Friday, March 29, 2013

When ritual DOESN'T make you feel good

Despite the study referenced in my last post, I'm guessing the people participating in this ritual did not have high levels of oxytocin, at least during the ritual itself. Having nails driven through your hands is a pretty horrifying way of "celebrating" Christ's crucifixion. This is definitely Extreme Religion:

Devotees in villages in the northern Philippines took part in a bloody annual ritual to mark Good Friday...The crucified devotees spent several minutes nailed to crosses in Pampanga province while thousands of tourists watched and took photos of the spectacle, which the church discourages. Earlier in the day, hooded male penitents trudged through the province's villages under the blazing sun while flagellating their bleeding backs with makeshift whips. Others carried wooden crosses to dramatize Christ's sacrifice.

The real reason people attend church?

An interesting article here indicates that "a majority of participants" release oxytocin (a hormone also released during orgasm and breastfeeding, incidentally) during rituals, religious or otherwise. This may help explain why people enjoy going to church on Sunday, and why churchgoers are "happier and healthier" in many surveys. Then again, one study doesn't really tell us much of anything and should probably be taken with several grains of salt.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

But it's bad for kids to allow gays to adopt...

Despite having nineteen kids and two grandchildren, the Duggars are apparently considering adopting yet more children. Michelle Duggar says, "We are praying about it, and we will see what God has in store. Love for children has been placed on our hearts."

I like this terse comment below the article: "Hoarding is a disorder." True, but I don't think fundamentalists see it that way. Apparently it's a wonderful thing for Quiverfull advocates to adopt, even if they have more children than most of us could possibly imagine coping with, but let a gay couple want to adopt a single child, and the child will supposedly be damaged somehow. Go figure. Personally, I suspect it's better for kids to be adopted by a loving couple (even-- gasp!-- a gay couple) that isn't already overwhelmed with a swarming mass of children.

Friday, March 22, 2013

North Dakota and "personhood"

According to this, North Dakota lawmakers passed a resolution declaring a fertilized egg to be a person. In November 2014, voters will determine whether or not they want this to become part of the state constitution. This is an admitted effort by lawmakers to shut down the state's only abortion clinic (in Fargo, the largest ND city).

But even if you're opposed to this measure, you can at least take comfort in the fact that it's a carefully drafted and well-researched resolution. Its sponsor, Senator Margaret Sitte, says,"There was no grandiose plan...It came from Wikipedia."

Wonder how lawmakers drafted laws and resolutions before Wikipedia came along?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Premarital fornication

I've read two good posts on the Evangelical perspective on premarital sex today. The first is on Love, Joy, Feminism, where Libby Anne explains why premarital sex can logically be viewed as a breach of trust if you were brought up to believe that purity until marriage is necessary, but points out that unless you're brought up with that expectation, no breach of trust occurs. The second is on The Way Forward, in which he talks about how "Evangelicals live in denial" about how people in their church actually conduct themselves sexually. Evangelicals, after all, are just like the rest of us, sexually speaking. They're just not as open about it.

I'm sure there are people who remain "pure" until marriage, and then live fifty happy years in an exclusively monogamous marriage. But just because it can happen doesn't mean it should happen. One of the things that worries me most about what Libby Anne terms "purity culture" is the underlying idea that young people should be pushed into early marriages so they can have sex within the holy confines of God-sanctioned monogamy. Marriage, though, is the last thing that anyone should be rushed into. I wonder how many people are caught in unhappy, unloving marriages because they were pressured into marrying too young, before they had enough worldly experience to know what they really wanted.

Friday, March 15, 2013

"People ought to have the right to get married"

An article here says that Senator Rob Portman, a "leading conservative voice" who was opposed to gay marriage because of his "faith" and his "faith tradition," has now decided that gay people should be allowed to get married. (He was never a big crusader against gay marriage, as his focus was more on economic issues, but he voted against it.) Portman came to this conclusion after his son let him know he was gay and "helped him work through his decision to announce his change in position on gay marriage."

