Monthly Archives: March 2012

Religion, Education, and Poverty: How Christianity is Actively Hurting America

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Christianity:  Keeping the Poorest and Least Educated at the Bottom

Some of you may have seen the new Gallup poll that illustrates which states are the most religious.  If you have not, you can read about it at Gallup here.  Here is a list of the most and least religious States.

The most religious States in order are as follows:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Utah
  3. Alabama
  4. Louisiana
  5. Arkansas
  6. South Carolina
  7. Tennessee
  8. North Carolina
  9. Georgia
  10. Oklahoma

The least religious States in order are as follows:

  1. Vermont
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Maine
  4. Massachusetts
  5. Alaska
  6. Oregon
  7. Nevada
  8. Washington
  9. Connecticut
  10. District of Columbia

There are some trends here worth noting.  The most religious States all voted Republican in the 2008 Presidential election.  The exception to the rule was North Carolina which voted Democrat.  Many reasons have been given showing why this exception occurred.  The most accepted are that Obama did a great job mobilizing the Democratic base there and got them out to vote, African Americans voted in higher numbers in NC than in any previous election and they voted for Obama, and perhaps most importantly, the voting occurred over 17 days in NC, the results of those earlier votes helped Obama to mobilize people.  In fact, he lost the general vote on Election Day and in the end only defeated McCain by .4%—49.9% to 49.5%.  So yes, North Carolina may have voted Democratic, but there appear to be several reasons for the anomaly.

The least religious States all voted Democrat, with the exception of Alaska.  Alaska voted Republican. While I have not done an official study of why Alaskans voted Republican, I would be remiss if I did not point out that the Vice Presidential nomination, Sarah Palin is from Alaska.  It is worth considering the idea that her running may be at least in part if not all of the reason for breaking the trend.

The above poll becomes even more interesting when taken in conjunction with the last U.S. Census’ numbers on the most and least educated States.  This poll looked at the number of people with advanced degrees (post-bachelor).  Here are where the above States rank in terms of education and how they voted.  The ranking list goes to 51 as it includes the District of Columbia.  You can read it in full here.

In order of Most religious (education rank and how they voted in 2008 in parentheses)

  1. Mississippi (47) (Rep)
  2. Utah (24) (Rep)
  3. Alabama (41) (Rep)
  4. Louisiana (50) (Rep)
  5. Arkansas (51) (Rep)
  6. South Carolina (34) (Rep)
  7. Tennessee (38) (Rep)
  8. North Carolina (31) (Dem)
  9. Georgia (23) (Rep)
  10. Oklahoma (45) (Rep)

The least religious states (education rank in parentheses)

  1. Vermont (9) (Dem)
  2. New Hampshire (10) (Dem
  3. Maine (29) (Dem)
  4. Massachusetts (2) (Dem)
  5. Alaska (22)  (Rep)
  6. Oregon (17) (Dem)
  7. Nevada (46) (Dem)
  8. Washington (13) (Dem)
  9. Connecticut (4) (Dem)
  10. District of Columbia (1) (Dem)

These findings while most likely not completely shocking are at the very least quite interesting.  It would appear that with a few exceptions, that the less educated a State the more religious it happens to be and the greater the likelihood that it voted Republican.  There are two exceptions to be noted, both Georgia and Utah were in the top half when it comes to education.

The converse is also true, the less religious and more educated States tended to vote Democrat.  Once again there are two exceptions.   Maine and Nevada were in the lower half when it came to education.

The facts that these two polls illustrate, even with their “exceptions to the rule”, is quite fascinating.   First, it is a further affirmation of the many studies that have shown a direct relationship between education and religion.  The fact of the matter is that the more educated people become, the more they trend away from religion.  This is a fact which most atheists are already aware.  It becomes very difficult to buy into religion once one has learned a key component of higher education: critical thinking.

There is one other study worth noting.  If you compile a list of the wealthiest and most poverty stricken States in the country you will see a great deal of overlap here as well.  Almost every State that is listed above as less educated and more religious is in the lower half when it comes to wealth—most are in the bottom 10!  One does not need an advanced degree to notice that the majority of these States are in the South.  (The converse is also true.  The more educated and less religious predominantly make up the top half and top 10.  You can read more on that here.)

What is happening in the Southern part of the United States?  How can the poorest and least educated members of our country be voting for the Republican Party?  Isn’t this the Party that is seeking to end government programs to help the poor, the uninsured, and the undereducated?  It most certainly is.  This is the Party that is against college degrees and wants to cut education spending.  This is the Party that wants to reduce the amount of money paid out through the various welfare programs.  This is the country that does not want to medically insure the unemployed and also wants to make cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.  The list goes on and on—and none of it benefits the less educated and more poor.  The only common theme between the majority of people in those States and the Republican Party is Christianity.  There is nothing else.  We are left, in the 21st century staring, open-mouthed in astonishment, at the fact that people will destroy their financial, educational, and medical well being because of Christianity in what is supposed to be one of the more educated countries on the planet.

