Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Senator Ensign: Another Christian Hypocrite

A friend of mine once told me, "We Christians aren't better than anyone else, just forgiven." What a refreshing, honest, attitude! I get so tired of Christians (and Jews and Muslims) with their smug superiority, who claim that their religion makes them more moral than others.

Today, two stories in the news hammer this point home. First, Senator John Ensign (R-Nevada) admitted to having an affair with one of his campaign staffers. This would hardly be noteworthy except that Sen. Ensign is an conservative Christian, an outspoken member of Promise Keepers, and was a vocal critic of Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) when he was arrested for trying to solicit homosexual sex in a public airport bathroom.

Second, a Catholic priest in Miami who was photographed kissing his girlfriend on the beach finally left the Catholic Church, became an Episcopal priest, and married his love. Rev. Alberto Cutie finally did the right thing when he rejected the Catholic Church's unhealthy and unnatural ideas about celibacy.

We're all humans, and nature has endowed us with a wonderful attractive force called sexual appeal. In the past, the possibilities of disease and pregnancy made it important for societies to develop strong rules about who could have sex with whom; womens' virginity in particular was highly prized. These common-sense rules were, unfortunately, turned into religious law, and those who didn't follow them were branded "sinners."

With advances in birth control and protection against disease, these ancient practices are nearly irrelevant. Today, a couple should consider their commitment, their compatibility, their desires, and anything else each one feels is important, and nothing more. Unfortunately, outdated morality still causes untold harm, in the form of frustration, secretive and/or harmful outlets for sexual desires, lies, guilt, and missed opportunities.

Men like Rev. Alberto Cutie must go through terrible angst before they finally reject the perverted celibacy that the Roman Catholic Church expects of its priests. The Church lost a good man, and Rev. Cutie must feel like he's lost his family.

But worse, men like Senator Ensign brag about their purported "better" morals, and insult non-Christians by implication as morally inferior. Yet in the end, as my friend said, "Christians aren't better." At least some of them have the courage and wisdom to admit it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Congressman Forbes: Another bogus claim that we're a "Christian Nation."

US Congressman Randy Forbes (R-Virginia) once again repeats the myth that America is a Christian nation. It's really quite sad that such a well educated man, one who obtained his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, could let his religious desires so badly color his understanding of American history. (I've written about this before.)

The historical facts are so clear and unambiguous: The United States is a secular nation, with a Christian majority. And indeed, the very reason Rep. Forbes is able to attend the church of his choice, worship Jesus and God in the manner he believes is correct, and educate his own children as to his own beliefs, is because we are a secular nation, not a Christian nation.

The specific statement that Rep. Forbes objects to is, ironically, the famous Article 11 from the Treaty of Tripoli, which was written under George Washington's supervision, ratified by the United States Senate, and signed by President John Adams. These are some of the very men we call our "founding fathers," and here's what they wrote and voted on:
Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Got that? Do I have to repeat it? "... not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."

Just once, I'd like to see one of these people who claim we're a Christian nation to clearly and unambiguously distinguish between these two ideas: First, that we're a secular nation, and second, that we're a nation with a Christian majority. Why is it so hard for Rep. Forbes to admit? He's a well educated, intelligent man, and surely must understand the difference.

All I can conclude is that Rep. Forbes is doing what politicians do: Saying what the voters want to hear, and to hell with accuracy. I know he comes from a conservative state, maybe it's just one of the things a politician has to do to get reelected. There must have been howls of outrage from his constituency when Obama repeated the words from the Treaty of Tripoli. Am I a cynic if I think that Rep. Forbes was deliberately ignoring the facts in order to play the crowd?

Here's his video in case you're interested. It's a bit long and repetative, but I want to present both sides.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hot Peppers Cure Don Imus' Cancer? Or Quackery?

Faith-based medicine, one of my favorite targets, is raising its ugly head again, this time with the help of a celebrity, Don Imus, who is using quack medicine as an attempted remedy for his cancer. (Thanks to Troy Patterson's blog for bringing this to my attention.)

Sadly, Imus has what sounds like a very aggressive form of prostate cancer, which will almost certainly prove fatal without, or even with, treatment. I can hardly blame a man facing such a dark future for wanting to try anything. And I can't find fault with people who want to try such things in addition to treatments that might work. But when they abandon the only medicine that might work, it's a death sentence, and the person who convinced them is, in my opinion, a quack who should be jailed.

One of these quacks is trying to capitalize on Imus' misfortune. (I won't name him or link to his web site, you can follow Troy's link if you really want to see his drivel.) Imus has been convinced that a concoction of haberneros peppers and garlic will cure his cancer in just two weeks.

Once again, I'm struck by the parallels between religious faith and medical faith. Both require you to accept unprovable, unproven, and illogical "facts." And worse, in order to accept these illogical beliefs, you have to reject logical, rational thinking, the very science that has done so much to make our lives long and healthy. By learning as a child to put faith and authority before curiosity and investigation, religion makes adults who are unable to distinguish good science from bad, quackery from competence, and cures from useless concoctions.

When Don Imus dies, what will this guy who advocates haberneros peppers have to say?

Atheist Congressman Pete Stark: Tell it like it is!

The highest-ranking openly atheist member of the US government, Representative Pete Stark (D-Fremont, California), once again is raising eyebrows and making waves in Washington, simply by asking reasonable questions – as usual, trying to remind the President and others that we have a "wall of separation" between church and state in this country.

