Repent, the End is Near!! Again?

We’ll never know how many preachers who preach and write end-is-near sermons and books really believe what they say.   Surely, there must be at least a few who think, “Man, that line always works–wish I could use it every week.”

It has financed many a career.  One has to wonder why people believe the line when it is such an old trick. 

A sister theme is this: Our morals are declining so fast, time is about up.  The New York Times Bestseller List includes a book of this topic, Turning the Tide, by Rev. Charles Stanley.

Rev. Stanley’s list of moral failings includes corrupt leaders, terrorism, divorce, redefining of marriage, abortion, single-parent families, false prophets and toleration of immorality.  Stanley says we must repent of these “unresolved sins”.

Recalling the messages of my childhood evangelical church, I’m sure the sins listed above would not have been of  end-of-time importance.  End of time sins then were working on Sunday, cursing and drinking alcholol.  The world did not end back then. This proves those sins were really not as important as they were made out to be.

Can we be certain today’s sins are game enders?  Stanley is certain.  There is a “destructive man made tide that is deteriorating our country at a frightening pace,” he writes.  We are facing a tsunami.

I wish each of Stanley’s books carried a sticker, “Don’t buy this if you’ve heard to end of times thing before.”

Making Sense of Tragedy Seldom Works

When there is a terrible tragedy in the U. S., a standard “follow up” news story is one about a prayer service.   When their are mass shootings or tornados, they are followed by stories about prayer services.

If these services help people, they should attend.  And, the press can do stories about the services. It’s just that, in a perfect world, there also might be news stories about people who don’t pray when disastors happen. 

The prayer story script is so institutionalized in the U. S. news media it is even being followed in the Norway event.  There was a headline, “In Their Grief, Norwegians Turn to Prayer.”  I said to myself, “That can’t be true.”

So, I read the entire story.  Yes, a Christian talk show host was praying and some extra church services were scheduled.  But, there was nothing in the entire story indicating the secular country of Norway was having second thoughts about being secular. It seemed like the story was posted because in the U. S. a story like that is always written after a disaster.

I recall after 9/11, President Bush gave a speech in the St. John’s Cathedral were Presidents always do this.  By appearing there, the President contributed, at least a bit, to blowing the importance of 9/11 way out of proportion.

Our 9/11 was a rogue event.  So was the one in Norway.  Praying will not help anyone understand them because they have no good explanation.

Show Me a Religion That has Not Produced Terrorists.

Websites of all kinds have articles these days about the religious views of the Norwegian bomb terrorist.  A most common remark by Christian apologists is he is not really a “Christian”.  A real Christian would not do this. 

There is, however, a discomforting fact.  He found in Christianity justification for killing all those innocent people. 

In this country, we are used to pointing at Muslims and saying their religion teaches them to be terrorists.  Yet, millions of Muslims will tell you the same thing Christian apologists say, “They are not true Muslims.  A true Muslim does not kill innocent people.”

Several leaders in India have been killed.  I don’t understand what goes on there, but there can be little doubt some branch of the Hindu faith played a role in these assassinations.

Religious leader Charles Colson wrote yesterday that Norway’s secularism played a big role in the terrorist bombing.  Even though the apparently guilty person claims Christianity  as his faith, it was really the work of the evil atheists.  How on earth did he come up this this nutty idea?

 Maybe its time for the coach to signal TIME OUT.  We to pause for a while and stop trying to figure out which religions are more the cause of terrorism and which are less.  

To blame the Muslim faith for 9/11 is to give a pass to a group of men who are common criminals.  It makes no more sense to blame Islam for 9/11 than it does to blame Christianity for the Norwegian tragedy.

What’s a Nice Way to Say, “This is nuts!”?

There are many parts of Christian history to be ammused about.  I mean the snakes that talk, the walking on water and other such tales.  The exasporating thing is it still goes on. How many times has an errant baseball hit a window and created a picture of Mary?  

In the mountains of building debris left over from the 9/11 attack is are thousands of pieces of I-beam that held the building up.  They broken and attached together in thousands of configurations.

Someone dragged a piece out in a “T” pattern and announced it is the Christain cross.  An opportunistic priest pronounced this find a miracle.  Then someone proposed it be installed permanently at the 9/11 site. 

Fortunately for us all, American Atheists has gone to court to prevent this.  There is no reason to display any religious symbol at the site.  But, if one is to be displayed, every religion represented in the towers also must be displayed, including atheists.  We know people of many religions were killed in the buildings including Muslems.

Perhaps we could have a giant seach for other symbols in the wreckage debris.  Probably there is a suwaztika or other symbols of groups the general public finds disgusting.  Maybe there is a piece that forms the letter “F” representing the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Installing the cross-like debris on public property will start court cases like those of the Ten Commandments monuments.

 

The Only Thing Constant is Change

As I was bicycling around the community is Iowa where I’m attending an airplane fly-in, I was struck by a billboard that said,  ” (City)  Community Church.  We are Nondenominational.  Come Grow With Us.”

The message projected, so it seemed to me, was “nondenominational” is better than denominational.  I have no idea what the theological grounding of the church is.  The  important thing in its mind, apparently, is that it is “none of the above.”

Perhaps a related bit of news this week is the “Campus Crusade for Christ” name change. It will now be known as simply “Cru”.   The reason, management says, is some 20% of the public who knows nothing about the organization is turned off by “Christ” in its old name.

A reporter asked a member of the “Cru” staff if the new name meant the organization will now partner with progressive groups to work for world peace and against hunger.  The reply was something like, “Not yet.  I hope we get there some day in the future.”

While parts of the Christian faith seem locked in place with a refusal to budge on today’s  issues, it is refreshing to see new and comtempory approaches.  Unlike the approach of the first President Bush I quoted a few days ago, which said atheists should not be considered citizens in this Christian country, and unlike denominations who will not ordain gay clergy, another branch of the faith is leaving the old behind.

