“Christian” Scare Quotes: A Response

JesusLaughs

Christian bloggers like their quotation marks – ‘scare quotes’ as they’re often known. The Righteous wear away the computer keys with them on when ranting writing about same-sex “marriage” in particular. This kind of marriage always receives them, even though marriage is marriage whether same-sex or not. Those who like to use and over-use them, however, intend to show that same-sex marriage isn’t marriage at all but a devilish, unbiblical substitute for the real thing.

The Christian Research Network (a misnomer if ever there was one: the site only ever features two contributors, involves no research and is distinctly unChristian) regularly adds speech marks to other terms and titles. The Pope, for example, becomes “Pope Francis”, and the fact Francis is not his real name is constantly highlighted. This is intended to show, presumably, that he lacks authenticity. The irony is that the figure whom Christians themselves worship and adore isn’t known by his real name either, a fact lost on “God’s chosen”. Yeshua Bar Yosef wouldn’t recognise “Jesus” and certainly not “Jesus Christ”.  Then there’s “Paul”, real name Saul. Christianity’s use of false names is nothing new.

My proposal, therefore, is that from now on, whenever we write “Christians”, we add quotation marks to the term to reflect the hypocrisy of so many of them, as well as the vacuity of the belief system itself. This can be done even when speaking of “Christians”, by wiggling the fingers as the word is said. It can, and should, be extended to all of the other fallacious ideas within Christianity: “God”, “Jesus”, “God’s Word”, “The Kingdom of God”, “Holy Spirit”, “Heaven” and “faith”.

We needn’t worry about running out of quotation marks with which to do this; we can always use those that “Christians” have previously attached to same-sex marriage.

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My preciousss is mine (and mine alone)

bible3Christians have a monopoly on the Bible. No-one else should comment on it, criticise it or even quote from it. Or so Christians tell me. The reason for this, apparently, is that ‘it is absurd to contest the Bible when (you’re) missing the one main ingredient: Jesus’. Not so, of course; the Bible is there for anyone who wants to consider and ‘contest’ it. Granted one’s perspective will be coloured by how one regards it to begin with –

whether you approach it with a reasonable degree of objectivity or look at it through the myopia of faith;

whether you take what it says at face value or apply shifty exegesis to smooth out its many inconsistencies;

whether you acknowledge it was created over time by a succession of fallible men or assume it represents the accurately recorded words of God;

whether you regard it as beliefs of ancient tribesmen and religious fanatics or see it as the means of salvation and the ultimate guide to life.

It is only reasonable that those who take the first of each of these alternatives look to those who take the latter to see how closely they adhere to the demands the Bible makes of them. It’s reasonable because those who believe in its magical properties use it to tell the rest of us how wicked and/or lost we are and how much we need Jesus. If the Bible is the Word of God (as I’ve noted before, it doesn’t claim to be; it’s Christians who say it is), instructing believers on how to live their lives while spreading the gospel, it is not unreasonable for those of us on the receiving end of their ‘witness’ to take a look at how that works out. Not so well as it happens.

Now either this is the fault of the book – heaven forfend that it isn’t clear about what’s expected of God’s Chosen – or Christians themselves are to blame for failing to live as it expects. Unsurprisingly, it’s a combination of the two; a book of mixed messages in the hands of flawed human beings. When Christians refuse to acknowledge that the Bible is far from perfect they are faced with the challenge of making its impossible demands compatible with their own imperfections. They have a number of cop-out excuses that enable them to do this, several of which appear in the comments on this blog. I’ve discussed a number of them before, but here’s a quick summary:

Christians are not perfect and the Bible doesn’t say we should be (actually it does, in Matthew 5.48);

Others have no right to be critical of Christians when we’re doing our best;

You can’t use our own book against us when you don’t know Jesus (see above);

You’re a sinner so what do you know?;

You’re quoting out of context (and only Christians can do that);

You’re not applying the correct exegesis and/or hermeneutics (i.e. mine);

The Christians you’re criticising aren’t real Christians;

It is unfair to lump all Christians together.

