacity. Allowing religion to be mixed up with the social contract of marriage all these years is past due for correction. Religious people can continue to have their religious ceremonies and more proper secular values will continue to march forward to include rights for everyone. Let’s correct the mistake of letting religion get involved with the state in the first place. Shame on us for waiting for the issue of gay marriage to right the wrong of churches getting up in our marriage business.
Now, let’s talk about that tax exemption thing while we’re at it…
There has been a lot of commentary on Pastor Ryan Bell, the minister whose full journey from Christian Pastor to Atheist (apparently – I’d put him in the pledge phase), was chronicled in his year-long decision to live as an atheist. At the end of this year, he has left Christianity and has come to think that atheism is probably the more proper stance. This story isn’t really remarkable, in and of itself, people trade “sides” in both directions all the time. Even life-long atheist Antony Flew remarkably went theist at the end of his life/career and conversions/de-conversions have been used as a cudgel from both sides. So Ryan Bell’s story isn’t remarkable in that respect and as an atheist I don’t take stories like this to hold them up as any sort of proof of atheism, or even support of it. I think the facts stand for themselves. But when stories like this reach the main stream culture, it’s interesting to watch them for the purpose of gauging where the culture’s response lies.
It could be wishful thinking on my part, but I feel like Christianity in the U.S. is on their heels somewhat in the battle to retain their dominance in American culture. I think the internet has a lot to do with it. And I also believe that — much to the chagrin of their Christian enemies and accommodationist critics — people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens put a large dent in Christian cultural impact in the last decade.
I personally left Christianity simply because I believe that Christianity in no sense of the word is “true”. But Christians who see guys like Ryan Bell leaving Christianity, cannot accept the answer that he simply thinks it’s wrong without entertaining the premise. So instead of taking guys like me and other ex-Christians at their word, they spend many hand-wringing hours trying to explain this exodus for different reasons.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many Christians out there honestly looking inward at Christianity to try and see what they can do better to retain Christians. But they miss the point also: it doesn’t matter how much you try and get hip, or re-interpret scripture, or reduce Christian hypocrisy, or soften doctrine to accommodate modern sensibilities, you cannot keep Christians who simply don’t believe it’s true. Truth is and always will be the Achilles heel to religion. There are atheists that have admitted they want Christianity to be true (I am certainly not one of those), but in the end, Christianity has nothing if people aren’t buying the premises in which the religion was built on. The only move – which many modern apologists and theologians are doing – is to change what Christianity means, and give would-be apostates a life line built on mythology. But liberal theology that mythologizes the core of the Christian message is just the last stop on the fast train to non-belief. Sure, people can get off on that last stop, but I highly doubt they can build a city there.
People want truth and whether it comes in the big “T” religious version of the little “t” agnostic/atheist version that’s where they are going to build their lives, so building a culture around apologetics and theology is a non-starter as far as I’m concerned. Theology and apologetics are inherently reactive to the internal and external criticisms of religious doctrine. I think Christianity has been effectively adaptive to date about indoctrinating the sheep and mollifying the would-be intellectual heretics. But critical mass of science, reason, technology, and information age is here and if Christianity continues to fight from their heels, they will lose the privilege of influence they have comfortably held in this country since its inception.
The reaction to Ryan Bell’s exit from Christianity has been interesting to watch. Christians are being downright fierce about his apostasy. The more thoughtful Christians will read about Ryan Bell and look to change the church from within. But at the end of the day Christianity isn’t true and that’s a tough fort to defend. But humans love their narrative and something Ryan Bell said in an interview struck me as a sliver of light for Christianity:
I’d just say that the existence of God seems like an extra layer of complexity that isn’t necessary. The world makes more sense to me as it is, without postulating a divine being who is somehow in charge of things.
