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Archive for March, 2009

The newest episode of The Family Guy revolves around Brian getting into trouble when people discover he’s an atheist (not the first time a Family Guy plot has mentioned his atheism), and Meg gets converted to Christianity by Kirk Cameron. I liked it.

Unfortunately, I can’t embed it, so here’s a link to the episode:
familyguy-brianatheist

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All text taken directly from online Christian fundamentalist forums.

“I can sum it up in three words: Evolution is a lie.”

“You know, there are a lot of things in life that I’ve concluded to be wrong without studying them in depth. Evolution is one of them. You know, the fact that I don’t think about it doesn’t bother me in the least.”

Fundies say the darndest things.

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Recently, on another website, I read a comment by a Muslim which said that the Christian Bible mentions Mohammad – by name – as the next and last prophet of God. Curious, I asked about it – which book and verse? He responded with Deuteronomy 18:18 and Song of Solomon 5:16.

I’m used to seeing Christians make exaggerated claims about how the Old Testament predicted Jesus, but I have to say that Muslims do an even worse job at apologetics. Here’s all the problems with his claim:

If Deuteronomy and Song of Solomon (written somewhere between 1000 BC and 500 BC) mentioned Mohammed as the next prophet of God, then what about all of the Old Testament “prophets” in the intervening centuries? Muslims believe that Jesus, Isaiah, and Elisha were all prophets, so there’s certainly something wrong if Deuteronomy claims Mohammad would be the next prophet.

Anyway, the verses simply do not support this claim.

Deuteronomy 18:18:

“I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.”

Apparently, Mohammad tried to use this verse to argue that he was a prophet of God. Muslims try to draw parallels between Moses (who supposedly wrote Deuteronomy) and Mohammad – including: “Rejected by his people and then accepted”, “Became a national leader”, “Encountered enemies in battle”, and “Family – married with children”.

The problem is that nothing in this verse is specific – almost any “prophet” could claim that the verse is talking about him. The verse doesn’t even say in what way this new prophet would be like Moses (maybe it simply means that the prophet would be an Israelite – which is exactly what some translations say), so Muslims go on a fishing expedition to find parallels. Further, the verse never mentions the name “Mohammad”.

Song of Solomon 5:16:

“His mouth is full of sweetness. And he is wholly desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”

Apparently, in the original Hebrew, the words “wholly desirable” or “one worthy of praise” is pronounced as Machmaddim or Muhammadim (Hebrew uses an entirely different alphabet).

There are number of problems with the claim that this is about Mohammad:
(1) The claim that the verse is talking about Mohammad because the Hebrew words sound like Mohammad is quite a stretch. The Bible is a big book, so there are going to be some words that sound like Mohammad.
(2) The reason we don’t see the word “Machmaddim” or “Mohammad” in our English Bibles is because Machmaddim was a word with a meaning (“one worthy of praise”) – it wasn’t a proper name. Proper names get only minor changes during translation. For example, miryam (Jewish) gets translated as “Mary” (English) or “Maria” (Spanish). “Machmaddim” isn’t a proper name.
(3) Nowhere does this verse claim that Mohammad would be the next and last prophet of God (which was the Muslim’s original argument).
(4) These words were written by a woman – not by God. The chapter is actually an erotic love poem. If you step back and look at the chapter as a whole, you’ll find this:

The Torment of Separation

1 “I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh along with my balsam. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk. Eat, friends; Drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers.”
2 “I was asleep but my heart was awake. A voice! My beloved was knocking: ‘Open to me, my sister, my darling, My dove, my perfect one! For my head is drenched with dew, My locks with the damp of the night.’
3 “I have taken off my dress, How can I put it on again? I have washed my feet, How can I dirty them again?
4 “My beloved extended his hand through the opening, And my feelings were aroused for him.
5 “I arose to open to my beloved; And my hands dripped with myrrh, And my fingers with liquid myrrh, On the handles of the bolt.
6 “I opened to my beloved, But my beloved had turned away and had gone! My heart went out to him as he spoke. I searched for him but I did not find him; I called him but he did not answer me.
7 “The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me, They struck me and wounded me; The guardsmen of the walls took away my shawl from me.
8 “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, If you find my beloved, As to what you will tell him: For I am lovesick.”
9 “What kind of beloved is your beloved, O most beautiful among women? What kind of beloved is your beloved, That thus you adjure us?”

