If you are around Saint Louis May 20th, please join me at Schlafly Bottleworks 6:00 PM.
My talk will be “Breaking The Cycle”!
If you are around Saint Louis May 20th, please join me at Schlafly Bottleworks 6:00 PM.
My talk will be “Breaking The Cycle”!
Ed Buckner (former president of American Atheists) found a bible in his room when they stayed in a Georgia state park. He contacted the state and the swiftly removed the offending material from all rooms.
Easy right? not so fast….
On Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal ordered the Bibles returned.
Why you ask? I’m so glad you did….
…the AG issued a ruling saying the state was on firm legal ground because it hadn’t paid for the books.
What do you think?
Deal argued that if the state didn’t pay for them, it can’t be seen as endorsing them. He also noted that any religious group can donate literature.
Ok, looks like we need a book drive. Let us start donating atheist books to the Georgia Parks department and see what happens. If they place them in the rooms – fine! I’m all for it.
Buckner is pondering his next move. One idea he is considering is to test the state’s offer to accept literature from other religions in state-owned lodging. He also said he would be willing to participate if an organization with similar beliefs decides to launch a lawsuit over the issue.
“I think government entanglement with religion is a very dangerous thing,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday. “When you go into a state park cabin and the only piece of religious literature there is a Protestant Bible, that suggests the government’s endorsed that particular perspective.”
I agree with Mr. Buckner but, the state does have a good point IF they allow other groups. It becomes a free speech zone and all books must be accepted. Maybe, each room will have a big pile of books in the corner of the room – or the state could pay for a nice book shelf.
…Edward Queen, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta and director of the school’s Ethics and Servant Leadership program said…
“The fact that you have an inherently sectarian religious document on state property, that in and of itself presents no real challenge if the state has not purchased it,” Queen said. “Where it might possibly become an issue is if the state were to refuse to do the same thing for other groups.”
Let’s see if they are so open to ideas when there is a Koran or a copy of The God Delusion.
Of course, any story about the violation of the separation of church and state is not complete until they interview an ignorant christian. (is that redundant?)
William Hunter, a Sunday school teacher who was visiting Georgia’s Fort McAllister Historic State Park south of Savannah on Thursday, said he wholeheartedly endorsed having Bibles in state-owned cabins.
Sunday school teacher? How many did the interview to find this guy?
“I know that Gideon Bibles have saved people’s lives…”
“They go into a motel room and are going to blow their brains out. And then they find that Bible.”
I doubt this story but, what about all the people who have their lives ruined by religion? They think it is true and want everyone to believe what they believe. They think they have a right to impose their views but have a fit when others try to do the same.
“That’s a problem with the United States today is they’re taking Jesus Christ out of so many things…”
Ugh…. if this jesus / god guy has magical powers he can stick himself into anything he wants, like say, a virgin Palestinian woman. Yeah, I went there!
HP has a nice interview with Candida Moss on her book ”The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom.” Back in March I posted on the myth but the interview adds to the narrative.
Q: You argue that modern myths of Christian persecution are rooted in an ancient myth, and you focus on Pliny, a first- and second-century Roman who governed what is now Turkey. Why should we know about him?
A: He’s the first Roman official to actually talk about Christians. He writes to the Emperor Trajan and says, “What am I supposed to do about them? They’re not doing anything wrong, but when they’re in the courtroom they’re very stubborn.” Those charges could get you killed in the Roman world. And Pliny has other concerns: Christians were not purchasing the meat associated with the Roman temples. And he thinks of Christians not as a religious group, but prone to superstition, which the Romans considered a kind of madness that could spread like a disease.
Pliny and Trajan agree that there will be no seeking out of Christians, but if they do end up in courtrooms and are stubborn, he will give them three chances to curse Christ and make a sacrifice in the Roman temple. If they don’t, they will be killed. I’m not saying what Pliny did was right, but it’s very far from the story I grew up with, about Christians being hunted down.
I read Pliny in Latin class with Barbra Lindsay. In fact, I chose to take Latin when I met her when she had just become Distinguished Professor at the University of Utah. She was short, kindlyno-nonsense, and had tanned leathery skin from smoking too many years. My theory of education is to find the great teachers and take what they offer and let the degree fall where it may or may not.
At any rate, BL’s main emphasis on Rome was its authoritarian hierarchy requiring absolute obedience. The emperor was god. Not so unusual when you consider Egypt and their pharaoh’s were gods on earth. Until modern political democratic sensibilities it was pretty common for rulers to consider themselves gods. It’s not a big jump to go from animal totemism to being the greatest animal of all and then to a god a fantastical animal of superhuman powers. And they don’t take shit. It wasn’t my way or the highway, it was my way or death. Prisons cost money.
Q: Isn’t that persecution though? They’re not being sought out, but if they do wind up in court, there’s a decent chance they’re going to die.
