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Posts Tagged ‘christianity’

It can be tough being a Christian. You have to believe all sorts of unbelievable things. You have to go to church every Sunday and listen to some preachy dude beg for money. You have to put up with brilliantly-written, riotously-funny, expertly-argued books patiently debunking your faith. (I suppose this one doesn’t really distinguish you from believers in any other religion.) And you have to tie yourself into knots trying to explain why the latest scientific discoveries explaining how the world works don’t actually contradict your millennia-old, rooted-in-superstition, alternative “explanations” of how the world works.

But you’re not alone in your struggle. The BioLogos foundation is there with you every step of the way (and when you see one set of footprints, that’s where they were carrying you).

Today, for instance, they’re offering “Three Ways to View the Fossil Record [that aren’t incompatible with your religious faith, even though (if you want to get technical) the fossil record isn’t compatible with your religious faith].”

  1. God created each species “individually from nothing” as time proceeded. (Note: not actually compatible with fossil record.)
  2. God created species in “bursts” over time. (Note: not actually compatible with fossil record.)
  3. Evolutionary biology is the proper explanation for the history and diversity of species, but god has been continually doing the work behind the scenes. So, for instance, he’s always choosing which genetic material crosses over during meiosis, and he helps ducks decide which other ducks to rape, and he helps misdirect mooses he doesn’t want reproducing into having sex with horses instead.

Although the third theory is (vacuously) compatible with the fossil record, it presumes a level of perversity on the part of god that’s really more compatible with the jealous, kinky Old Testament god, not the effeminate, hippie New Testament god.

Accordingly, New-Testament-believing Christians might be better served by a fourth way of viewing the fossil record:

  1. Your religion is false.

This explanation does have the drawback of not being exactly “compatible” with the Christian faith. But this is almost surely outweighed by its virtue of being the correct explanation.

Make sure to come back next time, when we discuss “Five (Incorrect) Ways To Explain The Existence of Suffering”!

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Tragedy in (Wichita / Ottawa / Nepal / Israel), where (an anti-abortion activist / a devout Muslim / Hindu extremists / Ultra-Orthodox Jews) (murdered a doctor / murdered his sister and her lover / blew up a Catholic Church / beat up some missionaries) in order to (stop him from performing abortions / restore honor to his family / make Nepal into a Hindu state / prevent conversions). Spokespeople for (anti-abortion groups / Muslim organizations / Hindu nationalists / ultra-Orthodox Jews) urged that we not judge all their members based on the actions of (“extremists” / “extremists” / “extremists” / “extremists” ):

Most (Christians / Muslims / Hindus / Jews) manage to go through life without ever engaging in religiously-motivated violence. And while violence is never justified, we should be more tolerant and try to understand how people might have legitimate grievances about (procedures that we’ve repeatedly denounced as “murder” / the concept of “honor” our community has relentlessly promoted / the indignity of having to live under a non-Hindu government / free speech promoting a different form of superstition from ours).

In any event, we should be very careful with our words, as it wouldn’t be fair to blame an isolated incident on (religion / religion / religion / religion).

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Poor Darrel Falk. Not only is he stuck being executive director of the ludicrous BioLogos project, but also his granddaughter has noticed the obvious parallels between the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Jesus.

This is great for us, however, as we get to read his “yes, we were lying about the tooth fairy, and also we were lying about the easter bunny, and also we were lying about santa claus, but Jesus is totally different and here’s why!” essay.

He makes the following points:

1. Some of the data underlying evolutionary biology is “historical” in nature. Some of the arguments for Christianity are also “historical” in nature. This makes belief in Christianity just as data-driven as belief in evolutionary biology!

2. “There are some theologians who I consider just as brilliant as some scientists!”

3. Not only has Jesus never been “falsified,” there are plenty of good reasons to think he exists. For instance, check out the New Testament book Romans, which (unlike The Da Vinci Code) is too packed with “sincere emotion and veneration” to be fiction.

4. If you don’t read every pro-Jesus book with “the open mindset that is supposed to be the trademark of any scientist,” you’ve committed an “unforgiveable sin.”

Now, unlike his granddaughter, I am not a 6-year-old girl, and so it’s hard to say which of his arguments she will find compelling. I’m guessing she’ll reject the first, as even little girls understand that — while studying history helps us understand evolutionary biology — there is also genetic, anatomical, geographical, biochemical, epidemiological, and current biological evidence. I’m also guessing that she’ll reject the second, as little girls tend to put more weight on the opinions of J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer than the opinions of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth. Along similar lines, the Baby-sitters Club books are packed with “sincere emotion and veneration” yet are clearly fiction, making me suspect she’ll reject his third argument. And although his granddaughter sounds pretty smart, a number of the books he propounds still seem above her reading level, making it tough to condemn her for not reading them.

