The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience
One is Christianized to the extent that he is a Christianizer.
- Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens
Why Don't Christians Live What They Preach?
by Ronald J Sider
Scandalous behaviour is rapidly destroying American Christianity. By their daily activity, most "Christians" regularly commit treason. With their mouths they claim that Jesus is Lord, but with their actions they demonstrate allegiance to money, sex, and self-fulfillment.
The findings in numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like The Gallup Organization and The Barna Group are simply shocking. "Gallup and Barna," laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, "hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general." Divorce is more common among "born-again" Christians than in the general American population. Only 6% of evangelicals tithe. White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Josh McDowell has pointed out that the sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only a little less outrageous than that of their non-evangelical peers.
Alan Wolfe, famous contemporary scholar and director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, has just published a penetrating study of American religious life. Evangelicals figure prominently in his book. His evaluation? Today's evangelicalism, Wolfe says, exhibits "so strong a desire to copy the culture of hotel chains and popular music that it loses what religious distinctiveness it once had." Wolfe argues, "The truth is there is increasingly little difference between an essentially secular activity like the popular entertainment industry and the bring-'em-in-at-any-cost efforts of evangelical mega-churches."
It is not surprising that George Barna concludes, "Every day, the church is becoming more like the world it allegedly seeks to change." We have very little time, he believes, to reverse these trends. African Christian and famous missions scholar Professor Lamin Sanneh told Christianity Today recently that "the cultural captivity of Christianity in the West is nearly complete, and with the religion tamed, it is open season on the West's Christian heritage. I worry about a West without a moral center facing a politically resurgent Islam."
Our first concern, of course, must be internal integrity, not external danger. What a tragedy for evangelicals to declare proudly that personal conversion and new birth in Christ are at the center of their faith and then to defy biblical moral standards by living almost as sinfully as their pagan neighbours.
Graham Cyster, a Christian whom I know from South Africa, recently told me a painful story about a personal experience two decades ago when he was struggling against apartheid as a young South African evangelical. One night, he was smuggled into an underground Communist cell of young people fighting apartheid. "Tell us about the gospel of Jesus Christ," they asked, half hoping for an alternative to the violent communist strategy they were embracing.
Graham gave a clear, powerful presentation of the gospel, showing how personal faith in Christ wonderfully transforms persons and creates one new body of believers where there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, rich nor poor, black nor white. The youth were fascinated. One 17-year-old exclaimed, "That is wonderful! Show me where I can see that happening." Graham's face fell as he sadly responded that he could not think of anywhere South African Christians were truly living out the message of the gospel. "Then the whole thing is a piece of sh—," the youth angrily retorted. Within a month he left the country to join the armed struggle against apartheid — and eventually giving his life for his beliefs.
The young man was right. If Christians do not live what they preach, the whole thing is a farce. "American Christianity has largely failed since the middle of the 20th century," Barna concludes.
Source: www.christianitytoday.com January/February 2005
"Sacred Fury": Fundamentalism in Its Totality
by Vanessa Clarke
Sociology professor Dr Charles Selengut gave a speech on Wednesday, 17 November entitled, "Sacred Fury: the Rise of Fundamentalism," based on his recent book about the rise of religious fundamentalism in postmodern society. Selengut argued that if religion were a supermarket, then "fundamentalism is the best deal you can get."
He said that religious fundamentalism of any kind flourishes in today's society because of people's disenchantment with modernism and materialism. Modernism, he said, promises to deliver its rewards in this life and when people see that they are not getting what they were supposed to, they begin to look to something else to fill the void. "Few now believe that science, for all its power, will teach us how to get a life," he said. Religious fundamentalism, on the other hand, says that for a life well-lived on this earth, the rewards will be in the hereafter. The genius of this, he said, is that it cannot be disproved.
