Only a Few Catholics Sue the President.

It is a small group of Catholics going to court against the President’s policy of requiring birth control in Catholic health insurance.  The vast majority of Catholic Bishops, Dioceses, colleges and universities and members are not participating.

There are 194 dioceses but only about a dozen have chosen to join the lawsuit.  Just a few of the 200 Catholic colleges and universities have signed on.

To an outsider, the lawsuits appear a risky gamble to retain moral standing for Catholic clergy after the sex scandals.  The new scandal of Vatican cover up of financial corruption make the stakes even higher.

The Catholic concept that only certain human beings have been designated to understand the spiritual realm is one that must have made sense in Europe a thousand years ago, but does not fit the American experience.  Europe, steeped in Kings, Queens and Dictators holding hands with clergy, might have been the ideological setting for the only-they-talk-to god political concept there.  The U. S., so it seems to me, was founded on the idea the common man has some rights and ability to figure this stuff out for himself.

The Catholic heirarchy has doubled down its bets to retain authority.  It does not want to open government in the Vatican,  reveal its corruption,  yield equal status to women or conform to the policies of its funding entity.

Maybe it’s headed for a comeuppance.

 

Ways Christians Serve Satan.

Christians, not Satan, is the reason many leave the faith.  Of course, Satan does not benefit from this because there is no Satan.

The author below spent time on a site I, also, look at,  ex-christian.com.  This site is teeming with testimonials from people who have left the faith or are on their way out.

The irony is that much of what Christians think they should say, or, are taught to say, to skeptics is exactly the wrong thing to say.  First among the ways people are pushed out of the faith is by gay baiting.  Acceptance of gays, and of gay marriage, is so widespread there are people with gay friends and relatives in virtually every church.

Those who talk anti gay to others think they are portraying  themselves as being on a high moral plain.  Those who hear anti gay talk, instead, think anti-gay Christians have low moral standards.

People are pushed out of Christianity by the circular reasoning.  Once someone internalizes the absurdity of believing in God because God said he should, or, that God exists because God said he exists, telling that person to read the marvelous things God said about himself moves the effort backwards.

A third way to make a skeptic out of a believer is to put down women. This includes prohibiting women from holding church offices.

Discriminating against women is so widespread across the faith, one could say it is the Christian faith and not be far off the mark.

http://www.alternet.org/story/155553/8_ways_christian_fundamentalists_make_people_convert_–_to_agnosticism_or_atheism?page=entire

The Universal Human Aversion to “NO”.

We usually attribute the aversion to saying “no” to politicians who say “yes” to special interests and pass the cost onto the larger majority.

But, the aversion to saying “no” is everywhere.  The “tough”, highly paid, CEO’s of corporations have it.  You can see the aversion when business falters and corporations announce layoffs of white collar, middle management,  staff.  “We will not reduce services to our customers,” they say.

If the people being laid off are not needed to provide goods and services to the customers today, why were they hired in the first place?  The aversion to “no” was there when high level managers wanted more staff.  The CEO said, “yes”.

Most of us would have an aversion to saying “no” when our child asks, “Have I been good enough for Santa this year?”  There seems  little harm in saying “yes” there.

The aversion to “no” is present in religion.  We are child like in our fear of death.  Thus, we ask clergy, search ancient books and look wherever we can to feed our aversion to “no”.  We want “yes” to the question,  “Can I have life after death?”

Here is where Freethinkers and atheists serve society.  They are the last defense of honesty about life after death and invisible beings.  People don’t like those who say “no”, those don’t exist.

In spite of the angry aversion to “no”,  Freethinkers say it anyway.

 

The Hidden Variable, Demographics.

A lifetime of watching societal change from a social science perspective has made me marvel, sometimes, at overlooked variables.

A couple of decades ago crime and “gangs” seemed to be the big villains plaguing this country.  There were congressional hearings nationally and “gang task forces” locally.

Social scientists said the increase in crime was due merely to a blip in the number of young men passing through the demographic window.  When that group passed their teens, they predicted, crime would drop.  It did.