However, although he didn’t mention it in his article, he’s also got a fifth argument in his pocket:

5. If you don’t believe in Jesus, then after you die you’re going to get thrown into a Lake of Fire and tortured forever. It’s worse than anything you can imagine. Remember how bad you felt that day at school when all the other girls were making fun of you? Remember how much it hurt when you fell on the playground and broke your arm? Remember when you had the flu and you kept throwing up everything we fed you and we had to take you to the hospital where they stuck a tube in your arm so you wouldn’t get dehydrated? Remember how sad you were when your dog Pepper died? This is so much worse than all those combined, and if you don’t believe in Jesus you’ll feel it all day, every day, forever and ever.

And I’m pretty sure that this one is the kind of argument that resonates with six-year-olds.

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Here’s a promising-sounding new book: 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe:

Many Christians, new and seasoned alike, tend to bank on promises that God never made, says one pastor.

So when God doesn’t come through on those “promises,” some are likely to become angry at God.

And “that to me as a pastor over all my years is always one of the saddest things,” says Larry Osborne, teaching pastor at North Coast Church in Vista, Calif.

Osborne, whose church draws over 7,000 people, is hoping to spare a lot of Jesus followers from that anger. He’s also hoping Christians will peruse Scripture more and align themselves with what God really says rather than the “word on the street.”

Wait, that doesn’t sound promising at all! Does he at least have a good list of ten?

  1. Living God’s way will bring good fortune
  2. Faith can fix anything
  3. Forgiving means forgetting
  4. A godly home guarantees godly kids
  5. God has a blueprint for my life
  6. Christians shouldn’t judge
  7. Everything happens for a reason
  8. Let your conscience be your guide
  9. A valley means a wrong turn
  10. Dead people go to a better place.

Well, a number of those are stupid things. But if I were making a list of “Ten Stupid Things Smart Christians Believe,” none of those would be on it. What’s that? You want to know what would be on it? Good question!

Ten Stupid Things Smart Christians Believe

  1. A mistranslated book written by cave people is a reliable guide to the modern world.
  2. There’s an invisible man in the sky who likes to watch you while you’re showering.
  3. Two thousand years ago, an alter ego of this invisible man knocked up a Jewess whose husband wasn’t satisfying her.
  4. The progeny of this drunken coupling was both god and the son of god.
  5. This son of god was killed (but not really, since he’s also god, and god can’t die) and then came back to life to seek revenge, just like J.D. Walker.
  6. His killing was a necessary sacrifice in order that we might be forgiven for the sins of Eve, the first woman in the world, who lived 6000 years ago in a magical garden, where a talking snake convinced her to eat a forbidden apple.
  7. To show our thanks for this sacrifice, we should put special crackers and wine in our mouths, where they will be magically transformed into his flesh and blood, which we should then swallow despite taboos regarding cannibalism.
  8. If you don’t believe all the preceding items, then after you die you will be plunged into a lake of fire and tortured for all eternity.
  9. If you do believe all the preceding items, then after you die you’ll get to go to heaven, which is a cloud in outer space connected to the earth with a dotted line bent into a heart-shape
  10. Thomas Kinkade is an awesome painter.

Which book would you rather read?

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If you’re a Christian (or a Jew), you’ve probably noticed that it’s hard to believe in both science and the Bible. Human Genome Project leader (and evangelical Christian) Francis Collins has noticed this too:

After his best-selling The Language of God came out three years ago, Collins began receiving thousands of e-mails — primarily from other Evangelicals — asking questions about how to reconcile scriptural teachings with scientific evidence. “Many of these Christians have been taught that evolution is wrong,” Collins explains. “They go to college and get exposed to data, and then they’re thrust into personal crises of great intensity. If the church was wrong about the origins of life, was it wrong about everything?

You’d like to think a “scientist” would conclude, “yeah, probably.” I mean, if I were to show up at a scientific conference and present my several-hundred-page “Grand Theory of Everything,” and if the first few chapters were filled with obvious falsehoods, you’d hope that the other scientists would laugh me off the stage, tell me to take a long walk off a short pier, or tar and feather me. And you’d certainly hope that they wouldn’t run off to their little science lairs and try to come up with harebrained justifications as to why the rest of my theory was probably still true.

Which is why, although I have great respect for the Human Genome Project (a scientific achievement on par with the Alan Parsons Project), I find myself wondering just how rigorous it was. And looking at Collins’s BioLogos website isn’t doing much to reassure me.

