Tag Archives: atheism

Islam Is Not the Liberal Cause You’re Looking For

On Sunday, there was a contest held in Garland, TX featuring cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.  It was attacked by a pair of Muslim terrorists who drove there from Arizona.  Unlike previous attacks over harmless cartoons, however, only the terrorists were killed after they shot at the event’s armed guards.  And unlike previous incidents, this time the West did not unite in solidarity with the cartoonists, like the Je suis Charlie slogan.  Instead, the conversation seems to have revolved more around criticism of the event’s organizer, incendiary blogger and professional protester Pamela Geller.  Perhaps this was partly because the conservative Geller is known for being offensive and provocative, and partly because, thankfully, there were no innocent victims to mourn this time.  But another factor seems to be an inexplicable rush to defend the Muslim faith when Muslims have threatened innocent people.

Conservatives and liberals usually take divergent, knee-jerk positions in the wake of Muslim terrorism, positions which often seem more concerned with contradistinction to their political opponents than with an honest discussion about modern Islam.  Conservatives will tally another notch as proof that Islam is a violent and dangerous religion; they may genuinely believe this, but it may also be motivated by tribal one-upmanship to make their own religion or ideology appear better.  Liberals will often argue that this it is not all Muslims committing terrorism, that either all religions or all religious extremists are equally bad, or that Islam is a peaceful religion.  Unfortunately, these defenses do more to derail the discussion than resolve it.  True, the nearest terrorists had to drive across two states to reach their target, but that kind of determination renders their small numbers almost insignificant; just one terrorist willing to go through such great lengths is more dangerous than all the other religious extremists in the country.  The leftwing condemnation of all religion may equally just be one-upmanship by the nonreligious.  And the question of whether Islam is a religion of peace or not is debatable.  Like every religion, it’s really only as good as the individuals who practice it, so asserting this statement as the starting point of the conversation rather than the conclusion is being simplistically doctrinaire. 

Arguing that Islam is supposed to be peaceful is a pointless distraction to very real violence committed by devout Muslims in the name of Islam.  LIke it or not, Pamela Geller’s point has been proven true: if you mock or criticize Islam, Muslims may try to kill you.  She may be an agitator, but she is not the instigator.  This conflict started years before when some Muslims killed innocent people over cartoons that were not even intended to provoke a violent reaction.  When Muslims behave like other religions and no longer try to silence criticism and mockery, there will be less to ridicule and criticize.  Or at least it will be less appealing to provocateurs.  Until then, both sides are in a perpetual cycle of antagonism, but we should not be misled by fashionable pundits who argue both sides are equally to blame.  They are not.  One side has drawn offensive but harmless pictures, the other side has killed innocent people.  There is no moral equivalency between the two, as the point was made on the Daily Show: “It is not okay to shoot other people because you’re offended by what they draw, even if they drew it to offend you.”

I completely understand the disgust with Geller and her inflammatory methods, I am not going to argue that anybody has to like her.  But I support free speech even when I don’t like the person or the message, because that’s really the only time it matters.  What bothers me, though, is the eagerness with which some liberals are willing to abandon the principles of free expression under the guise of politeness.  You may have heard, “I support free speech, but…” then blaming the organizers for being hateful, offensive, or in some way causing the violence.  After Sunday’s attack, Salon argued that “free speech is not a license to be stupid.”  This couldn’t be more wrong or more illiberal: nobody’s right to speak is subject to anyone else’s evaluation of their intelligence.  The mere insinuation that free speech is licensed in any way is a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept.  “Hate speech” is not a crime in the United States, if it were anybody could restrict any criticism they dislike with the mere accusation that they found it hateful.  Direct incitement to violence or lawless action has been established as the only speech punishable under U.S. law, and even then it must meet rigorous criteria.  Comparisons of Geller’s provocative views to Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” are refuted because the attack demonstrated her warning was not false.

Criticism misdirected at the target rather than the attacker is a disconcerting trend.  A few days after the Texas incident, Salon published an op-ed by Rula Jebreal calling ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali “dangerous.”  Now the article doesn’t mention that the apostate Hirsi Ali has to travel with bodyguards because of her criticism of Islam, including a film she made with Theo van Gogh which resulted in the filmmaker’s death at the hands of an angry Muslim.  To call a peaceful author, activist, and victim of Muslim extremism “dangerous” is not only unreasonable but inexcusable.  Instead of devoting so much attention to attacking harmless critics of their religion, moderate Muslims would do far better outreach if they attacked the extremists who would try to murder them.  If you only attack the critics of your religion while ignoring the extremists of your religion, then you’re not really a moderate, you’re an enabler.  Jebreal’s irresponsible hyperbole is far more dangerous because it has more potential likelihood to incite real violence against Hirsi Ali and her loved ones than Hirsi Ali’s words do to actually harm any Muslims. 

The Left’s overreaction to defend Islam from Rightwing criticism may actually be making liberals less liberal.  There are obvious double standards when liberals freely bash other religions while withholding criticism of Islam for the same or even worse offenses.  Some liberals have retaliated for the offensive Muhammad cartoons by encouraging offensive cartoons of other religious figures.  This should not be confused as a brave stand for free speech, because it’s only attacking religions that they already know will not respond violently.  Pamela Geller may be passive aggressive, but this is just cowardly.  Similar observations on the liberal hypocrisy when it comes to Islam were summarized by Allen Clifton last year:

“It’s a point Bill Maher actually made a few weeks ago.  He said when it comes to religion, liberals often have no problems bashing Christianity.  Yet he often finds many of these same liberals defending Islam and outraged if someone might dare call out radicalism within the Muslim community.”

It’s admirable to stand up for the rights of Muslims to live and practice their faith without discrimination or oppression, as we should for people of any or no religion.  But many liberals seem to have mistaken Islam for a progressive cause, which it is not.  The main battles which have characterized liberalism for the last century–women’s rights, gay rights, and individuality–are all at odds with Islam.  It is not intolerant to acknowledge this fact.

