Category Archives: Religion

Survey: Support for terror suspect torture differs among the faithful – CNN.com

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey.

The Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture rallied on Capitol Hill in March 2008.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified — more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

Survey: Support for terror suspect torture differs among the faithful – CNN.com

Attenborough reveals creationist hate mail for not crediting God | World news | The Guardian

Sir David Attenborough has revealed that he receives hate mail from viewers for failing to credit God in his documentaries. In an interview with this week’s Radio Times about his latest documentary, on Charles Darwin and natural selection, the broadcaster said: “They tell me to burn in hell and good riddance.”

Telling the magazine that he was asked why he did not give “credit” to God, Attenborough added: “They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.”

Attenborough reveals creationist hate mail for not crediting God, via boing boing

obama wearing sheep’s clothing?

Now, we probably shouldn’t jump on the guilt by association bandwagon (as Obama’s opponents were wont to do during the election), but there are significantly safer, more neutral, and more politically correct (forgive me) selections for an inaugural companion. And this news of the Warren selection is right on the heels of other questionable behavior by Obama — notably, his cabinet choices. Having a cabinet and set of advisors that even Cheney agrees with should send up little red flags all over America.

Someone should ask Obama about what part of “change” we must have misunderstood. Is this country about to be run by the old administration in sheep’s clothing?

State of Protest

what is truth?

what is truth?

is truth knowable?

at what point is one satisfied that they have arrived at it?

do we start with falsehood and whittle away until only truth is left?

do we start with truth and add our own beliefs to it, diluting it?

do we do both?

are we capable of holding conflicting beliefs?

do we ever act NOT according to our actual beliefs?

it seems to me that that which is true would be true no matter what i think about it — or even if i think about it at all.

if my beliefs line up with what actually is, then so much the better for me.

i also think, somewhat, that people’s actual beliefs can be inferred from their behavior, though i think socialization comes to play, and limits/enhances somethings, so that we are coerced into doing that which we would not otherwise do — allowing belief that the consequences of not doing x would be worse than following what we really believe about y.

iow: a behavior do show our true beliefs, but one’s true beliefs and behaviors are to complex to for another to really infer much out of it.

‘Jesus was born in June’, astronomers claim – Telegraph

Using the St Matthew’s Gospel as a reference point, Mr Reneke pinpointed the planetary conjunction, which appeared in the constellation of Leo, to the exact date of June 17 in the year 2BC.
The astronomy lecturer, who is also news editor of Sky and Space magazine, said: “We have software that can recreate exactly the night sky as it was at any point in the last several thousand years.
“We used it to go back to the time when Jesus was born, according to the Bible.
“Venus and Jupiter became very close in the the year 2BC and they would have appeared to be one bright beacon of light.
“We are not saying this was definitely the Christmas star – but it is the strongest explanation for it of any I have seen so far.
“There’s no other explanation that so closely matches the facts we have from the time.
“This could well have been what the three wise men interpreted as a sign. They could easily have mistaken it for one bright star.

‘Jesus was born in June’, astronomers claim – Telegraph

obama and hell and christianity today

as i’ve spoken of before, the “hell” topic was one of the main bones of contention i ended up having with what most evangelical christians consider “orthodox”.

i did a big study on it in 2004, and abandoned the idea of hell once i actually got my mind around what the bible actually does and does not say about it.

as i recall from my studies, hell as a concept is virtually absent from the old testament, and there are three greek words used in the new testament that were translated as “hell” in the NIV (the evangelical’s translation of choice).

together these three words are used a grand total of fourteen (14) times in the new testament.

all but two of these uses are by jesus himself.

paul never mentions it.

“hell” as christians today think of it didn’t really come to be a common christian teaching until nearly 200 AD — no one in jesus audience would have ever thought that you went there forever simply for having the misfortune of being born.

