The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

2004 March

Passion Chic

March 31, 2004 | 24 Comments

The film is the “most graphic portrayal of the beating and crucifixion of Jesus to date.” Indeed, some of its scenes are “graphic to the point of being gruesome” — showing “exactly how Jesus must have looked after being beaten, bloodied and broken, his beard plucked and his flesh hanging in ribbons from being whipped.” And yet it’s being marketed to youth groups, Sunday school classes and even elementary school students. Notwithstanding its violence the faithful are &”moved to tears&” by it, and its gore-caked message of “love” is so inspirational that this New York Press reviewer actually called it” the feel-good movie of the year.”

No, I’m not talking about The Passion. I’m talking about The Light of the World, by cranky comic book fundamentalist crackpot Jack Chick.

There are some superficial differences between Chick’s product and Gibson’s. Chick’s Light is not so much a movie as an art slide show. There’s no live action, just Ken Burns-style narration over a series of 360 oil paintings — fewer frames than there are in a single minute of the The Passion. But that’s where the dissimilarities end. Both movies preach that belief in Christ’s resurrection is the sole path to salvation, and that damnation awaits those who disagree. And while Chick’s rendering of the story has a Grimm’s fairy tale lunacy about it, Gibson’s Passion is chock-full of the same crazy magical comic book creatures: The Serpent, Mrs. Satan, and a Christ-avenging crow. If Chick painted the inside of Gibson’s head, it would look just like this:
chickpic1.jpg

Yet Jack Chick is regarded as a joke; he is, after all, cranky comic book fundamentalist crackpot hiding out in a Rancho Cucamonga basement churning out a zealous, fiery message of exclusion and hate. Part of it, I think, is that Chick has a particularized animus against Catholics and other groups which he expresses in colorful, politically incorrect terms. But Gibson’s view of the post-Vatican II is about the same and he thinks his own Protestant wife (and the Jews) are going to hell.

In sum, there is no difference between either message or either messenger. One is a cranky comic book fundamentalist crackpot, and the other is Jack Chick.
REMINDER: Don’t forget to enter the Atheist Jesus Poetry Contest! (Deadline for entries: Friday, April 2, 2004, 11:59 p.m. EST)

Kabbullshit

March 30, 2004 | 15 Comments

Kabbalah, according to this recent Newsday article, is the “Jewish philosophy [that] speaks to the big picture — and to the details of everyday life.” But, as the article describes there’s a growing rift between serious scholars who are trying to protect the meaning and dignity of Kabbalah, and those unscrupulous hucksters who are trying to capitalize on its celebrity chic to sell it to the unwashed masses. Shimon Shokek, professor of Jewish philosophy and Kabbalah at Baltimore Hebrew University is alarmed that notables such as Madonna, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are practicing Kabbalah, and is “not sure they are being taught the way it should be taught.” He’s “really sorry that it was popularized to that extent” and doesn’t “want to see Kabbalah as another mumbo jumbo.”

According to Shokek, Kabbalah is a “philosophical theology that seeks to understand the mystical dimensions of God, the deeper meaning of existence and being and the ways through which the human being can commune with God.” More particularly, he explains, it’s “based on the belief that every word, letter, number and accent of the Torah, or Five Books of Moses, contains keys to understanding the nature of the universe and the human soul.”

One need only take a peek at the First Book to see what he means. There, the omniscient deity instructs us that “unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech.” (Genesis 4:18). The words, letters, numbers and accents get deeper in Genesis 10:13, where “Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim.” And nothing could be more infused with meaning than Genesis 10:26: “Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazarmaveth, and Jerah.”

Yet con men such as Yehuda Berg — who is not a University Professor but directs Kabbalah centers in Manhattan, L.A. and six other cities — is deliberately misreading the letters, numbers and accents of the Torah (and mixing them with yoga or reiki) to make matters more palatable to the public. For example, Berg asserts that “[i]f you read correctly in the Bible, you see that Moses, not God, split the sea,” and accordingly suggests that the same mystical forces Moses harnessed can be used to “split our own red seas” — including anger, excessive ego and childhood trauma. But Orthodox Jewish Kabbalist Rabbi Shneur Wolowik, who has a proper beard and teaches at the distinguished Worldwide Chabad Lubavitch Resource Center in Brooklyn, issues this devastating retort: “When Torah says that God himself has created a strong, stern wind, and with that he split the Red Sea, who are we to say otherwise?”

Like Shokek, Wolowik disdains the mass marketing of Kabbalah. It’s a complex, sophisticated, nuanced, discipline capable of comprehension by only the greatest of human minds. Wolowik explains that he’s not “looking to convert others to Torah” but is simply teaching it to those who meet the almost impossible standards of his highly exclusive club: “we are looking to introduce those born to a Jewish mother to their heritage.”

One of Wolowik’s students, Paula Friedman, is an observant Jew who says she is using Kabbalah to “improve my praying.” She’s also learned that Jewish babies can be protected from spiritual harm by “a little red bendele” — a string worn around the wrist to insure that “no bad eye should harm you.” And yet because of the influence of pretenders like Berg, adults such as Britney Spears and Madonna are now wearing them. Berg claims, without substantiation, that the bendele “protects children and adults alike from “negativity from other people who are jealous and want our energy.”

It’s a shame that the once-respected intellectual property of academicians is being corrupted, diluted and fed to the populace like corn to swine. But it’s heartening that scholars such as Shokek and Wolowik are speaking up to set the record straight on how very serious Kabbalah truly is.
REMINDER: Don’t forget to enter the Atheist Jesus Poetry Contest! (Deadline for entries: Friday, April 2, 2004, 11:59 p.m. EST)

Jack Chick

March 30, 2004 | 10 Comments

Submitted by Sheila:

Is there an atheist or skeptical counterpart to pamphleteer Jack Chick?

God Squad Review LXXXII (Party Manners)

March 29, 2004 | 61 Comments

Is it good manners to tell a guest at a birthday party that he’s going to burn in hell for not believing that Jesus is the Messiah? That’s what a Jew, who got a scorching theological lecture from a friend of the devout Christian birthday girl, wants to know from the Squad. Not only was he assaulted with “rude, offensive, arrogant, xenophobic remarks” (which were somehow, nonetheless, not “loud or nasty”), but the zealot “made blatantly false statements about Judaism” and “was spreading lies to others at the table.”

Presumably the biggest “lie” about Judaism was that it was false, insofar as it declares Christianity to be false for accepting Jesus as the Messiah. In any event, the Squad’s response (my comments interspersed in boldface):

We’ve answered the question about who gets into heaven many times because it’s the one we get most often. Our take is that all good people go to heaven, either because they’re good (Marc’s version) or because they’re good and, even though they don’t know it, they have been saved by the atoning death and resurrection of Christ (Tom’s version). The notion of a God who’d keep Gandhi out of heaven is just too grotesque for us to contemplate.

