Posts Tagged “book”

ZEALOT: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JESUS OF NAZARETH, by Reza Aslan, via Reza Aslan Web siteYou’d think people in the United States in the 21st century would be clear about “freedom of speech.” You’d think they’ve read the First Amendment and understand that, barring slander, libel, or extremes (such as the proverbial “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater”), people can say and/or write whatever they want to. You’d think they understand there are no controls on who can write about what. Americans learn about this in school and they have no excuse for not being aware of it.

But when the people you’re talking about are the Religious Right, all of that goes out the window. They get their self-righteous knickers in knots when certain people write about certain topics, sanctimoniously presuming the authority to pronounce certain topics off-limits to certain people.

A sterling example of this religionistic outrage involves scholar Reza Aslan, who wrote Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. As Slate reports, the problem here is that Aslan is (curses!) a Muslim (WebCite cached article):

Fox News anchor Lauren Green had religious scholar Reza Aslan on her show Friday to talk about Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, his book that has been stirring up some online controversy recently. And right off the bat, Green gets to what is important: “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” Aslan seemed a little flabbergasted: “Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.”…

Aslan has become the target of anti-muslim rhetoric this past week as he’s made numerous media appearances to publicize his book. Author and pastor John Dickerson harshly criticized media outlets on FoxNews.com [cached], saying reporters “have failed to mention [Aslan] is a devout Muslim.” In a piece for WorldNetDaily [cached], Pamela Geller writes that “jihadist operatives like the vicious Reza Aslan are carried on the shoulders of the media and intelligentsia like a football hero at the end of an impossibly fought game.” Many who share these views have taken to Amazon to give the book one-star reviews. Aslan “is a Muslim and not a historian,” reads one of the one-star reviews.

The train-wreck Fox News interview mentioned in the Slate report is available via Youtube:

For any other Religious Rightists who’re furious over this horrific Muslim-&-Mass-Media conspiracy to dis your precious Jesus, allow me to explain a few facts that I’m sure you’re unaware of:

  1. As I explained above, “freedom of speech” entitles any American Muslim to write about Jesus if s/he wants to, and there’s not one fucking thing you can do to stop it.
  2. Aslan is a multi-degreed academic, with expertise in religions (contrary to what some Amazon reviewers have said). He has the credentials to discuss the topic of Jesus competently. In fact, he has more credentials than the average Christian, to do so: The average Christian has no education in ancient history and does not know any Biblical languages.
  3. Muslims do, as it turns out, have a religious interest in Jesus, because they view him as a prophet. They don’t believe the same things about him that Christians do, but that doesn’t mean they have no interest in him or his teachings.
  4. Christians themselves have no reservations about discussing Islam and/or Muslims. Franklin Graham, for instance, has pontificated about Islam. And here’s a report about a conference where a whole bunch of Christians went to blather on at length about Islam and Muslims (cached).

Seems to me that any Christians who’re sanctimoniously enraged that an insolent “jihadist” Muslim dared write about their Jesus … and worse, that the mass media have insidiously conspired with him to cover this up … are being hypocritical, if they also feel free to call Mohammad a pervert (cached), or a cross-dresser (cached), a moon-worshipper (cached) … or any number of other disparaging claims. Those Christians need to crack open their Bibles for the first time and read about how their own Jesus clearly and explicitly forbid them ever to engage in any hypocritical behavior, and then just fucking stop already. Their childish act is wearing pretty thin.

Oh, and one last thing: This cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen also hosts a Web site concerning the early history of Christianity. Yes, that’s right. An insolent non-believer has dared write about your precious Jesus and the origins of the religion he supposedly founded. How awful of me!

Photo credit: Reza Aslan Web site.

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Last Judgment (Arkhangelsk)I’ve blogged twice about the controversy over evangelical pastor Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. Supposedly, Bell is an evil, Satan-loving heretic who dares promote the vile and disgusting heresy known as “universalism,” or the idea that all human beings will somehow — eventually — be saved. The uproar over his book hasn’t abated, though, and it’s even had some casualties. The AP (via MSNBC) reports that one of them is a pastor in Henderson, NC who lost his job over it (WebCite cached article):

The pastor of a rural United Methodist church in North Carolina wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book by Rob Bell, a prominent young evangelical pastor and critic of the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment for billions of damned souls.