Is it? Is it really unfair to lump all Christians together? Aren’t you all meant to be one body, the Body of Christ – you, the Pope, Westboro Baptists, the mega-churches and their celebrity pastors, Joyce Meyer, those who would stone gays, those who affirm gays, Franklin Graham, Alpha converts, abortion-clinic bombers, African witch-finders, Archbishop Sentamu, ‘Emergents’, those who belong to one of the thousands of other denominations and all your friends in your own little church? Who are you to say who’s saved and who isn’t? All Christians represent all other Christians, who represent Christ himself. The Bible says so in 1 Corinthians 12.12-26, Ephesians 4.14 -16 and elsewhere. Or did it get it wrong again?

2015: How was it for you?

2ndComingI promised this time last year to revisit my predictions for the year that lay ahead. So how did I do in my prophecies for 2015?:

The first was that there would be no Second Coming in 2015. Well, how wrong could I be! As we all know Jesus returned on September 13th, just as John Hagee hinted he would be. It’s been so great, hasn’t it, living in Hell / God’s Kingdom on Earth (delete as appropriate) since that time. Fantastic. I’m so pleased to have been wrong about this one.

On the other hand, maybe what I said last year still stands: Jesus won’t be back this year. Just like he wasn’t back in 2014, 2013, 2012… 1985… 1914… 1868… 1497… 1000… 446… 35. Just think of all those years – count ’em, nearly two thousand – when he’s failed to return so far. Actually, he promised he’d be back while his followers and those listening to him were still alive, around AD30 or thereabouts. Safe to say he’s not coming back at all, just like dead people don’t. Not in 2015, not ever.

Of course it still stands. As ever Christianity fails to deliver. That hasn’t stopped True Believers™ from telling us that he’ll be back very, very soon. Which was prediction number 2: Christians will go on believing that Jesus is going to return any day now. I gave up collecting examples well before the end of the year – there were just too many – but here’s a few of them: here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Will the gullible Born Again ever come to their senses and stop listening to idiots like these? (Nope).

Prediction 3. There’ll be no natural disasters or human calamities as a result of gay marriage. There have been lots of disasters and calamities during the year, but here’s the thing – natural disasters have natural causes, not supernatural ones, and similarly, human calamities have human causes. Not one of the events this year (or any other) was the direct result of gay marriage. This hasn’t stopped the religious from claiming – as I predicted they would in prophecy number 4 – that disasters and calamities are God’s punishment for gay marriage; here, here , here, here, here, here and here, for example.

Prediction 5: More than one prominent Christian will call for the execution of gay people. Yup. Here are those loving men of God doing just that (and here, here and here too). Jesus would be so proud.

Prediction 6: Christians in the west will claim they’re being persecuted when they’re being expected to treat others fairly and equally, and not to discriminate against them. Yes, I know Christians are persecuted in some parts of the world, but the moaners I’m talking about are only focused on their own self-serving, self-inflicted ‘marytrdom’. Again, there are just too many of these to link to them all, but here are a few (and here, here and here).

Prediction 7. Christians will respond to criticism with clichés like ‘they wouldn’t dare say that about Muslims’… ‘Christians are the last group who are fair game’… ‘It’s time for Christians to speak out’… ‘Stand up for God’s standards…’ etc. Yes, predictable in more ways than one

Prediction 8: Christians will continue to dismiss and disparage anyone who doesn’t share their views, especially atheists. Look out for ‘atheists have no morality’,’the fool hath said in his heart there’s no God’ and ‘atheists want to oppress Christians’ occurring with tedious regularity. And they didn’t disappoint: here, here, here and here.

Prediction 9: There will be more revelations about the abuse of children by church ministers. Of course there were. Christians may be new creatures in Christ but that doesn’t stop some of them behaving in the same old despicable ways, God love ’em.

Ditto number 10: Church hierarchies will attempt to cover up the abuse of children by their ministers. And here they are at it. The body of Christ certainly seems to have an unhealthy interest in the bodies of others. Still, they always ever so modestly cover up afterwards.

Prediction 11. There will be the usual manufactured ‘war on Christmas’. Ho-hum. And you can guess who did the manufacturing.

And finally I offered number 12: these predictions have far more chance of coming to pass than any of the so-called prophecies of Bible. And do you know, they did. That’s because none of the Bible’s predictions have ever come to pass – not those purportedly about Jesus himself, nor of the second coming, nor the judgement of sheep and goats, nor God’s Kingdom on Earth – and (here’s another prediction) they never will.