As I noted here, the Squad nevertheless “respects and honors” the “grotesque” position, and Tom has repeatedly endorsed it.

However, you raise a slightly different issue: How should believing Christians behave in public? It was a violation of both good manners and theology for this guy to verbally assault you at the party. However, we don’t think it’s wrong for Christians to share the good news of the risen Christ with unbelievers. The problem is that Jews are not unbelievers, but are saved by a covenant made by God with the Jews forever.

Ah, so it’s only bad manners to assault Jews, because they’ve cut a special deal with God. Atheists are fair game. Actually, as I pointed out here, even the “hands-off” policy with respect to the Jews is only a couple of years old, and biblically speaking, is complete nonsense.

The best way to convey the good news of Jesus is to behave the way Jesus would have behaved, with compassion, love and respect. To boldly assert salvation lacks humility and to threaten people with damnation who are not Christians lacks both intelligence and theological authenticity.

Compassion, love, respect — and having a crow peck your eyes out if you doubt His divinity. It lacks intelligence, yes — but theologically, it’s as authentic as it gets.

REMINDER: Don’t forget to enter the Atheist Jesus Poetry Contest! (Deadline for entries: Friday, April 2, 2004, 11:59 p.m. EST)

Critic’s Choice

March 26, 2004 | 17 Comments

The reviews are all in, and the critics are unanimous: The Passion of the Christ is either (1) a very violent but moving depiction of the ultimate act of suffering and redemption or (2) a very violent, historically-inaccurate Bible story with mildly-to-extremely anti-Semitic overtones. So I’ve found virtually no one sharing my own view, set forth here and here, that the Passion is a thoroughly immoral, anti-human movie whose anti-Semitism is at best a minor symptom of a much bigger problem. However, this piece by Onkar Ghate of the Ayn Rand Institute comes close on a number of points:

When Diane Sawyer asked the film’s director and cowriter, Mel Gibson, who killed Jesus, he replied, “The big answer is, we all did. I’ll be the first in the culpability stakes here.” And as if to leave no doubt that this is his considered view, Gibson’s only on-screen appearance in the film is in the form of the hands that drive the nails into Jesus’ body.

It is frightening that so evil a message could receive so welcome a reception.

When charges of anti-Semitism, denied by the producers, surrounded the film before its opening, there was outrage from many circles. But when the principals behind the film tell us openly that its message is that not only Jews but all men are implicated in the death of Jesus, the voices of moral outrage fall silent.

* * *

So, let us ask some questions no one is asking. Why is it immoral to ascribe guilt to all Jews, but not immoral to ascribe guilt to all mankind? How can anyone know, without first considering our specific choices and actions, that you or I are guilty? How can you or I be responsible for the death of a man killed some two thousand years ago? To make any sense of the accusation, one must recognize that one is here dealing with, albeit in a more sophisticated form, the same collectivist mentality as the racist’s. For the anti-Semite, to be Jewish is to be evil. For the devout Christian, to be human is to be evil.

The denunciation of man as a creature befouled by, in the words of St. Augustine, a “radical canker in the mind and will,” infuses the Christian tradition. Every essential attribute and virtue of man is attacked.

* * *

On this anti-man approach, to remain alive is to sin. To fully purge oneself, one must die. Only such an account of man can begin to explain the charge of collective guilt for the death of Christ, whose undeserved suffering at man’s vicious hands is, somehow, supposed to help alleviate our innately “sinful” nature.

If the anti-Semitic view of the Jewish race as inherently corrupt is irrational and evil, how much more irrational and evil is this view of the human race?

* * *

Teach man to regard himself as a loathsome, despicable being, and he becomes ripe for any mystical dictator, who will wield the whip that is supposed to make man atone for his “transgressions.” Deprive man of self-esteem, teach him to spit in his face, and one paves the way for another Dark Ages.

I poked around a handful of the 200-plus+ reviews of the Passion at Rottentomatoes, without success, to find if anyone’s published an opinion closer to Ghate’s or mine. If you can find any reviews there (or elsewhere) with substantive criticisms of the Passion (other than that it’s anti-Semitic or puts too much emphasis on suffering), please share the links to them with me in the comments.

[Link courtesy of Jarod]

Cosmological Constitutionality

March 25, 2004 | 67 Comments

Arguing to keep the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, a number of commentators have invoked the cosmological argument as a justification. New York-based opinion-maker Tyanna Maheia, for example, opines that “[i]t should be allowed because God made the world, so His name should be included.”

If this sounds like the absolutely worst argument to defend a practice challenged on the ground that it is religious indoctrination, Maheia has an excuse. She’s just a nine year old elementary school student. But the popularity of her sort of half-baked cosmology isn’t restricted to the younger generation. Forty-something, nationally-syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher defends the Pledge the exact same way, asking “Where do human rights come from? Why does this country exist?”

Although Gallagher argues that requiring the Pledge “does not establish a religion,” in the very next breath she states that it should be recited because “[i]t acknowledges the great truth about what our founders and millions of Americans continue to believe to be the source of the rights outlined in our Constitution.” So clearly she isn’t defending the Pledge as mere ceremonial deism. Indeed, in defining “[w]hat’s at stake” in the dispute, she rejects the notion that it’s just schoolchildren “mumbling some unmeaning words under their breath

Atheist Calculates Probability of God at 4%

March 24, 2004 | 32 Comments

New York, New York, March 24, 2004
The Raving Atheist

Fine-tuning the calculations of a noted physicist, a prominent internet atheist has estimated that there is a 4% chance that God exists.

The Raving Atheist’s ground-breaking discovery corrects the findings of Dr. Stephen Unwin, who assessed the likelihood of God’s existence as 67% by employing a 200-year-old formula called “Baynes Theorem.”

“Dr. Unwin’s first error was assuming that there’s a 50% a priori chance that God exists,” said TRA. “The starting point is really 0% — because like a square circle, the notion of an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent is self-contradictory and therefore impossible.”

TRA agreed with Unwin, however, that the probability should be raised 17% over the baseline after weighing factors such as the existence of goodness, natural and moral evils, religious experience and miracles. “Jesus couldn’t have risen from the dead by accident,” he noted in approving the addition of twenty percentage points, a number that was reduced by 3% after factoring in the existence of Hitler, Stalin, Dean Esmay, cancer and earthquakes.

The final figure was reached after TRA made a 13% downward adjustment for the complete lack of empirical evidence, a deduction Unwin had rejected on the ground that “you can’t see air or a baby’s smile either.” TRA observed that air was detectable in other ways such as by breathing, and that baby’s smiles were in fact visible. “So the ultimate answer is 4%,” said TRA. “Multiplied by zero.”

