Today’s found on Facebook – Matthew McConaughey’s thoughts on religion

June 23, 2016

He has a new movie out (Free State of Jones) where he plays Newton Knight, a Confederate soldier who rebelled against the Confederacy. The Daily Beast provides this quote from the actor talking about the film and explaining what he thinks is wrong with America (and everything else):

“It is my personal belief that mankind has bastardized religion,” he says. “Religion actually means, if you look up the Latin root, ‘re’ which means again, and ‘ligare,’ which means to bind together. It means exactly the opposite of what and how we are often practicing it these days!

“All of this, the abolition of slavery in the Civil War at this time, they were almost all led by religious movements—Christian movements—that were trumping the ideals that everyone else had. They went further into it and said, ‘No, this is not right—because of the Bible.’”

Sigh. First, we’ll sort out the etymology of “religion” – turns out a few different thoughts on its origin are around. Related to monastic vows, belief in divine power, piety, respect for the sacred, etc…

However, popular etymology among the later ancients (Servius, Lactantius, Augustine) and the interpretation of many modern writers connects it with religare “to bind fast” (see rely), via notion of “place an obligation on,” or “bond between humans and gods.” In that case, the re- would be intensive. Another possible origin is religiens “careful,” opposite of negligens. In English, meaning “particular system of faith” is recorded from c. 1300; sense of “recognition of and allegiance in manner of life (perceived as justly due) to a higher, unseen power or powers” is from 1530s.

So, I’ll just throw a minor correction at Mr. McConaughey: mankind invented the idea of religion and, as evidenced by its changing definition, people have been changing their minds for centuries on what it means on a personal level and what it means culturally. It stands for different things at different points of history.

Much the same way as people for all of written history have reinterpreted the Bible and rewritten the so called Word of God for “modern” audiences. Tyndale Archive lists a shit ton more than a hundred of the ones in English alone. Old souls love to stick to the King James (1611) but I know the New International Version (1978) is also commonly quoted.

I love how he’s pointing to the Bible as the reason Newton decided to go against his compatriots and for the reason people aboloshed slavery. Have you read a Bible lately, Mr. McConaughey? Or thought to Google how often slavery is condoned and encouraged in there? The guys who wanted slaves could also point to the Bible as proof they were right to be White and continue to mistreat anyone who wasn’t. A couple easy finds right here:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. (Peter 2:18:)

However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46)

It’s called cherry picking, and everyone can use it to point to the Bible and claim they’re correct in whatever manner of thinking they feel is correct, all because they found a line or two in one of the books they happen to agree with.

The Smithsonian has a great article explaining the history of Knight and how the film got made, and what people around Jones County have to say about this man and this bit of local history. Sounds like his descendants are still struggling under his name and legacy. At least, the black ones.

Dorothy Knight Marsh and Florence Knight Blaylock are the great-granddaughters of Newt and Rachel. After many decades of living in the outside world, they are back in Soso, Mississippi, dealing with prejudice from all directions. The worst of it comes from within their extended family. “We have close relatives who won’t even look at us,” says Blaylock, the older sister, who was often taken for Mexican when she lived in California.

Both women appear in the film in a courthouse scene.

This is probably not a movie I’ll watch. I’m not much for historical drama. I will be listening to The Dollop later today, though, because they have a piece on this guy and if it’s anything like what they did for the story of Hugh Glass from The Revenant, it will be terrific.


Question of Atheist Scruples – student atheist edition

June 7, 2016

Nice!

Your 15-year-old refuses to stand and repeat the Lord’s Prayer at school. She says she is an atheist. Do you support her right to refuse?

Fuck yeah.

I’m reminded of a news article from earlier this year here in Saskatchewan regarding this very thing:

Dusti Hennenfent’s children go to Lindale Public Elementary School in Moose Jaw. The school plays the Lord’s Prayer over the PA system every morning.

Under the Education Act, Saskatchewan schools are allowed to have mandatory prayers for students, even in public schools.

Should prayers be included in classroom time in public schools?

“I’m concerned that it really doesn’t have respect for the individual beliefs of the students,” said Hennenfent. “I don’t understand the purpose of having religious worship for one religion at a public school.”