So, another year of empty promises, failed prophecies and superstitious fantasy in the wonderful, wacky world of religion. May you all be safe from the effects of faith and fundies in the one that lies ahead.

Idiotic Stuff Jesus Said 13: We Don’t Need No Educashun

MegaBut you are not to be called rabbi (teacher), for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:8-12

Evidently these words were put into Jesus’ mouth by the community that produced Matthew’s gospel and reflect the egalitarianism and communism that characterised it. The phrase that gives away their origins is ‘you have one instructor; the Christ’. ‘The Christ’, as we know, was a creation of the early church and it is highly unlikely Jesus would have referred to himself in such a way. In the synoptic gospels he is reticent even about claiming the Jewish title of Messiah for himself. In any case, the reference is patently to a third party, and is by an author or interpolator who subscribes to the later, supernatural Christ.

In the unlikely event, then, that these words emanated from Jesus himself, all they achieve is to demonstrate his lack of understanding of human psychology. Even as ‘Matthew’ set about recording them, the newly founded church was already ignoring them, which is perhaps why he felt the need to have Jesus say them. Here’s Ephesians 4.11, written by someone pretending to be Paul round about 80-100CE, contradicting them:

Christ gave (us) the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers…

The imposter who wrote 1 Timothy (5:17) up to a hundred years after Jesus’ death goes further, endorsing the exaltation of those who teach and rule others:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching.

Why? Because human beings like hierarchies. Almost all human societies are hierarchical in nature and groups invariably arrange themselves hierarchically. There will always be people who see themselves as leaders and teachers and still others who look to those who’ve set themselves up as authorities to tell them what to do.

Despite what Jesus or ‘Matthew’ might have preferred – everyone being equal while those who ‘exalt’ themselves are humbled – it just doesn’t happen in human culture. It certainly wasn’t happening in the movement that emerged following Jesus’ death, in the church that existed by the time Matthew was making Jesus say that the only authority Christians should recognise was God’s and his own. The institution that was appearing in place of the end of the age – an institution that Jesus neither anticipated nor instigated – could not function effectively as the simple band of ‘brothers’ he is made to suggest. It was in need of structure, and a hierarchy was it.

And so it was that, before long, the first popes emerged – ‘pope’ deriving from the Latin for ‘papa’. Each of these exalted figures would come to be referred to as ‘Holy Father’, a title still in use today. With complete disregard for Jesus’ instructions, other priests (meaning ‘elders’) in the Catholic church also assumed the title ‘father’. Evangelical churches, lest they think the Catholic church is the only guilty party, have their ‘pastors’, meaning ‘shepherds’, who, by definition, lead others. A common or garden ‘clergyman’ is a ‘learned man’, while a bishop is one who ‘looks down from above’. An archbishop is chief look-downer and exalted indeed. Elsewhere, showmen preachers in mega-churches ‘teach’ with a mixture of anecdote, wild conjecture and stuff they make up as they go along; tune into TV’s God channels for a taste of this particular brand of humility. The church in all its manifestations has, from the beginning, been hierarchical from top to bottom.

Jesus, however, didn’t want there to be a top or bottom; if Matthew 23.8-12 is to be believed, he commanded there shouldn’t be. He envisaged his followers living in harmony with everyone equal under his and God’s authority. No-one was to set themselves up as teacher or leader; no-one was to exalt themselves above others. If any did, they would need to be humbled. But this isn’t how human beings organise themselves, and never how the church has conducted itself. Shouldn’t he have known that?

Christians’ Favourite Delusions 34: Atheism is a Religion

NoGodChristians like to claim atheism is a religion. It’s their way of saying, ‘look – atheists are as daft as we are. They believe in bullshit just like we do, except, of course, they’re wrong and we’re right.’ You can see them saying just this here and here and here.

But atheism isn’t a religion, any more than not collecting stamps is a hobby, as Penn Jillette puts it. It isn’t a religion because it is the absence of belief – primarily in a god, but also in any other kind of supernatural being. The atheist knows there are no saviours, angels, devils, demons, ethereal saints or eternal prophets, and no heaven and hell to house them either. Atheism is devoid of any sort of worship of imagined supernatural beings; nor does it address them, commune with them or otherwise revere them. It does not recognise the authority of ‘holy’ books nor that of self-appointed spiritual authorities, including popes, pastors, preachers, imams, mullahs and rabbis. It doesn’t regard anything as sacred, including its own experts; neither Darwin nor the so-called New Atheists are above criticism. (Try that with those who think they represent God’s Truth™!)