A collorary discovery made by TRA in the course of the calculations was that it is impossible to discover a cubed integer which is the sum of two lesser cubes, a fourth power as a sum of fourth powers, or, in general, any power beyond the second as a sum of two similar powers. However, the proof of that theorem was omitted due to a lack of space in the margins of his notebook.

[Link courtesy of Madman]

Conversion to Atheism

March 24, 2004 | 252 Comments

Should one spouse (or boyfriend/girlfriend) attempt to convert the other to atheism?

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

March 23, 2004 | 6 Comments

Should a man be 1) ticked off, or 2) relieved, if a woman who originally expressed interest in him dumps him after she discovers he’s of a different religion and she unwilling to date outside of hers? Confronted with this question from a reader, advice columnist Carolyn Hax offers this confused and non-responsive answer:

Depends on whether you believe the word “faith” can be used interchangeably with “religion.” If you do, then the words represent the same core value, one rightly taken into account when you’re dating, the sooner the better.

If you don’t — if you believe two people in the same pew can have widely divergent faiths and a nonchurchgoer and, say, a lay preacher can have uncanny alignment on faith — then you’re going to feel prejudged and ticked off.

Either way, though, it’s no less important that you’re compatible on how to handle religion (and faith) than you’re compatible on religion (and faith). So relieved or ticked, it doesn’t matter; she’s not the believer for
you.

I have no idea what distinction Hax is trying to draw between “religion” and “faith” (religion vs. spirituality? religion vs morality?) The one thing that’s clear from her analysis, however, is that she considers the people who use the two concepts interchangeably to be the orthodox religionists who reject interfaith relationships, and the ones who separate the two are the liberal “many-paths-up-the-same-mountain” ecumenicals who believe that God doesn’t care who loves who (or perhaps believe that everybody’s god exists simultaneously). I don’t think that the distinction between the orthodox and the ecumenicalists turns on what she says it does, but her basic point seems to be that the difference between the two camps is as important as those between any two religions. And it’s a stupid point, because if two people are already of the same religion, the orthodox vs ecumenical question won’t arise.

What the reader was really asking, I think, was whether the orthodox position of his ex-girlfriend was morally wrong or bigoted in some way. If he’s right to be “ticked,” then the girlfriend (and orthodox exclusivity) are wrong to let religion get in the way; if he’s right to be “relieved” then she did a good thing by leaving him over the difference. Hax skirts the question altogether by saying it’s irrelevant in his case, a fact which he already knew by virtue of having been dumped. Of course she’s “not the believer” for him if she won’t have anything to do with him because of his religion. You can’t belong to a club that won’t admit you as a member.

But was the girlfriend right to feel as she did? Let’s say that she’s a relatively devout Catholic who attends mass semi-regularly, and he’s an agnostic/atheist-leaning reform Jew who really doesn’t care about religion. Somehow the topic of God didn’t come up because he had a “non-Jewish” surname and she didn’t cross herself before their meals at Red Lobster. Once it did come up, however, she realized she’d go to Hell if she married someone who didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus and that no priest in her church would perform the ceremony anyway. So the relationship was doomed to go nowhere and wasn’t worth any further investment of her time.

It’s difficult to fault her morally, given her perspective: nobody, no matter how nice, is worth going to Hell over for a few earthly years of fun. She’s been brainwashed into thinking this and just can’t help it. But I have a perspective too: her views are trivial, unreflective, delusional, hateful and divisive babytalk that no rational person should hold and all sane people who haven’t been similarly brainwashed should loudly condemn. It’s simply evil that two otherwise compatible people with some sort of emotional bond should abandon each other over the primitive, irrational prejudices of their ancestors. I see no reason why the basic moral of Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story can’t be applied equally to religious differences.

This is not to say that the ecumenical view is true. It’s not, because there are not gods at all. And in some ways the ecumenical view is more obviously false than the orthodox one, insofar as it either posits a multiplicity of contradictory gods or insures a relationship in which one party is necessarily wrong about something presumably very important. So I’m not sure that the boyfriend has much of a right to be “ticked” as he can’t really fault his ex for buying into a viewpoint arguable more consistent than his own. But insofar as both views are false, the ecumenical one is harmless because it promotes togetherness rather than division and in any event the parties are all dead before they find out that they were both wrong.

Ultimately, then the problem with Hax’s answer is that it declares that religion and orthodoxy and ecumenicalism should all be considered “important” factors in judging compatibility between two people. They shouldn’t be considered at all. There’s no reason to accept or respect walls built on such shaky foundations, and as long as anything is being considered it should be whether to tear the wall down altogether.

Wrongful Prosecution Only Deepens Jayson Williams’ Already Deep Religious Faith

March 22, 2004 | 19 Comments

Alexandria Township, New Jersey, March 22, 2004
Special to The Raving Atheist

Wrongfully accused philanthropist Jayson Williams is drawing from the deep well of his religious faith to help him cope with the New Jersey district attorney’s malicious manslaughter prosecution against him, reports The New York Post. According to sources close to the ex-NBA star, Williams has ramped up a lifelong interest in spiritulality since he was falsely charged with the February 2002 killing of limo driver Costas Christofi.

Williams — who allegedly blew Christofi away with a shotgun after subjecting him to a drunken, obscenity-laced tirade — has begun taking gradute-level divinity studies to strenghten his life-long Catholic faith. William hosts Bible-study meetings at his modest, sprawling mansion every Monday, and brings flowers with him on his weekly prayer-visits to the grave of the man in whose hands he allegedly planted the shotgun to make it look like a suicide, instead of calling for medical help.

At one meeting at Williams’ home, a Croation priest afflicted with stigmata — spontaneously bleeding wounds that mimic those of Christ — prayed for guests, including children suffering from cancer and AIDS. The priest’s palm-wounds also mimicked those in Christofi’s chest, side, stomach, liver, pancreas and left kidney, and, to a lesser extent, those of the pet dog whose head Williams is falsely accused of blowing off in fit of fury over losing a $100 bet on August 8, 2001, although admittedly no one has seen or heard from that dog since August 8, 2001.

As a result of his love of Truth, Williams — who and is accused of ordering witnesses to lie and destroy evidence, and who likely won’t testify in his own defense even though gave a tearful interview to Barbara Walters — trusts that “whatever happens will be God’s will” even if God only wants another wrongfully imprisoned, totally innocent martyr. Some of his friends, however, are suspcious at the prosecutor’s selective prosecution of a devout Christian. “Why is he the only one being persecuted for man’s laughter, when all of us men were standing around laughing at the time?” asked one. “Joyous laughter to the Lord, that is. In a completely different room.”

Sentencing

March 22, 2004 | 101 Comments

Should Jayson Williams’ deep religious convictions be taken into account at sentencing following his wrongful conviction for manslaughter?

