Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sex, contraception, and fundamentalists

Libby Anne has a post up about contraception, and how some people feel that contraception "perverts sex" and allows women to be "used by men"-- as if women don't have any actual interest in sex themselves. Fundamentalists have some weird, mixed-up ideas about sex, but one of the weirdest is that men are sexual beings and women aren't. I write erotic romance aimed at women, and I can tell you, a lot of women are strongly interested in sex. Trust me on this.

The weird evangelical attitudes toward sex help explain why they aren't in favor of contraception. I've always wondered, why are the people who are most opposed to abortion not fanatically in favor of contraception? If we could teach kids to always, always use contraception, make it cheap and easy to get, and make Plan B readily and cheaply available, we could significantly cut down on the number of abortions in this country quite quickly. Of course there will still be medical conditions that require abortion, and changes of mind, and I am not advocating the prohibition of abortion here. I'm just saying that if these people could start fighting for contraception instead of against it, we could cut way, way down on the need for abortions.

But they won't, because they still have the naive idea that if we can stop people from using contraception, we can stop them from having sex. They refuse to see that it doesn't work that way, and that people-- women and men both-- like sex. They like to claim that abstinence has the only 100% success rate in preventing pregnancy, but the truth is that abstinence is the birth control method most likely to fail.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fathers as best friends

I've been reading Kate's guest posts on Love, Joy, Feminism (originally posted at Time to Live, Friend) about So Much More, by Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin. Today's chapter is about how your father is supposed to be your best friend and confidant.

This makes me look back on my childhood and roll my eyes. My father was an alcoholic who abused me emotionally. (He was also an atheist, which has no relevance one way or the other, except to acknowledge that he probably isn't the sort of father the Botkin sisters have in mind anyway.) He started drinking after work every day, got drunk every single night, and wound up in a shouting match with my mother (also an alcoholic) and yelled cruel things at me on a daily basis. He was the last person I'd have wanted for a best friend. (I'll add that he's moved in with us in his old age, because there's no one else to care for him, and we get along okay now that he's no longer drinking. "Honor thy father and mother" isn't a good idea because God supposedly gave it to Moses on the mountaintop; it's a sensible rule that generally makes society run more smoothly, and one of the few Commandments that still generally works today.)

But I digress. Sweeping pronouncements like “Our fathers are supposed to be dear, trusted confidantes and friends….our knights in shining armor, our protectors, our guardians, and they are even supposed to represent God to us” don't work for everyone. Even if I were to accept this as a general rule (which I don't; the purity movement makes father-daughter relationships seem weirdly creepy and incestuous, in my opinion), there are still an awful lot of girls out there like me, whose fathers are not fit to be "dear, trusted confidantes and friends." This is because fathers are not mystical beings who are all created by God to be perfect friends and confidantes for their daughters. They are individual humans, with their own virtues and faults, the same as anyone else. Some men make great fathers, and some are abusive emotionally, physically, and even sexually. Telling girls that they should always trust their fathers and be best friends with them doesn't work for girls with abusive fathers, who can plainly see that their fathers are not the best of all possible role models.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Surprise, surprise

Fox News recently showed its bias (surprise, surprise) in an online interview with Reza Aslan, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Apparently the interviewer couldn't get past the fact that Aslan is a Muslim. The very first question was "You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?" and it went downhill from there. Buzzfeed called it "The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done"... which is really quite impressive when you consider the sort of crap Fox does on a regular basis.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Wikireligion and controversy

Here's an article about the ten most controversial Wikipedia pages (judged by the numbers of "reverts," i.e., the number of times things were changed back) according to a study. Mohammed, Jesus and Christianity all made the top ten on the English list. Another religion-related item in the top ten was circumcision. Wow, people argue a lot about religion. Who knew?

I should add that the #1 most controversial page wasn't about religion, but about that other controversial subject, politics-- specifically, the page on George W. Bush.

Modern Christianity

Christianity moves along with the times, just like the rest of us. Two articles that show that it's not all about handwritten scrolls any more:

The Bible app, which has logged 60 billion minutes of reading time since its introduction in 2008. Many of us have everything on our smartphones (music, books, internet). So of course having a Bible app only makes sense. There are in fact hundreds of apps of this sort, but this particular one is supposed to be particularly user-friendly. The problem with it, of course, is that people can't tell if you're reading your Bible during Bible study, or surfing the internet.

