Tag Archives: fundamentalism

Megachurch hits the big screen

Pierce Brosnan as a megalomanical megachurch pastor? Yes, please!

Set in the world of mega-churches in which a former Deadhead-turned-born again-Christian finds himself on the run from fundamentalist members of his mega-church who will do anything to protect their larger-than-life pastor.

Funny, I could have given Salvation Boulevard’s writer/director some pretty good material re: larger-than-life pastors I’ve experienced in my religious past.

I can’t wait to see this film. Who’s coming with?

on personal experience

You know, there’s one question that I wish I could have asked Craig — but first, some background: One of Craig’s 5 or 6 arguments for God’s existence is the “personal experience” of God that a believer has.  In fancy theologian talk, he calls this the “self-authenticating power of the Holy Spirit” — ie., the Holy Spirit is true because the Holy Spirit tells me its true. (yes, very circular reasoning)

I wish I had asked Craig to explain how I had this Holy Spirit experience back when I was a believer, and yet later came to reject my faith.

I suppose it’s not a very nice question to ask, because I have a feeling his answer will make him look like a jerk.  My guess is that if I were to ask Dr. Craig my question, he would have to say that I was never a true believer in the first place — otherwise, I wouldn’t have rejected Christianity.  Either that or I must have committed some kind of huge sin that broke this connection I had with the Holy Spirit.

And he wouldn’t be the first person to say or imply that about my past.  I suppose it’s comforting to some people to just believe I was never a true Christian(TM), rather than face the reality that someone can go from being active in a loving relationship with a personal god to being in a place where she doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of a god.

At last week’s debate, there was a section on the audience response card where you could put your email address down to have someone from Campus Crusade for Christ contact you to have a conversation on how God is personal and able to be known and, if so, what that is like.  Being who I am (someone who loves dialoguing about belief), I filled out the box to be contacted.

Tonight I received a very eager email from a student who is offering to take me out to coffee to talk about these issues.  There’s a part of me that thinks it would be great fun to be on the receiving end of such a talk, and I wonder why.  Maybe it’s because, looking back, I wish I had a coffee discussion with an atheist who could kindly ask me questions about my faith that I never thought of before.

Don’t misread me, I’m not out on a deconverting mission here — but part of me wonders what good I can offer in not backing down from interacting with believers, even in my godless state.

Home-grown religiously-inspired terrorists (and their enablers)

Oh how easy it is for those of us in North America to think that terrorism is only bred in countries overseas.  Tonight I watched The Assassination of Dr. Tiller, and I’m just sick about what happened to this heroic and compassionate doctor.

No matter which side of the debate you fall under, you should watch and bear witness to Dr. Tiller’s story (not to mention the stories of the women he sacrificed so much for).

Here’s a bit from the conclusion of the documentary:

For those who worked for Dr. Tiller, a raw anger remains — though not for the man who pulled the trigger.  For them, much of their rage is focused on the anti-abortion forces in Wichita who targeted Dr. Tiller for so many years.

“The ones who don’t carry guns definitely incite the ones who do have guns.” [Shelly Sella, MD]

“They gather all these people up, they fill them with hate, and then they stand back when the least imbalanced among them does something.  They stand back and say they didn’t have anything to do with it.” [Joan Armentrout, Clinic Administrator]

“[They say:] ‘We never advocated violence.’  No?  You didn’t? You advocated everything else.  You put [Dr. Tiller] up to hatred, contempt, and ridicule.  And he gets killed, and you step back from it now and say, “Well, that really wasn’t our intent.”  Well, what the hell was your intent?!  [Nola Foulston, District Attorney of Sedgwick County, Kansas]

When it comes to discussing the abortion issue with people who disagree with me, I try to get them to see what their position looks like when it’s practically applied.

Now I’ll also get them to see what their stance looks like when their ideology is drawn out to its extremes — this documentary provides a very good picture of how anti-life that view really is.

Rationalizing Genocide

How did I spend my Sunday morning?  Writing out a long comment to a pastor who was attempting to defend the genocides of the Old Testament.  Here’s my response to his rationalizations:

Thanks for the time you took in writing out this response.  I can tell you put a lot of time and energy into it, and I would be open to reading a book you’d write on the topic!  I do have a few issues with some of your explanations.

But before I get too picky, can I just state the obvious?  Can you hear yourself defending (rationalizing!) acts of genocide?  I’m always dismayed when I hear someone mentally disconnect the argument they’re making from the act they’re defending.  To be honest, it was one of the primary motivating forces that helped me reject my faith.  I got tired of having to condone God’s go-ahead for genocide.

You say that applying our “cultural mores” onto the horrors of genocide is an “anachronism.”  I’m not sure what to make of that statement.  So genocide (ie., the systematic act of killing a racial/cultural group) is a value that is relative to the time one lives in?  I’m having a hard time imagining a period of time in human history when it would be excusable to slaughter an entire people group.

