According to the Pope, the Lord has Redeemed Atheists

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What follows is a reprint of an entire article. I will add my commentary to it afterwards:

Pope at Mass: Culture of encounter is the foundation of peace

(Vatican Radio) “Doing good” is a principle that unites all humanity, beyond the diversity of ideologies and religions, and creates the “culture of encounter” that is the foundation of peace: this is what Pope said at Mass this morning at the Domus Santae Martae, in the presence of employees of the Governorate of Vatican City. Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, concelebrated at the Mass.

Wednesday’s Gospel speaks to us about the disciples who prevented a person from outside their group from doing good. “They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of ​​possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”:

“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

“Instead,” the Pope continued, “the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

“Doing good” the Pope explained, is not a matter of faith: “It is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because He has made us in His image and likeness. And He does good, always.”

This was the final prayer of Pope Francis:

“Today is [the feast of] Santa Rita, Patron Saint of impossible things – but this seems impossible: let us ask of her this grace, this grace that all, all, all people would do good and that we would encounter one another in this work, which is a work of creation, like the creation of the Father. A work of the family, because we are all children of God, all of us, all of us! And God loves us, all of us! May Santa Rita grant us this grace, which seems almost impossible. Amen.”

In case you missed it, this is worth repeating. Here is the money quote:

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all!

There are so many directions I want to go with this. So many… such as, has the pope lost his ever loving mind? or, the Pope is no longer Catholic! I thought about taking the high-ground and exploring the act of doing good as the calling card of our common humanity. But I’m not really in the mood for that kind of high-ground. There is too much dishonesty on ground that high. It is where two groups celebrate a point of commonality, while ignoring  the fundamental chasm between them that remains uncrossable. It is fertile ground for photo ops. Genuine solidarity among factions does not live there. No. I am not interested in taking the high-ground.

Telling a non-believer that he is redeemed by the blood of Christ is like telling a racial minority that it is okay that they are not white, and that God redeems them anyway. In what way is that supposed to be comforting to me? I have done no wrong. I am not in a state of sin, nor am I an outsider to the universal life-force. I am not a bit of wayward merchandise that needs redeeming, or a bit of drifting matter that needs to be returned to its proper state.

It is still a great insult to refer to me as an object of pity that needs to be forgiven and returned to a state of grace. To such a person, I am seen as hopeless if not for the fictional actions of an imaginary being. To be clear, even if I thought the sacrifice was literally, historically real, I would want no part of it. I find the shedding of innocent blood for covering the imaginary sins of innocent people to be abhorrent and immoral. I want no part  of this scarlet-stained justice.

To Pope Francis, and all of his ilk, I don’t want to be your brother in Christ. I want to be your brother in humanity regardless of your estimation of how much good I have done. That is a very different thing. And my worth as a human being cannot be based on your concept of my redemption. I require neither God’s forgiveness nor blood price for my soul. I am a fully realized human being without regards to any of that, fully worthy of your right-hand of fellowship; blood of Christ not required. If you can deal with that, then we are brothers. If not, then your speech changes nothing.

David Johnson

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Why Do We Poop?

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I recently asked a friend of mine to riddle me this: Why do we poop? This question gets filed under the category of, why didn’t I ask this twenty years ago. If your thoughts turned to biology, let me assure you, your answer may be technically correct, but misses the point. This is not about biology. It is about creation. Our bodily functions are easily explained in evolutionary terms. There is no making any sense of them in the light of biblical creation.

Let me also assure you that this post is not about the machinations of my rogue, excretory system, though it is indeed worthy of verse and song. No, this is about all of the systems, not just biological, but everything. Growing up, It was drilled into me how great god was as evidenced by his wondrous creation. It was even presented as evidence of his existence. “Behold, the work of his hands!” Surely, only a singular act of directed creation could explain the wonders of the universe, and how everything fits so perfectly together. So I beheld, and continue to behold, but with less and less wonder as the years go by.

