So Christians must have how many religions?

I’m used to Christians making the claim that atheists have faith and religion. It’s a dumb statement that is easy to knock down since atheism makes no positive nor normative claims. But I recently saw a cartoon that made a very obvious but easily missed point: If atheism constitutes a religion as so many (often dishonest) Christians claim, then don’t Christians have several religions? One for their god, one by virtue of their denial of, say, Allah, one by their denial of Judaism, one by their non-atheism, one by their lack of belief in Thor, one by their….? Where does it end?

It’s almost as if, if we define everything as faith and religion, we’ve really defined nothing. Except maybe some political goals.

Irony much?

I recently made a status update on my Facebook wall which mocked Christianity. As sometimes happened, it soon gathered together a small chorus of people who feel nothing mean should be said about religion. “Why, live and let live, Michael!”, they will say. Of course, then we get faith healing laws in the U.S. and imprisonment of gays in Christian Uganda. For that sort of reason (and more), I think it’s perfectly reasonable to mock religion; it is a hell of a force for evil in the world. (In democratic nations where the populace has been able to rid itself of most of the religious nutbags – our mainstream – life is far, far better on the whole.) I would love to see religion go away.

But out of that status update came a common cowardly Christian. Instead of diving into the discussion, he went to his own wall and made a passive-aggressive response. (In terms of my own status, it was probably for the best. My wall actually fostered (and is still doing so) a pretty good discussion amongst a number of intelligent individuals.) First let me show the comment that spurred the passive-aggressiveness. This was made by a friend of mine:

1.) Respect for beliefs and respect for the people who hold them are often confused with each other. Demanding that we respect each other’s beliefs is silly. I respect my room mate. However, I don’t respect his belief that it’s ok to leave the bread bag open. Similarly, I respect my girlfriend. But I don’t respect her belief in God. To ask someone to respect a belief with which they disagree is essentially asking them to agree with it. The very reason people disagree with something is because they don’t respect it.

2.) Religious beliefs often bring with them the encroachment of others’ rights. It’s the belief of many that gays shouldn’t be able to marry. And you think that deserves respect?

3.) Condoning such wide-scale subscription to superstition is a huge impediment to progress.

That was a response to a variety of points, but the part which caught the attention of the cowardly Christian was number 1. Here is his passive-aggressive status update:

Evidently I’m supposed to tolerate your beliefs but mine are to be mocked.

Rather than explain the rather simple distinctions between toleration, acceptance, and respect of beliefs, I decided to point out that he was being passive-aggressive. If he wants to respond to what he sees on my wall, he should grow a pair and make a post in the proper, adult location. (It’s like all those Christian blogs that make response posts but refuse to link back to the original posts because they come from atheist blogs.) This then turned to another Christian saying I was passive-aggressive. It was a stupid reflection of my rhetoric and it had no basis; people may think what they wish about me, but imagining that I’m passive-aggressive is just silly. I quickly dispelled the notion:

[Name of Second Christian], I think you are a genuinely stupid person who cannot understand the majority of arguments you hear. I think your anti-science bend comes from your quack of a mother, and I sometimes pity your ignorance.

How’s that?

(That person is a creationist and his mother is an alternative ‘medicine’ practitioner.)

Well, you can imagine how that went over. “Why, you, sir, have insulted a person’s mother! That’s just awful!” It’s a silly complaint, really. I insulted her ‘profession’ and used her as a proxy to do so. Since the attack portion of my comment is hardly that specific to her, it’s just people having a knee-jerk reaction. It’s like getting upset over “Yo momma” jokes, except the momma in this case really is a quack.

But I’m used to whines about tone. People who can’t argue their points bring it up as if it’s legitimate. Sometimes it’s because of thin-skin. Most of the time it’s a way to demand respect. If it is off-limits to be disrespectful towards something, whether it be religion or quackery, then it will quickly appear as if that something is worthy of an academic or intellectual discussion. And so whines about tone are aplenty. Of course, that gets boring pretty quickly. Just about the only thing that can make those whines worth reading is when they come with a splash of irony. That happened about 50 comments into the status update with this gem:

Ok ‘michael hawkins’, you dont have to believe anything you dont want to, and im not trying to convince you because frankly, from the things you have said in this entire blog, you should burn in hell because its EXTREMELY disrespectful how you are talking to us.

How Christian.

I imagine if this person recounted the Facebook comments to a friend of hers, it would go something like this. (Let’s call her Suzy.):

Suzy: So yeah, this guy called a person’s mother a quack.

Suzy’s Friend: Whoa! Someone’s mom?

Suzy: Yeah, I couldn’t believe it!

Suzy’s Friend: So what did you say?

Suzy: Oh, I told him to go to hell…out of respect, of course.

Suzy’s Friend: Of course.

(I realize that by not naming names, it may seem as though I am ironically being passive-aggressive. If these comments came from a public page, I would post names. Given that I know this person’s Facebook page is only visible to his friends, it would be wrong for me to say who said what. But worry not, each party involved will get the message.)

