Archive for the “Religion” Category

Posts concerned specifically with religion

Pope Francis Philadelphia 2015 (cropped)This is one story I couldn’t resist commenting on. Not just because it’s about the relatively-unconventional Pope Francis, but also because it concerns Bible translation … which has been an interest of mine since I first learned Biblical Greek during the early 1980s (while I was a Protestant fundamentalist). As the New York Times (among many other outlets) reports, the Pope proposed that the common translations of a portion of the Lord’s Prayer may not reflect the original text (Archive.Is cached article):

It has been a question of theological debate and liturgical interpretation for years, and now Pope Francis has joined the discussion: Does the Lord’s Prayer, Christendom’s resonant petition to the Almighty, need an update?

In a new television interview, Pope Francis said the common rendering of one line in the prayer — “lead us not into temptation” — was “not a good translation” from ancient texts. “Do not let us fall into temptation,” he suggested, might be better because God does not lead people into temptation; Satan does.

“A father doesn’t do that,” the pope said. “He helps you get up right away. What induces into temptation is Satan.”

In essence, the pope said, the prayer, from the Book of Matthew, is asking God, “When Satan leads us into temptation, You please, give me a hand.”

The text of the Lord’s Prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13, with a much briefer version in Luke 11:2-4. Here is the passage the Pope is talking about, from the (Catholic) New American Bible, and in the original Greek:

and do not subject us to the final test (Mt 6:13a)

και μη εισενευκης ημας εις πειρασμον (Mt 6:13a)

The language from Luke, for this particular passage (i.e. Lk 11:4c), is exactly the same, so I didn’t bother quoting it here.

It’s true there’s been some discussion over how best to translate this, and there’s been some dissatisfaction with most of the translations that have been offered.

Even so, the original Greek text does not agree with what the Pope proposes. Nowhere in this is it even implied — much less stated outright — that the supplicant is asking for God’s help when tempted. The original Greek definitely presumes God is instigating the “test.” εισενευκης (eisenukés) is a form of the verb εισφερω (eisferó), meaning “to lead in, to carry in, to bring in.” Thus, “lead us not into temptation” is an entirely valid translation.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it when Pope Francis bucks Christian and Catholic convention. Few things in this world are in more desperate need of a stern challenge, than Christianity! But I just I can’t get on board with this.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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This Christmas tree is upside down! Outside a local bar :) #upsticksandgo #bar #bangkok #christmas #christmastree #upsidedown #travelgram #travellinglife #travellingtheworld #michfrostA new salvo has been fired in the Religious Right’s phantasmal “war on Christmas.” And that is, upside-down Christmas trees. Yes, you heard that right … upside-down Christmas trees. I’d heard of these a few years ago, as a space-saving way of having a Christmas tree that doesn’t take up floor space. In other words, a sometimes-practical variation on a traditional practice.

But as with everything else associated with the solstice-time holiday, it becomes fodder for Rightists’ annual “war on Christmas.” As Newsweek reports, pundits on Fox News have taken them as an assault on Christianity itself (Archive.Is cached article):

The president’s favorite TV show tackled an important topic inspiring nationwide debate on Friday, brought in an expert and somehow turned it all into a political controversy. Yes, we’re talking about upside-down Christmas trees.

In a segment on Fox & Friends, host Pete Hegseth opened a discussion about trendy inverted decorations by linking them to the so-called war on Christmas, a rallying cry for some evangelicals and Republicans who argue politically correct culture is hurting American values. Hegseth wondered aloud whether having a traditional, right-side-up Christmas tree was part of those values and then asked Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski what he thought.

This was, of course, a setup; the irrationality snowballed from there:

Lewandowski first said he didn’t know what the trend was about. Then, in a swift and almost masterful maneuver, he used it to attack the Democrats for their response to Senator Al Franken’s recently revealed sexual misconduct.

“It’s like an upside-down world. It’s like Seinfeld, the bizarro world. Like you can be a U.S. senator after groping people on a picture and nobody has any accountability for it,” Lewandowski said. “That’s what the upside-down Christmas tree means to me. I mean, it’s everything that is wrong.”

He went on to say that he thought the Trump family would be keeping the White House Christmas tree—a 19-and-a-half-foot Balsam fir from Wisconsin—right side up because they appreciate the country’s traditions.

This is a dense package of habitual Right-wing appeals. Lewandowski alluded to Al Franken — who, contrary to what the Groper-in-Chief’s minion claimed, has offered to be held accountable for his actions (cached). He asserted his boss, the GiC, would bravely defend the country against the relentless onslaught of upside-down Christmas trees and courageously protect “tradition” — which, if Rightists are to be believed, is perpetually in danger. He mentioned the world being turned upside-down, which is a common Rightist complaint in the face of almost anything that ever happens, e.g. the advent of gay marriage).

