An Update On The Trouble Brewing in the Iglesia Ni Cristo, A Message to all the Protesters, and A Little bit About Koda and Jessica

We hope everyone is doing well. We wanted to thank each of the viewers who have visited our blog up until this moment. After our previous post, which you can find here,, we’ve received traffic from all over the world, including The Philippines, where the Iglesia Ni Cristo originated and is currently based. That there are viewers from this country is phenomenal, because it is suggestive of our well-substantiated declarations being reviewed by those who are most afflicted by this religious institution. Other notable countries include Russia and Saudi Arabia, which we find to be extraordinary given that Saudi Arabia is a religious totalitarian state, where freedom of speech and religion are severely limited by the government. Once more, we thank all of you.
As a reminder, please like and subscribe to our post and share it with your internet communities and/or offline communities. Your support is greatly appreciated. Moreover, Koda and I have decided that if anyone would like to guest host our blog for a week or more, click the “Contact Us” tab above and suggest your proposal to us. The subject of this post will be a revisiting of the troubles that were occurring in the Iglesia Ni Cristo and what has transpired since our previous post. Following this update, we have a message for those who are currently protesting how the church, as an institution, is being ran or those who have been expelled for “rebellion against the church administration” (to use their rhetoric) in order to encourage you to really think hard about what is it that you really want out of the conflict. As a concluding remark, since Koda and I haven’t talked about ourselves much, we will share some information so you can get to know us better. Do note, however, that any information that would identify us or where we live will not be disclosed since being discovered as atheists by the people we love will result in very serious consequences. However our hobbies, favorite foods and music preferences will remain honest. As a side note, Koda and I were unable to recover the audio from the service three weeks ago, where the excommunication orders of the mother and siblings of the dear leader as well as of Isaiah Samson were read. Our apologies for that.

Without further ado, let us proceed to the more integral fraction of this post.

Updating The Trouble Brewing in the Iglesia Ni Cristo (As an aside, some of the articles cited may contain sections in Filipino. Consequentially, they may be inaccessible unless a translator is used. You can find a rather well-programmed translator here)

Admittedly, the news inside the Iglesia Ni Cristo is much more quiet than last time we wrote to you, but a few events have unfolded that would make any moral person question the integrity of those who administer this organization. Upon their excommunication, Angel Manalo and Isaiah Samson took to the media to report on their forced departure. Some of this we discussed in our previous post. As a response, the Sanggunian (counsel of elders), with the approval of The Dear Leader, have sued Isaiah Samson Jr for Libel. According to an article by the Philippine Star, the Iglesia Ni Cristo, through its head attorney Glicerio Santos IV, suggested that Samson’s accusations of illegal detention and corruption are false and defamatory.
These comments were related to a press conference he held, where he alleges that he was illegally detained and that corruption exists in the church. As of now, the prosecutor is looking into the case and we will have more information as it comes. Moreover, as of last week, a second lawsuit has been filed against Joy Yuson, yet another expelled minister, for committing Libel against the church. Indeed, due to the accusations he released pertaining to the misconduct of the Church, particularly corruption and the alleged abduction of Lowell Menorca II he was rendered an assailant of the church who was exerting efforts to “divide the influential church, which is facing its worst crisis in decades,” according to an article by Rappler, which talks about the subject matter. Evidently, therefore, the INC declined the allegations. However, their declaration has been that there is no evidence available to substantiate the allegations against them (this is admittedly riddled with irony, but we will abstain from expanding upon this). However, the adage that is commonly recited in conversations between atheists and theists is “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” While there purportedly is not evidence available, this does not immediately discredit the allegations.
I (Jessica) am not surprised that the church has chosen this route of suing its critics. One can simply make a fair argument for libel laws, but one has to question if the church is really practicing Christ-like love towards its accusers. Nevertheless, this is not the first time the church has relied on the courts to solve its problems. In 2005, the Iglesia Ni Cristo filed a lawsuit against Ross S. Typon, who attempted to publish the book, The Power and the Glory: The Cult of Manalo, which made several damning allegations against the power structure of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. In a Philippine Star article written in 2005, one reason the lawyers for the Iglesia Ni Cristo suggested that the “blasphemous” book ought not to be published is because it would cause civil unrest and potential violence. We’ll talk more about violence a little later. This all demonstrates that the church is willing to silence dissenters by means of the court. In fact, one blogger suggested that this is indicative of the tactics used by the Iglesia Ni Cristo. One might say that this is a heavy claim. It is indeed a heavy claim. However, let’s connect the dots. Last week we showed that the church votes as a bloc, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they voted for politicians or judges for their benefit (perhaps through extortion). The fact that the Iglesia Ni Cristo lost the case against Ross Typhon says nothing about the church’s political influence because that is one case among many that the church can influence with voting power or money.

Hitchens the Man himself. He is probably the world’s most famous intellectuals and one of the world’s most famous atheists. It was unfortunate that he died so soon. He was also no stranger to controversy as well.

Koda and I also wondered how Christopher Hitchens, who, among his great achievements, strongly defended free expression without the interference of churches, would react to this type of political and theocratic-like bullying by a religious sect. (To reply explicitly: he would not respond well.) We find this to be a fantastically appropriate video that expresses Hitchens’ opinion on this topic. For some context, Hitchens is speaking on CNN after the fallout of a Danish newspaper publishing unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. After the publications of these cartoons, the New York Times reports that actual violence did occur and

Unflattering cartoons of Mohammed that caused civil unrest and violence. Was this the same unrest and violence that the members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo would resort too?

Unflattering cartoons of Mohammed that caused civil unrest and violence. Was this the same unrest and violence that the members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo would resort too?

some individuals in Muslim countries were threatening to kill the employees of the newspaper and cause property damage to Danish and other Western-nation embassies. The video can be found below:   Something else that has come about is that after Angel Manalo’s excommunication, many members who were deeply angry at the church for expelling the entire Manalo clan, except for Eduardo’s immediate family, took to the compound. Those who were discovered were immediately excommunicated by the church for “rebellion against the church administration.” Along these lines, there has been a police blockage to prevent food and water from going into the Manalo compound. According to this article by ABS-CBN, Roel Rosal alleges that the police have been turning away those who would like to offer food and water to the Manalo compound. In a Rappler article, after the expulsion of Angel and Tenny Manalo, food deliveries were coming from members in the Philippines and abroad. The article says that the food deliveries can feed as much as 30 people. However, a second article by Rappler notes that the Philippine Council on Human Rights have been investigating the accusation of food being blocked from getting to Angel and Angel/Eduardo’s mother. Also, in the same article, a member revealed that the police were harassing members attempting to deliver food and water to Angel and his mother.

Some of the members of the police force in the Philippines

Some of the members of the police force in the Philippines

The police denied the charges. However in the first article, some who do support the excommunicated Manalos (potentially with the same food deliveries), have expressed fear in delivering food or water to the compound because it may lead to their excommunication as well. It also should be mentioned that according to an article by the Manila Standard, Roel Rosal alleged that the police force has taken a bias position in favor of the Iglesia Ni Cristo and are indeed responsible for turning away food deliveries from the compound. Once again, we are dealing with accusations, but its looking more and more like the Iglesia Ni Cristo is getting itself into more and more trouble. First, why would people claim to be lying about these events, such as police harassment? Second, we do not know who is behind the turning away of food from the Iglesia Ni Cristo compound. What we do know is that the Iglesia Ni Cristo has its own security force and have an extra-friendly relationship with the police, this is because a good majority of the security guards of the Iglesia Ni Cristo work for the police as well. If the church administration are behind this mastermind of turning food away, Koda and I find this to be the height of immorality. I (Koda) find it challenging to even mildly sympathize with the intentions of the administration, as they’re exerting efforts to hinder individuals from assisting those who have been excommunicated from the institution. Aside from further demonstrating the near-malicious nature of their apparent methods to censor the dissenting party, this is the antithesis of Jesus-like behavior. It’s troubling that (again, if these allegations are indeed not mistaken) they’re literally not practicing what they preach each sermon.

As an additional remark, there have been a number of articles online that are further illustrations of the church’s corrupt practice. They are not only swindling members, but now, they are swindling Philippine tax payers too. According to a two-part investigative story on Glicerio Santos and his influence in the Iglesia Ni Cristo, many have accused him of withdrawing church money and financing his foundation under the Felix Manalo Foundation which is used to fund the lavish lifestyles of The Dear Leader and his band of cronies.

Also, most damning, the church was able to obtain a piece of land in Subic, a city in the Western part of the Philippines, tax-free. However, the charter in which this land was founded on was based on Leisure classification under the permit. What was told was that a church would be built on the land leased to them. However no such church exists nor does an office that they claim exists in the city. Rather, the phone lines leads back to the Central office in Manila. Furthermore, since the town is in Subic and they are classified as a non-profit, they are able to import and export materials tax free. This is what the members allege the Santos Family is abusing. And because of the Santos family’s clout of power in the Iglesia Ni Cristo, they are the “Number Two” family. Indeed, in one of the articles, this family is addressed as the apple of the eye of The Dear Leader. This is all to say that because of the Leader’s authority status relative to the remaining members of the church institution, he can manipulate the funds and how they are utilized. Consequentially, from what has been conveyed above, they may be manipulated poorly. And they indeed have been. Circumventing tax payment is not simply disingenuous and an exploitation of his position, and it’s not simply contrary to the principles established by the (perhaps fictitious) figure depicted in the bible that is Jesus Christ, but it augments the amount of funds available to misuse for purposes such as, for a juvenile example, funding their private jet.

This is what Eduardo Manalo and his gang travel in. Member's hard earned offerings at work?

This is what Eduardo Manalo and his gang travel in. Member’s hard earned offerings at work?

On a further note, these individuals are not practicing what they preach. According to the teachings of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, the Bible is, “The literal word of God.” On the topic of taxes, Paul, one of the great apostles of Jesus had this to say, “For the same reason you also pay taxes (Jessica’s notes: the also refers to subjecting oneself to the governing authorities), for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.”(Romans 13:6-7). So for individuals who claim to be spiritual leaders, they seem to be setting a bad example for the rest of the members they are sheparding to the “perfection of their (the member’s) faith (to use their terminology). Perhaps they believe in the adage, “Do as I say, not as I do?” More still, Koda and I discovered that members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo in the United States held demonstrations to express their concern about the corruption. According to this ABS-CBN article and video )which is completely in english), protesters, who behaved peacefully, held their demonstration outside the “US Main Office” in Burlingame California. Some of the protesters’ requestes are that an internal investigative tribunal be organized in order to examine the corruption that is occurring in the church and to readmit Angel Manalo and Angel/Eduardo’s mother in the church. On August 5, ABS-CBN News reported that the protesters in the above article were excommunicated. It turns out that there was an informant at the rally recording and reporting names of who was at the rally.

The Totalitarian nature of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, no matter where you are, you may be watched by an informant of the administration.

The article also reports that the individuals who were interviewed requested for anonymity due to safety concerns. The rationale for this concern became apparent when the same article noted that gunshots were fired at one of the former member’s house. The police are currently investigating, but no arrests have been made. For those who do not want to view the article, a video explicating what is drafted in the article is provided below. Also note that the video is completely in English, so it is accessible to those who may not be versed in the Filipino language.

Koda and I find this to be absolutely reprehensible and if the church is somehow responsible for the gunfire, Koda and I would want to see the person responsible arrested and punished to the full extent of the law. This alone makes Koda and I think of this group of “gangsters” as no different than a terrorist organization, because that’s how Koda, I, and most of the rational world views the administration and the church as a whole: as a collection of terrorists. In connection, the mid-week’s worship service sermon I (Jessica) attended touched on the scandal. Essentially, the sermon can be summarized in the following two sentences: “Members of the church are commanded by God to blindly follow The Dear Leader and his band of cronies without question. And not following the whims of the Dear Leader and/or his Motley Crew or even questioning their decisions, though they may sound ridiculous to us, is tantamount to Satan questioning the authority of God.”

The sermon also encourages members to shun expelled members and ministers who have attempted to expose the corruption, as well as ignore the negative press that the media is presenting. The sermon I, Jessica heard during the weekend service (from August 7-9) touched on the same themes including comparing the individuals who were force out of the church and calling corruption to the betrayal of Jesus at the hands of Judas Iscariot (as noted by all four of the gospels). Their proof text revolved around the account given in the Gospel of John, where it notes that Satan entered into Judas when he accepted the Lord’s Supper. Thus, the sermon concludes that Judas was “Expelled from the true church.” Setting aside that the interpretation of the church administration of this passage and all other biblical passages read during the sermon are quite frankly laughable, Jesus did not set off to establish a religion. All of that talk about establishing Christianity came from his followers much later and not from Jesus himself.
They also attempted to perform some damage control by pointing out the ministers who were kidnapped actually were not kidnapped at all (more on this point later). If the church would like to deny the lies they told during that sermon, an informant, who is on our side has provided secret footage of the sermon. I, Jessica not only find this to be disturbing, but extremely dangerous for any civilized person to agree to. If you want to know why I mentioned that this church does nothing good for people, but simply poisons minds, this demonstrates why. Let me, Jessica, make it clear to everyone, including The Dear Leader and the gangsters he has chosen to associate himself with, that I will not blindly follow your whims. In fact, these sermons have further made explicit that this is a dangerous cult that needs to be stopped immediately before someone really gets hurt. The most recent sermons have inspired Koda and I to work even harder to raise awareness about this dangerous cult and to encourage individuals to leave this cult and to refuse to blindly obey authority without question and embrace skepticism and rational thought.
You have not seen the last of us – we will continue to expose you, your criminal activities, the manner with which you swindle people for your own greedy gain, and how you poison people’s minds through encouraging blind obedience as a virtue. Finally, you may recall from our previous post that we reported on the abduction of ten ministers who were taken by the Iglesia Ni Cristo leadership. One such minister was Isaiah Samson Jr. After we posted our blog post, Koda and I learned that four of the abducted ministers surfaced. They denied that they were kidnapped. One of the ministers even thanked the Executive minister for taking care of his family. According to Eagle News, they came out and told the other members not to believe the expelled members who are spreading this rumor. For those who can speak Filipino, a video is embedded in the article that further delineates what is written in the text.

