Posts Tagged “jesus christ”

Futurama, end of the world panicJesus will return, exactly one month from today … according to Bible scholar religionist crank Harold Camping. I’ve already blogged about this wingnut and his apocalyptic claim that Jesus plans to return on May 21, 2011, and upon his arrival vacuum up the world’s Christians in an event known to “End Timers” as “the Rapture.”

The sad part about all of this is that, when May 21, 2011 comes and goes, neither Camping nor his sheep will admit he was wrong. They’ll just spew out ridiculous excuses such as he made an arithmetic error. Then they’ll listen closely when he announces yet another date for “the Rapture,” and look forward to that.

Oh yeah, did I mention, Camping has been down this road before? Yep. He pulled this same bullshit stunt back in 1994 (cached). His followers appear not to have given a crap that he was full of shit back then, so I don’t expect they’ll care that he’s wrong, now.

The basic truth about any kind of Biblical prophecy — whether it comes from Harold Camping or anyone else — is that it’s all complete, unmitigated, unfiltered bullshit. Plain and simple. That’s all it is, and it’s all it ever will be. Period.

Photo credit: io9.com.

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Hell: If you think Christianity exists only to help you avoid it, you're doing it wrong.The hubbub over evangelical pastor Rob Bell and his supposed universalism hasn’t let up yet. Perhaps in memory of a momentous article that magazine published decades ago (cached), Time magazine — in its cover-article overview of the Bell/universalism controversy — asks the question, “Is Hell Dead?” (WebCite cached article):

The standard Christian view of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is summed up in the Gospel of John, which promises “eternal life” to “whosoever believeth in Him.” Traditionally, the key is the acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of God, who, in the words of the ancient creed, “for us and for our salvation came down from heaven … and was made man.” In the Evangelical ethos, one either accepts this and goes to heaven or refuses and goes to hell.

Bell, a tall, 40-year-old son of a Michigan federal judge, begs to differ. He suggests that the redemptive work of Jesus may be universal — meaning that, as his book’s subtitle puts it, “every person who ever lived” could have a place in heaven, whatever that turns out to be. Such a simple premise, but with Easter at hand, this slim, lively book has ignited a new holy war in Christian circles and beyond.

The Time article is in five pieces in its online form; here’s page 2 (cached), page 3 (cached), page 4 (cached), and page 5 (cached).

I’ve blogged a couple times already about this particular controversy and the fierce anger it’s engendered within the evangelical Christian community. The assumption seems to be that, if you take away the possibility that people might end up in Hell, Christianity suddenly becomes useless and moot.

This view is hypersimplistic, juvenile and short-sighted. It basically obviates all of Jesus’ teachings, and relegates him to the role of a cosmic magician whose death and resurrection are the only things about him that matter.

At the risk of — ironically — appearing to be a skeptical, cynical, godless agnostic heathen who dares to deliver a sermon on the meaning and importance of Christianity, I must point out that (if the gospels are to be believed, anyway) Christianity is about more than just “Hell-avoidance.”

Consider, for example, the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain. These two discourses are not just about getting a “Get out of Hell free” pass; they’re about humility and sacrifice, as expressions of divinity on earth. While they state that humility and sacrifice will be rewarded, the content of these is not about the reward itself (which is avoiding Hell), they are instead about the hard work of being humble and of the godliness of sacrifice, and about how doing it will make “the Kingdom of Heaven” real.

Moreover, these discourses were the product of Jesus’ apocalypticism, a view which held that the end of all things was imminent, so concerning oneself with the present, with the physical, and with triviality, was useless. Giving everything — and I do mean everything, even one’s own personal welfare and survival — up to God was far preferable. That’s what holiness was about, to Jesus himself while he walked the earth and preached. Evangelicals’ obsession with (what they view as) the horror of Bell’s “heresy” is, by contrast, perhaps the height of triviality itself.

Any Christians who think Hell-avoidance is the entire point of being a Christian, therefore, cannot really be Christians. They’re doing it wrong. They would do well to put a crowbar to their Bibles, crack them upen just a tiny bit, and deign to read the gospels they claim to revere but know little or nothing about.

Photo credit: PsiCop original based on Signorelli’s Hell, via diy.despair.com.

