Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

PersecuteThe Reverend Andrew White, vicar of the Anglican church in Baghdad, was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 this morning about the persecution of Christians in Iraq. Undoubtedly, appalling things are being done to these people – beheadings, torture, theft of their possessions – just because of what they believe. The Sunni Muslim militia doing the persecuting are routinely referred to in the UK media as ‘Islamists’ or ‘extremists’, in a vain PC attempt to distinguish and distance them from other of Mohammed’s followers. Whatever we call them though, men, women and children who follow a different long-dead prophet are suffering at their hands.

It is a sad fact that whichever religious group holds the reins of power, it persecutes those who hold different beliefs. History is replete with examples and because Christianity has, for most of the last 2000 years, held the whip hand, it is Christians – the church – that has invariably meted out the persecution. And still does.

There are Christians today who, in God’s name, think that atheists, women and homosexuals should be supressed, denied their rights, deported and even imprisoned. In the West, God’s gentle people (‘Christianists’? ‘Extremists’?) tend not to get their way, but in countries where Christianity still holds sway, they do. Christians persecute minorities, in Uganda, Nigeria, the Gambia, Cameroon and elsewhere, as they themselves are persecuted in predominantly Muslim countries. It’s all so terribly human, as they eagerly jettison the command to treat others as they themselves would like to be treated in favour of a ‘holiness’ that drives them to deprive their victims of life and liberty. Christians have been and are no better than the fanatics who turn on them when the boot is on the other foot.

Perhaps they don’t go in for beheadings quite so much these days, though there are still Christians who advocate stoning as a preferred method of purging society of sinners. Others take it upon themselves to campaign against the human rights of those they’ve taken a dislike to. Recently, the Family Foundation of Virginia announced a forty day fast that it thinks will impress God enough he’ll destroy same-sex marriage in the States. It’s a fast with a difference though – those taking part can eat during it: ‘We are asking the entire Body of Christ to join us for this fast,’ the group says. ‘Giving up physical food isn’t necessary – but feeding on the spiritual food provided is vital.’

I don’t know about you, but I always understood that fasting meant doing without food. A fast isn’t a fast otherwise.

This laughable nonsense beautifully encapsulates religious belief; take on the outer aspects of a faith, including its language and its rituals, and reinterpret them in whatever way suits you. That way, showing the love the saviour commands means treating others with contempt; fasting to get God to do what you want really means filling your belly; following Jesus means ignoring most of what he said and doing what you like.

It’s all so empty, so human, so meaningless – so very hypocritical. If only it weren’t quite so dangerous for those on the outside.

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New series! Idiotic stuff Jesus said!

This one’s gonna run and run!

EyesYou hear the one about the blind Christian bloke with only one hand and no balls? And he did it all to himself! Cut off his hand, gouged out his eyes and castrated himself. When asked why he’d done it the man explained, ‘I’m a follower of Jesus and when he tells me to do something, I do it. My self-mutilation is my witness to what a great guy he is. He wouldn’t steer me wrong.’

Sure enough, the normal people who heard him were incredulous, until one of them looked in the Bible and found the very instructions to which the eyeless, testicle-free, one-handed believer referred.

In Matthew’s gospel chapter 5, Jesus is talking about lusting after a woman, which in his eyes (he still had both of his) is as bad as having sex with her. Course it isn’t, not by a long way, but he tells his followers, ‘If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell’ (Matthew 5.29).

A bit drastic perhaps, but there it is; the Son of God is clear about how to avoid the sin of checking out a member of the opposite sex. That’s why you see so many one-eyed Christians around the place because they all take his admonition very seriously.

Except… you don’t. Either Christians ignore him entirely on this one or they never look at the opposite sex with an eye to sexual congress. We all know they’re like the rest of us in this respect – some, as Jimmy Carter once famously did, are honest enough to admit it – and some even act on it; the divorce rate among Christians is not the same as it is for everyone else just because they get tired of being married.

Perhaps though Jesus is being metaphorical when he proposes that gouging out one’s eyes is the best way to deal with lust. Not surprisingly, Christians prefer this possibility. In The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings, Robert Stein argues that:

what Jesus was seeking to convey to his listeners by this use of overstatement was the need to remove from their lives anything that might cause them to sin… Jesus is saying in effect, “Tear out anything in your life that is causing you to sin and keeping you from God”.

If that was his intention, Jesus might have actually used these words. If he wants to say ‘in effect’ that the believer should jettison anything from his life that causes him to sin then why doesn’t he?

