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Category Archives: Religious

Conservatives vs Progressives

liberalconservativeI think I’ve worked out why conservatives think progressives are hypocrites for supporting the rights of Muslims… and why progressives cannot see it.

Conservatives: We want to use our government to make moral choices for others. If people with a different morality to our own gain control of our government they will force everybody to have their morals. Therefore, we must make sure that people with different values to ours are never given a voice otherwise they will take away our way of controlling people and use it to control us. Give more power to the good guys so they can protect us from the bad guys.
The best way to stop other people from controlling what we do is to control what they do.

Progressives: We want to use our government to ensure that everybody has their basic needs met and is able to participate in society. There are people in our society who want to dictate to other people what their morality should be. Some of them are closer to our moral code than others, but all of them need to be prevented from gaining the power to control all of us. Give more power to the people so that we don’t have people forced into a situation of having to be good guys or bad guys.
The best way to stop other people from controlling what we do is to remove a social mechanisms for control and create a society where people are empowered toward self expression to the extent that they don’t use that to control others.

To the progressive, the conservative approach to human rights is heavy handed, short sighted and counterproductive. It is giving excessive power to the government to control people without consideration of the consequences when the government cannot be controlled by the people.

To the conservative, the progressive approach to human rights is naive and inconsistent. How can you support protecting the rights of somebody who doesn’t respect your rights? How can you be on the side of women’s rights while also being on the side of a religion which marginalises women?

I don’t have the answers yet, but I think I may be slightly closer now to understanding the question.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2014 in Political, Religious

 

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Sodomy or Hospitality

tent-flaps-eveningFor the original readers, Sodom and Gomorrah was a story about hospitality and treating travelers properly.

Immediately before they go to Sodom, God’s spies pass Abraham’s tent which he keeps all the flaps up on so he can sit in the shade while scouring the 360 degree horizon for weary travelers. When he sees them he runs out, drags them back to his drafty home, brushes the sand off some food he had out when a sandstorm hit his unprotected tent, and is generally a lovely host.

Shift to Sodom and again there is a good host who meets the strangers in the town square and takes them in. When a mob of locals shows up wanting to rape the outsiders and put them in offshore processing facilities, Lot protects his guests to the extent that he is even prepared to offer up the virginity of his two daughters. By the cultural understanding of the intended audience, this would actually be a lot worse than a gang rape. The girls would consent because it is what their father told them to do, but it would destroy any prospects of respectable marriage and long term security after Lot’s death. Basically, Lot would rather end his own family line than allow harm to come to his visitors.

A lot of Christians think that the story of Sodom is about God punishing people for bumming. I’d say those people have an unhealthy anal fixation. The story is about hospitality. The fate of the daughters is meant to sound horrific. It is there as an exemplar of how far a good host will go for his guests.

This story is about how a town or country treats travelers who arrive in their lands unannounced and uninvited. Do they invite them in and share what they have or do they say “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” and imprison them if they don’t arrive in the correct manner?

There is a moral in this story, but it isn’t “God hate teh gayz”.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2014 in Political, Religious, sexuality

 

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Abortion

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Late term abortion

Abortion up to the day of birth does grate a little on me. But then, Ancient Rome allowed it for up to three years after birth. So my distaste for the notion is cultural rather than objective. It helps to be aware of stuff like that. Did you know that the Bible even includes instructions for a chemically induced abotion (Numbers 5:11-31) for women suspected of infidelity? Fascinating!

People love throwing around the word “science” as though that can provide some kind of moral guidance. Yes, the cells making up an embrio or zygot are a unique combination of their parents’ genes and therefore can be defined as a unique and individual human who is going to die some time in the next 100 or so years regardless of what laws we pass. Genetic science can show that conception results in a new and unique human set of DNA. It can also show that the majority of fertilised eggs are naturally passed from the body and die, and of those that do manage to attach the the ureteral wall, well over half self abort within a few weeks under natural conditions.

The question really isn’t “Is this life human?”, as it clearly is. The real question is who gets to decide whether this individual human life should continue? Is it the parents or is it the government?

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2013 in Political, Religious

 

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Jaminising The Kalam Cosmological Argument

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Forget about who pushed the first domino. I want to know what the dominos were doing there in the first place!

The Kalam Cosmological Argument:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. Therefore the universe has a cause

Analysis of the cause shows it to be timeless and spaceless (since its outside time and space), powerful enough to cause a universe, uncaused, eternal and personal since personal agency is the only thing we know of which can be an uncaused cause and opt to cause things at one point in eternity.
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I haven’t gone into how they come to the first two premises. I think premise two has some good support, at least so far as the observable universe is concerned. My problem with the argument is not in the argument itself but in the leap from a cause to a personal cause.

ImageIf the cause is able to go from a state of not creating a universe to a state of creating a universe then it exists within time and is therefore within a larger universe outside of our observable universe and is not a first cause. In order for a first cause uncaused to exist outside of time, whatever it does to create a universe, it must always be doing that… or something to that effect. A heavily tense specific language like English is a bit of a handicap when trying to explain the actions of something that exists outside of time.

If there is a first cause creator, this argument more strongly suggests a Panentheism style ground-of-all-being style first cause than a personal designer creator cause.

 

(30-11-13 edit: spelling)

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Religious

 

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Investigating Bible verses used to prove Bible Infallibility

Well, I guess if it says it on the napkin...