Exactly. If a public school can’t or won’t give equal time to acknowledge the religions of other students, it’s unfair. Better to remove the prayer rather than give preferential treatment to one group of kids over the rest. It’s not like those Christian kids can’t pray on their own without an official prompt. Nobody’s saying kids can’t pray in school. The problem comes when the teachers and principals and other people in authority positions force kids into praying and possibly/likely create an uncomfortable feeling for those of other faiths, or none.

“When I originally called the school and discussed this, at the very initial part of this process, I called the principal and she said that kids did have the option to leave the classroom [during the prayer],” said Hennenfent.

However, she said she was never made aware of that option, nor were her children. She also canvassed parents from seven different classrooms and learned that none of those children had been told that they had the option of leaving the classroom during the prayer.

The school has said that it will continue with the Lord’s Prayer because the majority of parents, about 90 per cent, are in favour of it.

I hate to counter with, “Well, a lot of people were in favour of slavery, too, but it’s still wrong.” It’s true, but it’s trite.

David Arnot, head of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, said Friday that he agrees with Hennenfent.

“What you can’t do is choose one religion over another,” Arnot said. “A dominant religion, like Christianity, doesn’t get preference to other religions.”

He added that, in his opinion, the section of the law that allows for prayers in schools is outdated (it dates to 1995) and would likely be re-written if challenged in court.

There was a similar story in 1999 – “Saskatchewan told to pull prayer from schools” – but since it was a Commission making a recommendation, no one was under any obligation to change anything then. There was an earlier one from 1996 regarding bible readings in public school in 1993 The Board of Education was very pro Bible then, as well as now, apparently.

I haven’t found any updates on the current story, unfortunately. I thought I did, but it turned out to be a different prayer problem – Saskatoon’s public prayers at civic events. “The city has since decided not to adopt a prayer policy at civic events.”

Whatever that winds up meaning.

Now, to throw two book suggestions in – The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide: Helping Secular Students Thrive and The Young Atheist’s Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life without God. Buy copies for your kids if you can or want to and then put in requests for your local library to own copies as well for those families that can’t afford to buy books but can still benefit from the information.


Christian metal band loses singer to atheism

May 28, 2016

I’m snagging this from United Humanists where they’ve posted the story of Shannon Low who’d been in a metalcore band called The Order of Elijah.

In his younger days he’d gone through the drug and sex problems that are common in the music industry. He’d been religiously keen in his youth, though, and soon found himself pulled back into the church life as a way to deal with these personal problems. That’s when the band started. That’s also when he started to think more deeply about what the Bible brings to the table in terms of ideas and themes but questioning Old Testament God’s use of violence was a no-no where his peers were concerned. “Jesus condoned parts of the OT, therefore it’s all okay” seemed to the rationale they were going with. Not Low.

Low credits Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion for helping him figure things out.

It answered so many questions that my Christian friends would literally get furious for me to even address,” Low stated. “Sometimes I would lose Christian friends by simply pondering certain questions. I would see these same Christians publicly calling my other friends ‘abominations’ for being gay.”

Low then asserted that if God’s message was so important, it shouldn’t be filled with “contradictions.”

“Why allow his message to be spread by fallible humans and sit by idly while falsehoods are spread in his name?” Low asked. “Why sentence [two-thirds] of the world to Hell for being born in the wrong culture? I’d think a perfect God would never need to correct His Word if our literal souls depended on it.”

It wasn’t an easy or quick transition from belief to unbelief, but he got there. Well done.


God-fearing: how is this a good thing?

October 8, 2014

I wound up at gotquestions.org when looking up the notion of god-fearing. As an unbeliever it sounds ludicrious to want to be afraid of your own god, unless the whole point of promoting fear is to promote unwavering loyalty and obedience under threat of suffering and damnation. Seems like a strange thing to be proud of. More often than not, believers seem to justify this fear by retconning it into something positive and rewarding. It’s not fear. It’s the beginning of wisdom. It’s not fear, it’s really respect.

While respect is definitely included in the concept of fearing God, there is more to it than that. A biblical fear of God, for the believer, includes understanding how much God hates sin and fearing His judgment on sin—even in the life of a believer. Hebrews 12:5-11 describes God’s discipline of the believer. While it is done in love (Hebrews 12:6), it is still a fearful thing.