It's great that he changed his mind, but unfortunate that he couldn't step outside what he thought his "faith" told him until it became a personal issue for him. (Yay for his son having the courage to come out to his parents.) As some have noted in the comments, a lot of people are changing their viewpoint on this subject as they begin to realize how many people they know are gay, and Portman is hardly alone here. Nevertheless, it's a little sad that it took a revelation from a family member to "evolve" Portman's thinking. If politicians had a little more empathy, a little more ability to imagine how others feel, this country might be a better place.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lycan Jesus

Here's a fascinating reminder that the "one true word of God" that has come down to us is far from the only version of the Jesus stories that existed in the distant past. A newly deciphered Egyptian text, written in the Coptic language, tells a story of Pontius Pilate offering to sacrifice his own son for the shapechanging Jesus. Yes, in this story Jesus was a shapechanger (he also becomes incorporeal elsewhere in the story):

"Then the Jews said to Judas: How shall we arrest him [Jesus], for he does not have a single shape but his appearance changes. Sometimes he is ruddy, sometimes he is white, sometimes he is red, sometimes he is wheat coloured, sometimes he is pallid like ascetics, sometimes he is a youth, sometimes an old man ..."

If you've ever read about the Gnostic gospels, then it's no surprise to you that early Christians had widely divergent views of who and what Jesus was, and of his supposed significance to the world. This is just another reminder of that fact, but an unusual one. Imagine if Jesus could turn into wolf form as well as varied human forms. If another group of Christians had won out when the "Gospels" were being put together, then nowadays people might be worshipping at the First Lycan Church and reciting the Lycan Creed.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"God made it happen"

This article and video is about a teenager who rolled her car while trying to avoid a skunk. She wound up with a broken back and neck. (Her best friend also wound up with bones broken throughout her body, including her back and neck.) In this article, she says, "They told me right out of the CT scan they saw a spot on my kidney...A couple of days later, they called us with the results that it was Pheochromocytoma (a rare form of cancer), and cancerous throughout my body." In the video, she says,"I believe that God made it happen at that point in time because that was the point in time that I was strong enough to handle it."

I wish her the very best of luck in battling the cancer, and I wouldn't deprive anyone of the beliefs that help them get through things like this. But personally, I find it hard to believe a merciful God has anything to do with situations in which young people get cancer, or are injured severely in a car wreck. This is the sort of problem that set me on the road to atheism, because the cognitive dissonance involved in believing simultaneously that God has a purpose in everything he does and that God strikes young people down with cancer was really too much for me to reconcile.

Les Mis

My daughter recently convinced me to watch Les Misérables. I've never read it (though I hasten to add in my defense that I have read The Hunchback of Notre Dame, so there!), so had no idea what to expect. I enjoyed it, but my atheism makes happy endings involving the afterlife... well, not so happy. (Not that the ending of Les Mis is all smiles and bubbles anyway!) To me, the ending served as a sorrowful reminder of my Christian hope that my husband would be there to greet me when my life ends, which I now recognize isn't going to happen. In real life, there's nothing to look forward to after the grand finale is sung.

But it makes perfect sense in the context of the movie, so I can watch it as part of the fiction and not grind my teeth too much. In any event, the ending lyrics about how the "wretched of the Earth" will "live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord" serve as a reminder that no, actually, they won't. It's better to work for the betterment of this world than to hope for the mystical light of a world that will never come.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

What would a Christian society actually look like? Part 2

Yesterday, we left American society in shambles with just three quotes from Jesus. Let's see what else the Savior has to offer us (quotes are again from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible):

Matthew 10:34-38- "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against his mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

So if you really, really believe in Jesus, then you are to leave your family behind (assuming that you can't convert them) and follow him. This means that if you're a guy who believes in Jesus, and your wife doesn't, the right and ethical thing to do must be to abandon your wife and children and join that horde of homeless Christians roaming the streets, proclaiming the Gospel. Of course, your wife can't actually divorce you for abandoning your family, because we also know that "what God has joined together, let no man tear asunder." Presumably she's just out of luck. Also, if you've really listened to Jesus, you've given away all your worldly goods, which may leave your family homeless anyway. You're certainly not going to be helping to pay the mortgage, at any rate-- you'll be busy preaching the Gospel.