When compared to traditional religions, such as Protestantism or Catholicism, fundamentalism has a major difference, which Selengut expressed using the analogy of baking a croissant. A religious traditionalist, he said, would bake croissants the same way as their mother and grandmother, approximating each of the measurements and doing it as he or she has always seen it done. A religious fundamentalist, on the other hand, would follow the recipe very strictly. He or she would argue that what the traditionalist was baking was not actually a croissant at all, because it did not follow the recipe.
Selengut's goal was to look at fundamentalism without bringing his morality and his politics to the table. He believed that only by looking at it from the inside could fundamentalism truly be understood.
Some of the other professors that attended the speech disagreed with Selengut's thesis. One major objection was that the rise of fundamentalism should not be explained as a strictly religious occurrence, but as a reaction to political and social forces in the international community. Selengut defended his position by saying that he believes that such an approach trivialise what fundamentalists say about their beliefs and that he takes what they say at face value.
Another objection was that fundamentalism is just a phase and will not continue to expand, as Selengut believes it will. Selengut disagreed, saying, "This is not just another Great Awakening." He believes that even in this country, there will be fundamentalist institutions. He pointed to the re-election of President George W Bush as a sign of this.
The speech was organized by CCM's Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Bildner Diversity Initiative to help bring about a better understanding of the post-9l1l years.
Vanessa Clarke is news editor
Source: The Youngtown Edition 24 November 2004
America Is Revealed as One Nation under Four Faces of God
by Tim Reid
[An] American survey, conducted by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion in Texas, broke new ground in asking respondents how they viewed God’s personality. Researchers found that Americans hold four distinct views, and these "Four Gods" are remarkably accurate diviners of how an American thinks about everything from politics, abortion, taxation and marriage. "You learn more about people’s moral and political behaviour if you know their image of God than almost any other measure," said Christopher Bader, one of the researchers.
[Most] African Americans (53.4%) believe in an Authoritarian God. Women tend towards very engaged images of God - Authoritarian or Benevolent - while men tend toward the Distant God, and are more likely to be atheist. More than 80% of those who see god as Authoritarian believe gay marriage is wrong, compared with 30% who view god as distant. 12% of Authoritarians want to abolish the death penalty, compared with 27% of those who see Distant God. Nearly 54% of Authoritarians believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 11 September 2001 attacks, compared with 23% of those who believe in a Distant God. "This is a very powerful tool to understand core differences in the United States," said Paul Froese, a professor at Baylor. "If I know your image of God, I can tell all kinds of things about you. It’s a central part of your world view."
Children of a Lesser God
by James Taranto with Carol Muller
That adds up to 94.8%, which leaves some room for other conceptions of God. Here are some we thought of:
Source: opinionjournal.com "Best of the Web Today" 13 September 2006
A Pantheon for Monotheists
by James Taranto with Carol Muller
Source: opinionjournal.com "Best of the Web Today" 14 September 2006
When Islam Breaks Down
by Theodore Dalrymple
A piece of pulp fiction by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, first published in 1898, when followers of the charismatic fundamentalist leader Muhammad al-Mahdi tried to establish a theocracy in Sudan by revolting against Anglo-Egyptian control, captures the contradiction at the heart of contemporary Islam. Called TheTragedy of the Korosko, the book is the story of a small tourist party to Upper Egypt, who are kidnapped and held to ransom by some Mahdists, and then rescued by the Egyptian Camel Corps. (I hesitate, as a Francophile, to point out to American readers that there is a French character in the book, who, until he is himself captured by the Mahdists, believes that they are but a figment of the British imagination, to give perfidious Albion a pretext to interfere in Sudanese affairs.) A mullah among the Mahdists who capture the tourists attempts to convert the Europeans and Americans to Islam, deriding as unimportant and insignificant their technically superior civilisation: "'As to the [scientific] learning of which you speak..." said the Moolah; "I have myself studied at the University of Al Azhar at Cairo, and I know that to which you allude. But the learning of the faithful is not as the learning of the unbeliever, and it is not fitting that we pry too deeply into the ways of Allah. Some stars have tails ... and some have not; but what does it profit us to know which are which? For God made them all, and they are very safe in His hands. Therefore ... be not puffed up by the foolish learning of the West, and understand that there is only one wisdom, which consists in following the will of Allah as His chosen prophet has laid it down for us in this book.'"
