I saw this on Twitter, earlier today, and wanted to correct a few misconceptions.

Firstly, atheism and communism are not one and the same. I have this argument brought up again and again as a sign that those of a religious faith are more ‘moral’ and better than atheists. You can be a communist and an atheist. You can be a communist and a Christian, or a communist and a Muslim. You can a capitalist and an atheist (and so on). This is a classic example of ‘false equivalence’, a problem that seems to be growing in the wake of Trump’s ill-fated words on the Charlottesville riots. That the followers of Stalin’s breed of communism carried out so many atrocities has nothing to do with the absence of faith. Atheists do not see themselves as gods, and do not act in the interests of only themselves (well, some of them perhaps, some of them don’t, but guess what, this applies to people who are religious too, no matter what they may say). This swings back to discussions and comments on the subject of morality. It also wants to treat various blocs of people as monolithic entities. ‘All atheists think X, all Christians think Y, all Muslims think Z’. This is completely false. It’s a method of thinking that gives rise to all sorts of unreasonable stereotypes that end up doing far more harm than good.

People have died in the name of political causes, cultural ideals, and yes, religious beliefs. Morality is not something that can be sourced only through divine ideas. Anyone, from any walk of life, is capable of being cruel. Equally, anyone is capable of acts of great compassion. Can we move past the idea that only the faithful can be moral?

yA1. fagagai

You might want to read these articles if you want to get a good primer for this – once again, we’re talking about bakers, gay marriage, and where the line is between private rights and professional duty.

This is a recurring theme that in my view is actually very simple – a business that is open to the public and operates in the public domain should be held to the same rules as every other such business – a shop is not a private institution; it has made a commitment to follow certain rules, and in refusing customers on the grounds of sexual orientation, it is failing to abide by those rules. That’s pretty straightforward in my book.

This time, the case in question comes from Northern Ireland, a country known for religious and political turmoil, with the two factors very much entwined. Back in 2014 a bakery refused to make a cake for a gay rights activist, on the grounds of religious freedom. Earlier this year a hearing ruled that the bakery was a ‘business for profit’, not a religious group, and therefore not subject to exemption from business law and rules. In my view, this is entirely correct, yet not unsurprisingly, there has been a furore over this.

In my discussion with Paul on Blogging Theology, the question came up (and I have since seen this question repeated elsewhere) over freedom of expression and whether we would expect a Jewish bakery to make a cake with Nazi symbols – but this is a false dilemma. Supporting gay rights is in no way shape or form the same as supporting an ideology that was based entirely on hate and discrimination, and to suggest the two scenarios are similar is a false narrative.  Expecting a business to fulfil its obligations under law is not the same as expecting a private institution (or individual) to abandon their belief system. The bottom line is, when you open a business that will deal with the public, you don’t get to pick and choose who you serve. That opens the door to all kinds of arbitrary approaches. ‘I don’t like people who wear glasses so I won’t serve them’. It opens the floodgates to all sorts of unpleasantness.

Another unsurprising argument is the position that fining the bakery in this instance is part of a clampdown on religious expression and freedoms. Never mind that homosexuals still face routine discrimination, even in developed countries. Never mind that no one is forcing religious institutions to take part in same-sex weddings. I have to wonder, what freedoms have been curtailed?

 

In what seems to be fast becoming a weekly feature of this blog (and one I really need to move away from – more light-hearted posts are I think, sorely needed), I find myself yet again feeling the need to address some inaccuracies from TA.

image

(why do you do this Ben, why?!)

I’m not going to pore over his entire post, but instead will tackle one or two points he raises.

#1. The Intolerance Continueshttp://www.christianpost.com/news/lgbt-groups-demand-big-12-reject-byu-over-schools-biblical-opposition-gay-marriage-167790/

Twenty-six LGBT organizations are demanding that the Big 12 block the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-operated Brigham Young University from joining the athletic conference because of the institution’s biblical stance on same-sex marriage.

Because they do not get their spoiled way with everyone, the LGBTQ community looks to hurt others, That certainly isn’t nice let alone biblical and many of the LGBTQ community claim that God loves them and is with them. If the LGBTQ community actually practiced biblical teaching, they would turn the other cheek, return good for supposed evil and not bully those who disagree with them.