So Jesus advocates 1. leaving your family behind if they disagree with your religion, and 2. as we saw yesterday, giving away all your worldly possessions and hitting the road to "follow" him, thus leaving your family homeless. I think most of us would frown on this style of parenting. What happened to responsibility?

Matthew 6:30: "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?"

This is part of a long passage in which Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about food and clothing, because God will provide, just as he does for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. So when we look at those millions of homeless Christians roaming through the economic devastation of America, we can expect that God has provided them with food and clothing. But if by some chance God hasn't managed to provide millions of garments and manna from Heaven, they have only two avenues open to them: charity (and even if the remainder of our wrecked country has any wealth to spare, one might forgive them for not wanting to give freely to people who gave all their worldly goods away) or theft.

Matthew 10:14-15: "If any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment of the land of Sodom and Gomor'rah than for that town."

So while you're wandering around, preaching, and you come across a town that's not really interested in hearing the Gospel, you are to shake the dust off your feet, and then God will punish that town more severely on Judgment Day than he will Sodom and Gomorrah. Those two towns, of course, were utterly obliterated by God because they were so sinful. So anyone who doesn't listen to you is worthy of being obliterated. Doesn't that make you feel good about wandering around and preaching to people? If you don't do a good job, they're going to suffer, quite terribly. Way to put the pressure on there, Jesus.

(Matthew 11:20-24 is also dedicated to Jesus upbraiding several cities "where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent." He lists the cities by name and says they will all suffer bigtime. What about the kids in the cities? Did he expect them to suffer, just as the children in Sodom and Gomorrah were wiped out along with their sinning elders?)

Matthew 13:41: (At the close of the age) "The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all curses of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth."

So if you aren't quite sure about abandoning your family, giving all your goods away, and following Jesus, a terrible, fiery fate awaits you. Of course, if you do all these things, then you will "shine like the sun" with God in Heaven. Just try not to think about all those people down in Hell, burning in the flames for eternity.

So in order to be holy, you must give away all your belongings and rely on God for your sustenance, let yourself suffer any sort of abuse without retribution, abandon your family if necessary, and remain wed to your spouse no matter what (except for unchastity). If you don't do all these things, then the angels will throw you into the furnace of fire, where you can expect a rather unpleasant punishment. Meanwhile, all those who gave away everything they had will frolic in the sunshine with God. "So the last will be first, and the first shall be last."

But if you're a theist reading this, and you're feeling a bit smug right now because you know that you're going to Heaven, while we atheists burn, do notice the full extent of what Jesus is asking you to do. Have you given your house and car away to the homeless? How about your bank account? Have you walked away from your wife if she's not a believer? If not, is there a chance that what Jesus is asking for is really simply not possible for a functioning society? And if we have to admit that Jesus really didn't know what he was talking about, then why are we still worrying about what this Jesus dude said, two thousand years later?

Let's leave United States society in the total disarray brought on by following Jesus literally, and listen to one more quote from Jesus:

Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

So our gentle Messiah tells us to give away everything, leave our families behind, and trust God to clothe and feed us. He threatens to throw us into Hell if we're not good enough, and says that whole cities will be horribly punished for not following him. He demands that we turn our whole life over to following him. And then he actually has the temerity to say that he's gentle, and the burden he's laying on us is light, and that this will be easy? To paraphrase Douglas Adams, this is obviously some strange usage of the word "easy" that I wasn't previously aware of.

Friday, March 8, 2013

What would a Christian society actually look like?

Evangelical Christians won't admit there's anything wrong with the Bible at all. From beginning to end, they regard it as the literal word of God. Liberal Christians, like I used to be, will usually admit that the Old Testament was written by a bunch of relatively primitive nomads who didn't know anything about how the world was put together, and so it's not to be taken literally. But the New Testament, particularly Jesus' words, is different. It's the heart of the Bible, what Christianity is based on, and thus his words have to be taken seriously. Even people who aren't Christian will sometimes praise Jesus for his wonderful philosophy.