Where religionists build their belief systems on the insubstantial foundation of faith, atheists accept nothing on trust. Instead, they look for evidence to support their knowledge and value reason, not dogma – things that are anathema to religion.

Given, then, that atheism is the antithesis of religion and that atheists don’t do what religion demands, it is intellectual dishonesty to insist that atheism is a religion. Those who do so are false witnesses; mistaken at best, liars for sure.

The gift that keeps on giving…

PunchSo that’s it then. The Pope has spoken. We can no longer ridicule religion.

Frankie warned yesterday that faith, his own especially, cannot be mocked.

Shame. I was enjoying this.

Respect?

HebdoI could so easily take offence at this. (The caption reads ‘But who wants the English in Europe?’)

How far should we respect religious beliefs? I would suggest, not at all. The multitude of religions that exist in the world, not least the big five – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism – are all built on mythologies that require belief in supernatural beings, highly improbable events and meaningless rituals. There is no evidence these beings exist or have ever existed, no evidence the improbable events ever occurred and none that the rituals lead to results of any sort.

Most religions have their revered teacher, prophet or saviour who died centuries or millennia ago, and about whom stories are told that cannot possibly be true. How can any thinking person respect the idea that one of these figures rose from the dead? Or that another flew to heaven on a winged horse? Or another grew a jewel tree from a toothpick? These stories deserve as much respect as other ancient tales – like the one about the man who killed a one-eyed giant or the dude who returned to life after being hacked to death and eaten. The preposterous stories told by today’s religions are of the same order.

For this reason, as well as many others – not least how religion causes some of its adherents to act and relate to others – religion is not above criticism. Indeed, there is a moral imperative to criticise world views based on far-fetched stories, especially when they cause some who subscribe to them to discriminate against others, advocate murder and  take it upon themselves to carry out executions like the ones we’ve seen in Paris this week. I’ve written before about how, while most religious believers are not themselves extremists, it is moderate believers who sustain the culture responsible for those who are. Fanatics, extremists and terrorists do not spontaneously create themselves; they emerge from mosques, churches, synagogues and temples. As Bill Maher said about Islam this week, ‘when there’s this many bad apples, there’s something wrong with the orchard.’

While some have argued that the magazine Charlie Hebdo provoked Muslim extremists to attack it with its satirical drawings of Muhammed (among many other religious ‘leaders’) it is absurd to suggest that publishing provocative pictures automatically leads to murder, as if the perpetrators have no choice in the matter. Of course they do. Caricatures of the pope have also appeared on the magazine’s cover and, as bizarre as the Catholic church is, it has not responded to these depictions with violence.

There is, in any case, a good argument to be made that offence can’t be given, only taken. While no doubt there are Muslims who don’t find rather poorly drawn, largely unfunny cartoons of Muhammed offensive, there are those who choose to. (Just like I could choose to take offence at the cover above.) But provocation, whatever the context, is no defence and no excuse for the slaughter, violence or incarceration of those with whom we’re offended.

The religious need to grow up and put away childish things; to stop taking offence so readily, insisting they’re being persecuted when they’re not and constantly assuming they and they alone have the right to mete out punishment. Is the god each religion claims for itself so weak and feeble he cannot look after himself, his standards and his reputation?

Well of course he can’t, because he doesn’t exist. Every god there has ever been, from Osiris to Christ, from Zeus to Allah has been a human invention. And if no god exists, then neither do his standards and reputation, nor his prophets and teachers, his Sons and emissaries; they’re all largely made up too. No-one should be punished for failing to respect the figments of primitive people’s imagination. It is beholden on all of us who have indeed put away such childish things, to disregard the sensibilities of those who subscribe to and peddle puerile nonsense and point out as often as we can that not only does the Emperor have no clothes but there’s not even an Emperor. Only then can the world work towards being free from the tyranny of religion.

Simplistic maybe, but the alternative is to continue tolerating the intolerable. And look where that’s getting us.