As it stands all the LGBTQ community is doing is demonstrating that while they want & demand love they will not give it to anyone else.

Yet, the irony here is that TA (and other hard-line Christian fundamentalists) have made it abundantly clear that the LGBT community is to be denied rights (such as service at public businesses) since apparently, someone’s religious values should trump everything else, even in what should be neutral environments. It is mightily hypocritical of TA to complain of an exclusionary stance from the LGBT community, when he has been advocating such a stance himself.

After all, there is a fundamental difference here – in one context, the LGBT community don’t want to share space with a community that supports routine discrimination against them – in the other, fundamentalists want to use their beliefs to impose a system upon everyone else, regardless of what everyone else believes, and then call it ‘freedom’.

#4. Pandora’s Boxhttp://www.christianpost.com/news/pedophilia-next-sin-normalized-professor-questions-adult-child-sex-immoral-stephen-kershnar-167730/

An academic book that suggests the moral status of pedophilia is unclear, has some prominent social conservatives saying that we are now on a familiar, troubling path toward normalization of things once considered unthinkable.

Prominent defenders of traditional marriage highlighted on their social media pages Sunday a book called Pedophilia and Adult-Child Sex: A Philosophical Analysis by Stephen Kershnar, who is a professor and chair the philosophy department at State University of New York at Fredonia. The 168-page work, which was released last year and recently came to the attention of conservatives, examines the moral status of sexual relationships between adults and children, explores whether those who engage in that kind of sex “have a disease, act wrongly, or are vicious,” and engages the surrounding legal issues.

What is next, making polygamy legal?  We already have had 3 people marry each other to form a threesome in ‘marriage’ so what is the next sin to be legalized? Notice that God doe snot change his definition of sin nor which sins are included in that list. Only humans do that when they decide that darkness is more legitimate than light.

The Slippery Slope Fallacy is in clear evidence here. I can think of no one that is actually arguing for paedophilia to be legalised – the notion of abhorrent to anyone with even the slightest moral compass, and it’s not something that will come around, ever. Moreover, it will certainly not come about because two people of the same sex want to be together and get married. It will not happen because consenting adults engage in threesomes in the privacy of their own homes.

The key word, which proponents of this fallacy mysteriously forget all the time, is consent. Two (or more) adults can give consent, and thus enter knowingly into whatever actions they undertake. As long as no one gets hurt, it’s their private business, and certainly not the domain of someone who believes their religious beliefs override everyone else’s rights.

If this argument is accepted then the following will not be illegal

http://christiannews.net/2016/08/09/over-40-arrested-in-tennessees-most-significant-human-trafficking-operation-to-date/

Over 40 people were arrested last week in what is being called Tennessee’s “most significant human trafficking operation to date.”

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) announced the arrests on Friday, which were a part of “Operation Someone Like Me.”

Where will the world end up if the trend continues in this direction? We know where and people can fully understand why God destroyed the pre-flood world with a flood.

Except nothing of the kind will be made legal, because no one who is not already a paedophile will ever consider legalising it. What the Slippery Slope Fallacy does is to demonise the LGBT community by attempting – unfairly – to lump it into other categories to which it decidedly does not belong. It is a desperate scare-mongering effort, carried out by those who are bitter that their bid to push their doctrine upon everyone else has failed.

 

This is the continuation of my look at an article that speaks about abortion. You can see part one here.

The next paragraph is one that TA himself is quoting:

“It’s not abortion that’s bothering them. It’s empowering women to live our own lives,” she asserted. “And when we have power over our own destiny, we honor our most cherished traditions of charity and equality. These aren’t just women’s issues. These are the very foundation of our freedom

I think is very much what bothers a lot of those who argue against a woman’s right to choose. This is about freedom on the most basic level – the freedom to make decisions about one’s own self, especially regarding life-changing events. No one I know would ever pretend it’s an easy decision, but is it the right of any singular religious organisation to impose a judgement upon everyone else, least of all in respect of their own bodies? As the quote about said, it’s about freedom.

If a woman wants to be a master of her own destiny then she needs to live a life that is approved by God and men need to help them get there. To be ’empowered’ women need to understand that there are so many ways where they can influence the world around them and make wise decisions influenced by Jesus and avoid destructive and foolish decisions influenced by fallible, sinful, disobedient women.

