Tag Archives: Christianity

The devil is in the details: WHICH Christianity are we making the official state religion, exactly?

Legislators in North Carolina recently introduced a bill to make Christianity the official state religion. That bill has now been turfed, but we can probably expect similar moves in the future.

An Omnibus Poll, sponsored by YouGov.com and the Huffington Post, reveals just how far from the nation’s roots we have traveled on the subject of separating church and state and retaining the nation’s neutrality when it comes to how Americans chose to practice their respective religions.

According to the survey, 34 percent of Americans would favor making Christianity their official state religion while less than half (47 percent) oppose the concept. Thirty-two percent of those polled indicated that they would also favor a constitutional amendment that would make Christianity the official religion of the United States with just over half (52 percent) opposing the notion.

Leaving aside for a second the abject failure of millions of Americans to grasp the most basic precepts of their Constitution, this poll actually provides more questions than answers. Continue reading The devil is in the details: WHICH Christianity are we making the official state religion, exactly?

St. Patrick’s Day: wearing o’ the black

CATEGORY: St.-Patrick's-DayOriginally posted 3.17.08 and re-posted each St. Patrick’s Day.

I won’t be wearing green today.

Don’t get me wrong – like many Americans, I’ve got plenty of Irish blood in my veins, and I’m quite happy to celebrate that heritage.

But this St. Patrick thing… Sadly, very few people have stopped to think about exactly what they’re celebrating, or whom. Patrick is credited with leading the Christianization of Ireland and it’s said he “drove the snakes out” of the place. That, of course, is metaphorical. The serpent was an ancient druidic symbol of wisdom, and the thing that was literally driven out of (or murdered and buried in the ground of) Ireland was the vibrant, centuries-old culture of the Celts. There aren’t any snakes native to Ireland, but that’s about evolution, not Patricius.

When a Christian missionary went into a new place it was with one goal – extinguish what he found and replace it with Christianity. We see an illuminating example of how the process might begin in Acts 17:23-34, where Paul stumbles upon an opportunity and seizes it like the last bottle of whiskey in Galway.

23For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

24God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

25Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

26And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

27That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

28For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

29Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.

30And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

31Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

32And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.

33So Paul departed from among them.

34Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Obviously there’s no reason at all to think that the Athenians were accidentally paying tribute to the Christian god, but understanding and accepting the essence and traditions of a culture was hardly the point.

But at least Patrick and other Christian missionaries of the time went the warm and fuzzy, let’s-all-sing-“Kumbaya” route, right? Ummm, is that what history has taught us about early Christians?

Patrick began to destroy the influence of the Druids by destroying the sacred sites of the people and building churches and monasteries where the Druids used to live and teach. Gradually, the might of the Druidic class was broken by a bitter campaign of attrition. Instead of hearing the teachings and advice of the Druids, the people began to hear the teachings of Rome. Because the Druids were the only ones who were taught to remember the history, with the Druids dead and their influence broken, the history was forgotten.

Patrick won. By killing off the teachers and the wise ones, his own religion could be taught. For this mass conversion of a culture to Christianity, and for the killing of thousands of innocent people, Patrick was made a Saint by his church. (Source)

In a very real way, the celebration of St. Patrick is a celebration of cultural genocide, and the fact that the millions of revelers parading in the streets this morning and packing every bar in America tonight don’t realize it – that they’re doing so perhaps as naïvely as the Druids might initially have welcomed Patrick – is of little comfort. Why? You tell me – would a fuller understanding of what happened put even the slightest dent in our nation’s annual green beer sales figures?

I’m not telling you to stay home or to forego a drink in remembrance of old Ireland. By all means, lift a pint tonight. But don’t do so in celebration of an inquisitor. Instead, do so in memory of the light that he helped extinguish.

To the Rose upon the Rood of Time
by William Butler Yeats

Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!
Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways:
Cuchulain battling with the bitter tide;
The Druid, grey, wood-nurtured, quiet-eyed,
Who cast round Fergus dreams, and ruin untold;
And thine own sadness, whereof stars, grown old
In dancing silver-sandalled on the sea,
Sing in their high and lonely melody.
Come near, that no more blinded by man’s fate,
I find under the boughs of love and hate,
In all poor foolish things that live a day,
Eternal beauty wandering on her way.

Come near, come near, come near—Ah, leave me still
A little space for the rose-breath to fill!
Lest I no more hear common things that crave;
The weak worm hiding down in its small cave,
The field-mouse running by me in the grass,
And heavy mortal hopes that toil and pass;
But seek alone to hear the strange things said
By God to the bright hearts of those long dead,
And learn to chaunt a tongue men do not know.
Come near; I would, before my time to go,
Sing of old Eire and the ancient ways:
Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days.

Tim Tebow decides to do the right thing for professional reasons (but reserves the right to do the wrong thing later when nobody is paying attention)

I was reading the Internets today and guess what? – our boy Timmy is back in the news.