“gehenna” is the most commonly used word for “hell” in the NT, and while it is never “defined” explicitly, what jesus probably meant when he used it what was everyone else at that time meant by it: a place, under the ground, where there was lots of fire, and where the sun got its heat and light from as it traveled under the ground on its trip back to the east, after it had set in the west.

if jesus believed (perhaps because he had some special knowledge from the Father) that hell was not an actual, physical, place which was literally under the ground, he didn’t seem to clue his listeners in, and they certainly would have thought this was what he meant when he used the word.

at the time, it was generally believed (jewish or not) that when a person died they went into the afterlife, or hades (hebrew: sheol), where they might face some sort of judgment.

jesus’ particularly jewish audience at the time were likely to believe that the pious would get to exchange their ticket to hell for a ticket to paradise, which meant they now had TWO tickets to paradise (every one was born with one of each) and could go there, immediately.

people who had committed adultry or had led their neighbors into wrongdoing had their one paradise ticket taken away and got another ticket to sheol handed to them: no escape.

a common phrase in jewish teaching was that it would have been better to not have been born than to be one of these people.

(christians familiar with their bibles will recognize that phrasing: jesus borrowed it.)

people who had themselves sinned, but had not lead other people to sin had to spend about only about one (1) year in gehenna, and then got to go up to paradise.

note: this is not a biblical teaching, as the bible doesn’t actually ever say anything on the subject. i’m just relaying what most people who happened to grow up the descendants of nomadic desert tribes in mesopotamia happen to believe on the subject.

so, that was the belief of MOST of the people who heard jesus say:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

this was RADICAL teaching on this subject.

but did he mean it, literally?

to the people who believed that gehenna was under their ground, and supplied the sun with fire, jesus said that if they are angry with their brother, they are going to go there.

surely he didn’t actually mean it, literally, right?

what about when he said: “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”

did he mean this literally?

so, then, in which of the three times where we have jesus quoted as talking about gehenna is he speaking literally?

if it isn’t those two, it must be this one:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. … You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”

other times the NIV says “hell” are:

2 Peter 2:4 — “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;”

here, the word peter uses is “tartarus” — and is generally thought to be a big, dark, essentially bottomless hole.

James 3:6 — “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”

the word used here is “gehenna”

Matthew 16:18 — “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

here, the word jesus uses is “hades”, rather than “gehenna”.

hades was believed in jesus’ time to be “the afterlife” — and did not necessarily imply someplace horrible, though it was believed to be rather gloomy, unless you happened to get to some sort of paradise.

so, there you have it: the entire new testament’s teaching on “hell” all summed up, with some history on what jesus’ contemporaries believed on the subject.

not one time does jesus ever mention being a christian.

not once does jesus lay out specific things one must believe in order to NOT go to hell.

not once does any other new testament writer.

the bible is more or less quiet on the entire matter of hell and who goes there or does not.

of course, this is NOT a view that is embraced 21st century evangelical christian culture, with its particular version of orthodoxy, where the text must be accepted as a whole: either all true or all a lie, right?

so, then, what about anyone who doesn’t poke out their own eyeball for enjoying checking out a hot chick?

anyway, when obama says:

“I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell…I find it hard that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell…I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity…That’s just not part of my religious make-up.”

…i think you’ll find its actually a very biblical view.

its almost certainly the one jesus himself held, if we are to go by what we know of history combined with his teachings on the subject.

note: i cross-posted this as a comment on john crane’s blog here.

The Information Paradox: Pro-Life..Pro-Choice…Both?

So, I guess I am a pro-life, pro-choice, pro-education atheist. Oddly enough this particular centrist view often makes me stand out in a crowd – my family and close friends lean toward the right and I am viewed as the liberal left-wing nut and to most others I am viewed as the conservative, uptight right- wing nut. I suppose it is easier to categorize someone than take the time to understand their views. We hear a phrase, jump to a conclusion and pigeon-hole someone before they can get away. It is a shame that I am not a pigeon.

The Information Paradox: Pro-Life..Pro-Choice…Both?

how to save the republican party

Meanwhile, it isn’t necessary to evict the Creator from the public square, surrender Judeo-Christian values or diminish the value of faith in America. Belief in something greater than oneself has much to recommend it, including most of the world’s architectural treasures, our universities and even our founding documents.

But, like it or not, we are a diverse nation, no longer predominantly white and Christian. The change Barack Obama promised has already occurred, which is why he won.

Among Jewish voters, 78 percent went for Obama. Sixty-six percent of under-30 voters did likewise. Forty-five percent of voters ages 18-29 are Democrats compared to just 26 percent Republican; in 2000, party affiliation was split almost evenly.

