Are Christians Prewired to Believe the Bible?

Let’s start by agreeing the biggest variables in whether or not a person is a Christian, Muslim or Hindu is the religion of his/her parents and country of birth.  The easiest path is to follow the religion of birth, it’s harder to leave it.

I was reminded of this today when reading an “analysis” of the pagan faith done by a Christian.  The jist of this analysis is the pagan faith is one of gods that are imagined, gods of the mind.

The Christian faith, on the other hand, has a real genuine god. The “proof” of this was the human god, Jesus.

To make this leap, it is necessary to believe the Bible recorded either everything correctly, or, was mostly correct.

One must believe the super natural events, that the motives of the characters was what it was reported to have been and events were recorded accurately.  When one observes the standards for varifying all this is much lower for the Bible than for current events, it raises doubt about the objectivity.

For example, the primary evidence that Jesus was God came from Jesus himself.  We would not accept anyone’s claim today in the same way.

I’m reminded of the story during the past decade of “weapons of mass destruction.”  There was never varification of them to our general satisfaction.  Nevertheless, today people claim they existed or exist somewhere.

When people of one religion skewer another, they would be viewed in a better light if they would acknowledge the influence of their religious heritage.

Will Press Ask the Obvious Questions?? (No)

Several of the Republican candidates said God asked them to run, or, left the impression He wanted them to run.

Now, in the closing days of the Iowa Primary Caucus, several of those whom God wanted in the race are losing, or, so it appears.  Is it not rational to wonder why God asked them to run?  Or, whether God really did ask them to run?

These seem obvious questions.  I would ask them.  However, the reporters following the campaign will not.  There is this matter of economics.

Reporters covering the campaign are paid by subscribers and advertisers.  Neither of those two groups want reporters to ask questions about whether God really asked candidates to run, or, what they now think about making that claim.

The questions are not asked because, for the most part, religion gets a pass.  Only a small part of the public doesn’t believe a god exists.  A newspaper or TV network cannot make money advertising to nonbelievers.

Even if reporters will not ask hard questions of religious candidates, I have to admit we skeptics are entertained by religion in the campaing.  Today’s Wall Street Journal has a story about preachers in Iowa racing about trying to broker deals between religious candidates, who should stay in ane who should drop out.

Of course, the preachers have been unsuccessful.  It would be odd if candidates listened to advice from preachers.

Why get God’s instructions second hand?

 

Political Views that Astound Me.

Every once in a while, I’m stunned by another’s political views.  That’s when I hear or read views are so far from mine I can’t quite comprehend how someone could think that way.  I’m aware, of course, my views are equally baffling to some others.

Such views are on Worldmag.com and were submitted by someone named D. C. Innes.  He (she) evauluates Ron Paul from a evangelical perspective.

Innes begins his case by stating unequivically the Biblical purpose of government.  It is to punish evil and praise well-doing. (Romans 13:1-10, Peter 2:14)  He insists moral legistlation is a serious responsibility of those in government.

He writes there is no Biblical basis, and thus no basis of any kind, for considering restricitions of individual freedoms when deciding on moral legistlation.  The “devine mandate” to reward good and punish evil is the only issue, individual freedom is not relevant.

Ron Paul earns some points on the evangelical scorecard.  He voted against abortion several times and is for God’s intention that we live by the rule of law, the Constitution.

But mostly, Paul does not seem to measure up to evangelical standards.   Internationally, this is seen in his reluctance to use military force overseas.  Paul  “…underestimates people’s capacity for evil and the government’s responsibility to protect..” us from it.  Domestically, he does not understand the government’s responsibility to reward good and punish evil.

I guess I should not have been surprised we are back to the four words that summarize evangelical politics.  It’s all about sin.

The Division Within Secular Thought

Within secular thought, which we can call atheism for simplicity, is a large schism which limits its growth.  With numbers as small as they are, this split is more limiting to atheism than differences among Christians are to the faith.

While I’m not sure I can accurately describe the factions in atheism, I’ll start by saying one branch began with Thomas Paine.  I would describe this faction as having a positive and idealistic message about reason, and a humanistic focus.

