Germans are Finding Church Isn’t Worth the Money.

Some folks resist the notion churches are just another part of the marketplace. In Germany, a new tax on churches is causing people to resign their church memberships.

The German church-going public is making it clear the money for church involves a cost-benefit calculation just like a car or house payment. When the price goes up, people buy less religion.

One wonders what people think about the scripture which says a tithe is part of the faith.  Perhaps they conclude certain parts of the Bible are to taken literally, but not the tithing part.

In Germany there is an increase in taxes on churches. The link calls the tax a capital gains tax, but it sounds like our own property tax. Some churches in Fargo complain about being required to pay special assessments, which are a type of tax for roads and other infrastructure. Mostly, the churches take advantage of everyone else by using free police, fire protection, building inspection, schools and general local government.

If churches in the U. S. paid their fare share for the government services they use, would it affect their membership numbers?  Certainly, the German experience suggests the size of church membership comes partly from the subsidy of churches by local governments.

Churches can avoid taxes for one reason. Politics. Churches have had political influence others envy.

Maybe the German experience will cause U. S. politicians to see they can make churches pay their fair share and not suffer political consequences.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/29/us-religion-germany-tax-idUSKBN0GT1R020140829

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How Some Atheists Avoid Death.

I have always assumed religious people are the ones who talk of life after death and those who do not believe cannot also believe there is such a thing. Now I’ve realized this is not true. Apparently, lots of nonbelievers think there is some kind of heaven.

The link is one of them. After reading it, I began to recall that quite a few times in my life I have encountered people who believe, “There is something else out there, something we cannot comprehend. But, it’s not a god.” When you think about it, there is no reason Christianity should have monopoly ownership of the afterlife idea.

The link correctly reasons people often react emotionally to death, their own or someone they know. One of the easiest ways to avoid the emotional baggage, I suppose, is to do what we economists do, assume it away. That is, to assume there is something after death that is pleasant but not follow up in any way as to what or why it might be.

I clicked on the one comment that followed link.  It said, “It’s not intellectually consistant. It’s intellectually lazy.” I would agree with that. But, on reflection, I don’t really have any criticism of an atheist heaven either.

If the Christian faith can make up a concept of heaven, why can’t everyone else as well?  Other religions have theirs, made up so far as I know, too.

If it helps atheists cope with death to think some good non God state awaits, they should do so.

http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/08/29/why-even-atheists-can-believe-in-heaven/33875

P. S. Come to Zeteticon, Sept. 13-14, Fargo, ND GreatPlainsAtheists.org

A shout out to Red River Freethinker, Katherine Rogne of rural . Happy 100th Birthday.  (Katherine, who lives near Kindred, ND, is a life long atheist and still attends Red River Freethinker gathers.)

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Anti Abortion Politics Will Not Support ALS Cure Fund Raising.

Anti abortion politics is the most brutal of all politics. It is, literally, a take no prisoners kind of politics.

Some parts it say, “If a mother might die from the birth, let’er die. The fetus is more important.”  When it comes to children who are pregnant, they care not about the mother’s age.

I have told the story here about a relative, a dwarf child, who was a  close friend of my mother.  She was raped by a family member and died in childbirth. In a small town abortion might not have been considered.

The anti abortion crowd is filled with self righteousness now saying cures for ALS might involve research using stem cells. Stem cells can be harvested from aborted fetuses. Progress in treating ALS is seen as the enemy.

Since as far back as I can remember, I have argued that births contribute, ultimately, to deaths. While we in the Western World do not see poverty all around us, it is happening elsewhere.  It could happen here. Our first concern is to ensure there will be adequate food, water and housing for future generations. To many demands on resources never has a happy ending.

Folks who talk to me about this challenge the view that adding people to the planet will harm anyone. So far, it has not, they say.

What needs to be admitted is that there is some finite number of people the planet can support. That there is such a number cannot be denied.

http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/08/21/3474291/anti-abortion-ice-bucket/

http://www.abpnews.com/culture/media-and-arts/item/29125-pouring-cold-water-on-the-ice-bucket-challenge

 

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Economics and Religion: Why There is Mary.

There is one aspect of religion that reappears over and over again. It is that the people in the pews write the sermon from the pulpit.  This happens because people join and donate to the churches which have sermons they like. Churches with unpopular sermons, and the theology that supports them, close their doors.

Not having a background in Catholicism, I’ve never understood the role of Mary in its theology. There is one thing that is clear however. Mary was inserted into the mainstream of the theology by people in the pews. It was resisted by the powers that be.