The four ministers made this announcement on Iglesia Ni Cristo run-television station, Net-25. One could think that this is the end of the saga because a GMA article confirms that the case against the kidnapped ministers has been closed. In the article, Manuel Eduarte claims that after visiting the Manalo compound, no sufficient evidence can prove that the ministers were kidnapped. However, as a good soap opera oftentimes is, more and more information has come about. In an article by ABS-CBN, Anthony Menorka, a brother to one of the ministers in question, reported that his brother was forced to deny his abduction because his wife and one year old child are being held captive. In a second article, Menorka claims that the church has threatened to kill members of the Menorka family if they do not comply with their instructions. After this story was released, Menorka was place under witness protection. As of August 6, 3 more individuals requested for witness protection. According to an article by the Philippine Inquirer, Joy Yuson, Roel Rosal, and Lito De Luna Fruto shared sensitive information that could endanger theirs and/or the lives of their respective families. Some of the claims that they made are that they obtained information that the church is creating a private army in order to, probably assassinate them, and that a grenade was thrown at De Luna Fruto’s house in May by someone associated with the Iglesia Ni Cristo. Roel Rosal also reported that the Iglesia Ni Cristo used their influence to release criminals from the New Libib Prison and were used to intimidate dissenting members or as the Philippine Inquire describes them as, “henchman” for the church. Finally, Lito De Luna Fruto reported that the Iglesia Ni Cristo used their political power to have trumped up charges against him for rape (possibly to silence him from speaking out) as well as frame one of the kidnapped ministers, Lowell Menorka by accusing him of rave threats and illegal possession of firearms , according to an article by ABS-CBN. The trumped up charges against Menorka was meant to serve as a cover to the allegations that he was kidnapped. Recently, the probe into the kidnapping episode actually has not concluded.

An article by the Philippine Star has reported that the individual who made the announcement that the case of the kidnapped ministers was closed was actually unauthorized to make such statements since he was not apart of the investigation. He is now facing disciplinary action. Furthermore, as noted by the ABS-CBN article above discussing the addition of Rosal, De Luna Fruto, and Yuson to the witness protection program, a new investigative team had to be assembled because some of the members of the investigation were also members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo and hence, biased the investigation. More and more, it looks like we are dealing with members of a dangerous gang or you can even say, a group of terrorists than spiritual leaders. If you think this is the first time church members have used violence, however, then you are sorely mistaken. The Iglesia Ni Cristo has had clashes with another Philippine-based Church entitled “Members of the Church of God International” (MCGI). In fact, one of the television hosts of said church was murdered by two alleged members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo due to a raging conflict that persisted for years. In accordance with the Wikipedia webpage which talks about this conflict, the murder of Marcos Mataro, a former member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo who converted to MCGI, occurred on the 27th of April, 2008. The perpetrators of this allege murder was by Nickson Icao and Felizardo Lumagham, who are suspected to have been members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo; however, the murder could well have been due to the “pending attempted homicide case” relating to Mataro.

While speculative, given the conflicts that had been occurring between the two parties’ respective religious affiliations, it is not an irrational conclusion to suspect that the perpetrators were seeking to slaughter an assailiant of the MCGI. Also, some ministers have reported that they fear for their lives once they do leave their post or the church. Though, posted on a Christian apologetic website, one former minister details how violence has and can be used to silence whistle blowers or dissenters. In the article, the former minister notes (under the cloak of anonymity) that, hypocrisy is rampant within the ministry. They tell the members to behave well, but the ministers and their superiors don’t seem to practice that as well. Also, he was planning on writing a book in order to expose the hypocrisy, but was unable to do so as well as fear for his life and the life of his family. Another WordPress User, Phillipgarcia actually lists the cases in which the Iglesia Ni Cristo has used violence against non-members or even dissenters. Please answer, after discovering the unflattering activities that the church participates in, why would anyone associate with a group of people who are quick to use violence to silence opposing ideas or resort to using the court system to legally suppress the free expression of differing ideas?

As a further deterrence from viewing the church as the epitome of morality, Koda and I find the notion of various human rights violations by the church, such as blocking food gifts from being delivered to the excommunicated Manalo family as the height of immorality. Just ask yourself that question: why would anyone join or support such an organization?

A message to those who are concerned with the current church leadership or those who have been expelled, but consider themselves members of the church:

In our previous post, we merely asked the question of what do you truly believe and why?

However, we really never had a conversation with you about this. Therefore, we like to send a message to you. By drawing your attention to the corruption, you have taken a first step in seeing how the current structure is dysfunctional for any organization to thrive. However we seriously ask, why do you still support the church in spite of what has been presented? If we were to remove the word “church” out and replace it with any other institution such as a business, school, etc, one can quickly see our point that the INC is an immoral organization that only has their own financial well-being in mind. Indeed, some may conclude that remaining associated with that organization that has been exposed to be corrupt would even be considered immoral. I (Koda) would not object to this. As any institution, the INC’s ability to flourish is dependent upon the number of members, as well as how fruitful the donations the members supply them with are. Therefore, by remaining affiliated with the Iglesia Ni Cristo, you are perhaps undeliberately strengthening their ability to exercise such immoral practices as those conveyed in this post. I, Jessica, can sympathize with all of you. I was indoctrinated through CWS worship services all the way until I emotionally checked out of the religion a year ago. I understand that you’ve thought that the Iglesia Ni Cristo is the only true church, but have you really stopped and thought about, for instance, how the books of the Bible were formed, or why the church uses ambiguous passages to prove their point or even passages out of context? Have you thought about why they say that a member of the church should maintain a high standard of moral behavior, but as conveyed here, the individuals who are said to be the, “leaders” don’t seem to be setting a good example for members or the public at large? Do they perhaps believe in the things they preach or is it simply something they are selling because it is going to make them money and is something members want to hear? No, Koda and I are not encouraging you to deconvert.

We are not asking you to become atheists or that we have a higher moral ground than you. Rather, we are asking you to do one thing and one thing only: Think. Think about what you believe and don’t be afraid of doubt, don’t be afraid to ask questions. These things are not of the devil, but are rather natural instincts of ours to know and to wonder about our world around us. Don’t be afraid to use them – they are critical faculties. I am reminded of a quote by Galileo, where he responded to the Catholics, who were ready to condemn him for opposing the geocentric model that the church proposed by saying, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” So, if you believe a God exists, he also gave you a brain to reason and to make rational decisions. So, use that brain and think for yourselves. You do not need anyone to give you permission to think for yourself.

All about Koda and Jessica

As promised, here is a little about ourselves, so you can get to know us a little more. Koda and I both received one of those tagged surveys on Facebook and that is what we are going to use.

Jessica

100 Truths about me!

  1. Real name: Jessica Elizabeth Stanford
  2. Nickname: Jesse, JS
  3. Favorite color: dark blue
  4. Male or female: Take your guess. Of course I’m female.
  5. Elementary school: George Washington
  6. Middle school: John Adams
  7. High school: Thomas Jefferson
  8. College: University of Nevada
  9. Hair color: light brown
  10. Tall or short: I’m pretty tall for a girl, 5’11
  11. Sweats or jeans: Depends when I go out. If I’m with friends, definitely jeans. If I’m just acting lazy around my home, then its a pair of shorts.
  12. Phone or camera: I love my phone. I could never live without it.
  13. Health freak: Nope, far from it.
  14. Orange or apple: It’s a toss-up, but I’d say orange.
  15. Do you have a crush on someone: Have you heard of kiss and don’t tell? Okay, fine, its my partner in blogging, Koda Castero.
  16. Guy friends or girl friends: It all depends on the situation. If I let my hair down, then girl friends it is. I hang around guy friends, if they ask me to.
  17. Piercings: I actually don’t have any.
  18. Pepsi or coke: I don’t really drink soda that much, so can I say southern style sweet tea? If I had to pick though, I’d say pepsi.
  19. Have you been in an airplane: Yes, I have.
  20. Have you been in a relationship: Yes, I have, but that was a long time ago.
  21. Have you been in a car accident: Yes, just like in GTA. In all seriousness, I have been in one. Thank Buster Bunny I haven’t caused any.
  22. Have you been in a fist fight: Twice and I

won both. One of the people I fought was a guy.

  1. First piercing: I don’t have one. So, does not apply.
  2. Best Friend: That’s easy, Koda.
  3. First award: I believe it was a citizenship award I got in the first grade.
  4. First crush: Someone in high school who I later got in a relationship with back in the day.
  5. First word: I believe it was “goo-goo”
  6. Any talent: I can throw a football 30 yards.
  7. Last person you talked to: my brother Michael.
  8. Last person you texted: Koda Castero.
  9. Last person you watched a movie with: me, myself, and I.
  10. Last thing you ate: I bought indian food at the nearby corner store where I live.
  11. Last movie/ TV show you watched: South Park
  12. Last song you listened to: Call of a Warrior by Volbeat.
  13. Last thing you bought: seasons 7 and 8 of South Park. I know I’m way behind the series, but whatever.
  14. Last person you hugged: My brother Michael again.

Favorite:

  1. Food: It has to be either prime rib or jambalaya.
  2. Drink: Southern style sweet tea.
  3. Bottoms: What kind of a question is this? I actually think its none of your business. However here’s a sample of what I where beneath my shirt.

    For those who are wondering, here's an example of what I where under my shirt and panse.

    For those who are wondering, here’s an example of what I where under my shirt and panse.

  4. Flower: Roses. I love receiving them.
  5. Animal: I’ve got 3 dogs, so I’ll say, dog.
  6. Color: dark blue
  7. Movie: Back To The Future (all three movies).
  8. Subject: Political Philosophy or The History of Christianity

Have you ever? (Put an X in the brackets if yes.)

  1. [X] fallen in love with someone

Let me premise I thought I was in love.

  1. [] celebrated Halloween

The Iglesia Ni Cristo forbids anyone celebrating it because they feel its a holiday for the devil or the dead. Though, I like the cheap candy after Halloween.

  1. [X] Had your heart broken
  2. [X] went over the minutes/ texts on your phone

Plenty of times, however, I think a good portion of people have unlimited minutes now.

  1. [X] had someone like you
  2. [X] hated the way someone changed

My dad is a good-for-nothing piece of crap for abandoning his family while he partied it up in Thailand. If that counts, then, yes I do.

  1. [] got pg

What year was this written, 1997?

  1. [X] had an abortion

Yes, and I loved it! Of course this is sarcasm. I have not had an abortion.

  1. [X] did something you regret

Hasn’t everyone?

  1. [X] broken a promise

Yes, I guess.

  1. [X] hid a secret

Something called surprise birthday parties.

  1. [] pretend to be happy
  2. [X] met someone who has changed to your life

I’ve met plenty of people who have changed my life for the better.

  1. [X] pretended to be sick

Isn’t that how we got days off school?

  1. [X] left the country

I visited my grandparents in the Philippines and accompanied my dad (before he cheated on my mom and completely abandoned us) to a business trip in Hong Kong.

  1. [X] tried something you normally wouldn’t try and liked it

I went Bungee Jumping in Vegas.

  1. [] cried over the silliest thing
  2. [X] ran a mile
  3. [X] gone to the beach with your best friend
  4. [X] gotten into an argument with your friends

I don’t want to really talk about it.

  1. [X] disliked someone
  2. [X] stayed single for two years since the first time you had a bf/gf or been single forever

Currently:

  1. Eating: Korean BBQ (love me some short ribs).
  2. Drinking: No Korean meal goes without Soju
  3. Listening to: Nothing at the moment, but the last song I heard was Beast and the Harlot by Avenged Sevenfold
  4. Sitting or laying: I am sitting in my comfy business chair writing this down.
  5. Plans for today: I am going to be watching a documentary called Christianity: The First 2000 Years, which I purchased. I heard its really educational, so I’ll be checking that out.
  6. Waiting for: True love? Well, except for that, nothing.
  7. Want kids: I’m still considering it, but sure.
  8. Want to get married: Most likely, yes.
  9. Want to travel: I’d love to travel the world one day.

What do you look for in a partner?

  1. Lips or eyes: Doesn’t really matter to me.
  2. Shorter or taller: don’t really care.
  3. Younger or older: Younger would be nice, but really don’t care.
  4. Romantic or spontaneous: I’d say the former, but once again, I have no preference.
  5. Trouble-maker or hesitant: I don’t want to visit my partner in jail, so troublemaker is out, but I’d say I like a little bit of a rebel for fun, so a mix of both.
  6. Hook up or relationship: Both have their perks, but yes, relationship.
  7. Looks or personality: I’d say personality after everything is all said and done.

Have you ever:

  1. Lost glasses: Yes, hasn’t everyone?
  2. Snuck out of the house: You bet I did.
  3. Held a gun/ knife in self defense: I’ve never held a gun or knife in self-defense. I have an axe from going camping though. Also, I would like to go shooting one day.
  4. Killed somebody: What the hell is this question? Yes, I’ve killed someone, happy!
  5. Broke someone’s heart: It was the other way around.
  6. Been in love: I thought I was.
  7. Cried when someone dies: Yes, doesn’t everyone?

Do you believe in:

  1. Yourself: For the most part, yes.
  2. Miracles: Have you ever seen a guy walk on water or hopped on a flying horse to heaven? If not, then you know my answer.
  3. Love at first sight: I personally don’t know, but sure.
  4. Heaven: I will give the most genuine answer I can, I just don’t know. However, I’m leaning towards the answer being no.
  5. Santa clause: Yes!!! You see him at the mall around Christmas time. In all seriousness, I never really got into the Santa thing when I was a kid. Also, the Iglesia Ni Cristo doesn’t celebrate Christmas since it originated as a pagan holiday, one of the few things the Iglesia Ni Cristo got right.
  6. Aliens: With the size of the universe, their is a chance that life on other planets exist, but personally, I don’t know.
  7. Ghosts/angels: What do you think?

Truthfully?

  1. Is there one person you really want to be with right now: Yes, since Koda and I have never met, I’d say Koda.
  2. Do you know who your real friends are: I believe so.

Do you believe in God: Hail Buster Bunny!!!

Oh Mighty Bunny, to you I dedicate this blog. My life is in your magnificent paws. Keep me safe as I travel this bunny forsaken Earth.

Oh Mighty Bunny, to you I dedicate this blog. My life is in your magnificent paws. Keep me safe as I travel this bunny forsaken Earth.

  1. Your favorite videogame: Has to be Super Mario World. It was the first game I played as a child and was the first game I ever beat.