When people say that religion does more harm than good, we often point to Third World countries for examples.  That is not necessary.  We need look further than our own borders. American citizens vote against their own needs for no other reason than the fact that they are Christians.  What a sad state of affairs.

Thanks for Reading.  I look forward to your Comments.

 

 

Equal Rights for Transgender Canadians

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Bill C-279: Transgender Rights in Canada.  Speak up Canadians!

If it were not for religion, issues surrounding the LGBT community, would in my opinion disappear.  I am not naïve enough to believe that there would still not be people who oppose LGBT rights, but the fervor, passion, and large numbers of these people would simmer down.  Most often, I spend my time writing about atheism, religion, and the United States.  One of the cool blog widgets that you can get is a country tracker.  I have learned that outside the U.S., Canadians read my blog the most.  This post is for you.

This post is a repost from Natalie Reed’s blog, Sincerely, Natalie Reed over on Freethoughtblogs.com

She writes about the discrimination that transgender people face in Canada, and let’s be honest, just about everywhere else as well.  It is time that we recognize that when so many founding documents, laws, philosophers, and dare I say it….religions, state some variation of “all people are created equal” it actually does mean all people.

I am sick of hearing Christians rally against the LGBT community.  Is that really what the fictional character named Jesus would do?  Really?  North American Christians are truly becoming an embarrassment when it comes to human rights.  Anyway, I will let Natalie speak for herself.  She writes:

 

Next month, in April, an extremely pivotal bill is going to be up for debate in the Canadian parliament. It’s Bill C-279, which will add gender identity and gender expression to the list of statuses protected under the Canadian Human Rights Code, and amend the pertinent sections of the Criminal Code in regards to anti-transgender violence, assault, and harassment.

Currently, transgender Canadians have no such protections, and may be discriminated against on the basis of their gender by employers, businesses, shelters, institutions (public or private) and individuals without any legal consequence. Effectively, I can be turned down for a job, barred from entering a restaurant, denied admittance to a shelter or hostel, or forced to comply with male dress-codes at public institutions without my having any recourse. If I am harassed, assaulted or murdered on the basis of my being trans, this does not qualify as a hate crime. I am in the position of having to depend simply on the mercies of a legally empowered majority to choose not to exercise their right to openly discriminate against me.

This is not okay.

I find myself increasingly frustrated by the amount of energy the LGBTQ rights movement expends on issues such as marriage, adoption or DADT. It seems like a rather explicitly classist mentality to prioritize the ability of those already comfortably situated as full participants in society to pursue middle-class, nuclear family privileges while others do not yet even have the basic level of protections required to be able to seek employment, or at least receive assistance from institutions like emergency shelters. While we celebrate the ability of gay and lesbian Canadians to marry one another, transgender Canadians are forced into homelessness or survival sex work because they do not have the assurance that they won’t be laughed out of a job interview simply for being something other than binary and cisgender, and do not even have the assurance of being able to seek income assistance without their identity being denigrated, mocked, invalidated, and exposing themselves to the risk of public or personal humiliation.

How many trans people (including myself) have been openly and loudly misgendered at the welfare office? How many trans women have been kicked out of women’s shelters on the basis of being “really men” and forced to humiliate themselves and risk violence or sexual assault trying to be accommodated by men’s shelters? How many have been turned away from food banks on the basis that they don’t have “proper” identification? How many of us, exposed to this bigotry, humiliation, invalidation and risk simply stop trying to seek work or assistance, and end up falling between the cracks of the system, all because nobody can even be bothered to acknowledge this crucial gap in Canadian human rights law? And what good are marriage or adoption rights when you don’t even the basic necessities to take care of yourself, let alone a family?

Bill C-279 has received virtually no media attention whatsoever. A considerable majority of my friends here in Canada, most of whom likely consider themselves allies of the trans community and supporters of our rights, have never even heard of this bill. A considerable majority of Canadians have absolutely no idea that trans people are NOT protected from direct discrimination. And when cis Canadians are informed of this problem, they often act momentarily appalled, only to completely forget about the issue a couple hours later, and file it back under “somebody else’s problem”. In complete honesty, I’d like to ask any cis Canadians reading this: Did you even know about Bill C-279 before now? If you did know of it, did you remember its name, and know that it is being debated in a couple weeks? Did you know that transgender Canadians can legally be turned down for employment or shelter simply on the basis of their gender identity or gender expression? Were you even aware there was a problem? Have you ever seen this discussed on the news? Did you know this was an issue during the last election, and that the original bill (that would have passed, prior to the Tories claiming a majority through their rigged election) had been killed by the dissolution of the previous parliament? Have you done anything about this?

