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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Remember the Japanese earthquake and U.S. poll that was conducted shortly afterward asking if natural disasters are a punishment from God? (Some even claiming that the earthquake/tsunami were a punishment for Japan’s atheism.)

The poll released today by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, was conducted a week after a March 11 earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan.

Nearly six in 10 evangelicals believe God can use natural disasters to send messages — nearly twice the number of Catholics (31%) or mainline Protestants (34%). Evangelicals (53%) are also more than twice as likely as the one in five Catholics or mainline Protestants to believe God punishes nations for the sins of some citizens.
Source: USA Today

Well, Japan does have high levels of atheism:

And a new article says:

In the five months since the tsunami struck Japan, people have returned $78 million in missing cash and valuables that they found amid the rubble, police said… The National Police Agency says nearly all the valuables found in the three hardest hit prefectures, have been returned to their owners… “Polite” and “disciplined” were words often used to describe the Japanese population in the absence of widespread looting. (Source)

Maybe God hates Japan because atheists because they are just so darn honest, even when nobody’s looking. (And religious people still claim that atheists are supposed to be some kind of wild amoral animals.)

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Rick Perry, the current governor of Texas, is going to run for president in 2012. No doubt, a lot of evangelicals will flock to him because he seems to be a “man of God” and “we need men of God in the White House”. (See also: FOX News “Five Reasons Why I Believe Texas Governor Rick Perry Will Be Our President In 2013”)

Rick Perry’s Prayer Rally and Fast [via Cynical-C]

On a related note, here’s a clip from the “Way of the Master Radio” (which is the show with Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort, but a third guy named Todd Friel seems to be the one in this clip) doing a relatively good piece on the psychology of faith healings, speaking in tongues, etc. I really didn’t know that their show would be coming down against the faith healers. I grew up in the ‘faith healing, speaking in tongues, slain in the spirit’ type of churches, and I eventually started to recognize that nobody ever seemed to ever get truly healed, despite the big show at church.

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Giving Credit

Recently, we’ve had a number of sudden downpours that filled roadways with so much water that they were temporarily un-drivable. A certain super-Republican, super-Christian girl I know made the mistake of driving her truck into one of these large puddles and had to abandon her vehicle. It sounds (so far) like there wasn’t any major damage to the car, but she has to get it professionally cleaned. What annoyed me was all her facebook posts giving credit to God. The general thinking seems to be: something bad happened, but something worse could’ve happened – therefore, praise God for intervening to stop the worse thing from happening. Example:

“thank Jesus, [my truck] is alive!!! After being submerged in water for 45min, we let her dry out and eventually she started up!!! Thank God for miracles! guessing i just need some interior detailing, but that’s it. an amazing end to a horrifying day!! God is good!!! … God is good and i’m thankful he looks out for me”

(Roll eyes) It’s amazing that bad things can happen to someone, and it somehow it gets turned around into a confirmation of God’s existence and God’s intervention because the *worst* possible outcome didn’t happen. As if the worst possible outcome always happens without God’s special intervention. I also couldn’t help but imagine that other people in other religions also credit their gods when the worst outcome doesn’t happen. “Praise Allah! The worst outcome didn’t happen, God if great!” – as if their imaginary gods played any role.

I was tempted to post a snarky comment like “My car wasn’t damaged at all, I guess God likes atheists best.” or “99% of the people in this city had no problems, I credit Neptune, god of the seas.” or “I saved your car with my psychic powers. What? You have just as much reason to believe that as you do that God saved your car.” or “I knew a Christian guy in college who got pancreatic cancer and died several years later. He and his family prayed like crazy, and he spent a lot of time studying the Bible before his demise, but God didn’t intervene. Glad he’s looking out for your automobile.”

For the sake of diplomacy, I didn’t retort.

Even as a Christian kid, I questioned giving God credit for these kinds of things. It seemed to me, that mathematically, it was unlikely that the worst possible outcome would happen by chance, so some percentage of “bad, but not the worst outcome” situations had nothing to do with divine intervention. Even as a Christian, the lens that Christians used to view the world just seemed out of touch with reality. It seemed to be:
– If a good thing happened: Praise God!
– If nothing happened: Praise God for his protection!
– If something bad happened, but it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen: Praise God for intervening to prevent the worst!
– If the absolute worst thing happened: Either silence, “God works in mysterious ways”, “He’s in heaven with Jesus now.”, etc.

Of course, it was considered impolite to question someone’s opinion of God’s role, so nobody challenged anything. As far as I could tell, bad things happened as frequently as you’d expect if God never intervened in the world at all.

I guess my rationality was the crack in the dam.

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This is an interesting clip about a film-maker who sets himself up as a fake spiritual guru, and gains some followers who come to believe that it’s all real.