Kingstone Comics, which aims to "to produce premium quality comics and graphic novels that bring fantastic biblical action and adventure stories to life," in an effort to keep teenaged boys and young men interested in Christianity. The author of the article (who is the CEO of Kingstone Media Group) writes, apparently straight-faced, "It might seem odd at first—Christians and comics—because this publishing niche is often associated with the sexualized gore and graphic violence many religious leaders (and others) warn against." Yes, because there isn't any sexualized gore and graphic violence in the Bible...

What do we get out of religion?

Cross Examined has a great post today entitled Religion: Billions into a Black Hole. It's an interesting piece that throws some light on a topic I've been thinking about lately-- what would a world without churches look like, and how much money would we as a society save if we weren't throwing a hefty chunk of our income toward church?

Religion does have its benefits, of course. Helping the needy is a big one, though as Cross Examined points out, it's impossible to know what percentage of money tithed goes to helping people. Since churches don't have to account to anyone, there's no real way of knowing. When I went to church, I was happy to think that my money was going to help people in need. Now I suspect I would have been better off donating to a charity.

Hands-on work is another big one. My daughter went down to New Orleans and helped with the cleanup after Katrina. So did lots of other Christians. Helping with disaster relief is something churches do that's very worthwhile. Like a lot of other mission work, it can be a way of spreading Christianity, so it's not done entirely out of a sense of selfless love. Nevertheless, it's certainly one of the more worthwhile ways in which churches spend their money.

Another one, as one of the commenters points out, is religious ceremonies, particularly weddings and funerals. These may be technically unnecessary (you can get married anywhere, and funeral homes will provide a funeral if you don't have a church), but they matter to the people involved, and thus provide value to the congregation.

And then there's music. I belonged to the choir, and it was a pleasant and enriching part of my church life. There was the cost of buying music, as well as the cost of buying bells (they had a great little bell choir there), the expense of buying a piano, and an eventual plan to buy a big pipe organ for the new sanctuary. All this costs money, but it's also a true benefit of church. Where else do people hear good music on a weekly basis? (I never liked the "contemporary" service much, so I'm talking here about good old Lutheran hymns as well as the excellent church music that's chosen by a talented music director.) If churches ever go away, maybe people will be motivated to come up with some secular alternative that allows them to play music together regularly. The one thing I really do miss about church is the choir.

Helping the needy and music are two places I didn't mind spending my money at the time. I also didn't mind contributing to the upkeep of the church (I figured they had to pay the mortgage and utilities just like me), but of the building of new facilities there is no end. I remember my own church, which had been built in the sixties (I called it "the Brady Bunch church" with affection, because it looked very much as if Mike Brady had designed it), grew out of its original sanctuary not long after I joined and had to build a new one. It was costly-- upwards of a million dollars-- and consumed much of the church's money and attention for quite a while. And this was only a relatively modest Lutheran church. I've seen some spectacular monuments to "God" (or possibly to the congregation's collective ego) among nondenominational churches. The Rock Church in Virginia is a good example, as is what I used to think of as the Pink Cathedral in Charlotte. There's a fine line between building a facility that's large enough and useful, and constructing a white elephant. Lately I see more and more nondenominational buildings that look like office buildings, and the cynic in me wonders if this is deliberate, so that in case the church fails, they'll be able to resell the building to a business.

It's a given, though, that if we weren't all going to church, we'd no longer need church buildings. Sometimes I look around at all the churches and wonder what would happen to them in a world without religion. Some of them (like almost any downtown church, or in Virginia the early Episcopalian churches) have spectacular architecture and historical significance, and we certainly wouldn't want to tear them down. But there are too darn many of the things to turn them all into museums. A church could be useful as a secular gathering place, but how about in downtowns where there are literally dozens of them? I honestly don't know what all those big buildings could be used for if the society went entirely secular. It's an interesting question I haven't found an answer to yet.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Blaming society's downfall on Muslims, Mexicans and welfare moms

An ultra-conservative family member sent me this (the first entry in the thread) as a forwarded email message. I told him a while ago to stop forwarding me this stuff, because I really do not want to know how the extra-conservative mind works, but sometimes something slips through. I can hardly believe anyone would send out this jaw-droppingly racist screed to all their friends and associates, but apparently my family member saw nothing wrong or inappropriate in its content.

