Thought of the day

I find it amazing that I’ve yet to meet a Christian who has interpreted a piece of the Bible in a way which doesn’t match with his or her own personal views. Just imagine what technology and knowledge would look like if scientists behaved this way. Our streets and buildings would be as dark as North Korea’s.

Thought of the day

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Christianity is the fact that in roughly 2,000 years it hasn’t been able to produce a single piece of scientific evidence for its entire basis.

The state with the fewest Christian adherents

A study was done in 2010 which quantified the number of Christian adherents in the US by state. It defined Christian “adherents” as including all those with an affiliation to a congregation (children, members, and attendees who are not members). In other words, this study, as best as I can tell, looked at the number of people who are affiliated with a church or other religious organization in some official capacity. That tells me this isn’t that useful if we want to know which state has the most believers in a particular, cultural god, but it would seem to indicate something about how devoted people in a given state are. And the good news is, Maine appears to have relatively few devoted citizens:

The researchers found Utah to be the most Christian* state with around 78 percent of population identifying as Christian adherents. The researchers found Maine to be the least Christian state with only about 27 percent identifying as Christian adherents.

*Christians include Mormons and Unitarians / Universalists who self-identify as Christians.

I’ve seen other studies where Vermont is listed as the least religious state in the Union whereas Maine is in the bottom tier but not usually topping the list. I tend to believe those, if not for the number of studies that have been done which, if I recall correctly, have given those results, then for the fact that Maine is speckled with the quaint New England churches that decorate so many calendars, not to mention its fairly conservative voting record in certain social areas; my observations as a resident of this state tells me that there are more Christians than the above study indicates.

Here’s a terrible idea

I bet it passes:

A bill put forward by Gov. Paul LePage proposes allowing religious schools in Maine to qualify for public tuition dollars.

LePage unveiled the proposed bill with the state’s education commissioner Stephen Bowen in Skowhegan on Wednesday. Currently students in ‘school choice’ communities can attend some private schools and have their tuition paid for by the school district they live in.

I can see both sides of this argument. I went to a Christian school from K through 8 and I know it was an excellent education (minus the time wasted on religion). My class alone produced 4 high school valedictorians around the area. That’s 30 students who spread into various high schools with hundreds of kids per class and managed to succeed at a very high rate. That point acknowledged, none of this justifies using public dollars to send children to such schools. This is little more than an excuse to promote Christianity.

It’s too bad I fully expect to see a few more “Christian children” (as if there is such an absurd thing) running around in the coming years.

When theory becomes practice

When Christians make a stink about their religion being targeted, it is often put to them how they would react if the religion in question was Islam or Scientology. (See the teaching of creationism.) Alternatively, when another religion is seeking to do something which Christians don’t like, it is often put to them how they would react if it was their religion in question. (See the Ground Zero mosque.) The usual response is to either ignore the question or pay it lip service. The former is what I most commonly see, but every so often Christians will give the latter a little air time. I’m sure it is genuine for some, but most are so oblivious to their majority status in everything except science that they’re just espousing principles they pretend to hold but really ignore in practice.

One place where Christians often fight to keep their special treatment is at legislative meetings. They’ve become accustomed to beginning their sessions with Christian prayer. Moreover, elected officials rarely, if ever, reflect the actual population; it isn’t often a state or federal senator will challenge the idea of prayer before commencing (secular) lawmaking. What this means is that people assume they have a legitimate podium for promoting Christianity. However, since they do not, this is often one of those places where it will be put to Christians, What if the religion in question is something other than Christianity? What if Islam is being espoused? And, again, the response is usually to either ignore the question or pay it ever-so-empty lip service.

But there is a third, a-historic option.

This strategy is to claim this is a Christian nation by way of the values encoded in our constitution and the intention of the founding fathers. It is a demonstrably false claim, but it is made nonetheless. And it goes further. In addition to stating such falsehoods, Christians will follow through on their poor grasp of history and actively seek to prevent equal treatment of other religions and non-religious groups. Don’t believe me? You should:

(This is a few years old, but it was recently brought to my attention.)

This sort of thing doesn’t surprise me. It isn’t that people are merely acting like dolts in the name of religion. They are doing it at the behest of religion. It is fanatical shows of theater like this for which religion calls its sheep. Luke 17:3, for instance, tells followers to rebuke evil. Titus 1:10-16 tells believers that non-Christians can’t do anything good and should be, once again, rebuked. I’m sure if I wasted more of my time reading a book which has failed to provide a shred of evidence for its primary thesis I could find several hundred examples without problem. The point is, this is what Christianity (and most other religions) command of its followers. Spreading the word and shouting down ‘evil’ is half of the point. It shouldn’t surprise anyone when Christians and other religidiots do exactly that.

