If it smells like a cult…

I sat myself through another Christian presentation today for some reason (boredom?), not having learned my lesson after Friday’s yawner. Today’s lunch hour event was titled “Reasons to Believe” and featured Every Nation International’s founding pastor Rice Broocks presenting his sermon.

I’ll jump to the end for you, the reasons were mostly emotional and despite the promise of a more dialogue-centred event, he ended up talking up until almost the end of the time we had (I had to run out at the end of this one to TA).

He’s “skeptical” of evolution, which mainly comes from his necessity to have an original sin, but he mentioned something about finding astronomical findings intriguing. I took him to be an Old-Earth Creationist (may be wrong). He did seem to think that evolution led to Hitler (touched on this very briefly) and that the information in one DNA molecule could fill books which would fill the Grand Canyon (the human genome is estimated at 750 MB in raw information which translates to roughly 100,000 pages or 200 copies of the Origin of Species, not quite a Grand Canyon full).

I did ask him if evolution was antithetical to his faith, to which he responded that while there are many Christians who accept evolution he thought the evidence was lacking for evolution (he expects every animal in history to have fossilized) and it seemed that evolution just didn’t jive right in his mind with Christianity.

The biggest stun I got out of him (there were only about 10 people there, 4-6 of whom seemed associated with his ministry already), was when he was talking about his encounter with a skeptic who he offered the deal that if after he responded to every one of the skeptic’s questions adequately (by the skeptic’s standards), if the skeptic would “serve God.” The skeptic replied that he wouldn’t serve God, so the Pastor didn’t spend his time arguing if the skeptic wouldn’t believe in the end. I challenged him and said that perhaps the skeptic would believe in God, but would refuse to serve.

It caught the otherwise well-spoken and thought out pastor for a second (he’s obviously spread the word a lot – and discussed his travels across the globe), and he finally decided that belief in the Bible means to serve, which is a bit of a cop-out. I don’t know if it’s ever crossed his mind that someone could read the Bible, believe what it says, but then still reject Jesus.

I’ve stated as much that if the Christian God were proved to me, I’d reject his authoritarianism over my soul.

Now, let’s look at where this creationist was coming from: Wikipedia informs me that the Every Nation ministry has 400 churches around the world, likes to focus on campuses, and is awkwardly associated with the Maranatha Cult of the late 1970s and 80s. While this cult didn’t “drink the Kool-Aid” (Broocks did make reference to what he called “Comet Cults” which would do that to land on the comet and then return), it was known for authoritarian ways and its pressure on campuses.

Of course this isn’t helped by the fact the key members who organized this event approached every single person who entered, gave a “hi, what’s your name” speech and generally exuded a slightly-over-zealous-but-not-quite-creepy quality.

Anyway, prior to this event, some of the SFU Skeptics and I were postering for tomorrow’s Evolution Day event on campus (a showing of Judgement Day, to which I won’t be making it due to TAing), which attracted the attention of several of the ministry people. Broocks did allude to the “Skeptics” on campus in his talk and I think his crew may be planning to crash the party tomorrow.

And there’s still the potential of the Banana Man’s cronies to be distributing their desecrated Origin editions too.

Update: A little more digging into Every Nation reveals quite a bit.

Karen Armstrong: Rewriting the history of religion

I like The Tyee. It generally offers a non-MSM view of current events and is very grassroots oriented (since its funding comes directly from its readers who want to see better news coverage). But sometimes they let their writers go off the deepend.

This is the case in the latest review of Karen Armstrong’s new book, The Case for God.

The following is my favourite bit of apologetics from the piece:

Despite her determination to steer clear of religion, Armstrong argues in her new book for the existence of a highly misunderstood God; a God who has been pitted against science and extreme Western rationalism for hundreds of years, and has come out on the losing end. What most New Atheists are missing, claims Armstrong, is that this literal interpretation of scripture they so revile (which has led in part to modern-day Creationism and Intelligent Design theories), is actually quite rare, and their dismissal of religion on this basis ignores the basic foundations of most of the world’s religious traditions. In one stroke, she manages to show how both religious extremists and fervent atheists are seriously missing the point.

Previously, the great theologians had said that the natural world can tell us nothing about God — you can’t even say that God exists, because our notion of existence is too limited.

Maybe Ms. Armstrong doesn’t meet many evangelicals, or the fact almost 1 in 4 Canadians thinks God made the world 10,000 years ago. That’s not exactly “rare” to me. The USA is even worse with upwards of 40% thinking goddunnit is the fundamental basis that all biology should rest upon.

