Category Archives: religion

i finally get Easter (mostly)

Being a Christian who does not take the words of the Bible literally, I always struggle with both Christmas and Easter. These two very holy celebrations center around specific events in the life of Jesus. Events that, because I don’t believe they actually happened, I have a hard time celebrating. I need to know how these sacred stories apply to me/us today. I’ve rarely had a convincing answer. Then, last Sunday, listening to the Palm Sunday sermon at my church, I grasped a very real understanding of what the Easter story can mean.

Well, the pre-Easter story anyway. Our minister was talking about the trial of Jesus, Pilot’s asking the crowd which prisoner to free, the crowd fervently insisting on Jesus’ crucifixion and Pilot declaring his hands washed of Jesus blood. it’s a tense, sad scene. With our benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to be appalled at the crowd’s hatred and callousness, at Pilot’s acceptances of the seemingly irrational decision to set the hardened criminal free and to execute Jesus. We are angry.

But then we have to ask ourselves, would we have acted any differently than that crowd or that judge? Oh, we’d like to think so. But if we had really been a Roman politician or a Jewish citizen of Jesus’ time, what makes us so sure that we would have gone against all we knew for the sake of one man. Would we have had the courage to be one of twelve devoted followers of a stranger with a radical message? To stand against law and loved one to say ‘set this man free?’ We’ll never really know.

The real question for us becomes, do we have that courage today? Can we stand up for the weak, the disadvantaged, the wrongly accused in the face of mass unpopularity? Do we have the courage to do something even if it’s not what everyone else is doing, or runs contrary to what we thought we knew?

This is what I take away from the Easter story – a reminder to stand up for what is right, not what is popular. To stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. To picture myself in the crowd condemning Jesus and accept that that would have been me and I now have the power and passion to change that.

If you believe that Jesus died for our sins, then you must know that it was exactly those people who sent him to his death, their sins, that he was dying for. He didn’t look into a crystal ball and see “us” in the future that he would sacrifice himself for. It was for those sinners right in front of him. We are all among that crowd. We are not above them. And we will continue to condemn Jesus to death until we can truly move out of the crowd and examine ourselves, our motives, and defend the undefended.

Anne Rice vs. Christianity

When I first heard the news clip about Anne Rice “quitting Christianity”, I thought what most people probably thought – ah, she’s gone back to atheism. That would have been an interesting story considering her public recommitment to Catholicism and her books on the subject of Christ. Turns out it’s not that interesting, as a matter of fact it smacks of a media ploy.

Her much publicized quote again:

“In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control.

“In the name of… Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”

And now she feels better about herself. Congratulations. Really, what’s so new about this? People get fed up with Christianity and/or Christians every day because of some non-compassionate, backward stance. And it’s no different for Jews or Muslims. I’m willing to bet everyone’s got a beef with some aspect(s) of their religion.

The real problem is that this is just a cowardly response to the hard issues. Is it right to turn your back on something you supposedly care about because of disagreements? What about sticking it out, making it what you want it to be? Be the example you don’t see. I would have been much more impressed with Anne had she said that those positions were not Christian at all. That, indeed, she would continue to embrace Christianity while fighting for the acceptance of all those things.

By quitting, she’s saying: Yes, that [anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti….] IS what Christianity is about.

Thank goodness for the Muslims after the 9/11 bombings that stood up and said: this act does NOT represent my religion, it is NOT what we stand for and I will continue to embrace my God.

So, her statement becomes either a media play with no real substance, or an easy way out of dealing with what makes her uncomfortable with her chosen religion.

Get a backbone Anne.

shut up! (really)

Although I like to keep it positive on this blog, I’ve really had it. The subject applies to anyone who has ever uttered or written the term “all christians”, “all atheists” or even “all religions”. Nothing makes me want to go out and buy a bible and go to church as often as possible more than people who would decry “all Christians” (or religious group of choice) as brainwashed idiots who just aren’t smart enough to realize there is no God. Likewise, every time someone insinuates that “all atheists” are likely unenlightened wanna-be-devil-worshipers I’m looking for the needle to sew a big “A” on the front of my shirt.

The point is the people making these declarations are extreme and are doing NOTHING for the religious dialog. As someone who loves the conversation, the debate over God these types of statements are pure trash. They add nothing to collective knowledge about the group, they show an enormous amount of personal ignorance, and immediately turn me away from what they have to say.

There will always be atheists, there will always be people who believe in God(s) – so if you don’t have anything truly constructive to add to the conversation about how both groups can live peacefully in their belief system, SHUT UP!

religion in a public school – excellent!!

This NPR story discusses a great start in one California school to teaching kids about different religion. I hope it catches on elsewhere.

Modesto, California’s school district is the only place in the country where students are required to take a course on religion. To avoid conflict and controversy, school officials worked together with religious leaders in their community to come up with a broad-based curriculum that everyone signed off on. The results are being watched by education experts around the country.

Link to audio

ignorance

I’m continually amazed at the ignorance of otherwise smart people when it comes to religion. I have heard from adults I know that they didn’t realize Jews don’t worship Jesus or that religious groups other than Baptists were baptized. Really! It shocked me. But, as I constantly remind myself, it shouldn’t be. Unless you have a particular interest in religion, why bother finding out, right?

Education systems don’t treat it as something you really need to know about. Religious schools don’t give equal time or any time to anything but their own brand typically. Religious institutions, of course, are there to talk to the converted, but if your brand of spirituality doesn’t encourage, or actively discourages asking questions then it’s likely you won’t. It’s disheartening to me and should be embarrassing to those who are so in the dark about basic religious differences.