I would be a hypocrite for writing an article critical of the Christian Right’s opposition to same-sex marriage while giving Islam a pass on gay rights.  It would actually be progressive if Muslim countries were merely resisting the right for gays to legally marry, but sadly the majority of Muslim countries still criminalize homosexuality, and in at least 10 countries it is punishable by death.  In any city in the U.S. you can find a gay-affirming mainline church, but finding a gay-affirming mosque anywhere in the world is a challenge, and virtually impossible in the Muslim world.  The gay community justifiably has a lot to criticize Islam for, and these deplorable human rights violations should not be swept away by the honor brigade.

Like anybody, Muslims individually may be more progressive than their professed creed.  Congressman Keith Ellison’s support of gay rights is acknowledged and appreciated, in the same way as the support of Republicans even though their Party’s platform still opposes same-sex marriage.  There certainly are progressive Muslim voices like Irshad Manji, but unfortunately her books are banned even in supposedly moderate Muslim countries like Malaysia.  Liberals should not lose focus in the gap between how we think the world ought to be and how it actually is; the sobering reality is that Islam is presently  far behind liberal ideals.  So much so that it is also behind modern conservatism in its progress.  It doesn’t always have to be this way, other religions have undergone dramatic reforms in their doctrines on slavery, caste, women, and sexuality.  But as outsiders (aka infidels) we don’t get to tell Muslims what their religion is supposed to be, that’s something they have to decide for themselves.  In the meantime, let’s stop pretending it is something that it isn’t.  And let’s rightly condemn violent attackers and not their intended victims.  

Bosch Fawstin's award winning cartoon

Bosch Fawstin’s award winning cartoon

Leave a comment

Filed under Islam

How Did Christianity Become the New Relativism?

“It’s true for me”  This was said during a famous debate between conservative political commentator and Christianity-enthusiast Bill O’Reilly and atheist scientist Richard Dawkins.  In my fundamentalist upbringing, I had been conditioned to eschew this wishy-washy postmodernist thought.  “True for me but not for you” was liberal, “worldly” thinking that Christians were supposed to know how to combat, not use themselves.  Yet here it was the conservative Christian saying it and not the godless liberal.  Apparently just as shocked by this role-reversal, Dawkins responded with the absolutist logic which I had previously only associated with Christianity: “You mean true for you is different from true for anybody else?  Something’s either got to be true or not.”

Christianity and relativism have been at odds since the dawn of postmodernism.  Christianity is a religion which makes absolute claims of truth, and relativism is an ideology which rejects the very concept of absolute truth.  Yet strangely, it is increasingly Christians who have unwittingly been the proponents of relativism in recent times.  I’ve previously written about how sectarianism tends to prioritize subjective and relative morality over objective morality.  Most Christians today haven’t transcended the culture of postmodernism even if they claim to be against it; they are still very much products, if not prisoners, of that mindset.

Even Christians who believe relativism is a problem may not be able to correctly identity what relativism actually is.  For instance, some Christians erroneously oppose any religious pluralism because they have mistaken it for cultural relativism.  But while relativism is a form of pluralism, not all pluralism is relativistic.  Pluralism, in the narrow distinction between the two, is simply the tolerance of opposing beliefs; it is the pragmatic acceptance that those who hold beliefs which are untrue still have the right to equally coexist in the same society.  Relativism, on the other hand, is a doctrinaire opinion that there is no objective truth.  Relativism leads to the same tolerance as pluralism, not for the admirable reason that people who are wrong should still be treated fairly, but rather because it cannot make an evaluation of right or wrong in the first place.  Pluralists, however, can still tolerate relativists without losing objective truth.

Unfortunately, Christians have not only attacked the wrong problems but also promoted the wrong solutions. For years Christians have been incorrectly told that absolutism is the counter to relativism.  They’ve been led to believe that as long as they refuse to compromise on their beliefs then they are immune to relativistic influences.  Doubling down on the Bible or church authority as their sole argument for everything, they’ve ignored that this sort of weak reasoning can and is exercised by people of all faiths.  Christians are usually at a loss to explain why Islamic or Mormon claims to absolute truth on the basis of their sacred texts differ in any way to Christian claims to absolute truth based only on the Bible.  Obviously, anyone can be an absolutist on any position, that in itself is not a remedy for relativism.  The missing component is objective truth, truths which can be communicated and accepted without first having to believe in a religion.  Religious identity is the last resort of people who have failed to present an objective truth.  Saying “I can’t have an abortion because it’s taking an innocent life” is a more compelling argument than saying “I can’t have an abortion because I’m Catholic.”  If the only justification you have for why you do something a certain way is your religion, then you probably don’t have a sufficient reason; otherwise, you would have given that as your reason in the first place.

The same-sex marriage battle is a fascinating study of how conservatives in general have lost all sense of objectivity.  At seemingly every turn, they have contradicted their own arguments if it suited their cause.  When the Defense of Marriage Act was on the books, they argued that federal law trumped state law, but after DOMA was ruled unconstitutional (and even before) they’ve been champions of so-called “states’ rights” ever since.  Conservatives heavily criticized the Obama administration for not defending DOMA before the Supreme Court, but then remained quiet when governor Scott Walker similarly refused to defend Wisconsin’s domestic partnership registry in court.  Contrary to purported claims about executive duty and the rule of law, the rightwing will seemingly take up whichever argument they feel will support their predetermined crusade.  While there’s no denying these conservatives are absolutely against gay marriage, their duplicitous attempts to try to achieve their ends at any cost betray any claim to objective reasoning.

There are numerous things that churches have absolutely opposed in no uncertain terms, only to completely reverse their positions later: abolition, women’s suffrage, integration, interracial marriage.  The Republicans’ latest retreat into “religious freedom” measures–allowing business owners, workers, or officials to refuse business or involvement in same-sex wedding ceremonies out of personal religious beliefs–underscores the consummation of modern Christianity’s journey into fully realized postmodernism (it should be pointed out that there was never any regard for religious freedom of churches who performed same-sex marriages before it was legal).  As has already been demonstrated in case after case, conservative Christians are completely at a loss to present any objective reasoning why consenting adult same-sex couples should not be afforded the same legal protections as opposite-sex couples.  Now that this loss seems inevitable at the Supreme Court level, conservatives seem to be preparing to cease universal bans and instead allow individuals to opt out.  It’s noteworthy that conservatives didn’t really entertain this solution in their past failed culture wars.  While some Christians still tried to maintain segregation in their private schools, they don’t try to allow volunteers at polling places to refuse women, or to permit businesses or state officials to refuse interracial weddings.  These Christians are now put in the awkward position of having to justify why a nationwide ban was considered so absolutely necessary yet the same practice is now permissible on a personal level.  There just doesn’t seem to be an objective way to re-phrase “I won’t provide this service for you that I do for everybody else because you’re gay.”  Effectively, these individuals would be telling gay couples that their beliefs are “true for me but not for you.”