This bill has been ignored. And if it continues to be ignored, it will not pass. Please try not to read that in a Gandalf voice. I’m trying to be serious (yes, it’s very difficult). Stephen Harper believes he has a mandate to allow the majority of Canadians, the most privileged and comfortably situated Canadians, to speak for all of us. Democracy cannot be a majority deciding on the rights of a minority. Were that the case, there would never been any civil rights progress at all. And trans people are absolutely a small minority. The only way we have ANY chance of achieving this basic and fundamental level of protection, being treated as fully equal members of our society, is by TALKING ABOUT IT. We need this to be heard. It needs to be understood by the Canadian people our parliament claims to represent that there is an entire class of Canadians who do not presently have legal protections for their basic, inalienable human rights. It needs to be understood by the Canadian people that we currently live in a nation where overt, institutionalized discrimination is still tolerated.

I have long believed that a culture, society or nation is judged not by the affluence of its most privileged, but by how it takes care of its most vulnerable. What does it say about our nation that there are still a class of human beings who can be openly hated, ridiculed and denied their rights on the basis of an unchosen, innate, harmless condition of their identity? What does it say about us that we choose to allow our most vulnerable to be kicked to the curb, and we choose to ignore it, choose not to even speak about it? Choose to allow bigotry and discrimination fall beneath the threshhold of our notice? Choose complacency in the denial of Canadians’ human rights?

But more than an abstracted, ethical, socio-political issue, this is an issue that affects individuals. Actual living, breathing, human beings who only wish to be treated with a basic level of respect, tolerance and decency, who only wish to be accepted as participants in human society. As was said by a friend of mine at a Transgender Day Of Remembrance rally at Berri Square in Montreal, we aren’t seeking any special rights or considerations. Most of us simply want to get jobs, pay taxes, perhaps have families, participate in public life, and just live our lives. When equal rights for trans Canadians are denied, it is not simply an issue of law, or an issue of our abstract, theoretical notions of gender. It isn’t about what is or isn’t a man or woman, or how far we should extend human rights law, or about urban Canada vs. rural Canada, progressive Canada vs. conservative Canada, secular Canada vs. Christian Canada, or social justice vs. “family values”. It is about what happens to actual human beings. Human beings whose rights are being denied, identities being invalidated, ability to participate in our society being hopelessly compromised, ability to live without fear of assault or harassment being taken away, and pursuit of simplest forms of happiness, fulfillment and life’s rewards being rendered untenable, impossible. Real living, breathing Canadians being denied their chance at anything resembling a full, rewarding and safe life by the complacency of an uninformed public.

Real living, breathing Canadians like my friend Sonya. She can’t find work because her identification doesn’t match her presented gender. Her identification doesn’t match her presented gender because she has not yet had lower surgery, required to obtain an updated gender marker on one’s birth certificate. She hasn’t yet had lower surgery because she can’t afford to see a psychiatrist for her required assessment and approval. She can’t afford to see a psychiatrist because she does not have work, and lives on the pittance offered by Quebec’s income assistance. Do you see the problem here? And this is to say nothing of those transgender Canadians who don’t even wish to undergo SRS.

Or real living, breathing Canadians like my friends Catherine and Emily, who have to work tirelessly to sustain struggling independently owned businesses in order to scrape by because nobody will hire them. Or my other friend named Emily who despite her staggering and beautiful intelligence has had her bright academic future derailed by the negative preconceptions that exist even amongst the educated towards those who don’t quite fit into our expectations about gender. Where once she would have been assured an eventual tenure-tracked position, her future now hangs in anxious uncertainty, and her ability to earn (deserved) respect from her peers has been hamstringed by the potential to see her as a “tranny” first, and gifted thinker second. Or real Canadians like Kaitlyn Borgas, once a prominent and rising star chef in the upper class Vancouver restaurant circuit, forced into unemployment and poverty, her once weighted name dragged through the mud and now attended by derisive, snide giggling and hateful gossip, subjected to insensitive and insulting newspaper columns, ending up sending out scores of resumes to jobs for which she was grossly overqualified, only to not even be called in for an interview, as her family struggled to survive. Real Canadians like Saige, a woman I knew from the Vancouver trans community who ended up taking her own life last year due to simply being unable to cope living in such a hostile environment. Real Canadians like Shelby Tracy Tom, murdered in the Downtown Eastside after needing to turn to sex work to survive. Real Canadians like Kimberly Nixon, rejected from her position at Vancouver Rape Relief for being transsexual and therefore not a “real” woman and not able to “understand” the experiences of other women who had experienced rape or sexual assault. Her case against Vancouver Rape Relief was won in a case heard by the human commission , but overturned in appeal, on the grounds that although Vancouver Rape Relief did not dispute rejecting her on the basis of being trans, they were perfectly entitled under the law to do so.

And countless other cases of direct, overt discrimination against Canadians, with real, lasting consequences, all being enabled and approved by the law. A law in our country saying “yes, you are allowed to discriminate against this class of human beings. Go ahead. You have our blessing.”