A: Is it persecution? I’d say it comes fairly close to the line. I’m not saying it’s just. But it was illegal to be part of a secret club at the time. It was illegal to be stubborn toward a Roman judge. So it’s not that they’re being persecuted for having a Trinity. They are being executed for breaking the law.
I want to understand what, from the ancient Roman perspective, was the problem with Christians. The Romans tolerated lots of religious groups. They only really acted in situations where they thought the group was dangerous, and Christians talk about their new emperor Christ. They talk about how they cannot respect the Roman government. A lot of them say they won’t join the military. They’re very subversive. But this is a world where religious freedom isn’t a right; it just doesn’t exist as a concept yet.
Most dictators are ruthless. If you were German even, didn’t have to be nonGerman, you didn’t argue with Hitler either. Umar the famous Muslim general was pious, poor, generous and ruthless as well. You just don’t argue with the big guys.
Here’s a video of her.
I can see some christian in court. “But I don’t recognize your laws as legitimate. I follow god’s law.” “What?” “Your laws aren’t mine. This court isn’t mine. I follow Christ.” “What?” After several rounds of this, just kill the bastard as he’s fomenting revolution. It’s madness to argue against Roman Law, Roman Religion, Roman Civilization. Anything else is crap. The Christians hardly stood out. Just one of the many sects growing like weeds then.
Unlike the millet system started by the zoroasterians and copied later by the muslims, Rome had no need or desire for separate ecumenical courts–you’re either Roman or Not. There was one court, one law, and one empire. If you stuck to yourselves, stayed out of the way, and didn’t question the law you were tolerated. (At least not taxed separately as Mohammed would later do to nonmuslims.) Otherwise, prisons were nonexistent, life was cheap, and christians made lousy slaves.
Q: Critics of your book — even if they agree that there was no concerted, sustained campaign to root out and kill the early Christians — argue that this was nonetheless a dark and dangerous period for them. Doesn’t that count for something?
A: The situation was terrible and we should be attentive to that, but distinctions need to be made. The Emperor Decius (who in the third century required everyone in the empire to make a sacrifice to his divine spirit) didn’t really know what his edict would mean for Christians and he wasn’t trying to attack them. He was basically trying to bolster the Roman Empire.
In a contemporary discussion, Catholics feel very strongly about the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate. President Obama is not trying to harm Catholics or Christians generally; he is trying to provide health care. Catholics can disagree with him very strongly, but unless he’s trying to attack Catholics, as long as we believe he is interested in health care, we can continue to have a discussion with him.
There’s been a lot of back and forth between the Catholic bishops and the Obama administration. That’s a different situation than if we were in a country where legislation was passed that said “Christians can’t own Bibles” or “you can’t go to church.”
Yep, christians are whiney bastards right now–I can’t force you to follow my christian laws so I am being persecuted. It belies their desire to make us all christian. It’s true most of the most whiney are evangelical but how many christians of all ilk have said they’d just like to say what a comfort christ is to them. Or how important it is to be moral. And how often do they whine against each other that they aren’t being a good christian–but at least they are christian right?
There are teeth under that whine and quickly the tables could turn and when they gain power they would be ruthless as they have in the past. The bible is the most published book in the world. Wars have begun and ended in response to christian invasion.
In this country, it has been more subtle. In the 70′s they said, I was there to hear it, take positions of authority, claim the justice system and create christian schools. Over time christian influence will have effective power. Rather than battle head on become part of the system and change from within it. Scary huh? Good old Freeman Institute and Cleon Skousen. You learn funny things when you’re janitor for a conservative hotbed.
Jim Newman, bright and well
Hi everyone! Phil here. I have not made many posts for the last couple of weeks. Please join me in saying thank you to Jim Newman to keeping the blog posts coming.
Everything is OK, I am just very busy. I moved a few months back and we have not sold the “old” house yet. Both yards need mowing and new mulch and weeds pulled etc. This is taking more time then I planned.
Sadly, we have watched as others have listed their houses and sold them within weeks. We are now on 6 months. The price keeps dropping and next week we are putting in a granite counter top in the kitchen. We went 7 years without it but virtually every person that looks at the house complains about this one item. So, we are putting granite in the house.
This is also the last week of high school for my son and we will have 60 people in our house Saturday to celebrate his graduation. Lots of projects and papers for both him and our daughter. To top it all off I have a two-week long Italian class that meets for 3 hours a day – whew!
With a little luck things will calm down soon and I can dish up some more snark for ya! Thanks for stopping in! While you are here, leave a comment, say hello or tell us some news about how religion is ruining the world .
The NYT ran a piece on the growing corruption of chinese officials spending outrageous amounts of money on Feng Shui projects for personal gain.
Outraged peasants protesting land grabs. Jilted mistresses plotting revenge. Provincial investigators seeking out graft.