Don’t get me wrong, I find the universe a constant source of wonder and fascination, just not an object of worship. In fact, I find the corner of it accessible to me to be rather haphazard and ill-suited to the life to which it plays host. I see nothing about it worthy of a deity’s resume. Take the ecosystem of this planet. It is the most efficient weapon of mass destruction ever conceived. It kills more life than it nurtures, and is utterly indifferent to the survival of any species, let alone, individuals within the species.

Homo sapiens enjoy a coveted spot in the taxonomy of this particular ecosystem. Unfortunately, our predecessors were not so lucky. Our kind was not miracled from the dust of the earth, but crawled out of evolution’s death-grip over the bones of countless, nameless species almost completely forgotten by history.

Even so, we barely survived, and may yet meet our doom in a few, short generations. Whether or not humans stand the test of time, countless, nameless species have not, and will not. Though some environmentalists like to paint the picture of a world in complete harmony with itself were it not for the destructive tendencies of humans, the fact is that species have been going extinct long before humans ever took the stage, and at a rate that humans, with all our technology, are incapable of matching. Without our help, the lion is perfectly capable of hunting the antelope into extinction, just as viruses and bacteria are capable of doing in all seven billion humans without ever being aware of our existence.

Does God Poop?

I said this post was not about bowel movements, and I assure you, it’s not. Obviously, the question is somewhat facetious, but only somewhat. According to the Genesis story, we were created in God’s image. As a child, I used all my powers of reason to discover in what sense we were created in the likeness of God. The answer continues to allude me. Since God is not reported to have a body, then he cannot be laden with bodily functions. Therefore, what possible motivation would he have to conceive of bodily functions.

We presume that an excretory system is a wonderful thing for creatures that have to eat and eject waste material. Blessed be the name of the Lord. However, we presume this without an iota of critical inquiry. According to the biblical account, we were not evolved by some, undirected process; we were created in a trice, fully formed as the crowning achievement of a master designer. We could have taken any form to fulfill any function. There were no predetermined rules of biology or ecology dictating our form and function. Supposedly, the universe was created to accommodate us, not us for the universe. Yet, here we are; creatures enslaved and limited by our environment.

The vast majority of the universe will be forever beyond our reach, and inhospitable to our type of life. Even the part of it we inhabit is largely inhospitable. There is not a single thing on this planet we can eat that is 100% nutritious, and leaves behind no waste for us to eject. Every bite of the healthiest food you can think of is, on some level, at war with our bodies. Everything we eat has a cost, both to ourselves, and the environment.

Too much of the land is not naturally irrigated. Too much of the soil is incapable of nurturing seed. Too much of the water in this world of water is undrinkable. If drank, produces agonizing sickness and death. Too many of the animals are too hard to catch, or are not fit for eating, or could easily be hunted into extinction. Once we find something to eat, we have to process the waste, then safely dispose of it. If we do not, the waste will sicken and kill us. Even the part of our food that stays with us is not all that good for us. Far too much of it gets stored as fat, and comes back to kill us in a number of grizzly ways. Everything about eating has a negative impact on the ecosystem.

Yet that is the way things were designed to function by one who does not eat. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

I say emphatically, there is no reason for us to have an excretory system! There is no reason for us to have to eat food that produces waste. Of course, it makes perfect sense if we are the result of an undirected, evolutionary process. But it makes no sense at all for us to be designed that way. Even as you read this, you may be thinking of a way to redeem the creation story. I will address two common objections to my thesis:

Adam’s Punishment

The conservative believer may counter with the argument that, before the fall, things were perfect. The environment was in complete balance. Death, decay, waste and excretion were not a part of the natural order. I can appreciate this position as it was once my own. Unfortunately, it fails both the test of logic and scripture.