This group would say humans have the ability to gather together and come to reasonable consensus on how the organize themselves and how to treat each other.  It is not necessary to seek devine guidence.  Implied in this is that the “getting together” would be within an  elected government.

The other faction of atheists sometimes would be called liberatarians.  They have a strong dislike for most large institutions including both church and government.

The problem is these two threads of thinking will seldom support the same candidate for office.  The Paine group will often support liberal democrats while the liberatorians might team up with religious people who also dislike government behind a conservative religious candidate.

Religious folks who post comments on this blog sometimes rightly point out more time is spent bashing the faith than advancing positive aspects of secularism.  That’s partly because the two branches both agree on getting religion out of government.

What to do next is not so clear.

The Christian Political Blindspot.

A common theme of some Christians when they engage in U. S. politics is to say, “Christans are the majority.”   And, so there should be prayer in schools, Ten Commandments in the town square and so on.

The Christian brand is on other political ideas.  Just now it is Iran. Bombing Iran is popular with the Christian Republican Presidential candidates.

This past weekend, Mike Huckabee said Ron Paul’s position of leaving Iran alone was not the position of the “mainstream”.  Thus, he should not be the Republican nominee.

It doesn’t seem to be important to Huckabee whether Paul’s position is right or not, it just matters that Christians are the majority, the mainstream.  Political Christians like Huckabee should recognize Christians may not always be the majority, and, it might be wise to be establish that minority views have a place at the table in case they are, one day, the minority.

Of course, the U. S. Christian view that the majority should have its way changes when Christians actually are in the minority, as they are in other countries.  In various countries just now, innocent Christians are being killed in an effort to eliminate them.  U. S. Christians are expressing outrage against those majorities.

Politically minded Christians would be wise to recognize they have been in the majority for a relatively short time in the long history of humans.  Their time as a minority could come again one day.

 

The Enemy is Not “Happy Holidays”.

We all know the story of Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned.  Fiddling is what Christians do when they make a fuss about “Happy Holidays” signs at the mall.

I can almost guarantee not one Christian will be lost by signs reading “Happy Holidays”.  The books by major atheist authors, Richard Dawkins and Christpher Hitchens, will not drive millions out ot the church either.

The threat to the church is young people who say, “I’m not religious, but I’m very spiritual.”

During the time of Christ, and I suppose since there were humans, there were groups who thought they knew the true god, or gods, based on their superior knowledge.  These were called the gnostics, those with knowledge.

The gnostics did not win the battle for minds over the last two centuries.  Instead of many different religions going in thousands of directions, the centralized Christians won the numbers.  Though Christians scattered in many directions, most agree on an orthodoxy of the human Jesus, the cross and heaven and hell.

The new gnostics, or spirituality people, are not that interested in this orthodoxy.  They have confidence in access to on-line knowlege they need to find their own spiritual truth.

The only “Christian” counter attack is the emerging church. The emerging church hangs on to the Jesus part of Christianity but redefines his persona to what might appeal to the gnostic spiritual generation.

It seems to be doing OK.  But, more Christians need to realize the battleground is not at the mall.

Is Critical Thinking a Sin?

According to pollsters young people are leaving the church in unprecidented numbers.  The question is why?

I’d summarize it as, either schools are teaching things that blunt religious belief, or, organized religion is not reacting properly to what children learn in school.  Or, maybe both.

Children today learn critical thinking in school.  Part of critical thinking is learning to separate what is largely regarded as fact from what is considered opinion.

I would guess that when young people then go to church, or, listen to their parents, and hear teachings from the Bible considered facts but are not varifiable and thus must be considered opinion, their skepticism tenicles rise.

An example would be the virgin birth in Bethlehem.  There are many reasons to conclude this did not happen.

Here is where the Church could reach young people.  If every preacher and parent this Christmas would say, “There are reasons to conclude the virgin birth in Bethelem did not happen.  Nevertheless, it’s a warm and fuzzy idea that has been passed down and we celebrate it,”  there would be hope for the church.

