Religion and the Sports Metaphor

Sometimes when we are having our lively debates here on this site, I’m reminded of a Sports Illustrated article I read several years ago.

A sports writer was asking a veteren baseball pitcher about competing when near the end of his career.  The writer asked, “Tell me about your state of mind when that powerful rookie hitter Smith comes to the plate.  Smith has homered off of every pitcher he has faced.  When he comes to the plate, digs in with that confident swagger and looks out at you like you are as old and tired as dirt, what are you thinking?” 

The old pitcher slowly replied, “I thinkin’, ‘Kid, you got no chance.  No chance.'”

It seems like all of us are like the old piticher.  On the topic of religion, we have looked at it from the bottom up and the top down.  We have opened the door and peered inside.  We each know our positions inside and out.  Anyone who wants to take us on has no chance.

Someone told me that according to the World Chrisitian Encyclopedia there are 33,820 different Christian denominations in the world.  One would guess that each of them is confident their version, and only theirs, has found the Christian truth.

The other great religions of the world seem to have many branches and bitter disagreements just like Christians.  

Knowing we are absolutely right about our views on religion is as much fun as throwing a great fastball.

Should the Military Provide Atheist Chaplains?

A formal request has been made by some atheists in the military for atheist chaplains.  That is an interesting request with far-reaching consequences.

A couple of Chaplains have commented about the request. One, an evangelical, said the military Chaplain is for religious purposes and no other.  Military personnel who are not believers should get their counciling from professionals that the services provide, he wrote.

A Chaplain of the Jewish faith wrote that nonbelievers should receive the same services as believers.  That is, they should have  access to someone who would be like a Chaplain. But,  such a person should not be called a “Chaplain”.

There are a couple of other angles to this.  One is the trend of young people to not identify with any denomination or “the church” in general.

Then, there is the “in home” church that is apparently becoming more popular.  These are small groups of people who do not want to participate in traditional churches and provide their own amature church services.  Both of these trends would leave the traditional Chaplaincy Corp with a smaller population.

It seems like people of faith should have access to worship while in the military.  Yet, we need the to recruit people of all persuasions into the military.   

If the future is like the past, our society will continue to change.  Perhaps it will continue to become more secular.  This would diminish the role of the Chaplaincy Corp and solve what now appears to be a difficult dilemma.

“Don’t Say Gay,” Senate Bill 49

Here is one of the meanest anti-gay efforts to come along in a while. 

This is a bill in the State Senate of Tennesse sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville.  If passed it would prohibit teachers from discussing sexual orientation, except heterosexual orientation, prior to the ninth grade.  

Senator Campfield thinks there is an “agenda” to convert students to becoming homosexual and his bill would stop this from happening.  He does not seem to consider that the reason the topic might be discussed is that students need to know about it.

I know many gay people.  Most of them tell me they had early suspicions that they were not like the other kids around them.  They could not understand why this was happening to them nor what they were to do about it.  Eventually, they came to understand they were attracted to kids of the same sex and most of their peers were not.

We know the suicide rate among gay kids is higher than that of straights.  It seems like this should be the main focus of any legistlation and not theories about “agendas”.  If including an explanation of what homosexuality is helps prevent suicides or general misery in teenagers, it should be allowed.

Senator Campfield’s approach to the gay issue is the one followed by many religious fundamentalists:  Cure people of being gay by being mean to them. 

Among the concepts of angels, love and forgiveness in Christianity is something else.  Something not too attractive.

The New 51% Rule

The 51 percent I am referring to is not the same as “majority rules”.  This one refers to the afterlife.

According to an article I read in today, 51 percent of the people in the world believe in life after death.  To me, this is an amazing statistic, not because it is so large, but because it is so small.

The selling point of, so far as I know, all religions that exist today and have ever existed is this, “Follow me and you will have ever-lasting life. “  Of course, the gods that are supposed to deliver on this promise are as different as night and day.  But, the promise of a happy afterlife is in them all.

We all need a feeling of self worth.  That is why, in my opinion, the afterlife promise sells.  It feeds the listener’s premessage belief that his/her life is so important it must not and cannot end.

The message I would take from this 51 percent is that there must be some strong streak of rational thinking that circles the globe.  That billions are spent by many faiths to convert the “unwashed” and still half the world’s population appears to be unreachable is remarkable.

Apparently,  whether the afterlife is sold in a church, a mosque, a synagogue or at the barrel of a gun, half the customers will not buy.

I’m Still Looking

With apologies to our international readers, I’m revisiting my hang up with a particular part of U. S. history.  It’s the part where many Christian apologists say the founding fathers meant for the U. S. to be a “Christian nation.”

When I’ve raised this issue before, that there is not evidence of the founding fathers putting into the record intentions for the U. S. to be a Christian nation, I’ve been bombarded with quotes from speeches and private correspondence.   These quotes have no importance.  They do not reflect the founding fathers at their offices or in the halls of Congress making an effort to accomplish some Christian end.

I looked for evidence of a Christian intention in the book, The Summer of 1787.  This was about the debates leading up to signing the Constitution.  No one spoke of a Christian intention there.

During a weekend road trip, I finished a new book, Ratification; The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, by Pauline Maier.  I bought the book to see if there was discussion of the “Christian nation” argument during the long and difficult process of ratification.

The author went from state to state, combing through the surviving newpaper accounts, letters and public records.   As much as we admire the Constitution today, it was looked on as a terrible document by perhaps 40 percent of the public in the years 1787-8. 

