Tag Archives: Holy Bible

Nothing About the Conservative Christian Hero Is Consistent With the Bible

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Religious texts are powerful rhetorical devices because they are subject to interpretation. America has no state religion, but the right wing has strongly endorsed what it preaches are a set of Christian values, making the movement more approachable to the seventy percent of Americans who identify as Christians.

You might think that for people who hold this set of values, Alabama’s Republican candidate for Senate, Roy Moore, would be stoned after five women came forward and made claims that Moore came on to them or worse when they were teenagers. The Christian right, however, seems to have taken a position of denial.

Moore’s not the only one setting a bad example for Christians in politics, either. There’s also our president.
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Selective Amnesia Around Religious Freedom

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‘Reverend’ Senator Ted Cruz

The next act of religious conservatives against same-sex marriage, after the US Supreme Court decision, included claiming ‘religious freedom’ to justify continued opposition to it and trying to enact laws allowing them to ignore the court decision. Yet when people like me bring up the use of ‘religious freedom’ also being used to oppose the civil rights struggle for blacks back in the 60s, these same ‘Doctors of Theology’ claim amnesia and say the Bible doesn’t support racism. Their amnesia is at least disingenuous if not dishonest.

David Simms, writing at Godless in Dixie, notes:

That’s why it’s so funny (and also disheartening) to see people like Ted Cruz try to weasel their way out of explaining how their ongoing crusade against homosexuality is “totally different” than the fight against desegregation which their political forbearers waged in the not-so-distant past.

Even if Cruz believes that Falwell and Jones were relying on a “misinterpretation” of scripture to support racism, it is entirely irrelevant. What is relevant is that these people had at the time a sincerely held belief that their position was scripturally sound, in the very same way that those who want to discriminate today on the basis of “religious freedom” have a sincerely held belief that their position is scripturally sound.

The arguments are the same.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, in November of 2015, Ted Cruz held a “religious liberty” conference at…wait for it…Bob Jones University. Ted Cruz claims that there is no religious backing for the notion that interracial marriage is wrong. Yet, he hosts a religious liberty conference at the very same university which took their case all the way to the Supreme Court to insist that they have the religious liberty to ban interracial marriage.

The irony is palpable.

Religious Freedom Is Under Attack!…Again?

Back in 1983, Bob Jones University lost a court case where it claimed “religious freedom” to base racist school policy that prohibited interracial dating. The IRS decided to revoke their tax exemption because of the racism.

The US Supreme Court wrote:

“Government has a fundamental, overriding interest in eradicating racial discrimination in education . . . which substantially outweighs whatever burden denial of tax benefits places on [the University’s] exercise of their religious beliefs.”

As long as a government law or policy isn’t forcing a religious group to change its beliefs then the use of “religious freedom” to ignore the law or policy is ethically wrong.

Same-sex people getting married isn’t forcing those who dislike same-sex marriage to like that kind of marriage. You are still free to hate same-sex marriage or hate homosexuality but the tradition of rights in this country is based on a neutral or secular view point.

If you try to get laws passed to legally discriminate against gay couples or other LGBTQ people then you are trying to use the force of the state to force your religious beliefs on others. That is also ethically wrong and anti-American.

Federal Court to Decide on Oklahoma Sharia Ban

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Supporters of Sharia Law ban
In the 2010 general election, voters in Oklahoma passed a ballot measure that attempts to ban Oklahoma courts from considering Islamic laws in the their decisions. The law was blocked when the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and ACLU sued. They claim the law violates the 1st amendment of the US Constitution, the Oklahoma Constitution, and the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act. This story shows that those who support the ban have a bigoted idea of Sharia law and have little knowledge of what our civil rights actually are.
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Is it time to ban the Holy Bible?

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Holy BibleIn July, the Republic Missouri school district voted to ban two books from the school district libraries and from the classrooms. The two books were “Twenty Boy Summer” by Sarah Ockler and “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut and they were banned for language, sex, and violence. I think if that is the reasoning then one needs to ask if it time to ban the Holy Bible as well. The Bible has some real nasty bits that I wouldn’t want any children to read.
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Ohio Bible battle leads to attacks on ACLU

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Recently, in my hometown of Findlay, Ohio, there was a big to do about the Holy Bible and kids.

It seems that 5th grade students were trotted outside their schools and given copies of the New Testament by members of Gideons International, an evangelical society known for handing out Bibles as part of their missionary work.

The problem was that it seemed the schools organized the students and escorted them outside to the public sidewalk during the school day to get the Bibles. It was treated like a field trip.

Why can that be a problem?

As a March 26th editorial in the Findlay Courier put it:

“But the schools were involved to purposely facilitate evangelism. School officials know full well that some children have never had their own Bible. It is not the public school system’s place to fill in where the church has failed.”