The main problem wit the argument is that it tries to explain too much with Adam’s punishment. The Genesis story has God punishing Adam for eating the forbidden fruit. The punishment was that the land would be less productive, and that Adam would have to work in order to eat. There is nothing of this punishment that suggests that food would rot on the vine, or be poisonous to consume. There is no indication that water would become stagnant and foul. There is not a word about perfectly good food turning to waste in the system. The punishment given by God was freakishly harsh. The one we seem to envision is even more so.

Creation by Evolution

The second argument I will address is more popular among liberal believers who do not accept the creation story as literal, but who still seek to give god a role in our development. They say he created everything through the process of evolution. That argument is even easier to address than the first. Regardless of the means of creation, the outcome is still the same. It is better to presume that God brought us to this condition, instantly, than to believe he dragged us through a slow, tortuous process to get to this point.

To redeem this position, some will suggest that God simply started the process, and let it work itself out without further interference. This actually gets you in a worse position. Now you are stuck with a god who starts things without a plan, and is either indifferent or capricious with regards to its outcome. Creation by directed or undirected evolution still leaves us with a creator that is not very good at his job.

Conclusion: Without Form and Void

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Ge. 1:1-2

It was recently brought to my attention that creation went south long before the invention of poop. The first few words of the bible have God creating the earth and sky. The next few words have the earth as a dark, shapeless mass, covered with water, probably undrinkable. In other words, the first glimpse we get of God’s glorious creation is that it was a lamentable mess. It may also be worth noting that the Spirit of God was moving on the water as if he was a physical being that could interact with water. Maybe it wasn’t worth noting after all. 😉

It is abundantly clear that dark, lumpy, and drowning is a less than ideal state of a world intended to support life. Yet that is the condition we find the earth mere moments after the beginning. Why? Why make a bad planet, then fix it after the fact? Was it a mistake that needed correcting, or was God making himself a giant ERECTOR set? Did he find it diverting to create raw materials, them make something interesting out of that? Paul once described us as being nothing but jars of clay: Play-dough ™. Either way, God didn’t create the earth as we know it, but a petri dish, and from there, proceeded to tinker. …And the glorious creation that gives him the right to our undying worship and awe? Poop!

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

David Johnson

My Thoughts on Homosexuality

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As if homosexuality needed me to weigh in on the subject, I have a few things to get off my chest. There has been a lot of recent news about gay marriage gaining both popularity and support from unexpected places. This post, however, is not about gay marriage, but about homosexuality, itself.

Them

The first thing that troubles me about the discussion surrounding homosexuality, is the language we use to talk about the subject, and the people at the heart of the subject. I fully admit that I have not come up with a better language. It seems all the words we use to describe the practice and the people who practice it, are pejorative. Very little of the language we use for this topic is judgement neutral. I believe that the reason for this is rooted in the fact that we feel it necessary to identify the behavior at all.

We do not have words that are negatively associated with heterosexuality. We never speak in those terms. We just talk about sex, in general. Heterosexuality is considered to be implied. It is the same reason that, in stories, “man” is assumed to mean “white man”, while every non-white has to be described in terms of race or skin color. There is no negative, judgmental, or even descriptive language about being white. Being anything other than Caucasian requires some kind of modifier.

It demonstrates a real problem when we have to qualify a person before we can acknowledge him as a person. This is a subtile, but pervasive form of dehumanization. He is not a man, but a black man, an asian man, a Jew, (not even a man) a gay man, lesbian woman. In this way, certain types of people are only viewed as people through the narrow filter of socially acceptable prejudices.

Identifying people by a particular characteristic is a way of putting distance between ourselves and the person who’s humanity has to be qualified. It is a way of saying, “them”, rather than, “me”. Once we have identified them as “them”, then we feel somewhat more comfortable talking about them. It is important that we are not associated with a group that we find distasteful, or that we believe others in our in-group find distasteful.