Similarly, it doesn’t really matter if “great theologians” believe Adam and Eve didn’t exist (hint: they don’t), policy makers and the general public who rest their beliefs on religion do think our “notion of existence” is good enough to know that God wants us to kill for Him.

The “great theologians” didn’t seem to have any issues with all the witch burnings over the years.

Karen Armostrong: You FAIL for not knowing any real religious people and muddying up the waters with apologetic liberal theology.

The Tyee: You FAIL for reprinting her completely uncritically.

Continuing responses

Today’s Gateway features another in the continuing letter arguments over my now 9 day old op-ed. Hopefully every piece I write can stir this much discussion.

This piece comes from Sheila Kwasek:

I suppose there is really no nice way to say this, so I’ll just come out and say it: Ian Bushfield, in his article (re: “There’s no ‘God’ in Graduation,” 16 September), is being hypocritical.

I can understand that removal of the reference to God may be needed, since it’s true that many people don’t believe in God, and their beliefs should be respected as much as anyone else’s. Yet, while saying that keeping the reference to God is discriminatory, he freely bandies about such notions as religious people living “in fear” of a God, and referring to the religious aspects of the university’s history as its “dark-aged roots.” How can one be think [sic] he truly favours tolerance and equality when he can’t even show respect for religious beliefs?

He also shows very little understanding about the workings of Canadian society. Unlike America, we don’t have a “separation of church and state” as such, we have more of a notion that one religion should not be given preference or predominance in a public institution. Secularism is merely the simplest way to make sure no one religion is predominant in the public sphere.

Though this isn’t always the case in practice, as forcing secular ideals on everyone is surely no better than forcing religious ideals. Yet – as Bushfield’s outspoken disdain for religion shows – the beliefs and values of religious people are rarely given as much consideration as secular values.

Perhaps if Bushfield is concerned about equality, he should start with himself. He probably wouldn’t like the Bible reference, but I think Jesus’ advice stands in this case – “you need to take the plank out of your own eye before you can get the speck out of someone else’s.”

Sheila Kwasek
Arts II

Now this letter is interesting. Shelia agrees with my argument (somewhat), but likely was pissed at the rhetoric I used (remember, I wrote this for the Gateway, not the New York Times).

She calls me a hypocrite for claiming discrimination while disrespecting religion (note: tolerance and respect are not equivalent).

She claims Canada doesn’t have “separation of church and state” (we technically don’t have it in Canada), which I didn’t technically claim, but then admits that we “have more of a notion that one religion should not be given a preference or predominance in a public institution.” But I’m not sure what she thinks the difference between the two phrasings is.

She then seems to think “secular values” can be imposed upon religious people. And that religious values are given less consideration than secular values. I hope she realizes that secularism is not a religion, and there are in fact many secular religious people.

And as for “he probably wouldn’t like the Bible reference”, in fact, Sheila, there are many Bible references I do enjoy.

SHUFFL is dead, Long live SHUFFL!

Lethbridge blogger Dr. Jim is back after an unexpected hiatus from SHUFFL, which was taken offline at wordpress.com recently. His new blog “Dr. Jim’s Thinking Shop and Tea Room” is up and running now.

It looks like he’s up to the same old tricks, but I would expect he may venture beyond old SHUFFL territory (much as I try to not limit myself to atheism, but also dabble in physics, politics, etc.):

this is my new blog and I would like to apologize to all the fans of my previous blog, SHUFFL, for the rude eradication thereof. Whoops. What the heck was I thinking? Anyway, I’m hoping to have a bit more fun here in a venue that will be a little less focused than SHUFFL. This means that rather than just “atheistical” or secularesque issues, I can talk about other stuff, too.

It’s good to see him back online. Update your feeds and give him some readers.

Sex sells atheism?

There’s a new [tag]book[/tag] out by lawyer [tag]Geoff Henley[/tag] entitled “[tag]Beyond Reasonable Doubt[/tag]: A Lawyers Case for Disbelief in God” and rather than resort to traditional advertising means, he’s created a series of sexed-up [tag]YouTube[/tag] [tag]videos[/tag] to help him sell.

The first I came across was the [tag]bikini[/tag] girls [tag]cat fight[/tag] over [tag]atheism[/tag]:

The sequel to the cat fight features the [tag]girls kissing[/tag] and making up:

Finally, there’s the sexy woman in a towel arguing about the [tag]Bible[/tag]:

Check out his website for more on the book.

Gay Jesus?

(Original post)

At Ohio’s Lorain County Community College, an atheist group has made a lot of enenmies over a new questioning whether Jesus had homosexual relations.