The irony in the first sentence is remarkable. Women can be masters of their own destiny, providing they do as God and their men direct. That is the above paragraph, summed up in a nutshell.

How are women empowered by God? God has given them many of the same tools he has given men to be spiritually correct in their lives. he has given them intelligence to make wise decisions, he has given them the ability and desire to learn correctly, he has given them the right to choose how they will live and that choice empowers women. if they do not want to sin, they have the right to say no and that right to say no helps them avoid unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

Emphasis mine. I don’t know how TA can argue women have the right to choose how to live when he would also argue they need to be subservient to men on matters concerning their own bodies.

There is yet more to this, but frankly, there’s only such much I can go through before I get weary of it. Much of what he says is repetition and therefore I would only be doing the same.

Back to Feminism

One of the toughest, most challenging discussions that exists out there is the subject of abortion. It is inevitably emotive, and the topic is divisive.

Overlapping this is the subject of women’s rights, and religious beliefs. One of these issues bears a great of relevancy to abortion – the other depends entirely upon your personal beliefs and should not be used to force anyone down a particular route. You can probably guess as to where I stand.

Not for the first time, I find myself in disagreement with TA. One of his most recent articles speaks of the empowerment of women – but this is apparently not a good thing.

(on the idea that empowered women benefit families)

This is not biblical teaching and what has made us angry is that some woman has decided that she wants to play God and wants to lead women to do the same thing. We do not need empowered women. Those women ignore God’s teaching, willfully sin and disobey God’s instructions and such women are not building a strong family but destroying one.

The most obvious point I can make here is – what if the women (and for that matter, their partners) do not believe in God? Furthermore, is a woman who wants to be the master of her own destiny really a bad thing? If someone is not a believer, should a religious rule be forcibly imposed upon them?

We do not need wives and mothers kept imprisoned in sin and encouraged to be sinners.We do not need the hand that rocks the cradle to be thinking that it gets to decide who lives or dies before the child is born.That is not a choice granted to women by God. These type of women are destructive to their husbands, their children and to society in general. Their support of evil and calling it good places then in the path to face the wrath of God. And no husband or son, if they are decent people wants their mothers or wives to be placed in such a position.

This is where emotion plays a huge part in this argument. It would personally very difficult for me if my wife had said to me ‘I want an abortion’ when she was pregnant with our daughter. However, it is ultimately her body. It belongs to no one but her. She is the one who will undergo physical and psychological changes for several months, not me. Refusing to respect this and using religion to hide behind what is misogyny at its worst would make me the destructive one.

What I believe is the inalienable right of the woman to choose. I would like to believe a discussion would take place between the prospective parents, but ultimately the final say belongs to the person whose body (and indeed life, in most cases) will be affected the most.

Men you have to do something biblical about this and combat this rising tide of disobedience in women. You cannot take a pass and say that it is the woman’s body. It is no longer her body when she has mated with a man and the body she is disposing of is not hers to destroy. The woman was never given authority over reproduction in deciding who can or cannot be born. You need to stand up and be men instead of rolling over and appeasing the woman. You need to lead them to the right way to think, you need to lead them away from the path of destruction and to the path of life.

Emphasis mine. Where does this line of reasoning end? ‘It is no longer her body when she has mated with a man’? Seriously? Does this mean my body is not mine when I’ve ‘mated’? By the extension of his logic, this should be the case. Should we consider the case that by ‘mating’ I lose full authority over what I do with my body? I doubt very much TA would make this case. It is clearly intended to be a one-way system of male authority, over the most female of experiences. Women apparently have no authority over reproduction and who or who isn’t born. Does this mean that as men we have the authority to do so? That’s the implicit suggestion here, even though we should have no more authority to do so than women, since according to TA it’s up to God.

While abortion is not the unforgivable sin,it is not an action approved of God and we know how God hates the destruction of innocent people no matter their age or stage in life. Men have to get a backbone here and wisely say ‘no’ to women and their desire to sin.

Does blocking this desire force women into inferior and subservient roles in life? Of course not for God has already empowered women to levels they cannot imagine but he empowers them with the tools to be holy not sinful, arrogant, and masters of their own destinies.