Ah, good ol’ Occam’s Razor. Bell also said it was “provisional” where he is at in his thought, so that tells me if he is able to come up with a better Christian narrative than the one he has now then he can be got. More likely though, the word “provisional” is just a responsible word that I think everyone should ultimately be using about their current thought. I hope tomorrow, some belief I hold today is absolutely demolished. That means I’ve grown. Hopefully this hypothetical new belief also is more closely aligned with truth, but even if it isn’t, the value I hold to be open to new ideas means we as individuals have growth potential.
So, on and on we go, a little push here, a little tug there. But the needle has been moving slowly and steadily in America in the recent past away from Christianity and toward non-belief. The reason why is there’s “no there-there” when it comes to Christianity, but it will continue to be interesting the tactics which are used by the believers to try and keep their flock together. Those Christians who think they will be successful because they have Truth on their side are sadly mistaken. I used to think like that. I thought that Christianity was self-evidently true and something that was true could easily withstand any scrutiny. Truth accepted my challenge and Christianity folded without a fight. If we change the value of the Christian culture to believe in the pursuit of truth and knowledge, then Christianity as a major influence in this country will similarly fold. I believe the information age is pushing critical mass in that direction faster than could be hoped for in past generations. I look forward to the day when faith is no longer a virtue and social, cultural, political, and governmental policy is completely discussed, written, and enacted purely by good reasoning.
Neil deGrasse Tyson took to Twitter on Christmas and made some fun tweets that appeared to be poking a little fun towards the holiday:
On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642.
QUESTION: ThIs year, what do all the world’s Muslims and Jews call December 25th? ANSWER: Thursday
Merry Christmas to all. A Pagan holiday (BC) becomes a Religious holiday (AD). Which then becomes a Shopping holiday (USA).
Santa knows Physics: Of all colors, Red Light penetrates fog best. That’s why Benny the Blue-nosed reindeer never got the gig
Pretty harmless stuff, I thought they were fun. You can read more about the totally predictable, whiny, Christian backlash here if you’d like. What I find much more interesting about the tweets is that Neil deGrasse Tyson seems to maybe have done a 180 about the role scientists play in public. Here’s a clip from 2006 of him publicly admonishing Richard Dawkins for failing to nuance his positions publicly:
I agreed with Dawkins back then, and disagreed with Neil deGrasse Tyson (and of course Dawkins absolutely crushes it in this exchange). I still agree with Dawkins, but now apparently so does Neil deGrasse Tyson. Welcome, my friend, welcome.
I’m in a mood to reach across the aisle today. Always in search for common ground with my Christian counterparts, I’ve decided to give an ecumenical public service announcement: Christians… read your bible! Read it all. Cover to cover. Take it in. Engage with the text and really solidify your Christian bona fides and show your Lord and Savior that you mean business. I believe this is a message that will easily be endorsed by clergymen and laymen alike — of all Christian stripes: from the most fundamentalist fire-breathing pastor, to the most liberal wishy-washy believer out there. Simply read the Bible.
I’ve always been so curious as to what % of “Christians” who are out there professing “Christianity” have actually read the thing — the whole thing. I would wager a lot of money — and souls — that it is a miniscule minority. So many vociferous Christians, so little Christian education.
I have personally read the good book cover to cover twice — once as a Christian, and once as an atheist. I believe so much in the value of everyone knowing what is in this very culturally significant book that I think I’m going to make a new policy for myself: Christian arguments will not be recognized by me from anyone who has not slogged through the whole mess that is the Christian bible. Look, Christians, I’m not trying to be harsh here, it’s for your own good. You really need to read the thing. Your pastor/priest and fellow Christians will most certainly agree with me.
So, read the Christian bible, read the whole thing, engage with it, and let me know what you think. I’ll make a friendly wager — just to make it interesting — that at the end of it, you’ll be less Christian and more Atheist. This is a bet worthy of Pascal: if you read the bible and remain Christian, you’ve only educated yourself and brought yourself more into the faith that you so cherish; but if you read it and recognize it for the jumbled, incoherent, fairy tale that it actually is, you can then start leading a wonderful, productive life bathed in the warm comfort of reality. What’s there to lose?
This has been your public service announcement from Skeptical Music. Have a wonderful day!