People who are not religious or have rejected religion can be equally ignorant. I used to think they must be knowledgeable because they made a decision to opt-out based on weighing the options. Not so much.

It really doesn’t matter why people don’t know the basics about religions; all that matters is that when they don’t, they appear ignorant and close-minded. If you fall into this category, get educated! Please! It’s like learning a new language: it won’t be easy, but a little effort goes a LONG way.

weird stuff

There is some weird stuff going on out there in the name of religion. These are from The Church Around the Corner: Offbeat religion stories.

Muslim hate preacher claims ‘Christmas is the pathway to hell’

A Muslim lawyer has launched an extraordinary rant against Christmas, branding the celebration ‘evil’. Hate preacher Anjem Choudary claimed the festival was the ‘pathway to hell’ and urged his followers to boycott it. ‘In the world today many Muslims, especially those residing in Western countries, are exposed to the evil celebration Christmas,’ he raged in a sermon broadcast on the internet. … ‘Decorating the house, purchasing Christmas trees or having Christmas turkey meals are completely prohibited by Allah. … ‘Every Muslim has a responsibility to protect his family from the misguidance of Christmas, because its observance will lead to hellfire. ‘Protect your Paradise from being taken away – protect yourself and your family from Christmas.’

– Source: ‘Christmas is the pathway to hell’: Muslim lawyer’s extraordinary rant at ‘evil’ celebration, Daily Mail, Dec. 10, 2008

New Capitol display sought with Santa “hell” warning

A Kansas-based church that has blamed deaths in Iraq on U.S. tolerance of homosexuality has asked Gov. Christine Gregoire’s office to approve a “Santa Claus will take you to hell” message to display among other religious statements in the Capitol’s third-floor hallway. The Westboro Baptist Church’s message would be near a Nativity set, three signs mocking atheism, and an atheists’ sign that celebrates the winter solstice, while also taking a shot at religion as “myth and superstition” that enslaves minds, all in the state Capitol’s third-floor hallway.

– Source: New Capitol display sought with Santa “hell” warning, Seattle Times, Dec. 12, 2008

Man says God ordered him to ram vehicle

A man who rammed his truck into a woman’s vehicle on a highway early Friday told authorities he crashed into her while going more than 100 mph because God told him “she needed to be taken off the road.”

– Source: Man says God ordered him to ram vehicle, AP via MSNBC, Dec. 1, 2008

Nude Virgin Mary cover prompts Playboy apology

A nude model resembling the Virgin Mary on the cover of the Mexican edition of Playboy magazine, published only days before a major Mexican festival dedicated to the mother of Jesus, prompted the company’s U.S. headquarters on Friday to apologize.

– Source: Nude Virgin Mary cover prompts Playboy apology, Reuters, Dec. 16, 2008

Virgin Mary appears woman’s brain scan

A 42-year-old woman without insurance and mounting medical bills plans to sell an MRI scan of her brain in which the image of the Virgin Mary seems to appear. … Having seen where other supposed images of Mary or other religious icons were sold for thousands of dollars, Latrimore plans to post the MRI scan on eBay, the online auction site.

– Source: Virgin Mary in Fort Pierce woman’s brain scan; next stop: eBay, TCPalm.com, Dec. 5, 2008

Dante banned from selling soul on eBay

A musician fed up with his life was today barred from selling his soul to the highest bidder. Dante Knoxx, 24, offered the “used” item for a starting bid of £25,000.50 or a buy it now price of £700,000 on the internet auction site eBay. But eBay pulled the listing today with about two hours to go and no bids because it breached one of the firm’s policies. “You cannot sell anything that is not physical,” said Mr Knoxx.

– Source: Dante banned from selling soul on eBay, Independent, Dec. 15, 2008

It’s always good to read these when I think my writings might be too “out there”! Makes me feel very mainstream.

the easy way out

I was reading an article on Beliefnet, topic not really important; it was the comments that drew my attention. A debate between two people obviously on opposite sides of the religious fence – both equally annoying.

Person 1:

…those who are born again welcome all who want to be saved.

All wanna be saved, and God wants-ta save all through their repentance. However, not all accept His Son. Thus, they reject the Father. Thus, they won’t be saved.

So, you either believe it all and you’re good to go or you don’t and you’re damned…damn, must be nice.

Person 2:

Finally, the question is, do I want to live my life based on a system that has no solid evidence of its claims, in the name of which many heinous crimes have been committed?

The answer is no.

There’s something about the “heinous crimes” argument that really irks me. People like to drag it out to make a point about how horrid religion is…I bet they still fill up their car with gas despite the number of wars waged in the name of oil!

Both sides are just too easy. There’s a lack of thoughtfulness, of true introspection, and a complete inability to see something from someone else’s viewpoint.

speaking of faith

Just wanted to share this great program I recently discovered: Speaking of Faith on NPR.

Hosted by Krista Tippett, the public radio program is heard weekly on radio stations around the country, bringing a wide range of intelligent religious ideas and voices into American life.

I get a regular email from the program as well, which is wonderful. You can reach the main site for the program here: http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/index.shtml

Enjoy!

global religion overview in 90 seconds…too cool

An oversimplification? Yes
Totally cool tool? Definitely

This is totally the kind of thing I love – needs to be paired with knowledge of course (what doesn’t??) but for only 90 seconds – I don’t know anyone who could impart more knowledge in such a short period of time. Enjoy.

http://www.mapsofwar.com/ind/history-of-religion.html