So let's look at a few of the things Jesus is alleged to have said, and consider what a truly Christian society would actually look like. To be fair, I will admit that Jesus obviously thought he was living in the end times, and that he was addressing the last generation. He didn't think his rules really had to apply to a long-term society, and so it's not surprising that they don't. But Christians won't admit that (because it would mean admitting that Jesus really didn't know what the hell he was talking about when he said he'd be coming back soon), and so it seems fair to examine the rules Jesus laid out, and see if a society could actually be feasibly based on Jesus' precepts. Specifically, let's see what would happen to American society (since conservatives love to claim our laws are based on the Bible). Let's start with just a few today (quotes from the Revised Standard Edition, which was the first Bible that came to hand from my bookshelf):

Matthew 19:21- "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

Well, that's rather a large demand, isn't it? Notice that Jesus doesn't say give the church ten percent of your income, which is the figure fundamentalists usually use. He says to give all of your money-- all of it-- every last bit of it-- directly to the poor. He's not talking about just helping out the poor a bit while you live in your nice middle-class house and watch television in air-conditioned comfort. He's not talking about giving your kids' outgrown clothes to Goodwill,or dropping a twenty into the collection plate on Sunday. He's talking about a complete and total surrender of your assets, leaving you and your family impoverished and homeless (but don't worry, it says in another verse that God provides for his disciples-- though apparently not for the poor).

Imagine what the United States would look like if Christians actually followed this teaching. There would probably be packs of Christians roaming around, preaching their gospel and begging for food and shelter in exchange. If everyone who calls him- or herself a Christian (around 75% of the US population) actually did this, who'd be left to grow food or do any work? Society would collapse into poverty. This doesn't appear to me to be a sustainable societal model, nor do I think Jesus intended it as one. He was speaking to a small group of people and expected the world to end in their lifetimes. If you extend it to a long-term society of hundreds of millions of people, you easily see that it just doesn't work as a model.

Matthew 19:9- "And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery."

Way to go with the sexism there, Jesus. What, only guys get to make decisions about divorce? But even if we assume women also can have a voice in the matter (a pretty iffy assumption, if we're really trying to live based on Jesus' words), he's still saying we can't get a divorce for any reason at all unless our spouse is sleeping around. So if your spouse is beating you-- tough luck. God joined you together, and he obviously had a good reason for it, so quit your whining and suck it up.

Obviously, a society that took Jesus' words literally wouldn't allow divorce for any reason other than adultery. (Fundamentalists actually do want to get rid of no-fault divorce, though I suspect even most of them would agree physical abuse justifies divorce.)  So if you're not getting along with your spouse, or s/he drinks to excess and won't seek treatment, or s/he tortures kittens for fun-- that's too damn bad. God put you together, and you're stuck. If you divorce the twerp, you're committing adultery.

Matthew 5:39- "Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would see you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well..."

Seriously? So if a stranger comes up and knocks me to the ground, for no reason or for any reason, I'm supposed to get up and meekly say, "Do that again, please." If someone steals my iPhone, I should chase after him and offer him my Kindle as well. What about someone who hurts my kids? Should I encourage that behavior, too? "Thanks for bullying my kid. Here's my second kid-- please, beat him up, too!"

I think it's clear that this particular teaching would lead to chaos, and the strong preying on the weak, quite rapidly. A system of punishment for criminal behavior is a necessity for a stable society (though I agree with Jesus that the old "eye for an eye" thing may have been a bit harsh). I don't regard this as a sensible rule to base a society on. I think if Christians were honest with themselves, they wouldn't either.

So, just three quotes from the Bible, and already we have a society where everyone (well, 75% of the population) has given their money and possessions away and are roaming around homeless, no one can divorce for any reason except adultery, and we have to meekly accept any bad thing anyone does to us. Doesn't sound like the greatest place to live, does it? More tomorrow...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

That's a stupid headline

I have Crohn's. Severe Crohn's. The kind of Crohn's that was so bad I had to have a blood transfusion and several different (fairly minor, so far) surgeries, not to mention suffering from an inability to eat and resulting rapid weight loss. The only medicine that has worked so far is Remicade, and while its effect has been pretty well (pardon the term) miraculous, I'm always aware that it may stop working, and I may go back to the hell of slowly bleeding and starving to death.