That the GiC’s own White House is, itself, a “bizarro world” is something that neither Lewandowski or anyone else on this show accepted … but I digress.

Really, there’s nothing insidious, blasphemous, anti-Christmas or anti-Christian about upside-down Christmas trees. Newsweek links to an article on their antiquity; they actually date to the early Middle Ages (cached). I also found articles. One is at Christianity Today, surveying the history of Christmas trees, which mentions those early-medieval upside-down Christmas trees (cached). There’s also a religious commentary, by a prominent minister, at the Gaston Cty, NC Gazette suggesting upside-down Christmas trees are theologically appropriate (cached)! So really, this complaint has no basis in reality … or in the metaphysical irrationality of Christianity.

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“Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7:23, New American Bible) / PsiCop original graphicReally, I wish this wasn’t the case. But I can’t say I didn’t expect this. It certainly appears Alabama’s fundagelicals managed to live down to all my expectations of them, in the wake of the possibility that former Judge Roy Moore — thunderous proponent of Ten Commandments worship — may have had relations with teen girls back when he was in his 30s. Newsweek reports that their support for him has actually increased since these allegations were reported (Archive.Is cached article):

Talk about loving the sinner!

Nearly 40 percent of Evangelical Christians in Alabama say they’re now more likely to vote for Roy Moore after multiple allegations that he molested children, even as voters across the historically red state now seem to be punishing Moore for his past actions, a new poll shows.

A plurality of evangelicals — 37 percent — described themselves as more likely to support Moore because of recent sexual assault allegations levied against him, while only 28 percent were less likely to do so. Thirty-four percent of the supposedly devout Christians said that the allegations reported last week in the Washington Post [cached] made no difference in their support for Moore.

Yes, that’s right, folks. More than 1/3 of Alabama’s Christianists actually have a higher regard for Moore, now, than they did before WaPo‘s takedown.

There are lots of rationales these folk can employ in order to justify this (cached). Many will dismiss the story as fiction, or “fake news,” merely because it comes from the insidiously liberal Washington Post, which cooked up vicious lies about their precious “Ten Commandments Judge” in order to deprive him of his deserved Senate seat. There are also no doubt others who don’t really see anything wrong with older men dating (or courting, or whatever they call it) teen girls (cached). There’s also, of course, the matter of consent (i.e. the girls didn’t object to whatever Moore did), but in at least some cases — especially that of the 14-year-old — “consent” is not relevant, since no one that age can consent to sex. And there’s the objection that statutory rape isn’t as bad as some other crimes, so what Moore did is OK. Yeah, one of his defenders actually said that (cached)!

Look, this is the very same crowd who chanted that Hillary Clinton should have been “locked up” over her private email server. I don’t point this out as a way of defending her on that … as an I.T. professional, I know that using a private email server to conduct public business was a profoundly bad idea and diminished transparency, which is necessary for office holders … but I am saying that these folk are willing to think the worst, and demand prosecution of, their ideological foes whenever they feel it appropriate. They just refuse to ask the same of their own, and are willing to give them license to do — well, whatever the fuck they feel like. Because they’re good Christians, of course. And as we all know, they’re not perfect, just forgiven. Right?

And there’s the matter of the decades that passed before this came to the nation’s attention. Moore and his defenders think that means the allegations can’t be true (cached). But Moore’s penchant for hitting up teen girls wasn’t exactly not known. Locals in Gadsden, AL were aware of his habits as long ago as the 1970s (cached and cached). As for why these women would have remained silent (beyond the Gadsden area), keep in mind that Moore was a county prosecutor and worked his way up Alabama’s judicial ladder after that. Taking on such a person is intimidating … and remained so even after his removals from office, due to his popularity as the “Ten Commandments Judge.”

At long last, we can now dispense with any pretense that any of these Religious Rightists are interested in promoting “family values.” They are not. For all their claimed high morals, they’re all just sex-obsessed deviants, who scream and rail against the “perversions” of others (e.g. homosexuals, transgenders, etc.), but they’re just as perverted, only in their own ways. They’re all just fucking hypocrites, in spite of the fact that their own Jesus Christ explicitly and unambiguously forbid them ever to be hypocritical … for any reason or at any time. It is, quite simply, not permitted them.

What these folk are really after is what Moore has promised to provide them: A Christocracy, in which they rule the country (as though they don’t already), in which their fundagelical version of Christianity is the national religion, in which their dour metaphysics is the law of the land, and non-Christians who insolently dare defy them by failing to convert are either jailed, exiled, or killed. They are, in a word, militants, and they’re going to stand by their Ten Commandments Judge no matter what, because of that.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Mt 7:23.