That bodes well for everyone.

 

On Demonization

The term “demonization” has religious roots.  Now, it is used in ways sort of in between its former self as individuals, groups and political parties as “evil” and just general criticism of groups or beliefs.

President “W” was skilled at demonizing.  His reference to the “axis of evil” was a classic example of it.  Neither Presidents Clinton or Obama do it very well.  I read when Clinton ramped up a demonization remark about some group an aid said, “You’ll be sorry.”  Later, he needed support from that quarter and wished he had not done it.

The most common target of international demonization these days is the Islam faith.  Columist Kathleen Parker today wrote about Presidential candidate Herman Cain’s accidential slip into Islam demonization lite.  When a reporter asked him is he would feel comfortable having a Muslem in his cabinet, he said well, no, not really.

He was answering the unexpected question in an honest way, not really knowing any Muslem people well.  He knows he made a mistake.  A President needs to have the most qualified people he can find that will carry out his program–the best person might be a Muslem.  It is “unAmerican” to simply write off an entire population of citizens who were born in the U. S. and are ready to serve.

I hope when I mention the lack of evidence for the faith I am not demonizing.  People do say it is, but I hope it is not. We all need to be careful about demonization.

How to Remian Faithful to the Faith

A while back, Pastor Rick Warren wrote an essay advising Christians about how to avoid sin..  He wrote about weaknesses most people have and how to deal with them.

In my opinion, he missed the most likely source of people’s problem with their faith.  It is the source of irresversable sin and condemnation to an eternity in hell.  It is curiousity.

Of the many friends I’ve made being a Freethinker, nearly all came to become Freethinkers because they simply became curious about other ways of looking at things.  They looked into the origin and logic of the faith.  They did not, as many of the faithful believe, have a bad experience while practicing Christians or suffer abuse. 

As they found new information and pondered its meaning, religion evaporated for them. While an occasional Freethinker returns to the faith, nearly all never do.

Why some people’s minds are open to this curiousity and others are not is a mystery to me.  Nevertheless, curiosity remains a bigger obstacle to the faith then temptation or the clever ways of the Satan. 

 

Anti Gay Open House, No One Came.

The President signed the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Tony Perkins of Focus on Family and others are expressing rage.

It’s the usual grievances: The survey of soldiers finding it’s OK was biased.  Military leaders who think it’s OK are under White House pressure.  Chaplains who hate gays cannot practice their “religion”.

The interesting, and I would say politically foolish thing they pitch, is that Congress should stop implimentation before the repeal takes effect.  My guess is Congress will not do this.  They know something gay haters do not:  The anti -gays-in-the-military politics have changed.

The same thing is happening in New York City.  A bishop there is having a cow over his State’s decision to allow gay marriage.  He is trying to rally opposition.  Nothing much seems to be happening.

These anti gay branches of the Christian faith are on the ropes, but seem to think they are inches from winning.  They think the power they have over their followers extends to the general public.

Thank goodness, some branches of the faith either never participated in gay demonization or did so only for a while and moved on.  Thanks, too, for the secular people like atheists who saw the cruelity of anti gay demonization and never participated.

There are many obstacles in the path of full acceptance of and opportunities for our gay and lesbian citizens.  But, this time prayers of Bible thumpers were ignored.

Sitting Under a Tree on a Summer Day

“I wonder if what I am doing with my life is what God wants for me.  I hope my moral conduct meets His approval.”

Let’s assume a person of faith said that to an atheist as they sat under a tree, pondering their place in the world.  Would a literal understanding of the Bible help them?

A religious site had an essay by John Bakman.  He thinks the Bible offers the same help whether it is literally true, or, metaphor.   He gave examples.

The quotes in the Bible attributed to Jesus may not be his words, he said.  Backman finds the words attributed to Jesus helpful, but they do not have any effect on the thoughts under the tree about being a moral person.

The same is true about the concept  that Jesus died for our sins.  Whether it is true or not does not effect the moral behavior of any Christian.  If it is important for someone to believe God loves us, the Jesus-died-for-your-sins is an example of love.  If it were metaphor it would make the same point.

The crushing commentary of “the last judgement” can also be helpful. But, no one need take it too seriously, Bakman writes.  It’s just there to guide one toward moral living.

Most nonbelievers do not share the view the Bible is a source of wisdom about morality. Their sources are the observations and history of humans.  

Ironically, an atheist and a believer sitting under the same tree probably will reach the same conclusions about moral living without bringing up the Bible at all.

Who’s the Most Disliked Group in the U. S.?

“I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots.  This is one nation under God.”

These are the words of former President, George H. W. Bush at a press conference, August 27, 1984.  

The Washington Post reported on a recent poll.   When 2,000 randomly selected people were asked which group they would disapprove of their child marrying, 48% said atheist.  Only 27% of white parents disapproved of a marriage to an African American.

When asked which groups did not share American values, 40% said atheists, only 26% said Muslems.  Even gay marriage advocates only scored 22%. Thus, atheists are disliked twice as much as any other group they were compared to.   

Nonbelievers do discuss this from time to time.  Should they be more accepting and less critical of faith?  Should they be more strident and in-your-face?  

If we look at other groups who were once in the position atheists find themselves today, homosexual and black people, plus women, it is hard to say one approach only was the key to acceptance.  All had in-your-face factions, and lets-be-nice ones as well. Both factions seemed to have helped.

My own theory is the average member of the public first dislikes people who are different because they do not change. Later, they realize the different people are not going to change.  So, eventually, this average person says, “Well, OK. They’re different, but I can live with that.”

Most atheists will not be changing. Maybe in time, people can live with that.