God Squad Review LXXXI (Mean Priests)

March 22, 2004 | 8 Comments

What do you do if a “mean priest” refuses to perform your marriage? That’s the question posed to the Squad by an engaged couple whose clergyman “freaked out” and said he wouldn’t perform the ceremony after they told him they’d changed their wedding date from May to September. The priest even announced that he’d try to stop the marriage altogether by preventing his colleagues from participating in the nuptials.

Ominously, the Squad informs the couple that they’ve discovered “a dark secret” of the clergy: “Sometimes the pressures of this work cause clergymen and women to burn out and lose all the spiritual generosity and compassion that led them into the ministry in the first place.” The Squad advises the pair to go to another priest an d” [t]ell him you had a bad experience with the first priest, whom you still should refer to with a respect he does not deserve.”

Not surprising advice, given that the Squad’s in the business of encouraging people to treat infantile, delusional beliefs with a respect they do not deserve. Now, I can see how the pressures of neurosurgery or hostage negotiation might make one a little testy. But does babbling about God at a couple of services a week really make you so nasty that you try to destroy people’s lives over a rescheduling issue? Personally, I’d have refereed the couple to the nearest magistrate or Elvis impersonator.

Gibson Debuts ‘Passion’ Line of Bathroom Fixtures

March 20, 2004 | 5 Comments

Los Angeles, California, March 20, 2004
Special to The Raving Atheist

As part of the merchandising campaign aimed at spreading the message of his hit movie “The Passion of the Christ,” Mel Gibson today unveiled a Christian-themed line of bathroom fixtures. The centerpiece of the collection is the “Flush Away Evil” toilet, which incorporates a smirking Satan whose face is dunked into the bowl whenever the lid is closed.

gibtoilet2.jpg

“The Prince of Darkness really gets his nose rubbed in it,” said Gibson. The director/actor stated that he got the idea from a urinal at the Virgin Airways Clubhouse at Kennedy Airport, which invites men to defile the mouth of the Temptress.

Some have decried the products as violative of good taste and plumbing standards, noting that the size and curvature of the nose on the Satan toilet runs afoul of both. Gibson countered that the critics were bigots and that his religious views exempted him from any criticism and/or generally applicable laws. Virgin similarly defended its product, noting that fixture had been inspected by the company’s religious consultant and mascot.

Rumor

March 19, 2004 | 19 Comments

Submitted by Jean-Paul Fastidious:

Given the FCC’s new crack-down on obscene, indecent, or profane content”, and given that “profane” is a term that can cover irreverent or nonreligious subjects (should those in power choose to interpret it that way,) is it time that we atheists, out of fairness, seek to make real the infamous Madalyn Murray O’Hair FCC Petition hoax and campaign for the removal of religion from our airwaves?

Atheist Jesus Poetry Contest

March 18, 2004 | 19 Comments

Cass Brown of Cancergiggles has agreed to be an Atheist Jesus and DIE FOR YOUR BLOG! Literally! Terminally ill with colon cancer that has spread to both his lungs, his liver and pelvis, Cass has only approximately 6-18 months to go. All you have to do is write the winning limerick regarding his predicament (important: carefully read the contest rules below) and Cass Brown will be to your website what Jesus is to all mankind!

As the winner, your site (or a blog of your choosing) will earn the exclusive right to boast that “Cass Brown Died for this Blog.” Cass will prominently display the honor at his blog, together with the winning submission. The Raving Atheist will do the same, and will place your blog’s name at the top of his blogroll under the special category “The Blog that Cass Brown Died For.” And for the follow reasons, getting died for by the Atheist Jesus will be far more meaningful than self-sacrifice of Regular Jesus:

1. Cass Brown will really die. Like the Wicked Witch of the West, Cass will be “not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.” He’s most definitely not rising out of his tomb the next day, or coming back in 2,000 years.

2. Cass Brown will suffer for you more than Jesus. Regular Jesus was over and done with it in twelve hours, and whatever discomfort he experienced was mitigated by the knowledge that he would immediately awake to the prospect of eternal life. Cass, on the other hand, has already been dying for four years (all of which will be credited retroactively to your account ), and faces months more pain followed only by oblivion. What’s more, Cass won’t even get a nice Last Supper – since the day of his death has not been pre-arranged he can’t schedule one, and in any event his last moments will likely be spent retching up Guinness Stout into his bedpan.

3. Cass Brown will die for you alone. Cass is not a death-whore like Regular Jesus, some gigolo who claims to have “personal relationship” with you while sending “I Died for You Only” cards to a thousand girlfriends on Valentine’s Day. You’ll be the only one that he dies for, and the honor won’t be cheapened by having to be split six billion ways.

4. Cass Brown won’t torment you for doubting him. Regular Jesus will send crows down to peck out your eyes if you so much as waver in your commitment to Him. Cass doesn’t care – in fact, you can’t win the contest unless you blaspheme him!

5. Cass Brown won’t deprive you of your sins. Cass is not out to cleanse you. If anything, you’ll be much dirtier for the association, especially if you get too close to his deathbed.

6. Cass Brown really exists. Even if not for very long.

CONTEST RULES

1. Submit a poem of ten lines or less about the Atheist Jesus, Cass Brown. If you are using the limerick form, you may submit two limericks.

2. E-mail your submission to ravingatheist@ravingatheist.com. no later than Friday, April 2, 2004, 11:59 p.m. EST. Important: Do NOT submit poems to the comment section.

3. All poems must contain at least two of the following three phrases: “Cass Brown,” “cancer giggles”, and “Atheist Jesus.” At least one of those phrases must be part of a rhyme.

4. Do not use the words “carbon based life form” in the poem as they bring back unhappy memories for Cass.

5. All poems must allude to Mr. Brown’s sickness and/or death, and atheism and/or religion.

6. The contest will be judged by Cass Brown and his determination will be final. The Raving Atheist will e-mail entries to Mr. Brown without identifying information so that they may be judged anonymously.

7. The winning entry will be announced on Cancer Giggles and The Raving Atheist on Monday, April 5, 2004. If you do not have a blog, you may either designate a site of your choice or ask to be honored by name.  The winner may post the words “Cass Brown is Dying for this Blog” on his or her site until the actual death announcement is made, and “Cass Brown Died for this Blog” afterwards.

8. The Raving Atheist will publish all other entries and the names of the contestants on Tuesday, April 6, 2004.

UncomPassionate

March 17, 2004 | 20 Comments

Like many of its critics, I made the mistake of condemning The Passion of the Christ without seeing it. Originally, I called it an unspeakably immoral movie. But I saw it the other night, and discovered it’s much more than that. It’s a hideously evil, unspeakably immoral movie.

