Saturday, April 20, 2013

Facebook Faith #15 - All Religions Are Not Equal (Presently)

In response to the Boston bombing, I have seen this meme drift through my newsfeed a number of times. I understand the overall point it is trying to make and I can sympathize. For peaceful Muslims, it is a terrible thing to be lumped in with all of this tragedy.

However, I don't care for the attempt to equalize it with Christianity... because honestly, it fails. I think the folks at Westboro church are loons, bigots, and awful human beings; but do we really believe they in any way compare to bombers? Westboro protests funerals, but they have yet to cause one.

One only needs to scan the papers and news stories of countries where Islam is the dominate religion - honor killings are justified, blasphemy laws are enforced, your death will be called for if you leave the faith - to realize there is a wide chasm between these religions presently.

I don't think this is any big credit to Christianity. Christian countries have only become more civilized as they have become more secularized. It would not take too much of a back turn of the clock to get those Christians protesting homosexuals to be burning them at the stake. Church Father John Calvin would have given no objection to my execution.

I also question the memes use of the word "most". Is that data driven, or just a personal impression? That has not been my impression at all. My impression is that "most" would never perpetrate violence, but there remains a sympathetic chord when violence is done to someone insulting Islam. It is that sympathy that provides the fertile soil in which the violence of the more extreme elements takes root. Perhaps I am wrong, but I would like to see some data.

If there is a comparing to be done amongst religions, it is this: The Islamic nations serve as a warning of what will happen to ANY nation that turns over its reins to religion.  Remember that the next time you pull the lever for the congressman wearing a cross on his lapel.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Personal Space

I was on Facebook this evening and found myself at a friend's page defending marriage equity.  Many of the usual religious arguments were presented about why homosexuals should not be allowed to marry (though some kind of separate but equal scenario may be possible).

I wrote a response refuting the religious position.  This is a topic that comes up frequently, so I want to park my answer here on the blog, so I can cut and paste it in future conversations. :)

You hold a particular belief about sex, and marriage and morals. Honestly, I would not want you to violate your conscience. I think my problem exists in the way you try to extrapolate those convictions to others beyond yourself. We probably are standing too close to this issue for my point to be clear, so allow me to move it to another topic.

I spent some time in Israel with Jews who kept Kosher. Food had a moral component. To eat it, to prepare it, to clean it... had a good and bad, right and wrong aspect to it.

Do I mind if someone keeps Kosher? By no means. I would never want them to violate their conscience if that is what they believe. However, I think most Americans would react negatively if these Kosher keeping Jews attempted to use the law to make the rest of us keep Kosher. Why should we be forced to attend to the conviction of someone else's religious dictations?

In the same way, you have your religious convictions regarding sex and marriage and gender. You should keep them. I think it is even right for you to present the case of WHY you think your custom/conviction is a good thing in general. However, I think you overstep the line of liberty when you seek to enforce your religious convictions (and by your own explanations, that is what they clearly are) on those who are not of your religious sect. Understand that I no more want your religious convictions forcibly applied, than I would anyone else's... as I would suspect, you would not want religious convictions you do not adhere to forced upon you.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Better Late Than Never?

So politically Left, head of Sojourners, evangelical Pastor Jim Wallis has come out in favor of equal rights.

Hooray right?  Another voice to add to the chorus swelling in America?

I know that is probably how I should be feeling... but  that was not the reaction I had when it scrolled past on my Facebook newsfeed.

Honestly, I was annoyed.  I think it is clear he has believed in the rights of homosexuals for a long time... but making such a public declaration would not have served him or his organization.

In the meantime, others with influence have been out there taking the hits, fighting the hard battles in the religious and political square - putting jobs, book deals, and speaking engagements on the chopping block.  Declaring a side on this issue has caused a breakdown of relationship with friends and family for many people.

Now that the trail has been cleared and the tide of public opinion, even in the religious community, is changing - here come the waves of "us too" church celebrities,  looking to score a little media attention.

I guess there is nothing new to this pattern.  People in religious power are much like politicians, weighing the public mood and assessing the consequences before stating a position. I should probably be more gracious, but that was my initial reaction.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Restore the 1984 NIV

Two of my original quizzing books
When I was a teenager, I was part of a Bible Quizzing program. Over the years, I committed a fair amount of the New Testament to memory. The scripture translation we used was the New International Version.

A few years ago, Biblica updated the translation and for the past few years had been giving the online bibles and apps (biblegateway, youversion) the option of selecting the latest NIV or the 1984 version.

Now however, they have quit selling the 1984 and have made all of the online versions use the "2011" only. On February 28, the 1984 disappeared from websites, tablets, and phones around the world.

So how different is it? Plenty! As an example, here are the first four verses from Romans 2 in the 2011:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Here is the 1984 version (typed from memory):
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things. Now we know that God's judgement against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you,a mere man, pass judgement on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgement? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?
I know... the differences seem pretty minor; but to someone quoting, they are huge.  When one already has the text memorized, these subtle changes are like a mosquito buzzing in your ear - utterly distracting.

I understand the desire to use the latest knowledge and linguistic research to keep the language of the scriptures as accurate as possible. I would just request that Biblica make the 1984 NIV available as an option for the scores of people who have committed these texts to memory.

If this is an issue that matters to you, Biblica can be reached here.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Moral Relativism and The Bible

"If the Bible is no longer your authority then what is?"

I got this question on Facebook while discussing Atheism on a friend's page. The questioner assumes that the bible is clear cut and is THE moral authority.

However, the bible is anything but clear cut. It is not only inconsistent, but much of it would serve as a very poor moral plumbline. In fact, when we look at the bible, we find it was wrong on many moral judgments and it served as an anchor on the moral development of the varied religions it fostered.