I think that poster just about speaks for itself. Also, check out the longer, original article.

My group at the University of Alberta was recently made office-mates with Outreach, the LGBTQ group on campus, we might have to hang some of these on our door.

Mere Christianity: Just plain awful

I have grudgingly finished reading C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity. I say grudgingly because although I went in hoping for strong, articulate reasons to believe theism, and specifically Christianity, at the end I was left with a tired confused man, who writes from a sexist post-war (WWII) viewpoint, rambling about what helps him sleep at night.

The arguments for Christianity break down as follows:

(1) There can be no morals without God.

This is actually his big one. It’s what made him go from “atheism” to Christian apologist. Never mind that it doesn’t take too much reading in moral philosophy before you realize how pathetic of an argument this is, he doesn’t even articulate it well!
Continue reading Mere Christianity: Just plain awful

Glad to be an atheist child

Teapot Atheist has compiled a nice list of 10 Bible passages (from both Testaments) where abuse of children is either permitted or expected.

4. If children make fun of your bald head, the appropriate response is to have them massacred by bears. This way, we know that in Biblical morality, punishments need no proportion to the crimes. (2nd Kings 2:23)
3. If you don’t hate your mom, your dad, your siblings, your children, and yourself, Jesus is wrong for you. So in Biblical morality, a cohesive family unit is a moral aberration. (Luke 14:26)

I should say that no parents follow these examples to the letter anymore (I hope), but it doesn’t help the case the morality comes from the bible.

I hate God

If He were real I would that is.  Okay maybe hate is too strong of a word, but I don’t think the God of the Christian Bible is one that I would ever be getting along with.

First, from scriptures we see Satan created as a perfect being (Ezekiel 28:12-19) and an anointed cherub (or high-class angel).  Lucifer (who Christians assume is the same) decided that he could do a better job as God, and wanted to replace him at the top of the metaphysical totem poll (Isaiah 14:12-17).  There was a big rebellion, with Satan and the angels he’d convinced to join him losing badly (Revelation 12:7-8).  The rebels were then cast down to Earth (where they were given control) (Revelation 12:9, 12:12).  The rest of Satan’s story has to due with the supposed Second Coming of Christ, where Satan will then get sent to hell.

Now there’s a couple things to notice with this story:

  1. It’s patchy as hell (pardon the pun).  The references are all over the Old and New Testaments, and it’s a bit hard to piece together even when it’s spelled out for you. (This is a minor issue for me in this post)
  2. God created Satan, but Satan supposedly developed lust (read sin) on his own, even though God should have seen that coming.
  3. It’s not evidently clear that Satan is evil – he is portrayed as such in the Bible, but remember the books are supposedly inspired by the God who won in the attempted revolution.  If Satan had won he’d probably have inspired a different sounding book.

Now I’m not going to try to out-think a theologian and suggest Satan is actually a good character in the Bible, but I think there is something to say for the act of rebellion against a tyrannical dictator in the sky who promises eternal suffering for finite sin.  What’s more is Satan wasn’t alone, he attracted a lot of angels to his cause; that doesn’t mean his cause was virtuous (as many charismatic leaders have attracted followers despite their causes), but it does mean there were many angels willing to turn from the “divine.”

What my distaste for the Biblical God boils down to is that in the Old Testament He was a very fire-and-brimstone smiter of everyone He disagrees with (going as far as killing all Egyptian firstborns) and in the New Testament He said all who do not accept His Son (who is himself) as their saviour are eternally damned to Hell.  Both of these versions are morally abhorrent by modern cultural standards.  I don’t respect the idea (and neither would a court) that a thief is just if he offers his victim the choice between being shot or giving up some goods (in this comparison God would be stealing my “free will”).

I know the response that I’m going to get is that all I have to do is accept JC, but I’m offended by the thought of spending time in a Heaven run by a God who sends anyone to eternal damnation.  (Problem of Hell.)  I will have no part in such a farce.

If there is a Christian God (which I highly doubt), then sign me up for the next revolution.

Note: If this passage greatly offended you, I’d suggest you avoid reading the Golden Compass and its sequels (of His Dark Materials trilogy) which focus on a multiple universe rebellion against the almighty.

False Idols

(Side note: this is my 100th post here!)

Fundamental evangelical Christians in the US are at it again – now they’re calling the I-35 a sacred highway as prophesied in the Bible.

(via Pharyngula)

If that video made your head hurt (it should come with a disclaimer), here’s a redeeming video of Kathy Griffin’s comedy about her Emmy acceptance speech where she said “Suck it Jesus.”


(via Friendly Atheist)