Conservatives would argue that this is merely a legal compromise on an issue forced upon them, but that alone doesn’t explain why this strategy is being deployed here when it wasn’t for other positions they opposed just as absolutely.  This is likely because conservatives came to the simple realization that there were no satisfactory reasons to forcibly segregate drinking fountains.  Conversely, conservatives have held their ground more capably on the abortion issue where they were able to find objective arguments based on life ethics.  If conservatives behaved the same on gay marriage as they do on abortion, then we ought to have expected a stronger reaction than it simply being a matter of personal conscience (but perhaps they’ll surprise me and start an insurrection in June).  While they may not be intentionally relativistic in their reasoning, this nevertheless has all the trademarks of it.  Little by little, conservatives are eroding a cooperative pluralistic society by not merely tolerating nonfactual beliefs, but by permitting those beliefs to have dominance over facts.  Conservatives haven’t outright rejected that an objective truth exists, yet their inability to objectively support their positions has netted the exact same results as if they had.  Or perhaps worse, it looks like they’ve achieved cultural relativism without the pluralism that usually accompanies it.

Conservatism, with Christianity at the helm, is now steering us towards a relativistic society where individuals are free to ignore anti-discrimination laws if they claim it violates their personal beliefs.  As much as they want to limit it just to homosexuality, I have yet to hear a good reason why sincerely held beliefs on sexuality should be protected more than equally sincere Bible-based beliefs on racial superiority or gender inequality.  They might argue that sexual orientation shouldn’t be a protected class, usually for disingenuous reasons such as claiming homosexuality is a choice, somehow differing from other protected categories like religion, pregnancy, or marital status which are also choices (I should also point out that, contrary to what many conservatives erroneously think, the classes in anti-discrimination laws do not single out minorities, women, or gays for heightened protection; instead they are based on universal attributes applicable to everyone: race, gender, and sexual orientation).  I would counter-argue that needing to protect classes of people should be unnecessary in the first place, and contrary to Republican assumptions, an individual doesn’t actually need to be a member of a group on an itemized list to make a valid case of discrimination.  It says more about the flawed deontological morality of these discrimination advocates that they only seem to believe it’s wrong to refuse service to a black person just because the law specifically prohibits discrimination on race.  Ultimately, their problem is the same fault underlying all relativism: they don’t really know basic right and wrong.

In a bizarre twist of the Republican party’s role reversal from formerly being the progressive party to presently being the conservative party, the GOP has also become a powerful champion of postmodernism.  Their challenges to the Affordable Care Act have been some of the most blatant postmodern arguments in recent memory.  The first case challenged the birth control provisions strictly on the personal beliefs of the employer, because they disapprove of birth control or incorrectly believe it causes an abortion.  The present case before the court amounts to trying to invalidate the law on the basis of a strict reading of a typo rather than the stated intent of the law, which commenters have compared to the “Moops” doctrine from the sitcom Sienfeld.  Of course, the irony is that the ACA originated as a conservative idea, effected in Massachusetts by Republican Governor and Obama Presidential opponent, Mitt Romney.

A side effect of the Right’s opposition politics is an inability to articulate what they actually stand for.  They seem to be willing to reverse a position to spite an opponent, or commit to one in spite of facts.  Even when I specifically ask conservatives what they’re for, I get a response that’s merely a restatement of what they’re against.  Liberal positions, on the other hand, do not depend on a pre-existing “other” to oppose.  When liberals stand for equality, we mean that everybody should be treated the same under the law; inequality does not need to be an antecedent.  Positions, not principles, seem to drive conservative strategy these days.  Principles are what guide us to conclusions, whereas positions are fixed conclusions irrespective of principles.  The use of contradictory arguments to support the same position is patently unprincipled reasoning.  While changing a position because of new information is admirable, changing principles relative to a position is not.

Maybe objectivity is something Christianity has lost, or maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention in my youth and conservatives never really had a grasp on objective truth.  Either way, if Christianity is going to find its foothold, it cannot be with the same logic advanced by conservatives for the past decade.  Just pointing out conservative relativism can get you accused of being a relativist yourself, but only because that identifies your opposite belief as liberal and conservatives associate liberalism with postmodernism.  Conservatives need to stop basing their beliefs on what their opponent believes and find out in objective terms what they actually believe themselves.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity

Baucis, the Bible, and the Bab

There’s a story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses that should be familiar to readers of the Bible:

The gods Zeus and Hermes come to a town disguised as ordinary peasants, looking for a place to stay.  Everybody in the town rejects them except for an elderly couple, Baucis and Philemon, who let them stay in their modest house for the night.  While dining there, the gods miraculously replenish the food supply, which reveals their divine identity to their mortal hosts.  Zeus determines to destroy the inhospitable town and warns the couple to follow the gods into the mountains without looking back.

You probably thought I was going to compare this to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, but actually there’s a much closer, more direct Biblical reference in the Book of Acts:

In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothesand rushed out into the crowd, shouting:  “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.  In the past, he let all nations go their own way.  Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”  Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.  But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

Acts 14:8-20

While the account in Acts can be easily understood without any knowledge of Greek mythology, knowing the story of Baucis and Philemon illuminates the passage beyond just explaining why the crowd assumed Paul and Barnabas were those two specific gods.  Both are hospitality narratives (as is the story of Lot in Sodom, see also Ezekiel 16:49), but the New Testament narrative is the complete opposite of the Greek myth.  Paul and Barnabas, unlike the gods for which they are mistaken, receive a celebratory welcome in Lystra so long as they are believed to be divine.  Once the crowd concludes they’re not really gods, however, the hospitality ends.  The Greek story’s moral is to show hospitality to all, similar to the author of Hebrews saying, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (13:2).”  From Acts, however, we learn this practice is morally useless unless we show kindness regardless of who the other person is, or even who we think they are.  This demonstrates a common writing technique of the period, framing a new narrative around an old one to show the new one’s superiority.