Koda

100 Truths about me!

  1. Real name: Koda Castero
  2. Nickname: …Koda.
  3. Favorite color: Royal Blue
  4. Male or female: Biologically male.
  5. Elementary school: James Madison
  6. Middle school: James Monroe
  7. High school: Abraham Lincoln.
  8. College: University of Maine
  9. Hair color: At present, brown. Fortunately, gray has not yet appeared.
  10. Tall or short: Median of the two extremes.
  11. Sweats or jeans: Sweatpants.
  12. Phone or camera: Hm. My mobile device contains a camera feature. Therefore, phone.
  13. Health freak: I once was – it was not a pleasurable period.
  14. Orange or apple: I suppose I’d prefer an apple, albeit a specific sort.
  15. Do you have a crush on someone: Meh. I’m not sure what that entails.
  16. Guy friends or girl friends: I don’t mind either.
  17. Piercings: Yes – they’re not used.
  18. Pepsi or coke: Neither.
  19. Have you been in an airplane: Astonishingly, yes.
  20. Have you been in a relationship: Sure?
  21. Have you been in a car accident: Yes.
  22. Have you been in a fist fight: With my younger sibling.
  23. First piercing: Age or location? Respectively – age eight, ear lobes.
  24. Best Friend: That charmed status must be allotted to my mother.
  25. First award: It pertained to soccer, that much I can share definitively.
  26. First crush: I’m not sure. It may have been Pikachu or a character from Power Rangers.
  27. First word: No.
  28. Any talent: This is subject to conjecture. I’m rather adept with a soccer ball, if that constitutes a talent?
  29. Last person you talked to: An online acquaintence named Nathan.
  30. Last person you texted: My mother.
  31. Last person you watched a movie with: Me.
  32. Last thing you ate: Rice Crispies cereal.
  33. Last movie/ TV show you watched: I do not recall – I am not one for conventional television. It may have been an episode of The Big Bang Theory.
  34. Last song you listened to: Papa Roach – “Gravity”
  35. Last thing you bought: Fantastic quality headphones. 🙂
  36. Last person you hugged: My Mother.

Favorite:

  1. Food: At present, I enjoy well-prepared cheeseburgers.
  2. Drink: Dihydrogen Monoxide.
  3. Bottoms: Huh?
  4. Flower: Rose – the fragrance is reminiscent of my late grandmother.
  5. Animal: Either the anglerfish or the Cucoo.
  6. Color: Royal Blue.
  7. Movie: Contact.
  8. Subject: Evolutionary Biology or Abnormal Psychology.

Have you ever? (Put an X in the brackets if yes.)

  1. [] fallen in love with someone
  2. [x] celebrated Halloween
  3. [] Had your heart broken
  4. [x] went over the minutes/ texts on your phone
  5. [x] had someone like you
  6. [] hated the way someone changed
  7. [] got pg <– Yes, because I am male. -_-
  8. [] had an abortion
  9. [x] did something you regret
  10. [x] broken a promise
  11. [x] hid a secret
  12. [x] pretend to be happy
  13. [x] met someone who has changed your life
  14. [x] pretended to be sick
  15. [] left the country
  16. [x] tried something you normally wouldn’t try and liked it
  17. [x] cried over the silliest thing
  18. [x] ran a mile
  19. [] gone to the beach with your best friend
  20. [x] gotten into an argument with your friends
  21. [x] disliked someone
  22. [x] stayed single for two years since the first time you had a bf/gf or been single forever

Currently:

  1. Eating: Oxygen.
  2. Drinking: Oxygen.
  3. Listening to: Whitenoise.
  4. Sitting or laying: I am seated.
  5. Plans for today: I am visiting with an acquaintence (otherwise, none).
  6. Waiting for: a desire to shower.
  7. Want kids: No.
  8. Want to get married: Not particularly.
  9. Want to travel: I’m not sure.

What do you look for in a partner?

  1. Lips or eyes: I…?
  2. Shorter or taller: Neither?
  3. Younger or older: Both?
  4. Romantic or spontaneous: Neither?
  5. Trouble-maker or hesitant: Hesitant.
  6. Hook up or relationship: Neither?
  7. Looks or personality: Both?

Have you ever:

  1. Lost glasses: Yes.
  2. Snuck out of the house: Yes.
  3. Held a gun/ knife in self defense: No.
  4. Killed somebody: No.
  5. Broke someone’s heart: Not literally.
  6. Been in love: I’m not sure.
  7. Cried when someone dies: Yes.

Do you believe in:

  1. Yourself: I’m not sure.
  2. Miracles: No.
  3. Love at first sight: I’m not sure.
  4. Heaven: There is not evidence of there being such a posthumous destination.
  5. Santa clause: No.
  6. Aliens: Yes.
  7. Ghosts/ angels: No.

Truthfully?

  1. Is there one person you really want to be with right now: No.
  2. Do you know who your real friends are: I suspect that I do.
  3. Do you believe in God: No.

100: Favorite Videogame: Legend of Zelda – The Wind Waker (however, this is not an immutable favorite).

Until we meet again, don’t forget to achieve the courage to use your own reason!

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America: A Secular Nation Part 2 PLUS Trouble Brewing in the Iglesia Ni Cristo

Hi Everyone!

Koda and I hope you had an amazing week. I (Jessica) was forced to attend church services, despite being emotionally checked out of the religion. Also, last Saturday, I attended a special worship service commemorating the anniversary of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, where we are expected to give away large sums of money to the church (or in their terms, perform our Christian giving). Before we begin, we would like to thank everyone who has subscribed so far. A big shout out goes to WordPress user thefeatheredslee for their subscription. If you love poetry, you’ll love their blog. I took a look at a few of the poems they’ve written and I think they’re amazing. So check  it out. Also, as a reminder, if you like the content or if you want to see any changes, feel free to like and subscribe or even leave a comment below. Your feedback is greatly appreciated. This week, we will be continuing our post discussing the claim that the United States ought to be or is meant to be a Christian Nation. You can catch part 1 here. We will continue where we left off. Plus Koda and I will present and discuss our take on the controversy brewing in the Iglesia Ni Cristo. I will save my very unforgiving views on the church until the end. Without any further ado, here’s part 2.

Roy Moore: The 10 Commandments Judge https://remedyoffanaticism.wordpress.com

The Ten Commandments Incorporated into the Constitution?

Reinforced by the notorious politician Sarah Palin, who maintained in an interview with Bill O’Reilly that Americans should “go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant. They’re quite clear that we would create law based on the God of the Bible…..”

For Sarah Palin: Biblical law = United States Constitution https://remedyoffanaticism.wordpress.com

The idea that the Ten Commandments as exclaimed in the Bible are (or should be) deposited into the American Constitution is a pervasive assertion among Christian Nation advocates. Upon reviewing both texts, however, it becomes readily apparent that such a notion is at best erroneous. Firstly, we need to establish which 10 Commandments are being alluded to. In the Bible, we have 3 sets of the 10 Commandments. The first is found in Exodus 20, which is the most well-known version. The second can be found in Exodus 34, which is actually the set that bears the title “10 Commandments,” and Deuteronomy 5, which is a rehashing of the Commandments found in Exodus 20. Before saying that we are founded on the 10 Commandments, then, perhaps one could do well to settle what set of the 10 Commandments we are talking about. We will talk more about the idea and history of the Ten Commandments in a future post, but what is relevant in this context is that historically speaking, as Michael Coogan points out in his book, The Ten Commandments, these laws served as a covenant between Yahweh and his chosen nation, Israel and contextually speaking, it was solely meant for them only and not a set of universal edicts given by God to all people.[i] To demonstrate this point, Coogan points out that sociological norms were different than norms today. Some examples included the fact that slavery was a permissible institution and that women were property of their male authority figures (whether their fathers or husbands).[ii] For the sake of discussion, let’s agree to use the set found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. However, one quickly finds problems trying to say that our laws are founded on the 10 Commandments. First of all, the first four Commandments do not pertain to ethics, but are rather injunctions on how to worship Yahweh. Indeed, God’s first commandment states that no other God can be worshiped besides Yahweh. However, the First Amendment makes it explicit that all individuals have a fundamental right to freedom of conscious. The second commandment also would infringe on individuals freedom of conscious, since it would sanction the state to limit what types of worship would be acceptable. The third Commandment would violate individual’s rights to freedom of speech and the press. In fact, laws on blasphemy puts everyone’s civil rights at risk. We’ll talk more about blasphemy laws in the next section. The fourth Commandment is usually upheld by Christian Nation advocates to show that we are a Christian Nation. The reason is because in Article I, Section 7, a provision is put into the Constitution that Sundays are exceptions to the ten day limit a President has in vetoing a bill passed by Congress.[iii] However, As Edward Buckner notes, Sundays off is more of a tradition than reverence to religion. The individual cited is Senator Richard Johnson of Kentucky in 1822-29, where he advocated for Sunday mail to continue to be delivered. Therefore, the idea of Sunday being devoted for religion alone is dubious, at best.[iv] Furthermore, not all religions concur that Sunday is the day of Worship, but rather it being Saturday, which aligns with the Jewish Sabbath. Historically speaking, the idea of Sunday being the day of worship or the Sabbath came a lot later. As Coogan pointed out, the early Christians, who still saw themselves as Jewish, observed the Sabbath by attending Jewish worship gatherings. However, the Christians commemorated the resurrection of Jesus on the first day of the week (Sunday), the Christians gathered to break bread and give thanks. This day was noted as, “the Lord’s Day.”[v] It wasn’t until the late first century when the number of Gentile Christians outnumbered that of the Jewish Christians, so in order to differentiate themselves from the Jews who did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the Christians shifted their Sabbath to Sunday.[vi] To that end, taking days off on the weekends is actually more for rest and relaxation and not for religious purposes per se, but those days off also accommodate those who wish to worship on those days.[vii] As an aside, blue laws were in effect to attempt to limit businesses from operating on Sunday, but as Buckner points out, those laws now have been deemed unconstitutional or states do not enforced them. Therefore, from one perspective, this commandment can be partially credited. The fifth Commandment is good general advice, that children honor their parents, but its not a law anywhere in the United States Code or in any state criminal code. The sixth commandment is a law in the United States and its 50 states, but its not quite “Christian.” Many civilizations had prohibitions on murder, well before the 10 Commandments were drafted. An example includes the Code of Hammurabi, which provides for quick and swift punishment of offenses, including murder. We submit that no society would ever survive if laws were not in place that forbade murder. Indeed, as Christopher Hitchens has noted in his work “god is not Great” (the “g” is deliberately not capitalized, as this was Hitchens’ objective), if there was in actuality a historical trek to Mount Sinai, he would find it grossly perplexing that they were able to arrive at the destination whilst riddled with the suspicion that murder was morally permissible.[viii] The seventh Commandment that one should not commit adultery was once prominent in American criminal law. However, most, if not all have repealed their adultery laws, relegating adultery to family court and private matters. Also, this law would be difficult to enforce and time consuming. Likewise, if we go with what the Bible says the proper retribution ought to be for such an offense, it would be considered cruel and unusual punishment to a modern civil society. On a side note, if we also include Jesus’ definition of adultery to include “thoughtcrime adultery,” not only would this law be unenforceable, but would devolve our nation into a quasi-totalitarian dictatorship wherein the state can punish citizens not merely on what they have done, but what they have thought, which would violate fundamental rights to personal autonomy and privacy.[ix] In its historical context, the commandment prohibited one Israelite male from having sex with another fellow Israelite male’s wife. The main reason was because of paternal certainty I.E, a male is unable to know if he’s the father of a child. In this case, inheritance had to do with knowing that fact that you are offering your blessing to a child that you know is yours. Secondly, adultery was a crime against property (remember, the Ten Commandments assumes that women were property of their male authority figures).[x] The eighth commandment, which pertains to prohibitions against stealing, are found in the United States legal code and also state criminal codes. As was so with murder, every well-developed society, including those that existed before the 10 Commandments were written, had laws that similarly prohibited stealing. For example, the Code of Hammurabi provides a great example of a government that had laws against murder and stealing prior to the Old Testament being written. Also, just like murder, a society would never survive if stealing was sanctioned by the populous as morally permissible. As for the ninth commandment on baring false witness, yes – it is a part of the United States criminal code as well as all 50 states under the term, “perjury.” Now, someone may assert that since we have laws on perjury, our laws are based on the 10 Commandments. However, there are secular reasons for criminalizing perjury. One being that perjury undermines the integrity of our justice system. In fact, no justice system can function properly without compelling individuals to tell the truth while under oath in a setting of justice. Hammurabi was well aware of this when he incorporated laws pertaining to perjury into his “Code.” The text can be reviewed in its entirety here, but the applicable passage that comprises information regarding perjury have been reproduced below:

“Laws Concerning the Operation of the Judicial System

  1. If a free person commits perjury during a murder-trial and the perjury is discovered, that person shall be executed.
  2. If a free person commits perjury during a damage suit, that person will be liable for the damages.”

Ultimately, it’s a good provision, but there are secular reasons to criminalize perjury that have nothing to do with religion. As for the tenth commandment, pertaining to coveting your neighbor’s goods – this would be impossible to enforce because how could the state determine if someone is coveting. This may also lead to thoughtcrime legislation. Furthermore, coveting is the bedrock of our economic system. The idea of “Keeping up with the Jones'” involves coveting and desiring what your neighbor has. As an aside, it is interesting how God lumps the women with the livestock and chattel. Ultimately, therefore, the idea that our laws are based on the 10 Commandments is dubious at best and just flat-out false at worse. However, I do agree with Michael Coogans solution to those who insists on putting up Ten Commandments statues on public and government property such as schools and courthouses. Rather than simply putting up their favorite version and eliminating the religious language and references to multi-generational punishment by God, put up all three versions up with the religious ideas so that people can understand the cultural and historical context of the Ten Commandments. I agree with Coogan when he said that, “If it is to be displayed, I suggest that copies of the full text of all three versions of the Decalogue be posted in classrooms and other venues, to teach readers how the Bible was formed over time, and what that implies for its status as a supreme authority.”[xi] The second idea perpetuated by Christian Nation advocates is that the Constitution does have biblical references. For example, Christian Nation advocates will claim that a passage in the book of Isaiah is the inspiration for the separation of powers that every republican government possesses. In sum, the passage talks about God serving three purposes: as a judge, as a ruler (or lawmaker), and as the king, who will save his nation in exile (Israel.[xii] In viewing the passage, Christian Nation advocates are now desperate that they will interpret ambiguous passages to fulfill their point. However, if one examines the passage, one quickly runs into problems in attempting to claim that Isaiah is actually the one responsible for inspiring our founders to set up a republican form of government. The first obvious problem is that the passage has nothing to do with setting up a government system. However, it is a poetic about God’s nation Israel talking about their feeling of being in exile and their hope for return to Jerusalem and its rebuilding. Second, even if we grant that the passage is trying to establish a political system, noticed who fits every role? God is judge, God is the ruler or (lawmaker), and God is the king. So, God actually has absolute power in this passage. If that were the case, then the passage in Isaiah doesn’t even come close because the system prescribe by Isaiah is actually the system of government we were fighting against in the revolutionary war, that one person has absolute power, rather than the actual source for our rights originating with the people. As it was in the Preamble to the Constitution, it is actually all of us, the people, who are responsible to elect those who will maintain our fundamental rights. So, the idea that the separation of powers is actually a biblical concept or that the founders were influenced by the Bible in this regard is ludicrous at best. So, where did the idea of separating the powers of the legislative, executive, and judiciary come from? Like all of the Founding Fathers ideas, the idea of separation of powers originated with enlightenment thinkers. For the separation of powers, the founders turned to political philosopher Baren de Montesquieu. In his magna opas, The Spirit Of The Laws, Montesquieu says in commenting on the Constitution of England, “In each state there are three sorts of powers: legislative power, executive power over the things depending on the right of nations, and executive power over the things depending on civil right.”[xiii] Montesquieu further points out that if any of the separate branches of power combined, I.E, if the executive and legislative arms of the government are one in the same, their is nothing to stop a tyrant from passing tyrannical laws and enforcing those laws.[xiv] In either case, if the legislative and judicial arms of the government are one in the same, citizens have no liberty. Montesquieu concludes that the legislative, executive, and judiciary should operate without any interference among the three branches. This was further expanded by James Madison, the father of the constitution, when he points out that yes, it would be best for each branch to work separately without interference, but as Montesquieu also noted, the three branches of government do not work in a vacuum, so they must work together and not interfere with one another where one person or branch gets too powerful. Madison uses the senate as one of his examples. He notes that the Senate is a lawmaking body, but it serves a judicial role in the case of impeachment. Likewise, the President and senate have shared powers in nominating and approving judges to the Supreme Court or any other inferior court.[xv] Madison’s solution is a system of checks and balances, where one branch has limited power of another branch in order to check the power of that one branch.[xvi] To used Montesquieu’s example, in order to check the laws passed by the legislative branch, the head of the executive branch has the right to veto laws passed by the legislative branch. This power is given to the head of the executive branch (the president of the United States, in this case) to serve as a check on the legislature.[xvii]

What Would A Christian Nation Look Like?