New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has decided to cancel his appearance at a Dallas church that is led by a pastor, Robert Jeffress, who has been criticized for his remarks about gays and other faiths.

Tebow sent out a series of tweets Thursday announcing his decision:

“While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ’s unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my upcoming appearance. I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day. Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!”

Good for you, Tim. It’s great to hear that you’re genuinely committed to spreading Jesus’s message of love and acceptance, no matter what the circumstances are. Do the right thing, though the world may end. I’m proud of you. I think that….ummm, wait, hold on a second….he what? You’re kidding.

Jeffress told the Associated Press that Tebow told him he would like to speak at First Baptist at some point, but “he needed to avoid controversy right now for personal and professional reasons.”

So….you’ll go speak to the hatemongers as soon as everybody looks the other way for a second? The hell? Can somebody show me where it says in the Bible that you’re supposed to do good works for the Lord as long as it’s professionally expedient? (Hey, maybe this is what was going on with that whole “denied the Lord thrice” thing. I got your back, Jesus, but I got to look out for my family, hear what I’m saying?)

Let’s see if there’s anything else interesting in this article.

Jeffress said Thursday that First Baptist was being mischaracterized as a “hate church,” and that the church’s teachings were consistent with historic Christian beliefs.

Did I miss the part where hate and “historic Christian beliefs” (as interpreted by the likes of the Rev. Jeffress) are mutually exclusive?

“We had planned for him to speak very positively about the difference Jesus Christ had made in his life,” Jeffress said.

This would have been a great speech. If it weren’t for his very, very public displays of piety Tebow would never have played a down in the NFL. To paraphrase Chico Esquela, “Jebus been bery bery good to me.”

What else?

“There are a disproportionate amount of assaults against children by homosexuals than by heterosexuals, you can’t deny that,” Jeffress said in July.

Wait, what? Yes I can.

“And the reason is very clear: Homosexuality is perverse, it represents a degradation of a person’s mind and if a person will sink that low and there are no restraints from God’s law, then there is no telling to whatever sins he will commit as well.”

Which is why our history is so rife with gay serial killers, rapists, Lehman Brothers executives and superchurch pastors.

In a 2011 interview, Jeffress said that Islam and Mormonism were religions that are “heresy from the pit of hell,” and criticized the Roman Catholic Church as “the genius of Satan” and “corrupted” by cults.

And since this sounds like an intramural matter between the good reverend and his fellow Abrahamic religious conservatives, I’m just going to step back and leave it alone.

[Ahem]

We’ve been telling you what Tim Tebow was for a long time here at S&R: an opportunistic, hypocritical self-promoter who can’t play a lick. Between this and the fact that at present the NY Jets don’t want him anymore and can’t seem to find anyone else who does, either, the evidence continues to mount that we’ve been right all along.

Are Americans becoming less religious? New Pew study says yes and Dawkins is optimistic

Given the course of Campaign 2012, the idea that Americans are trending toward less religion probably sounds ludicrous. But maybe not.

In response to an audience question last night, Richard Dawkins said he’s “optimistic” about the future of religion. (If you’re a religious type, he doesn’t mean that in the way it probably sounds.) He noted that the US is still exceptionally religious when compared with other nations along criteria such as education levels and scientific accomplishments, and he further allowed that we’re not nearly as far along the path toward a truly secular society as he might have expected several decades ago. Still, he says “I’m optimistic in the long term” – pointedly emphasizing long term.

Dawkins, a prominent scientist and intellectual who has authored a number of influential books, including The Selfish GeneThe Extended Phenotype and The God Delusion, was speaking at the University of Colorado’s Macky Auditorium as part of a US tour promoting his latest book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True. This book is intended for younger audiences – in essence, it’s designed to help children understand how science works and to develop the faculties necessary to parse reality from superstition and the various kinds of “magic” that lead them into the sorts of folly afflicting American politics and policy development today. Illustrated by Dave McKeanThe Magic of Reality makes a compelling visual impression, as well, not only highlighting the essential concepts in ways that make them easier to grasp, but at the same time stylistically conjuring a pensive, dramatic sense of the natural world that I imagine will last young readers the rest of their lives.

One hopes Dr. Dawkins is justified in his optimism, and one might also hope that we don’t have to wait too long for the long term to arrive. He made the point judiciously, of course, but while the US ranks far ahead of the rest of the world in many measures of intellectual achievement, we’re also the undisputed leaders of the developed world when it comes to batshit religious crazy. I’ve addressed the “Christian nation” question here a couple of times in the past, and it’s perhaps reminding everyone of some numbers.