Critics like to point out the story of Baucis and Philemon to discredit hospitality stories in the Bible like Sodom and Gomorrah as fiction.  This episode in Acts, however, brings up several points that the critics often overlook.  First, the narrative is deliberately framed around the known myth, yet is entirely plausible as an actual event, showing the latitude that a writer could take in balancing allusion with historical accuracy.  Furthermore, it demonstrates that Biblical authors were well aware of Greek mythology.

A barrier to most readers today is that we’re more familiar with Sodom and Gomorrah than with Baucis and Philemon.  People today tend to erroneously see this as newly discovered information which disrupts the traditionally held view of Christianity.  The author of Luke-Acts, however, refers to both Sodom and Zeus with no crisis of faith, because to his audience this was common knowledge.  People 2,000 years ago were generally more familiar with Greek mythology than people are today, so literary similarities in themselves were not seen as a barrier.  When presented with Greco-Roman or Near Eastern parallels as an attempt to disprove the Bible, Christians should keep in mind that all of this information has been in circiulation for thousands of years and was not unknown to the original Biblical audience.  Literary similarities in and of themselves do not detract from the historicity of a narrative.

Despite centuries of critical methods addressing such similarities, the modern skeptic tends to resort to a lazy dismissal of the Bible.  Ignoring analytical schools like mimesis, genre or form criticism, and other literary approaches, these skeptics instead tend to reach an intellectual stopping point as if it were the end of the discussion.  If Samson resembles Hercules or Moses is similar to Marduk in any way, then even the possibility  that this might have been intentional yet could still be true doesn’t seem remote to them.  Ironically, although they may claim the Bible is a work of fiction, they don’t really criticize it like a literary work.  This closed-minded approach is even sillier when we consider that people today still relate history to previous history and even legend.  Reporters who connect Kate Middleton with Cinderella are considered creative, not ahistorical.  Every dictator or political opponent will always be compared to Hitler.  When history repeats, as it often does, parallels are an inevitability.

The Baha’i Faith has a fascinating example of this in their definitive-but-not-authoritative account of the life of the Báb, the Dawn-Breakers.  The author, Nabíl, clearly tries to highlight parallels to the crucifixion in his account of the martyrdom of the founder of their religion in 1850.  Events from praying with his disciples and announcing his death the night before, appearing before multiple tribunals, even being bound with nails and ropes for the firing squad, is deliberately reminiscent of the passion of Christ.  He even imitates the darkness covering the land, claiming that “the smoke of the firing of the seven hundred and fifty rifles was such as to turn the light of the noonday sun into darkness.”  While he does take some liberties in telling this story, as it’s not a “pure” history, all of these events are nevertheless verified historical fact.  Nabíl’s agenda is obviously to highlight apparent parallels in the life of Christ, but no sane critic would conclude that the death of the Báb was a myth simply because its story was too similar to Christianity.

Philemon and Baucis by Rembrandt van Rijn

Philemon and Baucis by Rembrandt van Rijn

1 Comment

June 12, 2012 · 6:38 am

Why Islam Offends the West

It’s no secret that Islam is incompatible with Western values.  Even overlooking the character deficiencies of Islam’s prophet–a mass-murderer, thief, slave-trader, rapist, pedophile, and terrorist–the religion’s values are in conflict with Western sensibilities on a fundamental level.  Interestingly, the non-religious are often offended by Islam for the very same reasons as Christians, even if they don’t acknowledge that this difference in culture is due to Christianity.

Modesty

Follow any internet discussion about the burqa or Muslim headscarves, and somebody will eventually always suggest the Muslim men should cover themselves rather than the women.  This suggestion may not even come from a Christian, but the idea behind it is certainly derived from Western society’s Judeo-Christian background:

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.   Matthew 5:28-29

The burqa and other compulsory head coverings offend Western sensibilities because we’ve taught that men are personally responsibility for their behavior, regardless of the temptation, whether inadvertent or intentional.  In Islam, however, the woman ultimately bears responsibility for causing temptation whether she means to or not.  The only defense of the burqa that has ever gained popularity in the West is if the woman claims to feel empowered by wearing it out of her own free will, but this ultimately misses the whole point about a garment designed more to protect men with little willpower from facing temptation.  These women may explain how being completely covered protects them from  being sexually harassed by passing men on the street, but this is again a problem caused by the Muslim male, not the female.  Western Civilization expects its men to be disciplined, self-controlled, and respectful, to the point of hyperbolic blindness.  There is no reason why the Muslim man should seem helpless to restrain himself from jeering, groping, or raping just because he sees a woman’s face, arms, or legs, when men in the West are perfectly able to behave respectfully and decently.  If Islam is the only reason why self-control is in such short supply among Muslim men, then Islam is conclusively an inferior ideology.

Public Displays of Worship

From public Christmas decorations to prayer in public schools, the West is often offended by religion in public, but this isn’t necessarily exclusive to the anti-religious.  The post-Christian heresies of the modern atheist are still very much rooted in Christian principles, and the disdain for public displays of worship can be traced back to Christ’s teachings on hypocrisy:

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  Matthew 6:6

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”  Matthew 6:16

Whatever the religious persuasion, Westerners tend to view displays of piety with suspicion and mistrust.  We see religion as a personal issue partly because when we see it in public we see it as an ingenuous cry for attention.  Islamic  culture, on the contrary, has no concept of private worship, rather believers are expected to be seen in the community performing salat and not seen eating during Ramadan.  Muslims who develop a “prayer bump” on their foreheads are respected as devout members of the community.  Islam demands public visibility of one’s faith, yet sadly has no safeguards to prevent hypocrisy.