Disgust

For some reason about which I am not even qualified to speculate, hetero men seem to have a particular disgust for gay men that is not carried over to lesbian women. I cannot explain it, only observe it. For whatever reason, many men seem to be threatened or fearful of what a homosexual man represents. To me, that seems an odd reaction given that a homosexual male represents one less competitor for choice females. By that measure, hetero men should be happy that so many are voluntarily taking themselves out of the running.

It is almost as if we fear that what can happen to one man, can happen to any man, including ourselves. At least, subconsciously, we seem to be aware that our exceptionalism is a myth. We see someone do something distasteful, and immediately tell ourselves, and anyone else who will listen, that we would never do such a thing. We want to convince ourselves that we are not like “them”. But in truth, we are not exceptions. If it is within the species of man to do, it is within you. Our violent denial of certain traits might point to a secret fear or knowledge that the trait is within us, and only waiting for the right circumstances to manifest.

We reserve some of our most unrestrained hatred for those who have sex with minors, as if we could never be attracted to any human a day younger than eighteen, under any circumstances. It is as if we gain this special sensitivity to age the moment we, ourselves, turn eighteen. Bollox!

We pretend that petty theft is the ultimate crime against humanity as if we could never imagine ourselves in a situation that would lead us to steal. We view murder as the blackest of deeds as if the ability for one person to kill another is an alien trait, incompatible with our DNA. But buried deep inside us is the truth we dare not speak: That which disgusts us in others is that which we fear most in ourselves.

I feel reasonably certain that the act of homosexuality, itself, is not the thing that disgusts us. It has been my observation that men do not have any problem with the idea of a woman having sex with another woman. In fact, if the truth were to be known, we are rather fond of the idea. Being a part of a ménage à trois is a common fantasy among men too proper to ever admit such a thing. While it does not serve us for women to be gay, our desires would be well served if they were bi.

It is also not the act of sodomy that turns our stomachs, as many wives and girlfriends can attest. It is only sodomy in the context of two men that elicit the gag reflex for many. Whatever the reason for the disgust, it is strong in our culture. That forces us to practice a type of self-preservation by publicly distancing ourselves from the behavior, and the people who engage in it. That is why we have so many, pejorative terms for describing it. It also explains why we behave In such over-the-top ways to let society know that we are not like them.

There is actually social pressure placed on us to be uncomfortable with homosexuality. From an early age, boys learn that the worst thing to call another boy is, gay. The boys, themselves, never engage the question of why that is an insult. They just accept the assumption, and learn to show disgust and discomfort around anything opposed to hetero masculinity. This is why so many boys start learning about their sexual identity from the position of confusion, denial, repression, and self-loathing.

Unnatural

Another way we dehumanize people with characteristics we find distasteful, is to deem that characteristic as unnatural. Early on, brown-skinned people were considered unnatural because brown skinned subservience was a punishment for the sin of the head of a particular tribe. Left-handedness was also considered unnatural. Red hair and dwarven stature were viewed in the same way. Almost all prejudices have, at some point, been justified by labeling the object of that prejudice as unnatural.

Homosexuality is no exception. Surely, it must be unnatural. After all, two of a kind do not procreate. That reasoning presumes that procreation is the primary reason for sexual activity. I have always found that line of thinking to be suspect. Only a small fraction of hetero commingling results in healthy reproduction. If all, or even most sex resulted in birth, the earth would be overrun with humanity in a matter of days. It would be unsustainable. It would also stand to reason that all people capable of having sex would also be capable of reproducing. Obviously, this is not the case, as demonstrated by the people who have to go through extraordinary means attempting to procreate, unsuccessfully. Infertility clinics are in no danger of going out of business. There is nothing unnatural about sex that does not result in procreation.

Homosexuality used to be considered unnatural on the basis of it being extremely rare. I contend that the perception of rareness was always a lie. The perception of rareness is an artificial construct. We built it by persecuting homosexuals into silent submission. For a long time, gay men and women, especially teens, were too afraid to acknowledge their sexual identity, let alone, openly explore it. With so much of the gay population in hiding, there may seem to be very few of them. But as the population becomes emboldened and empowered, it has become abundantly clear that homosexuality is anything but rare. Therefore, it cannot be considered unnatural on the basis of rareness.