Shaky ground

The editorial caught the eye of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and they sent a letter of complaint to the school district about the practice on May 28th:

A long line of Supreme Court cases has established that school administrators may not use their public positions to endorse religion, to order students to attend religious functions, or to force students to profess religious beliefs….

Additionally, school officials must respect the personal beliefs of student’s families, and may not attempt to circumvent their beliefs by exposing the students to separate religious practice…..

We hope that this problem can be addressed without further investigation or involvement on the part of the ACLU of Ohio. However we are prepared to explore other options, including legal action, if the Findlay City Schools fails to correct the matter.

Letter to Findlay City Schools 5/28/2008

The response to the complaint was pretty predictable based on the content of comments in the Letters to the Editor section of the Courier and elsewhere.

There were people who said “What about the rights of Christians?” and commenting like Mark A. Shrider in his blog Right on the Mark:

I don’t believe it was the plan of our Founders to keep religion out of our Government; but rather, to keep government out of our religion. Prohibiting the distribution of religious material on Public/Government Property certainly is in violation of the First Amendment. Confining religious expression of any kind to ones home, church or other private property kills the spirit of religious freedom.

The Free Exercise Thereof

Shrider forgets that when civil rights come in conflict one party’s rights will be reduced in order to protect the rights of the other party. That’s what court cases do – figure out which right trumps the conflicting right. In this case, as the ACLU points out in their letter, the religious rights of students and their parents are more important than the right of the Gideons International to pass out Bibles during school hours.

Also by protecting the student’s rights, the Gideons’ rights aren’t diminished that much. They can still hand out their Bibles – just not on school grounds or during school hours. Of course it would be a stickier issue if the prohibition on handing out Bibles resulted in the Gideons not being able to practice their religion at all, but like most separation issues, the results only restrain some of the religious activities.

It is the same principle as to why one isn’t allowed to falsely yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater.

In a later comment Shrider also said:

Again, there is no law being passed here; only information. Information that should be brought home to mom & dad to review.

He is under the false assumption that the 1st Amendment only applies to actual laws passed the various legsislative units. Separation of church and state has also been applied to actions and policies of the state. One example is the Judge Roy Moore Ten Commandments rock in Alabama. There was no law involved but his actions were found to go against the 1st Amendment and he had to remove the rock from the Alabama State Supreme Court building. Another example is the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District court case where a school district was found to have violated the 1st Amendment by trying to teach Intelligent Design in their district.

Like I said these reactions were predictable. Some of them however made me a bit upset.

Some letter writers made comments like this:

The ACLU has made itself a professional watchdog to recognize any citizen activity that could be construed as a movement toward the possible establishment of a religion-centered government in America. The ACLU is being perceived as a civil organization of determined professional lawyers who become paranoid whenever any religious activity appears to be potentially an “established” government entity.

Has this voluntary “watchdog” agency become an absolute negative in its perceived mandate to be a service to America? We are losing our moral compass! Furthermore, Americans cherish their freedoms but are increasingly fearful of coming under a cloud of negative forces by this civil volunteer “union” organization which threatens to throw the book at any apparent infringement of its standards. It even includes this threat in its written initial communications. Surely this is “overkill” by a “do-good” organization.

Letters to the Editor 06/19/2008

Or this:

The way the ACLU carries on, you would think our school board was allowing our children to receive packets of drugs on school time. I sometimes feel that aliens from space have come to earth and taken over my beloved USA.

As children growing up in New York City during the 50s, we sang the hymn “Holy Holy Holy” and had Bible reading in auditorium in our public school every Thursday afternoon by our Jewish principal, Mr. Berkowitz.

On school time, 1:30-3 p.m. each Wednesday, we were released to go for religious education at our church of choice or temple.

Not one parent, teacher, principal or school board member complained. There was no ACLU (that I remember) to defend us against the horrors of religious belief mixing in with public education.

Letters to the Editor 05/30/2008

Or this:

I don’t speak for anyone but myself, but as a believer in Jesus Christ and the Bible, I’m taught to contend for my faith. And my faith is being attacked by an organization that falsely represents itself as a defender of the Constitution. But its real agenda is to create a secular society in America!

If you wanted to destroy a nation, you would attack its core beliefs, calling its foundation a lie, to render it useless. This is what the ACLU is doing! The ACLU attacks nativity scenes and the Ten Commandments! The ACLU attacks town logos and symbols that incorporate a Bible or cross, regardless whether they have been a part of those towns’ symbols since their founding. The ACLU attacks our currency (“In God We Trust”).

The ACLU’s modus operandi is always to bully and intimidate. If you read the last paragraph of the Courier article, it is to threaten our school system! (Not to chastise, as the Courier headline announced.) What the ACLU does not know is that Findlay has a zero tolerance for bullies!