This kind of rationalizing is why atheists have been known to think of God in terms of an abusive parent or partner. The constant judgement and constant fear of reprisals should a “sin” occur (however it’s being defined at the moment; maybe changing by the moment) does not really sound like healthy love or respect or wisdom.

I’ve never heard of Elizabeth Esther but she wrote an interesting piece about leaving her fundamentalist faith. She’d been abused and her family – at least her father, it seems, – easily convinced her that it was what God wanted for her.

As a female being raised in a highly-patriarchal culture, I never developed my own understanding of God because God’s will would be made known to me through my father and husband. My father was God for me and later, my husband was God for me.

This is probably one of the most dangerous lies of patriarchy: a human being (aka, father, husband, pastor) is God for you. It is the most dangerous lie because if someone controls your concept of God, they control everything.

She didn’t turn into an atheist, however; she just figured out a way to redefine her sense of god in a way that would make her feelings acceptable and improve her sense of self-worth.

I don’t have to use all the same words as everyone else in order to still have a relationship with God. I can use words that are helpful and put aside the ones that are triggering.

Whenever I feel a tightening sensation in my chest or stomach, I know I’m reverting back to old, abusive concepts of God. But whenever I feel a warmth, looseness and easiness in my chest and stomach, I feel myself relaxing into God as I understand God.

Good for her, I guess, if it helps. Better to think of him in terms of being a loving and compassionate god – even if it means having to ignore all the biblical evidence to the contrary. Atheists don’t ignore that aspect of the religious history, though.

Gotquestions tackles the jealous god aspect and I don’t agree with their rationale here either.

Perhaps a practical example will help us understand the difference. If a husband sees another man flirting with his wife, he is right to be jealous, for only he has the right to flirt with his wife. This type of jealousy is not sinful. Rather, it is entirely appropriate. Being jealous for something that God declares to belong to you is good and appropriate.

Holy crap. What an alarming idea. All jealousy is unhealthy and evidence that you don’t trust your partner to be faithful to you. You can argue that jealousy is “natural” because it is, but so’s arsenic. Not everything natural is good for you.

Jealousy lies somewhere in the gray area between sanity and madness. Some jealous reactions are so natural that a person who doesn’t show them seems in some way “not normal.” Others seem so excessive that one doesn’t need to be an expert to know that they are pathological. A classic example is the man who is suspicious of his loving and faithful wife that he constantly spies on her, listens in on her phone conversations, records the mileage in her car for unexplained trips–and despite her repeatedly proven fidelity continues to suspect her and suffer from tremendous jealousy.

1 yr anniversary

I can’t imagine having that kind of relationship. No, not true; I can imagine it and I’m very grateful that the Man and I aren’t faced with this scenario. We just celebrated our one year wedding anniversary on Sunday. Here we are looking sweet together on the sofa:

I’d say that our trust in each other is absolute. We shared our relationship histories ages ago and we always talk things through when things are bothering us. I wouldn’t want to live in fear of losing him to someone else and be at risk of taking my defensiveness to extremes.

And I know he knows he doesn’t have to worry on this end. I was into him when he was barely 19 and he’s a couple weeks away from being 30 now. He’s still adorable and means the world to me.

We don’t need to create an atmosphere of fear bolstered with threats of penalties. I fail to see how either method could lead to real loyalty and devotion in a marriage or any other kind of relationship.


Atheist Scruples: Church costs too much! Tear it down!

September 30, 2014

Actually, that headline is just for the clicks. This is a big issue in terms of history and traditions versus practicality and costs.

The gracious old church where you worship is an inspiration, but the declining church membership can’t support it. A big developer offers big money to demolish it. Do you vote to sell?

In August of 2013 the North Buxton Baptist Church in Chatham, Ontario faced this problem.

The First Baptist Church that was built in 1883 is being torn down, and Shannon Prince, curator of the Buxton National Historic Site Museum says part of it like pews and windows will be saved, but that doesn’t make it easier.

“It is going to be a sad day, very sad,” she says, “A piece of your community a piece of what has been built has been lost.”

