Monthly Archives: May 2009

Oh, those glorious days of religion in the classroom

Many of today’s Christians lament how religion (by which they mean their religion) has been stripped from the public school curriculum.  They yearn for the days when the Bible was as much a part of learning as the three Rs.  But thanks to godless liberals, that’s no longer the case.  The results are as sad as they are predictable.  Just one example: biblically conservative teens are one of the most sexually promiscuous groups among their believing peers.  Who knew children of Christian evangelicals were so dependent on the public school teachers to imbue them with the proper morals?  But I digress…

We all know there were sound legal and constitutional arguments for keeping religion in the home and church. But that’s all foolishness to God, say militant Christians.  Yet, there were very practical reasons too, which unfortunately have been either overlooked or quietly swept under the rug.  One of them relates to a tragic and deadly incident in Pennsylvania some 160 years ago known as the “Philadelphia Bible Riots”. 

I’ll leave it to you to read the full story, but here are the essentials:  In the 1840s, Philadelphia public schools were dominated by Protestants.  Bible-reading, KJV-style, took place every morning.  This didn’t sit well, to say the least, with the growing number of Irish Catholic immigrants, who took theological direction from Rome and from a different bible.  Mix the traditional Christian brotherly love between the two sects, add a dash of demagoguery, bake in the fires of burning homes and buildings, and what do you get?  Ten persons dead, twenty wounded, and $5.8 million in property damage (in current dollars).

Rob Boston, author of the article linked above, arrives at some very important lessons from the riots.  Here are a couple:

[R]eligion is taken so seriously that when people believe that their religious rights are being violated, they are capable of responding in ways that shock.

Isn’t that the truth!  What is it about religion that sometimes relieves one of all civilized behavior?

[D]espite the claims that state-sponsored religion in public schools would be a unifying factor, history shows that it is a divisive one that quickly causes people to take sides.

One of the beneficial consequences of the separation of church and state in this country is inter- and intra-faith peaceful co-existence, which has traditionally been the exception rather than the rule throughout the world.  It’s ironic that some of those who most strongly advocate for a religious presence in the schools would probably now be arguing against it had the principle not been enforced.  Even more ironic is that it’s secularists who may actually be responsible for preserving the skins of Christians who so frequently revile them.

Christians persecuted for baptizing children…

…is undoubtedly how some Christianists will spin it, but everyone else will be rightfully appalled by the practice of a church in Colorado Springs baptizing children without parental permission.  It gets freakier than that, believe it or not, for the same church tried to lure a seventh-grader into one of its vans.  Many Christians complain how practices and views which are contrary to traditional Christian teachings are being “forced down their throats,” which is in reality their way of objecting to the mere existence of such things, yet it appears that Christians are the ones truly doing the forcing.

h/t Austin’s Atheism Blog

When Christians fail at debate

I’m finding it increasingly common to have my posts at Christian blogs removed.  It seems proprietors are simply unable to respond.  This is not to say my arguments are particularly good (though they may be); rather, I think many Christians lack critical thinking skills, preferring diatribe over debate.  They’ve been told what to think, and now they’re going to tell you what to think.  Like their faithfully held beliefs, they entertain no possibility they could be wrong, and must work assiduously to maintain that appearance.

The latest example comes from the Possessing the Treasure blog.  It’s proprietor, Mike Ratliff, recently fulminated against the growing acceptance of homosexuality in Christianity and society, a practice, he reminds us, is a “sin,” “abomination,” and “sexual perversion”.

Now, it gives me a lot of satisfaction to see Christians working themselves up over issues like this, primarily because they’re quite literally shooting themselves in the foot and contributing to their faith’s demise among the next generation.  Many wonder, as I do, what is the Christian’s prurient fascination with homosexuality, when Biblical morality covers so much more.  This is the question I put to Mike.  In his response, Mike dodged the question, but not before alluding to my lack of god-logic for failing to understand.  So here’s what I wrote back, which Mike refused to publish:

Mike: I do not expect you to understand what I am going to tell you since you are an atheist. You are not regenerate. You do not have the Holy Spirit.

Me: Yes, I lack the required special gnosis which supersedes normal reason and logic, apparently.

Mike: To answer your “thought” about why we are focusing on homosexuality like this is that it is clearly an issue of morality. It is sin and not the same thing as race or whatever. It is a sexual perversion whose advocates insist it is not. It demands protection and acceptance in our society. It is immoral as I said and, therefore, should not be given that sort of recognition.

