Here’s an excellent post by Valerie Tarico. It’s really not surprising that many Christians condone torture, considering that the religion is built around a divine threat of torture. How could one categorically condemn something that god does?
When conservative Christians claim that the Bible God condones torture, they’re not making it up. A close look at the good book reveals why so many Christians past and present have adopted an Iron Age attitude toward brutality.
The first half of December 2014 was painful to many moderate American Christians who see their God as a God of love: A Senate inquiry revealed that the CIA tortured men, some innocent, to the point of unconsciousness and even death; evidence suggested that this torture extracted no lifesaving information. A majority of Americans responded by giving torture the thumbs up, with the strongest approval coming from Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. Faced with moral outrage, including from within their own ranks, Christian torture apologists took to the airwaves and internet, weaving righteous justifications for the practice of inflicting pain on incapacitated enemies.
Just days after winning their Supreme Court case, Hobby Lobby sponsored an ad in multiple newspapers across the US. Titled “In God We Trust,” it’s a collection of quotes from the “Founding Fathers” and others that purports to show that the United States was founded as a Christian nation with a Christian government. None of this is new or surprising. But one of the quotes caught my attention. More about that in a minute.
If you follow the link above, you’ll see many of the usual quotes from the usual suspects. But my purpose here isn’t to show how Hobby Lobby is guilty of quote-mining, or to show that an honest assessment of the Founders would lead to different conclusions. (If you’re interested in that, see the Treaty of Tripoli, for instance; also see the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s comments on the ad here.) Continue reading →
“The doctrine of the sacredness of the soul sounds vaguely uplifting, but in fact is highly malignant. It discounts life on earth as just a temporary phase that people pass through, indeed, an infinitesimal fraction of their existence. Death becomes a mere rite of passage, like puberty or a midlife crisis.
“The gradual replacement of lives for souls as the locus of moral value was helped along by the ascendancy of skepticism and reason. No one can deny the difference between life and death or the existence of suffering, but it takes indoctrination to hold beliefs about what becomes of an immortal soul after it has parted company from the body.”
–Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011), p. 143. Continue reading →
I haven’t truly prayed in years, and today even when something bad happens, something that would send the faithful to their knees, it doesn’t occur to me to seek divine guidance or intervention. It isn’t that I don’t worry or don’t seek help and comfort from others, it’s that prayer no longer seems any more helpful than consulting a horoscope, or reading chicken entrails, or offering a burnt sacrifice, or any other ancient mystical means of dealing with life’s uncertainties.
As much as believers talk about prayer as submission to God’s will, prayer—at least prayer of supplication, which I think is the most common kind—is by its very nature an attempt to alter or control the course of events. You’re asking God to do something: cure someone’s illness, get you that job, preserve that marriage, elect that candidate. Even if you end with “but your will be done,” everyone but the strictest Calvinist is praying in the belief that there’s a God who allows himself to be influenced to some degree by human requests. Otherwise what’s the point of asking for anything? Continue reading →
Here are a few points you may find useful when discussing equal marriage with people who oppose it. Christians often argue that marriage has always been properly between one man and one woman. This, they say, is “biblical” marriage, and they claim that Old Testament polygamy was not endorsed by scripture and never part of God’s eternal plan.
But the idea that there’s an unchanging, divine marital template that transcends culture is easily refuted. Today’s understanding of “traditional marriage” is radically different from what the Bible actually commands. Continue reading →
Here’s a blast from the past for those of you who grew up evangelical in the 1970s. This is the trailer for “A Thief in the Night,” a 1972 film that inaugurated the “end times” genre later exploited by the “Left Behind” books and movies. It’s been said that “Thief” has been seen by 300 million people worldwide, and I’m inclined to believe that number. In its day there was nothing like it, and evangelical churches used it as a “witnessing” tool (“Invite your unsaved friends!”).
So what’s the winning formula behind this mega-hit? First, take the paranoid theology of “Left Behind,” subtract budget, subtract professional production, subtract even a Kirk Cameron-level of acting ability, add a cheesy soundtrack and an early-seventies grindhouse vibe… oh, and film it in Des Moines, Iowa. Continue reading →
“I cannot understand why we idle discussing religion. If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. Continue reading →