So naturally, when I see a headline that says CURING CROHN'S? MAN SAYS HE FOUND WAY TO BEAT INCURABLE DISEASE, even on Fox News, my ears perk up. Alas, when I clicked on the article, I found very little useful information. The gist of it is that the guy stopped smoking, severely altered his diet (his wife is a "holistic nutritional counselor," which does not inspire confidence), and started doing triathlons. (The last is not particularly helpful, as when I was suffering the worst Crohn's symptoms I couldn't even walk around the grocery store without dashing for the bathroom, let alone jog around the block). He then started taking some oddball supplements (is cat's claw really what it sounds like??- ETA: a Google search shows it's a woody vine with supposed immune system boosting effects, none of which have been proven scientifically) and weaned himself off the medicines (6MP and steroids) he was on. He's been well for quite a while.

But here the article admits, "...although he realizes he fundamentally cannot be ‘cured’ of an incurable disease, he and Kummer (his doctor) can agree he is in remission – for now." The doctor added,"“He got better because of the 6MP (a medication) and he took it for a long time. We have an objective measure of him getting better, and he felt good, so he stopped taking it – and he continued to feel good. But, that’s the mechanism of the drug."

The article goes on to say that the guy thinks his new lifestyle made a difference too. Well, maybe it did. So what? This isn't a "cure" and it surely won't work for every Crohn's patient. (I was on 6MP for a while too, right around the time I had to have blood transfusions. For me it was totally worthless. Steroids didn't do much for me either, other than give me a moon face.) He also says, "The difference between being cured and being in remission is that it will never take over my life again. I’ll know how to handle it, and it’ll be a very different situation. I’m ‘cured’ because I’ll never be held hostage by Crohn’s again."

Maybe, maybe not. The thing about Crohn's is that it changes. If they remove an affected part of your colon, you get it in another part of your colon. If they take out your entire colon, you get it in your small intestine. Sure, sometimes it goes into remission for good, but you can never be absolutely certain that you'll "never be held hostage by Crohn's again." I wish this guy the best of luck, but the headline is really irresponsible (who cares what the patient thinks? What matters is what the doctor thinks. He's the one with the medical degree, for crying out loud), and I kind of resent the implication that anyone can be cured if they just apply themselves. Unfortunately for all of us who suffer from the disease, Crohn's just doesn't work that way.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The shocking "in your face" Kindle ad

Here's an article about Amazon's nice little Paperwhite ad, which has a charming twist at the end regarding gay marriage. This is the ad:

Here are some of the comments on the article:

 -Just letting it be isn't enough. Gotta have it shoved at us. Why is that? 

-This is where tolerance meets in-your-face.

-If they think this 'indoctrination' is going to make life easier for them, they're *exactly* wrong! 

-Get your #$%$ back in the closet and stop blatantly trying to shove your lifestyle down my throat. 

 -I don't care if people are gay or not. I'm just sick of the gay leftist agenda being shoved at me.

-Tired of this being shoved down my throat. 

 -We don't need marketers ramming the gay theme down out throats like the government and media are doing. 

It's amazing to me how people like this can be so insecure that a cute and subtle little commercial upsets them so badly. This commercial is far from "in-your-face"; it presents gay marriage as perfectly normal. And that's the real problem here; gay marriage and gay rights are becoming widely accepted, and that terrifies these people. They see any mention of gayness as a blatant, full-throttle assault on American ideals (which are wrongly presumed by these folks to be identical to fundamentalist Christian ideals). There's no way of making them happy other than to shove all gays back into the closet, take back any rights they may have gained, and never, ever mention they exist again.

We've come a long way, but we still have quite a distance to go.