She says the decision was made as a community. The church has been closed for some time, and with limited resources to keep up old properties the decision was made to tear it down rather than let if fall down.

It’s not just churches that fall victim to the possibility of demolition or sale. Heritage Canada has a running list of “Worst Losses” of Canadian history. Saskatoon winds up with a few on the list, like the Gathercole building:

Gathercole Building (1931), Saskatoon, Saskatchewan — [2004 List]
Despite the efforts of a coalition of cultural and heritage organizations to convert the historic Gathercole Building into a combined market and arts centre, City Council, led by the Mayor, chose to let the private sector redevelop the waterfront site by tearing down the landmark and using the ensuing property taxes to fund surrounding amenities.

Schools get closed up, too. Saskatchewan has many little towns. When there aren’t enough kids left in Rinkdinkville to make it worth heating the school and keep teachers on staff, the school closes and the kids are bused to neighbouring towns. Same goes for neighbourhoods in larger centers with aging populations. Schools will shut in those areas if there aren’t enough kids to fill the seats and new schools will be built where the kids are now.

Changing demographics within a city will affect churches for the same reason. If the population isn’t enough to fill the place anymore, maybe there is a better use for that space.

Back to the question, I’d wonder if the building itself could be repurposed rather than torn down. Advertise it as concert space, public speaking venues beyond religious ones, daycare, museums, art galleries.. find something useful to do with it if nobody really wants to pray there anymore. Yoga classes, book clubs, music practice space. There are always people looking for space to set up that kind of activity. Hell, see if the atheists want to borrow it for their secular services. Lots of atheists like the notion of church-style gatherings these days. It’s a big deal.

Or, if the building is old enough to qualify as a heritage site, maybe look into going that route and try to save it for historical reasons. I don’t know how successful those projects tend to be, though.

Ideas? Other thoughts on the topic? What happened to old buildings in your city?


What’s wrong with Christian films

September 17, 2014

I confess that I had God’s Not Dead here this weekend but I didn’t watch it. I’ll borrow it again at some point, I promise. I’ve been on a Community kick lately and opted to watch that instead. I was in the mood to laugh at the genuinely funny, not, from all the reviews I’ve read, watch a film liable to make me want to tear my hair out and scream in frustration. A philosopher wrote a very long rebuttal to the film, too and it’s totally worth the time it takes to read it.

On the topic of other Christian movies, though, how’s this for a headline?

Christian Movie Producer Wishes Christian Films Got Dirty

The suggestion isn’t a foray into porn, but a request for more proper films that really dig into an issue to get to its roots rather than tickle the pretty leaves and think that’s good enough to understand the tree as a whole.

Christian film producer Laura Waters Hinson has a problem with Christian films: they dont [sic] cover the really tough issues accurately.

Hinson said something that bothers her in the industry of Christian film is that they don’t get dirty and cover the issues as deeply as secular cinema. She said what makes a great film is an “accurate portrayal of darkness, and how it can be overcome by light never really comes.”

“I think that’s where, just to be frank, Christian movies fall so short,” Hinson said. “There’s not an actual authentic representation of real people really, truly struggling. And film makers being bold enough to show the depth of the brokeness. Being too afraid…needing to whitewash everything. So really the payoff of the light never really comes.”

Bottom line, the problem has to do with the brute force attempts to proselytize over telling a moving story believably and well. They resort to stereotypes and pussyfooting and giving roles to Kirk Cameron who’s so religiously devoted to his wife that she had to be the kissing stand in during his make-out scenes in Fireproof or else it’d be a sin to god.

Some of the best secular movies ever made are great because of their light/dark dichotomy. Throw Star Wars in there, throw Harry Potter. Throw any film in where the main character is struggling to do the right thing when it’s clear that gaining all the power and glory seems to hinge on the temptation to join the other side. That’s God versus the Devil everywhere, even if you never see a guy dressed in red with a horns and a tail. The good versus evil storyline is found everywhere, not just in the bible. Take Homer’s Odyssey for example.

odyssey

Click it if you need a bigger view. I couldn’t copy/paste from ancientgreece.com so I cheated with the “PrtSc” key.