This is by no means a despicable argument. One of the reasons that we can appreciate the art and literature of the past, and sometimes of the very distant past, is that the fundamental conditions of human existence remain the same, however much we advance in the technical sense: I have myself argued that human self-understanding, except in purely technical matters, reached its apogee with Shakespeare. In a sense, the mullah is right.
But if we made a fetish of Shakespeare (much richer and more profound than the Qu’ran, in my view), if we made him the sole object of our study and the sole guide of our lives, we would soon enough fall into backwardness and stagnation. And the problem is that so many Muslims want both stagnation and power: they want a return to the perfection of the 7th century and to dominate the 21st, as they believe is the birthright of their doctrine, the last testament of God to man. If they were content to exist in a 7th-century backwater, secure in a quietist philosophy, there would be no problem for them or us; their problem, and ours, is that they want the power that free inquiry confers, without either the free inquiry or the philosophy and institutions that guarantee that free inquiry. They are faced with a dilemma: either they abandon their cherished religion, or they remain forever in the rear of human technical advance. Neither alternative is very appealing; and the tension between their desire for power and success in the modern world on the one hand, and their desire not to abandon their religion on the other, is resolvable for some only by exploding themselves as bombs.
Source: city-journal.org City Journal Spring 2004
The End of Faith
When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist,
- Quentin Crisp
She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist.
- Jean-Paul Sartre
The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris
When I was 8 years old, my family was in a terrible car accident, and my older brother almost died. The next night, as I lay scared and sleepless on my paternal grandmother's living-room couch, she softly explained to me who was to blame. Not my father's Aunt Estelle, a dour, aging wild woman and devout Baptist, who, as usual, was driving recklessly fast. No, the reason Estelle's station wagon flipped over and Joe was thrown out the back window was this: my father had stopped going to church the previous year, and God was very, very angry.
Dear old Grandma June. A compelling lack of evidence for any sort of Higher Power may have steered my mind toward atheism, but she put the heathen in my heart.
It's not often that I see my florid strain of atheism expressed in any document this side of the Seine, but The End of Faith articulates the dangers and absurdities of organised religion so fiercely and so fearlessly that I felt relieved as I read it, vindicated, almost personally understood. Sam Harris presents major religious systems like Judaism, Christianity and Islam as forms of socially sanctioned lunacy, their fundamental tenets and rituals irrational, archaic and, important when it comes to matters of humanity's long-term survival, mutually incompatible. A doctoral candidate in neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles, Harris writes what a sizable number of us think, but few are willing to say in contemporary America: "We have names for people who have many beliefs for which there is no rational justification. When their beliefs are extremely common, we call them 'religious'; otherwise, they are likely to be called 'mad,' 'psychotic' or 'delusional.' "To cite but one example: "Jesus Christ - who, as it turns out, was born of a virgin, cheated death and rose bodily into the heavens - can now be eaten in the form of a cracker. A few Latin words spoken over your favourite burgundy, and you can drink his blood as well. Is there any doubt that a lone subscriber to these beliefs would be considered mad?" The danger of religious faith, he continues, "is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy."
Right now, if you are even vaguely observant, or have friends or grandmothers who are, you may be feeling not merely irritated, as you would while reading a political columnist with whom you disagree, but deeply offended. You may also think it inappropriate that a mainstream newspaper be seen as obliquely condoning an attack on religious belief. That reaction, in Harris's view, is part of the problem. "Criticising a person's faith is currently taboo in every corner of our culture. On this subject, liberals and conservatives have reached a rare consensus: religious beliefs are simply beyond the scope of rational discourse. Criticising a person's ideas about God and the afterlife is thought to be impolitic in a way that criticising his ideas about physics or history is not."