The forwarded item is about the supposed destruction of Detroit due to welfare and immigration. It's several years old, but I imagine it's making the rounds again due to Detroit's recent bankruptcy.  I think it's clear that Detroit has big problems, but being from an entirely different area of the country, and not being an economist or sociologist, I won't presume to speculate on what contributed to its issues. This author, however, has no trouble placing blame on several things, including welfare and the conservative delusion that women have babies so they can have new cars:

"A new child meant a new car payment, new TV, and whatever mom wanted."

Mexicans and Muslims:

"As the crimes became more violent, the whites fled. Finally, unlawful Mexicans moved in at a torrid pace. Detroit suffers so much shoplifting that grocery stores no longer operate in many inner city locations.

"Today, you hear Muslim calls to worship over the city like a new American Baghdad with hundreds of Islamic mosques in Michigan...Immigration will keep pouring more, and more uneducated third world immigrants from the Middle East into Detroit, thus creating a beachhead for Islamic hegemony in America . If 50 percent illiteracy continues, we will see more homegrown terrorists spawned out of the Muslim ghettos of Detroit . Illiteracy plus Islam equals walking human bombs."

And "multiculturalism" (far-right Christians tend to be indifferent to First Amendment rights and believe that women should be subservient, but the irony seems to be lost on the author):

"As their (Muslim) numbers grow, so will their power to enact their barbaric Sharia Law that negates republican forms of government, first amendment rights, and subjugates women to the lowest rungs on the human ladder....Multiculturalism: what a perfect method to kill our language, culture, country, and way of life. I PRAY EVERYONE THAT READS THIS REALIZES THAT IF WE DON'T STAND UP, AND SCREAM AT WASHINGTON , AND OUR STATE, CITY, AND LOCAL LEADERS THIS IS WHAT AWAITS THE REST OF AMERICA."

I presume my family member sent this out with the intention of scaring people. It worked-- I'm definitely scared. But probably not in the way he intended.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Get Real With Jesus"

Spotted this picture on Tumblr: A guy holding a sign, presumably outside of Comic-Con in San Diego, that reads, DON'T BE COMIC CONNED... YOUR LIFE IS NOT FICTION. GET REAL WITH JESUS.

It's true that my life is not fiction (if it were, it would probably be more interesting). But as for Jesus, his life was probably for the most part fiction. I think I prefer the Doctor Who or Supernatural or Star Trek fandoms... the fans may get vicious about shipping,  and debates about which showrunner is the best, or dissecting misogyny and racism in their favorite shows, can get heated, but at least for the most part they are aware they're discussing fiction. The same can't be said for the Jesus fandom, alas.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Am I really an atheist Lutheran?

When I started this blog, I was still wavering about my feelings on religion. I knew I was an atheist and no longer believed in God, but I wasn't ready to disclose this to my parents-in-law and family. I was not generally attending church due to protracted illness, but if I did happen to go I was still taking communion-- not because I believed, but because not taking communion when you've always taken it is like wearing a big blinking neon sign.

Things have changed. I'm no longer ill thanks to some awesome medication (Crohn's disease can't be cured, but Remicade certainly seems like a cure so far), and so there are no excuses to be made. But no one else in the family is going to church either, which gave me confidence. (Which is worse-- becoming an atheist, or not going to church when you still believe?) I had a nice discussion with my father-in-law a while back and told him outright I didn't believe in God. We had a quiet and serious discussion, and he told me that he still believed in God, but that he was angry with him. So he was in no state of mind to be judgmental.

That being said, I still teach my kids to politely bow their heads when prayers are said at family dinners, but I notice that no one's saying them anymore. I don't know if that's out of courtesy to us, or because the rest of the family's faith is slipping, too. I discuss why I don't believe with my kids, but try not to brainwash them (though I admit I will be very, very unhappy if any of them ever become evangelical Christians). I'm no longer really an atheist Lutheran, just an atheist who used to be a Lutheran.