So far, we have demonstrated that we are not and cannot be a Christian Nation in the legal sense because the Constitution strictly prohibits Congress or any other legislative body from passing laws that would entangle religion and politics; and that furthermore, the founders valued the idea of enlightenment principles such as reason and even scientific inquiry. However, let’s examine a hypothetical construct of a Christian Nation. What would this hypothetical Nation entail? Well first of all, as we established above, we would have to determine a sound definition for “Christian.” In last week’s post, I provided the fact that Christians cannot seem to agree on the principles that Jesus upheld. To that end, a Christian Nation would be no different then modern-day politics. However, most individuals who claim that we are a Christian Nation tend to espouse ultra-conservative positions. With this in mind, let’s grant the idea that we are a Christian Nation and our laws are based on the 10 Commandments. How would this be? The first right that would be discarded is our fundamental freedoms of conscious and speech. These freedoms are essential for a free society to function. However, the First commandment is explicit about its order for humans that no other God is to be worshipped, besides Yahweh. And not only Yahweh, but the correct version of Yahweh. Moreover, if we did become a Christian Nation, encouraging others to worship Yahweh in an unauthorized manner or even belong to other religions is a crime known as Idolatry – and if we go by the Bible, the penalty is clear for those who commit idolatry, encourage Idolatry, or apostasy (or those who leave the right religion). In Deuteronomy 13, God through Moses lays out the proper method to respond to such individuals.[xviii] So, the answer is to execute those individuals. This is to say that not only atheists are in big trouble, but Muslims, Jews, and even those who are the “wrong kind” of Christians. Preserving religious freedom, therefore, is not only the job of atheists, but rather the responsibility of all Americans because even if the atheists are extinguished from existence, your religion could be next. Secondly, laws would have to be put in place that could limit the freedom of speech. The third commandment prohibits blasphemy or speaking ill against God and/or the church. Furthermore, the Bible says that individuals should not only speak ill against God, but individuals should not also speak ill against their political leaders as well.[xix] We are now talking about individual’s fundamental rights to speech, the press, even the right to protest being discarded. Also, just like openly worshiping other Gods, the Bible also has a clear civil penalty for those who speak ill against God and his ministers on Earth. More and more, we are looking like the Islamists nations that we are fighting in the middle east. Some may argue that a Christian would not limit fundamental freedoms of speech or the right to protest, unlike the Islamist nations you are talking about. However, recent history betrays this thought. In 2012, members of a Russian feminist punk rock band, Pussy Riot were jailed on the charge of blasphemy and in particular, blasphemy while protesting against the reelection of Putin as president. So, limiting free speech is not only bad for the irreligious or the “wrong” type of theist, but it is actually bad for everybody. The freedom to express one’s self is the most fundamental right that needs to be granted for a free and democratic society to function. The following video may help in explaining what we are talking about. In fact, the series linked above is the inspiration for this post.

We could also look forward to changes in the social structure as well. As Edward Buckner points out, well-known dominionist have express that women shouldn’t have any authority at all. In fact, some have even expressed that they shouldn’t even have the right to vote.[xx] The origin of this type of attitude can also be derived from the Bible. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul advises that women should not be in any place of authority over men, that they should be silent and subservient to their male authority figures.[xxi]

Another change we can expect is the widespread use of capital punishment. The Bible lists a myriad of “crimes” that are death-eligible, alongside the standard murder and rape. As pointed out by Helen Prejean, in arguing against the death penalty, she points out that capital punishment can be used for crimes such as:

Contempt of parents (Exodus 21:15, 17; Leviticus 24:17); trespass upon sacred ground (Exodus 19:12-13; Numbers 1:51; 18:7); sorcery (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27); bestiality (Exodus 22:19; Leviticus 20: 15-16); sacrifice to foreign gods (Exodus 22:20; Deuteronomy 13:1-9); profaning the sabbath (Exodus 31:.14); adultery (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22: 22-24); incest (Leviticus 20:11-13); homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13); and prostitution (Leviticus 21:19; Deuteronomy 22: 13-21). And this is by no means a complete list.[xxii]

Along this road, the government may end up having to monitor what happens in one’s bedroom, since homosexuality may be criminalized as well. The Bible is also clear that the prescribed punishment is death to all homosexuals. To that end, we may end up being like in the novel, 19:84, where the government may monitor individual behaviors through a device (telescreen) And yet, the exact same individuals arguing for a Christian Nation also oppose government surveillance. However if we become a Christian Nation this could in fact, be the future of America.

If we become a Christian Nation, this could be the future of America https://remedyoffanaticism.wordpress.com

If we become a Christian Nation, this could be the future of America
https://remedyoffanaticism.wordpress.com

Finally, what we can also expect is the end of our republican-democracy. If one actually takes the time and examines the Bible, one sees that the prescribed form of government is a theocratic state, as demonstrated by the Israelites. In fact, the concept of a representative government was alien to them. The laws implemented came directly from God or by those who spoke in the name of God. As shown above, the Bible speaks against those who challenge their government in terms of speaking up against them. A clear example of God’s judgement on those who speak against Gods appointed leaders can be found in the Book of Numbers. In fact, chapter 16 is dedicated to God killing those who disagree with his prophet, Moses. In a republican-democracy such as the United States, disagreements are dealt with by discourse and discussion, where all points of view are considered. The New Testament does not resolve this idea either. In Paul’s epistle to the Romans, Paul reiterates the idea that God actually appoints government and that those who wish to challenge governmental practices are incurring judgement on themselves.[xxiii] Now, as an attempt to get away from this quasi-totalitarian state that a Christian Nation may face, apologist may point out that the edict in Romans does not apply to despotic government. However, when one studies the origins of Romans, they quickly have a problem. Paul was writing Romans when Niro was in power. You, the audience can do your research on Niro’s attitude on the Christians, but as a primer, his crimes against humanity are very well-known to historians. Furthermore, some may say that although, the government prescribed in the Bible is not republican, Jesus did say to love one’s neighbor as yourself, which is the bedrock of a democratic republic. However, just like the passage in Isaiah, this too is merely grasping at straws. Sure, a free and open society requires reciprocity, but it doesn’t go the other way around. The concept of reciprocity can be divorced from a democratic state, for instance, a benign dictatorship (hypothetically speaking).

In modern times, groups such as Dominionist want to see America either become a Christian state or return to its golden age as a Christian Nation. As Chris Hedges (an Ordained Presbyterian minister) points out in his amazing book, American Fascist (I, Jessica really enjoyed reading this book and encourage everyone who is interested in this topic to give this book a read), Dominionists are working diligently to see to it that this becomes a reality. As Hedges points out, they have begun by changing the definitions of words to fit their agenda and cloak the new words in American terms.

For instance, the term liberty to us is the fundamental freedoms of speech, conscious, the press, etc. However, Dominionist have taken the word and bastardized it to market their views to the general public and to assure believers of their beliefs. By liberty, Christian Nation advocates are referring to the liberty found in accepting and obeying the laws of God. This is what Hedges calls Logocide or the bastardizing of words for propaganda purposes.[xxiv] This totalitarian method is similar to what is seen in 1984, in the concept of Newspeak. As Orwell points out, this notion of Newspeak is meant to not only destroy the meaning of words, but to put the citizenry in a mindset in order to be manipulated by “the party.”[xxv] One way to see how Newspeak can be used to manipulate the citizenry in 1984 is a conversation between Winston Smith (the protagonist) and Syme, Smith’s comrade and expert on newspeak. Syme tells Winston that the newest edition of the newspeak dictionary will contain fewer words because some of the words are simply redundant. Syme uses the word “good,” for example. With the word “good,” there is no need for the word “bad.”[xxvi] The same thing can be said about any other term in Newspeak, such as freedom, peace, and ignorance, the party slogan. With fewer words to express oneself and the move to translate every piece of literature intoNewspeak, it is easier to manipulate the citizenry of Oceania – their desire, after all, is to eliminate any dissenting views.[xxvii] Furthermore, in demonstrating how totalitarian the movement of some Christian Nation advocates are, they encourage followers to keep any dissenting information out of mind and out of their families/communities. These parents usually home-school their children for the sole purpose of teaching them their narrow and often mistaken view of Christianity. Nothing is taught that challenges their worldview, which is to say that skepticism is discouraged.

Most fundamentalists home school their children to teach them their narrow conception of Christianity, where no challenge their worldview is allowed. Hence they are in a sort of Plato's Cave, where the parents merely masquerade concepts to them, like in Plato's Cave.

Most fundamentalists home school their children to teach them their narrow conception of Christianity, where no challenge their worldview is allowed. Hence they are in a sort of Plato’s Cave, where the parents merely masquerade concepts to them, like in Plato’s Cave.

The Earth was created in 6-literal days. They hear it again at church. They are told that we are a Christian Nation and that atheists are the enemy of America. They are funneled into Christian colleges such as Pat Robertson’s Regent University, and the cycle starts over again.[xxviii] I (Jessica) have seen and have experienced what happens when this mindless indoctrination occurs. Christian Nation advocates, just like the Church administration in the Iglesia Ni Cristo, demand blind obedience and any type of challenge to their authority is considered “sinful.” Theists along with secularists ought to fight for a religiously free nation. Theist may think that they will be safe so long as they are Christian, but Dominionist and Christian Nation advocates have a narrow view – precisely due to this indoctrination process. It is every American’s responsibility to defend the Constitution against those who wish to bastardize it for personal or ideological gain. Whether or not you identify as Christian, you will be subjected to the restrictions on freedom and liberty – which is precisely what the founding fathers intended to eliminate. If the prospect of such restrictions being bestowed upon you is disconcerting, then bear in mind what has been noted above (I.E, the first sentence of this paragraph).

Trouble Brewing in the Iglesia Ni Cristo

Iglesia Ni Cristo Central Temple: Queson City, Philippines https://remedyoffanaticism.wordpress.com

July 27, 2015 marks the 101st anniversary of the day upon which the Iglesia Ni Cristo was founded in the Philippines. Our initial intention was to celebrate this anniversary with a dissection of the audio recordings Jessica captured during the sermons she attended, as well as address the “biblical prophecy” upon which this church was established; however, we were preempted. This is due to the current rift in the church administration that could potentially lay a fatal blow to the institution as it is presently. The tension has been brewing for a while, but it achieved its pinnacle recently due to a number of significant affairs within the church.

A Note to our readers. Some of the articles linked to this post contain sections that are in Filipino. For those who do not read the language or speak it, I have provided an online translator. Simply type or copy and past the string of text you want translated and it will be done for you. You can find the translator here

While visiting Maryland for a weekend with a relative, I was able to meet with an acquaintance of mine who resides in the eastern half. This acquaintance, who my relative and I established should be appropriately addressed as “the super-duper Catholic friend,” remarked that she would not be available for a meal at a restaurant due to her being invited elsewhere by a friend of hers who was experiencing a few troubles. By happenstance, this individual was a member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. I inquired about the troubles of her friend (in an attempt to secure a bit of information regarding the goings on within this institution of which Jessica is a member, but doing so with the facade that suggested that I was in actuality concerned for her friend), to which she responded that they pertained to a number of affairs that transpired among the ministers of the church. Following a brief pause, she proceeded to note, initially to my dismay, that she wasn’t particularly familiar with the goings on of the organization herself – aside from what her friend supplied her with. A second brief pause ensued, which I abruptly concluded by inquiring further.  What I was able to gather from both her account, along with a bit of online research, was that following the death of Eraño Manalo in 2009, the previous leader of the organization, a power struggle commenced. Some felt that Eraño’s youngest son, Marco, ought to be the next executive minister. (In a moment, you may determine that Dear Leader, a title given to the North Korean dictator, is a more appropriate title), although an overwhelming majority felt that the wishes of Eraño should be respected by selecting Eduardo as the next Dear Leader. Despite the preference of members for the minister to select Marco, Eraño appointed his older son, Eduardo, as deputy executive minister, potentially to groom him to be the successive executive minister. Ultimately, the church counsel (Sanggunian), which is comprised of unelected ministers hand-selected by the Manalos, selected Eduardo to be executive minister. Eduardo’s first order of business, in an act of someone experiencing an extreme ego-trip, was to either strip ministers of their ministership or even excommunicate those who showed support for Edwardo’s younger brother, Marco. After this affair, the supporters of Marco went underground and kept their opinions about Marco to themselves out of risk of being excommunicated. Of course excommunication best be evaded by those affiliated with the church, as it comes with various social consequences such as being shunned by members of the church, which comes as an order from The Dear Leader himself. Furthermore, if a minister is stripped of his duty or excommunicated, the consequences are much greater because on top of the shunning, they also jeopardize their respective family’s financial stability.