Here, for instance, is how he sums up his answer to “Question 11: Is there room in BioLogos to believe in miracles?”

This response provides a simple answer to the question of miracles, namely that BioLogos does not in any way remove the logical possibility of miracles. However, for the universe to behave in an apparently ordered fashion, such events must be rare. BioLogos is thus compatible with many faiths that have miraculous events at the center of their doctrine. Finally, although a scientific explanation does in fact take away a phenomenon’s miraculous status, it does not establish that God was not involved in the process.

In other words,

  • The fact that the laws of science are regular and predictable seems to leave no room for miracles; however, there could still be miracles as long as they didn’t happen very often.
  • Also, even though any given “miracle” may have a perfectly natural scientific explanation, god may have been involved somehow.

I am not sure what the word is for “let’s add an element to our theory that makes it more complicated and doesn’t actually explain anything, but that makes our theory more palatable to the superstitious,” but I’m pretty sure it’s not “science.”

Still, I’ll keep checking the BioLogos site, because I want to see what their answer is to “Question 39: This whole website is just a gigantic prank, isn’t it?”

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Hey, it’s L. Brent Bozell in the Wall Street Journal. He’s probably trying to restore “decency” to the entertainment industry again, like the time he got all upset about Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, or the time his Right to Censor stable briefly made honest men of former pimp The Goodfather and former pornstar Val Venis. Let’s see what he’s upset about today:

Newsweek greeted the coming of Easter with a black cover, and the headline “The Decline and Fall of Christian America,” spelled out in red in the shape of a cross. Inside, it was more declarative: “The End of Christian America.” Why? Because they found that the percentage of self-identified Christians had fallen 10 points since 1990. Okay, then let’s compare. How much has Newsweek’s circulation fallen since 1990? Just since 2007, their announced circulation has dropped by 52 percent. It would be more plausible to state “The End of Newsweek.”

Oh, snap, L. Brent! I agree that Newsweek is probably going away before “Christian America” is. I’m pretty sure that it’s one of those magazines (like Highlights and Readers Digest) that people only read at doctors offices, and soon when all the doctors offices are run by the government they’ll get rid of expensive perks like “magazines” and “cleanliness” and replace them with more affordable things like pull-number-machines, grime, and free Jehovah’s Witness pamphlets. And then there’ll be no more little “Conventional Wisdom” arrows (or is that Time?) and we’ll all be much the poorer for it. But you know, L. Brent, I’d feel a lot better about your thesis if you were able to speculate about the motives of the people working at Newsweek.

All this leads back to the sneaking suspicion that the top minds at Newsweek think they are the wisest of men, the definers of trends and the shepherds of public opinion. So why is everyone abandoning their advice? Why are the captains of a magazine that’s lost half its circulation telling the rest of us where the mainstream lies?

I get what you’re saying, L. Brent. Only Jesus is the Shepherd of Public Opinion (John 10:11). Only Jesus is the Wisest of Men (1 Cor. 1:24). Only Jesus is the Definer of Trends (Luke 1:69).

And the fact that Newsweek is being read by fewer and fewer people demonstrates that its assessment of Christianity is wrong, just as the Christianity-assessments of General Motors, Circuit City, Bernie Madoff, WaMu, Countrywide, and the RIAA were way off base.

This, L. Brent, is an awesome rule, which I promise to apply to all of my periodical reading in the future.

Why, if Newsweek is against it, then probably Christianity is stronger than ever. Similarly, People magazine is on the decline, which means that probably we should worry about Josh Hartnett’s health. US magazine is also struggling, from which I infer that Jamie Foxx’s remarks about Miley Cyrus were not hurtful. And Weekly World News is in all sorts of trouble, which means that Bat Boy most likely did not get a tax extension.

Speaking of which, how are contributions to your organization going, L. Brent?

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Easter is tomorrow! Sure, if you want to be a wuss you can hunt for eggs or go to church or swing by Marie Callander’s for their special all-you-can-eat brunch.

But if you’re a real Christian, the kind who wants to use god’s supernatural powers to heal your mother of cancer, it’s nail-yourself-to-a-cross-time!

I mean, think about it, if you were Jesus, both god and the son of god, is there anything that would make you want to temporarily change the laws of science to benefit one of your worshipers more than his bloodily reenacting that time that you were tortured by your enemies?

I know that nothing brings out my generosity like vivid recreations of unpleasant episodes from my past!

Still, hand-wounds heal pretty easily (as evidenced by the dude crucifying himself for the Guinness-record 23rd time). I’d be a lot more impressed by believers who beheaded themselves and tried to fix things with transplants of elephant heads.

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