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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Change the Seminaries and the Pulpit Will Follow.

I remember blogging a couple of years ago about a piece written, as I recall, by a Princeton Theology Professor.  The gist of his piece was that congregations are no longer merely consumers of theology, they are as likely producers of it.  That is, seminaries no longer have a monopoly on the production of theology.

The link makes the point that people in the pews expect to be involved in both the affairs of the church and its thinking.  When you think about how often people are asked for feed back from the commercial side of our society, “How was our service, how is our product,” your can see why they expect to by asked the same question by their church. They expect an interactive church.

I’ve discussed here the difficult economic model of a church.  That is, there is often a large building, paid preachers and support staff.  The link suggests that if lay people could be better taught the theology of their denomination, new preachers could come from those now sitting in the pews.

I remember hearing a visiting professor of theology when we were members of a Methodist church.  He said about at tenets of the faith, “We will arrive at better answers when we arrive together instead of as individuals.”

The historical basis for much of the Bible becomes more tenuous as researchers uncover more about that ancient time.  As this unfolds, preachers who ask questions will be more helpful than those who pretend to know answers.

http://ncronline.org/blogs/small-c-catholic/its-past-time-update-seminaries-21st-century-church

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The Worst Things Preachers Do? Tell Their Flocks God Answers Their Prayers.

I think it is downright cruel to tell someone their god answers prayers without any evidence it is true.

We all know the faithful’s drill.  Someone had an incurable disease with no chance to live.  People prayed.  The person recovered.

Did the prayers cause the recovery?  No. We know this because lots of people die after prayers have pleaded for their lives.  Others have unexplained recoveries from conditions judged terminal and ridicule the notion prayer helps anyone.

I had lunch a few days ago with a close friend who is 85.  About three years ago his Doctor told him to go home, contact hospice and expect death shortly.  I would guess he has not said a prayer since he was a child.

One of the links is by a doofus preacher who goes through the standard series of explanations as to why prayers seem unanswered to some.  He explains that maybe God’s answer is no, or, the prayers were not over a long enough period, or, the request was unreasonable, etc., etc.  The author ignores the obvious explanation:  Prayers evaporate into thin air.

The other link mirrors a comment on this blog today.  Both are about terrible experiences people had during their childhood. Having been told God would help them in their misery, both prayed long and hard for abusers or circumstances to improve.  Nothing changed.

Preachers can believe whatever they want.  But their own moral and ethical standards should rule out phony claims and false hopes.

http://www.christianpost.com/news/persistent-prayer-gets-the-attention-of-heaven-124945/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-wilder/losing-my-religion_4_b_5691286.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592

P.S.:  Be sure to check out Zeteticon, a secular conference this coming Sept 13-14 in Fargo.  More at GreatPlainsAtheists.org

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Liberal Denominations See Their Decline Differently.

I have a better impression of liberal denominations than of conservative ones.  In general, they take the Bible less literally, some regard none of it as historical.  Also, I see liberal denominations not taking themselves as seriously as more conservative branches.

The link was refreshing because the writer suggested decline in his denomination’s numbers might be due, among other things, to a failing of God–that the faith belongs to God, not the denominations and maybe he is not doing it right.

This is a far cry from a common Christian conservative generalization, at least as I perceive it, that when something bad happens it is punishment for one of many sins.  That something bad happens and it is not due to the sins of its members is an interesting perspective to say the least.

My own paraphrasing of the link’s author would be, “The faith has been here for a long time and we who follow it have been served well. If the next generation of people do not find anything in the faith that helps them, that’s OK because it belongs to those who are helped by it.”

The author stops short of saying the faith is something people carry around within themselves and does not exist outside the follows’ minds. Perhaps I’m reading my own bias into his writing in saying this, but that’s how I see it.