A zippered-lip policy would be fine, a pleasant display of the neighbourly tolerance that we consider part of an advanced democracy, Harris says, if not for the mortal perils inherent in strong religious faith. The terrorists who flew jet planes into the World Trade Center believed in the holiness of their cause. The Christian apocalypticists who are willing to risk a nuclear conflagration in the Middle East for the sake of expediting the second coming of Christ believe in the holiness of their cause. In Harris's view, such fundamentalists are not misinterpreting their religious texts or ideals. They are not defaming or distorting their faith. To the contrary, they are taking their religion seriously, attending to the holy texts on which their faith is built. Unhappily for international comity, the Good Books that undergird the world's major religions are extraordinary anthologies of violence and vengeance, celestial decrees that infidels must die.
In the 21st century, Harris says, when swords have been beaten into megaton bombs, the persistence of ancient, blood-washed theisms that emphasise their singular righteousness and their superiority over competing faiths poses a genuine threat to the future of humanity, if not the biosphere: "We can no longer ignore the fact that billions of our neighbours believe in the metaphysics of martyrdom, or in the literal truth of the book of Revelation," he writes, "because our neighbours are now armed with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons."
Harris reserves particular ire for religious moderates, those who "have taken the apparent high road of pluralism, asserting the equal validity of all faiths" and who "imagine that the path to peace will be paved once each of us has learned to respect the unjustified beliefs of others." Religious moderates, he argues, are the ones who thwart all efforts to criticise religious literalism. By preaching tolerance, they become intolerant of any rational discussion of religion and "betray faith and reason equally."
Harris, no pure materialist, acknowledges the human need for a mystical dimension to life, and he conveys something of a Buddhist slant on the nature of consciousness and reality. But he believes that mysticism, like other forms of knowledge, can be approached rationally and explored with the tools of modern neuroscience, without recourse to superstition and credulity.
The End of Faith is far from perfect. Harris seems to find "moral relativism" as great a sin as religious moderation, and in the end he singles out Islam as the reigning threat to humankind. He likens it to the gruesome, Inquisition-style Christianity of the 13th century, yet he never explains how Christianity became comparatively domesticated. And on reading his insistence that it is "time for us to admit that not all cultures are at the same stage of moral development," I couldn't help but think of Ann Coulter's morally developed suggestion that we invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders and convert their citizens to Christianity.
Harris also drifts into arenas of marginal relevance to his main thesis, attacking the war against drugs here, pacificism there, and offering a strained defence for the use of torture in wartime that seems all the less persuasive after Abu Ghraib. Still, this is an important book, on a topic that, for all its inherent difficulty and divisiveness, should not be shielded from the crucible of human reason.
Natalie Angier has written about atheism and science for The Times, The American Scholar and elsewhere.
Source: nytimes.com 5 September 2004
To conceive of religion in terms of the fellowship that it fosters between believers is surely better than to conceive of it instrumentally - as a way of securing divine rewards or avoiding divine punishments. And yet the lesson from the rise of empirical science is that when confidence in a supernatural element is destroyed, few see the point of faith. Sociologist Emile Durkheim appeared to believe that a secular religion is possible - in other words that people can gain the benefits of religion while regarding it as a social construction. But no such faith has yet emerged.
To read Durkheim is to be transported into a realm in which the right and the good matter far more than the useful or the pleasurable. Like Marx, he was interested not just in understanding the world but in changing it for the better. But unlike Marx, he favoured incremental, practical reform. As a result he exerted a far more benign influence during the 20th century: rather than fomenting pointless revolutions, he helped to inspire the social democrats who created the welfare state. Today his social conservatism would irritate the left and his critique of markets the right. As social animals, we seem to be growing more diverse and individualistic. And yet, perhaps because of our hunter-gatherer past, we still yearn for solidarity and unity. Short of an economic meltdown brought about by global warming, or some other natural disaster, we are unlikely to achieve a Durkheimian consensus. Yet there remains much to learn from his non-socialist critique of capitalism and his passionate belief in our ethical possibilities.