Returning to 2015…

The trouble began when Eduardo’s younger brother, Angel, uploaded a video to YouTube alleging that their lives were in danger (potentially alluding to their own or that of their other brother Marco, who Eduardo wanted to get rid of (this is our suspicion)). Angel also alleged widespread corruption by the church. The next voice in the video you hear is the mother of Angel and Eduardo, Christina (Tenny) Manalo, who alleges that ministers were kidnapped to prevent them from speaking out against the corruption. The video can be found below:

One concern that Angel had was that money given by members in terms of offerings were used for non-religious purposes, such as the construction of the Philippine Arena. Indeed, in accordance with one source, “Angel particularly questioned the construction of the $200 million or P7.8 billion Philippine Arena within the 50-hectare Ciudad de Victoria property of the Iglesia ni Cristo in Bocaue, Bulacan.” The article notes that the requisite materials for the assembling of this arena were purchased for with the donations supplied by members. To further remain on the subject of misuse of monetary offerings by members of this organization, it has been alleged that there has also been the purchasing of luxury goods by high ranking ministers. This was made explicit by Roel Rosal, who was quoted in a wikipedia article talking about the controversy that, “claimed that auditor Jun Santos and his staff are using donations for the INC to purchase luxury vehicles to satisfy their own decadent lifestyle”

On July 23, 2015, a few hours after the video was posted on the internet, Eduardo’s mother and siblings were excommunicated for “sewing division in the church.”Also, just like all excommunication orders that are read, The Dear Leader urged all members around the world to prevent them from stepping foot on church property and to completely shun them I.E, refuse to speak or notice them.

After the video was posted, a firestorm began to brew and others began speaking out against the corruption. Isaiah Samson Jr, The former editor of their evangelizing magazine, Pasugo (God’s Message), spoke up. He alleged that their were irregularities in the financial reports of the church. Also, Isaiah and his family were alleged to be illegally detained by the Sangguian and its cronies of armed men. They were able to escape after telling the armed guards that they wanted to attend the midweek church services, during this time they fled and began speaking out against the corruption of their church. On July 24, it was announced that Isaiah Samson Jr and his entire family (don’t know to what extent) were excommunicated from the church for, “Rebellion against The Dear Leader (church administration)”. The rebellion being alluded to may be the fact that Isaiah was conducting interviews in order to launch criticisms at the leadership structure of the Iglesia Ni Cristo or the fact that he never repudiated his support for Angel Manalo et al. As an aside, it is not odd that if one person is excommunicated, the whole family gets tossed also. When Jessica was relaying this point to me, she alerted me about a story she heard while in high school. She remembers a teenage girl getting pregnant and as a result her and her parents were tossed out of the church. Her, for getting pregnant and thus (having sex before marriage), and her parents for not raising her the right way (for not being a good member of the church and watching her every move). According to the Wikipedia article linked above, the church administration accused him of posing as Antonio Ebangelista (a pseudonym used by a blogger to report on corruption within the church administration). This blog was later hacked by individuals associated with the Iglesia Ni Cristo, but he is back online. You can find the website here. Despite the fact he is excommunicated and speaks against the internal structure of the church, Samson claims to still be a follower of the Iglesia Ni Cristo and its teachings. Although we agree that corruption may be taking place, we ask: why stay in an organization that is corrupt and why support a church that promotes shunning of excommunicated members and a myriad of activities that could be considered immoral to a civilized society? This is our question to him and people like him. Another former member, Joy Yuson, the individual in charge of the television department of the church, concurs with Isaiah’s statement by alleging that the charitable organization (Aid to Humanity) is a ploy to swindle more money out of its members. According to this article, the church is able to receive up to 1 billion Philippine pesos a week in offerings and other “special” offerings such as the Aid To Humanity offerings (approximately 22 million dollars) from all its members all over the world. As an aside, the church is quick to teach that it is every member’s duty to participate in Christian Giving (code word for giving bountiful offerings). As the Bible says in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The friend of the super-duper Catholic acquaintance of mine was told in the church that this money was used to purchase new chapels; however, Yuson points out that the money is used to also fund the lavish lifestyles of Eduardo, his immediate family (wife and children), and the Sanggunian. The above news article conveys that some of the wives of the ministers are able to buy purses that are up to 10 thousand dollars and that the ministers drive luxury cars. Furthermore, learning this from the insider information I was able to obtain, the Manalos are really “fly” when they visit the United States. They have their own private plane (upon further examination, the article notes that the plane used by The Dear Leader and his band of cronies costs about 3.6 billion Philippine Pesos or over 80 million dollars. To keep this in prospective, the average Filipino school teacher makes approximately 16,500 Philippine Pesos or about $360 a month. This is the type of people who the Iglesia Ni Cristo are swindling money from for their own gain) and they have a mob of people that they take when they travel including a doctor and armed security. Finally, they stay in 5 star hotels and they are even able to rent the penthouse suites in these hotels. Jessica was able to snoop around and was able to hear that The Dear Leader and his band of cronies were able to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on each occasion that they travel to the United States or anywhere outside the Philippines. Roel Rosal, still another former minister of the church, was excommunicated when he attempted to speak out against the corruption. He was the individual who alleged that ten ministers were held hostage in the Iglesia Ni Cristo compound. He also alleged that ministers in the Province of Bulacan (about 20 miles from the capital, Manila) were extorting politicians in a cash for votes scheme. For those who are unfamiliar, the church preaches strict unity – this also includes unity in politics. So, the Iglesia Ni Cristo votes as a bloc. The way this is conducted is that the church administration hand selects who the members are to support and as a deterrent, the church excommunicates those who either do not vote and are able to do so, or vote for unauthorized individuals. I (Jessica) also suspected that what causes the church to vote for someone over another is the money that may be changing hands, so this suspicion of mine is confirmed to an extent. One instance of this occurring would be the 2013 political elections that were conducted in the Philippines. According to one source, it has been suggested that extortion among local politicians and the Iglesia Ni Cristo was being exercised – which is to say that money was being exchanged for votes by the church and its constituent members.

Finally, due to the firestorm, one minister, in particular believes that alerting the members of the excommunication of the Manalo family and that of Isaiah Samson Jr’s family betrayed his conception of what is right. As a function of this, a minister, Louie Cayabyab, refused to read the excommunication orders, and alerting his congregation that he may be stripped of his ministership and potentially excommunicated himself for defying the church administration. He urged the members to stay in the church and to continue serving God. Though I no longer agree with Louie Cayabyab on theological issues, I have a deep respect for him for what he did. The video of him refusing to read the excommunication orders can be found below:

The church’s response to members regarding the ‘fallout of the scandal’ is very simple: excommunicate those who show any sign of interest in supporting the excommunicated members of the Manalo family or who even entertain the claims made by Isaiah Samson Jr. Jessica was able to find out that a very close family friend and his family were excommunicated from the church simply because her friend liked and commented on a post on Facebook, where he expressed his support for reforming the church administration and calling for greater transparency of what the money they are giving is used for. The problem that the acquaintance of my super-duper catholic friend had was that her cousin was actually excommunicated because he similarly liked and commented on a Facebook post of her support for the excommunicated members of the Manalo family. To squash any further dissenting views, both Jessica and the friend of my super-duper Catholic acquaintance told me that a head count and re-registration of members would take place. During this registration process, Jessica disclosed to me that the church administration is asking for personal information. Along with the standard name and address, they are also asking if anyone has any social media accounts such as Facebook, YouTube, etc. Moreover, members are asked to provide log-in information such as user names and passwords to any social media or email accounts that are used. Finally, under penalty of excommunication, members are to sign that everything is true and accurate. Perhaps, they are asking for this information in order to hack into the social media accounts of members, in order to monitor activity to determine if anyone is expressing dissenting views against the Church administration or The Dear Leader, as well as expressing support for the excommunicated members of the Manalo family or viewing the videos put out by Isaiah Samson Jr. Jessica noted to me that this is looking more and more like the totalitarian state found in North Korea or even Big Brother in 1984. I would be foolish to disagree.

In conclusion, Koda and I have a message to share with all individuals involved. If you recall from our introductory post, our main goal isn’t to convince people to be atheists at all. We want people to think about what they believe and why they believe it. First of all, let’s remember that we are dealing with allegations. Nothing has been proven, so we cannot definitively claim to know what is true and what is merely the expression of bad blood among former members. However, Koda and I have a suspicion pertaining to which direction the scale is tipping towards. The answer is that corruption may be occurring, though again, we cannot prove this definitively. However, for individuals to be acting on behalf of Jesus, they are far from acting Christ-like. The fact that they swindle money from members, who may oftentimes be poor and lonely, is morally reprehensible. My first message is to Mr. Cayabyab. Out of the deep respect that I, Jessica, have for you and your gesture, I just have to say, if the world were filled with people like you – people, who spoke truth to power, who refused to conform, though it would have been easy to do so, and who do not compromise their moral integrity in the face of adversity — the world would be a better place. I commend you for what you did. Though your motives for speaking truth to power are of alternative motives than ours, we understand your motives are pure and what you feel is right

To those individual members who are fearful of expressing your views out of fear of being excommunicated: I, Jessica understand your fear and the social stigma that accompanies being given the “heave-ho” from the church. However if you are interested in reforming the church and stopping the cash flow to their luxury cars, and private plane, the only way is to leave the religion. Once again, I ask you, what do you believe? And, why do you believe it? For those who are scared, but have emotionally checked out of the religion, there are groups of skeptics and indeed various other Christian denominations who and that are willing to embrace you. In sum, there are alternatives that are available. You don’t have to support a corrupt organization, whose interest is to merely make a quick buck off of you.

As for those who have decided to stay loyal to The Dear Leader and his band of marry men, all  I have to say is, “Wake up!” Don’t be afraid to use the brain that your God has said he gave you. You can conduct your own objective research without The Dear Leader’s permission. And as an aside, to those who say that indoctrinating children isn’t so bad, this is an example of indoctrination gone very wrong. These people had the idea drilled into their head that whatever the church administration says is from God and in some circles, The Dear Leader is deified I.E, he is infallible in his preaching. Also, they are scared of voicing their opinions because of the pending excommunication that is soon to follow. As the website of Antonio Ebangelista notes, members believe that being tossed by the church is even worse than death itself. So, after seeing this and not coming to the conclusion that this level of indoctrination does nothing good, but all it does is poison minds I.E; discourages skepticism; instill unreasonable fear of something unproven; blind obedience to authority; etc., then I question if you understand the magnitude of this. In sum, do your own research, don’t be afraid and their are alternative groups out there who are willing to embrace you.

As for The Dear Leader and his Band of gangster cronies. I don’t know if these allegations are true, but if they are, you are the scum of the Earth. Shame on you for targeting oftentimes poor, desperate, and lonely individuals. Note this, we will continue to follow up and we will continue to expose the way that you swindle people’s money for your greedy gain. As shown above, your church thinks it can threaten people by hacking into their computers. We dare you to try to silence us. If you do, we have the FBI on speed dial, so I’d like for you to test us. Also, we have groups of followers and atheist groups who are willing to support us and our work. Perhaps, you should heed to the words of the purported head of your church when he said, “And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”   His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for thy house will consume me.”” (John 2:16-17).

Lastly, to our readers, we hope our message wasn’t too harsh. Koda and I cannot stand and will not put up with that kind of immoral behavior — hence the rather impolite manner with which we addressed the church administration. We will update you on the happenings of the Church of Christ. Also, Jessica was able to obtain secret footage of the reading of the excommunication orders for both the family of Eduardo Manalo and that of Isaiah Samson Jr. We will do everything possible to release that recording next week. Until we meet again, don’t forget to achieve the courage to use your own reason!

Notes

[i] Michael Coogan, The Ten Commandments: A Short History of an Ancient Text (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 21.

[ii] Ibid, 7

[iii] Article I, Section 7:

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

[iv] Edward M. Buckner and Michael E. Buckner, In Freedom We Trust (New York: Prometheus Books, 2012), 192.

[v] Michael Coogan, Ten Commandments, 73

[vi] Ibid

[vii] Buckner and Buckner, Freedom, 134-5

[viii] Christopher Hitchens, god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Hachette Books, 2007), 99.

[ix] Matthew 5:27-28

“You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.”   But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

All biblical references will come from the Revised Standard Version (RSV).

[x] Michael Coogan, Ten Commandments, 84

[xi] Ibid, 34

[xii] Isaiah 33:21-22

Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken. But there the LORD in majesty will be for us a place of broad rivers and streams, where no galley with oars can go, nor stately ship can pass. For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our ruler, the LORD is our king; he will save us.

[xiii] Anne M. Cohler, Basia Carolyn Miller, and Harold Samuel Stone, trans., Montesquieu: The Spirit of the Laws (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 156.

[xiv] Ibid, 157

[xv] John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, The Federalist Papers (New York: Random House, 2001), 308-11

[xvi] Ibid, 330

[xvii] Cohler, Miller, and Stone, Montesquieu, 163

[xviii] Deuteronomy 13:1-11

“If a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder,   and the sign or wonder which he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.   You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him, and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and cleave to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from the midst of you.”

“If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known,   some of the gods of the peoples that are round about you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other,   you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him; but you shall kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.   You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.   And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and never again do any such wickedness as this among you.

[xix] Exodus 22:28

“You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.”

[xx] Buckner and Buckner, Freedom, 165

[xxi] 1 Timothy 2:11-15

Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness.   I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve;   and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.   Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

[xxii] Helen Prejean, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), 195.

[xxiii] Romans 13:1-2

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

[xxiv] Chris Hedges, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (New York: Free Press, 2006), 14-8.

[xxv] George Orwell, 1984 (San Diego: Harcourt, 1949), 495.

[xxvi] Ibid, 84

[xxvii] Ibid, 85

[xxviii] Chris Hedges, American Fascists, 26

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America: A Secular Nation? Part 1 Plus a Gay Marriage Update

I have said all along that America is based on Judeo-Christian beliefs and, you know, nobody has to believe me though. You can just go to our Founding Fathers' early documents and see how they crafted a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution that allows that Judeo-Christian belief to be the foundation of our lives.

Hi Everyone!

I hope everyone enjoyed the 4th of July holiday weekend. I (Jessica) enjoyed it with a pool party and barbecue at my aunt Sarah’s place plus we traveled to the nearest firework show near where I live. Koda, however, due to his mild aversion for fireworks, visited a museum (and learned quite a bit about Pixar animation) and rested a bit.