Locusts, revisited

In this post, I stated of the recent "plague of locusts" that "one era's 'miracle' is another era's scientifically explainable event." Silly me! According to this, TruNews host Rick Wiles says that God is sending the "plague of locusts" to Israel as a sign that he's displeased by President Obama's forthcoming visit. Never mind that Cairo is bearing the brunt of God's wrath now (what exactly did Cairo do wrong?), or that the locusts may not wind up in Israel at all. It's a sign of God's almighty wrath!

Seems like a sloppy, irresponsible way for a god to display His displeasure, if you ask me. Almost petulant, really. You'd think an omniscient, omnipotent being could do a little better than that. How about writing a message with clouds or something? Wouldn't that be a lot less messy?

Mother Teresa was no saint...

...according to this study, which indicates she had a "dubious way of caring for the sick by glorifying their suffering instead of relieving it." Her "homes for the dying" had poor hygiene and a shortage of medicine, even though she got hundreds of millions of dollars in donations. But this will probably not prevent her being declared a saint by the Catholic Church-- an organization that is generally more interested in appearances than reality, anyway.

Monday, March 4, 2013


A couple of beautiful images here of Saturn (and the tiny dot of Venus) sent from the Cassini spacecraft.

Sodom without sodomy

I didn't watch it, so I'm basing this on hearsay, but I'm seeing some people around the 'net complaining that the History Channel's The Bible glossed over certain aspects of the Lot story. Well, of course it did. Naturally they cut out the homosexuality=deadly sin aspect of the tale, since most sane people nowadays are a wee bit uncomfortable with the idea that God might wipe out entire cities due to homosexuality. It doesn't make God look too good to the modern audience. And apparently Lot didn't offer his virgin daughters to the mob in the angels' stead, either, which is equally understandable-- it's hard to understand why God saved him as a "righteous man," all things considered. The whole story makes both God and Lot look a bit like psychopaths, frankly. Not that this is the only story in the Bible that makes God look psychopathic. But I digress...

Anyway, as always, the Bible is much more palatable when cherry-picked. A presentation of the Bible as actually written would be far more likely to create atheists than Christians.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Eighth Plague

Apparently God is once again displeased with Egypt, as a swarm of thirty million locusts has descended upon the Giza region.  (There's a fairly disturbing picture here.) Actually, if you read the article you will find that this is a seasonal problem in Egypt (albeit not usually in such large quantities), and no miraculous intervention will be required to disperse the insects-- hopefully the strong winds predicted in the next few days will do the trick.

One era's "miracle" is another era's scientifically explainable event.

And a little child shall lead them

Sitting at a table in Red Robin today, surrounded by fancily-dressed churchgoers, I remembered dressing up to go to church. I said to the kids, "Do you miss church?"

The older two shook their heads. The youngest (eight) looked momentarily puzzled. I've been sick with Crohn's for a while, so we hadn't been to church for quite a while even before I admitted my atheism. I said to him, "I guess you don't remember church, huh?"

His face cleared. "I remember," he answered. "Basically... a lot of music, and then blah, blah, blah."

Couldn't have put it better myself:-).

Saturday, March 2, 2013


A California woman is claiming a Christian college fired her from a teaching job because she had premarital sex and was pregnant. (And yes, she'd signed a contract stating she could not engage in premarital sex, but would they rather she'd gotten an abortion?) But she says they then turned around and offered the job to her fiance... who was the child's father, and who had obviously also had premarital sex. Double standard much?

Of sexual assault and gifts from God

I don't pay a lot of attention to comments on this blog (because I get almost none!), but in glancing over my stats the other day, I noticed this post (commenting on Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's suggestion that babies resulting from rape were a gift from God) had a response:

Two of our seven adopted children were conceived by sexual assault. Both are girls. They are vibrant, physically active, wonders of love and adventure. 

 I have no problem with the concept that while satan used the assault to destroy lives, Jesus took that circumstance and will use these individuals to change the world. They have certainly made our world richer by far. 

 To think that many people would advocate for their deaths because of how they began is profoundly sad to me. Good luck on your journey.