Admiration by the Bride

10 “My beloved is dazzling and ruddy, Outstanding among ten thousand.
11 “His head is like gold, pure gold; His locks are like clusters of dates And black as a raven.
12 “His eyes are like doves Beside streams of water, Bathed in milk, And reposed in their setting.
13 “His cheeks are like a bed of balsam, Banks of sweet-scented herbs; His lips are lilies Dripping with liquid myrrh.
14 “His hands are rods of gold Set with beryl; His abdomen is carved ivory Inlaid with sapphires.
15 “His legs are pillars of alabaster Set on pedestals of pure gold; His appearance is like Lebanon Choice as the cedars.
16 “His mouth is full of sweetness. And he is wholly desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”

Verse 1 show this woman drinking wine (forbidden by Islam), and have some erotic details (verses 3-6). It’s very clear that this is not a chapter that was supposedly written by God, but it was an erotic love poem written by a woman. It has nothing to do with prophets or foretelling Mohammad as the next and last prophet of God. It’s absurd the way that Muslims try to twist the Bible to make it support their beliefs about the world.

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NPR has a new story about the Quiverfull Movement – a sect of Christianity that believes they should have as many children as they can. (Come to think of it, that’s a bit like Mormon teachings – which says families should have as many children as they can handle.)

It’s originally based on Psalms 127:3-5

Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

Ignoring the obvious gender preference here, the verse is essentially saying that having sons will enable you to beat-back your enemies with superior numbers.

From the article:

Among some conservative Christians, a movement is giving new meaning to the biblical mandate to “be fruitful and multiply.”

The movement, called Quiverfull, is based on Psalm 127… Those in the Quiverfull movement shun birth control, believing that God will give them the right number of children. It turns out, that’s a lot of kids.

I have to admit that it’s irritating when people believe God will intervene to bring about the right situation – and then use that to avoid any planning. This kind of action could easily lead to overpopulation. I don’t know how many people the earth could support, but if everyone did this, the global population would skyrocket.

“We just started thinking, ‘God is sovereign over life and death. God opens and closes the womb,’ ” Kelly says. “That’s what his word says, so why we’re trying to fiddle around and controlling ourselves, we need to stop doing that.”

This lack of foresight and personal responsibility is galling.

Their friends do, too. The average family at their evangelical church has 8.5 kids. They are children who the Swansons hope will spread the message of Christ.

Wow.

That’s also the hope of Nancy Campbell, a leader of the Quiverfull movement and author of Be Fruitful and Multiply.

“The womb is such a powerful weapon; it’s a weapon against the enemy,” Campbell says.

Campbell has 35 grandchildren. She and her husband stopped at six kids, and it is her great regret.

“I think, help! Imagine if we had had more of these children!” Campbell says, adding, “My greatest impact is through my children. The more children I have, the more ability I have to impact the world for God.”

A Christian God, that is. Campbell says if believers don’t starting reproducing in large numbers, biblical Christianity will lose its voice.

How about actually coming up with some decent evidence to convert people? I guess indoctrinating children is a whole lot easier when it comes to dominating the world with your religious views.

“We look across the Islamic world and we see that they are outnumbering us in their family size, and they are in many places and many countries taking over those nations, without a jihad, just by multiplication,” Campbell says.”

Admittedly, I think it is scary how fast some parts of the Muslim world is reproducing. However, fertility rates actually vary from one Islamic nation to the next, and the fertility rates have been dropping – Iran, for example, is down to about 1.71 children born/woman. Thirty years ago, that was much higher. The right-wing media likes to play up the high reproduction rates of some Middle Eastern nations though – because they’re very big on promoting fear.