Ironically, I think the writer’s message of no concern is one that would make the faith attractive to those who are skeptical.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/derek-penwell/7-reasons-not-to-freak-ou_b_5678808.html

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“The Lord Will Provide” is not a Good Business Model.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 churches close every year in the U. S.  A few new ones pop up.  About 85% of churches are not growing or are declining.

While the decline is not a dramatic one, and many churches and denominations will  remain for a long time, religions seem to have a finite shelf life in human history.  One of the unfortunate consequences are the thousands of pastors who have to leave the faith and those seminary students who are faced with a declining industry.  The link profiles an ambitious and seemingly good pastor who is having a difficult time making a living in the field.

The model of a paid church pastor, support staff and building is one which should have been discouraged from day one.  It is terribly expensive to have local congregations support such an enterprise, then send money to the denomination to support the seminaries to train the preachers.

Perhaps the worst idea to come along is telling congregations to pray for enough revenue to pay for all of this.  Better would be prayers for ways not to spend the money.

The Reformed Church of the Latter Day Saints, now renamed the Community of Christ, is a church which uses lay pastors.  They seem to work quite well.

Nearly all local atheist/agnostic groups operate with volunteers only.  Maybe that is one reason atheism, so far as we know, has always existed while religions have come and gone.

I can assure you atheists do not believe the Lord will provide.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/18/nyregion/despite-a-turbulent-work-life-a-minister-doesnt-question-her-calling.html?ref=todayspaper

P. S. I hope to meet lots of you at Zeteticon, a secular conference, September 14-15, Fargo, ND.  See GreatPlainsAtheists.org.

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The Atheist’s Life is Not Boring.

I recall reading a letter to the editor sometime ago where the writer sympathized with non believers.  He talked of them being unable to enjoy beautiful music because its source was somehow Christian.  He said Christian art was superior to any other and non believers are left on the outside.  Most of all, he wrote, atheists are deprived of the mystery provided by religious life.

I thought of that letter this evening while listening to Public Radio’s Krista Tippett.  Her program, On Being, features interviews with writers and personalities, most often focusing on spiritual ideas.  She is especially animated about the variety of spiritual concepts of her guests.

For the most part, I find atheists void of spiritual concepts.  Instead of questions without answers being attributed to spiritual beings, unknowns are simply questions not yet answered.

But, unknowns interest and generate as much energy and curiosity as spiritual beings.  This is true, not only about questions of the origin of life, but of the nature of the human mind.  While believers do not attribute their spiritual being to their minds, nonbelievers suspect that is where it resides.

If is true the spiritual realm is the product of a creative mind, this is indeed more interesting than the being itself.  That the being exists and what it says or does is not nearly as interesting as that the mind can create it.

That some minds apparently create this being while others take a pass will fascinate atheists for generations to come.

P.S. Buy tickets to Zeteticon coming soon in September.  More at GreatPlainsAtheists.org

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“God Loves Death Metal.”

My wife and I were having dinner at a local pub when we both noticed the “T” worn by a scruffy-looking fellow at the bar, God Loves Death Metal.  He looked to be in his mid forties.

I looked up “death metal” on Wikipedia and found it is an “extreme sub genre of heavy metal and features atonality, multiple tempo changes and minor keys.”  It was popular all over the world in the mid 1980′s and, in the U. S., was most popular in Florida.

I wanted to ask the fellow if his “T” message was tongue in cheek or serious.  If he was serious, he could join the countless other genres of music who claim God’s favor, or, are judged by others to be condemned by God.

I recall laughing at Pat Robertson several years ago.  A viewer asked him if it was a sin to listen to popular music.  He replied is was not, unless the music included a strong base beat.

I had an uncle who was an evangelical missionary.  When he was back in our little church he complimented the congregation on not falling for church music with syncopation.

The black church in the U. S. has had bitter wars over music.  Conservatives criticized early musicians who used the cords and tempos of their church music in barroom blues.

These strong opinions about religious music has always been a mystery to me.  There seems no more agreement about true religious music than there is about the true message of the faith.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865608875/Mormon-missionaries-use-song-ukuleles-to-share-the-gospel.html

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Are New Testament Accounts Reliable?