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Hypocrites Are Us (aka Hypocrites R Us)Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A sanctimoniously angry religionist who rails and fumes against the perceived “perversions” of others (e.g. gays), and who condemns the prevailing licentiousness of society generally, turns out to be just a tad less than the morally-unassailable, pure-as-the-driven-snow icon of ethical perfection s/he claims to be. Yeah, it’s not a new story. Like me, you’ve heard it a million times already. Jimmy Swaggart, George Alan Rekers, Jim Bakker, Marcus Lamb, Ted Haggard, are just a few of the many names that leap to mind in this regard. Well, today the Washington Post reported that Alabama’s most famous and most militant Christofascist might also be a pedophile (Archive.Is cached article):

Leigh Corfman says she was 14 years old when an older man approached her outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Ala. She was sitting on a wooden bench with her mother, they both recall, when the man introduced himself as Roy Moore.

It was early 1979 and Moore — now the Republican nominee in Alabama for a U.S. Senate seat — was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. He struck up a conversation, Corfman and her mother say, and offered to watch the girl while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing.…

Alone with Corfman, Moore chatted with her and asked for her phone number, she says. Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.…

Aside from Corfman, three other women interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks say Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they say they found flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older. None of the three women say that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact.

As if to fend off the inevitable Right-wing cry of “Fake news! Fake news!”, WaPo explains the ways in which they attempted to verify Corfman’s story. For instance, they checked court records to find that Corfman’s mother did, in fact, have a hearing at the time described. The paper also explains that neither she, nor the other three women mentioned, came forward with allegations against Moore on their own; they only coughed up their stories after multiple interviews. So none of them was motivated to “bring down” Moore.

Moore, of course, denies all of this and decried WaPo‘s story as fiction intended to destroy him. (Yeah, it’s that old Right-wing “Fake news!” mantra, coupled with the old standby “Left-wing bias” complaint. Yawn.) Still, that they checked out many details and have confirmed what they were able to, suggests this is anything but fiction.

Moore is, as one expects of furious Christofascists, angry and is resisting quitting Alabama’s Senate race. He has a lot of support in Alabamastan, even among folks who haven’t denied the encounters described might have taken place. For instance, state auditor Jim Ziegler has pointed out that Jesus’ mother Mary was a teenager when she was married (cached). They’re quite happy with their perpetually-outraged, militant Christianist “Ten Commandments” judge, and have no problem with him being — maybe! — a pedophile. All they care about is, once he’s in Washington, he can help force the entire country to worship the Ten Commandments right along with him.

That Moore would decry the sexual perversions of others, but engage in some of his own, makes him a brazen hypocrite. And hypocrisy, he may be interested to know, was explicitly and unambiguously forbidden him by the founder of his religion. But I guess Moore and his fanbois think it’s OK for him to disobey Jesus. After all, they’re doing it in his name. Right?

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic.

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‘The Christocrats are coming! The Christocrats are coming!’ / PsiCop modified graphic, based on 1940s illustration of Paul Revere’s ride / National Archives #535721, via Wikimedia Commons (url: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paul_Revere%27s_ride.jpg)The Religious Right has agitated against the Johnson Amendment — a decades-old regulation that prevents non-profit entities from endorsing political candidates — for many years now. It’s not as though its existence has prevented them from building a religious-political edifice of their own; but they think, somehow, that it has stifled them. They claim it hinders churches’ free speech, but that’s a lie. Right now, any church in the country can, in fact, endorse political candidates. All they need, in order to do it, is to forfeit their tax exemption. That seems a small price to pay to get true “freedom,” but they love their money more than they love their freedom, so they refuse, and bitch and whine about it.*

With the election of a Groper-in-Chief who’s promised to end the Johnson Amendment (Archive.Is cached article), they finally have someone in the White House who could make that reality. As the Associated Press reports via Yahoo News, the Religious Right-dominated House’s proposed tax plan will do exactly that (cached):

Churches would gain the right to endorse political candidates and still retain their tax-free status under a provision in the House GOP’s tax overhaul plan.

The bill would repeal a 63-year-old law credited to former President Lyndon Johnson when he served in the Senate.…

Campaign finance groups warned the change could have far-reaching implications, turning “churches into tools for secret campaign spending,” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United.

More to the point, though, it will turn churches into political engines in their own right and help them promote Christofascism even more than they already do. It will further open the door to increased Christocracy.

* Strangely enough, Jesus himself clearly ordered Christians never to be concerned with money. Among some of his more famous teachings:

  • “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. … No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:19-21, 24)
  • And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)

But let’s be honest, Christians have vociferously ignored Jesus’ teachings for close to 2,000 years; at this point I don’t think the poor little things can help themselves any more.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on original from Wikimedia Commons.