Mary is like the theme of every sports movie. The skinny kid comes off the bench to win the game. Mary was an underdog in theology.  That’s because Eve caused the original sin and Mary was a woman like Eve.

As time has moved along, the perception of characters in Bible stories has changed.  The earliest dated works mentioning Jesus were spartan on where he came from and what he had to say.  When several generations had past, the Book of John was written by some who had a perfect memory of events and statements by Jesus he had never heard.

There is relatively little about Mary in the Bible. But, the public wanted a big time Mary, so the Catholic hierarchy felt it had to create a Mary big enough to satisfy the demand.

Mary appears in broken windows somewhere in the world everyday.  There is a demand that she appear and she shows up everywhere.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2014/08/she-treasured-it-in-her-heart/

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Finally, the Truth About God.

We all enjoy a writer we agree with.  I’m especially happy when the writer takes the same contrary-to-conventional-wisdom I have written about.  In this case, I’ve written about it countless times.

The link is a review of a book, Our Great Big American God; A Short History of our Ever-Changing Deity. The book points out that many Christians believe God created and changed America.  The other question is, has America changed God?

The book author starts with the founding fathers and their ideas of deism. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the rest of that century was the most nonreligious period in our history some historians agree.

But, eventually a different God arrived. Instead of being an abstract fellow who operated at some distance, the next God was all about you, what you are thinking and what he thinks about what you are thinking.  This new God was a help to politicians and preachers alike.

The book covers the  constantly changing concept of what the god is.  The author notes that in the U. S. God is very pro U. S.  Whenever I see a picture of the U. S. flag with the cross emblazoned right in the middle of it I feel it captures much of our politics.

The reviewer criticizes the book author for not telling readers who the real God is. To me, the ever changing God is the real one.

I predict we will see yet more versions of God as the need arises.

http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/books/2014/08/24/Matthew-Paul-Turner-offers-a-wry-history-of-America-s-very-patriotic-Deity-Our-Great-Big-American-God/stories/201408240020

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Semi Literalists are the New Norm.

Semi literalists, those who believe some of the Bible must be taken literally and some of it not, seem to have gained the upper hand in my lifetime. Though they represent progress from literalism, I don’t see how they will be able to stand their ground for another generation.

Such people do not take literally the talking snakes or walking on water.  But they do take literally events which are just as unlikely.  The resurrection is one of these.

The semi literalists will say, “I have studied the Bible for a long time and know which stories are allegory and which actually happened.”

The events “which actually happened” have changed over time. It seems inevitable they will continue to change. New archeology and documents independent of religion keep making inroads.

What seems hard to defend is the notion that the unknown ancient writers would switch between the tradition of story telling meant for entertainment and recorded history. I’ve never heard of a universally accepted methodology for determining when one kicks and the other suspended.

There are a host of liberal protestants who treat the entire Bible as allegory. While their flocks, like those of other denominations, is getting smaller, they at least are hunkered down for the long haul–taking a position they can defend into the future.

Semi literalists hold onto certain myths so that the themes of sin, punishment for sins forgiveness of sins can remain in the faith. As judgmentalism slips, maybe semi literalism will disappear as well.

http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/08/25/whos-afraid-of-a-partly-fictional-bible/33792

P. S. A secular conference will be held, Sept 13-14 in Fargo ND, Zeteticon. GreatPlainsAtheists.org.

Also discuss on FaceBook, Red River Freethinkers and Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers.

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“Fear is the mother of all Gods.”

This quote is attributed to Titus Lucretius Carus in 60 BCE.

I recall the first time I ever heard of a relationship between fear/uncertainty and religion.  An economics professor explained religion has flourished more in rural areas than urban.  This is because, he said, there is more uncertainty in farming than in the commerce of cities. This may have been the first time I had ever heard religion referred to in this abstract way.

The contemporary writer/theologian Bishop Shelby Spong wrote, “Religion is not about truth, it’s about security.”  The relationship of uncertain and ritual/superstition/religion can be found in many places.

In baseball, pitchers deal with more uncertainty than outfielders. It’s more common for pitchers to have superstitious ritual, wearing the same socks, etc., than it is for outfielders.  Ancient fishermen who had to fish in deep and unprotected water tended to be more religious than those who fished near the shore.  Countries that are the poorest are more religious than those that are richer.

One always has to be careful at attributing causation to circumstances where things happen at the same time.  The causation argument is attractive to me because no other explanation for the whole package of world religions has come forward.  Since their “truths” are cancelled out by other religions, we are left with the big question for all of them, why are people attracted?