 

What actually happens is that religious beliefs are allowed to greatly interfere, on a fundamental level, with what 50% of the human race can do with their bodies. It is the ultimate expression of misogyny, as mentioned earlier. It is also yet another demonstration of the desire to force a belief system upon people, whether they want to follow it or not.

There is more, but that is better saved for another time. Stand by for part 2 later

Back to Feminism

There’s a notion out there which is built upon prejudice and the misrepresentation of facts. Whether this is done deliberately or not, I cannot say.

There is a notion among conservative religious right types that marriage is ‘owned’ by the Church, and the Church is subsequently owed a say in the gay marriage debate. They object to the ‘redefinition’ of marriage (let’s ignore civil liberty, and the fact that marriage has historically been redefined anyway).

To make these arguments, ‘facts’ are thrown around about the dangers of the ‘gay’ lifestyle. For example, the greater prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases amongst homosexuals is cited as ‘evidence’ that being gay is bad.

Yet this depends on a singular application of the facts. Might promiscuity be greater among homosexuals? Possibly. It’s not a trait unique to homosexuals though – there are plenty of promiscuous heterosexuals too, and STDs are not isolated to the homosexual population.

Indeed, a 2008 study in the UK found that promiscuous behaviour in young adults was on the rise, and with this came a rise in the number of women seeking abortions and a rise in reports of STDs. Another study, in 2010, suggests the difference between heterosexual and homosexual promiscuity is around one percent. Hardly as damming as the reactionary right would suggest.

So what’s the route cause of STDs? It’s primarily people not practising safe sex. This is as big a problem for heterosexuals as it is homosexuals, and is based on a lack of education. Protection is out there, readily available, and greater awareness of this needs to be pushed. Pretending young people (both straight and gay) don’t have sex is to bury one’s head in the sand. Wielding religious arguments whilst simultaneously speaking of natural law is to both force a set of beliefs upon someone, and massive hypocrisy (homosexuality exists in nature – our religious beliefs do not).

Indeed, religious objections to contraception play a part in the lack of proper sex education. The Catholic Church considers the use of contraception to be a sin, and wields tremendous influence, all around the world. This cannot fail to influence the presence (or lack thereof) of education on the subject, and of the availability of contraception. Proponents of this position have created, at least in part, the conditions for STDs to spread, by promoting ignorance.

It alarms me greatly that the Church will oppose a means to control STDs and then lambast the problems with unprotected sex. This is a not-so-subtle effort to ensure the dominance of religious thinking and mandates in people’s private lives (including of course, homosexuality). Controlling the sexual behaviour of a population is but one way of controlling the population, and a pretty cynical one at that.

Another means employed by the religious right is to assert that homosexuals (in particular gay men) are more likely to be child molesters than straight men. This reflects both a confusion surrounding terminology, and an effort to deflect attention away from abuse scandals in the Church.

The assumption is that a man who assaults a male child is homosexual, when in fact the adult may have no preference for adult men. Would it reasonable to assume that an adult male assaulting a female child is a heterosexual? This is (unsurprisingly) not a link that the religious right argues exists.

The realilty is not based on sexual orientation but rather, psychological disorders. These are not an inherent trait of homosexuals, despite efforts to manipulate the facts to say otherwise. In fact, the Catholic Church alone has a history of abuse scandals, and subsequent cover-ups. Would it be remotely fair to tar everyone with the same brush in these circumstances? Of course not, yet those who advocate discrimination against homosexuals never appear to extend this consideration.

Can we expect these attitudes to change? Perhaps one day. That’s what we try to do, one article – one voice, at a time.

Before I write this post I must stress that this is not aimed at everyone who holds religious or spiritual beliefs. It is in fact aimed squarely at the author of theologyarchaeology.wordpress.com, for the things said in their latest article. I addressed a little of this in one of my most recent posts – now let’s look at what appears to have triggered this article. Quotes in italics are not from TA, but rather from the sources he is quoting from.

Parents of a 5-year-old “transgender child” have filed a complaint against a St. Paul charter school, alleging it failed to protect him from bullying and refused to teach all the students their preferred transgender-awareness curriculum.