Be fruitful and multiply

Libby Anne's latest column made me think. A lot of evangelicals think they're supposed to let God give them all the children they possibly can. Why? Well, the Bible does say that God blessed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and told them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it."

But here's the problem. Even if you believe the Bible literally, we're not in the Garden of Eden anymore. Moreover, God gave those instructions to the human race when there were (supposedly) exactly two humans on the planet. But God in all his omniscience can't have failed to notice that despite being cast out of the Garden naked and defenseless, we humans have rather cleverly managed to struggle to the top of the food chain and eradicate a lot of things that kill us, thus increasing the population quite drastically. God is presumably not oblivious to the fact that the Earth is in fact pretty well filled now.

I said on Libby Anne's blog that I imagine God's latest words would be, "Haven't you people heard of birth control?" But I suppose an evangelical would find that presumptuous. It's true that we don't know what God thinks nowadays, because he never speaks to us directly as he allegedly did in the Bible. The evangelical answer to that is typically, "All the answers are in the Bible." But it seems to me that maybe evangelicals ought to consider the possibility that conditions on Earth have changed enormously since the Bible was written. "Be fruitful and multiply" made sense when humans were few. But there are over seven billion of us on the planet now. Things have changed.

At any rate, if there is a God, maybe he's no longer speaking to us because he wants us to use our brains and think a little. And one of the questions I really wish evangelicals would consider more seriously is that of overpopulation. The honest truth is that even if we believe in God (and I of course don't), we really have no idea if God would frown upon birth control or not. It wasn't even a concept when last he supposedly spoke to us. So assuming he'd be opposed to it seems just as presumptuous as assuming he'd be in favor of it.

In matters in which the Bible is silent, it seems to me that even religious humans should use their brains, rather than trying to interpret the Bible to render an opinion on something that hadn't been thought of two thousand years ago.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Christian Nation, finished

An update to my prior thoughts on Christian Nation. I finished it today, and I'm pleased to say that around 75% through the book (I'm reading it on my iPhone), it became pretty creepy and interesting. The author finally eased off on the "lawyer stuff" (the long, thoroughly detailed description of how the "Christian Nation" came to be, complete with endless lawyerly explanation) and got down to drama and action. It still wasn't quite as gripping as it should have been, but the last quarter was decent enough reading. It seems to me that if the first part of the book had been cut down and made less like an essay, and had the characters been somewhat better drawn, it could have been a good book. As it is, it's a long, hard road to get to the good stuff.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pat Robertson, still crazy after all these years

Since I grew up in Virginia Beach, Pat Robertson has been an embarrassment to me as long as I can remember. When I was young, back in the Dark Ages before cable, we had five local stations-- the ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS affiliates, and the Christian Broadcasting Network.When I watched reruns of Gilligan's Island on CBN, they bleeped the word beer. Even as a kid I recognized this was on the wacky side.

Yesterday Pat Robertson said there should be a "vomit" button on Facebook to respond to pictures of gay men kissing. But that's far from the craziest thing he's ever said. Here's a nice list of some of Pat's greatest hits. My favorite? I guess it'd have to be this one:

"The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

Maybe it's not quite as wacky as bleeping the word beer, but it's darned close:-).

Monday, July 8, 2013

Christian Nation

I bought Christian Nation: A Novel the minute I heard about it, because it sounded like a fascinating premise. Although I don't really think there's much chance of dominionists taking over America and making it into a "Christian nation," I do think that a lot of what is depicted in this novel is an accurate reflection of what the dominionists want. As such, it seems like a useful concept for a novel: Look, this is what evangelicals would like the United States to look like. Terrifying, isn't it?

Unfortunately, it's not living up to the premise, not by a long shot. I'm currently about halfway through, and the book is, sadly, dull as dishwater. Frederic C. Rich is a lawyer, not a novelist, and it shows. Oh, boy, does it show. Rich doesn't really seem to grasp the novel form. The book (written as a fictional memoir) suffers from immense swathes of tell, don't show: This happened. Then this happened. And then this happened. The narrative is only rarely broken up by "dialogue" that's really just the wooden characters speechifying, talking in a stilted way real human beings don't. There's no character development, no genuine effort to give the characters three dimensions. It reads like a history book, and a dry one at that.

