Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Unholy Word: A Love To Die For

With the atrocity that is "National Bible Week" in full swing (though I haven't seen any effects of it, thank goodness), let's delve into another look at this Unholy Word.

Dinah Blow Your Horn
Today the tale is from Genesis 34.  Dinah, a Jewish girl, is raped by a man named Shechem. After he rapes her, he goes to his father and pleads, "I've fallen in love with her, you gotta get her for me, I must marry her!"

Shechem's father goes to Dinah's father, Jacob, and says "My son raped your daughter...but he loves her, so let's have them marry. Even better: let's swap daughters between our two tribes and form a peace treaty! We'll rule this area together and be strong!"  He is so infatuated with her that he asks, "Set the bride-price as high as you want and we'll pay."

The sons of Jacob were there and they said, "Sorry, our sister can't marry anyone who isn't circumcised. That's just the way it is. As a matter of fact, if you want to create a peace treaty, your whole tribe will have to convert and be circumcised."

Well evidently Dinah was Helen-of-Troy hot, because not only did Shechem agree to be circumcised, his entire tribe took the snip in order to seal the deal and make up for raping Jacob's daughter. That's real dedication!

Three days later, while all the men of this tribe were sitting around sore, two of Jacob's sons come in and slaughter all of them. They kill every man in the city, including Shechem and his father. Then they grabbed all these men's sisters and wives and headed home. Then the rest of Jacob's sons showed up and plundered the city, taking livestock food, children, everything.

Jacob was mad at his sons; they'd runed any chances at a peace treaty with any other tribe -- who would trust them again? His sons said, "So we should have just let them treat our sister like a whore?"  There's nothing more on the story, it just ends there.

Too Many Bad Ideas
I guess the moral is that if your family member gets raped and your original ludicrous demands are met, you're justified in killing, pillaging, and enslaving to get even.  But I could be wrong; like a lot of these old stories, simple moral points tend to get added and mixed.  To some the point is not to disobey your father and the consequences of killing your new-found friends. Or maybe it's a sad story about how a guy lost his one true love.  Its a tortured jumble of lessons that weren't being thought out as they were being put together.

Of course, I can understand anyone being enraged to the point of murder at the rape and forced marriage of your sister.  (Yes, keep in mind that woman didn't get a say in who thy married.  They were treated as property and bargaining chips.)  But the actions they took were unjustified and immoral.  These kinds of stories fill this antiquated book that so many will point to as being the backbone of modern American society and good moral values.  If only these people would just read the thing!

The bible offers more instructions on rape in Deuteronomy 22 if you weren't sure how to get away with it.

Good stuff.  Read it to your kids or at the dinner table between the turkey and the pumpkin pie.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Same Camp, Same Colors

A Mild Delusion
I sometimes hear from Christians that don't accept the ways of the fundies.  Though we can both agree on their outrageous antics, we disagree when it comes to who takes the blame.  That's where I put moderates in the same bucket as the fundamentalists.  It doesn't matter what the amount of delusion is, it's the problems at the core that tie them all together.

Moderate and liberal believers act as a safe house for fundamentalists and provide a shield for them.  Whenever the majority becomes comprised of relaxed moderates and anything bad happens that would cause them to think God is angry with them or the world or whatever, the moderates begin thinking, "What did we stop doing that would cause God to be vengeful?  What changed?"  They most often find the answer in fundamentalism.

If You Can't Beat 'em, Keep 'em Around
I used to be a fundamentalist Christian, growing ever increasingly moderate all the way out.  Even though my tactics and reasoning were changing, I still had a mindset of a core fundamentalist.  I'd see someone going "a little too far" on something, but I always knew their heart was in the right place.  We had an elderly couple who began to grow more and more vocal over the choice of clothing the girls in the youth group wore to church: the dreaded and sinful pair of jeans.  "That's no way for a woman to dress!" they could be overheard exclaiming as the congregation filed out of services.  I didn't think God gave a damn about something as materialistic as pants, they backed up their objections with claims from the bible.  I don't recall any particular passages, but it's not uncommon for a believer to say, "well, that's Bible!" when it comes to something they firmly believe -- whether or not it is actually stated in there.  The point is that none of us less-sexist of the flock could shake the couple's certainty of the sin being committed, and we couldn't show them otherwise using the same "logical" tactics and arguments from the bible and faith.  Those types of disagreements always come down to, "I'll have to pray about it".