When there does not seem to be enough fear in the indigenous setting, religions have their ways of introducing fear: I forewarn you…Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell…Fear him. Luke 12:5

[My thanks to Prof. Charles Sawicki of the Red River Freethinkers for the topic of this blog.]

P. S. The conference, Zeteticon, will be held in Fargo, Sept 13-14.  GreatPlainsAtheists.org

 

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Is There “Circumstantial Evidence” Jesus Came Back to Life?

One of our readers made the argument recently there is “circumstantial evidence” that make a convincing case for the historical accuracy of Bible stories.  Circumstantial evidence is different from direct evidence.  Direct evidence would be someone observing a murder first hand, and, taking a picture.

Out of curiosity, I Googled ”circumstantial evidence Bible” and found places where the argument is made circumstantial evidence establishes the Bible as historically accurate.  What passes for circumstantial evidence the resurrection actually happened is simply that the Bible says lots of people at the time believed the resurrection happened.  Since the Bible was written by unknown people who, so far as we can tell, never knew Jesus, there are valid reasons to challenge this as good evidence.

Even more damaging is circumstantial evidence to the contrary.  This evidence casts doubt on the resurrection story. It comes from sources some of which had no dog in the fight.

Bart Ehrman continues to come up with this kind of evidence.  He points to ancient sources that explain the Jesus body probably was not given to friends.  Ehrman’s circumstantial evidence is the body was likely not removed from the cross until days later and then tossed in a mass grave.

First, we know there is no direct evidence of the resurrection.  We cannot identify one person who saw the back-to-life Jesus who personally documented this event.

There is not a good argument either that the Bible can be verified by circumstantial evidence.

http://www.evidencebible.com/witnessingtool/resurrectiondoescircumstantial.shtml

P. S. Coming right up, Zeteticon, a secular conference in Fargo, Sept. 13-14.  GreatPlainsAtheists.org.

 

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The Newest Lesbian Christian Music Star.

I have no idea who this Christian radio singer is, but (a.) she is apparently popular and (b.) she has announced she has same sex attractions.  This is a big topic on Christian websites this weekend.

One blogger who was involved in the Christian music business explained that music played on Christian radio finds its way into mega churches.  It becomes more accepted and smaller churches use the same music.  He assumes she will start composing and performing lesbian music which will turn straight girls into lesbians.

Then, there is the blogger I linked here.  She laments the singer’s unfortunate experience with a man or men which caused her to choose to be lesbian.  Her advice is that the singer recognize her sinful ways and realize whatever the reason she is now choosing women over men, it must be reversed immediately or hell awaits.

There is one thing I’m quite certain of.  It is that many of the Christians who write about Christians who have come out as homosexuals do not know much about homosexuality.

From the time of Shakespeare, well centuries before Shakespeare I’m sure, the arts were the vehicle that moved social change. Church leaders may well see that an attractive Christian show business personality could change a few minds about homosexuality.

Some Christian radio is supported by advertisement sales. This helps keep performers like this young woman off the air when social norms are not ready. But, when social norms change, and she helps sell advertisements, religious hand wringing will not keep her off the air.

http://www.christianpost.com/news/christian-singer-vicky-beeching-appeals-to-gods-love-to-justify-her-lesbianism-125023/

 

 

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We Fight Abortions More Than Deadly Diseases.

How could a routine surgical procedure, abortion, become the political focal point of millions of people when preventable deaths of children and adults takes place all around us?

Some believe it is skillfully keeping pictures of fetuses and babies in front of us.  Maybe it is the introduction of religion to abortion but not to other deaths.  One element I think important is that controlling abortion brings with it a bonus, controlling women.

Whatever the explanation, we know this.  The opportunity cost from countless millions of dollars spent fighting abortions is other deaths due to lack of money and political popularity.

This week I read a straight forward explanation of what I would call “the economics and politics of death”.  While I talk often here about ignoring deaths from car crashes, there are countless other examples of wide spread death that could be prevented were there economic and political support to do so.  They include tuberculosis, malaria and the current plague, ebola.

It’s often said that women get abortions for convenience.  Related would abortions for economic reasons.  The cost of raising a child to age 18 is estimated at $300,000.  While I personally know of several abortions for health reasons,  some must be due to economics.  Economics is precisely the reason drug companies let people die instead of looking for cures to diseases. There is no money to be made fighting diseases of poor people.

If abortion is your major political concern, I’d suggest switching your concern to one of several more important causes of preventable human death.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/25/ebolanomics

P. S. Coming up, Zeteticon, a secular conference, Sept. 13-14, Fargo, ND .  See GreatPlainsAtheists.org

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