I'm not aware of anyone trying to pass a law stating that victims of sexual assault must have abortions, so I think it's a vast overstatement to say that pro-choice advocates are "advocating for death." The fact that your daughters were born shows that people do make varied choices. But I'm a mother myself, and the thought of my daughters undergoing the trauma of sexual assault is dreadful enough. To think that they might be forced to carry a fetus to term after sexual assault, whether they want to or not, is simply horrifying. This should be a personal choice for every woman. Simply because you think Jesus "will use these individuals to change the world" is not a sufficient reason for my daughters (who don't believe in Jesus anyway) to be compelled to carry a pregnancy to term. It's also a good reminder of why religion has no business mixing it up with politics. One religion shouldn't have the power to shape the laws of a secular nation.

In any event, if one believes Jesus can "change the world" this way, then why can't he change the world to prevent sexual assault? Either Jesus and God have control over the world, or they don't. The idea that the bad stuff is all due to Satan/the Garden of Eden/bad human choices, while the good stuff can all be attributed to God, always strikes me as a copout. It's confirmation bias at its finest.

Jesus: the white, neatly barbered edition

While I was out the Jehovah's Witnesses came by. Awww, I was so sad to miss them... mostly because I like seeing the dogs charge the door and terrify anyone who rings the doorbell. (The dogs are actually very friendly, but when people see two seventy-pound dogs throwing themselves against the door and barking loudly, they tend to get a little worried. Can't imagine why.) Anyway, in case I had never heard of this dude Jesus, they kindly left a little flyer folded up in my door:

Nathan Fillion died for my sins? Are they sure about this? Because I'm pretty sure Nathan's still around. I see him on "Castle" every week. But maybe it's actually Ewan McGregor instead? Though I thought he was still with us, too...

Seriously, if I were writing this flyer, I would have written:

I've seen plenty of white Jesuses, but this is one of the worst. Even dying on the cross, his hair isn't even mussed, just nicely tousled. Aaarrghhhh.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Lord, HEAL this minivan! Hallelujah!

As I was getting out of my old Sienna at the grocery store this afternoon, a guy stopped me and asked what year it was.

"2005, I think."

"Mine too." He fell into step beside me, and waved at his minivan-- a twin to mine, except mine is steel gray and his was silver. "I was thinking yours looked a lot better."

"Mine's probably in worse shape," I said, walking toward the Harris Teeter. "It's got 160,000 miles on it."

He pointed back toward his triumphantly. "250,000!"

"Wow," I said, genuinely impressed-- and rather relieved to know my car might possibly survive that long. "Have you ever put in a new engine or transmission?"

"No," he answered, "but we've been praying over it like crazy."

I bit my tongue and refrained from making a snarky comment: Well, then, I may be in trouble, because I just don't know if the Lord is merciful enough let an atheist's minivan go more than 165,000 miles. I kept my mouth shut, because I'm polite and don't go around arguing with strangers about religion (well, except on the internet, where everybody argues). But honestly, it strikes me as really, really absurd to pray over a car. Even if you believe in the power of prayer, there are so many more important things in this life to pray over.

Then again, I really do need the darn thing to keep running. I wonder if the old Lutheran Book of Worship we still have on the bookshelf includes a Prayer for Superannuated Vehicles?...

A new Bible series

Survivor creator Mark Burnett is making a series based on the Bible for the History Channel, and he explains in this video and this one. (Both these videos are from ABC News, so I was unsurprised to find that the History Channel is a joint venture between the Hearst Corporation and, yes, Disney-ABC.) In one of the videos, Burnett states, "The Bible is the foundation of this country," (oddly, given that he's British) and when asked if he sees the Bible as literally true, answers, "There's only one way to approach this. You have to take the Bible as a fact." Frankly, he seems more excited about the "epic CGI" than the stories themselves. But I'm nevertheless pained to see the History Channel showing Bible stories based on the premise that "you have to take the Bible as a fact." Uh... actually, you don't, and no real historian would.

I was amused to note that in the comments to one of these videos, someone commented, apparently without irony, "So glad to see The Bible as the Topic instead of sex and violence." Evidently this person hasn't read the Bible enough to know that it's full of sex and violence!