But eyes are not enough. You gotta get rid of that wanking* hand too (the context of Jesus’ comments is specifically sexual and entirely male orientated throughout these verses): ‘And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell’ (Matthew 5.30). This must be why we see so many one-handed Christians…

The difficulty with interpreting these and other verses metaphorically is that Christians want to claim that the Bible is the literal ‘word of God’ and then want select parts of it to be metaphorical – and guess who they think should do the selecting. But they can’t have it both ways. Even if they could, how would they know which parts to interpret literally and which symbolically? Perhaps the Holy Spirit tells them, or maybe, and more likely, it’s just their personal preferences. After all, who wants to lose eyes and hands just for being human?

If that’s not enough, Jesus encourages other mutilations for the sake of his Kingdom when he reveals in Matthew 19.12 that ‘there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can’. No Christians today seem able to ‘accept’ this recommendation, either; what a truly feeble bunch they are, putting their testicles before the Kingdom!

It seems likely that, given he believed the end of the age was fast approaching, Jesus actually meant what he said, counting on the probability (as he saw it) that anyone who followed his ridiculous suggestions would not be eyeless or handless for long. They would, at the resurrection, be fully restored to live in the Kingdom where, according to Matthew 22.30, they would not be troubled by either impure thoughts or marriage itself (and so wouldn’t need those testicles anyway).

Whichever way you cut it (off) – literally or metaphorically – Jesus words in these verses are remarkably idiotic. Throughout history there have been some individuals, like the dude we started with, who have indeed made themselves eunuchs for the cause. But the vast majority of male Christians have always dismissed this advice or have decided JC was only speaking metaphorically (as he always is when they don’t like what he’s telling them to do).**

So next time True Believers start thundering on about the evils of same-sex marriage and gay sex, tell them to get their own house in order first. A little amputation is all that the Lord requires.

 

* ‘Jerking off’, for any Americans reading.

**Read more in my (five star reviewed!) book Why Christians Don’t Do What Jesus Tells Them To …And What They Believe Instead, available from Amazon.

 

Christian Love in Action

CrossI’ve been banned from a ‘Christian’ web-site. From Barbwire, in fact, the extreme mouthpiece of extreme mouthpiece Matt Barber and his chums; Scott Lively, self-confessed ‘father’ of Uganda’s anti-gay movement; Bryan Fischer, bigoted evangelical shock-jock; Laurie Higgins, gay-sex obsessed ‘marriage defender’ and Bradlee Dean, third-rate rockstar-cum-provocatuer, amongst others.

My ban is not because I was abusive. Actually, I’m not sure what prompted it though I’m not alone in having my comments deleted and my name blocked. Others who’ve challenged the bigotry and distortions regularly paraded on Barbwire have been too. Dissent will not be countenanced by ‘Christian’ bullies whose faith is weak and arguments even weaker.

I hope my comments were reasoned and reasonable, even if sometimes flippant; above all, I hope they were challenging. I tried to challenge both those ‘names’ who write for the blog as well as those who comment there, to react and respond as their Saviour commands them to; to treat others as they would want to be treated; to attend to the log in their own eyes before the speck in their neighbours’; not to judge lest they be judged and to show compassion for those with different views.

Have I as a non-believer any right to expect Christians to behave like this? I think so – I think we all have. After all, they’re the ones who’ve bought into Jesus’ demands; the ones who proclaim him as messiah and potential saviour of the world; the ones who feel compelled to tell us about him at every turn. They’re the ones who believe they’re born again as new creatures, filled with the Holy Spirit, who now live transformed lives as Christ-like beings. It’s not unreasonable to expect to see them reflect all of this in how they deal with other people; loving their neighbour, not casting the first stone… and all the rest of it.

So how do they deal with dissenters on Barbwire? They call them ‘morons’, and ‘fools’ and ‘pervs’ and ‘sodomites’ and ‘idiots’. Now, it could well be that I’m all of these things and the good Lord has chosen to reveal it to his gentle people on the site, if not to me. But when you call out these supposed Christians on this less than loving behaviour – pointing out that Jesus says in Matthew 5.22 not to call others fool, let alone all those other things – what happens? You get more abuse, and lots of edging around Jesus’ words (he only meant not to call other Christians fools) and claiming his commands don’t apply to them because he was really only speaking metaphorically – as he always is when they don’t want to do what he says.