For top officials at the local land resources bureau beleaguered by these and other headaches, there could only be one explanation for the miasma of misfortune they believed was threatening their careers last year: the pair of ferocious stone lions that guarded the state-owned China Tobacco building across the street from their offices.
An official confided that the secret weapon the land bureau used was feng shui, the ancient practice of arranging objects and designing architecture to improve one’s health, prosperity and luck. For proof, he nodded toward a stone wall in the parking lot that was built to block the feline statues’ harmful qi, or energy.
“Our bureau wasn’t doing so well until we erected the barrier last year,” said the official, who gave only his last name, Chen. “Now things are a lot better.”
Hard not to think of BF Skinner’s operant conditioning here. Put a pigeon in a cage with a switch they can press to serve food and randomly allow them to succeed and soon they will be doing all kinds of weird moves thinking that will cause the food to appear. It must be true because there was success when it ducked three times, that time. Like the pitcher and the rabbit’s foot; he won when he wore it, it must bear luck.
Feng Shui, or geomancy (divination by nature), is an ancient means of incorporating nature into architecture by discerning metaphysical forces. Putting nature in cities is important but deciding what and where based on nonmaterial sources of energy, how is that energy?
Alleged masters of feng shui, those who understand the five elements and the two energies such as chi and sha (hard energy, the opposite of chi), are supposed to be able to detect metaphysical energies and give directions for their optimal flow. Feng shui has become a kind of architectural acupuncture: wizards and magi insert themselves into buildings or landscapes and use their metaphysical sensors to detect the flow of good and bad “energy.” These masters for hire declare where bathrooms should go, which way doorways should face, where mirrors should hang, which room needs green plants and which one needs red flowers, which direction the head of the bed should face, etc. They decide these things on the basis of their feel for the flow of chi, electromagnetic fields or whatever other form of energy the client will worry about. (If you and your lover are having trouble in the bedroom, call a feng shui master. You probably need to move a few things around to get the bedroom chi flowing properly. Only a person with special metaphysical sensors, however, can tell what really needs to be done.)
As Marxist ideology has faded in China, ancient mystical beliefs once banned by the Communist Party are gaining ground. Guides to geomancy now fill bookshelves, fortunetellers are busily offering costly sessions in astrology and numerology, and tycoons consult feng shui masters for financial guidance.
This mystical revival is attracting devoted followers in that most forbidden of realms: the marbled, atheistic halls of Chinese officialdom. Besieged by a meddlesome public at the gates and political rivals amid their ranks, the country’s ambitious civil servants are increasingly — if discreetly — seeking supernatural shortcuts to wealth and power, much to the dismay of party ideologues and campaigners against corruption.
From rural township party chiefs to the nation’s disgraced former rail minister, Chinese government officials are increasingly making budgetary decisions to fulfill their own personal prophecies, according to experts, state news media reports and seasoned soothsayers.
People in the states have gotten stuck in this. The desire to be more aligned with nature allows all kinds of permutations and as usual Americans absorb other world concepts readily. This one was big with artists as there is an intuitive aspect to that is appealing as well as their greater sensitivity to living in beauty. There is also a wonderful lightheartedness to put nonfunctional nature into our environment. My complaint is when it creates corruption and causes people to harm themselves or others. Or to insist that the correct way is one way and this is it.
In 2009, county officials in the western province of Gansu spent $732,000 transporting a 369-ton boulder six miles to the county seat, a move feng shui masters said would ward off bad luck. As part of the consecration ceremony, the county magistrate walked 325 feet toward the “spirit rock,” kowtowing every three steps, according to the Guangzhou Daily newspaper.
This is when it is no longer harmless fun. I guess it’s Ok if someone wants to rearrange the room or pay for some redecorating but when huge amounts of tax money are spent and officials get swept away in fervor towards idiocy that they neglect their jobs then it is fraud and needs to be exposed for what it is. It’s why truth counts, even if it is uncertain.
How many of his fellow bureaucrats agree is unclear. According to a 2007 report by the Chinese Academy of Governance, 52 percent of the nation’s county-level civil servants admitted to believing in divination, face reading, astrology or dream interpretation.
Cheng Ping, a professor at the academy who oversaw the survey of more than 900 officials, said that such beliefs were the result of millennia-old traditions melded with the pressures of careers in which promotions are earned through mastering the dark arts of factions and favors, rather than hard work. Not surprisingly, she said, many practitioners are often shamelessly crooked, since they feel little accountability to the public. “Find a corrupt official and he’ll probably be superstitious,” she said.
And we were afraid of Marxism. When we allow ourselves to get swept away in panaceas or metaphysical claims we disregard either looking for better answers or spend time looking in the wrong places. Of course, time must be spent understanding and verifying but accepting with little criticism because it’s cool, ancient, or natural is not helpful unless you accept that it is a game or fantastical. Using such games to create power over others in that you have a secret knowledge is a recipe for catastrophe.
Jim Newman, bright and well