Oops. I can’t embed this video directly, so you’ll have to follow the link to the Time website: Kumaré: A True Film About a False Prophet

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The gaming website, Destructoid, posted an article about a new game based on the Bible. I was actually pretty surprised how harsh it was to Christianity. I’d provide a link, but my antivirus complained about the website, so, to protect your computer I’m not providing a link. (But, here’s another article about the game.) The writeup:

The Bible Online is a new strategy MMO game … seriously

If you’ve ever read all the rape, genocide and deep-seated racism in The Bible and thought to yourself, “Man, that sounds like my kind of world,” then this is the game for you! The Bible Online allows players to “slip into the role of Abraham and his descendants and have the opportunity to reenact and witness the incidents of their times.”

The game is going to be split into chapters with The Heroes being the first released. The basic setup is that of an MMO strategy game, where players control their own tribe, build a city, and naturally wage war in the name of God. It won’t be a case of holding onto territory, however, as the ultimate goal is leading one’s band of merry savages into the promised land.

Side quests, roleplaying elements and more have all been promised, making this possibly the best game based on a book that was written by 2,000-year-old cultists from whom many civilized Americans still take their medical advice.

Sounds like fun, and I’m tempted to sign up for the beta. My only problem with Bible games is that the story is always so far-fetched for some reason. They should get Square Enix to write up something a bit more believable.

Ouch. That was pretty merciless.

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Blog the Religions

I’ve been listening to John Hummel’s 52 Weeks, 52 Religions podcast lately. He’s a former Mormon who’s out doing interviews with religious groups around Tampa Florida. About half of his interviews are with various Christian denominations, but he includes Muslims, Jews, Satanists, Pagans, etc in his podcast. It’s interesting stuff if you like hearing people talk about their religious beliefs.

One of the questions that he asks people during the interview is: “do you think the world is getting better, worse, or is it just as it’s always been?” One thing that’s struck me is that virtually every Christian group says that the world is getting worse. Most non-Christian groups seem to pick “better” or “same as always”. It’s remarkably pessimistic of Christians. Afterall, the human condition – in terms of education, health, lifespan, free-time, entertainment, etc – is far better in modern times than it has ever been in history. It seems that the Christian groups don’t really care about those things so much as being completely focused on people following their conservative version of morality and belief in Christianity. I suppose it could also have to do with Christian eschatology – since they believe the world will go to shit before Jesus returns.

His website is available here. The podcast only contains the last 10 episodes, but they’re all available on his blog.

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DJ AM

October 17th 2008:

Hard to believe, but the plane crash that nearly killed DJ AM and Travis Barker may actually have saved AM’s life.

He tells People doctors at the burn center found a blood clot in his leg that could’ve killed him if it hadn’t been treated. AM says the clot “could have traveled to my heart and I could have died” but docs put a filter in his vein and gave him blood thinners.

“I have a great deal of faith that everything happens for a reason,” he says.

Source: DJ AM — Plane Crash Saved Me … For Real

“I have a great deal of faith that everything happens for a reason,” he says. “I put myself in God’s hands.”

Source: DJ AM: How Plane Crash May Have Saved My Life

August 28, 2009:

Adam “DJ A.M.” Goldstein was found dead in his New York City apartment Friday (8/28) by police officers responding to a 911 call.

An initial autopsy was inclusive in determining cause of death. However, unofficial reports claim Goldstein died of an accidental drug overdose. Investigators found crack cocaine, a glass crack pipe and at least seven bottles of prescription drugs on his kitchen counter, including the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, sources told The New York Daily News.

Goldstein had been sober for more than a decade but reportedly began using prescription medication to combat his fear of flying following last September’s plane crash. (The DJ had been scheduled to fly to Las Vegas on Friday for a gig at Rain in The Palms Resort and Casino.)

Insiders told TMZ.com that Goldstein’s relapse was “recent” and was likely triggered by medication prescribed for anxiety and the pain associated with the second- and third-degree burns he suffered in the plane crash.

Source: DJ AM dies of apparent drug overdose

I don’t know how religious people don’t feel like they’re just making stuff up.

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I Get Email

Being from a rather religious family (both my immediate and extended family), I often get email forwards about various political or religious issues. I usually just roll my eyes and don’t respond. Here’s one of the latest email-forward from my aunt. I’ll spare you the full text – you can read it over at Snopes. (Snopes agrees that Darrell Scott made this speech, but points out the overblown language used to frame the piece and says the speech was never given to Congress.)

Subject: PLEASE READ THOUGHT PROVOKING

Guess our national leaders didn’t expect this, hmm? On Thursday, Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado, was invited to address the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee. What he said to our national leaders during this special session of Congress was painfully truthful..