So now the ACLU is attacking the Bible being handed out to school children on the sidewalk, by Gideons International. My advice to our school system is to hold its ground! Don’t cede as much as an inch! We don’t scare so easily here in Flag City USA.

Letters to the Editor 6/11/2008

That last comment was a doozy wasn’t it. The ACLU wants to destroy the nation? I’m sure that the letter writers are decent people but their lack of knowledge about the work of the ACLU and the regurgitation of religious right talking points made me sad. I had to respond with my own letter. The following is the original text of my letter that was published by the Courier on 6/18/2008.

I was going to stay out of the whole Findlay Schools and Bible debate but I am shocked at some of the comments about religious freedom and the ACLU I have read in the Letters to the Editor. Some of the writers really need to do some basic research before passing off biases as fact.

The ACLU was founded in 1920 and its purpose is to provide legal assistance in cases in which it considers civil liberties to be at risk. In the beginning it opposed attacks on the rights of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and other labor unions to meet and organize.

Powell v. Alabama (1932) was a United States Supreme Court decision which determined that in a capital trial, the defendant must be given access to counsel upon his or her own request. Miranda v. Arizona (1966) required police to read you your rights before you answer any of their questions.

It filed a brief in support of Brown v. Board of Education, which led to the ban on racial segregation in U.S. public schools. It successfully argued against state bans on interracial marriage, in the case of Loving v. Virginia (1967).

And ironically in 2004 it argued in support of keeping medical records private during the drug abuse case of radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. The ACLU is also taking the lead in protecting our rights against Bush’s warrantless wiretaps and the abuses of the Patriot Act.

When your civil liberties are at risk and you happen to fall on the other side of popular support, the ACLU is one of the few groups who will take the time and effort to defend your rights at little to no cost.

Also many of the court cases that have led to enforcement of separation of church in state in the public schools were started by believers who felt their religious freedom was being trampled on. Abington Township School District v. Schempp (consolidated with Murray v. Curlett) (1963) ended teacher led Bible reading in schools – Edward Schempp was a Unitarian but many believers want to “blame” Madalyn Murray O’Hair – the atheist – who happened to be part of the case. Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000) which prohibited student led prayers at high school football games was started by two families – one Mormon, the other Catholic and on and on. Just read the cases.

Finally there is the simple idea that you shouldn’t impose your religious beliefs on other people’s children no matter your intentions. Leave religious education to the parents not the public schools.

My Letter to the Editor published on 06/18/2008

The paper only cropped the case examples I included in the 2nd to last paragraph.

My point is that the ACLU is one of the only groups who will help an individual fight the “tyranny of the majority”. A guiding principle in a democracy is to protect the rights of the minority – either in class, social economic, or philosophy view points. Sometimes you have to hold the majority accountable and the non-violent means is through the courts.

As John Stuart Mill wrote in his work On Liberty:

Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant — society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it — its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.

John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty

Even if the ACLU takes a position you personally dislike doesn’t mean they are out to destroy the nation, it works to hold the nation to the principles held in the Bill of Rights.

Even if there is one person who holds a religious view point different than you, doesn’t give you the right to force your beliefs on them, no matter your intent. People like the letter writers I noted above either forget that principle or ignore it for their own ends.

Who is really trying to destroy the nation?

How to fail to shut up an Atheist

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I saw the title to a blog entry, How to Shut Up an Atheist if You Must, and felt compelled to read it. Being a non-believer I needed to see what if anything the author wrote would actually shut me up. I can rest easy as nothing he commented is new nor will it shut atheists up.

Doug Giles starts out with a throw down to the non-believer:

The atheist’s days of running circles around the Christian with their darling questions are drawing to a close. Yes, the fat lady just wrenched herself off her humongous backside, has cleared her throat and now is fixin’ to sing the finale on the atheist’s ability to have fun with their specious little fairy tales at the Christians’ expense.

Giles then lists several “points” that “will be especially beneficial for high school and college students to draw upon when their secular anti-God fuming delirious instructors start railing against God and Christianity.”

1. When the prissy anti-Christs tell you the Bible stands in the way of science, inform them that the greatest scientific geniuses in history were devout Christians-and scientists from Newton to Einstein insisted that biblical religion provided the key ideas from which experimental science could develop.

While it is true that many scientists are believers, it doesn’t follow that biblical religion developed experimental science. In fact Einstein wrote:

As regards religion, on the other hand, one is generally agreed that it deals with goals and evaluations and, in general, with the emotional foundation of human thinking and acting, as far as these are not predetermined by the inalterable hereditary disposition of the human species. Religion is concerned with man’s attitude toward nature at large, with the establishing of ideals for the individual and communal life, and with mutual human relationship. These ideals religion attempts to attain by exerting an educational influence on tradition and through the development and promulgation of certain easily accessible thoughts and narratives (epics and myths) which are apt to influence evaluation and action along the lines of the accepted ideals.

