Category Archives: Christianity

My Annual Valentine’s Day Rant

So. Here we are once again, February 14th, and you’re nervous as hell that all you managed to get your SO after days of searching and sweating and asking the opinions of others is a bunch of overpriced flowers picked by Brazilian produce workers for pennies an hour and some chocolate that you’re not quite sure she’ll like and you’re afraid you’ll come off trite and insincere when, dammit, you TRIED, and who the hell came up with this stupid holiday, anyway? I will tell you, as I do every year. It was not, as those even more cynical than this chronicler (hard to imagine, isn’t it?) will tell you, the South African diamond merchants and the Hallmark people…though if there’s justice, a specialized hell awaits them all. Damn, atheism bites hard sometimes. No. It was the Romans. And, is too long to sum up, so I will splain.

Once upon a time, there was a rather sweet little custom held by the ancient Romans called the Lupercalia. As I tend to leave the dry, scholarly posts to those who actually enjoy such things, I will link the wiki article for you to peruse and enjoy at your leisure. Essentially, the Romans were celebrating fertility. They liked doing that quite a bit, and managed to find many, MANY inventive reasons for doing so. Every year on February 15th, the local priests would round up the year’s crop of likely young men and take them up to the cave where the she-wolf suckled the twins, Romulus and Remus. There, they were daubed on the forehead with the blood of a goat, and afterward, they were to take strips of goat skin, dip it in the blood and run through the streets touching everything in their path with the goatskin. Especially women. Go figure. It was supposed to cleanse the town and make women fertile. And afterward…and this is my favorite bit… there was a HUGE feast; lots of meat (goat, sure, you didn’t want it to go to waste after all…), lots of wine, everyone laughing and happy, and just when the evening hit its zenith…there was the sex lottery. You heard me. See, while the young men were up on the hill, the unmarried young ladies would all put their names in this urn. After the feast, the boys would draw names from the urn, and they’d take the young ladies off and do what it is kids do. It was an arrangement for a year to decide whether or not they liked each other well enough to be married which, when you get right down to it, is a hell of a lot more practical than a lot of what we do now. It was considered lucky if she became pregnant on the Lupercalia, and the pregnancy generally signaled an intent to make the arrangement permanent.

So what happened? Do you really need to ask? The Catholic church, of course. They got all tingly and uptight whenever they thought about the Lupercalia, and they knew that something that felt that good just COULDN’T be right. So they took a little known saint who may or may not have ever existed (Valentinus), ran it smack up against the Lupercalia, and, oh, yes, took away the sex lottery. Instead, the urn was stuffed with the names of saints, and the youngsters were instructed to research those saints and emulate them. Yeah, that’s more fun. Over the years, it has morphed and changed and become what it is; a holiday that takes the fun out of love. Manufactured romance. And yet…and yet…at the base of it…if we really want it…the Lupercalia is still there, winking and wearing not much more than a come hither look and a smile. So forget the flowers and the Whitman’s sampler and the two hour wait at the restaurant. Get a bottle of really good wine, some decent candles, and whatever it is you and your sweetie like best to eat. Feed each other in the candle light. Then go and make ol’ Lupercus proud. Be the secret entry in each others’ respective sex diaries. The page they never talk about and blush to think about.

United States Becoming More Secular

A just-published study by the American Religious Identification Survey found that14.1% of Americans or 29,481,000 people identify as atheist, humanist, agnostic or non-religious (see pages 12-13, SO sorry about the PDF).

Additionally, nearly 40% of those who identified as Christian stated that neither they themselves nor members of their families belonged to or attended a church or religious institution. The difference between “identification as” and “affiliation with” [a religious institution] is very pronounced: people call themselves Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim… but don’t attend Church/Temple/Mosque. The association is more a state of mind than actual state of being.

Can we now, then dispense with the meme that “we are a Christian nation”? That in fact, we are a nation of people, many of whom identify when asked as Christian, but have no actual ties to any Christian church?

I take this as a particularly encouraging sign. What was previously seen as an impenetrable wall now seems no more than smoke and mirrors. Church membership is declining. Atheism and humanism is markedly on the rise. Reason is making headway in public schools and government. It does lead me to wonder, however, just how accurate a certain survey was. You know the one. It shows atheists as being the least trusted group in the U.S. With close to one fifth of the U.S. atheist/agnostic or non-religious….just how accurate is that statement?