In short, it's not at all what I had hoped for when I read the synopsis. Since I own it, I'm slogging my way through it, but it's not a particularly enjoyable experience. I will say that I've been having nightmares about it, so in some way it's disturbing. But I attribute that more to the general scariness of the concept than the writer's execution of the storyline.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

"Virgin Tales"

Here's a piece on an upcoming documentary on Showtime called "Virgin Tales." It "follows the Wilson family, American Evangelical Christians who believe not only in waiting until their wedding night to have sex, but even to share their first kiss." The Wilsons, not incidentally, are the founders of the Purity Ball, and in their family Dad is in charge, while the women are "life-givers." It sounds like an interesting look into the more radical patriarchal side of the evangelical movement, and airs on July 23 at 7:30 p.m. if you're interested (and if you have Showtime!).

Friday, July 5, 2013

The commandments of the golden calf

Most of the Old Testament doesn't make a lot of sense if one tries to read it as "history." The Exodus story in particular is full of logical holes, and one of the biggest is the story of the golden calf. God works numerous horrifying but impressive wonders, gets his people out of Egypt, and guides them across the desert with a pillar of fire by night, and a cloud of smoke by day. Moses uses the power of God to part the Red Sea, and the Israelites pass safely through, while Pharaoh's soldiers are drowned. God provides them with miraculously fresh water, manna, and quail as they travel. They see lightning and hear thunder at the top of Mount Sinai, and are given the commandments of God via Moses.

And then, after all that, when Moses is gone from them for a little while, they immediately forget about God and demand that Aaron fashion them a golden calf... and then they worship it.

Um... what? How dumb are these people, anyway? They've seen God do wonders that would convince pretty much any atheist that God was real. They've had God marching through the desert beside them, in the guise of a pillar of fire. God has given them food out of nothing, and water out of rocks. And yet they turn around and worship a silly little golden calf. How could anyone be so stupid as to disbelieve at that point? It makes no sense.

Well, it makes no sense if read literally. The Hebrews would have to be dumb as stumps not to recognize that Yahweh existed, if the story of Exodus were literally true. When you've been escorted through the desert by a pillar of fire, and fed by the hand of God, you don't suddenly begin to worship an inanimate object. The obvious answer to this conundrum is that these miracles grew in the retelling, as stories usually do, and seem much more incredible in the final written version than they really were to the Hebrews. (That's assuming the Exodus ever actually happened at all-- there is no archaeological evidence of a large group of people passing through this region, and a group this size tramping around for forty years would surely leave behind massive evidence.)

Read less literally, this is more reasonably interpreted as the story of two different priesthoods battling for supremacy. Perhaps a small group of Hebrews left Egypt and wandered around, and some of these events actually happened, in less supernatural form, but there was a religious divide. It would hardly be surprising if some of the Hebrews still followed the religion of their forebears, while others had picked up Egyptian traditions after several hundred years. Bull worship was common among cultures of this time and place, so this could easily be a religion some of the Hebrews had learned from the Egyptians.

Had the golden calf side won, all those miracles would probably be attributed to his glittery goodness and held up as proof of his power, and the Hebrews would have abided by whatever commandments the golden calf (or more accurately his priesthood) declared to be law. But because Yahweh's priests won, the Old Testament claims all those miracles for him, and his commandments (or rather his priests' commandments) became the law. This scenario makes far more sense to me than the rather silly notion that all these stories should be taken as literal truth.

Ohio School Board changes their mind

Friendly Atheist reported that the Springboro, Ohio School Board thought better of their Christian-based course on the Constitution. Good for them, and better for all the people who complained. But the real wonder is that anyone on a school board would think this was a good idea, or even remotely constitutional, to begin with.

And people wonder why atheists have to be "militant"!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

"From Biblical absolutes to humanistic relativism"

Just a little more on that "Constitution" course the School Board in Springboro, Ohio is offering as a summer course. Here's a handy link showing just what the course involves. It purports to help students "(l)earn the role of civil government by considering the U.S. Constitution and its limits on government." To do this, the lecturers "establish the premises for properly understanding the Constitution, by exposing students to the Biblical Worldview of America’s Founders and the writings that influenced them."