Childhood

Dutch psychologist Nicolai Sennels identifies that Muslims, particularly men, start out with more relaxed freedom in childhood, which is then curtailed as they grow older.  Girls, for instance, do not need to wear burqas, but they do when they reach puberty.  Eventually, even the decision of their marriage is outside of their control when they enter into adulthood.  This is the complete opposite of Western parenting, where children gradually acquire freedoms as they mature.  What Sennels may not have noticed, though, is how these are both related to each culture’s theological beliefs on sin.  Western culture has been shaped by the doctrine of Original Sin, or in simplest terms, the reality-based idea that children are born imperfect with the tendency to do wrong.  Islam, on the other hand, teaches that children are born sinless and acquire sin as they grow older.  This difference in parenting style results in an individual completely at odds with the Western mindset.  When Muslims act infantile, it is the result of an upbringing that raises boys into babies instead of men.

Turning the Other Cheek

Without fail, whenever a harmless cartoon is published or even if a Qur’an is unintentionally burned, it will result in worldwide Islamic protests, riots, and the deaths of non-Muslims.  Even non-Chrstiains can be heard telling Muslims to turn the other cheek when they react with such disproportionate violence, but this is futile because Islam has no such concept.

O you who have believed, prescribed for you is legal retribution for those murdered – the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But whoever overlooks from his brother anything, then there should be a suitable follow-up and payment to him with good conduct. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. But whoever transgresses after that will have a painful punishment.  Surah 2:178

[Fighting in] the sacred month is for [aggression committed in] the sacred month, and for [all] violations is legal retribution. So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is with those who fear Him.  Surah 2:194

And We ordained for them therein a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds is legal retribution. But whoever gives [up his right as] charity, it is an expiation for him. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.  Surah 5:45

And the retribution for an evil act is an evil one like it, but whoever pardons and makes reconciliation – his reward is [due] from Allah . Indeed, He does not like wrongdoers.  Surah 42:40

Retaliation is a legal obligation in Islam, the exception being when the victim opts for monetary compensation instead, the “expiation” and “reconciliation” mentioned above, which is not actually forgiveness.  Even if one accepted the incorrect explanations of an apologist, and disregarded the vast majority of Muslim scholars, that these exceptions are comparable to turning the other cheek, Western values are still in conflict with Muhammad commanding followers to repay evil with evil in the first place.  It’s laughable to imagine Jesus Christ saying “repay evil for evil except when you turn the other cheek”, and this predictably explains just why, if given the choice, Muslims always retaliate with evil instead of forgiving.  Anybody raised to believe that these were both morally equivalent choices would elect the most despicable of the two every time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Islam

Evolve

Last year’s Family Guy episode titled “Big Bang Theory” (no relation to the show of the same name) left me scratching my head.  In the story, Brian and Stewie end up outside the space-time continuum after some mishaps with Stewie’s time machine.  After successfully getting back to reality, Stewie determines that the energy he created to free them must have been the cause of the Big Bang, concluding that he must have been put there by the universe to create it.  While this plot could just be attributed to a difference in writers, it still seems unusual coming from series creator and outspoken atheist Seth McFarlane’s creations.  Assuming an intelligence creating the universe is closely theistic, and since no sympathetic depiction of theism ever slips through on Family Guy, this leads me to believe it’s merely the result of a recent trend in atheism.

Stewie and Brian outside the time-space continuum

Stewie and Brian outside the time-space continuum

As much as the New Atheists are opposed to creationism or intelligent design, it’s fascinating how much they seem to believe in an intelligence behind the universe while rejecting an intelligent designer.  Atheist leaders like Sam Harris argue that religion is a vestigial product of evolution that is no longer beneficial to society, which is a value-judgment ironically counter to evolutionary theory.  His followers persistently tell theists to “evolve”, and their definition of evolution is a one-track ascent of man which conveniently leads to their ideology as the ultimate end.  For starters, the entire concept of telling someone to “evolve” out of their own volition is completely unscientific, the equivalent of telling a leopard to change its spots.  Every individual organism would already be at the height of its evolution, after all, and nothing it does can change that.  Next, evolutionarily speaking, one organism is not “more” or “less” evolved than another; concepts of regression or progression are value judgments that only have meaning to man.  The term “de-evolution” is a misnomer, nature is indifferent to which organisms or ideologies ought to reproduce, survival of the fittest is merely the result of the thinning of the herd.

While completely in line with evolutionary theory, these facts are difficult for the New Atheist to swallow.  Just as Sam Harris is seemingly incapable of understanding that science can only tell us how the world is, not how it ought to be, so his followers generally perceive expressing these facts as moralizing.  For instance, atheists generally respond by being insulted when I factually explain to them that the birth-rate of liberals is insufficient to replace the current generation, and that conservatives will marginalize them by virtue of reproducing more frequently.  Mathematically, the side that discourages abortion and promotes heterosexual marriage for procreation has a natural advantage over the side that has non-procreative sex and abortions; this is indisputable scientific fact.  Ironically, the ones destined to prevail generally don’t even believe in evolution, whereas the ideology that does will find themselves the lesser suited for survival.  The scientific solution is for liberals to simply start having more children, yet almost reluctantly they always seem to argue that the conservatives ought to change their beliefs or have fewer offspring.  In other words, they respond to morally neutral facts with moral judgments.  However, they don’t see their recommendations for what they really are–social engineering or selective breeding–they see their ideology as the destined course of human development, presupposing intelligence behind evolution, as if godless nature favors the atheist.  It is an audacious value judgment to assume one’s own ideology is more “evolved” than another, especially when it really has no evolutionary adantages over competing ideas.

Evolutionarily, Islam is the memeplex most suited to dominate the world.  Allowing up to four sexually submissive wives per husband with no legal abortions and starting to conceive very early in life, its birth rate is automatically enabled to be quadruple that of the most sexually active fertile couple.  Its hostile suppression of homosexuality ensures no attrition lost to same-sex intercourse, and the few gays executed under sharia law are more than offset by the millions pressured to marry and produce more anti-gay progeny for fear of their life.  Furthermore, Islam punishes dissenters and apostates with the death penalty and forbids other religions from proselytizing, ultimately ensuring 100% homogenization.  This is just statistical and scientific fact, I am not celebrating the memetic superiority of Islam.  The New Atheists, however, usually cannot understand my describing how the world is in comparison to how it ought to be.  Stating such facts is not bragging about Islam, nor is it suggesting that one should convert to the religion best positioned for world domination.