And real Canadians like myself.

Hello! I’m Natalie! I’m a transgender Canadian. I was born in Victoria and raised in Chester, Nova Scotia. I’m 27, and live in East Vancouver, and enjoy linguistics, feminism, neurobiology, Doctor Who, My Little Pony, poetry, comics, fashion, post-punk, goth and shoegaze rock music, “experimental” literature and contemporary art. I have a mom named Susan in England, and a dad named Alex in Montreal. I have two brothers in Alaska and North Carolina. I like to go to skeptic-related events, and have a bunch of friends here in Vancouver through the skeptic and trans communities, respectively. I love Thai and Indian food, studied poetry at the Evergreen State College, and I really love dogs. And bats. And sloths. And otters. My favourite books are Don Quixote and The Unconsoled. My favourite band is The Velvet Underground. My favourite poets are Paul Celan and Robin Blaser. I have a stuffed Totoro on my dresser.

I am unemployed, and live on income assistance. I have been unemployed for a very very long time. I scrape by with assistance from food banks (all of which require submitting to leering stares in the crowded line-ups, submitting identification that says “M”, ticking the box on their form that says the same, signing those forms with my birth name, etc.). After enough incidences of not even being considered for a job interview after employers noticed that little “M”, eventually I stopped feeling it was even worth bothering. It is only through an extremely unlikely series of fortunate coincidences that I now find myself writing for a blog network that pays me in return for my work, that this pay does not exceed my “earned income” credit under my “persons with persistent multiple barriers” status at the Ministry Of Housing And Social Development (earned by submitting to the classification of myself as suffering from Gender Identity Disorder- having to bend the truth and claim this was a barrier in terms of its effects on my mental health, despite the fact that I am now happier and healthier than I have ever been, rather than that it is a barrier in terms of the discrimination I face in the hiring process), and am moving into a cheaper apartment, the combined effect of which will finally allow me to make ends meet (though not end my reliance on food banks).

Bill C-279 would have direct benefits for my life. It would make things immensely easier for me, to finally know that I am supported and recognized by my government, that they acknowledge my gender and that I deserve equal protection under the law. It would not stop the current of bigotry against which I need to constantly swim upriver just to survive, to hold on to hope, to maintain my confidence and sense of empowerment in a world that at all times assails me with the message that I should be ashamed for being the disgusting, sinful, abomination and joke that I am… but it would significantly slow it, and at least remove the tacit approval of that dehumanization by our democracy. It would not end transphobia and cissexism, but it would at least send a message that such bigotry is not condoned and blessed by our nation’s representatives, laws and ideals.

This bill is not an ethical abstract. It is something through which we can directly, concretely work towards ending the appallingly inhumane treatment of transgender people in this country. Real Canadians, like Sonya, Catherine, the Emilies, Kaitlyn, Saige, Shelby, Kimberly and myself.

But it will not pass if people don’t know. As long as it’s considered simply a theory, and the various MPs who will make the decisions, and the voters in their ridings, can view trans Canadians as simply some kind of faceless abstract, as long as they’re able to ignore the real human consequences, affecting real human beings, as long as it’s ignored, or discussed quietly and silently behind closed doors, as long it is goes completely unmentioned by the media, it will not pass. Our lives will continue on in needless difficulty. Our rights will continue being denied. Members of our community will continue to give up, continue to be pushed out on the streets, continue to be laughed out of job interviews, continue to be forced into sex work, continue to turn to addiction as the only possible comfort, continue to fall through the cracks of our system, continue to die. Our government will continue to approve. And they will do this on behalf of a complacent public. A public who are happy to ignore that their friends, daughters, sons, children, sisters, brothers, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, mothers, fathers, parents, co-workers, roommates and fellow Canadians are suffering and being denied equal rights. A public who will allow people to die, and choose not to act.

We cannot, must not, let this happen. If we do not do everything we can to let this be heard, let it be talked about, and let people understand that Canadians are being denied their human rights, then we are a part of it. We have participated in it. We have let down the vulnerable in our country, and we have let down the ideals on which this country was built.

We owe it not only to trans people to ensure that this law passes, but we owe it to the principles of a free and democratic society. We cannot and must not be complacent in overt, institutionalized discrimination, bigotry and the consequential suffering, violence and death. It is our responsibility, and the time to stand up and say that transgender Canadians, all Canadians, deserve equal rights and protection from bigotry is now.

If we fail in this, we do not deserve to call ourselves a democratic nation.

At the very least, should this bill be blocked by Harper and his Conservative “mandate”, our nation should be made aware that his party opposes the principle of universal, inalienable rights. That they have directly and knowingly stood on the side of bigotry and intolerance, and said it is acceptable to deny a class of Canadian citizens their status as equal under the law.

So please, share. Talk. Shout. Make this known.