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'Trail of Terror in the Manhattan Truck Attack' / Source: Aerial image by Google, via the New York TimesIt’s taken a long time — over 16 years, to be exact — but yesterday, the “Religion of Peace” finally managed a terror attack in New York City. The New York Times reports on this cowardly maneuver (Archive.Is cached article):

A driver plowed a pickup truck down a crowded bike path along the Hudson River in Manhattan on Tuesday, killing eight people and injuring 11 before being shot by a police officer in what officials are calling the deadliest terrorist attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.

The rampage ended when the motorist — whom the police identified as [name redacted], 29 — smashed into a school bus, jumped out of his truck and ran up and down the highway waving a pellet gun and paintball gun and shouting “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” before he was shot in the abdomen by the officer. He remained in critical condition on Tuesday evening.

Note, I edited out the name of the perp because I don’t think he should get any publicity than he already will. What makes this attack unusual is that the attacker survived and will be put on trial; in the past most of these “lone wolf” Islamoterrorists have ended up dead, either shot by police or by their own hands.

I’m sure all the country’s Neocrusaders (that’s my term for Americans who want Islam abolished in the US) are jumping for joy at this. It will — they think! — add fuel to their movement, and provide evidence — they think! — that Islam is too inherently dangerous to permit here. They do this because they view detrimental aspects of Islam, including the existence of radical, militant Muslims, as a “plus” for their own religion, which in most cases is fundamentalist Christianity. They purposely ignore that there is such a thing as domestic, Christian-inspired terror, too. Eradicating Islam from the US will not prevent terror — not even close!

By the same token, having posted this story, I’m sure I’ll get correspondence from someone who accuses me of being “Islamophobic.” As though mentioning such events, as well as the existence of radical, militant Muslims, somehow makes me a Neocrusading racist, myself. Sigh.

Photo credit: Google, via the New York Times.

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Luther posting his 95 Theses in 1517, by Ferdinand Pauwels [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsToday is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his “95 Theses” to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. As the Associated Press reports via Religion News Service, Germany is celebrating “Reformation Day” as a holiday (Archive.Is cached article).

The history of Luther, his Theses, and the resulting schism — which continues to this day and is as entrenched as ever — is well known. The point of the Augustinian monk’s protest was to criticize the sale of indulgences. These are ways of reducing the time one must spend in Purgatory, after death, atoning for sins before reaching Heaven. It wasn’t indulgences Luther objected to per se, but rather, the Church’s sale of them.

This objection led to Luther, and others (including his friend Philip Melanchthon, who arguably was Luther’s intellectual superior and had more to do with the direction Luther’s movement would later take) to differ from the Church on more topics than just the sale of indulgences. Among the more important of these were the so-called Five Solas, declaring that salvation came from 5 interconnected sources — none of which was the Church itself or any of its personnel. The Christian didn’t need a priest, a church, or anything of the sort.

This approach to Christianity knocked the theological legs of the Church right out from under it, rendering it useless. Those who disliked the Church and competed with it for power, certainly found this sort of thinking attractive. Luther and Melanchthon made their reform movement more appealing to the numerous princes in Germany by advocating nationalizing Church treasuries within each realm. Many of them ultimately signed on, and effectively became heads of both church and state within their domains. In the 1530s, King Henry VIII of England would follow a similar philosophy in seizing control of the English Church.

But for all that came of the movement Luther launched (and for which Melanchthon, then John Calvin became the chief proponents, along with many other reformers like Ulrich Zwingli), what’s forgotten are the reformers who came before Luther and had raised similar issues themselves. Perhaps the most important of these was Jan Hus, executed for his “heresy” just over a century before Luther posted his “95 Theses,” who in turn had been inspired by John Wycliffe of England. The ideas of both these men actually continued on, through Luther’s time, and even beyond. Hus’s movement led to the establishment of a separate organization (i.e. the Moravian Church), which still exists.

And these, in turn, had forebears in the Waldenses of France in the late 12th century. Church reforms, you see, were not new. Some reform movements were internal, taking place within and inside the Church, such as the Cluniac reforms, the rise of the mendicant orders, etc.

It is true that the Church’s power was broken by the onset of the Reformation sparked by Luther’s protest, but the stage had been set for him, already, by others. What’s more, the Church had, by then, already undermined itself and its credibility as an institution, e.g. the Great Western Schism and its other attempts at meddling in European politics, like Boniface VIII’s issuance of Unam Sanctam. It’s possible to make too much of what Luther did, and to fail to realize that it’s the inherent irrationality and uncertainty of the many precepts of Christianity which helped the Church grow in power and become mighty in the first place, then to collapse as an institution subsequently as European Christendom fractured into many competing sects.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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