Punching bags

Aaaand the very first winner of my new series Punching Bags is Wintery Knight. Congratulations, Mr. Knight! This is the probably the greatest thing you’re ever going to accomplish in your blogging career.

There’s a lot of silliness out there, but what really grabbed my attention by standing heads and shoulders above the rest was a series of posts by Wintery Knight about atheism and morality. It’s astonishing just how poorly pieced together it all is. Let’s take a peek at WK’s methods:

First of all, I wrote up a list of questions to use to interview atheists about their views.

Second, I posted the raw results of my survey.

Third, I listed the minimal requirements that any worldview must support for in order to ground rational morality.

Fourth, I argued that atheism does not ground any of these requirements.

Fifth, I argued that Christian theism does ground all of these requirements.

Sixth, I posted my own answers to the questions.

I really recommend taking a look at that first link; the arrogance and snobbery drip from every word:

Who is safe to talk to?

In this post, I am going to explain to you clearly how to engage your atheist friends on these issues. But be careful. Some atheists have fascist tendencies – when they feel offended, some of them want to bring state to bear against those who make them feel bad. Atheists struggle with morality, it just doesn’t sit well on their worldview, even though they sense God’s law on their hearts, like we do.

1) Thank goodness WK is here to help everyone know which atheists are okay. Some of us bite, don’t you know.

2) It’s good to know he has already defined morality when he declares that atheists struggle with it. Of course, we all know this is just another case of a theist assuming “objective” in front of “morality”.

3) Of course atheists sense God’s law in their hearts. Just like how Christians really hate science and reason deep down, amirite?

But WK’s interviews appear to be entirely irrelevant. They aren’t necessary to any of his further posts in any way. Besides that, his questions are statistically meaningless since he, um, doesn’t obtain any statistics; his ‘survey’ holds no value and is nothing more than an exercise in condescension. Let’s move on.

His next move (third link) is to try and tell us what is required for “rational moral behavior”. Gee, I wonder if he’s going to assume “objective” anywhere, gaming the issue in his favor.

1) Objective moral values

There needs to be a way to distinguish what is good from what is bad. For example, the moral standard might specify that being kind to children is good, but torturing them for fun is bad. If the standard is purely subjective, then people could believe anything and each person would be justified in doing right in their own eyes. Even a “social contract” is just based on people’s opinions. So we need a standard that applies regardless of what people’s individual and collective opinions are.

Whoa! My whole world view has been devastated! And in only 5 sentences. How could I have been missing something so obvious?!

Oh. Wait. Woulddya look at that. We need a way to tell good from bad. Well, wouldn’t that require that there is an objective good and bad in the first place? Or maybe WK is just making an assumption, causing him to beg the question. Could it be that our ideas of “good” and “bad” have a basis in our cultures and societies and human nature and our emotions and physical bodies and relationships and intelligence? And if so, couldn’t we use ethical and moral theories, applying them to the facts of the world and our derived definitions of “good” and “bad”, thus shaping how we behave? And wouldn’t this be the very definition of rational? (Hint: The answer to all of my questions is “yes”.)

But despite being so far off, WK trudges onward:

What difference does it make to you [an evil stupid dumb butt atheist] if you just go ahead and disregard your moral obligations to whomever? Is there any reward or punishment for your choice to do right or do wrong? What’s in it for you?

Bracketed clarification added.

I’m not so sure I would trust someone who thought the point of morality was to get something for himself. (Oh, who am I kidding. I trust a ton of Christians and they all necessarily believe that the point of being good is to get a big pretty prize at the end of the road.) I guess I just prefer to act out of genuine reasons, not for the sake of enriching myself in some unevidenced afterlife.

Anyway. WK goes on and on with his blog, sometimes saying dumb things about evolution, other times promoting science that makes him feel special. He’s an old Earth creationist, perhaps the most nebulous of all creationists (tell me again, when did humanity begin?), but in the end he’s just another punching bag.

Don’t forget to submit other potential punching bags.

Religion continues to kill Nigerians

I’ve long been following the crisis in Nigeria. People have been murdering each other for quite some time there, with part of the basis being fertile farm land, part of it being poverty, part of it being government corruption, but the biggest part being religion. The most recent attacks reflect that.

Nigerian authorities on Friday arrested 92 people allegedly affiliated with a militant Islamist group that the government says is responsible for a string of recent killings in the country’s northeast.

Three men were arrested with bombs in their possession in the vicinity of Jos on Christmas Day, authorities said

The Jos region lies on a faith-based fault line between Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria and the mainly Christian south.

At least four people were killed and another 13 wounded Friday in a bomb blast at an army barracks in Abuja [on New Year’s eve], the deputy police commissioner said.

