Monthly Archives: April 2011

Weekend Ruminations #1

I have a bat habit of thinking of random things to blog about, but never actually blogging about them. In the interest of getting those thoughts out to the world, I’m beginning a series I’ll call “Weekend Ruminations,” where I’ll blog about random things that popped into my head throughout the week that I wanted to briefly talk about.

ITEM THE FIRST:

While I was at Target yesterday, I noticed a couple with a pre-teen son in the checkout line with a board game-size box labeled “Creationary.” Instantly, I began wondering whether it was related to creationism, and why Target would be selling something like that. As it turns out, it’s really a sort of Lego Pictionary, where the player picks a category, builds something in that category, and challenges others to guess what it is.

Nevertheless, this got me thinking: there has to be a whole industry out there full of companies that do nothing but make toys for the children of fundamentalist Christians. Back when I was a hardcore believer, I played a collectible card game called Redemption – sort of a Magic: The Gathering for bible-thumpers. It’s made by a company that also makes Bible Taboo, Apples to Apples: Bible Edition, and dozens of other Christianized versions of of otherwise secular games. This leads me to wonder: which companies that I frequently buy from are spending some of that money to promote nonsense like this? I know all about companies like Chic-Fil-A, but who else is getting rich off of lying to children?

ITEM THE SECOND:

I’m originally from a smallish town in Michigan. Lately, some pretty scary stuff has been going down in Michigan; i.e., the Republican-led state government has instituted a policy which allows an “emergency” financial manager to fire elected officials and abolish the charter of a town as is deemed necessary. This policy has existed in a much more limited form for a long time; essentially, the financial manager could step in to solve a city’s budget crisis and would then leave. Now, the party of small, decentralized government is doing its best to promote taxation without representation and use the power of a centralized government to strong-arm city governments to its will.

First target: Benton Harbor, a poor, majority African American city. This city is being targeted by a land developer who wants to take over the public beach and turn it into part of a country club where the annual membership fee is about half of the average annual income of $10,000. The law which expanded the powers of the financial planner was sponsored in the Michigan House of Representatives by the Representative for Benton Harbor.

(Well… sort of. It may be the case that Rachel Maddow, as seen in the clip above, is excluding a few key facts about the story. But even with the corrections I just linked to, the real story is still crazy.)

ITEM THE THIRD:

It’s Easter, a holiday you may know as Ostara, or the Festival of the Goddess Ēostre, or any of a number of other Pagan or Egyptian festivals noting the return of spring and the associated celebration of fertility. Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, an event which… well, to put it bluntly, isn’t supported by any contemporary accounts from outside of the Bible, and which was apparently accompanied by events which damn well should have been noticed by some historian or another. Funny that the Jerusalem Zombie Invasion somehow evaded notice.

Wrapping up the Alpha course

Over the past few months, I’ve been a participant in a local Alpha course at a mini-megachurch in our area (i.e., a church with about 2,200 members). Alpha is a program aimed at arming Christians with a knowledge of the foundation and tenets of Christian belief. At least, that’s the intended goal; what I experienced was more along the lines of “a bunch of confused multi-denominational Christians who have no idea what the Bible actually says being forced to listen to hour-long lectures from a charming British pastor and engaging in discussions dominated by the course leader and an atheist (me) with more knowledge of Christian doctrine than anyone present.”

I was bored. So sue me.

I’ve been remiss in that I haven’t been blogging about this as it’s gone along, but I’ve got plenty of notes and recordings to review for when I finally do go about describing the experience. In any case, tomorrow night we’ll be having a dinner to wrap up the whole series. I wonder if they’ll be disappointed that I’m still unconvinced… not only that, but that I’m even more convinced than ever that the arguments for Christianity are useless. It just reminded me of all the reasons I started to lose my faith in the first place, and how utterly unsatisfying the apologetics really are.

Another atheist by the name of Stephen Butterfield has also attended an Alpha course and blogged about his experience. He went into great detail about both the subjects covered and the discussions he had; I highly recommend reading the whole series of posts if you’re interested in this sort of thing.

More on Frank Turek

The following are pulled pretty much verbatim from the notes I took during Frank Turek’s talk back on the 11th of this month. There was a lot more that I objected to about what Frank said – largely, his misrepresentation of the state of our current scientific understanding of things – but I couldn’t possibly write it all down fast enough. So… here goes.

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Christianity and Contraception: Strange bedfellows?

Christian doctrine has a very strange relationship with contraception.

According to Genesis, the very first order man ever received from God was to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” This is in Genesis 1:28, literally a single verse after mankind came into existence.

Then we have Hell. Hell is a place where “the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:47-48) I’ve been told by Christian apologists that there is supposedly an “age of reason”, defined by the Bible, at which point a child can be blamed for its sins, and thus before this point the child is guaranteed a spot in Heaven. It seems to me that the logical conclusion of a belief in a literal Hell of this sort, combine with the idea that life (and thus, soul implantation) begins at conception would be to kill your children at as early a point in their lives as you possibly could!

And yet, we see great resistance from (mostly conservative) Christians on the subject of abortion. The idea is that every fertilized egg is a potential life, and that snuffing it out would be violating that first order from God. Forget that doing so would ensure that the fetus had a place in Heaven. Somehow, it’s more important to allow a child to be born, reach the age of reason, and decide to become a follower of Jesus. It’s apparently more important to allow for the possibility that a soul be damned to suffer in Hell.

All of this is based on a specific definition of “contraception,” of course. Among conservative Christians, there’s little differentiation between “preventing pregnancy” and “terminating pregnancy.” This is why you’ll frequently see “abstinence-only” education promoted; for these folks, abortion and condoms are pretty much the same thing. Any options you choose that would prevent a baby from being born are essentially the same thing.

From a secular perspective, it’s easy to understand why a religion would be so strongly in favor of creating as many children as possible. They’ve got to grow their numbers, and the easiest way to do that is through reproduction. No surprise, then, that Mormon churches tend to be about 50% children…

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be a Fan of Circular Reasoning

Frank Turek, professional Christian apologist, founder of the Cross Examined website, and co-author of the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, recently paid a visit to the University at Albany to give a talk to the Impact Christian Fellowship on the evidence for the existence of the Christian god. I learned about his talk from a student on our local atheist meetup’s mailing list. Having read Frank’s book a while back, I figured it would be worth checking out.

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