Take the notion of slavery - every modern person rejects the practice without exception.  Not the bible - the bible is quite accepting of slavery.
When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property. (Exodus 21:20-21)
So, I should be taking my moral cues from a deity who tells me it is ok to beat my slave, as severely as I like ... so long as I do not beat them to death at that moment? If the slave can survive at least a day or two after my beating, I am in the clear?

Oh, oh... but, but that's the Old Testament... that doesn't apply now.

Ok... so, how did the New Testament handle slavery?
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way [well]. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. (Ephesians 6:9)
Here we can see a moral maturation occurring. It is no longer acceptable to beat a slave within an inch of their life. You are to treat them well, but it is still perfectly acceptable for one human being to own another.

It is clear that the bible is a text which reflected the moral values of its time. It was not setting a timeless and objective moral standard, but a relativistic one. I agree with Brian Dalton, a former man of faith (and creator of Mr. Deity), who said:
“I no longer believe that an institution which changes its doctrines as our culture evolves is in any way directed by a transcendent being.”
Exactly! A truly transcendent God, one who had an absolute view of morality, would not be developing over time like this. A God who was, in his essence, absolute truth would have, from the beginning, given commandments like:
Thou shalt not... EVER... own another human being!
If Israel had been given commands like that, they really would have been a city set on a hill as an example. As it was, they were as bad, or worse than their neighbors. If the bible had contained such clear cut moral edicts, the American South could not have used it as a weapon to subjugate millions.

The bible is many things, written by many authors, with many ideas - some horrid, some profound.

However, the reflection of ancient morals contained within its pages are simply not up to the task of guiding a modern people on the path to a better future.

If you like what you read, share it!

Friday, April 05, 2013

Meme For Mike Huckabee

Last week, Mike Huckabee threatened that if the GOP began to support gay marriage, he and his fellow evangelicals were going to leave the party.  Of course, there were plenty of Christians in 2008 who stated they could never vote for a Mormon candidate, but ended up voting for Romney and waving his banner when push came to shove - so I take his threats with a grain of salt.

Still, I actually think it would be good for the GOP to go ahead and cut the religious zealots like Huckabee loose.  Yes, at one time they were the GOP bread and butter... but now they are just an anchor.  Humanity has moved on, while the Huckabees of America long for medievalism.

I couldn't think of a better send off than Grumpy Cat, so I created this meme for Mike.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Different Languages

If you have never read the book The Five Love Languages, I recommend it.  In it, the author postulates that people basically have 5 love languages - ways in which they express and feel loved.  He surmises that many relationship difficulties occur when people are ignorant of the languages. Here they are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Gifts
  • Physical Touch
  • Acts of Service

A man who feels loved when he receives affirmation gives affirmation to his wife, not realizing that her love language is acts of service.  So, though he feels he is communicating love and appreciation, she still feels unloved and unappreciated.  For her, love is received not by what he says, but by what he does.

Of course, it is not an either or proposition.  Most people probably have some level of each, but 1 or 2 tend to be primary.

It occurred to me today that this may be what is at issue in some of our discussions as a nation. We speak to others assuming that what motivates me, makes me feel valued, or gives me satisfaction will be the same the same items that work for others.  Like in a bad marriage, we keep trying to get the other to respond based on OUR list of motivating factors ... and get frustrated when they do not react how we would.  There must be something wrong with them.

For example, I am a teacher.  A common conservative solution to our educational struggles is to tie teacher pay to student test scores.  My conservative friends assume pay will motivate teachers to get the students to score better because, after all, pay is what lights THEIR fire.

However, I can never seem to convince them that this will have pretty much zero effect.  Although I need a paycheck, that is not what MOTIVATES me.  Let's face it, if pay were what motivated me, teaching was a poor choice for a profession.

So in many ways, we struggle to relate to one another as citizens as some people do in a marriage.  We repeat our arguments and solutions over and over again... louder and louder....

...not realizing that we are, at times, speaking entirely different languages.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

A Thought While Driving Through Arizona

This past weekend my family and I drove down to Phoenix to attend an ASU Origins event. It was a wonderful weekend of science and family time.

Coming from Utah, I started to notice a shift as we moved into Arizona. Unlike many of the states in the Union, Utah does not have a church on every corner. Oh, we have plenty of Mormon wards, but it is not the same.

For one thing, Mormon wards host multiple congregations, and those congregations are set by geography, so they are placed with space between. Also, Mormon wards are often tucked away in neighborhoods, viewable to none but the residents.

As we drove through Arizona towns, the "loudness" of the churches was noticeable to my wife and me. Christianity is a very consumeristic religion compared to Mormonism. Unlike the wards, Christian churches are not bound by geography. Christians may attend a church across town, or the one up the road, depending on what is being offered. Churches are competing for butts in seats, so advertising banners and flashy signs adorned the properties of these houses of worship. The last thing any of these churches would want is to be tucked into a neighborhood somewhere, unseen.

Therefore, it was not uncommon to see a church on each corner of an intersection, letting potential consumers know what spiritual wares were available if they would just step inside. Coffee shops, bookstores, concert stages, sports facilities... give our church a try - we can be your Sunday home.

As we headed back to Utah, after an amazing science filled weekend,  I couldn't help but be morose as I once again drove past all of these religious buildings, where money poured in weekly to accomplish... basically nothing.

Contemplate how much money our world spends on religion each year! Imagine where we would be, think of what we could accomplish, if all of the money our planet annually invests in faith were redirected to science and education.

Instead, billions of people are pouring large chunks of their finances onto roulette tables of superstition, hoping they are placing the right bet on their eternal destiny.

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