The harboring of fundamentalist ideals is performed by all believers, be they liberal, moderate, or extremist.  It's because the ideological framework is built using the same wood from the same tree (if you'll pardon the labored metaphor, and those that follow).  The scaffolding may reach differing heights, but the foundation is the same unfounded illusion.  Until the entire structure is torn down and can be rebuilt using actual knowledge and sound critical-thinking methods, the intellectual groundwork of moderates is indistinguishable from even the most delusional fundamentalists.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Wedding Hells

I recently attended a wedding reception and there was one thing that bothered me (enough to sit down and rant about it today).  And no, it wasn't the "blessing" that was given before people ate the buffet.  A song was sung to the newly-weds; a narrative offering advice on how to stay together.  A line in the song suggested, in effect, when times get tough to turn to God and he'll fix it.

Bad Chord
I'm finding several issues I personally have with the otherwise great original song.  First off, like so many other theistic pronouncements, it assumes that a) the speaker's God and the audience's God are the same, and b) that the audience even has a God.  It's akin to singing a poignant song about real-life things such as love and marriage, then including a line about finding leprechauns grading gold at the end of rainbows.  It kills the mood of the song and makes you look small-minded.

The biggest beef I have with it is the idea itself.  Let's look at it from both the viewpoint of the believer and the atheist.  First, the former.  Using the idea of the Christian God, one may easily see how seeking His guidance is obviously the route to take.  He is all-knowing, after all.  According to their theology, God has a plan for everyone.  Thus, when a couple's marriage is on the rocks, a quick voice-mail up to the clouds and all should be well.  But how many Christian marriages fail, even with the fervent prayers of not only the betrothed but often times their families and friends as well?  If the answer is as easy as asking God what to do, and getting the sense that the answer is "be kind to and TALK with each other", then why do over half of all theistic unions fail?

Assuming God does exist with all the superpowers generally attributed to him, it goes without saying that such a being is, for lack of better terminology at the moment, a giant prick.  In fact, those reading this right now, be they theist or atheist, are probably more moral and ethical than the Christian deity.  For how many of you would, if you knew the answer to healing the hurting hearts of two people, would refuse to administer your aid until asked?  Would you wait to poor out your miraculous blessings upon the hungry until all of them sought your help?  Would you withhold a cure that would strike leukemia from a dying girl until not just the girl asked for it, but her family, the whole ward floor, the entire hospital, town -- or continent -- agreed you could?

It Takes Two -- Me and You
Since I am one of the millions who do not subscribe to such egotistical bullshit, I will say that the obvious course of action is not to turn to some imaginary friend to fix your martial issues, but instead turn to each other, the flesh-and-blood human being with whom you committed your life to.  Seek the problem at its source.  Talk with each other.  Listen to each other.  Find out what the hell is going on and do not cower from it.  If you need to involve beings from outside of yourselves, turn to your family, your friends.  I'm sure there's at least one person every married couple can talk to (we all had at least one witness, right?).  Find the bug.  Hunt it down like a heat-seeking missile.  The point is that the answer is within you; it's not going to come from some mysterious force outside of you.  Both of you -- whether you knew it or not -- took the necessary steps to fall in love.  It's going to take both of you again to stay that way.

And if he's reading this, let the songwriter know that this is in no way an attack on him directly.  He's one of the best and most upstanding guys I know, and a wonderful friend.  The contention is merely with the message and wording of his outstanding and touching song -- a small disputation, yet one I think worthy of mention.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Paying for Prayer

Are you sitting down?  Good.  Here's a couple news items from this week.

An All-Christian Prison
Oklahoma plans to build a Christian-run prison to give Christian inmates special privileges.  So where's the all-atheist prison, or the all-Muslim prison?  Sure, that's exactly what they need. Pray to an invisible friend that will take away all the bad things you've done in your life so that you can feel better about yourself, and read your bibles that tell stories of unicorns, dragons, satyrs, and talking donkeys. "Ninety-eight percent of offenders are going to get out of prison," says the project's leader. "What kind of offender do you want living next door?"

Priest Same As Doctor
Congressional members are again kowtowing to Christian Science by sponsoring a provision in the health care reform bill to allow prayer to be considered medicine. The Christian Science Church has pushed throughout its history to secure official recognition for its paid prayer practitioners. That's right, I said paid prayer practitioners. Their job is to pray for healing and charge for treatment at rates similar to those of medical doctors.  Imagine having a job where you just pray for someone to get better all the while earning doctor's wages!  I guess if you don't have a conscience or care at all about people, that's the best job in the world. If praying for someone to get better counts as medicine, shouldn't praying for someone to die be considered an attempt at murder? Does praying to win the lottery amount to fraud?