1543 On the Jews and Their Lies by Martin LutherThere’s a sinister stream of anti-Semitism lurking within Christianity. Through their history, Christians have inflicted their rage and fury on the Jewish people quite readily. In classical times, during the Middle Ages, and right into modern times, Christians have condemned, harassed, persecuted, and even killed Jews, because they hold that nation responsible for their Jesus’ crucifixion.

Even now, in light of the horror of the Holocaust, there remains within Christendom a simmering undertone of animosity toward Jews. The reason for this is both simple and obvious: Jesus himself was a Jew, whose original ministry was among Jews, and whom Christians believe was the Jews’ foretold Messiah; but Jews have refused to accept this premise, and dare continue being insolent enough to reject their Jesus. Quite simply, Christians can’t handle the idea that Jesus’ own people don’t view him the same way they do.

This sentiment has been present within Christianity since its opening decades. For instance, the evangelist Matthew wrote (emphasis mine):

When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. (Mt 27:24-26)

Now, most Christians these days may not wish to admit this undercurrent lies deep within their faith. It’s true that not every Christian is an anti-Semite; I don’t think that at all. Many of them recognize this horrific history, and now reject it. But there remains a kind of reasoning, based on scriptural precedents such as the above, that occasionally rears its head within Christianity.

The most recent example of this, as reported by the Boston Globe, came in an article posted on the Web site of a Harvard student journal (WebCite cached article):

A Christian journal run by Harvard College undergraduates published an essay on its blog by an anonymous Jewish convert to Christianity who said that Jews killed Jesus and therefore deserve God’s wrath.

Noting the suffering Jews have experienced throughout history, including the Holocaust, the author wrote, “We, the Jews, collectively rejected God and hung Him up on a cross to die, and thus we deserved the punishments that were heaped on our heads over the last 2000 years.”

The essay, titled “Why Us?”, was published online Wednesday by the Harvard Ichthus — a student group recognized by the university — and promoted on the journal’s Twitter account. It was removed Friday afternoon with a note indicating it was “under editorial review.”

After some half-hearted partial explanations for how such an article could have been posted on Ichthus’s site, its editor-in-chief finally offered a non-apology apology for it (cached):

“The piece is not online because we believe that the piece is not conducive to the goals of the Ichthus,” Gyde wrote in the apology. “This particular piece has led to increasing misunderstanding and disinformation about the author’s views, the Ichthus, and Christianity. We do acknowledge that many of the claims of Christianity are offensive to those who do not believe it, but we think that much of the offense that has resulted from this article is not the offense of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And for that we apologize.”

This sounds convoluted … and it is. My best paraphrase: “We know non-Christians are offended by Christianity. We’re sorry our message is offensive in spite of the fact that we don’t intend it to be offensive even if we know it is offensive.”

So long as Christians continue revering scripture, and so long as that scripture contains passages like Mt 27:24-26 (not to mention others such as 1 Th 2:13-16 and Heb 10:28-3), this same kind of hateful thinking is going to keep coming up. What can Christians do about this? I’m not sure. Beyond rethinking their veneration of scripture, there wouldn’t seem to be much they can do to prevent it from ever being a problem again.

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Italian archbishop Rino Fisichella holds the ashes of Saint Peter before a ceremony at the Vatican, on November 24, 2013 (AFP Photo / Vincenzo Pinto, via Yahoo News)Today the Roman Catholic Church marched out relics which, the Vatican claims, belong to St Peter, the man whom legend claims established Christianity in the Roman Empire’s capital. The AFP via Yahoo News reports on this momentous occasion (WebCite cached article):

Bones believed to belong to Saint Peter, one of the founding fathers of the Catholic Church, went on display for the first time Sunday, as Pope Francis held a ceremony to end the “Year of Faith”.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered to catch a glimpse of the remains, eight fragments of bone between two and three centimetres (around one inch) long displayed on an ivory bed within a bronze chest on a pedestal in St. Peter’s Square.

The chest, given to pope Paul VI in 1971 and usually kept in the tiny chapel of the papal apartments, was decorated with a carving of Peter, who was a fisherman before becoming the Church’s first pope, casting his nets into the sea.

Given that Christianity in the city of Rome does date back to the first century CE, and has had a more-or-less continuous presence there since, one would think these bones might have been collected and saved all that time. But that turns out not to be the case. These relics were a 20th century discovery, and it’s not at all clear these are truly the bones of St Peter. But the Vatican is undeterred by archaeological questions:

The bones have long been the object of controversy between historians and archaeologists: they were first discovered in a 1940 dig next to an ancient monument honouring Saint Peter, but ended up gathering dust in a storage box.