As a Christian, I can acknowledge the Islamic practices that give that religion an unfair advantage and also denounce them.  The scientific solution, after all, would be for non-Muslims to start taking more than four wives and likewise punishing gays and dissenters severely, but that would not be the moral solution.  Christianity may not be at a reproductive advantage over Islam, but I can still believe it is a morally superior ideology that should not be compromised, and must nonetheless succeed against overwhelming odds.  It is not how the world is by nature, but it is, in my belief, how the world ought to be, and that gives me the moral ground to spread and promote faith in Christ.  The atheists usually agree with me that Islam taking over the world would be a bad thing, although they’re at a loss to explain why.  The New Atheist, after all, has no authority, moral or otherwise, to defend why their reproductively inferior ideology should persevere over Islam or Christianity.  They may think of themselves as more intellectual, ethical, social, etc. than theists, but no law says nature must favor these qualities.  Sometimes stronger organisms survive over smarter ones, but if whatever survives is the product of evolution then who are we to say that gorillas ought to triumph over leopards?  Why should nature favor atheists?  Or why should humans survive, for that matter?  The very people who believe in evolution could, ironically, die out completely and whoever remained would still be the product of evolution.  The atheists who presumptuously think of themselves as the peak of evolutionary development cannot justify their own survival unless they assume some underlying intelligence behind evolution.

The simple value judgments that atheists make about the world, themselves, and others indicates that they don’t genuinely subscribe to their soulless ideology as strictly as they might claim.  Their belief that the world ought to be improving as a natural process is an assumption of intelligent design.  If atheists were to truly divorce their enlightenment fundamentalism from its theistic roots, their idea of how the world ought to be would be drastically different, but it would not be a tenable worldview.  Any worldview must rely on value judgments, after all, which are entirely outside of the domain of science.  Atheistic materialism is a failed philosophy, because philosophy is immaterial.  As much as they may want to keep Intelligent Design out of science classes, the atheist would be unable to relate to the world without an assumed intelligent order behind it all, whether they acknowledge that as God or not.

Leave a comment

Filed under Atheism, Islam

The Top 5 Misconceptions that Atheists and Muslims Believe about Christianity

It’s no big secret that atheists on the left have taken Islam in under their wing.  The loudest voice of Islamic apologetics in the West comes not from Muslims themselves, but from secularists whose pro-feminist, pro-choice, pro-gay ideologies seem in conflict with the religion of Islam.  Yet although their conclusions may differ, many of their assumptions are surprisingly similar, particular when they pertain to Christianity.

Both Islam and secular atheism are post-Christian ideologies.  Today’s new atheists descend from predominately Christian societies, never arising in Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. cultures.  They resent their parent Judeo-Christian ideology as much as Muslims resent Jews and Christians.  In coming to their post-Christian conclusions, they operate under several common assumptions.  Ironically, in trying so hard not to believe Christianity, what they end up believing about Christianity is demonstrably false.  While there are certainly many more commonalities, the Top 5 that I’ve identified are:

1.  Paul changed the Christian message from the teachings of Christ to the religion we know today.

This assumption appeals to Muslims because they want to believe Jesus was a prophet but not the Son of God and definitely not God.  Muhammad never mentioned Paul either way, but using him as a scapegoat for the deification of the prophet Jesus has been a convenient way to reduce Jesus to just a man.  For this same reason, it appeals to atheists who don’t have the audacity to deny a historical Jesus altogether, but need a reason to explain how Jesus the moral teacher became Jesus the Lord and Savior.  At first glance, it does seem like a legitimate question.  Flipping through the New Testament from the Gospels into the Pauline Epistles, one will certainly notice the difference in Paul’s tone and writing.

But the reality is, the chronological narrative of our New Testament is not the same as the literary chronology.  The Gospels were written well after the conversion of Paul, when his epistles were already in circulation.  Luke was originally combined with Acts, so the accounts of Paul and Christ were always connected.  There never was a church with a scriptural tradition that did not accept them both.  Many people erroneously believe that Paul never quotes Christ, but that’s just not true (in fact, Paul references a lot of material in Matthew that I’ll cover at a later time).  If one was going to try to make this argument, they simply couldn’t do it with the present canon, which brings us up to the 2nd myth:

2.  Books that belonged in the Bible were removed in the Nicene Council.

The theological differences between the Qur’an and the New Testament are too big to be blamed solely on Paul.  The injil (gospel) referenced in the Qur’an cannot be the same as the Gospels in the Bible, since Muhammad never quotes the canonical Jesus and rejects both the crucifixion and the resurrection.  On the other hand, Muhammad does quote non-canonical sources like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (Qur’an 3:49, 19:29) and the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (Qur’an 19:22).  It’s a reasonable conclusion for Muslims to conclude that their “real” gospel isn’t in the Bible at all, and atheists like this assumption because it suggests the religion of Christianity as we know it today is actually just derived from a piecemeal collection of texts unrelated to the original message.

For reasons I can never figure out, these critics always seem to point to the Council of Nicaea as the point when the allegedly corrupted canon was settled.  This in itself is easily refuted because the Nicene Council had nothing to do with canonization, but what about these “other” gospels?  This argument really doesn’t help the Muslims because they agree with the Jesus in these non-canonical books even less than they do with the one in the Gospels.  Of all the heterodox sexts in the first Christian centuries–gnosticism, sabellianism, arianism, basilidianism, etc.–none of them concur with Islamic theology, let alone Islamic Christology.  Ironically, the book that does seem to be an agenda-driven mixed bag of various sources is actually the Qur’an.  The books of the New Testament were acknowledged by the Church Fathers (Clement, Eusebius, Ireneaus) well before the 4th century, and aside from some questionable works like the Shepherd of Hermas, 1 Clement, or the Epistle of Barnabus that fell into disuse, the canon as we know it today has persisted through history intact.  Contrary to what atheists seem to think, Christians don’t just believe everything that’s written.  Unable to diminish the integrity of the canon, the only recourse left is to question the accurateness of the existing canon.