  • Polls show the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as Christian ranging as high as 85% or beyond.
  • The president is a Christian…
  • …as is the VP.
  • The Speaker of the House is Catholic…
  • …and the Senate Majority Leader is Mormon.
  • Well over 90% of our Congressional representatives are Christian, with a majority of the remainder being Jewish.
  • The Supreme Court features seven Christians and two Jews.
  • All of our major presidential candidates in both major parties.
  • Almost all of our past presidents; depending on how you count Unitarians, you have to go all the way back to Lincoln (ironically enough, the founder of the GOP) to even find one to debate over;
  • Hell, even sports franchises are starting to build their operations around the evangelical litmus test.
  • It seems unlikely that a similar review of the legislatures and courthouses in the 50 states would reveal too much variation from this overpowering Judeo-Christian norm.

You have to be willfully stupid – and polls suggest that in many places the voting majority is just that – to think that ours is a Christian system of government. However, numbers are numbers, and I don’t think it controversial to say that we are a Christian culture. For better or worse. Mostly worse.

Of course, my colleague Otherwise believes that we’re one of the least religious places on earth. At some point he and I need to sit down and discuss our criteria. Perhaps he’s looking at the Muslim world, or perhaps he’s looking at cultures dominated by Catholicism. Fair enough. Or maybe he’s thinking more about the gap between what people report when polled and how they live when the pollster drives away. He grew up in the South like I did, so he’s probably well familiar with a certain breed of Christian – let’s call it the devout son of a bitch. Never misses church, publicly quite upstanding and pious, but at his core he’s just a mean redneck. He’ll say he believes in Jesus, but you’d never know it to watch him.

It’s like the famous singer and comedian, Jim Stafford, once said: Baptists are like cats – you know they’re raising hell, you just can’t catch them at it.

A new study from the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life suggests that perhaps Dawkins (and Otherwise) are right.

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).

Note: “religiously unaffiliated” doesn’t mean “atheist” by a long shot.

This large and growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives.

However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, finds that many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day. In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.

With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.

While I don’t care what people believe per se – I’m very 1st Amendmentish in that respect – I care a great deal what people do, and these days ignorant, dingbat theocracy-leaning religious conservatism exerts way too great an influence on the laws that govern our lives. For that reason, the new Pew study, which indicates, at a minimum, a shift away from organized fundamentalism, brings welcome news. Perhaps the single most encouraging bit is the “a third of adults under 30” part – I suppose that’s the “long term” hope that Dawkins is hanging his hat on.

Time will tell. Common sense says that at some point either the pendulum has to swing back the other way a bit, away from reactionary religiosity and neo-medieval conservatism, or the culture will simply explode. Perhaps we tip over into the kinds of full-blown theocracy that more and more Republicans are openly advocating, or we erupt into open and potentially violent conflict to prevent it.

The Pew report suggests that with each passing year America’s clear thinkers regain a little more territory. Let’s hope they, and Dawkins, are right.

Image Credit: Touch Reviews

The God Test

Suppose the following:

  • Later today, an organization dedicated to studying science and religion announces it has devised a “God Test.” This process will conclusively reveal whether or not there is a god (or gods). Further, it will discern the nature of god, if one (or more) exists. Does it desire/require obeisance/worship? Of what specific sort? Or is it a distant superior being that doesn’t really concern itself with humans and human affairs?
  • Global religious, political, social, academic and scientific leaders review this test and universally agree that yes, it will in fact do exactly what its developers claim. Despite their many differences, they all agree that once the God Test is run, we will all know, without ambiguity, what there is to know about god. Continue reading The God Test

North Carolina’s Amendment One and America’s youth: more on winning the battle and losing the war

Rachel Held Evans nails it:

When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers. (The next most common negative images? : “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “too involved in politics.”)

My generation is tired of the culture wars.  Continue reading North Carolina’s Amendment One and America’s youth: more on winning the battle and losing the war

Tim Tebow: a morality play in faith and football (and maybe even national pride)

Some time back I called Tim Tebow a “faith-based” quarterback. In that article I took on a prominent sports commentator who had lost all perspective and tried to address the ways in which the questions of religion and quarterbacking ability were getting all twisted up around the second-year Denver Broncos QB.

Since that post, some things have changed and others haven’t. The main thing that has changed is that, after an underwhelming first few games, the Doncs have made Tebow the starter. Which is good. First off, Kyle Orton may be a much better quarterback, but he was playing like hell. Continue reading Tim Tebow: a morality play in faith and football (and maybe even national pride)

Time for some straight talk on the NFL’s top faith-based quarterback

This just in:

CBS Sports game analyst Randy Cross believes Tebow haters are bashing him for his outspoken Christian opinions.

“People, especially the media, root against him because of what he stands for,” said Cross.

The 3-time Super Bowl champ added: “My personal belief is there are people in the media, people in the stands, who are predisposed to see a guy like that fail…Just because he’s so public about the way he feels.”

My gut response is to mock Cross for being a barking gongbat. Continue reading Time for some straight talk on the NFL’s top faith-based quarterback