Three Cheers for Italy’s Luigi Cascioli: Bravo, Bravo, and Bravo!
by Lee Salisbury
What could be more encouraging for the human race than for us "religious animals," as American author Mark Twain called us, to question why we believe what we believe! Some would suggest that religious beliefs are insignificant and must be private. But, when a religion teaches that God hates those who do not believe "thus and so," or when a religion seeks to make criminals of those who believe differently by legislating its doctrine into civil law, we humans must demand a dramatic change. It's time for dialogue in courts of law if necessary, utilising laws of evidence, reason, and logic about the basis and value of religion. Enter Luigi Cascioli!
According to a story posted on January 4 by Reuters, an Italian court is being asked to rule whether the Roman Catholic Church is breaking the law. The first criminal charge is Abuso di Credulita Popolare (Abuse of Popular Credulity) meant to protect people against being swindled or conned. The second criminal charge is Sostituzione di Persona, or false impersonation. The case pits two elderly men, from the same Italian town who went to the same seminary in their teenage years, against each other. The plaintiff, Luigi Cascioli, after years of independent study became a religious skeptic and atheist. The defendant Enrico Righi is a Roman Catholic priest and writer for a local parish newspaper, but by extension the lawsuit includes the Roman Catholic Church. Cascioli alleges the Roman Catholic Church violates Italian penal code. The charges are that:
Righi claims there is substantial evidence to support the credibility of the historical Jesus including historical texts. Cascioli claims his book, The Fable of Christ, proves Jesus did not exist as a historic figure. He admits that the odds are against him, especially in Roman Catholic Italy. He jokes, "It will take a miracle to win."
The typical Christian response to this case is that Cascioli’s charges are ridiculous! How could a religion some 2,000 years old with millions of believers be false? Yet, Christians make the same charge about the Hindu religion which is over 2,500 years old and has many more believers then Christianity. Therefore, the superficial Christian objection has no weight and, if anything, lends credence to Cascioli’s charge. Neither age nor number of adherents validates any religion.
How Cascioli will prove Jesus did not exist will be a challenge since neither he nor any one he knows was in Palestine 2,000 years ago. Nevertheless, Cascioli will probably make very thought provoking arguments that are unknown to most Christians. Earl Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle site provides a thorough substantive discussion of these issues.
Luigi Cascioli will declare that the truth is Christianity has no more unbiased historical evidence confirming the historicity of Jesus than the Greeks had for Zeus or the Egyptians had for Horus or the Hindus have for Vishnu. For those who want to believe in the Romanized form of Christianity as edited, re-edited, and re-edited ad infinitum from no known surviving original Greek manuscripts, a quote by Eusebius, Constantine’s chief Christian scholar is most revealing: "it will be necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a remedy for the benefit of those who require such a mode of treatment" (The Preparation of the Gospel, volume 2, page 619). Eusebius is considered the Father of Church History.
Bravo brother Luigi, you have the audacity to challenge humanity’s thinking. We reject Saint Augustine’s authoritarian dictate: "It is not permissible to say or even think that any of the evangelists might have lied - we must believe that contradictory statements are actually in agreement, even if we do not see how this can be true." May Luigi Cascioli’s efforts challenge men and women to consider the roots of all religion and its impact on humanity for good or for ill, especially if not based on credible historical evidence. As Luigi quipped, "It will take a miracle."
Do you suppose Mary will intervene?
Source: dissidentvoice.org 12 January 2006
Christmas in Hawaii
The 12 Days of Christmas Local Style
by Eaton B Magoon Jr, Edward Kenny, Gordon N Phelps
Numbah One day of Christmas,
Numbah Two day of Christmas,
Numbah Tree day of Christmas,
Numbah Foah day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Numbah Five day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Numbah Seex day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Numbah Seven day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Numbah Eight day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Numbah Nine day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Numbah Ten day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Numbah Eleven day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
(Numbah Twelve day of Christmas the bes’, and the bes’ stuff always come las’...
Numbah Twelve day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Music and lyrics published by Hawaiian Recording and Publishing Company, Incorporated, © 1959.
Source: fukn.us posted 19 December 2005
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