ETA:

Suggested actions include writing your MP, especially if he or she is a moderate or socially-progressive Conservative. You can also sign this petition or start a new one of your own. I’d also STRONGLY recommend contacting your local media to inform them of this story, ask if they were aware of it, and if so ask why they haven’t covered it. Make Facebook statuses and tweets. Do whatever you can to get people informed and talking.

Thank you Natalie for calling attention to this issue.

Thanks for Reading. I look forward to your comments.

Evangelical “Truths” and Mark Driscoll—Leading the Credulous to more Stupidity

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The Continued Credulity of the Religious

The Christian Post has an article on its website entitled Mark Driscoll: 8 Truths About Jesus and the Cross.  You can follow my link to read if you like.  I must admit, as a skeptical person, my dander goes up as soon as I hear the word “truth” mentioned.  As an atheist, I get especially curious when the word “truth” is associated with an evangelical pastor like Mark Driscoll.  In reading the article, I found myself go through a range of emotions.  The first was amusement.  I laughed at how silly his truths were.  Then I went into what can only be classified as sadness or despair.  I found it quite lugubrious to realize that he is passing this garbage off as truth.  The last emotion I had was anger.  It angers me to realize that thousands will read his words online and hear him speak such blatant nonsense from the pulpit.  As a response to that, it is worth looking at his “8 Truths”.  Driscoll’s words are in quotes.

  1. “God is holy and without any sin.”—The first objection that must be raised is that he is assuming that not just a god, but his particular supernatural being exists.  This is not necessarily the place to present the mountain of evidence against such thoughts, but suffice it to say, if you are reading this blog, you are probably familiar with much of that evidence.  The idea that god is without sin is highly evasive.  “Sin” is defined as an act that violates a known moral rule in a religion.  I suppose if this god makes his own rules, he most likely does not violate them, or can change them as need be.  However, if we look at the actions of the god of Abraham, he is hardly without fault and can often be judged, by any standard you choose to do so as immoral.  He promotes genocide, infanticide, and a whole host of other atrocities.  Is he, according to Christians without “sin”—possibly, since he seems to change the rules as he goes.  However, Driscoll is implying that his god is “good”.  Again, use any definition of “good” that you choose, this blog does not have the time for a philosophical debate on ethics, so pick the definition that you adhere too, and the god of Abraham does not at all equate to anything “good”, but rather is far more equivalent to what most of us would call evil, dictatorial, and totalitarian regimes.
  2. “God made the world and us as good”—There is zero evidence that god exists, let alone that he made the world.  In fact there is quite a bit of evidence showing exactly where and how our world was made and god is not a necessary part of the equation.  The second part of his sentence is meant to imply that the humans that god created first were created as good and in his image.  It is quite clear to anyone with a basic understanding of science (we are talking about a 7th grade education here) that we did not all descend from Adam and Eve; they never existed and were never created as “good”.  Second, the notion, that all human beings are created as “good” in the first place is ludicrous.  To sustain such a theory, we would need to have that philosophical discussion of ethics previously mentioned.  Suffice it to say, that what is “good” is not universally agreed upon, so how can all humans be created as “good”?  This sets aside the important objection that we are not “created” by a supernatural being in the first place.
  3. “We rebelled against God”—This brings us back to the absurd fallacy of Adam and Eve.  Driscoll is stating as truth, that because two people who never existed, broke a rule mandated by a god for whom no evidence exists to support, we are all guilty of a crime against this god.  This is nothing more than intellectual rubbish.  No one who supports Driscoll’s claim here can be called anything other than credulous—and that is the nicest adjective that can be used to describe them.
  4. “We are sinful”—Driscoll has the gall, and this is common to most preachers, to claim that we are all sinners because of the “original sin” or as he writes, the “actions of our first parents”.  He takes it further by pointing out that any who feel they are not sinners are “proud” and quotes Augustine claim that “pride” is the greatest sin of all.  Again, this is nothing more than intellectual rubbish.  How absurd a notion is that?  Imagine holding you responsible for a crime that your grandparent committed.  It is intellectual refuse due to the fact that the entire argument is full of holes and makes no sense.  As there is no evidence that god exists, so too is there a lack of evidence for the concept of a “sin”.  There is certainly no way that we can all be guilty of something that does not exist.  Driscoll is passing off as a “truth” the idea that we are all doomed based on pure hocus pocus and speculation.  Follow Driscoll to the land of credulity and stupidity.
  5. “Sin results in death”.—I was going to skip this absurd claim by Driscoll.  It is such an absurd statement it really need not be attacked.  However, I cannot resist.  On the surface, “sins” do not exist; therefore, they cannot result in death.  He states that if we sin, we are separated from god, so while we continue to exist, we are spiritually dead.  I suppose he does not have it all wrong after all.  We are separate from god, as god does not exist, we cannot be anything but separate.  We do exist.  I would also argue that we are “spiritually dead”—in the way he means it as well.  If god does not exist, I most certainly do not have any “spirituality” towards him/her.  I suppose I am living the life that he is railing against.  Hmm interesting.  He actually came close to a truth with this point but ruined it with the concepts of sin and the idea that “spiritual death” is a bad thing.  Oh well, better luck next time Mark.
  6. “Jesus is sinless”—Driscoll claims that Jesus was and is the only person to live without sin.  This statement presupposes much about the life of Jesus.  It is quite clear to every scholar on the subject that we know very little about the life of Jesus, that the four accepted gospels of the bible are full of holes, had multiple authors, and do not always tell the same story.  That being noted, how can Driscoll possible say that Jesus lived without sin?  The only evidence to back up Driscoll’s claim would be that Jesus claimed to live without sin, others claim he lived without sin, or that he is in fact the son of a deity and thus sinless.  There is zero evidence for any of those three arguments.  In fact, I am going to make a counter argument.  Jesus was a conman.  He knew that he was not the son of any deity with as much certainty that you or I know that we are not.  He developed a scheme to dupe people into following him.  As a result of his treachery, millions of people have since suffered and died at the hands of the church that he is responsible for creating.  Therefore, not only is Jesus not “sinless” but through his deceptions, can be held as an accomplice (at best) for more human suffering than any other living being in history.  “Sinless”?  Hardly.
  7. “Jesus became our sin.”—Driscoll states that “on the cross, Jesus willfully became the worst of what we are… he took our sins on as his responsibility and paid the price for them that we should have paid-death.”  More intellectual rubbish.  Jesus, if he even existed at all, certainly did not have the right or ability to take my “sins” or immoral actions away from me.  This is a purely ludicrous idea.  Imagine that you commit a murder.  Please show me the court, that will allow me to step in and say, “No need to punish this person, I will accept responsibility, go ahead and punish me.”  Sounds ridiculous right?  It gets worse.  Now find me a court that will accept the following statement.  “I stand before you today asking that you punish me, with death, for any “sins” or immoral actions that anyone commits in the future.”  Really?  Is any objectively thinking person going to argue that statements like those make sense?  The idea that the death of Jesus absolves you for anything you might do is pure fantasy.
  8. “Jesus died for our sins”—This is a continuation of the above point and is equally foolish.  Driscoll writes that Jesus willingly died in acceptance for your “sins”.  That in fact, god was going to mete out the punishment to all of us, but Jesus stepped in an “took the bullet”.  This concept is offensive and wrong on many levels.  First, Jesus does not have the right to absolve you of anything (as previously noted).  Second, this deity that we are supposed to revere actually accepted the death and suffering of his own son for your screw-ups?  That concept is morally bankrupt.  Driscoll actually writes that Jesus paid the price for any “sins” you might commit.  So I suppose that gives you free reign to be as immoral as you like—just remember to state your faith in Jesus and ask for forgiveness from time to time and you are good as gold!  Lucky us.