And then you, the one on the receiving end of their Christian Love™, are blocked, banned and deleted, while those with the slurs and insults remain, because it’s what Jesus would want, leaving them free to move on to new targets.

ScreenDoes it matter? Not really; as long as for a brief period there are others opposing the bigotry and hatred that spills, in Jesus’ name, from Barbwire and sites like it. Christians such as Matt Barber and, here in the UK, Stephen Green, are relatively powerless individuals, after all. They’re loud bullies who justify their extremism by claiming it is the standard demanded by a mythical being. But all the same, they and their cronies are influential. Witness the sycophantic commenters who commend every scurrilous word these bullies say about non-believers, fellow Christians, gay people, politicians, immigrants and those they imagine ‘persecute’ Christians here and in the States. The articles on Barbwire encourage and reinforce the prejudices, bigotry and small-mindedness of ‘Christians’ like these, helping shape the way they treat people in the real world.

I’d encourage you to take look at Barbwire and to become a commenter yourself, opposing the hatred and bigotry, not to mention the irrationality and stone-throwing, that you’ll find there. If you do, you won’t have to do it for long because, sooner rather than later, you’ll be banned, as the voices of reason and compassion invariably are there.

Then again, there are worse reasons for being thrown out of a sewage plant.

 

The fool says in his heart…

Celia2If you get into a discussion with Christians about their faith and you tell them, often reluctantly because you just know where it’s going to lead, that you don’t share their belief in a deity on account of there being no evidence for one outside of the human imagination, it isn’t long – if they haven’t done so already – before they start quoting ‘scripture’ at you.

Among their favourite verses, along with ‘For God so loved the world…’ (John 3.16) and ‘for a man to lie with a man… is an abomination’ (Leviticus 20.13) is Psalm 14.1: ‘The fool hath said in his heart there is no God’. And having cited it, they stand back in smug triumph, having put you firmly in your place and clinched the argument.

But the Bible would say this, wouldn’t it? It’s in its interest, and in the interest of those who wrote it and believe in it, to rubbish those who don’t buy into its fallacies. Christians who quote this verse, and others, are wilfully refusing to accept that you don’t recognise the ‘authority’ of their magic book. What they are really saying is, ‘You don’t believe in my God or the Bible, but I’m going to use it anyway to ‘prove’ my point.’

Why do they do this? Can they not see the futility of it? It’s like my quoting from ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas to demonstrate that, whether they like it or not, Santa Claus is watching over them to see if they’re naughty or nice. But referencing one make-believe source does not prove the existence of another. You have to believe in Santa Claus to begin with, as children often do, to believe the poem is an accurate account of his activities. So it is with the Bible. It only has significance if you already believe that God exists. It won’t of itself convince you that he does.

The Koran has its own ‘the fool hath said in his heart’ verses. Loads of them. Christians might like to consider whether a Muslim telling them ‘the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve’ (Q8:55) would persuade them that Allah is the one true God, and that they’re idiots for thinking otherwise. It wouldn’t, of course, so perhaps they’d kindly stop wasting their own time, and ours, doing the same to atheists.

The best response to a believer who tells you ‘the fool hath said in his heart there is no God’?

‘If even a fool can see it, why can’t you?’

Here Be Dragons

dragonChrist The White does battle with the dragon of Revelation 12

Over on Answers in Genesis, one of Ken Ham’s drones is arguing for the existence of dragons. They are, he or she tells us triumphantly, mentioned in the Bible, so they must really have existed.

As we already know, the Bible has more than its fair share of nonsense, but to insist it provides evidence of mythical creatures is to take its credibility to a new low. Don’t Christians care they do this to their magic book? After all, their faith relies almost entirely on the Bible, alongside their own emotional responses to it (no kiddin’, they say this is ‘the Holy Spirit’.)

Christians spend so much time arguing for the Bible’s daftest excesses – the world being created in six days, Jesus returning soon, homosexuality being just the worst sin ever and now dragons – that they haven’t any time left to read what it has to say about how they should be living their lives.

You mean forgiving others, feeding the hungry, giving everything away, not judging (in case you’re judged in return), being compassionate, going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, giving to all who ask and blessing your enemies is in the Bible? Jeez, I never knew.

Yeah, but it’s all secondary to dragons and damning others. ‘By their fruits shall ye know them,’ says Jesus of his followers in Matthew 7.16-20. Turns out there’s no fruit, just a wide assortment of nuts.