One of the surprising, and somewhat disappointing, features of the Obama presidency is that he advocates government support of faith-based initiatives. It is wonderful when groups of citizens get together to help the less fortunate, whether they are churches, schools, or civic groups. And there is nothing wrong with the government supporting these efforts. But when the government specifically targets faith-based initiatives, it is plainly unconstitutional.

One of the hardest tasks of being American is to avoid pragmatism, and embrace our constitution. It's so easy to lock up the Japanese during wartime, or to create blacklists of "communists" during the cold war, or to deny access to a fair trial at Guantanamo when terrorists attack our country. Whether it's fear, or loathing, or hatred, all too often Americans have been willing to give up their principles for expedience, all down through our history.

Fortunately, in each generation, there have been a few courageous individuals who understand that our Constitution requires sacrifice, and are willing to stand up and say so. They remind us that we can't take the easy road, the simplistic road, any time something bothers us. Rep. Pete Stark is one such individual.

The faith-based initiative, though not as damaging as other failures in the past such as the Japanese internment camps, is still another example of expedience. Most Americans don't really care that much about the separation of church and state, they don't see the dangers, nor do they appreciate the role of religious governments in America's own history. They've forgotten the lessons of the past, the very foundations of this country.

Faith-based initiatives seem harmless, they get the job done, and since the majority of Americans are religious, they don't see the problem. But it IS a problem: it's a plain and egregious violation of our constitution.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Reply to Katherine Kersten: Morality IS Man-Made, and Always Has Been

One of the great deceptions of religion, which most recently was repeated by Katherine Kersten in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune, is that atheism offers no foundation for morality, that without God, we'd have no moral compass, and anything would be OK. This is absolutely false, a specious claim that atheists, humanists, and free thinkers everywhere should refute at every opportunity.

Kersten's argument contains a simple but fatal logical flaw, the usual circular argument that you find in religion: Either there is a God, or there isn't. If there is a God, then morals came from Him. If there isn't, then humans invented God, and humans invented morals.

Kersten's argument is thus circular: Her argument presupposes that God exists and gave us our morality, and presupposes that without God there will be no morality. But if you drop the presupposition, that is, assume God does not exist, then the Bible itself proves that Kersten is wrong! The Bible (and many other supposedly God-inspired writings) is full of all sorts of great moral lessons (and some terrible ones, too), and since these were written by men and women, not God, it proves that humans can be moral without divine guidance.

The fact that these morals were created under the guise of religion is irrelevant to this argument. Just because someone thought they were hearing God's voice makes no difference; ulitmately, those words sprang from the material cells and the electrochemical system that we call a brain. QED.

This does not prove that Kersten is wrong, only that her logic is flawed and the entire premise of her article has no foundation. If she wants to argue for the existence of God, she needs to find a better starting point.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hate Speech in Christ's Name

It's pleasant to stay in my own insular world, read like-minded blogger's opinions, and feel good about the slow but steady enlightenment that's taking place. But every now and then, I force myself to dig into the other side's writings and make sure I'm not getting a false sense of progress. And it doesn't take much digging...

Today I ran into one that just boggles the mind. It's called The Most Dangerous of Satan's Lies, and that "lie" is, of course, evolution itself.

I can understand (but not agree with) people who don't believe in evolution. But this fellow steps over the line into hate speech. He equates evolution with Satan, the most reviled figure in Christianity. Since all evil originated from Satan, it appears that scientists are nothing more than Satan's tools. Forget all of the great discoveries in medicine, technology, psychology, and so much more. Forget that most scientists are dedicated, honest men and women trying to make the world a better place. No, none of that matters. The blogger sweeps all of that aside and makes them nothing more than puppets of an evil puppet master.

Here's the core of his argument:
Evolution Destroys the Gospel

The most cleverly disguised attack on the Gospel of the Bible wears a scientist's lab coat. The Secular Worldview and its engine: evolution, contradict the gospel's definition of death. ... there can only be one truthful explanation for the origin and nature of this very physical, very human experience called death. Evolution's redefinition of death shows its real target -the Gospel. The fiction that for millions of generations living things died and became extinct before first man appeared and thus before original sin, cannot be reconciled with the Biblical definition of death. Scripture does not allow death to be passed off as merely a natural end to life. Suffering and death are nonnegotiable elements of the Gospel.
In other words, if it contradicts the Bible, it must be wrong. Never mind that the Bible contradicts itself throughout, and that many "facts" in the Bible are plainly wrong. Never mind that the Bible's authors wrote over two thousand years ago, and humankind's knowledge has expanded exponentially since then.

The author of this blog goes on to the real heart of the matter: If evolution is true, Christianity is false. Christ could not have died to atone for "original sin" if there was none. Therefore, science and Christianity are mutually exclusive, and (the blogger claims) Christianity must be true.

The tiresome part of all of this is that it rests on one unproven and unprovable assumption: that the Bible is right. With utterly no foundation, this blogger, and so many others, extrapolate that all of science is wrong.

It's certainly my dose of reality for the day.

Obama: One of the Greatest Speeches in History

If you didn't hear Obama's speech in Cairo, or even if you did, I urge you to read it here. I honestly believe this is one of the best speeches in the history of politics in the world. If we had more world leaders like Obama, we could actually see world peace in our lifetimes.