It is this mythical, or rather this symbolic, content of the religious traditions which is likely to come into conflict with science. This occurs whenever this religious stock of ideas contains dogmatically fixed statements on subjects which belong in the domain of science. Thus, it is of vital importance for the preservation of true religion that such conflicts be avoided when they arise from subjects which, in fact, are not really essential for the pursuance of the religious aims.

Religion and Science: Irreconcilable?

“Dogmatically fixed statements on subjects which belong in the domain of science” What is more dogmatic than supporting that a “God” created the Earth and Darwin is full of crap.

Next Giles writes:

2. When the pissy God haters tell you the Bible condones slavery, you can remind them that slavery was abolished only when devout Christians, inspired by the Bible, launched a campaign in the early 1800s to abolish the slave trade.

The Bible does support slavery – see Exodus 21:2-6 or 1 Timothy 6:1 There is nothing against slavery in the Bible so those who fought to abolish the slave trade were doing it not because the Bible told them to but because they felt it was the right thing to do.

3. When the screechin’ teachers tell you the Bible has been proven false by archaeology, hark back and show them that each year a new archaeological discovery substantiates the existence of people, places and events we once knew solely from biblical sources, including the discovery of the Moabite stone in 1868, which mentions numerous places in the Bible, and the discovery of an inscription in 1961 that proves the existence of the biblical figure Pontius Pilate, just to name a few.

I don’t know of anyone who has said that archaeology has proven the Bible false. Many of the places and people mentioned in the Bible probably did exist but there hasn’t been actual proof that the Bible is an accurate history of those places, people, and events. It is a collection of stories that were passed on by word of mouth for hundreds of years before they were written down. Many of the stories, including the story of a messiah born of a virgin birth etc…, can be found in the storytelling tradition of cultures never exposed to Christianity directly. The Bible isn’t a first person account nor even the recorded history of first person accounts of the people and events and so it shouldn’t be used as historical proof.

4. When they get sweaty and tell you that the Bible breeds intolerance, refresh their memory with the fact that only those societies influenced by biblical teachings (in North and South America, Europe, and Australia) today guarantee freedom of speech and religion. Period.

What about Exodus 23:24 “Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.” or Leviticus 24:23 “And Moses spake to the children of Israel, that they should bring forth him that had cursed out of the camp, and stone him with stones. And the children of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.” or Deuteronomy 4:34 “Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?”

The problem with Giles conclusion is there isn’t a connection between people supporting freedom of speech and religion and the Bible. The text of the Bible doesn’t support either. It wasn’t until the founding of the United States – by men who were Deists – that there was real freedom of speech and religion. All other examples came after us. If such a notion had come from the Bible then we would have seen it a lot sooner than 1776.

5. When one of them queues up and quips that the Bible opposes freedom, smack ‘em with the fact that the Bible’s insistence that no one is above the law and all must answer to divine justice led to theories of universal human rights and…uh…limited government.

Since the Bible obviously supports slavery then this challenge is false from the start. But the Bible also supports communism. Acts 2:44-45 says “All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” and Acts 4:34-37 says “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

And finally:

6. When they tell you that Christianity and the Bible justify war and genocide, unsympathetically remind them that societies which rejected biblical morality in favor of a more “rational” and “scientific” approach to politics murdered millions upon millions more than the Crusades or the Inquisition ever did. Hello. “Atheist regimes have caused the greatest mass murders in history,” says D’Souza. Inside D’Souza’s book you’ll find little gems like, “The Crusades, the Inquisition, the Galileo affair, and witch hunts together make up less than 1% of the murders that have occurred during modern atheist regimes like Stalin, Hitler, and Mao.”

Well first off Hitler was never an atheist. Just read Mein Kampf and his speeches from the period. From 1933 he said: “To do justice to God and our own conscience, we have turned once more to the German Volk.” and “We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.” The Nazis used religious symbols and rituals for their own ends. They also left the Catholic church alone while decimating the Jews. One would think if Hitler was an atheist then all religions would have been destroyed.

Stalin and Mao did kill a lot of people but not because the people weren’t atheists. They killed people due to politics and power. Atheism is not a belief system and atheism isn’t interchangeable with communism. I know many atheists who are libertarians and Republicans and Democrats and many who don’t care for communism. And as Austin Cline on his atheism.about.com page notes:

To understand this better, consider times in the past when religion has been involved with violence — the Inquisition would be good. How many people were killed during the Inquisition in the name of theism? None. Those doing the killing acted not because of theism, but rather because of Christian doctrines. The belief system is what inspired people to act (sometimes for good, sometimes for ill). The single belief of theism, however, did not.

How Many Were Killed by Communists in the Name of Atheism & Secularism?

Doug Giles tries to offer up a challenge to shut atheists up and those challenges don’t offer any new arguments and aren’t hard to refute.