It’s not just that, as many critics have pointed out, that Christ’s alleged message is overshadowed by incredibly graphic depictions of his torture and suffering. It’s that many parts of the message presented are rotten, and that Jesus himself doesn’t follow the good parts. In addition to my original criticisms, all of which still stand, the film suffers from the following flaws:

1. The Passion Teaches that Blasphemy, Not Cruelty or Other Harmful Conduct, is the Worst Sin.

The central message of the Passion is that the most serious moral offense is denying the divinity of a being which, although supposedly omnipotent, can’t completely convince anyone (not even itself or its own mother)

Free Hand

March 17, 2004 | 13 Comments

What’s the biggest obstacle to self-crucifixion?

Just Doing His Job

March 16, 2004 | 24 Comments

Religious groups frequently seek exemption from anti-discrimination laws on the ground that being forced to hire non-religious employees (or employees from other other faiths) would interfere with their mission.
Hardly:

James DiGiorgio just filmed a public-service announcement for a Christian anti-porn group, which is a bit strange – considering he’s the director of such adult classics as “Boobwatch” and “Lapdance.”

“It’s kind of like you stepped into an alternate reality,” said DiGiorgio, who produced the spot for the group founded by pastors from the Crossroads Christian Church and Fireproof Ministries in L.A.

I hope this guy is available for The Passion, Part II: The Return of the Christ.

What Else

March 16, 2004 | 28 Comments

From Nancy Young, whose 12-year-old, rickets-afflicted daughter lost her spleen, suffered a broken leg and a fractured eye socket after being catapulted through a window in her family’s SUV and falling 45-feet from a freeway overpass:

“I think almighty God saved her . . . [w]hat else would you think?”

Suffrage

March 16, 2004 | 52 Comments

There was some talk last week about giving 14 year olds the vote. If the young lady quoted at this rally at the Massachusetts statehouse is representative of her generation, I’m against it:

Lakeisha Harewood, 15, said the students wanted to make sure the voices of young people were heard.

“I’m representing Jesus and to let homosexuals know that Jesus loves them, but hates their sin,” she said. “Even the younger generation doesn’t believe this is right. One man and one woman is God’s plan.”

Well, maybe one man and one or more women, as we discussed last week. I’d also like to take the vote away from 52 year olds, if that’s possible:

Beth Dixon didn’t mince words when asked why she drove from her Ohio home to Boston for Thursday’s cliffhanger gay marriage debate.

“I’m here to support 5,000 years of Judeo-Christian heritage of one man, one woman,” said Dixon, a 52-year-old schoolteacher, who said she made the trip with 20 other members of a Christian group to defend the definition of marriage from the “homosexual minority.”

A banner at the rally also declared that “Marriage existed before civil rights . . . It can’t be redefined.” I don’t know the age or sex of the person carrying it, but I’d point out to Lakesiha and Beth that in America before 1920, marriage was a union between “a man and a non-voting piece of chattel.”
[Link courtesy of Madman]

Looney Rooney

March 15, 2004 | 12 Comments

Reader Eva asks: “Let’s support Andy Rooney for the shit he got for his criticism of the Jesus Chainsaw Massacre movie, please…”

Not so fast.

I don’t know what Rooney’s religious views are (probably some sort of atheist-leaning agnostic) but his February 22, 2004 60 Minutes commentary on Mel Gibson’s The Passion was disappointingly superficial. After recounting Pat Robertson’s claim that God told him that Bush would be re-elected in a “blowout,” Rooney notes:

The movie by Mel Gibson called “The Passion of the Christ” is the other religious issue in the news. Everyone’s talking about that. The question is whether the Jews killed Jesus Christ — who was Jewish, of course.

That’s about the end of his substantive commentary. Rooney merely frames the question and stops dead in his tracks. And it’s the wrong question because, as I noted here, exactly who killed Christ is irrelevant unless one already accepts some insane, supernatural theory of morality in which guilt is hereditary and can only be expunged by sacrificing an innocent God/Man. But even if Rooney’s point is that Gibson is anti-Semitic — an accusation he doesn’t quite have the courage to make outright

Year of Atheism

March 15, 2004 | 8 Comments

Submitted by Jean-Paul Fastidious:

2004 is the International Year of Atheism . What will you do to celebrate?

(more…)

God Squad Review LXXX (Hypocrisy)

March 15, 2004 | 7 Comments

A reader presents the Squad with a shocking example of hypocrisy:

A friend recently came to work with ashes on her forehead. Then, at lunch, she proceeded to eat a roast beef sandwich and swear several times. She’s a self-described ashes-and-palms Catholic. I’ve thought of confronting her about her hypocrisy, but I don’t want to hurt our friendship. Any thoughts?

Eating roast beef and cussing with a dirt-smudge on her face? Seems like a police matter to me, but the Squad is more forgiving. They note that “we all fall short of our religious and moral obligations and betray our spiritual, physical and moral disciplines” and urge the reader “to be a friend and let God be the judge.” To that end, they suggest that the reader “[a]sk what Lent means to her and try to listen instead of judging.”

But what if the friends says that to her, Lent means eating a roast beef sandwich and cussing with a dirt-smudge on her face? At some point one simply has to judge. If not, next thing you know she’ll be eating blood pudding and belching with a stud in her tongue.

And anyway, isn’t just asking that kind of question a form of judging? I think if I caught a friend in a animal cemetery eating the remains of a poodle straight from coffin and asked, “Is this what Christmas is all about,” I’d be seen as judging — especially if it wasn’t actually Christmas.

Atheist Group to Assume Role as Political Power Broker

March 12, 2004 | 24 Comments

Washington, D.C., March 12, 2004
Special to The Raving Atheist

Seeking to capitalize on the rapidly-growing popularity of atheism in America, a group of nonbelievers has formed an organization to endorse candidates and lobby lawmakers.

Created by American Atheists president Ellen Johnson, the National Atheist Media/Business Lobbying Association, or NAMBLA, has vowed to place the considerable pull of its good name behind any politician who subscribes to the godless agenda. “What candidate wouldn’t love to run with the NAMBLA banner waving behind him?” asked Johnson.

rally.jpg

Johnson acknowledged, however, the so-called “front-runner’s curse” that NAMBLA’s backing might trigger, noting the recent voters’ backlash against former candidate Howard after he landed Al Gore’s endorsement. Johnson proposed a novel strategy to deal with the problem: “If a candidate says, ‘Don’t endorse me,’ we will have to say we have the right to endorse somebody, but perhaps we can talk about what we can get in terms of promises from that candidate to help us out in return for not endorsing him,” Johnson said.

Johnson also suggested that a candidate who felt hindered by her group’s endorsement could improve his campaign’s prospects by telling voters “it’s the other NAMBLA,” or by wearing on his head a pair of underpants with a slick brown streak down the middle.

The creation of NAMBLA is American Atheist’s second major political initiative within a year, the first being its adoption of a public-friendly new mascot in May 2003.