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Zürich - Kunsthaus - Rodin's Höllentor IMG 7384 ShiftNEvangelicals around the US have gone into fits of apoplexy over a book that hasn’t even been released yet, by a well-known Christian pastor, Rob Bell. The controversy began when a Christian blogger determined — based on blurbs about the book released by its publisher, in advance of publication — that it contains the horrific idea that all of humanity will be saved. This assumption on the part of a lone blogger has turned into full-scale theological war among evangelical Christians, as CNN’s Belief Blog explains (WebCite cached article):

[Christian blogger Justin] Taylor’s claim — based on a description of the book released by publisher HarperOne and a promotional video — ignited a wave of criticism against, and a counter-wave of support for, Bell. Some critics went so far as to label Bell a heretic. Prominent evangelical pastors on both the right and left rushed to condemn or defend the Michigan pastor. …

The controversy even caught the staff at Bell’s church off-guard. On Sunday, Brian Mucchi, an assistant pastor, told the church they knew a controversy could come, they just didn’t expect it to come so soon, according to a church member who was at the service but did not want to be identified.

Bell’s latest book is so disturbing to evangelical Christians, that it caused him to have to jump publishers:

“Love Wins” is Bell’s first book since his break from Zondervan, the Christian publisher based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that published Bell’s first four books and also publishes the New International Version of the Bible, one of the most popular translations of the Bible among evangelicals.

Bell’s split from Zondervan came in part over this new book. “The break with Zondervan was amicable,” Tauber said. “In the end the president of Zondervan made the decision. The proposal came in and they said, ‘This proposal doesn’t fit in with our mission.’ “

Criticism of Bell comes from a lot of the usual suspects, like Al Mohler, as well as from others. What these people find disturbing is that Bell’s “universalism” undermines the presumed exclusivity of Christianity; the idea that salvation and eternal life can only come from Jesus Christ and only in a certain way. Evangelicals, who can only see things in an “all or nothing,” black-&-white way, are aghast. For them, “universalism” renders all of Jesus’ career meaningless … because if salvation comes to everyone, with or without Christ, then what good is anything he said or did, and what good is it to believe in him at all?

This is all predicated on the idea that the only purpose of Jesus’ career was to bring eternal life; that he had nothing to say of any value or substance, which is not directly related to salvation. This assumption sells Jesus short — immensely! He taught many things, including humility, charity, compassion, and more. Do these cease to have any value, if it should turn out that salvation will come to everyone and not just those who believe in him in a certain way? Of course not! Humility, charity and compassion are all important and they all have value, even if no one achieves life after death.

The truth about evangelicals is that they use their presumed exclusivity, coupled with the threat of eternal perdition, as a bludgeon to get others to believe as they do: “If you don’t accept Jesus Christ as your Personal Lord and Savior™, you’ll burn in hell forever!” Their campaign of psychological terror, however, bears no resemblance to Jesus’ career. What it does do, is give them a lever by which they can control others.

At the moment, though, we don’t know what’s in Rob Bell’s book. The assumption that it promotes “universalism” is exactly that — an assumption. So all of this speculation may turn out to be a tempest in a teapot. But even if that’s the case, the nation’s evangelicals will have revealed themselves as the control-freaks and psychological terrorists they are.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Roland zh.

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Ivanov, Alexander - The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene - 1834-1836I’ve never quite understood why it is that so many religions have such a hard time accepting that women — who are half the human population — are human beings, too, just like men. It seems rather obvious to me that both women and men are equally human … but hey, what could a cynical, God-hating agnostic heathen possibly know about such important things as institutional misogyny?

I blogged a while ago about how the Roman Catholic Church teaches that pregnant women’s lives are forfeit, and expect their hospitals to comply with this doctrine. But it’s not just the Catholic hierarchy that believes women are lesser beings whose welfare is secondary to theology. In a lawsuit filed over how the Pentagon mishandled sexual harassment, assault, and rape in the military, one story claims that an Army chaplain said something unconscionable to an Army sergeant who had been raped (WebCite cached article):

In February of 2009 SGT Havrilla reported for four weeks of active duty training. During this training, she saw her rapist in the shopette on Fort Leanard Wood. Upon seeing her rapist, SGT Havrilla went into shock. She immediately sought the assistance of the military chaplain. When SGT Havrilla met with the military chaplain, he told her that “it must have been God’s will for her to be raped” and recommended that she attend church more frequently (#46, page 10).

Definitely, that’s what every victim of rape needs — to bow and scrape and worship the vast cosmic deity whose will it had been for her to be raped. Why, of course! It’s the obvious remedy!

</sarcasm>

Now, I have no idea what the religious affiliation of the chaplain in question is. The military does have non-Christian chaplains. But the odds are, this chaplain was a man, ordained by some Christian denomination. So I’m assuming (at the risk of being wrong, I admit) this denigration of women must be something Jesus taught … right?

Well, I’ve just scoured every Bible I could get my hands on, but have never found “Thou shalt treat women like trash and abuse them as thou wilt” anywhere in it. Maybe one of you Christians out there (I know you read this blog!) can point me in the direction of it.* If you can’t find it, then maybe — just maybe! — it’s time to stop fucking acting as though he did. OK?