The line just prior to that I’ve “quoted” notes that the ancient Greeks were notoriously optimistic in their stories and they lacked a lot of realism on account of that. So, much in common with Christian films, then, where everything ends with happy happy god god god, I’m guessing.

Back to the Christian Post:

“I think the Christian content that I typically think of, the films, the books or whatever, have to have a clear representation of the gospel message,” Hinson recounted. “Rather than being content to weave througout the themes of the book gospel themes. In films today…it has to have that presentation of Jesus rather than to being content to just fall short, to leave questions unasnwered, to allow the audience to make their own conlusions, to trust the audience. I think a lot of Christian Content doesn’t trust the audience. Which drives me crazy.”

Because the answer, if honestly presented, might lead a wavering believer to drop whatever facades may be left and seek out an atheist group. Read some de-conversion stories sometime.

I think some Christian groups pay lip service to the notion of “It’s okay to doubt and question” because they’re determined to lead the doubter back to Christ at all costs — if they can use enough prayer and badgering and guilt-tripping. But this is the risk – losing the person to critical thinking and the realization that their faith and their religion could actually be untrue. It’s a scary idea to have in your head, and scarier to realize you agree with it. Nothing I ever went through, myself, I was atheist before I knew there was a word for it and forays into Christianity were fads that lasted a few weeks and were soon meaningless to me.

Back to the Post:

Hinson spoke at the 2014 AEI Evangelical Leadership Converence in the “Song and Cinema: Why Engagement Upstream Matters” panel along with singer/songwriter Charlie Peacock and moderator Mark Rodgers.

Hinson said that she believed culture was a huge part in the most important thing cinema is a part of: Storytelling. “I think for me as a film maker I think story telling is at the heart of culture,” Hinson explained. “I think that the stories we tell create the culture that we live in.”

But the bible is true and every piece of it really happened, even the contradictory pieces that god put in there just to test your faith because god wrote the whole thing himself and the bible says so…

And other stories believers might tell themselves…

Yeah, humanity builds stories and decides on behaviour based on the stories it chooses to uphold as valuable and true to a perfect form of humanity, or near enough.

Love conquers all.
Good triumphs over evil.
The circle of life.
Triumph over adversity.
Build it and they will come.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

And more, if you care to comment and add some.

Unsurprisingly, people have already done the literary legwork to document the appropriately pro-Christian themes in many secular movies. I’ve just run across the Movie Theme Index which will help any Christian conscious movie lover pick the best films to watch for miracles (Green Mile and Pulp Fiction get mentions) or repentance (Dead Man Walking, City Slickers) or surrendering to the divine (Patch Adams, Forrest Gump).

I understand the desire to create Christian-specific theatrics, but if broad appeal is the goal, films like God’s Not Dead will always miss by a mile and only make money when churches buy up all the tickets and force their flocks to sit down and watch them. Secular film buffs don’t really want a bunch of heavy handed god business getting in the way of a love affair or fight to the death. Unless it’s Thor doing the fighting…


Oklahoma Pastafarian wears colander in official photo

September 16, 2014

For the truly dedicated like Shawna Hammond, the colander represents the freedom of religion.

I usually wind up finding British papers reporting on this type of story and the same is true here. The Mirror reports:

Atheist turned Pastafarian Shawna Hammond agreed to take off her glasses for the picture, but was adamant she should wear the kitchen utensil.

Oklahoma state rules say that religious headpieces are permitted providing they do not cause shadows and do not obstruct the view of the face.

Stunned driving office workers were left bemused and sent into hysterics by the choice of headwear and went on to question the unusual beliefs.

She told News Channel 4: “I asked if I could wear my religious headwear and he said, yes, it just couldn’t have any logos, or any type of writing. I told him it didn’t, and I went out to my car and got my colander.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has the final word on whether or not her license photo meets their critera in term of religious headgear. So wait and see if there’s an update to this story down the road.

At the end of the article they offer a poll:

pasta poll

At the time of posting:

pasta poll results

Talk about an unfun bunch of respondents. None was my pick, too, admittedly.

That said, these folks that fight for the right to wear pasta strainers on their heads do it to remind those in power (to whatever degree) that religion needs to be a choice. It’s not a life sentence with no chance of parole. There should always be the right to choose to opt out.