Well, I guess if it says it on the napkin…

The standard response to this is that you can’t really use a conclusion as proof of itself. I agree, yet it happens. Rather than address the logical fallacy, I’d like to look at whether the Bible actually makes the claim of infallibly or inerrenacy at all.

Firstly, the obvious. The Bible is not a book so much as a collection of books. As such, it is insufficient for a single book to claim divine status of itself to make the claim that the whole collection makes such a claim. There would need to be a verse that makes the claim of the entire collection of works within the collection of works in order to claim that the Bible claims divine status of the whole Bible.

Let’s look at some verses which are frequently cited in this discussion:

“the words of the LORD are flawless” (Psalm 12:6)
This verse is part of a song about God making a promise to save some people because they were groaning with sufficient volume. There is nothing in this verse that even remotely suggests that it is talking about a written text.

“Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” (Psalm 119:89)
Again, this is referring to a direct word from God and mentions nothing about a text. This psalm does at least link the word of God with the Law of Moses. We now have a tenuous link of one song within Psalms supporting elements of Exodus and Deuteronomy… or at least supporting the texts referenced in those books.

“Every word of God is flawless” (Proverbs 30:5)
Agur is addressing Ithiel with words of advice to listen to God’s voice. Given the choice of name (Ithiel meaning: God is with me) it seems that the advice is for those in relationship with God to trust his words when they hear them. It also states not to add to them. Again, this is talking about direct communication from God and makes no mention of existing texts.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16)
This is probably the most commonly cited verse on the topic of Biblical infallibly/inerrancy Translators sometimes use the term “inspired” instead of “God-breathed”. It really depends on whether they want to encourage a figurative or literal interpretation in their English readers. This is probably the strongest verse to state the case but it is important to remember that the reference to “scripture” is not talking about the collection of books we now call “The Bible” but most likely what we now refer to as the Old Testament. Possibly just the first five books.

So we do have a book in the Bible which claims divine inspiration (not inerrancy) for a part of the Bible which does not include itself. This is important to identify we don’t yet have any internal reason to grant the label of divinely inspired to the speaker, so his testimony of divine inspiration for the older books is, at this stage, merely a human opinion.

“If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.” (1 Corinthians 14:37)
This seems to be the strongest claim in any of Paul’s writings that could be interpreted as him believing his own words to be the words of God. This demonstrates Paul’s gift of manipulative writing. He is essentially making it a test of a true prophet that the prophet endorses Paul’s teachings as divine commands.

“For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 21)
This is speaking specifically of The Prophets, a series of writings in what we currently refer to as the Old Testament, though the statement itself could be applied to prophets in general. This verse is explaining that the prophets themselves did not know that the prophecies they were making were actually about Jesus and that nobody would be able to make the connection until after the events had occurred. I’ve spoken about the problems with that kind of prophecy in other posts. For now, let’s simply observe that this text is referring to a specific group of texts of which it is not itself included as even in the most liberal interpretation of the text, it does not claim itself to be prophetic.

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)
A great threat to end your compilation with. This verse is frequently taken to refer to the entire Bible. Keep in mind again that the Bible was not even an idea at the time that this prophecy was written. It is possible to interpret the 2 Peter verse as supporting this book because it is “prophecy”, but only in the sense that the writer of Revelations doesn’t really know what he is talking about.

To summarise:
Old Testament verses refer to the direct spoken word of God and possibly to the Law of Moses as perfect, infallible and without error.

New Testament verses refer to The Torah and The Prophets (but not psalms or proverbs) as divinely inspired. Paul invites prophets to endorse his writings as commands from God as a test of their powers, and Revelations endorses itself.

Conclusion:
There are numerous books within both testaments which have no text claiming divine authorship or inspiration for that text, including all four Gospels. As such, any claim that the entire Bible is the Word of God, infallible, without error, or any other divine features must be supported by evidence external to the Bible. That external source would have to be infallible and without error to do so.

TL;DR:
While individual authors make several claims about their own and others’ writings, The Bible does not say that the Bible as a whole is infallible and without error.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Religious

 

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The Hidden Meaning of Jesus Washing the Disciples’ Feet

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Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.

The Gospel of John tells a story not found in the other gospels which describes Jesus washing the feet of the Disciples. He strips off his clothing and puts on a servants towel, he washes the disciples feet despite Peter’s objection and then has them wash each other’s feet (13:3-14). At first glance, the meaning of the story seems pretty clear. Jesus is taking the humble role of a servant and treating the young men to a relaxing foot bath and massage with some kind of vague allusion to servant leadership, right? That is certainly one way of reading it but it doesn’t explain Peter’s reluctance or his later suggestion of washing his whole body rather than just the feet. There is something else going on here which I intend to reveal.

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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Religious, sexuality

 

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Stimulating Church Growth in a Pluralistic Religious Marketplace

The American big church movement is growing. While churches in the majority are small, the top one percent of churches claims fifteen percent of church memberships, money and full time staff. The Top twenty percent claims sixty to sixty five percent(1). As large churches take a larger and larger share of the market, smaller churches struggle to keep their doors open. In this essay I will explore some factors which allow successful churches to attract new members and retain existing members to grow exponentially in a saturated and declining religious marketplace, and offer some suggestions for church leaders wanting to stimulate growth in their congregations. The main influences to church growth are church friendliness, counter cultural doctrines, service style and marketing.

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Posted by on February 12, 2011 in Religious

 

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