Bible Study Contest Prize

March 11, 2004 | 47 Comments

As promised, an obscene, atheist-themed limerick incorporating the name of the winner of the Bible Study Contest. It’s clumsily rhymed, but if you can do better than this with “glenstonecottage” to work with, be my guest:

There once was a man, GlenStoneCottage,
Jerking off one fine day, when he spotted,
A sick goat near his bed.
As he raped it, he said:
“I can do what I like

Too Bad

March 10, 2004 | Comments Off

Professor Volokh thinks it’s too bad that the following Texas statutory provisions governing who may act as a Notary Public are drafted so sloppily:

[sec.] 2.202. Persons Authorized to Notarize Documents

(a) The following persons are authorized to notarize documents:
(1) a justice of the supreme court, judge of the court of criminal appeals, justice of the courts of appeals . . . justice of the peace, retired justice of the peace, or judge or magistrate of a federal court of this state . . .;
(2) a licensed or ordained Christian minister or priest;
(3) a Jewish rabbi;
(4) a person who is an officer of a religious organization and who is authorized by the organization to notarize documents.

[sec.] 2.205. Discrimination in Notarizing Documents Prohibited

(a) A person authorized to act as a Notary Public by this subchapter is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, religion, or national origin against an applicant who is otherwise to execute a document required to be notarized.

(b) On a finding by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct that a person has intentionally violated Subsection (a), the commission may recommend to the supreme court that the person be removed from office.

What’s “too bad” (says Volokh) is that read literally, section 2.205(a)’s prohibition against religious discrimination could compel priests and rabbis to notarize documents co-signed by persons of different religions, even if they opposed such contracts. Furthermore, the bar against racial (or national origin) discrimination could compel a rabbi to notarize (or take the affirmation of) a party who is not ethnically Jewish (some orthodox practitioners will not solemnize documents for converts even though they will notarize for less religious Jews).

Fortunately (notes Volokh), even apart from the Free Exercise problems it’s obvious that the anti-discrimination provision was intended to apply only to judges — as under 2.205(b) violations are punished by a commission on judicial conduct which can remove them from “office.” No court in its right mind, of course, would read it any other way. Still, though, some overly-literal-minded rabbi might happen across the statute and wet his pants over the remote possibility that he might have to rubber-stamp some non-Kosher contract. That slight ambiguity, apparently, is what’s “too bad.”

But I can think of a few other problems with the law. Things that are too bad not because they are remote possibilities arising out of ambiguity, but because there is so little ambiguity about them at all.

(1) It’s too bad that apart from judges, the only people that the statute singles out as worthy of the privilege of notarizing documents are members of the Judeo-Christian clergy and other religious functionaries. Why not atheists? Why not professors of philosophy? Why not plumbers? Why not any adult capable of verifying that the parties are who they say who they are, and of ascertaining that they know what they’re agreeing to sign? The submission of notarized documents is a prerequisite to the award of thousands of governmental, contractual and other benefits. It’s outrageous that the state has chosen to delegate its monopoly over the notary power to the clergy, and to the clergy alone.

(2) It’s too bad that the statute lets the religious organizations themselves decide who is “authorized” to notarize documents. The religious have no special training in contract matters; indeed, in some sects members of the clergy are prohibited from contracting at all and thus lack any expertise whatsoever. Plainly, should the parties ever elect to terminate their agreement, the state would not allow priests and rabbis to adjudicate their respective legal rights. There’s no reason, then, to let the initial determination that the parties have executed the document in a manner that is binding depend upon a religious blessing.

(3) It’s too bad that (as Volokh correctly interprets the statute) the clergy are completely exempt from the anti-discrimination provisions. They can refuse to notarize documents submitted by blacks, Hispanics, Asians, homosexuals, Italians, etc. etc. So it’s not just discrimination against people outside their preferred faiths — a sort of discrimination that Volokh for some strange reason applauds — but anyone at all. Even if some libertarian or constitutional argument could be made for permitting them to pick and choose what people they’ll deal with, there’s no argument for forcing the state to become a party to such bigotry. Furthermore, presumably there’s nothing stopping a rabbi or other clergyman from becoming a judge, a justice of the peace, or a retired justice of the peace — and I would have to assume that in such situations the constitutional, Free Exercise right to follow religious rules in refusing to notarize would trump the civil law.

(4) Finally, it’s too bad — as you’ve probably realized if you’ve clicked on any of the links — the statute actually has nothing to do with the notarization of agreements generally. Rather (although this doesn’t change my analysis in the slightest) it governs the solemnization of only one contract — the marriage contract. It’s too bad that the law, and society in general, has delegated so much power over who you love, and the rights associated with protecting that union, to the whims of practitioners of primitive, exclusionary, bigoted dogmas.

Boerned

March 9, 2004 | 24 Comments

An upscale national retailer is now attempting to impose its impossibly high standards upon religion:

Wal-Mart clerk Daniel Lorenz learned the hard way that the retail giant is willing to stretch its dress code only so far.

Lorenz, 20, was fired after he reported to work in Boerne, Texas, in a priest’s shirt and collar, six crosses, a vampire symbol and an Arab headdress.

He explained that if he didn’t wear the get-up, it would be “like turning my back on God.”

The store said Lorenz’s outfit upset customers and was not based on “a bona-fide religious belief.”

Under the law, what qualifies as “bona fide” when it comes to religious belief is about the same as what qualifies as “real” when applied to psychic hotlines. In other words, any old made-up shit. As the Pagan Paralegal explains, “[t]o be a bona fide religious belief entitled to protection under either the First Amendment or Title VII, a belief must be sincerely held and within the believer’s own scheme of things religious.” Or, to quote a less reputable source (the Supreme Court), “religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.” All that matters is that you really believe it — that you’re really, truly nuts.

Mr. Lorenz certainly appears to qualify under that formulation. Exhibit A: He actually showed up at work wearing a priest’s shirt and collar, six crosses, a vampire symbol and an Arab headdress. Anyone possessed to do that is, well, possessed. I’m betting that Mr. Lorenz could explain to you, for hours on end, the significance of each of those items in his own scheme of things, and do so at least as coherently as Mark Shea explaining why the Eucharist isn’t cannibalism.

Exhibit B: Lorenz said it would be “like turning my back on God.” Do you really doubt he’s sincere about that? And his concept of God seems perfectly compatible with the national religion of ceremonial deism. Many names, One God: it looks like he worships Jesus, Allah, six more Jesuses and Dracula all at once. Maybe no Star of David, but Jesus was a Jew, and the omission of Hindu can easily be remedied by an elephant mask. His faith is certainly more inclusive than Santeria, which is a meager combination Catholicism and the Western African Yoruba religion.