In closing, Driscoll’s statements are really nothing new or revolutionary in Christianity.  Yet, people will listen to this nonsense.  They will, by the thousands, or more if we count the other pastors who will be preaching the same garbage this Easter season, listen to it, and never stop to question it.  They will accept these eight concepts and others like them as the “truths” that Driscoll and his ilk proclaim them to be.  What a sad state of affairs we find ourselves in.  The religious are credulous at best and uneducated at worst.  What make this a more embarrassing state of affairs for humanity, is that it is a continued and promoted state of credulity and ignorance.

The popular (and always great to read) atheist blogger Greta Christina, in her blog “If everyone does one thing…” on March 25, challenged each atheist to do something different than you normally do in order to advance atheism.  Her idea is that if each one of us did something new, what a difference that would make for the cause of atheism.  I think that is a brilliant idea Greta.  Here is my suggestion.  Find a theist in your life and ask them some questions regarding these “8 Truths”.  Perhaps you can get them to think a bit more than Mark Driscoll would like.  If not, then I suggest taking the advice of Richard Dawkins and “mock and ridicule”.

Thanks for reading.  I look forward to your comments.

Dawkins’ Comments at the Reason Rally

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Why Dawkins is Right to Call for the Mocking and Ridicule of Religion

As my regular readers will know, I have been travelling quite a bit recently.  I did not have the opportunity to attend the Reason Rally.  Coming home last night, I had my first chance to hop on line to learn how it went.  From what I can gleam, most atheists that went thought it was great, inspiring, etc. nothing too surprising there, and you are better off reading the many first-hand accounts than me writing about it.  At that point I moved over to some Christian sites and naturally things were a bit different.  It seems that there is some anger over some of the comments made by Richard Dawkins.  At one point during his speech, Dawkins stated: (I have underlined the parts of this quote that the religious are finding the most offensive):

When I meet somebody who claims to be religious, my first impulse is, don’t believe you, I don’t believe you, until you tell me, do you really believe, for example, if they say they are Catholic, do you really believe that when a priest blesses a wafer it turns into the Body of Christ. Are you seriously telling me you believe that?! Are you seriously saying that wine turns into blood? Mock them! Ridicule them!  In public. Don’t fall for the convention that we’re all too polite to talk about religion. Religion is not off the table. Religion is not off the list. Religion makes specific claims about the universe which need to be substantiated, and need to be challenged, and if necessary, need to be ridiculed with contempt.