I would prefer not to have the perfect example to illustrate the point that religion causes divide and fosters violence, but it is what it is. Without Christianity and without Islam dividing the city of Jos, Nigerians would either be able to more easily resolve issues over farm land or they wouldn’t have any violence in the first place. (These most recent attacks are driven by extremists, but it remains that many of the other attacks have been over non-religious issues which are heightened and worsened by the presence of religion.)

Where religion is killing gays

Crazy, huh? The primary source of the hatred gays face in Africa, and especially Uganda, is fueled by religion.

The growing tide of homophobia comes at a time when gays in Africa are expressing themselves more openly, prompting greater media attention and debates about homosexuality. The rapid growth of Islam and evangelical forms of Christianity, both espousing conservative views on family values and marriage, have persuaded many Africans that homosexuality should not be tolerated in their societies.

“It has never been harder for gays and lesbians on the continent,” said Monica Mbaru, Africa coordinator for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, based in Cape Town. “Homophobia is on the rise.”

But surely this is just an extreme example, right? After all, we have far too much religion in the U.S. but we aren’t putting in place laws that kill gays. Except we’re setting the stage. We are telling gays – and the world – that being gay is morally wrong, that it is evil, and that gays do not deserve the same rights as everyone else. Still in so many states it is legal to fire a person for being gay. There are bigots (even on the Supreme Court) who support anti-sodomy laws. In fact, that purely political, non-legally minded ‘judge’ Scalia said this when he voted against striking down laws that specifically targeted gays:

Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned.

He was worried that by acknowledging that no government has any say over the sexual lives of two consenting, autonomous adults that gay marriage might become a reality. (He also noted that it can be said that any law targets a group, intentionally forgetting that gays constitute a group not defined by choice.)

It’s this sort of dictionary bigotry that is assisting in the primarily Christian and Muslim effort to destroy the lives of gays. In fact, it is American Christian groups that are largely behind the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.

American gay activists have sent money to help the community here. Western governments – including aid donors – have vocally criticized the bill and denounced the treatment of gays.

That has angered conservative pastors here, many of whom are influenced by American anti-gay Christian groups and politicians who say that African values are under attack by Western attitudes. They say their goal is to change the sexual behavior of gays, not to physically harm them.

And does this sound familiar?

In Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh has vowed to expel gays from the country and urged citizens not to rent homes to them.

In addition to it being legal to fire gays in many U.S. states, it is also legal to refuse to rent to them. It was until just a few years ago that Maine finally passed a law which made it illegal to discriminate against gays in education, employment, housing, and other basic areas of life.

The plight of gays in Africa is the same plight of gays in America, especially in places like the south. By clinging to religion and irrationally proclaiming that gays do not deserve the exact same rights as everyone else, we are setting the stage for the discrimination, criminalization, and violence that they must face in Africa every single day.

Oh, but maybe this has nothing to do with True Religion, with the mainstream beliefs of Christians.

Oh wait:

In recent years, conservative American evangelical churches have had a profound influence on society in Uganda and other African nations. They send missions and help fund local churches that share their brand of Christianity. Sermons and seminars by American evangelist preachers are staples on local television and radio networks across the continent.

Some activists say the attacks in Uganda intensified last year after three American evangelical preachers visited the country. In seminars attended by thousands and broadcasted over radio, the preachers discussed how to “cure” homosexuality and accused gays of sodomizing boys and destroying African culture. A month later, a Ugandan lawmaker introduced the anti-homosexuality bill.

“The religious fundamentalists want to rule everyone. They want everyone to follow their religious agenda,” said Pepe Julien Onziema, a gay rights activist here.

Comedian writes to the editor

A comedian by the name Roger Leblond has written a letter to the editor of my local paper.

Our nation has become sickly immoral and extremely perverted and Satan has taken a stronghold in our country.

If we were to put God’s moral laws before man’s law we would see where we have gone wrong.

That’s weird. I’m not convinced that we ought to stone rape victims because God interprets silence to be enjoyment. I don’t know. Maybe the early Christian writers (or later editors or later scribes or later politicians or later…who knows, really?) tended to not hear a lot of noise when they had sex.

Under our constitutional right of Freedom of Speech, which I agree with, God’s moral law of adultery is allowed to live. If the moral law of God took precedence over man’s law, pornography, topless bars and the like would not be allowed under Freedom of Speech.

Anything sexual is bad.

We have perverted the word of God so bad that we have taken Christ out of Christmas. We should now proclaim Dec. 25 as Happy Materialism Day. To prove that to be true, look at your major and local newspapers, and see pictures and pictures of people waiting selfishly at stores the day after Thanksgiving. Greed and selfishness are sins of God.

Wait, we’re winning? The materialists are winning? The U.S. is no longer dominated by Christian culture? It’s possible to not be aware of the constant barrage of Christian religion in our society? Oh, and getting gifts for other people is selfish? My whole world view has been turned on its head!

Does anyone know when this guy will be playing any clubs?

Christianity summarized