I will accept that expecting transgender-awareness lessons for such a young age group is going to be very hard to get implemented, and speaking as the father to a girl who is nearly six, I don’t think children of that age group would understand in much detail the ideas presented to them anyway. It would have been better if the child’s parents had stressed the anti-bullying rules the school has in place, along with a quiet word regarding their child’s choices.

That being said, what TA goes on to say is worthy of condemnation:

These parents want THEIR material presented to all the other students. One obvious point that needs to be made here is that it is not the job of the school to protect students from bullying when the student’s parents set their child up to be bullied. In this case the parents are the one making their child a prime target by not providing him or her with sound advice but encourages them to act in a manner everyone knows will draw the wrong attention from their classmates. The school cannot be held responsible when the parents are at fault.

Apparently encouraging a child to be themselves is setting up that child to be bullied and the school bears no responsibility toward the child that is within their grounds, nor toward the behaviour and attitudes of other children in their care. At such young ages, it’s not only parents that are huge influences upon children but also teachers. No teacher worth their salt will condone bullying, regardless of the reason.

(referring to how the child had dressed for school) Did the parents not think that this would keep their child safe from ridicule and bullying? The parents have the biblical responsibility to teach their children the right way to live

image

What?! Religious interference in education is just one way in which belief systems are superimposed upon the rest of society, irrespective of whether the rest of society shares that belief system. The parents of the child in question (and indeed, anyone who doesn’t want Biblical rules making policy) are under no obligation to follow Christian belief systems, especially when those same belief systems encourage discriminatory stances. I wonder if TA understands the difference between his idea of imposing points of view (where the state expects public institutions and businesses to abide by laws that apply equally to everyone, and exempts private institutions from these laws) and what what he is proposing, which is that everyone should follow Biblical values as a matter of public law, regardless of whether they believe those values or not. Which idea is really about imposing views on others?

Not for the first time since my little sparring match with him, the author of theologyarchaeology.wordpress.com (I’m not turning it into a hyperlink anymore, as frankly I don’t see why my site should point directly to his) has come out and demonstrated his misunderstanding of how a fair and equal society should work.

For the past 30 years or so this has been the modus operandi of too many westerners.The thinking is if you do not like the way things are being done, sue and get rich quick or force your ways upon others. We do not feel that the motive behind a majority of lawsuits is for the benefit of society.  In this day and age, when alternative preferences, whether they be gender identity or homosexual issues, the strategy has been to sue and ruin other people.

Emphasis mine. It’s true that frivolous lawsuits exist and they would make any right-minded person sigh with exasperation. However, his complaint about homosexuality and gender issues underscores his lack of comprehension on this issue.

What exactly is being forced upon TA (and anyone else of any given faith) by obeying the laws of the land? I imagine his reference about lawsuits concerns gay couples having to force public businesses to abide by laws that apply equally to everyone. Whether he likes it or not, a business is not a religious institution and cannot arbitrarily refuse service to a customer based on their sexual orientation.

This is not the first time TA has suggested that equal treatment equates to homosexuals forcing their views upon others – the irony being that he would expect them to accept being treated in accordance with Biblical principles and can see nothing wrong with religious interference upon business law. I am also reminded of his not-so-subtle editing of a comment of mine regarding anti-discrimination laws (he claimed businesses could reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, and removed a huge portion of my post where I proved him wrong).

I can’t work out if they believe that the faithful should be free to practice whatever laws they wish, regardless of how this might affect others. If religion is to make law, then whose religion, and what interpretation of that religion, and what do we do where people of differing faiths clash? Divide up countries and even cities on the basis of who believes what? Separating government from religion is the only way to ensure law and order is applied equally to everyone.

Before I answer the question, some context. I am having a discussion (which you can follow directly here) on homosexuality, persecution, righteousness and sin. I don’t normally ‘stick my oar in’ in situations like this, but upon reading the post, I felt compelled to offer up a reply.

I want to also add a caveat to this – I do not consider this person to be representative of all Christians and all people of faith. I don’t believe in tarring everyone with the same brush and won’t do so here. I have personally known several Christians who easily fall into the category of ‘most kind and gentle people I’ve ever met’.