3.  There are too many versions of the Bible to know what it really means anymore.

Muslims don’t really want to throw out the Gospels altogether.  They do like to claim that the Paraclete in the Gospel of John is a prophecy of the coming of Muhammad, but they don’t like the Christological content in the rest of John.  Their solution is to argue that the Bible has been copied and translated too many times too many times to be reliable anymore.  The ones who really know nothing about manuscript evidence or translation just say there are too many versions of the Bible and leave it at that.

This works very well for Muslims, because the majority of Muslims have never read any version of the Bible anyway; for that matter, half of all Muslims are illiterate and have never read the Qur’an either.  In some Muslim countries you can get a reduced prison sentence by memorizing the Qur’an in Arabic, even if you don’t understand Arabic.  For Muslims, the Qur’an is a book forever locked in Arabic; the entire Muslim world translate fewer books than small countries like Spain, so most Muslims have no exposure to translations of any literature at all, and don’t understand that in the English language, translations of the Qur’an are just as divergent as translations of the Bible.  On the other side, most atheists that I’ve talked to have never read either book, but of course, it’s easy to dismiss a book you’ve never actually read; it’s much more difficult to read it and base your conclusions off that.  Thanks to the internet, however, anybody could compare any Bible verse of any translation and see that for the most part (except for, say, the Joseph Smith “Inspired” Translation or the Jehovah’s Witness’s New World Translation), they all say the same thing.  Those that don’t really have no excuse.

4.  Christianity spread through Colonialism.

It’s astounding how many atheists I’ve encountered who don’t know that the Coptic Christian community in Egypt or the Roman Catholic community in Iraq pre-dated Islam.  Even if they’re aware, they’re prone to take the Muslim viewpoint that Christianity is the intruder in Muslim territory.  Rejecting all historical evidence to the contrary, both generally blame colonialism and European occupation for spreading Christianity.

Of course, they conveniently ignore Islamic conquest and occupation that can attribute to the presence of Islam in territories such as India-Pakistan.  But while empires and armies are a small contributing factor to the spread of a religion, the history and the facts just don’t support this claim about Christianity.  It’s funny that Muslims can accept 19th century conspiracy theories such as Jesus Christ dying a natural death in India (while at the same time they reject this theory’s proponent, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as a heretic), yet they can’t accept the natural migration of Christianity.  Much of that is due to the Islamic complex that can’t understand anyone in their right mind converting from Islam.  Atheists like to believe this myth just because they find Christian proselytizing in the West annoying, but Muslims believe it for much more menacing reasons.  Muslims feel irrationally threatened by anyone practicing another religion in an Islamic country (don’t believe it?  just look at Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, etc.), but as long as they can frame the other religion as the remnant of a perceived occupation, then adherents of this religion are valid targets (seen as “oppressors” despite being the minority).  Sadly, even though Christians are one of the most persecuted minorities in Muslim countries, you won’t find much sympathy for them from the modern atheist.

5.  Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Atheists usually don’t care about the major differences between religions since they view them all as superstitions.  Thus it’s no big deal for them to accept the Muslim position that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God.  When members of other religions criticize the god of the Qur’an, Muslims love this canned response because it gives the appearance of inclusion and tolerance.  But as always in Islam, tolerance is on the Muslim’s terms.

Their response isn’t actually inclusive because it doesn’t acknowledge any truth to Christianity.  Rather, Islam is a syncretism of beliefs, so in reality this is a claim of exclusivism, because it only enables Christians to share the god of Muhammad on Islamic terms.   One really has to ignore that Muslims don’t worship Jesus as God, or believe in his death or resurrection, which are the essence of the Christian faith.  Muslims also are never willing to accept that they worship the same god as Bahai’s, because the Baha’i Faith redefines Islam the same way Islam redefines Christianity.

What’s really unusual is that some will hold to all of these myths even though they can’t all be true at the same time; who “invented” Christianity, Paul or the Nicene Council?  That’s really no surprise to me, I’ve heard atheists reject religion because of the problem of evil in the world in one breath and then in the next breath claim religion is a crutch to deal with the problems of life.  For Muslims, promoting these myths is usually from ignorance; just as Muhammad was not a scholar, most Muslims will never study any of Christian history themselves.  For atheists, these Islamic myths are a simple way to dismiss Christianity.  Although they don’t believe Islam either, the way Islam redefines Christianity is appealing to them: Jesus Christ is just a good man, the Apostle Paul is wrong, the Bible is unreliable, and Christianity is a forceful invader oppressing poor and defenseless Muslims.  Of course, they’ll also tell you that Muslims are just as bad as Christians, so at the end of the day, they really only support Muslims when Muslims oppose Christianity.  Since neither side is engaged in any research to uncover the truth, it will be up to Christians to be knowledgeable about the facts.

6 Comments

Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Islam

Enlightenment Fundamentalism

On the 8th season premiere of Family Guy titled “Road to the Multiverse”, characters Brian and Stewie, both voiced by outspoken atheist and series creator Seth McFarlane, visit several alternate realities, including an advanced utopian world where it is said Christianity never existed, resulting in an absence of the Dark Ages.  While the show has always been more renowned for its potty and fart jokes than its relevant social commentary, this below-the-belt jab at Christianity reflects an increasing trend in the atheistic revision of world history.  Christianity alone is the scapegoat for the pejoratively-named Middle Ages, and it is assumed that atheism would have advanced and saved humanity if only people had listened to reason.  Non-Christian societies, even atheist ones, are not equally held accountable for their lack of progress, which ironically, is often lagging behind Christian society.

Although Family Guy is a humorous cartoon, this myth is actually taken seriously by many people today.  The “new” atheism of Richard Dawkins has proven to be more than simply non-religious, but specifically anti-Christian.  They like to think of themselves as “enlightened” although they don’t actually mean this term in the spiritual sense that it suggests.  Their enlightenment is derived not from nonviolent Buddhism, but from the 18th century Age of Reason which led to the bloody Reign of Terror.  What this reveals is that the new atheism is purely a product of Western Civilization, and holds a revisionary concept of its history.  After all, the atheist is quick to point out the violent histories of religions, but will rarely acknowledge or even admit the violence in the history of atheism.  LIke 19th century Reconstructionist heretics, such as Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, who avoid having to explain the dark periods in Christian history by simply rejecting it, so the new atheist has created their own historical reconstruction ignorant of actual history.  One such example is how atheists frequently quote Marx’s famous “religion is the opiate of the masses”, while ignoring the application of this credo that brought  the human rights violations of Stalin’s anti-religious purges in Soviet Russia.  And just as these proto-fundamentalist splinters of Christianity paved the way for 20th century fundamentalism, so now the new atheists have become Enlightenment Fundamentalists.