It was not until archaeologist Margherita Guarducci discovered graffiti near the excavated tomb reading “Petros eni”, which could mean “Peter is here”, that she requested tests on the fragments.

She found they belonged to a robust man who died aged between 60 and 70 and had been buried in a purple, gold-threaded cloth — enough to convince Paul VI to say in 1968 that Peter’s bones had been identified “in a convincing manner.”…

“Faith, the people of God, have always believed these to be the relics of the apostle Peter, and we continue to venerate them in this way,” Rino Fisichella, head of the pontifical council for evangelisation, said in the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

The veneration of saints’ relics is a feature of Catholic and Orthodox Christianity which most other Christian sects have done away with. It seems a fairly unsavory practice to cling desperately to the physical remains of long-dead people. But the macabre nature of relic-worship doesn’t faze Catholics. They continue to believe such things carry metaphysical power that somehow connects them more closely to their God … a God whom they believe is omnipotent and therefore, presumably, doesn’t require such things to maintain his connection with his followers.

Let’s face it: People are irrational creatures, and it’s events like these that help demonstrate it.

Photo credit: AFP Photo / Vincenzo Pinto, via Yahoo News.

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NOVAMOXIN antibioticThere are lots of folks who think “conventional medicine” is evil, comprised of personnel who work to keep people sick rather than help them, and that pharmaceuticals are “poisons” which must be avoided at all cost. It’s easy to dismiss them as wingnuts and crackpots whose belief in herbal remedies, reiki, homeopathy, therapeutic touch, and other assorted forms of pseudomedicine isn’t all that bad … because, after all, most of these “treatments” don’t hurt them (except in their wallets).

The truth, however, is that a reliance on pseudomedicine can, in fact, lead to severe harm, up to and including needless death. A sterling example of this recently happened in Alberta. The Calgary Sun reports a mother in that city has been arrested for allowing her own son to die (WebCite cached article):

Police say a woman gave her bedridden seven-year-old son holistic treatment before he succumbed to what would have been a treatable illness.

Friday, 44-year-old Tamara Lovett was arrested, later charged with criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessities of life in connection with the death of Ryan Lovett.…

Police allege the Grade 2 student was at home, bedridden for 10 days prior to that with what was later identified as a strep infection.

Strep infections are often treatable with medication such as penicillin.

Although it was not only the single mother who saw him deteriorating, no one contacted authorities.

So, although only the mother was arrested, we had other adults, too, who stood by and watched a child die, all in the name of avoiding normal medical treatment … which would certainly have worked. I’m sure they’re just so proud of themselves for having taken this determined stand against the evils of “conventional medicine”!

The sad but unavoidable truth is that pseudomedicine definitely can be harmful. That doesn’t mean “conventional medicine” isn’t without its faults … but it’s much better than the alternative, which has potentially-deadly consequences.

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Caleb Kaltenbach, via Fox NewsTodd Starnes at Fox News is furious. That, of course, is normal for him, as it as for every other militant Religious Rightist. They live in a perpetual state of sanctimonious rage over … well, something. Based on a tip from an equally-outraged California pastor, he condemned the Costco warehouse chain for insolently labeling the Holy Bible as “fiction” (WebCite cached article):

What do the Bible, “The Hunger Games” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” have in common? All three are works of fiction, according to the booksellers at Costco.

Pastor Caleb Kaltenbach made that shocking discovery last Friday as he was shopping for a present for his wife at a Costco in Simi Valley, Calif.

“All the Bibles were labeled as fiction,” the pastor told me. “It seemed bizarre to me.”

While this may seem “bizarre” to the pastor and to Starnes, it doesn’t seem at all “bizarre” to me. Unlike the vast majority of Americans, I’ve actually read the Bible. From cover to cover. In several translations, and in Greek (which is the original language of the New Testament, and the form of the Old Testament as most of the earliest Christians knew it). It is most definitely “fiction,” no matter how fervently any Christianist thinks otherwise.

Starnes then narrates the tale of poor Pastor Kaltenbach traipsing through a Costco store and its corporate bureaucracy, demanding an explanation and removal of all those insolent stickers from all of their Bibles in stock. Starnes also quotes Kaltenbach lampshading his own martyr complex:

“On the one hand Christians should not yell out ‘persecution’,” he said. “We aren’t living in Iraq or Iran. But on the other hand, I believe that we do need to stand up for our faith and we need to be vocal about our concerns.”