I’ve wondered if today’s decline in church membership and participation is related to a demographic variable, the decline in family size.  While everyone can see a smaller pipeline of children in Sunday School would feed fewer people into church life, I’m wondering about something else.

In the economics of family there is something called the difference between quantity and “quality” of children.  Quantity, of course, means numbers of them. “Quality” refers to the amount of time and money spent on a child.

Generally, families have some finite amount of money and time to spend on raising children.  Therefore, when quantity goes up, “quality” goes down.

With fewer children, parents have more money to spend introducing a child to more experiences–camps, sports, clubs, art, intellectual pursuits, computers and so on.  Perhaps this is where the church, which for a large families is a cheap place to spend time, gets crowded out.

If this is part of the problem churches are having, it will be hard to solve.

Different Views of God and Politics

Today, I read an unusual article where a preacher/author had asked Biblical scholars a  general question, “What is the chief political concern of the Bible?”

The article reported eleven responses. The text of the responses is included as well as the person and institution with which they are affiliated.  I would have thought there would be one theme in all the answers, but that was not the case. You can read the article and make up your own mind, but I took from it about three, maybe two and a half, different things that are “the main political concern”.

One is the liberal view the Bible’s main political preoccupation is justice.  The main people who should receive this justice are the poor.

Another expressed by two or three of the Biblical experts is that the political concern of the Bible is about a God-centered society.  Not being one of the experts myself, it strikes me that a God-centered society is a different goal than a justice-for-poor one.

One mentioned an “orderly” society.  That comes closer to my own take on the Bible’s political agenda.  It has always seemed to me to be about political control.

What one can take from the article is two people can study the Bible all of their lives and come out with different views as to what it says.  What they would eventually take from it probably was determined before they ever started by their respective emotional attachments to it.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-suttle/what-is-the-chief-political-concern-of-the-bible_b_1533738.html?ref=religion

Could Large Parts of Christianity Become Cults?

It was stunning to read the attached discussion of about churches and cults. Even though it is written in a dissident publication, it makes a point about both today’s Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention.

He quotes other scholars on the difference between a religion and a cult.  A religion has social status, is thought to be the repository of religious truths and has a vested interest in the success of the larger society.  A cult, on the other hand, is focused on the discipline of its members, pushes non-conforming members out and sees itself as separate from society at large.

The Pope has said he wants a smaller, more pure and conforming church.  Whether members leave over abortion, birth control or women in the clergy, no tears are shed.  As it becomes more strict,  it removes itself from the mainstream of society.

The Southern Baptist Convention has been losing five percent of its members a year for several years.  Nevertheless, its best known spokesman, Albert Mohler, seems proud it refuses to budge an inch on any matter of dogma.

Groups splitting from their parent denominations over gay pastors are also taking the mini steps of withdrawing from the broader society.  Long term stable relationships, which are in the national interest, are set aside for absolutism of the literal Bible.

Several Protestant denominations, in addition to the Southern Baptish Convention, prohibit women clergy.  They, also, are becoming islands adrift, separate from the general society.

http://ncronline.org/blogs/grace-margins/roman-catholic-church-downsizing-sect

When Is It OK To Be Disrespectful Of Someone’s Faith?

There are people who say we should never be disrespectful of anyone’s faith.  But, what if their beliefs seem just plain nuts to you?  What if someone claims Joe Blow is the Messiah?

Frankly, I’m disrespectful of ideas that seem nuts to me.  There are a lot of them right around me and I see them in the news regularly.

Recently there was a presentation by a local Catholic priest at a weekly NDSU seminar.  The priest’s talk was about the training in exorcism.  The talk went into a serious discussion of demons, how to recognize demons and how to remove them.

The host of the seminar told me the couple dozen people present were stunned.  There was not much reaction during the discussion period because, the host thought,  people just wanted to say, “Father, that is weird.”  But, no one would just say something so blunt.

Weirdness is well established in the Catholic Church.  Another one I read about this  morning was a policy of the Vatican about “sightings” of the Virgin Mary.

There are thousands of sightings of the Virgin Mary each year.  Local priests are directed to do a “serious investigation” of each one, disregarding those where there is mental illness or someone is profiteering.  Others, apparently, are to be considered real sightings.

