On the Past Month

Wow, it’s nearly been over a month since my last post. It always amazes me when time passes like that. Chalk it up to the holidays and a new term starting.

I hope everyone had a good time with the late-December/early-January holiday festivities of various names and natures. This will mostly be a rambling post about various topics I didn’t discuss over the past month.

1. Phil Roberston’s other dynasty: Phil Robertson freely speaks to a journalist. The journalist freely submits the interview for publishing. The magazine freely publishes the interview of Phil Robertson. Robertson’s words are not edited or redacted. This is an example of the persecution of Christians, specifically, their freedom to express their Christian values. I forget that freedom of speech means Christians are allowed to spout whatever they want, and the rest of us are just supposed to shut up about it. I can’t add anything new to the conversation. I can only shake my head.

2. Satanic monuments, coming to a state capitol near you: I love this story. Following it has filled me with a little sense of glee. I don’t mind a monument on public grounds to have religious symbolism when that symbolism is appropriate (e.g., the Holocaust memorial in Ohio or the WTC memorial cross). However, Ten Commandments monuments are completely unnecessary. What bothers me most is that, quite frankly, putting them up is inconsiderate. Surely, the people putting up the Ten Commandments monuments know it is not representative of all people. They just don’t care.

Atheists have been out front on this, but it’s nice to see other groups taking up their freedom to litter our state capitols with needless monuments. What’s especially important, to my mind, is that these are non-Abrahamic religious groups (Is the Church of Satan non-Abrahamic?). Often, in discourse about religion in the public square, “the religious” actually refers to Christians. I think it is key that the non-Christians (and especially non-Judeo-Christian-Muslims) speak up as a different voice of “the religious.” I think it will actually help the value of secularism sink in.

3. Pope Francis wins “Person of the Year”: Pope Francis has been a hit this year. Here’s Benjamin Corey’s run-down of some of Pope Francis’s better qualities. For me, I can’t get past the fact that Pope Francis is part of a large, rich, influential organization with whom I often disagree.

It is quite admirable that Pope Francis helps the poor, but I do that too by volunteering my time.

It is great that Pope Francis is willing to touch the physically disfigured. Doctors and nurses do that every day. I suppose they are offering different forms of healing, sure. Doctors and nurses heal because people have actual ailments. The Pope heals because we have a religious belief system that says he can.

I am glad Pope Francis is spreading a more inclusive message, but that puts the Pope decades behind the rest of us. Let’s be honest, it’s about time.

I’ll say this much, I have an admiration for Jorge Bergoglio. He’s put his stamp on the position of the Pope, and I’m sure he’s faced resistance. But, the Pope? That’s a figurehead position of an institution that falls well short of the good it could do.

4. Is Chick Really on Track?: I’d heard about Chick Tracts before, but I’d never encountered one what with my whole always being a nonbeliever. My first exposure came recently, when the Friendly Atheist linked to the Chick Tract about Freemasons and Baphomet. Pure gold. Four panels really stuck out for me:

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This is a caricature, right? I get that the tract is appropriating the theatrics of golden-aged comics; however, I would think this sequence is a parody if I saw it out of context. Christians (current or former), do you have exchanges like the one above? Again, I get that this is contrived and exaggerated, but does it reflect actual experiences at all?

5. The Tales of Two Pastors: The first tale I encountered was of Clergy Guy. Specifically, the story he recounts in his post: There’s No End. The post is quite moving. It made me think there should be a service where pastors can be paired with atheists who can support without judgment. I’d call it: “The Bar One Town Over.”

The second tale is of the newly former pastor Ryan Bell. He is taking a year long “journey into atheism.” You should follow his blog, right here on wordpress. Having always been an atheist, I don’t have a deconversion story. I don’t know if Mr. Bell will deconvert, but I appreciate that he is sharing his story. Also, he has good taste in blog themes.

It has already been said all over the place, but there is something inaccurate about the notion of “trying on” atheism for a year. However, I take him to mean that he is exploring. So long as he remains respectful (and all indications point to him only being respectful), I think this will be a positive for the atheist community, whether or not Bell keeps on his atheism beyond the year.

6. Two Christian bloggers discuss being Christian: Tony Jones and John Shore wrote posts exploring being Christians. Jones’s piece was about why he is still a Christian. Personally, I found the post somewhere between smug and novice. It reminded me of American college students who, upon learning a fellow student is from a country like Burundi, say: “That’s so cool.” There is something genuinely sincere in the sentiment, but it lacks perspective, reflection, and critique.

Shore’s piece is more about discussing logic and argumentation vs the Christian experience. I need to get the book and read it, but I suspect Spufford’s Unapologetic is covering a similar topic. The key line seems to be: “As a response to the human experience, Christianity isn’t one iota less logical than atheism. But the fact remains that the locus of the religious sentiment lies beyond… the logical mind.” First, this seems to fly in the face of a lot of historical Christian theology. That doesn’t falsify Shore’s point; I’m just noting the shift. Second, it seems tone-deaf to the institutionalization of Christianity and the roles such institutions play. It is a product of the “personalization” of faith. Third, it seems to under-appreciate the broad-level insignificance of personal experience. The issues and ideas at stake when discussing religion are slightly above (presumably) an individual’s existential experience.

Vorjack has written a good series of responses to Jones and to Shore (here, too).

7. My Blog’s 2013 Year in Review (Best of):

  • My Top 3 “Most Viewed Posts” were all written in 2012. Have I really gotten that much worse to read?
  • The most common search that led to my page was “judgments with ten commandments photos.” Well, I am America’s most trusted source for providing judgments with your ten commandments photos. Other high ranking searches included: “what does caveat lector mean,” “goodness scale” and “muscle sex” (I’m America’s most trusted resource for that, too).
  • Setting aside WordPress and Search Engines, my top 3 referrers were: the ‘Unapologetic’ tumblr page, Feit Can Write’s response to my post on “real men”, and rooshv.com – the source of inspiration for my post on “real men.”

It is nice to get another post up. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do in my reader, and I need to get posting again.

Carry on, my wayward son.