The authors of the Gospels are unknown.  The first three were written some four decades after the estimated time of Jesus and the last one, John, maybe twenty to thirty years after the first three.

What happened in the ensuing 40 years?  Since so far as we know, it was a period when the stories of Jesus were passed along orally.

There is a party game that has been played by kids for decades called, “Telephone.”  Children whisper a message from one to another.  It regularly illustrates that the message changes from the first child to the last.

To compare the oral tradition used to pass along stories of Jesus to the game of Telephone is to understate the problem of accuracy.  Between the time of Jesus and the time the stories of him were written made accuracy more difficult.

The stories had to travel across national borders and be translated to languages never used by Jesus or those people he knew.  In addition, the passage of time meant the circumstances and contexts changed.

Denominations and their universities have large numbers of scholars and budgets to study all manner of topics within Christianity.  So far as I know, there has been little research about how much or little people pass along accurately in such circumstances.  Instead, the practice is mostly to accept the Gospels as accurate reflections of history.

Whether the Jesus stories are accurate or not seems to me to hold the key to their importance.

 

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Mistakes Atheists Make.

It’s always fun to read about what atheists think and do when the writer is a devout believer.  The link, written by a rabbi, elaborates mistakes atheists make.  He doesn’t say ”some atheists”,  but it would be helpful if he did.  I must admit I don’t always say “some” Christians when I should.

The rabbi says atheists dismiss the religious experiences people have.  I try not to do this, though maybe I fail at times.  I do hold to the view, however, that the religious experiences of individuals are mostly meaningless for other people.

Another sweeping criticism he makes is that atheists do not differentiate between good religion and bad.  They simply assume all religions are false.  This is a criticism made here about my blogs and about comments from liberals.

I don’t see why or how atheists can or should differentiate between good and bad religions.  Wouldn’t it be more logical for branches of religion to criticism each other?

There is a related criticism that comes up here on my blog.  It is that I do not read up on the tenets of, say, Lutheranism or Catholicism.  That criticism is deserved, I do not spend much time, or, have much interest in the details of what each of thousands of Christian branches happen to believe.

I do have impressions of what they believe.  Impressions are what a large slice of the public uses to decide if they agree or not with any part of the faith.

Criticism of atheists acknowledges they exist.  This is a new and positive development.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-eric-h-yoffie/the-three-mistakes-that-atheism_b_5672603.html

P. S. I invite you to a secular conference, Zeteticon, Sept 13-14, Fargo, ND, Doublewood INn.  See GreatPlainsAtheists.org

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Is it is a Sin for the IRS to Enforce the Law?

I have not followed this closely, but I understand there has been lot of commotion about churches using the pulpit to campaign for politicians.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation lodged a complaint against churches who are incorporated under the same law as, for example, atheist groups.  This law allows churches and other groups to avoid paying federal taxes so long as they do not engage in partisan politics.

The FFRF took the IRS to court because the IRS admitted to a policy of not investigating  churches engaged in politics.  The IRS then came to agree it would treat churches the same way it treats other groups organized under the same law.

Some church groups are now screaming their free speech is being violated.  They are also complaining they have not seen the agreement between the IRS and the FFRF.

I don’t know why the agreement between the FFRF and IRS has not been made public. I assume it will be sometime.

That issue aside, it seems like blow-hard talk by some preachers to brag that churches can engage in politics and break the law by doing partisan politics and not be fined.  If they want to be political organizations, like political parties, they should declare that to the IRS and politic themselves crazy.

There are entire denominations, and preachers within other denominations, that steer of partisan politics.  There are not complaining about the IRS/FFRF agreement.

It is not a sin for the IRS to enforce the law against violating churches.

http://www.christianpost.com/news/christian-group-demands-release-of-secret-deal-irs-made-with-atheists-that-threatens-to-censor-houses-of-worship-124726/

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