Global Fertility Rates:

“They speak about, ‘If everyone starts having eight children or 12 children, imagine in three generations what we’ll be able to do,’ ” Joyce says. ” ‘We’ll be able to take over both halls of Congress, we’ll be able to reclaim sinful cities like San Francisco for the faithful, and we’ll be able to wage very effective massive boycotts against companies that are going against God’s will.’ “

Yikes. These people and their legion of indoctrinated children are hoping to take over. It’s like some bad Christian Dominionist fantasy.

When [Misty and Seth Huckstead] were 23, already with four children, he had a vasectomy. But they searched the Bible and concluded that sterilization was an affront to God.

An affront to God? Well, I guess all the logical arguments in the world can’t make them change their minds – they’re doing what god wants.

Misty says she’ll have as many children as possible. She loves having babies and believes it’s the proper role for women.

The proper place for women: barefoot and pregnant.

By the way, I just noticed The Friendly Atheist has a short post about the Quivefull Movement.

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Religious people are more honest – because God has commanded them not to lie, right?

AUSTRALIA’S most controversial sheik, Taj Din al-Hilali, has been caught on videotape kicking in a door at his own mosque before calling police to report an act of vandalism.

The head imam at the Lakemba mosque, who caused outrage in 2006 by comparing scantily clad women to uncovered meat, was shown on a CCTV security tape kicking open the door just minutes before reporting the incident.

Source + Rest of the Story: Hilali kicks door, blames vandals

I wonder what the motive was behind this. To produce a sense of victimization among Muslims? To “teach” them that people (infidels) are out to get them, and they need to pull inward – strengthen their ties to the community?

Here’s al-Hilali’s 2006 comment about women:

The nation’s most senior Muslim cleric has blamed immodestly dressed women who don’t wear Islamic headdress for being preyed on by men and likened them to abandoned “meat” that attracts voracious animals.

In a Ramadan sermon that has outraged Muslim women leaders, Sydney-based Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali also alluded to the infamous Sydney gang rapes, suggesting the attackers were not entirely to blame.

While not specifically referring to the rapes, brutal attacks on four women for which a group of young Lebanese men received long jail sentences, Sheik Hilali said there were women who “sway suggestively” and wore make-up and immodest dress … “and then you get a judge without mercy (rahma) and gives you 65 years”.

“But the problem, but the problem all began with who?” he asked.

In the religious address on adultery to about 500 worshippers in Sydney last month, Sheik Hilali said: “If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it … whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?

“The uncovered meat is the problem.”

The sheik then said: “If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred.”

He said women were “weapons” used by “Satan” to control men.

“It is said in the state of zina (adultery), the responsibility falls 90 per cent of the time on the woman. Why? Because she possesses the weapon of enticement (igraa).”

Muslim community leaders were yesterday outraged and offended by Sheik Hilali’s remarks, insisting the cleric was no longer worthy of his title as Australia’s mufti.

Source: Muslim leader blames women for sex attacks

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Interesting story over at the BBC. I’m sure the common myth is that religious people are the most gracious at accepting death, while the nonreligious hold on to life like scared children, after everyone else knows it’s futile. (Actually, I think I remember Lee Strobel making some argument based on the quiet confidence of believers on their death beds as evidence for Christianity.)

Pious ‘fight death the hardest’

People with strong religious beliefs appear to want doctors to do everything they can to keep them alive as death approaches, a US study suggests.

Researchers followed 345 patients with terminal cancer up until their deaths.

Those who regularly prayed were more than three times more likely to receive intensive life-prolonging care than those who relied least on religion.

The researchers from the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute found these people were the least likely to have filled in a “do not resuscitate” order.

As well as receiving resuscitation, they were much more likely to be placed on mechanical ventilation in the last few days of life.

While previous US research has shown that the religious tend to support intensive end-of-life care, little work has been done to show whether they actually receive this.

Source: BBC

I’m have to wonder about the causal relationship here. Are people who fear death more likely to cling to religion? Does belief in religion make people worried about the afterlife (perhaps because they doubt their own salvation)? I always found it slightly odd that religious people put up much of a fight against death if they believe they are going to heaven to meet God. It also puts the religious’ phrases like “sanctity of life” and opposition to euthanasia in a new light – they are worried about their own continued life.

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… 2012

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