Two days later, [Chad] Holtz was told complaints from church members prompted his dismissal from Marrow’s Chapel in Henderson.

Although Holtz’s Facebook posting triggered his firing, it’s not the only point of disagreement he had with his own congregation:

Church members had also been unhappy with Internet posts about subjects like gay marriage and the mix of religion and patriotism, Holtz said, and the hell post was probably the last straw.

I guess modern thinking is objectionable to evangelical southern Christians. They would, of course, be better off if they would just stop the spiritual/psychological terror campaign they conduct against others (e.g. “You MUST believe what I tell you to believe, or you’ll spend eternity IN FLAMES!!!”). But they’re too childish to do that … so they won’t.

Hat tip: RozMarija at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Kirk Cameron and his mentor, preacher Ray Comfort, have come up with a roundabout way to condemn the teaching of evolution. They’re distributing copies of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, but with their own introduction, which essentially says that the rest of the book is evil, racist, sexist, Holocaust-promoting crap.

CNN filed this video report on their strange propaganda campaign:

Given that Darwin himself died many decades before the Holocaust, Comfort and Cameron’s position that Darwin somehow supported it, is absurd on its face. It’s safe to say that pretty much no one living in Darwin’s time could even have dreamed of such a thing ever happening.

As for Darwin being a “racist,” that’s an anachronistic interpretation.

And I’m not sure that Biblical literalists such as Comfort and Cameron should even be going anywhere near the issue of Darwin — or anyone else for that matter! — being “sexist.” The Bible itself is chock-full of outrageous sexism, as anyone can find out just by opening it up. (Here’s a fairly comprehensive catalog of scriptural passages which clearly call for women to be treated as inferior. So on that score we have yet another example of the pot calling the kettle black — which is hypocritical, of course, but then, fundamentalist Christians like being hypocritical, in spite of Jesus’ clear injunctions against it.

These lies about Darwin and evolution quite naturally place Cameron and Comfort in my lying liars for Jesus club.

Update: The Primate Diaries blog lists several specific lies that Comfort told in his “introduction” to On the Origin of Species.

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Richard Dawkins is once again taking on the forces of religionism. This time, he’s explaining what evolution is and isn’t, and how creationists and their close allies “intelligent designers” misinform their sheep about it. His new book is called The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. Excerpts have been published in several venues; here is one published in Newsweek:

The Angry Evolutionist

Creationists are deeply enamored of the fossil record, because they have been taught (by each other) to repeat, over and over, the mantra that it is full of “gaps”: “Show me your ‘intermediates!'” They fondly (very fondly) imagine that these “gaps” are an embarrassment to evolutionists. Actually, we are lucky to have any fossils at all, let alone the massive numbers that we now do have to document evolutionary history—large numbers of which, by any standards, constitute beautiful “intermediates.” We don’t need fossils in order to demonstrate that evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution would be entirely secure even if not a single corpse had ever fossilized. It is a bonus that we do actually have rich seams of fossils to mine, and more are discovered every day. The fossil evidence for evolution in many major animal groups is wonderfully strong. Nevertheless there are, of course, gaps, and creationists love them obsessively.

Essentially Dawkins goes on to explain that the “gaps in the fossil record” that Creationists wail about so often, do not actually refute evolution. Fossils — any fossils at all — are merely “frosting on the cake,” and even if there were none at all, evolution would still be borne out by the evidence. Dawkins goes on to explain what might weigh against it:

What would be evidence against evolution, and very strong evidence at that, would be the discovery of even a single fossil in the wrong geological stratum. As J.B.S. Haldane famously retorted when asked to name an observation that would disprove the theory of evolution, “Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian!” No such rabbits, no authentically anachronistic fossils of any kind, have ever been found. All the fossils that we have, and there are very very many indeed, occur, without a single authenticated exception, in the right temporal sequence. Yes, there are gaps where there are no fossils at all, and that is only to be expected. But not a single solitary fossil has ever been found before it could have evolved. That is a very telling fact. A good theory is one that is vulnerable to disproof, yet is not disproved. Evolution could so easily be disproved if just a single fossil turned up in the wrong date order. Evolution has passed this test with flying colors. Skeptics of evolution who wish to prove their case should be diligently scrabbling around in the rocks, desperately trying to find anachronistic fossils.