This is a clever trick of propaganda. Ostensibly, Kaltenbach (and Starnes) are admitting this isn’t “persecution” of them as Christians … yet, nevertheless, by stating this, the clear implication is that it is “persecution.” How nice!

These guys really need to grow up and get over themselves. First, this isn’t Christian persecution. Christians in the U.S. aren’t being persecuted at all. It’s not happening … anywhere. And no amount of sanctimonious fury by Religious Rightists can ever change that.

Second, Starnes and Kaltenbach assume, in this case, that their Biblical-literalist view of the Bible is that of Christianity as a whole; thus, marking the Bible as “fiction” is an attack on all of Christianity. But this isn’t true. Not every Christian denomination takes the Bible literally. There really are Christians in the world willing to accept that some or all of their Bible is, in strict terms, “fiction.”

Lastly, I note that Starnes works for Fox News, which thinks businesses should be free to do whatever they want, whenever they want, free of regulation. Yet, here he’s presuming that he and Pastor Kaltenbach should have authority over how Costco labels its Bibles. In what universe is this consistent? I smell a whiff of hypocrisy here … the very sort of hypocrisy that their own Jesus ordered them never to engage in, and which is clearly and unambiguously condemned within the pages of those very same Bibles over which they’ve got their knickers in a knot. Boo fucking hoo, babies.

Photo credit: Caleb Kaltenbach, via Fox News.

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Signorelli-Antichrist and the devilAt times I’ve mentioned the phenomenon of Christian Zionism, a philosophy held by a lot of evangelical Christians. These people militantly support the state of Israel, but not out of any love for that country, its people, or Jews generally. Rather, they’re agitating for the Battle of Armageddon, which they believe will usher in Jesus’ return and the End of the World. Evangelicals encourage Israel’s belligerence; the idea is to instigate an attack by “the kings from the east” as described in Revelation:

The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east. And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”) And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon. (Revelation 16:12-16)

My position has always been that, while Christian Zionists profess respect for Jews and their place in God’s cosmic plan, the truth is that they’re actually anti-Semitic. But evidence for this can be hard to come by, and disappointingly so.

Recently, however, a prominent Christian Zionist exposed the anti-Semitism that lurks deep inside that philosophy. As Right Wing Watch reports, Pastor John Hagee let the cat out of the bag (WebCite cached article):

Trinity Broadcasting Network hosted a Praise The Lord prophecy special this month, featuring a number of speakers including televangelist John Hagee. The right-wing pastor explained that during the End Times, the Jewish people will not accept Jesus as the Messiah until he returns “because they have just — three-and-a-half years or seven-years before — made a deal with the Antichrist, who is the false messiah, and they are extremely skeptical of that.”

Here’s video of Hagee saying this, courtesy of RWW, via Youtube:

Hagee’s claim that Jews will collaborate with the Antichrist is offensive, revealing the villainy to which he thinks Jews will be willing to stoop. He’s saying Jews are going to betray humanity to the Antichrist. If that’s not distasteful, I don’t know what is!

Hagee goes on to say that Jews will only be convinced that Jesus is the Messiah once he returns and they’ve seen “the riven side.” I find his stated reasoning for this interesting; he claims the original Greek of Romans 11 states that Jews have been “judicially blinded” to the identity of the Messiah. He doesn’t say it, but the specific verse he’s referring to is Rom 11:7:

What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened …

In Greek, this is:

τι ουν επιζητει ισραηλ τουτο ουκ επετυχεν η δε εκλογη επετυχεν οι δε λοιποι επωρωθησαν

The verb in question is the final word in that verse, a form of the Greek verb πωροω (póroó), which doesn’t mean “judicially blinded” at all: Hagee just made that up. It actually means “to be made stubborn” or “to be made unfeeling.” Semantically, this isn’t too far off from what Hagee is saying, however, his claim is rather specific, and as such, clearly false; as someone who presents himself as an expert in Biblical languages, he has no excuse for this. He thus betrays his ignorance of Greek and his lack of expertise.

The RWW article adds Hagee’s claim September 11, 2001 attacks were an act of divine judgement against the U.S. because it had fallen away from him. This is pretty much the same sentiment as had been expressed by the late Jerry Falwell and his friend Marion “Pat” Robertson, just a few days after the attacks. Yeah, folks, this is the Religion of Love in action.

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Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune / August 6, 2008)Illinois will soon permit gay marriage (WebCite cached article). And Thomas Paprocki, bishop of that state’s capital, is not happy about it. He’s so angry, in fact, that — as CNN’s Belief blog reports — he plans to exorcise gay marriage from his state (cached):

According to a Catholic bishop in Springfield, Illinois, Satan was behind his state’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage.