It is my opinion that Dawkins is right in what he is advocating.  In order to illustrate this a few things must be made clear.

The first thing that must be noted is that it is the religious and religions that have brought these various debates into the public realm.  If religions did not argue so forcefully against things like climate change, contraception, evolution, same sex marriage, etc. they would not be a part of the public debates on these issues.  One could also argue that perhaps these things would not be issues were it not for religion.  I digress.  The main point to note is that mocking, ridiculing, challenging, whatever word you want to use—in public has become a necessity.  Dawkins is completely correct when stating that religion can no longer be on the list of topics that should not be addressed in public.  When religions put themselves in the public sphere, they must then take all of the heat that comes with that.  If they do not want their dogma and doctrines debated publicly, perhaps they should learn to keep quiet.  Perhaps they should contain their message to their houses of worship.  What they should certainly not do is try to make those dogma and doctrines the law of the land.  The religious opened this can of worms, now they must deal with it. They become no different than any other political party or special interest group.  When any group puts ideas out to the public, they are prepared to be mocked and ridiculed by those who dissent.  Religions do not deserve special treatment in this realm, and in fact, have enjoyed a special status in the public sphere for far too long.

Dawkins’ use of the words “mock” and “ridicule” are the parts that the religious are finding the most offensive.  In reality, these words are not offensive at all.  What is offensive is the idea that theistic arguments should be treated with the same intellectual integrity as scientific positions.  There has been a debate among the atheists recently over the best way to effectively combat religion.  There are those who believe that being offensive is acceptable and those who disagree.  Naturally, there are many in the middle.  I suppose in writing this piece, it is my turn to weigh in on this topic.

The question that we need to ask ourselves is this, “what is my goal in my conversation with a theist?”  The answer to that question can change from conversation to conversation, but needs to be asked if we are to judge the level of “acceptable offense”.  Let me explain.  If your answer to the above question is that you are trying to convince someone to leave their religion, then mocking and ridicule may not be the best starting point.  The emphasis of that statement must be on the phrase “starting point”.  I know of very few people who change their opinions when they are offensively attacked right out of the gate.   If you tell me that you believe X (X in this case does not need to be a religious viewpoint), and I immediately start by mocking and ridiculing X, is there any chance for me to sway you from your opinion?  I think it highly unlikely.  However, from a non-mocking and ridiculing starting point, the level of offense that you can give remains directly related to your goal and the current conversation.  There is certainly a place for that type of discussion when it comes to religion, but I think the window is small.  (More on that later)

If your answer to the above question is something along the lines of debating religious dogma, doctrine, and the geo-social-political ramifications of religion, we come to a very different approach.  In this case, and I think it is what Dawkins was getting at, mocking and ridicule are not only acceptable, but may not go far enough.

The religious can take offense from that statement if they choose but some facts remain.  It becomes important to note that not all theories are created equal.  There are mountains of evidence for many of the scientific theories and laws that seem to be up for debate.  To combat or argue against those theories, one must produce evidence—mocking and ridicule is useless, mock the theory of evolution and one only looks uneducated.  Ridicule the advances of modern medicine at your own peril.  We can continue along these lines in every branch of science that exists.

When it comes to the religious theories, there is no evidence to back up any of it.  None.  Zip.  Zero.  In fact, the religious already know this, which is why they do not accept any of the evidence for any religion other than their own.  As John Lofton has written so many times and so effectively, the OTF (Outside The Faith) Test, works every time.  It is important to call attention to this hypocrisy.  Religions want atheists and other secularists to treat them with what amounts to intellectual respect.  Yet, at the same time, they do not extend this same courtesy to other religions.  There is zero reason why any religious idea, theory, etc needs to given any serious treatment by secularists.  It is my right to mock and ridicule creationism for example, because we know, without any doubt whatsoever, that it gets the entire story of our planet wrong.  It does not deserve any special reverence or treatment in dialectic.  If I were to inform you all, that a unicorn just ran through my backyard, I should expect to mocked and ridiculed for believing such nonsense.

The same holds true when someone tells me that the world is not as old Mesopotamian civilization—mock and ridicule away.

When someone tells me that an illness I recently suffered was cured by some supernatural being and not by my doctors and medicine—mock and ridicule away.

When someone writes a comment on my blog stating to the effect that same sex marriage is wrong because Jesus says it is a sin—mock and ridicule away.