Before we begin, we would like to thank everyone who has liked and supported our page thus far. A very big thank you goes to Word Press user fluidplans for his subscription. I took a look at his website and I really enjoyed the material on his website. Also, a big thank you goes to SECULAR SCARLET for her subscription. I (Jessica, took a look at her website and I think her work is amazing, so check it out. Our final shout-out goes to Word Press User Belinda Crane for her subscription. Her short stories are great and I think you’ll be entertained to read her stories. As a reminder, if you enjoy the content of our blogs, please like and subscribe. And if you want to make any suggestions or criticisms (especially criticisms, as these will enable us to improve our posts), drop a comment or contact us. Your feedback is appreciated!

This week, we’ll be talking about a subject that was recurring throughout the Fourth of July party I attended (and such a subject, moreover, appears frequently among media sources). Namely, the notion that our country is, or ought to be, a “Christian Nation.”

As you may be familiar, we are into definitions – and definitions are crucial in this context. We therefore ask, what do people mean when they say “Christian Nation?” The idea of a Christian Nation requires exploration – a terse “yes” or “no” response to the question of whether the U.S. is a Christian Nation is not suitable. But in sum, legally speaking, we are not a Christian Nation and all members of this country, not excluding Christian adherents, should be proud that we live in a nation where religion isn’t a matter of politics and that everyone has the right to worship however they want or not worship anything at all.

A Christian Majority Nation

If individuals maintain that we are a Christian Nation, perhaps they are alluding to the idea that Americans are deeply religious. To this end, they would well be correct: according to the latest polls by Gallup, 75% of Americans identify as Christians. Therefore, we are overwhelmingly a Christian supermajority nation. However, saying that we are a Christian majority nation isn’t what a significant fraction of the “Christian Nation” advocates mean by us being a Christian Nation – an idea that we will address in a moment. Secondly, however, so what? According to the most recent census (2013), we are a white majority nation, with caucasians constituting 77.7% of the population. However, you will never hear anyone proclaim: “Since we are a white majority nation, therefore, we are a white nation!” Of course, the only people you will hear this type of rhetoric from are racists and white nationalists, but that is another topic altogether. So are we a Christian Majority Nation? No doubt. However, this is not what Christian Nation advocates intend to communicate.

Christian Nation: American Civil Religion?

As a connection to the idea that we are a Christian Nation, perhaps they mean that we are culturally Christian. Since we are a Christian majority nation, it must follow that we are culturally Christian. And indeed, we are very much culturally Christian. By culturally Christian, we are alluding to the fact that since an overwhelming percentage of Americans identify as Christians, we can see the influence of Christianity in how we view the United States and/or the government. One way of seeing it is by turning to the phenomenon that Robert Bellah has coined the “United States’ civil religion.” Bellah, by using this term, was noting that people bestow our national icons such as the Constitution, the president, holidays such as the 4th of July, and even our constitutional rights of freedom and liberty with sacred-like qualities.[i] These qualities may have Christian origins, but they are not Christian per se. For instance, Bellah points out an example of American civil religion in one of John F Kennedy’s presidential speeches, where he references the divine origins of the United states and acknowledges a deity for the good fortune of the United States.[ii] In a more modern example, as noted by Kenneth Wald and Allison Calhoun-Brown in their book, Religion and Politics in the United States, after the 9/11 attacks on American soil, President Bush told the nation to recommit themselves to the American civil religion by supporting him in his war against terrorism and to devote themselves to community service.[iii] The deity they both are alluding to isn’t Jesus per se, because if they wanted to reference Jesus, they could have done so explicitly. Rather, the Deity that Kennedy alludes to, and by extension, George W. Bush, is more or less a unitarian God that can fit a host of various spiritual positions on God.[iv] Wald and Calhoun-Brown illustrate that the origin of American civil religion can be derived from the Puritan settlements and their desire to escape religious persecution (though they never did extend the same courtesy to other religious groups besides their own). For those who may be unfamiliar, the Puritans were a subset of the Church of England.

APuritan settler's portrait https://remedyoffanaticism.wordpress.com

APuritan settler’s portrait
https://remedyoffanaticism.wordpress.com

They upheld that the Church of England was still steeped in Roman Catholic practices (which they regarded as a false religion). The Puritans had very little support in England and were usually persecuted and even jailed due to their beliefs. So, the Puritans decided to leave England to attempt to escape religious persecution by the Church of England. Wald and Calhoun-Brown use the idea of the Covenant to illustrate not only the hopes of the Puritans, but even how we sometimes view our founding documents, to which we turn to next.

The idea of the Covenant was the driving force for the Puritans in their quest to propagate what they believed was the true religion and to be a model Christian society or, “A City upon a hill.”[v] In the religious sense, the Covenant is an agreement between God and his chosen people. Take the covenant or agreement between God and Abraham, for example: Abraham promises complete loyalty to Yahweh and Yahweh promises to be a God to Abraham and to his descendants forever, which kick starts the religion of Judaism.[vi] God also makes a promise with Moses and the Israelites who came out of slavery from Egypt.[vii] God delivers the Israelites from bondage in Egypt and as an agreement, the people pledge to be loyal to Yahweh and God will be their God and have his favor on them. In the civil religious sense, however, these images drove the Puritans to the New World to Christianize the natives and set up a new Israel, where the people promise to be good Puritans and God promises to bless their lands. Today, the Covenant is not religious per se, but as Wald and Calhoun-Brown point out, the Constitution can be seen as the promise of the American Government to protect the civil rights and liberties of the people.[viii] So, in a sense one can see the origins of civil religion coming from Christian origins. To that end, we are a Christian Nation. That is undebatable. However, Christian Nation advocates do not refer to America being a culturally Christian country, but they are rather and typically referring to the laws we have on the books or ought to pass to truly make America a Christian Nation. This is where we next turn and you, our audience, will see a sharp disagreement.

Christian Nation: A Legal Christian Nation

We have admitted that yes, if we are talking about the fact that Christians are a majority in this country and that our civil religion has Christian influences, then we are a Christian Nation in that sense. However, Christian Nation advocates are not talking about that type of Christian Nation. Perhaps a remark in an article making mention of the notorious David Barton‘s objective as a “Christian nationalist” would illustrate their position:

“[He has been] traveling around the country and all over the world telling audiences that the Founding Fathers were evangelical Christians just like them, and intended to create a nation of, by, and for Christians.”

In other words, what they are saying is that our laws are and should be based on the Bible and “Christian principles.” However, what “Christian” entails is not defined in this phrase. A definition is necessitated due to the incalculable number of Christian denominations within the confines of the United States – which “Christian principles” are being referenced? Indeed, what is then required is a sort of consensus among the denominations regarding a definition.

However, while the exercise of achieving a consensus on a definition may initially seem simple, it really isn’t. As you saw in our last post, the myriad of Christian denominations don’t seem to agree well on the subject of gay marriage. On one side, you have groups like the Catholics and Southern Baptists, and on the other you have the Episcopalians and United church of Christ. To that end, what does it mean to say that our laws should be based on the Bible, if Christians don’t seem to agree on what these laws should be? Moreover, given the propensity for the denominations to be unable to reconcile dissimilarities between their convictions (hence why such denominations have been fashioned), securing a consensus is a challenging task.

In an attempt to save face, Christian Nation advocates will attempt two trains of thought. The first is to say that although there are theological differences between all the groups of Christians, a commonality between them is that they believe in Jesus and that’s good enough. However, as we demonstrated in our third post (under the question that discusses Pascal’s wager), attempting to harmonize all the denominations is nearly impossible. In this context, they all seem to disagree on what values Jesus upheld and hence, a nation based on the values upheld by Jesus is still based on personal preferences. Political liberals, for instance, will claim that Jesus was the first liberal when he said that one cannot serve both God and money.[ix] When siting this passage, Liberals are attempting to argue that Jesus was very much anti-capitalist. Secondly, they look at the structure of the early Christian communities that were organized like communes, where the people gave all their possessions to the Apostles and the Apostles distributed the wealth back to the people to meet the needs of the entire community.[x] From these passages, liberals claim that government should be structured with a strong social welfare system. Conservatives will disagree, however, and maintain that Jesus supported free market capitalism. Some conservatives point to a passage in Luke where Jesus refrained from taking sides in dividing an inheritance and hence, the government should not affiliate itself with economic affairs, just like how Jesus did in that situation.[xi] Also, they point to Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica that anyone who doesn’t work, doesn’t have the right to eat.[xii] . Just saying that all Christians believe in Jesus, therefore, doesn’t resolve the problem because not everyone agrees on what values Jesus upheld and, by extension, what a Christian Nation would look like.

The second train of thought is to attempt to narrow the definition of Christian by calling those who oppose them “Not true Christians.” Unfortunately, aside from it being a reference to the “No true Scotsman Fallacy,” this doesn’t make the problem go away. As we saw in the gay marriage debate, the Southern Baptists would be quick to call those in favor of the Supreme Court ruling as “deceived.” Likewise, many Christians would regard the Southern Baptist position on gay marriage to be unchristian. Therefore, Christians will never come to an agreement on the notion of a Christian Nation, so long as the denominations remain adamant regarding their convictions.

Although we’ve been talking about why we reject the claim that we are a Christian Nation, it’s another thing to demonstrate why we are not a Christian Nation. However, there is a plethora of evidence to illustrate why we are not a Christian Nation. Such evidence exists in the document upon which all American laws must be based, the United States Constitution.

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The photo speaks for itself. Test us if we’re wrong.
https://remedyoffanaticism.wordpress.com

The latter half of Article 6 of the Constitution reads as follows:

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

The Constitution, as noted above, forbids any discrimination to anyone seeking public office under the United States based on one’s religious views. (As an aside, from this legal perspective, the allegations that President Obama adheres to Islam are first of all, not true, and even if true, does not disqualify him from being president.) This is in contrast to countries in Europe back then or during the colonial period, where religious tests were distributed to those who were seeking public office. Indeed, in his fantastic book, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion, historian Frank Lambert notes that in Pennsylvania, a limited version of religious freedom existed, and that those who would like to serve as a civil servant under the colony of Pennsylvania must confess the existence of Jesus. This, in turn, excluded atheists, Jews, and Muslims from obtaining public office.[xiii] By the time of the Constitution, some states still possessed religious tests, but the distributions thereof became a little more relaxed. However, once the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution was passed in 1868 and the court cases that addressed its application to the states, including religious and sectarian laws, religious freedom became the norm.

If we were to be a Christian Nation, the founders could have made it more explicit first by requiring religious tests for those who would like to hold public office under the United States.  An example of how the United States could have established religious tests for any government position can be found in England,. Since the monarch is the head of the Church of England, Catholics are banned from inheriting the throne. The United States could have said, then, that only Christians could be president/Senator/Congressman or only members of a certain denomination, such as Episcopalians, are permitted to hold public office. The fact that they didn’t, and the fact that no religious tests are requisites to holding a position, is a testament to the values of religious freedom, that most of them upheld. Some will contend that states held religious tests for public office historically and hence, we are a Christian Nation in the sense that states were able to conduct such tests. To an extent, one could make that argument. However, as Lambert points out, there were a multitude of religious sects that existed in America that said it expressed the true faith, which is to say again that “Christian” is ill-defined.[xiv] Furthermore, with the passing of the 14th Amendment and its guarantee that states cannot abridge citizens federal rights, the suggestion that America should have religious tests seems out of touch with the modern political landscape. Of course, this provision does not apply to individual citizens, who may conduct tests, which may include religion, in voting for public officials. But, the government cannot compel individuals from adhering to any article of faith or lack thereof as a requirement to public office within the United States.

A second dimension of the Constitution, the First Amendment, which further evidences our contention, comprises the following excerpt:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The Amendment essentially conveys that all individuals have the right to worship or not worship as individuals see fit. Of course, this is within the limits that one’s worship doesn’t infringe on the rights of others or violate federal law, such as drug laws. Nevertheless, the ratification of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution was a revolutionary move because the United States was the first nation that drafted and passed the first secular Constitution.

This is also in contrast to other nations that either limited people’s choices on how people can choose to worship or the government’s involvement in religion.

For example, The Kingdom of Denmark, as of July of 2015, still has an established Church. The Church’s presence is antithesis of a separation of church and state, and such is evident in the state subsidies that are delivered to the church via the state (which is an unprecedented exercise, as it is not found in any other region of the contemporary world). Indeed, in accordance with this Wikipedia article, “The Church of Denmark is the only religious group to receive direct financial support from the state.” Indeed, this idea is drafted within the Denmark Constitution, Article 4, which is quoted verbatim below:

“The Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the Established Church of Denmark, and, as such, it shall be supported by the State.”

Therefore, if our founders wanted to establish a Christian Nation, they did so very poorly, as they did not establish a state religion or give Christianity preference over any other religion. As for the idea of freedom to believe whatever one prefers, as it pertains to the supernatural, this actually runs contrary to key Christian tenants. The very first commandment in the 10 Commandments (A series of religious instructions of key importance to Christians) reads that individuals are not to worship any other God aside from Yahweh.[xv] This will be addressed in further detail shortly, but the idea of allowing religious freedom could in fact be construed as contrary to the commands of God. So, if the founders were trying to based laws based on The Bible, they certainly did a poor job of it. This point will also be discussed in greater detail shortly. Now, there may be individuals who will assert that Massachusetts and the states in New England had state-established religions while granting toleration to other groups who wished to worship as they saw fit, as pointed out by Lambert. Again, however, Lambert precedes to note the struggles that took place during those discussions. In New England, groups like the Baptists felt that granting true religious freedom was the only way to assure that all groups would be able to have the right to believe whatever they wanted without government interference. In fact, individuals like Isaac Backus, the leading Baptist pushing for complete religious freedom rather than toleration, reminded states like Massachusetts that when the Church received favor from the state, it was a recipe for a lack of freedom for its citizenry.[xvi] Backus may have been referring to nations in Europe who may have grant toleration to certain groups to worship as they saw fit, but then removed that right by legal pronouncement.[xvii] Furthermore, as the number of religious sects continued to grow due to the effect and after effect of such events, such as the Great Awakening, it is our suspicion that the state governments decided to align themselves with the federal Constitution.

Further evidence that the First Amendment and the founders meant for the United States to be a secular nation is a Treaty signed between the United States and the nation of Tripoli in 1796. As noted by Edward Buckner, Article 11 of that treaty reads as follows:

“As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”[xviii]

As you can see, by ratifying this treaty with Tripoli, the Senate and John Adams, the one who signed the treaty, made it clear that the United States is not a Christian Nation. This piece of evidence demonstrates that the founders intended the United States to be a secular nation that promotes religious freedom. This is in contrast to the Constitutions of Christian Europe and Colonial America, both which suppressed religious freedom, to an extent.