So, next Wednesday, at about the same time Gov. Pat Quinn signs the gay marriage bill into law, Bishop Thomas Paprocki will hold an exorcism ceremony “in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage.”…

In September, the Pope said the church has no right to “interfere spiritually” in the lives of gays and lesbians and chided Catholics who “obsess” about fighting culture war issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

But Paprocki calls same-sex marriage “contrary to the plan of God” and says all Catholics who support it — from legislators to county clerks who issue marriage licenses — are “culpable of serious sin.”…

Paprocki says the ceremony will follow the Catholic Church’s Rite of Exorcism, which explains that Satan not only possesses people, he can also invade places and things, including the church itself.…

“We must pray for deliverance from this evil which has penetrated our state and our church,” Paprocki said.

For most of the last century or so, the Roman Catholic Church has downplayed exorcism. Sure, there’s an exorcism liturgy; some priests have been trained as exorcists; and they are occasionally performed. But it’s not something the Church was usually willing to discuss very much, and it’s tightly controlled (an exorcism can only be performed with a bishop’s express approval).

Even so, in the last couple of years, the Church has been a little more open about it, and the numbers of priests trained to handle exorcism has been increasing. As it turns out, Paprocki is one of the hierarchs behind this renewed push into exorcism. Hmm. Coincidence? I think not.

In any event, I’m not sure how Satan is involved in gay marriage; how a couple of gays marrying someplace harms Paprocki, or any other Catholic for that matter; how useful a political tool exorcism may be; and still less do I understand what Paprocki’s exorcism rite is supposed to do about it. But then, what could I — cynical, godless agnostic heathen that I am — possibly know about such dreadfully important things?

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune.

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Important update: It turns out there are some problems with the original story described in this blog post. Severe ones. In fact, based on what the New York Post reports, it looks as though it was fabricated (cached). I can no longer stand behind it. But I don’t simply want to delete this post. I’m leaving it as it was — but with this update prepended — as evidence that this was an erroneous report. (Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.)

I'm a server at Gallop Asian Bistro in Bridgewater, NJ and THIS is what happened to me today..... / Have a Gay Day Facebook timeline photoChristians using their religionism to justify saving a buck by not tipping the folks who wait on them, apparently continues to be a problem. They don’t seem to understand that tipping is the prevailing custom in the U.S. Or maybe they do, but think that withholding tips is a valid way to teach people lessons and coerce them into changing their ways. It isn’t, but that doesn’t seem to matter much to them.

In any event, on the heels of a similar situation just a short time ago, another gay waitress was treated to a stingy dose of “the Religion of Love” (WebCite cached article):

A $93.55 check netted one New Jersey waitress an unexpected tip. Former Marine Dayna Morales, a server at Gallop Asian Bistro in Bridgewater, got no money for the service she gave one family, but a note that read, “I’m sorry I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle and the way you live your life.”

In an email Morales sent to the Facebook page, Have A Gay Day [cached], she writes:

NEVER in a million years did I think this would happen. Not only was it a family with two kids, but as I introduce myself and tell them my name is Dayna – the mom proceeds to look at me and say “oh I thought you were gonna say your name is Dan. You sure surprised us!”

I am THOROUGHLY offended mad pissed off and hurt that THIS is what her kids will grow up learning and that I served in the Marines to keep ignorant people like them free.

Now, I know there are some Christians who disagree with this behavior. And that’s all well and good, I suppose. But there’s a deeper problem here, and that lies in the nature of their religion and in the manner in which some of their co-religionists adhere to it. They cherry-pick Christianity’s metaphysics in a continual effort to rationalize anything and everything they want to do — no matter how rude, mean, or nasty it might be. That’s something that other, clearer-headed, Christians are going to have to fix. To date, they aren’t doing so … at least, I’ve never heard of any of them doing it. They just continue letting sanctimoniously-furious Christofascists be sanctimoniously-furious Christofascists. That doesn’t help anyone; in fact, the more reasonable Christians’ inaction is viewed as a kind of approval by the Christofascists … so they just keep on doing whatever they want to do, to whomever they want to do it, and they won’t change. Because — obviously! — no one is forcing them to change.

Note, these “jerks for Jesus” presume themselves to be able to dictate to other people how they should or shouldn’t live. But I’m not aware anyone gave them a vote on the matter. They may dislike gays, and want them to no longer be gay … but that doesn’t mean they have any power to force them not to be gay any more. So why do they assume they have this authority? I’d like to know who passed that law, and when.

Photo credit: Have a Gay Day timeline photo, via Facebook.

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