So proving to me that I’m being anachronistic is going to be a tough sell.  You’re going to have to show me that the moral precept we hold that genocide is wrong was somehow NOT wrong back then.  I have a feeling we’ll come back to the supposedly-moral framework of “God is moral, God told the Israelites to murder, Murder is moral.”  You may be content in such a framework, I am not.

I know that there are other examples of ancient literature where these acts of systematic murder are described, and I find those passages equally horrifying as well.  But the difference between reading the Illiad and reading the Bible is that people don’t put any spiritual credence in the former.

I’m disappointed that you describe genocide as simply “distasteful.”

To summarize your arguments rationalizing genocide:
1. Genocide was not as evil of an act back then as it is today, so applying our 21st-century standards to this act is “anachronistic”.
2. Other people groups back then were committing genocide, so the Israelites were just following warfare protocol.
3. The ends justify the means argument: wiping out Israel’s enemies may have been unfortunate, but necessary — akin to the violence necessary to resolve other human atrocities such as slavery, racism, and fascism.
4. God compromised morality on behalf of the Israelites, and allowed them to commit such acts.
5. Israel is God’s “covenant people”, so “to maintain their cultural and religious distinctiveness”, wiping out a few ancient near eastern cultures is completely excusable.
6. The Midianites were bad people in their day, so they had it coming to them.

I asked you specifically about  Numbers 31.  I find it telling that you completely avoided commenting on the another morally “distasteful” passage in that chapter. Not only does God condone genocide, but he also mandates rape.

The Israelites went and destroyed all the males of the Midianites, but brought back as captives the “women and the little ones” (verse 9).   Moses then specifically goes to the Israelite army and tells them to KILL all the “women who had known a man” along with all the male children — *BUT* they could keep all the young virgin girls for themselves (verses 17-18).  As the chapter closes, these (32,000!) young girls were counted — along with the livestock — in the list of Israel’s war “booty” (32-35).  I don’t think I’m being anachronistic in being horrified by such actions on the part of such a God, and such a “covenant” people.

As I close, I noticed you describe yourself as a “good historian” — have you watched the PBS documentary of “The Bible’s Buried Secrets”?  This doc consults many historians, scholars, and archeologists who have the thesis that much of the OT as history is inaccurate.  The genocidal atrocities weren’t military coups, but more of a social/cultural revolution.

I’m curious how he’ll respond. I, for one, am feeling pretty sick inside after having to think about such atrocities. But, at the same time, I’m also glad I got out of the business of finding theological reasons to condone such cruelty.

In the meantime, it looks like Luke has posted a pretty comprehensive list of articles from theologians and non-believers who have responded to the OT genocides.  Check it out.

EDIT: I responded again, and here’s what I wrote: read more »

because Libertarians have no sense of humor

via

What she said:

Certainty is a confession of ignorance about our ability to be passionately mistaken.

Valerie Tarico

from “Christian Belief through the Lens of Cognitive Science”
in The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails
online article here

My kind of church

I spent my Sunday morning, in my pajamas, watching this debate:

(part 1 of 11)

Is There Meaning in Evil and Suffering?
Description: A panel discussion and debate on the meaning of evil and suffering from theists Dr. William Lane Craig and Ravi Zacharias, atheist Dr. Bernard Leikind (a plasma physicist and senior editor of Skeptic magazine), and Hindu Dr. Jitendra Mohanty (one of India’s most distinguished Hindu philosophers and professor at Emory University).

These are the kind of debates/discussions I enjoy the most — why waste time arguing over the existence of something unprovable, one way or another?  It’s far more interesting to talk about the problem of evil. These kinds of discussions confirm for me why I rejected Christianity.  In this debate, the explanations provided by Craig and Zacharias for the evils allowed (condoned?) by an omnibenevolent, omnipotent God fell FLAT.  It basically boils down to “trust God to work things out in the end,” which doesn’t answer the question (not to mention it’s unsatisfying).

One thing interesting to note when watching this debate (and it’s a trait I’ve noticed when talking with believers) is how quickly Zacharias and Craig divert themselves away from specific examples/questions of evil or morality and rush back to the generalized platitudes of their faith.  For example, in the debate above, when talking about absolute morality, at one point the naturalist asked the theists whether they thought divorce was immoral.  Faster than you could bat an eyelash, Zacharias diverted away from the question into generalizations.

And I suppose I can’t blame ‘em, because the rhetorical power in saying you have absolute objective morality lies in being able to make the statement without having to provide specific examples to back it up.

A final lesson learned from the above debate: I think Ravi Zacharias is far more of a jerk than William Lane Craig (and this is saying a lot, because I am *not* a fan of Craig’s snarky delivery).  In the debate, watch how Zacharias first responds to the naturalist (Dr. Leikind), and you’ll see why I award Zacharias the “asshole apologist” award.