Statements along those lines do not deserve to be treated with respect.  I mentioned earlier that mocking and ridiculing may not go far enough.  To give statements like those mentioned above any respect whatsoever in rational discourse is to imply that there may be some value or validity to them.  That accomplishes nothing more than to insult reason and retard the advancement of society.  Statements seeking to alter the ways in which our society is governed or the ways that our society should advance that come from a religious origin cannot be tolerated—mocking and ridiculing are not only acceptable, but should be encouraged, as Dawkins correctly does in his speech.

In closing, there is a space for “civil” discourse with the religious, but it is, in my opinion, a very small window.  The moment that the conversation begins to hinge on arguments from religion the window slams shut.  No useful dialogue in the twenty-first century can ensue from that point.  Mock and ridicule away.

Thanks for Reading.  I look forward to your comments.

 

 

Why Does Christianity Have Such a Problem With Same Sex Marriage?

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Christianity and Gay Marriage: A tale of Power, Control, and Relevancy

If you have not already heard the New Hampshire Legislature is scheduled to vote today to repeal its same sex marriage law.  New Hampshire is one of the few states that currently recognize same sex marriage.  The repeal of the law would not just end same sex marriages, but would also define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and would continue to recognize the approximately 2,000 same sex marriages that have occurred in that state.  Both houses of the legislature in New Hampshire are controlled by Republicans, so this repeal will most likely pass.  The interesting thing to note is that New Hampshire’s Governor is a Democrat, John Lynch.  Lynch has vowed to veto any law repealing same sex marriage.  It would take a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature to override his veto.  It is not clear if there are enough votes for an override.

This whole scenario brings me to my larger religious topic.  The question that I ask myself regularly  is this:  What is there to gain for  Christianity in its constant struggle against homosexuality?

When I converse with someone who opposes same sex marriage, they are often religious and most often Christian.  I ask them why they are opposed to same sex marriage.  The most common answer is of course, it is against the bible.  I am quick to illustrate at this point that much of what we do today is against the bible and much of what the bible promotes that we should be doing would be against the law today.  Usually, I can get them to agree with me on this point.  This brings us full circle to my initial question.  The second answer given to me is usually something nonsensical such as “well, homosexuality is just wrong!”  Of course I ask why that is the case, and get the highly enlightened answer that “It just is. It goes against nature.”–or something similar.  The line of questioning goes on and on and nothing really ever changes.  No one has ever convinced me to support marriage as a union of a man and woman, and I have never really convinced anyone of the opposite.

In spite of all the poor arguments that Christians have for railing against same sex marriage, they continue, with great fervor, on that path.  What is the end game of this position?  Anyway that I look at it, it seems like there is much more to lose than gain.  I know a handful of homosexual people that have left Christianity solely because of this issue.  I also know many straight people who very much disagree with Christianity’s teachings on this topic.  While I do not know of one straight person who has left the “faith” for this reason alone, I know of several who cite it as one of a handful of reasons for leaving their church.  I am sure that many of you know similar people as well.  There is little doubt that Christianity’s obsession with not allowing same sex marriage has damaged the size of its flock.

Religions also stand to lose more ground in their fabricated “fight for religious freedom”.  At every turn, courts are striking down laws that would impede same sex marriage.  If these churches are supposed to be centers of morality, centers to teach people how to live their lives, and other such places—they are only hurting their own credibility by pushing this issue.

In their struggle against same sex marriage, they promote a great deal of hurt and suffering.  The hate speech against homosexuals is staggering at times.  I once again refer anyone doubting this to the Rolling Stone article describing the horrifying numbers of homosexual teen suicides in one Minnesota school district in February or my blog post on that tragedy.  Again, Christianity is doing nothing more than hurting its own causes in the eyes of many.

I do have an answer that I would like to propose as their end game.  It would appear to me that this issue comes down to nothing more than power, control, and relevancy.  Religions for centuries have sought every possible means to control the sea of humanity.  Their stance on same sex marriage is nothing more than another example of an intrinsic control-seeking characteristic of Christianity.  Religions need to control their flocks.  They seek to control what people do and what they think.  This has always been the nature of Christianity.  In the society of the West today those two things are becoming harder and harder to accomplish.  The heated battles over modern social issues illustrate this point.

Religion is constantly in a battle with reason and critical thinking.  As the world’s population becomes more educated, more and more people will turn from religion.  I posit that this is a necessary and inevitable mental migration.  Christianity’s struggle against same sex marriage and other social issues is a part of their play to stay relevant in the modern world.  For centuries, Churches were the strongholds of moral and social opinions.  That influence is rapidly waning.   How long will these death throes continue?  Who can say, but it is a battle they cannot hope to win.  I for one look forward to that day.

Thanks for Reading.  I look forward to your comments.

I will be away from my computer from now until Monday.  Expect a new blog post then.  Thanks all!  I greatly value your readership!