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

* In fact … I dare you to point it out! Please post the chapter and verse in the comments. Thank you.

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Robert Bentley, running for the GOP nomination for governor, on 10/13/2009 says he'll push for a statewide abortion ban. (Press-Register / Kate Mercer)In a bid to promote himself as a dutiful general in the armies of the Religious Right, Alabama’s now-governor Robert Bentley declared that — while he is decidedly color-blind, he is most assuredly not belief-blind. The Birmingham News reports on his blanket disavowal of non-Christians (WebCite cached article):

Gov.-elect Robert Bentley in a speech at a Baptist church this afternoon said he plans to be the governor of all Alabamians and be color-blind, but he also said people who aren’t ”saved” Christians aren’t his brothers and sisters. …

“There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit,” Bentley said. ”But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.”

Bentley added, ”Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”

Rather incredibly, Bentley later claimed not to have wanted to insult or offend anyone and does not think he did so:

Asked later if he meant to be insulting to people of other faiths, Bentley replied, ”We’re not trying to insult anybody.”

This is complete bullshit. Of course he intended to “insult” non-Christians! Of course he knew his comments would be offensive to them! Absolutely he knew exactly what he was doing … which was to ingratiate himself to the teeming masses of militant, angry, atheist-hating, Bible-thumping, God-praising, Christianists who make up the majority of Alabama. There’s no other explanation for this, and anything else he or his spokesman may say, can only be a lie. This makes Gov. Bentley (who was sworn in to office yesterday the 17th) the latest member of my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Hat tip: Lordrag at iReligion Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Press-Register / Kate Mercer.

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X-ray jesusThe week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is typically a slow news week. Lots of people are on vacation, including politicians and other notable figures, leaving journalists looking for fluff and nonsense to fill print space and/or airtime. An example of this phenomenon is this non-story about Jesus being seen in an x-ray, dutifully reported by WXIN-TV in Indianapolis (WebCite cached article):

A holiday miracle here in central Indiana is bringing hope to one family. An Elwood woman is battling cancer by keeping Jesus close to her heart, literally.

She has the x-rays to prove it. …

On December 12th, [Karen] Sigler was sick in the hospital with pnemonia [sic]. She says Jesus made himself clear right on her x-ray, “My faith just got a little stronger since I seen that Jesus was sitting on my heart and that he’s there and you can see him. He’s there.”

The problem, of course, is that there’s absolutely no recognizable figure in this X-ray:

A putative X-ray containing a figure of Jesus, courtesy of WXIN-TV

A putative X-ray containing a figure of Jesus, courtesy of WXIN-TV

If you can see Jesus — or anything else — in this X-ray, let me know … ’cause I just don’t see it.

Ordinarily I’d call this story a case of pareidolia, or seeing something definite in an otherwise amorphous shape … but in this case I can’t, because there is nothing here to be seen.

Yet another example of a journalism FAIL — and doubly so, since “pneumonia” is misspelled in the story! Enough already with the dreadful lazy journalism, OK? (Yes, any reporters who may be reading this … I’m talking to YOU. Just fucking stop it with the insipid tripe!)

Photo credit: hfb.

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Warning Signs of Fascism (Laurence W. Bries)A contentious lame-duck session of Congress is underway … but its Religious Right members appear not to have anything to do. So they got together and whined sanctimoniously that President Obama isn’t being religious enough for their taste. ABC News reports on their fit of enraged hyperpiety (WebCite cached article):

President Obama doesn’t mention God frequently enough in his speeches, a group of religious House Republicans said in an open letter to the president, chastising him for skipping over mention of the “Creator,” especially in a recent overseas address.

Forty-two members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus complained in a letter sent to the White House Monday that in a speech delivered last month in Indonesia, the president substituted the U.S.’s religious-themed national motto for a more secular alternative.

This caucus of religionists spews the old lie that only Jesus gives Americans their freedoms (cached):

The prayer caucus members say that by failing to mention God, the president is “removing one of the cornerstones of our secure freedom.”

The truth is that God had absolutely nothing to do with making the US into a free country. Ironically, the US would cease to be a free country, if these angry Christofascists get their way … it would instead become an Old Testament-style Christian theocracy.

In any event, these people are claiming that, essentially, it’s every American’s duty — from the President on down — to be a Christian. I dare Michele Bachmann and the rest of the members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus to apply their awesome Congressional power, and force this cynical, godless agnostic heathen to become the dour Christianist they want me to become. Come on. Give it your best shot! You have nothing to lose by trying, so why would you not do so?

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

Photo credit: anarchosyn.

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