Now, I have to admit that if some nasty atheist were intent on mocking religion, he’d probably also show up at work wearing a priest’s shirt and collar, six crosses, a vampire symbol and an Arab headdress. And I think that comes closer to what’s really at issue here. His outfit “upset” customers. It has nothing to do with Lorenz’ own beliefs or sincerity. It’s the customers’ beliefs that are really at issue. They believe he’s a Pagan or a Wiccan or an atheist and don’t like it because it offends their own equally incoherent, self-contradictory superstitions.

NOTE: Coincidentally, a few years back the City of Boerne was instrumental in striking down part of the evil Religious Freedom Restoration Act when they resisted an effort by the Catholic Church to use the statute to obtain immunity from local zoning laws (see City of Boerne v. Flores, 117 S.Ct 2157 [1997]). Justice Stevens issued this brief, atheist-friendly concurring opinion:

In my opinion, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) is a “law respecting an establishment of religion” that violates the First Amendment to the Constitution.

If the historic landmark on the hill in Boerne happened to be a museum or an art gallery owned by an atheist, it would not be eligible for an exemption from the city ordinances that forbid an enlargement of the structure. Because the landmark is owned by the Catholic Church, it is claimed that RFRA gives its owner a federal statutory entitlement to an exemption from a generally applicable, neutral civil law. Whether the Church would actually prevail under the statute or not, the statute has provided the Church with a legal weapon that no atheist or agnostic can obtain. This governmental preference for religion, as opposed to irreligion, is forbidden by the First Amendment.

Dress Code

March 9, 2004 | 29 Comments

Should an employer be legally entitled to fire a worker on the grounds that the worker’s clothes offend the customers’ religious beliefs?

Bible Study Contest Winner

March 8, 2004 | 4 Comments

Full credit for the proposed “Constitutional Amendment on Biblical Marriage” now making its way through Congress must go to Alex Frantz of Public Nuisance. Alex is quite indisputably the originator. As Brent of Unscrewing the Inscrutable points out, Alex proposed the Amendment on August 18th, 2003 in response to an August 16th post by Atrios about the Presidential Prayer Team’s August 15th request to legally codify the definition of marriage in accordance with biblical principles.

Alex later pointed out that quite a few sites immediately linked to the piece — including Calpundit, Outside the Beltway and Austin Cline’s Agnosticism/Weak Atheism Blog. Not surprisingly, a few days later he (along with Eugene Volokh and others) was sued for being Jewish.

The e-mail campaign that landed the proposal in Congress was apparently launched in late January of this year by Daniel Levitas who, in the Pagan Prattle comment I linked to on Friday, noted that he had passed it along to a major media outlet which subsequently expressed interest in doing a story on it. It is amazing how Alex’s blog, which gets but 50-75 hits a day, has become a legislative puppet-master. Now, let’s work on a Congressional resolution declaring that Allah is a syphilitic whoremonger who fucks goats in an outhouse . . . .

Anyway, the winner of the Bible Study Contest is Glenstonecottage, who correctly identified Frantz as the author in my comment section a day before Inscrutable’s post about it (award ceremony later this week). That’s “G L E N S T O N E C O T T A G E,” Brent : )

God Squad Review LXXIX

March 8, 2004 | 6 Comments

The Squad this week asks itself the question “Are you surprised by the reaction to Mel Gibson’s new movie, “The Passion of the Christ?” One of the only things that surprised them was that a “film with such an abundance of violence made money.” Otherwise, they’re not surprised (my comments in boldface):

We’re not surprised Christians have been moved to the core of their being by this film because, with minor exceptions, it is true to the Gospel accounts. Those accounts, it must be said, are not totally consistent. For example, the passage in Matthew 27:25 — “His blood be on us [the Jews] and on our children” — appears only in Matthew and not in the Passion narratives of Mark, Luke or John. The cry of the Jewish priests, “Crucify him!”, appears in Matthew, Mark and Luke but not in John.

So what “moves” Christians is that the film is true to the passages that justify hereditary, class-wide guilt for homicide. Note that the Squad is not saying that anti-Semitism is one of the “exceptions” to the film’s biblical faithfulness. All that they’re saying is that some of the Gospels do not mention it. That’s not an example of inconsistency: it simply means that some accounts are less complete that others. Only if one chapter had the Jews remaining silent, or saying something different, would an inconsistency be present. I’m sure many of the scenes in the Passion occur in only one or two of the Gospels, but the Squad is not arguing that that is a ground to have them removed.

In any event, we’re pleased Mel Gibson had the sensitivity to remove this incendiary passage from the subtitles, even though it’s still spoken in Aramaic. We hope it will not be reinserted into the subtitles as they’re translated into other languages.

It’s “sensitive” not to be incendiary, yes. Note, again, that there’s no objection whatsoever to the accuracy of the untranslated, but still included passage

We’re not surprised this film has forced Christians to confront the suffering of Jesus not only as a minor prelude to the resurrection but also as a searing reminder that the measure of his love is directly related to the measure of his suffering.

Isn’t that a wonderful message, that there’s direct, unalterable connection between love and suffering? We all love to see those that we love the most, suffer the most, don’t we?

We are not surprised by how many Christians have seen how potentially anti-Jewish their story can be when twisted just a little bit. Because Jesus was a Jew and because Jews rejected his messianic claim, it’s very hard to tell the Christian story without anti-Jewish elements. This remains one of the central challenges for every Christian today and in all the ages to come.

Isn’t there something inherently wrong with a story that becomes anti-Jewish “when twisted just a little bit?” That doesn’t happen with Little Red Riding Hood or The Three Little Pigs. Perhaps they Crucifixion story itself is already “a little bit twisted?”

To see this film as primarily about the Jews and Jesus, however, is a profound misreading of the meaning and spiritual focus of the Passion.

Who would ever interpret a story about a Jewish messiah being rejected by his own people and condemning them eternally for his murder that way?

We’re not surprised that when the pastor of Lovingway United Pentecostal Church in Denver posted a sign on the church’s roadside marquee from I Thessalonians, Chapter 2, reading, “Jews killed the Lord Jesus,” that the entire Denver religious community responded with outrage. Within a day, the sign was replaced by an apology. We’re not living in the Middle Ages and no longer will Passion plays be allowed to incite mobs to anti-Semitic blood lust.

Are they surprised that The Passion itself says that “Jews killed the Lord Jesus”?!?!?!?! Has Mel issued an apology yet?!?!?!

We’re not surprised that those who are least religious in their daily life hated the film and those of every faith who are most religious either understood the film as the authentic Christian story or embraced it as a powerful depiction of their Christian faith.

Exactly.

There is a Talmudic saying, “We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.” We’re not surprised that, even though Gibson’s father remains unconvinced that the Holocaust occurred, most people — even those who hated the film — have the good sense not to blame the son for the sins of the father.