Of the twelve lectures, one is devoted to "The Religious Beliefs of the Founding Fathers," and one can safely infer that the rest of the lectures are based heavily around Christianity. In fact, the eleventh lecture deals with "The Crisis of the Constitution: From Biblical Absolutes to Humanistic Relativism," and then the twelfth lecture is entitled "Reclaiming the Constitution: How Do We Approach the Restoration of the American Constitutional Republic?" One guesses the answer has to do with getting rid of that troublesome "humanistic relativism." But one really doesn't have to guess, as the synopsis adds helpfully: "By gaining an understanding of the foundational principles and the worldview of America’s founders, students will see that a worldview revolution has occurred which has caused the Constitution to be widely misinterpreted and misunderstood in today’s world. The course concludes with a roadmap for restoration of our Constitutional Republic."

I'll say it again-- it is outrageous that any public school system would think this was a reasonable use of taxpayer funds, or an appropriate course to teach in public schools. It is pseudohistory shown through a distorted evangelical Christian lens, propaganda rather than history, and it has no business being taught in any public school.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"There is a God, the God of the Bible"

Friendly Atheist has a post about a summer course on the Constitution, from the Institute on the Constitution, which was approved by the Springboro School Board in Ohio. The flyer talks about our "Godly American heritage," which should have been a clue to the school board that this was not appropriate for public schools. But even better is the website for the Institute on the Constitution, which can be found here and which says this in its header: "There is a God, the God of the Bible. Our rights come from Him. The purpose of civil government is to secure these God-given rights."

Under "Who we are," the site adds: "We believe that by understanding the way in which the framers of our Constitutional Republic viewed their relationship to God, to other sovereign states, to their families and to each other, we can gain valuable and practical insight into the foundational principles of America...Let us, first of all, thank God for the freedoms that He has allowed us to retain and let’s begin to recover the lost tools of self-government by learning about our place in His history... participants in the Institute on the Constitution series can begin and continue the challenging but rewarding and Godly task of restoring our lost freedoms and passing on our Constitutional heritage of freedom to future generations of free Americans."

Oh, sure, that's appropriate material for the public schools. Of course it is. Because the Constitution is all about God and the Ten Commandments, and everyone in colonial America was an evangelical Christian. Everyone knows that-- it's just those nasty secular humanists who distort history and pretend Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine didn't believe every bit of the Bible literally. Thank heaven for the Institute on the Constitution, who will help us restore our lost freedoms and make sure everyone knows there's only one god, and that America's all about Christianity! (Anyone who's not Christian should obviously just go somewhere else. Shoo! Shoo!)

*Headdesk* Why on Earth would a school board think this was an appropriate class for public schools? Seriously? Why???

Monday, July 1, 2013

Go, and sin no more

Today, Deity Shmeity talks about morality, and whether it's objective or subjective. He concludes that a moral standard is necessary, and says, "I define right conduct as simply that which benefits others more than it harms. Wrong conduct is obviously that which harms others more than it benefits."

Well put. It is possible that there is no objective right and wrong, in the grand scheme of things ("nature, red in tooth and claw" is predicated on harming others, after all, and like it or not we are part of nature), but in order for us to have a functioning society, there must be rules. And most truly sensible rules boil down to what is usually called the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Or as the Wiccan Rede puts it, "An it harm none, do what ye will." Heinlein touched on this concept with his usual bluntness: "Sin lies only in hurting other people unnecessarily. All other 'sins' are invented nonsense." The Golden Rule was not invented by Christianity, though Christians like to pretend it's exclusive to their religion; it has appeared time and again in numerous ethical traditions.

This rule allows an egalitarian society to flourish without too much conflict. Of course people will "sin" and harm others, because people are not perfect-- a point on which Christianity is correct, though to me thinking of people as born sinners who should all go to a fiery eternal damnation without Jesus' intervention is a bit much. But we all do wrong sometimes, even if our wrongs are only failing to return library books on time and occasionally parking in a loading zone, and this is why laws and punishment are necessary. It would be nice if our laws were based more on the Golden Rule, and less on silly religious ideas, especially as the latter often actively do harm people.