Ted Haggard’s Closet Gets a Little Fuller

Ted, Ted, Ted, Ted, Ted. What are we going to do with you?

Yes, it’s true. Ted Haggard, public homophobe and pastor of the Denver New Life Mega-Church, is once again the center of a gay sex scandal. I know. I’m as shocked as you. Who would’ve thought that just two short years after having meth fueled sex with a male hooker (which I understand isn’t nearly as pleasurable or fulfilling as the straight laced hetero man on top get it over with quick with the lights out kind), yet ANOTHER story about Ted Haggard having gay sex with a member of his own church would find its way to the surface? Other than me and, probably, you.

The article states:

Boyd said an “overwhelming pool of evidence” pointed to an “inappropriate, consensual sexual relationship” that “went on for a long period of time … it wasn’t a one-time act.” Boyd said the man was in his early 20s at the time. He said he was certain the man was of legal age when it began.”

Ohhh, good. Because of all the things wrong with the head of a mega church that influences public policy by snuggling up to the President of the United States and getting him to pass harmful legislation against gays and women being found to have gay sex with a young member of his church, the one I’m MOST worried about is whether the young man was underage or not. Mr. Boyd, are we on the same planet? I think something a bit more worrisome was the fact that Mr. Haggard paid the kid off.

In a letter e-mailed Friday to New Life Church members, Boyd said of the settlement and agreement not to talk: “This decision was made not as an attempt to conceal wrongdoings, but to protect him from those who would seek to exploit him.”

Okay. I think we’re stretching the suspension of disbelief a little far, even for Christians. If part of the agreement was explicitly that neither party discuss the affair? It was hush money.

In an AP interview this month before an appearance in front of TV critics in California, Haggard described his sexuality as complex and something that can’t be put into “stereotypical boxes.”

*sigh*…. Ted? Ted, you’re gay, and you’re closeted. That’s about as boxed in as you can get. Look. I’m going to try to help you. I know you’re scared and  I know you’re worried, but at this point…how much worse can it really get? You lost your church, you lost your reputation, you’re a national joke, and the woman you’re married to doesn’t trust you now and (thanks to this new thing) probably never will again. You’ve shamed your children. Was it worth it? Ted…stop making their and your life miserable. There IS a way. Two simple words, and then … believe it or not… life will get easier. Ready? Repeat after me. “I’m gay.” Now own it. It will be okay. I promise. Your wife will be able to move on with her life. You may even be able to mend fences with her. Your kids will need lots of attention and understanding, but you could really be a model dad, one who shows just what grace and acceptance really mean, not all that fire and brimstone crap you’ve been spewing for years. And YOU, Ted, will be happy. At least, happier than you are now. Believe it.

And later, we’ll work on that whole god fixation thing.

Texas Rejects God in the Science Classroom

I am still being surprised by my adopted state. I have had to reject my preconceived notions about Texas and recognize that, while some stereotypes do apply, when it comes to politics and sociological views, it’s as diverse as my home state of California.

Today Texas stepped firmly into the 21st century and embraced science without religion. Although it isn’t final, the fifteen member board voted to remove the “strengths and weaknesses” clause in the state’s science curriculum as it applies to evolution. The clause has previously been used to open the door to the “alternative theory” of Intelligent Design.

The article states:

The new science curriculum standards will take effect beginning with the 2010-2011 school year and last about 10 years.

[snip]

Instead of allowing teachers to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolutionary theory, the proposed science curriculum standards would encourage students to apply critical thinking, scientific reasoning and problem solving “to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning and experimental and observational testing.”

In other words, YES, question evolutionary theory. YES, look for gaps in reasoning and facts. But use facts to get there. The original wording of the “strengths and weaknesses clause” reads as follows:

(1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and

(2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.


Never mind that were science simply taught as science, there would BE no controversy, or that religion and philosophy have no place in a science classroom, or even that the US Senator who originally proposed the clause was a huge proponent of intelligent design and felt religion should be re-instituted into public schools. Just go ahead and teach the kids that not everyone “believes in” evolution because we need them to know God’s there, too. No. If you want your kids to know that God’s there, too, YOU teach them that. Let the science teachers teach science. It isn’t their job to remind them that they need to feel guilty for learning there’s more to the universe than was covered in the Bible/Torah/Qu’ran.