Christian Nation advocates may be apt to make mention of the religious views of the Founding Fathers as evidence that they intended for America to be A Christian Nation. As you, the audience, may have noticed, we have said nothing about the religious views of the founders. The reason is because it doesn’t matter what their religious views were. What matters is what they drafted to be representative of the “law of the land.” If they wanted to make the United States a Christian Nation, they could have been much more explicit within the Constitution. However, the fact that they guaranteed that everyone has the right to believe and worship as they please and that the government will not select favorites when it comes to religion and religious issues, says a lot about what the founders really valued. They knew that religion was an individual matter and was something between a human and his/her spiritual sense. We will also admit that a majority of the founders were Christians. However, the most influential founding fathers were in actuality deists, including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin.

These individuals were influenced by the Christian teachings all around them, but expressed ambivalence or even critical views of organized religion. According to American historian Edmund Sears Morgan, Benjamin Franklin’s attitude on morality and religion is that true religion is actually doing good and aiding one’s fellow man.[xix] In sum, Franklin differed from his Calvinist upbringing that moral behavior and not mere faith is the most important aspect of being a good person and even a good Christian. Contra Franklin, Calvinists believed that humans are inherently sinful and anything we do is tainted with sin. In other words, they valued one’s faith in Jesus over good deeds. This came to a head when he defended a Presbyterian pastor, with whom he shared the same views on morality and thereby attended services at one of the Presbyterian churches there.

The pastor in question was Samuel Hemphill from Ireland. Hemphill’s views on morality and faith differed from those of orthodox Presbyterians, where they believed that work is simply a sign that one is of the elect. Hemphill and Franklin both saw good deeds as a good in and of itself. In other words, deeds are the ends rather than the mean to the great end (faith). As Morgan pointed out, once that preacher was suspended from his ministry, Franklin vacated the church, never to return.[xx] As David Holmes comments in his book, Faiths of the Founding Fathers, towards the end of his life, perhaps Franklin’s view started to align slightly nearer to orthodoxy. Indeed, Franklin remarked to a Congregationalist minister who inquired about his religious views that he believed in a benevolent God that ought to be worshiped, that moral practices are the best method to serve this God, and that an afterlife exists. Though sounding like orthodox Christianity to an extent, Franklin also made it salient that he had doubts about the doctrine of the trinity, the virgin birth, and other vital doctrines to Christianity.[xxi] Ultimately, however, Franklin saw that religious freedom is an important tenant for a free and republican society.

As for George Washington, Holmes points out that he was a frequent church attendee for a time during his presidency and attended during times of crisis.[xxii] However, as Holmes points out, Washington was never confirmed and, probably most puzzling to Christian Nation advocates, Washington never took Communion.[xxiii] The latter is troubling because for orthodox Christians, communion is a core tenant of the Christian faith. Indeed, according to this article, published by a church institution, Communion is an affair during which participants are to reminiscence upon the ‘irrefutably’ good practices of Jesus Christ and reflect on his death, which, they believe, opens up a pathway between humanity and God. Further, the article notes that a “responsibility of everyone who participates in Communion is to examine himself, so that he can appropriately worship Christ.” It is accentuated in numerous passages throughout the text that the Communion must be properly observed. For those who do not do so, or who perhaps simply abstain altogether from observing communion, there will be ramifications: “Paul also warns that there are dire consequences for those who practice Communion in an unworthy manner … the church [who observes appropriately] will not be condemned along with the rest of the world (i.e. the church should stand apart from the rest of the world).” From this, one can readily gather that Communion is an indispensible practice among orthodox Christians – the threat of condemnation, of course, is best to avoid.

As Washington resided himself to his house in Mt. Vernon, he would attend service less often, possibly due to the distance required to get to his nearest Episcopal Church.[xxiv] Washington’s deism also seeped into his writings and speeches for the nation. As Holmes points out, his speeches spoke about God in general deistic terminology and made little to no mention of Christianity, let alone Jesus, in his speeches. Holmes provides some of the rhetoric used by Washington, such as Providence, God, the architect of the universe, and in speaking with indians, Washington even used the term “Great Spirit.”[xxv]

Like Franklin, Washington was more concerned with morality and not faith, though Washington believed that religious instruction is a pathway to morality.[xxvi] Similar to Franklin, he further believed that a free society cannot function when people are not able to make religious decisions for themselves and not have the government dictate one’s religious adherence. Therefore, Washington too supported religious freedom for all individuals.

Thomas Jefferson is my (Jessica) favorite founding father because he used rather candid language to communicate his religious views.

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The picture Speaks for itself.
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Among his achievements are his two term presidency and the establishment of the (secular) University of Virginia in 1825. Jefferson is most well known for authoring the Virginia bill to establish religious freedom in 1779 (which passed the Virginia state legislature in 1786). Unlike Massachusetts, which kept an established religion by tolerating all other thoughts of conscious, Virginia decided to allow for complete religious freedom. However, this idea did not come without any resistance. As Christopher Hitchens points out in his biography of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Jefferson’s rival, suggested that all Christian denominations, and not one particular denomination, be supported by the state.[xxvii] At this time, it may have sounded reasonable. After all, perhaps 95% of the American population was Christian while the other 5% were Jews, deists and maybe a handful of atheists here and there. But it was James Madison, Jefferson’s fellow Constitutional Convention delegate and good friend, who led the charge against Henry’s proposition. Hitchens quotes from Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, where he wrote, “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular set of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”[xxviii] In other words, Madison recognized that allowing a government to establish Christianity, for example, opens a pandora’s box that may lead a future leader to establish a sect of Christianity, perhaps under threats of violence. Prior to the United States allowing for religious freedom, the founders were aware of the wars and sectarian violence committed when a religious sect had power. Some examples include the Wars of Religion between french Calvinists and Roman Catholics (the established religion in France) and the 30 Year War, between Catholics and Lutherans, which nearly ripped Germany apart.[xxix] This is why people like Jefferson and Madison sought to establish a state and nation where everyone has freedom of Conscious.

As pointed out by Hitchens as well, actual state-sacntioned violence during the colonial period was used by Christians against religious dissenters (usually, other Christians).[XXX]I In Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia, he comments:

“The poor Quakers were flying from persecution in England. They cast their eyes on these new countries as asylums of civil and religious freedom; but they found them free only for the reigning sect. Several acts of the Virginia assembly of 1659; 1662, and 1693, had made it penal in parents to refuse to have their children baptized; had prohibited the unlawful assembling of Quakers; had made it penal for any master of a vessel to bring a Quaker into the state; had ordered those already here, and such as should come thereafter, to be imprisoned till they should abjure the country; provided a milder punishment for their first and second return, but death for their third; had inhibited all persons from suffering their meetings in or near their houses, entertaining them individually, or disposing of books which supported their tenets.”[xxxi]

Given that such ill practices were predicated upon the presence of Christianity within the government, it’s not particularly astonishing that the founding fathers sought to “build up that wall” dividing church and state.

Hitchens finally notes that in a last ditch attempt to insert their Christian stamp onto the Virginia Constitution, Henry and his Ilk attempted to insert “Jesus Christ” in place of God in Jefferson’s bill to establish religious freedom. This motion was struck down convincingly, sending a message that allowing the influence of one religion can potentially lead to government tyranny and state violence against one’s liberty to freely choose a religious/spiritual position.[xxxii] As Lambert points out, the founding fathers wanted to set up a “market place of ideas.,” where religions can compete for members, and falsehoods could be quickly weeded out.[xxxiii]  It was opined by Hitchens that Jefferson’s bill for establishing religious freedom was the inspiration for the First Amendment which granted freedom of conscience and granted that the federal government would not pick favorites when it comes to religious conflict.[xxxiv] One may note, however, that the Declaration of Independence is evidence that Jefferson intended to establish a Christian Nation, and his objective was perhaps not to assemble any sort of instructions as those drafted in the First Amendment. Setting aside that the Constitution and not the Declaration of Independence has any legal power, let us examine what the Declaration of Independence actually reads.

“We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with CERTAIN [INHERENT and] inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”[xxxv]

A Christian Nation advocate may say, “See, I told you that we were a Christian Nation. Jefferson recognized that we were created in the image of God and endowed with unalienable rights, which is precisely prescribed in the Bible.” However, if one examines the text properly rather than jumping to their preconceived conclusions, you will find that Jefferson is far from suggesting that we are a Christian Nation. As Edward Buckner maintains in his fabulous work, In Freedom We Trust, the God Jefferson was referencing was not entirely Christian, but could be mistakenly interpreted as such by readers. [xxxvi] Rather, Jefferson was probably digging into his deistic understandings of God, rather than Christian ideas.

Moreover, one may argue, in a further effort to substantiate their mistaken claim, that he held Jesus in high esteem. This is not a false speculation. However, anyone who actually takes the time to read Jefferson’s ideas on Jesus or Christianity will find that his ideas are far from orthodox. For instance, in his syllabus to Benjamin Rush in 1803, he actually points out that doctrines such as the trinity are perversions and additions to the actual teachings of Jesus.[xxxvii] In fact, its very well-known that Jefferson took a razor and cut threw the Gospels, preserving the teachings of Jesus, that Jefferson thought were actually his and divorcing it from the later superstitions added by the church, including the virgin birth, miracle claims, etc. This is colloquially known as the “Jefferson Bible,” or “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” Furthermore, in his letter to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse in 1822, Jefferson expresses his critical and unforgiving views on Athanasius (an early church father responsible for the creation of the doctrine of the Trinity) and John Calvin (responsible for a major strain in the Protestant Reformation in the 15th century, where he preached that humans are sinful by nature, that works are meaningless and faith is what is required for salvation, and that he holds to Athanasius’ view on the Trinity), but most importantly Jefferson notes that he believed that the young people in his time would die Unitarians (A Christian Sect that denies the doctrine of the Trinity. Probably the closes sect to deism out of all the Christian sects).[xxxviii] In this perspective, Jefferson could be considered a Christian, however, fundamentalists and evangelicals who may embrace the notion that we were/are a Christian Nation would not even consider Jefferson a “true Christian.” As for the Declaration, it can be concluded that Jefferson may have been alluding to deistic and enlightenment principles.

As you can tell, our post is running really long and we have a lot more we want to talk about. So, Koda and I have decided to divided our post into to. Secondly, we haven’t posted in a while, so we wanted to give you guys your post.

An Update on the Gay Marriage Situation:

Thank you to everyone who has liked our post on the Supreme Court Ruling on Gay Marriage. As an update, some city clerks are now refusing to issue marriage licenses in protest of the ruling. In fact, a video has gone viral depicting a gay couple in Kentucky being denied a marriage license by Rowan County clerk, Kim Davis. The video can be found below.

She is not alone – some have refused to officiate marriages and some have resigned because they feel they cannot perform same-sex unions without violating their core beliefs. While I commend the latter group for being honest and respecting their duties by admitting that they cannot serve as proper civil servants. What is even more troubling is that this type of discrimination is done under the guise of religious freedom, a fundamental right that our founding fathers fought for in order to develop a secular and free society. My response to Ms. Davis and her ilk comprises the following:

Under religious freedom, you have the right to harbor those views and you have the right to even express those views in a conducive manner, but you have no right to use religion as a ploy to discriminate against certain individuals. As a clerk, you promised to uphold the Constitution of both your state and the United States. Do your job.

Until we meet again, don’t forget to achieve the courage to achieve your own reason!

Notes:

[i] Robert N. Bellah, “Civil Religion in America,” in Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a Post-traditionalist World, ed. Robert N. Bellah (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1970), 171.

[ii] Ibid, 170

[iii] Kenneth D. Wald and Allison Calhoun-Brown

, Religion and Politics in the United States (Lanham: ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD, 2010), 44.

[iv] Robert Bellah, Civil Religion, 175

[v] Wald and Calhoun-Brown, Religion and Politics, 55

[vi] Genesis 17:1-8

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; [Heb El Shaddai] walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you.   And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

All biblical references will come from the Revised Standard Version (RSV)

[vii] Exodus 19:1-9

On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone forth out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. And when they set out from Reph’idim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mountain. And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel:   You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him. And all the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, “Lo, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you for ever.”

[viii] Wald and Calhoun-Brown, Religion and Politics, 43

[ix] Matthew 6:24

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

[x] Acts of the Apostles 4:32-37

“Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need. Thus Joseph who was surnamed by the apostles Barnabas (which means, Son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus,   sold a field which belonged to him, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

[xi] Luke 12:13-14

One of the multitude said to him, “Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?”

[xii] 2 Thessalonians 3:10

For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat.

[xiii] Frank Lambert, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), Chapter 4.

Note: my e-book edition doesn’t contain page numbers, so I’ve sited the entire chapter.

[xiv] Ibid, Chapter 5

[xv] Exodus 20:3

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

[xvi] Frank Lambert, The Founding Fathers, Chapter 8

[xvii] David L. Holmes, The Faiths of the Founding Fathers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 35.

[xviii] Edward M. Buckner and Michael E. Buckner, In Freedom We Trust (New York: Prometheus Books, 2012), 101-2.

[xix] Edmund Sears Morgan, Benjamin Franklin (New Havenk: Yale University Press, 2002), 20.

[xx] Ibid, 21

[xxi] David Holmes, faiths, 69

[xxii] Ibid, 74-5

[xxiii] Ibid, 76

[xxiv] Ibid, 75

[xxv] Ibid, 79-80

[xxvi] Ibid, 81

[xxvii] Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Jefferson: Author of America (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 55.

[xxviii] Ibid

[xxix] Buckner and Buckner, In Freedom, 69

[XXX] Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Jefferson 56

[xxxi] Thomas Jefferson “Notes on Virginia,” in The Portable Thomas Jefferson, ed. Merrell D. Peterson(New York: Penguin, 1977), 91.

[xxxii] Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Jefferson, 56

[xxxiii] Frank Lambert, Founding Fathers, Chapter 6

[xxxiv] Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Jefferson, 57

[xxxv] Thomas Jefferson “The Declaration of Independence,” in The Portable Thomas Jefferson, ed. Merrell D. Peterson(New York: Penguin, 1977), 98.

[xxxvi] Buckner and Buckner, In Freedom, 83

[xxxvii] Thomas Jefferson “The Morals of Jesus to Dr. Benjamin Rush, with a Syllabus,” in Jefferson: Writings, ed. Merrell D. Peterson(New York: Library of America, 2011), 903-4.

[xxxviii] Thomas Jefferson “A Unitarian Creed to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse,” in Jefferson: Writings, ed. Merrell D. Peterson(New York: Library of America, 2011), 1459-60.

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The Supreme Court Ruling: Love Wins! Plus Fanaticism

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Hi Everyone!