Unnatural, is a one-word oxymoron. That is because nothing that occurs within nature can be considered unnatural, even if it only happens once. The most one could say about a thing is that it is not normative. But the fact that a thing happened at all means that it is natural. The only unnatural thing that can happen is that which happens outside of nature. As beings bound by nature, we would have no access to any such activities.

If only one man falls in love with another man, it is still, 100% natural. The only way for it to be otherwise is if the men were not really men, but alien creatures from outside our reality. That would still beg the question of how we gained access to such unnatural creatures within the confines of our nature. Falsely labeling something unnatural is to falsely dehumanize the person who commits the act.

Harmless

In closing, I want to add one final observation about homosexuality. Having seen it a number of times in a shocking variety of combinations: old and young, black and white, submissive and dominant, straight laced and freak-flags flying, I have observed no societal harm from the practice. Even if the homophobia was directly tied to some vestigial, evolutionary imperative, there is no evidence that there was ever any material harm to the species.

I have come across no evidence that crimes against children are higher among homosexuals than heterosexuals. Just the opposite seems to be the case. There is no evidence that homosexual relationships are shorter lasting. There is no evidence that one is more likely to receive an unwanted, sexual advance from a homosexual as opposed to a heterosexual. Even AIDS is a poor case against homosexuality, as there are more STD’s common to heterosexuals than there are diseases specific to homosexuality. As for diseases exclusive to homosexuals, to my knowledge, there are none. And the group least likely to contract AIDS is homosexual women. Clearly, it is not a punishment for bad behavior.

This is not an advocacy piece for any sexual orientation. I am simply calling for a bit of sanity and thoughtfulness for an issue that is all too often, lacking in both, and is ruled by emotion. I will stop just shy of blaming religion for all atrocities committed against homosexuals in this world, but religion cannot except its role in shaping the negative sentiment against gay people.

The bible, and probably other holy books, clearly labels homosexuality as an abomination to god. It goes so far as to call for the execution of homosexuals. Though many have tried, the bible’s position on the matter simply cannot be redeemed. Since it has been widely available, many people have learned to read, with the bible as a sort of text book. Even if those people do not grow up particularly religious, some of the ideas sink in and take their tole. If you believe in god, and believe that god hates fags, or at least the behavior associated with the pejorative, then your view of homosexuality will be negatively effected.

Would there be homophobia without religion? Most likely. But that brand of homophobia can be addressed with reasonable argumentation. The kind fueled by religious fervor is beyond logic’s reach. That kind of homophobia is born of religion, and can only be combatted with the death of religion. I look forward to the day when we no longer feel the need to identify and categorize people on the basis of sexual preference, or other physical characteristics.

David Johnson

Another Bad Week for Prayer

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Two things happened this week that gave prayer yet another black eye. One of them is personal, but of little consequence. The other, though not personal, is far more impactful. I had eye surgery last week which seems to have gone well enough, all but the seeing part. It has been nine days as of the time of this writing. There should have been immediate results. Unfortunately, my vision is blurry and distorted. Those are two words that would not have been used to describe my vision before the surgery. I include it in this piece, only because the surgery was thoroughly covered by prayer from some of the most devout and concerned people in my life. The other event involved the death of an infant.

After some consideration, I decided not to link to the story because it is such a common tale of woe, it can hardly be considered news. It is the story of another child dying an unnecessary death thanks to the religious choice of Christian parents to provide prayer as medical care instead of medical care. Making this ever worse is the fact that this is the second child in this family lost to prayer.

After the first death, the parents were placed on a ten-year probation by the judge. Taking the approach that they ought to obey god rather than men, they returned, not that they ever left, to their prayer-as-treatment ways. The story and outcome are the predictable, and logical conclusion of what happens when faith and science are conflated, or otherwise, confused. Bad things happen, and people die, usually, the innocent ones.