The Enlightenment Fundamentalist holds Christianity responsible for impeding all social, scientific, and intellectual progress, even though in most cases the reverse is actually true.  They commonly believe that religion is the only reason for opposition to abortion, while ignoring that anti-religious governments like Communist Romania had the most hostile policies against abortion in history.  Still, like many of their pet causes, they focus disproportionate time and energy to promote abortion in countries where it’s already legal.  Listening only to the modern atheist, one would be led to believe that gay rights had already been championed everywhere else in the world except for Christian-majority nations.  The reality, however, is that gay rights were pioneered almost exclusively in Judeo-Christian countries.  Predominately Hindu India only just decriminalized homosexuality in 2009.  Israel is the only non-Muslim nation in the Middle East, and also the only one where sodomy is not illegal, while its Muslim neighbors all have severe penalties including death and dismemberment.  Even the largest atheist nation, China, has harsher anti-gay policies than the “moral majority” United States.  Russia was fairly tolerant of homosexuality while they had religious freedom, but when Stalin came to power he purged religion and also imposed anti-sodomy laws that stayed on the books until 1993, repealed only after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  While gay rights advocates celebrate the repeal of DADT in the US, mostly nonreligious and atheist South Korea still punishes gays in the military for “mutual rape” with one year prison sentences.  If the Enlightenment Fundamentalist insists Christianity is holding back human progress, one should ask them why the atheists are still trailing behind the Christians.

As a product of Western Civilization, Secular Humanism is in fact a Christian heresy, not dissimilar to how Buddhism is the atheist heresy of Hinduism.  Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses have resentment for their parent ideology, and likewise Enlightenment Fundamentalists have strong resentment towards Christianity.  Also like most heresies, it reaches its conclusions through extreme addition or subtraction of its source.  Its subtractive quality is the reduction of monotheism by one, whereas its additive properties are evidenced in how most of its ideals and virtues are simply Christian principles taken to radical extremes.  Although admittedly in contrast to how it is sometimes practiced, Christianity was a religion founded on logic and reason, and the abuses and hypocrisies often identified with religion by atheists were actually addressed in its Scriptures.  A strength of atheism has been that unlike a religion, it is not a codified belief system with universal expectations; the moral shortcomings of the Soviet Union or the Khmer Rouge don’t reflect on all atheists in the same way that atheists like to hold all of Christianity responsible for equally isolated events like the Inquisition or the Crusades.  However, this lack of uniformity or orthodoxy has also proven to be a weakness that Enlightenment Fundamentalism seeks to remedy.

The Good Book: A Humanist Bible is the latest in an endless stream of publications to try to create an atheistic alternative to the Bible.  Although praised as audacious and unprecedented, in reality it was neither.  Casual browsing reveals that such a book is published about once or twice each year, and the material it includes is not as shocking or telling as the material it deliberately attempts to omit.  In trying to create a book of virtues, wisdom, history, and philosophy sanitized of religious influence, it has demonstrated a level of denial almost comparable to book burning.  While many atheists erroneously believe that Christianity suppresses alternate ideas or opinions, the irony is that these attempts to create an atheist worldview ultimately result in purging any mention of religion just like Stalin did.  All of the contents of the Humanist Bible have existed concurrently with Christianity, some of the authors like Sir Isaac Newton were in fact renowned for their faith, but you wouldn’t know that from reading through the atheists filters.  Christianity has supported secular history and ideas, but it seems the reverse is not the case.  While Enlightenment Fundamentalists have tried to make themselves synonymous with “freethinkers”, they seem more threatened by exposure to conflicting ideas than even the most cloistered monks.  Richard Dawkins goes so far as to suggest religious education of minors is child abuse, and some radicals call for the ban of all religion.

Enlightenment Fundamentalism seems to be becoming the very things atheists have criticized in religions, particularly Christianity.  Rather than supporting a true free market of ideas, it is trying to eradicate all those opposed.  It’s science is absolute, even when unproven.  For instance, Lady Gaga’s song, Born This Way, has become the new accepted theory of sexual orientation; even though science has yet to actually prove it, any dissent is unorthodox.  Steven Levitt’s abortion/crime rate connection in Freakonomics was debunked as statistical manipulation by the Wall Street Journal, yet the pro-choice movement was mostly unaffected, ignoring any science contrary to their pre-determined worldview.  Like some of the religious people they judge, what they choose to believe is more important than actual facts.

But most telling are their interpretive methods of Scripture, which like many Christian heresies, has simply taken bad hermeneutics to the extreme.  The Enlightenment Fundamentalist usually comes to atheistic conclusions not through just ignoring or disbelieving the Scriptures like traditional atheism, but actually going so far as to interpret the Bible more literally than even the most literalist fundamentalist Christians.  The infamous Skeptic’s Annotated Bible is written entirely from a hyper-literalist perspective, which expects its reader to suspend all literary understanding in Scripture.  There really are very few differences in approach to Scripture between an Enlightenment Fundamentalist and a Creationist; both insist the Genesis account of creation must be literal, the Enlightenment Fundamentalist just uses their literalism to dismiss all theism.  But they go even further, interpreting non-narrative works the same as narrative, and overlooking poetic license.  For instance, citing apparent contradictions Gospels apart can be seen as a reasonable attempt to question or discredit scriptural accuracy, but citing consecutive contradictory statements in the same book or passage, such as Proverbs 26:4-5, makes the critic look completely illiterate for failing to recognize an obvious and deliberate poetic device.  Atheists, Mormons, and Christian fundamentalists are actually all descended from the same flawed hermeneutical school of thought, yet ironically Christian fundamentalists and Mormons do have a (marginally) more literary approach to Scripture than Enlightenment Fundamentalists.

Brian and Stewie in “Road to the Multiverse”

2 Comments

Filed under Atheism