The young will get older, of course. Most eventually will marry, and some will become their parents. But nonwhites won’t get whiter. And the nonreligious won’t get religion through external conversion. It doesn’t work that way.

Giving Up on God – washingtonpost.com

is this true: “all these things will be given to you”

recently i had reason to go back and examine the teachings of jesus in the book of matthew, chapter six:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.

Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

many christians accept this without much thought, and yet also basically ignore it, except as a mild emotional uplift when hard times come.

the basics are: “i am worried. i feel like i should not worry, because god is in control, therefore, i shall now feel better.”

but is the above quoted passage actually true?

is there evidence that god actually provides clothing food and water to those who seek his kingdom?

is it safe to assume that those who do not have such things are, then, not seeking god’s kingdom?

Butterflies

Then my mom called. You might imagine I don’t get along all that well with my mother, and you’d be right. We’re cordial enough, but we don’t really talk about anything meaningful. It was time for that to change. I told her about my work, and about my next project, a game that would literally change the course of history.
 
Then we talked about Obama. I told her that I felt Americans were living in the Matrix, working long hours, eating pablum, and dying useless for having fed the parasitic machine draining the lifeblood of a withering planet.
 
I told her that Obama was the first president in my lifetime I could look to for inspiration. I told her about seeing people like myself get involved in the politcal process for the first time. I told her about getting to know the truth about money, the economy, and consumption.
 
I told her I saw a light at the end of the tunnel, where the boom-bust cycles of exploitative capitalism gave way the steady, sustainable happiness of altruistic capitalism.
 
Then she got biblical, which was her undoing. No one can quote scripture like an atheist. Without getting into the full multi-hour explanation, I showed her that McCain fits the description of the antichrist much better than Obama.
 
Finally it came down to abortion and gay marriage. I explained that first, understand that Roe v. Wade is not a case about abortion, but about the federal government’s ability to enforce the Constitution at the state level. Most laws are like this — their issues are far more complicated than will fit on a sign.
 
Still, it brings up a greater issue. It is not your job to govern other people’s morality. The Bible is explicitly clear on this subject. Not only does it repeatedly warn against judging others, it also makes clear that vengeance is the exclusive prerogative of God.
 
You are being controlled, I told her, by people telling you how to think, how to feel, and how to act. Use your God-given mind to make your own decisions.

Butterflies

Obama Won At Saddleback, In the Eyes Of This Evangelical

Moreover, when McCain said that his greatest moral failure was the break-up of his first marriage, he left out why that was his greatest moral failure — read: sin (the reason, of course, was his extra-marital affair with Cindy, his current wife). On the other hand, Obama squarely addressed his youthful sins and explained what those sins taught him about his character (i.e. what he learned — that he needed to be outward focused rather than selfish). This is the type of repentance in my mind that the Bible teaches us as Christians to do.

So, basically, I am shocked by the coverage and pundits responses to the faith forum. I think Obama showed that he is truly a person of faith. McCain, on the other hand, appeared superficial and a person of weak Christian faith.

Lisa Koperski: Obama Won At Saddleback, In the Eyes Of This Evangelical

Taner Edis – Science and Nonbelief

this is a personal challenge to my good friend john crane.

any chance you can devote an hour to listening to this (while you’re folding laundry or something) in the next month?

i know you’re just getting back from the UK, so no rush, but i would love your reaction to this:

Taner Edis, born and raised in Turkey, is associate professor of physics at Truman State University and the author of The Ghost in the Universe: God in Light of Modern Science and Science and Nonbelief, among other publications. His latest book is An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam.
In this wide-ranging conversation with D.J. Grothe, Taner Edis explains reasons he thinks religion persists, and explores the complex relationship between science and nonbelief, detailing how the institutional interests of science may prevent some in the science community from working to diminish religion, the New Atheists excepted. He talks about how scientific theories are often misused by paranormalists and supernaturalists to advance their cultural position, focusing on the New Age movement’s use of quantum physics and on the intelligent design movement. He examines differences between science and pseudoscience, arguing that often it is not possible to demarcate what is uniquely science. And he surveys various scientific approaches of examining religion, such as rational choice theory, the secularization hypothesis, and various evolutionary approaches, such as group selection theory, the byproduct theory of religion, and memetic approaches (that religion is a “virus of the mind”).

Taner Edis – Science and Nonbelief | Point of Inquiry