They were not prepared for what he was to say, nor was it received well. It needs to be heard by every parent, every teacher, every politician, every sociologist, every psychologist, and every so-called expert! These courageous words spoken by Darrell Scott are powerful, penetrating, and deeply personal.. There is no doubt that God sent this man as a voice crying in the wilderness. The following is a portion of the transcript:

* Actually Darrell Scott wasn’t speaking to Congress, he was “one of eight people who presented statements to a small House Subcommittee meeting in an office building; … and didn’t prompt outrage from an unreceptive audience”.

Religious people really love to cast themselves as the role of wise martyr speaking truth to power. I’m surprised they didn’t use this photograph to accompany the email:

“The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used.. Neither was it the NCA, the National Club Association. The true killer was Cain, and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain’s heart.

“In the days that followed the Columbine tragedy, I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA. I am not a member of the NRA. I am not a hunter. I do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA – because I don’t believe that they are responsible for my daughter’s death. Therefore I do not believe that they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel’s murder I would be their strongest opponent.

Point #1: No to gun control. Conservatives are going to love this email, and so will the NRA. Of course, this was just a brief detour to talk about the real cause of this tragedy.

I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy — it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies! Much of the blame lies here in this room. Much of the blame lies behind the pointing fingers of the accusers themselves. I wrote a poem just four nights ago that expresses my feelings best.

The blame for Columbine lies in this government room? The blame lies with people pointing fingers at those who accuse the NRA?

Your laws ignore our deepest needs,
Your words are empty air.
You’ve stripped away our heritage,
You’ve outlawed simple prayer.
Now gunshots fill our classrooms,
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere,
And ask the question “Why?”
You regulate restrictive laws,
Through legislative creed.
And yet you fail to understand,
That God is what we need!

Point #2: We must pay tax dollars for (Christian) religious education, or else these kinds of shootings will happen again.

So, the blame for Columbine lies with those who “outlawed” prayer in schools, preventing children from finding what they need — God.

Of course, the government never outlawed prayer in schools. The government outlawed the practice of teachers (authority figures paid by the general public’s tax dollars) leading students (a captive audience of other people’s children) in prayers to a religion they may or may not believe in. The solution to Columbine is in using tax dollars for religious education — but only as long as it promotes their particular religious view.

I like some of those lines:

“Your laws ignore our deepest needs,”. Our deepest need is to indoctrinate other people’s children? And why do public schools have to allow the teaching of religion? Aren’t there other places to do that, or must “all our deepest needs” be met in schools?

“You’ve stripped away our heritage”. “Heritage” meaning “Christianity”, and “stripped away” meaning “you won’t let us make other people’s children pray to Jesus”.

“You’ve outlawed simple prayer.” Prayer isn’t outlawed in schools.

One of my former neighbors believes in all kinds of new age / wicca moon-goddess beliefs. She’s also a public school teacher. I think we all know what would happen if she started leading other people’s children in prayers. Christians would protest and complain, but it’s totally different if it’s their religion that’s getting taught. Admittedly, those are different situations: my neighbor would lead innocent, impressionable children in prayer to a false idol – the demonic moon-goddess, rather than showing them the way to the One True God.

“Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, mind, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc. Spiritual presences were present within our educational systems for most of our nation’s history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact. What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence… The real villain lies within our own hearts.

Hmm, I think most of this speech could be repeated by devout Muslims in any historically Islamic territory. A good way to entrench the dominant religion.

“As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes, he did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right! I challenge every young person in America, and around the world, to realize that on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School prayer was brought back to our schools. Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain. Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred disregard for legislation that violates your God-given right to communicate with Him.

This totally plays into the Christian-conservative myth that prayer was outlawed in schools. By perpetuating this myth, they try to turn “teachers can’t lead students in prayer” into some kind of burden on Christians and the one true God. I especially like how he tries to pretend that politicians were trying to deny students the right to pray in school.

Do what the media did not – – let the nation hear this man’s speech..

Yes, the media did not let the nation hear this man’s speech. The media is against Christians, and are working to suppress the truth. Or, maybe they just didn’t think it was newsworthy. Interesting spin, though. I think I’ll try it with this blog-post: “Do what the media did not — let the nation read my blog post!”

Today, I got an email from another relative where she says that it’s obvious that we needed to overturn the ban on prayer in school. Ugh.

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Sign of the Times

(Picture taken at a local church)
HelpMyUnbelief
I wonder what they mean by “help”.

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Good job, Ireland.

On Friday July 11th, 2009, Ireland passed the Defamation Bill by one vote. One of the aspects of this bill would make it illegal to criticize religion… any religion under penalty of fines up to 25,000 Euros. That is the equivalent to nearly $35,000.

Section 36

(1) A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000. [Amended to €25,000]

(2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if (a) he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

Ireland passes blasphemy law

I guess Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens might want to avoid Ireland for a while.

Maybe it’s time for the Pastafarians to get angry about some things. I’m sure they could use the anti-blasphamy laws to slap fines on just about anyone they want.

And, I can’t help but worry what Scientology will do with these laws.

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