Instead, such thinking is a sin in many branches of the faith. The hammer comes down on  doubt.

I visit a liberal church where much of the teaching treats the major Bible stories as myth.  The Pastor’s lessons are peppered with, “This is what I take from the story.”

Critical thinking is not a sin there and the church is doing well.  It seems so clear to me all churches should do the same.

 

 

Why is the Song, “Blue Christmas”, So Popular?

I hear this song several times a day during this time of year.  Why would a song with that theme be popular now when we are supposed to feel so happy?

We know a downer song does not necessarily reflect downer feelings.  The genre of music called “bluegrass” is filled with happy sounding instrumentation, banjos and such, but has lyrics about death, murder and lost love. But, its fans seem like a happy bunch.

Statistics about this time of year, however, do indicate something is going on with peoples’ states of mind.  Requests for mental health services goes way up.  We have to wonder why?

I suppose one possibilty is winter solstice, the many hours of darkness, might be taking its toll, but, we attribute it to the holidays.  Darkness of mood in some people during the short days of sunlight has a long history.

But, I’m attracted to what, I suppose, is conventional wisdom about the source of Christmas blues.  Today on the car radio I heard, “I hope this finds you surrounded by family and friends.”

This implies there is a “standard” for happy holiday circumstances.  If you do not meet these standards, do not have the circumstances of family and friends, you must be miserable.

I’m happy for all those who can spend some of the day with those, “family and friends”. To those who cannot, I wish for you a good day, not a blue one.

Remember, the standard is just in effect for tomorrow, then it expires.

Don’t Light Any Candles This Christmas, It’s Pagan.

With all this talk of “war on Christmas” and fighting over nativity displays, it’s refreshing to read a rational discussion about the origins of this holiday published on a Christian site, ChristianPost.com.  What I took away from the article is that “Christmas” does not belong just to Christians, it belongs to human beings.

The season is partly Christian and partly Pagan.  One person thought the emphasis on lights and color has a Pagan origin, the celebration of solstice.  Pagan life was filled with festivities and celebrations.

The defeat of darkness and victory for light was cause for celebration. Candles also symbolized the defeat of darkness.

In secular literature, there is doubt about the birth story.  The Biblical writers closest to the time of Jesus did not discuss where he came from. The birth story came up later.

If the birth story was meant to be inspirational fiction,  it is easy to see how a new birth would be an attractive metephor for  new light.  To the extent that is what happened, the substitution of new birth for new light was very successful indeed.

Historically speaking, then, “Happy Holidays” is just as legitimate a greeting as  “Merry Christmas”.  I think there are folks who just need something to grouse about until the days get longer and they cheer up.  The “war of Christimas” fits the bill.

Perhaps, lighting a few pagan candles will cheer everyone up.

 

 

Catholic Hold on Poland is Slipping

The Catholic hold on Poland has always seemed invincible.  When polled, 97 percent of Poles self identify as Catholic.

In an election this past October 9, however, something unexpected happened.  Ten percent of the voters voted for an anticlerical party.  This gave the new party ten percent of the parliament seats.

This ten percent, while seemingly small, has been very troublesome because it gives official standing and a public voice against the clergy.  The new party seeks to end tax exemptions for priests, religion classes and crosses in public schools and state subsidies for churches.  It also favors legalization of same sex marriages.

The Church’s reaction has been predictable.  One rogue Priest made conciliatory remarks about the new party.  He was quickly silenced.

As is happening around the world, young people are increasingly disinterested in the established Church and are seeking other views.  It is reported that in Poland, the established political parties have been reluctant to address ending these church subsidies and challenge to conservative values the Church preaches.

From what I read, the cozy arrangement between Church and the Polish government just is not discussed publically.  It’s safe to say that throughout history, nothing but bad ends have come about from alliances between church and politics.

While I can’t say this is universal,  it appears to me the Christian faith in the Western world is tired and tends to represent an older demographic.  The youthful energy seems to be with secularism and nonorthodox religion.

All of the changes taking place in attitudes toward religion makes me think 2012 will be an exciting year.