I know that the initial reactions from the mainstream, Christian community will condemn the actions of the parents, or lack thereof. They would say that, of course, the parents should have provided medical care for their children. They might say things like, “God invented medicine”, or, “God is the one who led us to advanced, medical discoveries.” But this random fit of pragmatism from the Christian community rings a hollow note of dissonance in the symphony of faith teachings. In fact, on the basis of biblical and traditional teaching on the matter, in a contest of groups that most closely in-flesh the doctrine which they profess to believe, I would have to side with the parents.

The pragmatic arguments proffered by mainstream christendom do not stand up to close scrutiny. God invented medicine? Really? If so, his invention has been sorely lacking throughout most of human history. If we were still working with what God gave us, people would still consider thirty a ripe, old age. Adults would still be dying in the millions, from diseases that are now, easily inoculated against in childhood.

God’s invention of medicine did not account for leprosy, the plethora of cancers, nor AIDS. Were it not for mankind’s contribution to medicine, humanity would very likely be extinct. But, of course, the argument retreats to safer ground when the believer reveals that God invented medicine through a process that is indistinguishable from the efforts of humans. In other words, he directed us to the relevant discoveries. Unfortunately for the believer, that argument also does not survive logical examination.

If God is the one controlling the pace of medical discovery, then he has a lot of history for which to answer. There is no guarantee that, even now, we have reached our observational potential. God may be hindering the pace of our discovery efforts in the same way he has hindered previous generations. What else explains why it took so long for us to discover germs? Why would god, even for a moment, allow us to ascribe to evil spirits, what was nothing more than a chemical imbalance? If our medical knowledge comes from God, why is it so inexact, and why did it not come much sooner?

As an aside, If God is the one directing our scientific discoveries, why has the church, historically, been so in opposition to every major, scientific discovery? Does God just dabble in medicine, or is he also the one behind all that evidence for evolution? The church wasn’t so keen on God’s helping hand in the discovery that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around. The church was not so eager to embrace the discovery that the earth and universe were billions of years in the making, rather than days. If God is guiding our discovery of medicine, and doctors are his prophets in that arena of endeavor, then why do we not consider physicists his prophets in the field of scientific inquiry?

God has never had much use for physicians or pharmaceuticals. When a person in the community was sick, they either died, or were miraculously healed. There is no mandate for the man of God calling for the doctor during a time of medical distress. If a person died from their injuries, it was God’s will for them to die. Though Paul implored his friend to take a little wine for his stomach, James directly commanded the faithful to call on the elders of the church for an anointing ritual as a substitute for medical care, and led them to believe that such ministrations would be efficacious. Prayer, not penicillin, has always been the bible-endorsed prescription for physical ailments.

That is why I am confused by the reactions of mainstream Christians. When a man of faith obeys the literal and direct command of God to call the church elders instead of a doctor, why is he pilloried rather than praised? Had his victims… err… children taken a turn for the better instead of the worse, he would be hailed as a paragon of faith, and an example to be followed. At the very least, no one would be calling for his other children to be placed in protective custody, and for him and his wife to be thrown in jail. But why? Why does the outcome change the nature of the behavior?

Why is nut-job religion tolerated up to the point that someone dies? Indeed, this wasn’t even the first of his children that died because of this lunacy. Yet the courts allowed him and his wife to continue raising children. I believe they had seven in all. Anyone who is known to substitute prayer for medical treatment should have the kids taken away, and they should be tried for neglect. He and his wife have been doing this the whole time. Their other children lived. God only chose to take two of them. Our policies allow crazy people to do crazy things until someone dies. Only then, do we step in to save the remaining children, and not always, even then.