The Talmud says that? Aha

Bible Study Contest

March 5, 2004 | 19 Comments

A friend e-mailed me this “news” item yesterday:

Do not thou be too hasty, quoth McDermott

Amid increasing rancor over same sex-marriages and the federal marriage amendment, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) took to the House floor last week to denounce the invocation of “biblical principles” of marriage by the “presidential prayer team.”

In a one-minute address, the fiery Seattle liberal said the book of Genesis allows for marriage “between one man and one or more women” and that “marriage of a believer and a nonbeliever shall be forbidden.”

And from Deuteronomy: “A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed.”

And he said, according to the Bible, “divorce is not possible, and finally, if a married man dies, his brother has to marry his sister-in-law.”

I put “news” in quotes because McDermott apparently borrowed his analysis from an e-mail that’s been making the rounds. A very quick Google search revealed a reference to it in The Pagan Prattle on November 21, 2003. I notice that Daniel Levitas, in the third comment down to that piece (posted on January 24, 2004), was seeking information to track down the original author, but I don’t know if he was ever successful.

I doubt you’ll ever find out who wrote it, but I would be interested in finding the earliest internet mention of the “Biblical Marriage” piece. Post your entries in the comment section. Contest ends midnight Sunday. Prize: Your name (or the name of your designee) in a highly obscene, atheism-themed limerick.

Skepticism

March 4, 2004 | 4 Comments

Catholic blogger Michelle of And Then? has become a cold-hearted skeptic about some aspects of the Crucifixion story, at least as they are portrayed in Mel Gibson’s The Passion. Criticizing the scene in which a raven (or crow) plucks out the eyes of the crucified thief who doubted Jesus’ divinity, she writes:

The main reason I didn’t like it is not because it couldn’t have happened, but because I doubt that it did happen. In the ordinary course of things, God is much more subtle with divine retribution and usually allows natural and supernatural consequences — such as hell — to suffice. Granted, the Crucifixion was an extraordinary event that was surrounded by extraordinary occurrences such as the rending of the Temple veil and the earthquake (cf. Matt. 27:51-54), but throwing in others that are not recorded in Scripture detracts from the stark reality of what was happening.

I don’t know how subtle hell is, but my guess is, well, that it’s about as subtle as hell. But I can see Michelle’s point — seeing something as ridiculous as a scavenging bird feasting on helpless, soon-to-be-rotting meat might well undermine the viewer’s confidence in whether men can rise from the dead. Such a slightly improbable naturalistic detail should never have been injected into the “stark reality” of an insanely surreal narrative.

* * *

I’ve noticed that other religious moviegoers have also been bothered by that crow. The scene seems to disturbed even those unfazed by my broader moral and logical objections to the film. And I don’t think it has much to do with whether the bird’s conduct was scriptural or unscriptural. Rather, I think that in their hearts they reject one of the central tenets of Christianity

Passionate Survey

March 3, 2004 | 86 Comments

An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Michigan’s Spring Arbor University — where “Jesus Christ is the perspective for learning” — is conducting a web-based survey about The Passion of the Christ to obtain “more complete information on the reactions of non-Christian moviegoers to the film” and has asked me to direct my readers’ attention thereto. Mission accomplished. Something tells me that none of you have actually seen it (and never will), but if you have, please make your voices heard. If you have any questions, you can shoot the breeze with Professor Robert Woods, J.D., Ph.D., at (517) 750-6320 who, if he does not already hate me, will likely do so if any if you miscreants actually call.

I do know that the movie has melted some godless hearts. For example, this self-described hateful atheist (he “hated jews and whites and blacks and asians” and was “partly responsible for the deluge of anti-semitic remarks on this [message] board for the past week”) saw it and has vowed “that the message conveyed in this film should and will be the foundation of my life from today on.”

Dead Man Laughing

March 2, 2004 | 13 Comments

Commenting on my “news” story about a rare miracle cancer that had stricken twelve children, Cass Brown of Cancergiggles noted that he had managed to become terminally ill “without God’s help.” Not quite sure how to interpret the remark (I thought he might just be one of those believers who refuses to blame God for the bad stuff), I asked him what his faith was and whether his current predicament had altered his view. His refreshing response:

You basically ask what my religious views are and whether they have changed, coming as they are from a dying man.

We are all dying. The slight difference in my case, is that I appear to be dying in a somewhat different time frame than most of my peers and indeed the hamster which I saw in a pet shop yesterday.

I was raised in a rural area of England, attended a Church of England school and attended Sunday school. As I matured, I began, without any great internal turmoil, to analyze the religion which was presented to me. Thus it was, that at the age of about eight, I attained the absolute certainty that my religion was solely an invented device to keep the feeble minded quiet.

The following few years gave me enlightenment on the subject in that I came to realize that the same was true for every religion. I had until the age of eight just been sure that the other religions were just misguided. I have been asked on numerous occasions whether my views have changed now that I am one of those “about to be dead” people.

As of today’s date and not wishing to pre-empt the results of imminent scans, the colon cancer which has spread to my right lung, left lung, liver and pelvis, has left my brain alone. The idea therefore, that my knowledge (not, I emphasise beliefs) regarding these fantasies would somehow disappear, is frankly ludicrous. For those who expect me to turn to God, I will only say that I have no intention of spending by remaining days, futilely spinning round in circles looking for something I know to be a myth. The only result would be dizziness.

The following should be said, face to face, to any and all peddlers of religion “If I was in a room with you and two werewolves and I had a gun with two silver bullets, I’d shoot you — twice.”

Kind Regards

Cass Brown, Cancergiggles

Maybe some of you good Christians out there can try to convince him to take Pascal’s Wager before it’s too late. Or some of you Hindus, perhaps (oops, that sort of refutes the wager). Anyway, whoever you are, leave him some input in the comment section. Before it’s too late — which reminds me of a great joke I saw on his blog . . .

God Squad Review LXXVIII (Weight Loss)

March 1, 2004 | 3 Comments

A Squad reader who has dieted unsuccessfully for 10 years wants to give up food for Lent. As they did here, the Squad recommends prayer, diet and exercise (even though, as I noted here, the advice has never worked for them) . But this time the message becomes a bit garbled as they attempt to stir the Resurrection into the mix:

We hope your prayers will produce not only weight loss but also spiritual serenity. Then, you won’t panic if you experience failures but will quietly and firmly resolve that your life is different now. For Christians, it’s different because of what Jesus did. It’s also different because God wants you to choose life — and exercise and fresh vegetables and whole grains and smaller portions — and to realize, on Easter Sunday, that glorious day of hope and resurrection for Christians, that you are at home with your body, your soul and your God.

I understand that things are “different” somehow because of Jesus’ self-sacrifice, but I don’t see how that difference translates into a command to eat fresh vegetables and whole grains. Presumably those things were also good before the Resurrection. Moreover, I don’t see how why the diet advice would apply to Christians only.

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