So I think it is an astounding and wonderful and courageous move by the Texas Board of Education that in the face of knee jerk reactionaries and politicians who are too afraid of not getting re-elected and the near omnipresent church (you can’t go three blocks without seeing a church in Texas), they agreed to let the kids learn how to apply logic and reason in their studies. Of course there are those who disagree:

Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, who voted to keep “strengths and weaknesses,” said he wouldn’t rubber stamp recommendations from the experts.

“This is a battle of academic freedom. This is a battle over freedom of speech,” Mercer said. “It’s an issue of freedom of religion.”

No, Mr. Mercer. It is not an issue of freedom of religion, because there IS no religion in our classrooms. It is an issue of teaching science in the classroom without fear of religion being inserted. It is an issue of teaching our children to be competitive in a global market. Because we owe them that. We owe our country that. The US is falling behind in scientific development, and the blame can be laid squarely on the shoulders of those superstitious uber religious fundamentalists who have been allowed to push their agenda in our schools and our government. No more.

Today I can honestly state that I am proud of my adopted state; happy to be a Texan.

Yet More Repression of Christians

The Christian News Wire (tag lined “The most used, recognized, respected religion newswire,” which made me smirk a bit) did a top ten list entitled “Top Ten Instances of Christian Bashing in America, 2008.”  Aside from the eye-rolling banality of yet another top-ten list (is there a single place in the blogosphere that DIDN’T put one out?), the list itself comes off as whiny, petulant and paranoid, filled with appeals to emotion, distortions and logical fallacies. Not to mention a distinct lack of citations for the assertions it makes.  A couple examples? I thought you’d never ask.

INSTANCE #5: Chaplains Fired for Praying in Jesus’ Name

Chaplains for the State of Virginia are being denied their right to pray in Jesus’ name. Six chaplains were fired for continuing to pray in Jesus’ name. Earlier this year in Virginia, Rev. Hashmel Turner, a city councilman in Fredericksburg, was told by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that his prayers during city council meetings that ended in Jesus’ name will continue to be banned.

Sounds sinister, doesn’t it? If only it were true. In fact, the chaplains resigned in a snit because they were asked by the state to NOT reference Jesus Christ in prayers at public events and to keep the prayers non-denominational after a ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Yes, I have a citation. The new policy does not apply to private functions like funerals, just public state functions. Naturally, the reaction has been…well…over-reactionary:

In a statement Wednesday, Grayson County Delegate Bill Carrico called on the Superintendent to abandon, “this attack on Christianity.”

Delegate Morgan Griffith says, to “require those troopers to disregard their own faith while serving violates their First Amendment rights and prevents them from serving effectively as chaplains. These men had little choice but to resign.”

Aren’t we being just a little over the top? Nobody’s being asked to “disregard their own faith.” They’re being asked to actually obey the constitution and NOT attempt to force the state to recognize one religion over others. Y’know, if you’re going to invoke the first amendment, you’d better read the whole damn thing.

Next:

INSTANCE #10: Jack Black Musical Video

In a short video posted on FunnyorDie.com entitled, “Prop 8 The Musical,” an all star cast of Hollywood celebrities perform a low budget musical farce that defames Christ, mocks Christians and distorts the teaching of the Bible. Jack Black played the lead role of Jesus.

Um…Okay. First, Jack Black didn’t “defame” Christ, he portrayed Christ. Nor did he “distort” the teachings of the bible at all. Every single thing he said was true and a tenet of scripture. That Christians are not able to defend those tenets does not make it “defamation.” It just points out certain hypocrisy.

It’s difficult to take these people seriously. Really, I laughed when I read this list. Christians get everything they want by stamping their feet; they even manage to get programs removed from broadcast television and politicians discredited just by saying that person isn’t a Christian. But they’re being repressed? Yuh, right. No group in the history of our country has enjoyed such a protected position as Christians. The difference is that now, that position is being challenged because they’re not the only game in town, and they’re losing their power base. They now have to respect “freedom of religion” in practice as well as in theory. Which is something they’re just going to have to get over, because it isn’t going back to the old way any time soon.