In the course of our ‘chat’, I suggested that religion is responsible for a great many conflicts. The author of the site argues that religion is not responsible for conflict, but rather, that sin is.

My counterpoint to this would be that sin is a religious concept, and therefore religion, vicariously through sin, is responsible for a great many wars and conflicts over time.

To quote from the Encyclopaedia Britannica website:

Sin,  moral evil as considered from a religious standpoint. Sin is regarded in Judaism and Christianity as the deliberate and purposeful violation of the will of God. See alsodeadly sin.

Furthermore, the site also says:

In the Old Testament, sin is directly linked to the monotheistic beliefs of the Hebrews. Sinful acts are viewed as a defiance of God’s commandments, and sin itself is regarded as an attitude of defiance or hatred of God. The New Testament accepts the Judaic concept of sin but regards humanity’s state of collective and individual sinfulness as a condition that Jesus came into the world to heal. Redemption through Christ could enable men to overcome sin and thus to become whole. Both Christianity and Judaism see sin as a deliberate violation of the will of God and as being attributable to human pride, self-centredness, and disobedience. While insisting more strongly than most religions upon the gravity of sin, both in its essence and in its consequences, both Christianity and Judaism have emphatically rejected the Manichaean doctrine that either the created world as a whole or the material part of it is inherently evil. Christianity holds rather that evil is the result of the misuse of their free will by created beings and that the body, with its passions and impulses, is to be neither ignored nor despised but sanctified; in the Bible, the “flesh” that is spoken of disparagingly is not the human body but human nature in rebellion against God.

So sin, it would seem, is very much a religious concept to both Christian and Jewish faiths. The very first words from a BBC article on the subject state:

Original sin is an Augustine Christian doctrine that says that everyone is born sinful. This means that they are born with a built-in urge to do bad things and to disobey God. It is an important doctrine within the Roman Catholic Church. The concept of Original Sin was explained in depth by St Augustine and formalised as part of Roman Catholic doctrine by the Councils of Trent in the 16th Century.

Original sin is not just this inherited spiritual disease or defect in human nature; it’s also the ‘condemnation’ that goes with that fault.

Emphasis mine. It would appear that sin is an important religious concept after all.

In the wider context, does this mean that religious beliefs have contributed to wars and conflicts around the world?

The short answer is of course yes. To deny religious motivations behind the Crusades for example, is to be deliberately blind to what they were about (Christians and Muslims fought each other for the control of the Holy Land). The Troubles that blighted Northern Ireland were motivated, at least in part, by disputes between Protestants and Catholics, which in turn are the echoes of older conflicts (the British Civil War was also partly motivated by this).

For me, religion works best as a personal relationship, that doesn’t try to force its views upon others. A case in point would be attempts to justify discriminatory practices against homosexuals in the US, citing ‘religious freedom’. My opponent in the discussion in question has attempted to equate the poor employment laws that allow employers to dismiss someone purely because of their sexual orientation, with the suing of bakeries for refusal of services to homosexual couples, as though the two situations are one and the same. Clearly, they are not.

What’s more worrying is that my opponent does not consider the treatment of homosexuals in the Bible to be wrong – I quote directly:

Your point depends upon how you define the word persecuted as Christians have been truly persecuted while a lot of the treatment, in the OT, of the homosexual was by divine command.

There is even the equation of homosexuals with criminals:

Convicts have a saying: if you cannot do the time do not do the crime. If you cannot pay the price for being a homosexual then stop practicing homosexuality. Homosexuality is sin, wrong, abnormal, not right, whether you agree with that designation or not, and you will be treated accordingly.

I am probably fighting a losing battle here. There is a fundamentalist mindset at work that no amount of argument will shift. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to at least try. All too often, I scroll past sites such as these, only usually prepared to argue a point if someone else is already doing so.

I certainly feel I have made my point eloquently.

I keep discovering new and interesting sites via WordPress, and this one is no exception. This post, by one Chris Murray, author of the Ego Factor, is an excellent and far better version of a post I myself made earlier today to describe religious problems.

As I said before, extremism is a problem for many religions – despite protests to the contrary, Christianity is not devoid of such extremism – historically it has been as violent as Islam, with the main difference today being that fundamentalist Christians use words rather than guns.

It is time to stop blaming the many for the actions of the few.