I am disrespectful of exorcism and sightings of the Virgin Mary.  Any institution that assigns paid staff to do this stuff should be ashamed.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/23/vatican-virgin-mary-sightings_n_1540546.html?ref=topbar

Colin Powell, “Always distinguish which is which.”

Powell wrote a fascinating article in Newsweek.  He reviewed the Iraq debacle among other things.

While he did not mention religion, I could not help but see the similarities between military decisions like the one in Iraq and how we all try to find answers to questions of faith.  Both require sorting out different kinds of information.

In trying to figure out these great questions, we are doing intelligence work.  The accuracy of what we find is based on the reliability of our informants.

Leading up to the Iraq war, Powell made a now-famous speech where he declared it was certain Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  Shortly after that, he learned no one talking to him had actually ever talked to the person who had “seen” the evidence.  It turned out the person who had “seen” the evidence was known to be unreliable.

Powell says there are four rules for good intelligence:

“Tell me what you know. Tell me what you don’t know. Then tell me what you think. Always distinguish which is which.”

When we are reading accounts of the origin of Christianity, these would be good rules to follow.  What we know comes from surviving written material by known and reliable authors of that time as well as unreliable origins.  We need to distinguish which is which.

If we “think” a god directed what was taking place, we need to distinguish this from other things we know to be true.  Otherwise, we are claiming weapons of mass destruction exist when they don’t.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/05/13/colin-powell-on-the-bush-administration-s-iraq-war-mistakes.html

 

Emergent Church Parents Ask, What Should We Teach Our Children?

The web article below discusses a recent Washington, D.C., conference where participants searched for a way to pass on their liberal version of the faith, often called the emergent church, to their children.

Today’s young parents were brought up in Sunday schools teaching about sin and that Jesus died because they were so bad.  In its way, it is a story not so difficult to tell.

But, if the story is Jesus accepts everyone and sin and hell are not so important, what do you talk about for the rest of the hour?  That is to say, parents know what they do not believe, it’s what their parents believed.  Now, they have children themselves and cannot explain how they got to where they are.

Apparently, the conference did not come up with an answer–but reaffirmed an answer is needed.  Liberal churches, like the conservative Southern Baptist Convention, are not retaining young people.

One of the presenters said that politicians have learned the language of preachers and people are associating with “tribes” accordingly, replacing the church.  I would explain it as seeing young social conservatives sitting at one table in Starbucks on a Sunday morning discussing how gays should not be allowed to marry.

At another table, young liberals are discussing the injustice of gays not being able to marry.  Neither group heads off to their respective churches because they would hear the same thing there.

The answer of what to teach young people and how to keep the faith  relevant may become apparent in time.  It’s not apparent yet.

http://www.theird.org/page.aspx?pid=2439

 

Shadowy History of Christianity.

Barabara G. Walker’s, Man Made God, summarizes a lot of material from other sources.  This helps develop an overview of where Christianity came from.

She discusses one of the ancients whose influence continues today, the historian and Bishop, Eusebius.   Some of what he wrote continues to be used as important Christian material.  But, he was also a participant in some shenanigans.

When the Roman Emperor, Constantine, made Christianity the state religion, he demanded all the gods of that time be made into one.  Toward that end, he convened the Council of Nacia where the Bishops of that time made sure that happened.  The Trinity and the Nicene Creed resulted.

Who better to bring all this together than Eusebius, a writer and favorite of the Emperor, Constantine.  We see him there, not at the time of Jesus, but four hundred years later hammering into place what became today’s Christian faith.

Then, there is the only piece of writing that claims to record the activities of the Jesus preacher “written at the time of Jesus”.  This is found in writing attributed to Josephus, a historian recording events at the time Jesus was supposed to have lived.

In the earliest copies of the Josephus writing, there is no account of a Jesus.  Then, some 400 years later another historian quotes Josephus writing about a Jesus.  The historian who “found” this when others had not (inserted it himself many believe) was the propagandist and promoter of Christianity, Eusebius.

Those of us who don’t believe have our reasons.