Unfortunately, your “reply” doesn’t answer my objection. How is homosexuality any worse than, say, adultery?  Or blasphemy?  Or working on the sabbath?  Aren’t these “issues of morality” just as serious?  Christians aren’t clamoring to place restrictions on them, or reverse their acceptance.  Why?

It matters little to me, as a non-Christian (and heterosexual, by the way), what Christians accept or don’t accept within their own religion.  What bothers me is your attempt to force Biblical morality on the rest of society.  As you may not be aware, the Bible is not a part of the U.S. legal code.  When it is, then by all means outlaw homosexuality (and adultery, and worshipping other gods, and working on the Sabbath), but for now, you would do well to keep your morality to yourselves.

Mike: As far as your poor logic concerning God’s Law, the moral parts of the Law are still very much in affect and are contained in our faith. On the other hand, those dietary and ceremonial parts of the Law were fulfilled and done away with at Christ’s crucifixion.

Me: Good news to slave-owning Christians who wish to increase their holdings from pagan nations! (Lev. 25:44)

Further down in the comments, a person named Jackie wrote, “[G]ays are actually helping to fulfill this same worldwide “sign” (and making the Bible even more believable!) and thus hurrying up the return of the Judge! They are accomplishing what many preachers haven’t accomplished!… Thanks, gays, for figuring out how to bring back our resurrected Saviour even quicker!”

Jackie’s reasoning is sound (and something I’ve previously blogged about), but of course it wholly undermines Mike the Christian’s rationale to keep “sexual perversion” at an absolute minimum.  Unsurprisingly, a reply pointing this out did not make an appearance either.

Amateur Christian theologians like Mike aren’t the only ones running away.  Over at the Debunking Christianity blog, John W. Loftus (whose book, Why I Became an Atheist, I’m currently enjoying) has issued a debate challenge to his former mentor, William Lane Craig.  The latter has so far demurred, saying he refuses to debate former students.  That’s odd.  In his book, Reasonable Faith (p. 21), Craig wrote, “Again and again I find that while most of [anti-Christian college professors] are pretty good at beating up intellectually on an eighteen-year-old in one of their classes, they can’t even hold their own when it comes to going toe-to-toe with one of their peers.”  Is it Craig who’s afraid he can’t hold his own against one of his peers?

Why atheists cheer for gay marriage

The Washington Post reported recently on the fascinating results of a new poll showing a sharp turnaround in support for gay marriage nationwide.  For the first time, a majority -albeit a slim one-favors such marriages.  Three years ago, a strong majority rejected them.  Gays can thank those under 35 for the shift, among whom support has grown the most rapidly.  While political views tend to grow more conservative with age, gays can justifiably cheer over the news, which is but the latest in a series of favorable portents. (In the wake of Proposition 8’s passage in California last year outlawing gay marriage there, I saw reasons to remain optimistic, but did not believe a reversal in public opinion would be so swift).

Although gay marriage doesn’t touch most atheists directly, I know many follow its triumphs and setbacks like sports fans follow their favorite teams.  The reason I suspect is because opposition to gay marriage encapsulates like no other issue so many of the reasons why atheists reject religion and seek to diminish its influence in the public sphere.  First of all, there is the believer’s presumption that their bronze-age holy books contain some immutable, objective moral code – a code which for the most part they themselves either ignore or selectively apply.  Second, there is the inappropriate intrusion of the believer’s morality into the public policy.  If their religion disavows gay marriage, fine by me, but by what right do they proscribe it in secular law as well?  The logic of their stance is identical to that employed by the mullahs instituting Sharia law.  Third, there is the utter poverty of their arguments, such as the one claiming defense of “traditional marriage” (whatever that is), or the absurd one claiming that believers will experience a wave of persecution as a result of gay marriage.  Finally, there is the sheer hypocrisy of same-sex marriage’s most ardent foes, religions that loudly proclaim marriage is divinely ordained between one man and one woman only, while their Godly founders and “prophets” not only had multiple wives, but some who were barely teens, or even younger.

So gay marriage is a barometer of sorts for religion’s waning influence in areas it doesn’t belong.  Non-believers — as well as believers who firmly uphold the separation of church and state – can applaud to the extent the practice is defined as a civil rights issue, and not a “family values” issue.  Intolerant religious devotees will continue to wail and gnash their teeth as state-after-state legalizes the practice.  That’s fine by me.  They’ll only marginalize themselves and make it that much more difficult to press their faith-based views in other areas of public policy.  And we’ll all be better off for it.