We are all culpable for the death of these children. We knew these churches were teaching this poison in the name of all things holy. We can read the sermons online, that instruct parishioners to seek treatments based on faith, not science. We know where they are. We know what they’re saying. We know the outcome of the teaching. If we had so much information about a mosque where the believers were plainly directed to, and instructed in the ways of assassinating the president, that place would be shut down with extreme prejudice. Make the victims innocent children instead of world leaders, and we call it freedom of religion. Damn them! And Damn the moral cowardice of America that allows us to watch, doe-eyed, while it goes on under our apathetic gaze. God-damned us all!

David Johnson

Onward, Muslim Soldiers… Er… I Mean, Christian Soldiers

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In case you follow world news as infrequently as I do, you may have missed the events in Bangladesh where protesters called for the death of 100, atheist bloggers. If you know as little about Bangladesh as I do, you may not know that Islam is the national religion. You know, Islam: the religion of peace. To be clear, the crime of these bloggers was not their atheism: though, that is sort of a crime, there. Rather, it was specifically, blasphemy against Islam. In an Islamic nation, the death penalty for blasphemy is a reasonable expectation.

But you already knew that, didn’t you. Islam is a violent religion born of conflict. It is the offshoot of an Abrahamic religion born of, and bathed in violence and conflict. Today’s tirade has nothing to do with the cesspit of violence and terror that is Islam. It has to do with the fact that Christianity: the more civilized, Abrahamic religion, is not so terribly far removed.

When I came across this story, the song playing in the background of my mind was, “Onward, Christian Soldiers”. You see, though the Christian scriptures lack the overt militance of the Hebrew and Muslim texts, the undertone is there, and comes through loud and clear.

1. Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
forward into battle see his banners go!
Refrain:

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.

2. At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.
(Refrain)

3. Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
(Refrain)

4. Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
but the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
we have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.
(Refrain)

5. Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King,
this through countless ages men and angels sing.
(Refrain)

You can’t help notice passages such as, “Soldiers marching as to war” and “like a mighty army”. The militaristic nature of the song is unmistakable. The original tune was quite sedate. It had to, later, be enhanced to the marching song we know, today. Originally, it wasn’t quite militaristic enough.

What you may not know is that the song was written as a children’s song. It was specifically composed for a youth event where kids would be walking to a church in another district. Even later, the song was popularized as a youth song rather than one for the general assembly. The little tykes were to be little soldiers, marching off to their little, holy war, with their little crosses and banners that represented their little tribes. It was meant to evoke an image of the Hebrew soldiers preparing for a bloody conflict with the enemies of god. Doesn’t that just warm your heart?

Of course, Paul didn’t help matters:

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Ep. 6:13-17

Thing is, this isn’t the only militant language used in the Christian scriptures. There are plenty of other examples were the writer wanted to draw a clear connection with the Christian call, and military duty. There are many Christian hymns that pick up this theme in song. Many Christian churches do not just have people who are faithful to prayer; they have prayer warriors. Rather than being appalled by the connection between faith and militarism, modern-day Christians embrace it.

That is the real scandal, and the true threat that mainstream religion poses. Like muslims, Christians are convinced that their religion is a religion of peace, while blinded to the conflict at its very roots. In their minds, Christians take up arms against their imaginary enemies in the name of their imaginary god. It is inevitable that this crystalizes into real arms against real people from time to time. We may say that the enemy is sin and Satan. But in reality, sin is committed by humans, and Satan, all too often, takes on human form in the minds of many believers.

It is not inconceivable that a mind that is troubled enough to accept the marching orders of an imaginary god, would see someone like me as the personification of their, spiritual enemy. Such a person might even wish me dead, at least, in their secret heart. No, the modern Christian is not so removed from the Bangladesh muslim seeking the death penalty for blasphemous bloggers.

For well over a hundred years, we have been raising our children to march to songs like, “Onward, Christian Soldiers”. I bet those Bangladesh muslims were raised to something very similar. Can we at least agree to stop doing that?

David Johnson