The religious fighting of Nigeria

As I have pointed out a number of times here, severe violence in Nigeria has long been based in or exacerbated by religion. In many cases we see Islamic sects bombing Christian sects, causing eye-for-an-eye retaliation. The motivation is sheer religious fervor, belief that one’s faith is more important than others’ lives. In other cases we see a division of goods and farmland which leads to disagreements. These disagreements often escalate into violence. Of course, no one would see such systematic violence were it not for religious labels. It would certainly still be there – Nigeria has distinct ethnic groups and that can and does cause problems – but much of the bloodshed would disappear. For, why would Nigerians fight other, for all intents and purposes, random Nigerians? (Looking at the situation this way, this arbitrary nature of division resembles the one between different Christian sects of Northern Ireland in relatively recent years.) No rational, fair-minded person can look at what is happening in this West African nation and deny that religion is a significant problem, often even at the base of the problems. We may see things come to a head in coming years:

Northern Nigerian Christians said on Tuesday they feared that a spate of Christmas Day bombings by Islamist militants that killed over two dozen people could lead to a religious war in Africa’s most populous country.

The warning was made in a statement by the northern branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), an umbrella organization comprising various denominations including Catholics, Protestant and Pentecostal churches.

Some political-religious leaders are denying as much will happen, even going so far as to lie about the nature of the conflict. But the facts are the facts. People are fighting and religion is making things worse. There are surely solutions, but I’m not going to pretend I know what they all are. Nigeria has democracy, the usual curing agent for much violence. It could be strengthened; rooting out corruption and greed would be a start – these things inevitably lead to someone’s oppression and that leads to as much violence as religious fervor does. But this is a small piece to the problem here and, again, I’m not going to pretend like I know all the answers. Nigeria is a complicated nation which is going to have to wait many, many years before it sees peace between its two violent religions.

The origins of morality and Christian arguments

Christians have two primary arguments for the origins of our morality. Both fail to be logically convincing. (That’s sort of a theme with Christianity, isn’t it?)

The first argument I want to address is the one that says we get our morality from the Bible. This is the easiest one to dismiss; simply pointing out that people cherry-pick what they consider to be good and bad in the Bible shows that, at the least, even Christians disagree that the Bible is even entirely moral. (The Christian excuse that some of the evil things in the Bible were only culturally relevant falls on its face. God still commanded evil things, including rape and forced marriages as a result of rape. Christians don’t get to argue for objective morality and then make their figurehead into a cultural relativist.)

The second argument from Christians is one designed to address secular claims. That is, we know that many of the good things found in one religion will be found in another. In fact, such things will be found without any religion whatsoever. Humans converge on common ideas of what is right and wrong quite often (and this, incidentally, also goes to defeating the first argument). The Christian answer to this is that God has put within us an innate knowledge of what is right and wrong – we just need to access it, something Christians presumably have done better than others. What’s amazing about this argument is that its proponents don’t seem to realize that it is entirely vacuous. Let’s break it down:

Bill the Christian: We get our morality from God.

Denise the Skeptic: But what about those who don’t believe in your god? And those who don’t even know of your god?

Bill: God put that morality within them at birth. They just need to find it.

Denise: Okay, but how do you know that?

Bill: I just believe it.

Denise: So then do you agree that your argument is equally valid in the hands of anyone? Do you see that anyone can say ‘My god gave us morality. I know so because I believe so.’?

Bill: Well…wait a minute…hm…

Denise: Or I could say I believe our morality comes from unicorns. It’s all the same, isn’t it?

Bill: UNICORNS?! How dare you! I can’t believe you would compare my LORD to unicorns! Why can’t you engage in a civil argument? I don’t even have to answer you because you’ve proven you’re wrong by offending me! So militant…

~~~

Okay, that last part took a real wild swing, but I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve had Christians use offense as an excuse for why they are unable to argue their case.

The fact is, arguing that our sense of morality comes from God because he put it within us at birth is a non-starter. Obviously it will not work for a non-Christian because it assumes the existence of the Christian God, but it shouldn’t even work for Bible-thumping Christians. It pretends to have knowledge of something but when push comes to shove, it turns out the entire premise is mere faith. That is literally the furthest possible thing from evidence and is entirely useless to logic.