Dawkins also addresses the fallacy of looking for “transitional forms,” as well as Creationists’ other unreasonable expectations of evolution, which is that it cannot be true, since monkeys do not give birth to homo sapiens:

The silliest of all these “missing link” challenges are the following two (or variants of them, of which there are many). First, “If people came from monkeys via frogs and fish, then why does the fossil record not contain a ‘fronkey’?” And, second, “I’ll believe in evolution when I see a monkey give birth to a human baby.” This last one makes the same mistake as all the others, plus the additional one of thinking that major evolutionary change happens overnight.

Well, of course, monkeys are not descended from frogs. No sane evolutionist ever said they were, or that ducks are descended from crocodiles or vice versa. Monkeys and frogs share an ancestor, which certainly looked nothing like a frog and nothing like a monkey. Maybe it looked a bit like a salamander, and we do indeed have salamander-like fossils dating from the right time. But that is not the point. Every one of the millions of species of animals shares an ancestor with every other one.

The fact is that Creationists and Intelligent Designers have, in fact, lied to people about what evolution is. They purposely misrepresent it, and explicitly misstate what it says, so that it appears foolish and absurd. And to be honest, if evolutionists were teaching that a monkey once suddenly gave birth to a human, I’d agree that would be wrong. But evolutionists don’t actually teach that, because that’s not what evolution says.

It’s time for religionists to grow the hell up, stop lying about things, and just accept that their metaphysics has been scientifically disproven. Their beliefs about creation do not entitle them to lie about evolution or about science in general.

One last note: Is there any particular reason the editors at Newsweek decided to denigrate Dawkins by labeling him as “angry” in their headline? Just wondering out loud.

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The moral bankruptcy of the Roman Catholic Church continues to be revealed incrementally. The latest revelation comes from the memoirs of the former Archbishop of Milwaukee, Rembert Weakland, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (WebCite cached article):

Weakland says he didn’t know priests’ abuse was crime

In the early years of the sex abuse scandal in Milwaukee, retired Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland says in his soon-to-be released memoir, he did not comprehend the potential harm to victims or understand that what the priests had done constituted a crime.

“We all considered sexual abuse of minors as a moral evil, but had no understanding of its criminal nature,” Weakland says in the book, “A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church,” due out in June.

Weakland said he initially “accepted naively the common view that it was not necessary to worry about the effects on the youngsters: either they would not remember or they would ‘grow out of it.'”

Let me get this straight: A Roman Catholic archbishop didn’t know that child abuse is criminal? Really??? Does this guy honestly expect me to believe that?

This is unreal! And it’s absolutely inexcusable.

Weakland has more than a few skeletons in his own closet, independent of the priest-pedophilia scandal itself:

Weakland retired in 2002 after it became known that he paid $450,000 in 1998 to a man who had accused him of date rape years earlier.

How wonderful. He managed to remain in his office as archbishop for four years after paying off one of his own victims. How did the Vatican not know about this when the payment was made in 1998? Of course the Vatican knew … and it nevertheless left him there until he resigned of his own volition. This makes the Vatican nearly as culpable in his (mis)conduct, as Weakland was himself

Here’s a challenge to any and all Roman Catholics out there who may be reading this: What in hell are you thinking? How can you remain connected to this organization as it stands? If you want to stay in it, but reform it, what exactly are you doing to accomplish that goal (other than merely saying you’d like it to change)?

Or do you think that the Roman Catholic hierarchs are always right, no matter what they do, and that all their actions are automatically moral, merely by virtue of the office they hold?

If you accept that what the RC Church is doing is wrong, but do not remove yourself from it or work to change it, then you are in collusion with its immorality. If you accept that the hierarchy is always right, by definition and by office, then you are as morally bankrupt as they are. Either way it’s not a good reflection on you — and that makes me even prouder to be a lapsed Catholic (and therefore an apostate) myself.

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