The author must have looked at several thousand pieces records in telling the story.  With the exception of small parts of The Federalists Papers, which she concluded were not very important in the effort, she did not mention anyone else discussing religion at all, let alone proclaiming a preference for a “Christian nation.”

So, I’m still looking.

Patroling the Line Between Church and State

Much has been said about the common goals shared by certain parts of the Christian church and the groups we would call generically, skeptics.  To be sure, they share view many of the same views as to what constitutes a good and just country.

Where these churches do carry their fair share of the load, in my opinion, is in patroling the line between church and state.  Yes, they often express the view that the two should not become entangled.  But, the groups stepping out in front to take the arrows seem to be the “godless” groups.

The ACLU is a goto group in this effort.  Local groups, such as our Red River Freethinkers engage it this effort as well.  It would help if more churches who understand the peril of churches getting into our government and its inevitable brother, government getting into our churches would speak up.

Patroling this line is not easy.  The line is not a clear one. Since it is not always clear, both politicans and church people find it in each one’s interest to step over the line. Advertising religion on public property, advocating religion in the military and a host of other issues need to be corrected.

The reality is that both churches and our government would be well served by more church resistance to these practices.  Until they can help, that civic task must be carried out by the most dislike groups in our society, those of no faith.

Stripes Do Change

In what we would call recent history, there was the time of slavery.  There were Christians at the time who said their faith endorsed the practice.  This is the truth, they said.  The truth will never change.

After slavery came segregation. The theological truth is that the races should not mix, they said.  The truth shall never change.  Then, it changed.

Then came women’s rights.  Faith, through the Bible, spells out the proper role of women.  They are to serve men. This was another truth that would never change.

Now apologists often say it was the church that led the way to all of these changes in values.  While there was a handful of people within the faith that changed early on, the Christian church in general,  stood against these changes.  In the case of women, parts of it still is opposed to equality.

I would guess that if you asked millions of Christians what the Church’s views on these issues was back in history, they would not realize the Church opposed these changes. They have been taught that the church was always for equal treatment of people and is today.  They have been told these moral values never change, even though they changed.

Today, the same thing is happening.  In a few decades, the anti gay part of Christianity will have mostly disappeared.  People will believe the church always approved of homosexuality.

And, they will also be taught that the true word never changes.

Gay Students at Evangelical Universities

There was an article published recently by a writer who toured Evangelical Universities to find out if there are gay students there and what is happening around them.  He got an earfull.

There are out gay students at all of them.  They are trying to gain recognition as student groups and offering support to any who might need it.

The article highlighted as aspect of being a gay young person that I had heard about several year ago.  It involved the obvious question, why would someone who is gay choose to attend the most anti gay catagory of university?  When I first heard it, I slapped my forehead and thought, “Of course!”

Some students are attracted toward these schools because they feel guilty about there sexual orientation and think attending one an anti gay school will take away their attraction toward the same sex.  The first person I heard this from was a former student of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. 

Officials at these schools do not want to recognize that gay students attend.  They do not provide support and sometimes expell students.  They definitely are resisting allowing gays to form official campus organizations.

The interesting delemma here is that the result of these schools going out of their way to be known as anti-gay institutions is the very reason they find gay students attending.   One would guess that the general student bodies at these schools is becoming more gay tolerant along with the rest of the young people.

One has to guess that changes are coming.

Christian Nationalism and Judge Roy Moore

That there is no boundary between the Christian religion and our national government is an ongoing theme among a significant number of people in the U. S.  The same folks who seem to frown on Muslim governments smile at the prospect of a Christian one.

A couple of day ago Roy Moore formed the requisite “exploratory committee” in preparation to run for President of the United States.  During his interview with he did not discuss the high unemployment rate, the wars in Iraq and Afhganistan, the national debt or our crumbling roads.  He could not be bothered.  His mind was on bigger things.

“Forgetting in include God is the problem,” the former Judge said.  If he is elected, he said, he would fight to overturn Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and would defend the Defense of Marriage Act that President Obama’s Justice Department has determined to be unconstitutional.  This is no surprise because as a State Supreme Court Judge in Alabama, he want to considerable effort to install a Ten Commandments display in the Court building. 

What’s fun to comtemplate about a President Roy Moore is who he would appoint to the Cabinet and White House  positions.  Would he appoint economists to the Council of Economic Advisors, or, would he simply appoint Southern Baptist preachers and change its name to the Council on Tithing?

That a  President Moore would be bad for our country needs to be explained over and over again.

Black Atheists: Civil Rights was More Than Black Churches

The last issue of American Atheists featured several articles written by black people who looked into a world unseen by most of us.  It is the world of the American black citizen who is an atheist.

I had not thought about how religion tends to define the civil rights movement.  Its gigantic figure, Martin Luther King, was a minister.  Imagines of him are often in a clerical robe.  Much of the early civil rights organizing took place in churches.

The black authors I read took issue with the view that churches were the only force that led to justice.  There were secular participants in the movement from the start.   The reason rallies took place in black churches was that these churches were the only place black people could hold political gatherings.

Martin Luther King used the Bible as justification for the civil rights movement.  No doubt, he found his voice in the scriptures and used it effectively.  The fact is, however, he had to use the Bible as a defense strategy.  The offense, segregationists, started using it against blacks going all  the way back to slavery.

The black nonbelievers say it is time to move on from the characterization of civil rights and black churches being one and the same.  When  civil rights are celebrated, they would like to see the secular part of it given its proper recognition.

While churces played an important role, they say,  the secular part of the black community did as well.