We apologize for the delay in getting you your weekly blog post. A change in plans concerning the topic took place. Well, this week’s topic was actually supposed to be on the No True Scottsman Fallacy, but we’ve been preempted. The reason is because the United States Supreme Court, on Friday, passed down one of the most sweeping decisions in American history. Now, laws that prohibit gay marriage are rendered unconstitutional and hence, gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states around America. Of course, the logistics are going to have to be worked out before gays and lesbians can legally be married. Nevertheless, a few fanatics have come out of the woodwork to condemn the ruling. We’ll be examining the majority opinion by the Supreme Court, the objections and responses by religious groups, and some of the misconceptions of allowing gay marriage proposed by religion. Before beginning, let’s be clear that supporting gay marriage and atheism are not synonymous. However, when religion steps in and uses its power of political and social influence to tell all of us how to behave (according to their personal preferences and biases), then groups like atheists will step in and object to that.

Supreme Court Ruling:

Here we will discuss a basic summary of the Supreme Court ruling and our opinions on the matter. We have both examine the opinion of the Court given by Justice Kennedy and we will also examine the dissenting opinion given by Chief Justice Roberts. Our objective isn’t to give a legal analysis on the matter because we are not qualified to do so, but rather to simply share our reaction to reading the decision. In fact, I encourage everyone to read the decision, which you can find here. At the heart of it all lays a fundamental question that the Justices had to wrestle with: do same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry? Or is the right for same-sex couples to marry a new right created out of judicial activism and bench lawmaking? Kennedy contends that the fundamental right to marry extends to same-sex couples within the context of marriage evolution. Conversely, Chief Justice Roberts maintains that allowing same-sex couples to marry creates a new right (of same-sex marriage) from the judge’s bench and it is unfair to compare same-sex marriage to the other cases brought before the court concerning the right to marry.

For the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy begins by illustrating the context in which marriage has evolved overtime. This point will be discussed more in depth when talking about the objections to gay marriage by religions. Nevertheless, Justice Kennedy points out that marriage in essence is not the romanticized version we think about when we hear the term marriage. Indeed, marriage began as an institution that involved parents arranging marriages for their children for political, religious, and financial reasons. However, as women began to achieve greater political power and personal autonomy, the concept of marriage morphed from a business transaction between two families to a voluntary union that involved falling in love. Yes, Kennedy admits that the core of the matter was that it still involved opposite-sex couples, but with the shifting meaning of marriage throughout the ages, why can’t same-sex couples take part in our changing view of marriage?

In American history, marriage itself has been established as a fundamental right and has continued to change. For instance, if you asked someone what marriage was in the 1920s, you would get the answer that it is the union of a man and woman (of the same race, however – this was the prevalent view). However, in 1967, in the case, Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled that preventing individuals of different races from marrying was unconstitutional and hence, the court struck down the laws of the remaining 16 states that made interracial marriage illegal. Chief Justice Roberts agrees with this point; however, his contention is that although attitudes on who can marry who has changed, the fundamental similarity between it all was that marriage (in the American sense) was between one man and one woman – with the only variable of the qualities of the man and women being married, whether they of different races or if one person is in prison. Kennedy retorts that opponents to same-sex marriage actually have the emphasis in the wrong place I.E, The Loving case did not ask the question if interracial couples have the right to interracial marriage, but simply the right to marry.

Kennedy develops four principles to demonstrate not only that the right to marry is a fundamental right, but that same-sex couples are also entitled to the same rights under one’s right to due process, equal protection, and one’s substantive due process rights such as the right to privacy. In fact, Substantive rights must be assumed a priori before one can even think of granting, for instance, the right to be free from warrantless searches and seizures. We contend that in order to, let’s say, for one to be free from warrantless searches, the notion that a person has the right to a certainty of privacy must be respected and assumed prior.

Kennedy’s four principles are as follows:

  1. The right to marry is a fundamental right as pertains to one’s right to personal autonomy and freedom to make private intimate choices.
  2. It supports a two person-union, which allow two individuals to join together for a sociological good. Furthermore, Kennedy further adds these individuals also have made personal choices to be with the person they marry, allying itself with the first principle.
  3. Marriage gives children a stable family structure in which to flourish. Furthermore, Kennedy cites the fact that children being raised by same-sex parents do just as good, if not better than children coming from opposite-sex unions. Kennedy concludes that not permitting gays and lesbians to marry serves no benefit to the institution of marriage, but weakens the families of those headed by a same-sex couple and gives the children the impres.n that they and their family are second-class citizens.
  4. Finally, Kennedy suggests that marriage from past to present is the linchpin for social order and organization for families.

Though this summary is relatively terse, it gives some of the highlights of the case and I hope it encourages you to actually read the decision for yourselves. I (Jessica) have read it and I find it to be enjoyable.

A few of the statements disseminated by religious institutions on either side of the issue

  1. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

In the afternoon of June 26 (nearly immediately following the “ruling”), an article was published by the USCCB website addressing the subject of the Court ruling – which, evidently, rendered same-sex marriage Constitutionally permissible. For many, this ruling was a cause for a deserving celebration. The USCCB, however, did not participate in such celebratory affairs. Rather, they found the ruling to be troubling. The aforementioned article substantiates this suspicion, as the author thereof used such rhetoric as “a tragic error” when alluding to the ruling. Indeed, the author maintained that “It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.” He proceeded to comment that “Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman,” utilizing this statement to corroborate his assertion that same-sex marriage is morally reprehensible. (These misapprehensions will be addressed in a moment.) As a sort of concluding remark, the author proclaimed that “I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation…” I find that there are remarkable exclaimations, and they will consequentally be replied to in the subsequent section. The Ruling? No.

  1. Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)

Notorious for their ill responses to behaviors within the United States that seem to undermine the teachings of the adhered-to deity, the SBC was not without contentions pertaining to the “ruling.” Fox News bestowed to them a medium upon which they could convey their position to an audience constituting members who share the SBC’s convictions. Though published on June 16, the resulting product remains more than telling of the SBC’s response to the ruling and what it ultimately entailed. The member who was featured most frequently was Dr. Ronnie Floyd, the “elected leadeer of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.” One comment of his remarked, “‘ The Supreme Court of the United States is not the final authority nor is the culture itself.’ … ‘The Bible is God’s final authority about marriage and on this book we stand.'” This is to say, the SBC, and I am suspecting that Dr. Floyd is paradigmatic of the positions of the remainder of the members, is unequivocally and adamantly subscribed to the biblical texts. A second note of his, which very well communicates his perception of Christian denominations that deviate from the conventions of the SBC, is the following: “‘While some evangelicals may be bowing down to the deception of the inclusiveness of same sex marriage, we will not bow down nor will we be silent. We do not need to redefine what God Himself has already defined.'”

The Ruling? No.

  1. United Church of Christ (UCC)

While not the “evangelicals” alluded to by Dr. Floyd, the UCC is an institution that would be discerned as “deceived,” or rather not true Christians for their purportedly repugnant activities. Indeed, the UCC, maintains this article, which it mentions that the UCC was, “the first mainline church to affirm marriage for all people ‘without regard to gender.'” This resolution was achieved approximately a decade ago, which makes ever more astonishing the feat that was accomplished – this was a period during which suppression of aberrant or unconventional urges were encouraged relative to the present. Further, the cited article introduced the figure Rev. Ben Guess, the “first openly gay UCC national officer,” who said the following: “‘How tremendously exciting that we can celebrate this huge historic moment together, as a gathered denomination here at General Synod, at the same time we are also commemorating the 10-year anniversary of our early support for marriage equality and our 30-year open and affirming UCC movement.'”

The ruling? Why, yes!

Common Misconceptions of allowing Gay Marriage

  1. Unnatural

Before having a discussion of this topic, we must first get a definition of “unnatural.” Does unnatural mean that it is not found in nature? If this is the case, then this fact is wrong because plenty of animal partake in homosexual activities such as Bonobos, dolphins, ducks, and bears. You can find a list of animals who have demonstrated homosexual behaviors here. In this case, homosexuality is not unnatural, since it is indeed present in nature (we’ll actually be talking about the evolution of homosexuality in an upcoming post in a couple of weeks, but this is just some basic information to answer the question). Some may reply that we have cited animals, some of whom are our closest relatives, but not humans – as they are “made in the image of God.” Because of this, they may add that homosexuality is unnatural in the same way that it is an abomination as stated in Leviticus 20:13.[i] First of all, before anyone can say this, the existence of God must be established. If not, then anti-gay individuals acting under the guise of Christianity may as well assert that we were created in the image of Buster Bunny.

“I, The all Mighty Bunny declares that those gays aren’t cool.”

Secondly, they would have to establish that the Bible or any other holy book used is divinely inspired. If not, then it would be no different to us if they quoted from Alice in Wonderland and claimed that the ideas from that book are moral. However, if we grant the idea that it is an abomination, one should possibly heed the advice theists throw at atheists which is to “Read the Bible in its proper context.” According to Dr. Laurence Keene (Disciple of Christ pastor) in the fabulous documentary, For The Bible Tells Me So, the term “abomination” was used to denote cultural wrongs and not ethical wrongs. As pointed out just prior to this point in the documentary, it was an abomination to intermingle one’s crops or to eat unclean food. In fact, Yahweh goes on to call those who present unworthy sacrifices to him as an abomination. An example can be found here:

“When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it, or on the morrow; and anything left over until the third day shall be burned with fire. If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an abomination; it will not be accepted, and every one who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned a holy thing of the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from his people.” (Leviticus 19:5-8). Furthermore, as Dr. Keene points out, it is easy for us to see the passage in Leviticus 20:13 and conclude, “Oh. See, that’s what the Bible says.” However, as Dr. Keene points out, actually finding out what the Bible says takes time and understanding. Therefore, it isn’t as simple as turning the Bible to that page and pretending that you understand it. And like anything that requires critical thinking – it’s hard and requires effort.

Now, some may jump ship from the Old Testament and say that Jesus spoke against homosexuality. However, Jesus never did say anything about gays and lesbians – it is actually Paul (who never met Jesus), who they are alluding to. People usually turn to the first chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Romans to boalster their claim.[ii] However, if you read it as a whole, one can see that the focus is on idolatry and not homosexuality per se. It’s only when some selectively reads verses 25-27 that someone can yield the perception that Paul was talking about homosexual acts. How do we know that Paul was talking about idolatry and not gay unions? According to this source, the historical and theological context of Paul’s letter was that he was writing this epistle after leaders of the Christian church in the city of Rome were expelled from the city, leaving behind the newly converted gentile Christians. This section of Paul’s letter was to remind the newly converted Christians that they have now experienced the “true God,” so they are without excuse. Paul then reminded them of practices that they took part in as worshipers of the numerous Roman gods, including sexual acts in the name of other gods – such activities would constitute idolatry. This view actually has scholarly support. In an article published in the Journal of Biblical Literature, Sociologist Jeramy Townsley mentions that in celebration of the Roman gods such as Venus and Inana. Some of the acts are suggested by Townsley are that women and men switched gender roles in terms of sexual activity, where the penetrator was the female (and in effect the one assuming the dominant position) while the men were being penetrated – potentially with objects. Furthermore, early Christians don’t seem to agree that Paul’s passage has anything to do with homosexual relations as we know it today. In fact, some of the early Christians didn’t think that the passage had anything to do with homosexuality at all. So, the suggestion that the New Testament has nothing to say about gay marriage. In fact, Rev. Desmond Tutu makes the remark after Keene’s explanation of Romans that the earlyChristians nor Jews had any concept of the same-sex unions that we know of today. Ultimately, the contention that homosexual behavior is “unnatural” is exemplary of the appeal to nature fallacy – the claim that something is good because it is “natural” and bad if the thing or behavior is “unnatural.” By unnatural, we are referring to what is found in nature. We’ve noted, however, that homosexuality can be found in nature. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that homosexuality is unnatural. So what? There are things we use that are unnatural including cell phones, computers, cars, etc. No one would ever claim that the behavior of driving a car or using a computer is immoral because it is unnatural. Furthermore, not everything found in nature is desirable to a civil society or things we would consider good. For example, ducks and chimpanzees have serious problems when it comes to promiscuity and rape. In fact, this article actually claims that since there is so much rape among ducks, female duck genitalia have evolved to not accept the sperm of a male while the female is being raped. No one in their right mind would ever claim that since rape and promiscuity are natural, it therefore must be good.

Another dimension of the “unnatural” nature of same sex marriage that may be alluded to is that it is uncommon or unconventional. However, if we think of a nonpoliticized example, it is easy to see how this definition is foolish. I (Koda) am left-handed and as everyone knows, heard of, or remembers, left-handedness is not only uncommon, but in some cultures, it is de facto advised against. (E.G., the written language of Chinese has been assembled such that it is systematic to perform for right-handed individuals. Indeed, I studied the language for a number of years, and due to my hand preference, the instructor noted on numerous occasions that I would be subjected to troubles as a function of my physiological “abnormality.” I was, with one being that complying with the stroke order of each character was rather challenging.)

The unconventional nature of left-handedness among societies is not to say that this physiological feature is unnatural – indeed it appears due to one of the myriad of physical conditions upon which natural selection operates: reproduction. Is this not the epitome of natural? A number of studies have demonstrated that homosexual tendencies are tantamount to left-handedness in this context. That is to say, homosexuality is a result of biology, as opposed to “nurture” or social functions – they do assume the role of suppressors or liberators, however. This is precisely the reason pertaining to why the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) has omitted homosexuality from its extensive list of psychological abnormalities – it’s a natural phenomenon. As an aside, evolutionary theory hasn’t accounted absolutely for why homosexuality persists within contemporary society; however, there have been rather credible speculations. The following video can better delineate what these speculations entail than I could.

  1. Undermines traditional marriage

As you can already tell, we are into definitions. So, what does traditional marriage mean and is former President Bush correct that strict monogamy is the form of marriage practice in every culture?

“The union of a man and a woman is the most enduring human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith, … Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society.”
– George W Bush on proposing an Amendment to the United States Constitution that would ban gay marriage (Febuary, 2004)

The answer to the first question is that traditional marriage doesn’t exist. Well, to clarify, marriage is universal, but practiced in different manners in different cultures. The following video will give you the definition of marriage according to academia and the varying cultural differences in marriage.

According to a Huffington Post article by Richard Feinberg, professor of Anthropology at Kent State, polygamy is still a common form of marriage in other parts of the world. In fact, in biblical times, polygamy was the norm among the elite. The patriarchs of the faith had multiple wifes including Abraham, Jacob, King David, and his son, Solomon, who, in accordance with the Bible, had 700 wives along with 300 concubine.[iii] The influence of polygamy didn’t go away during the New testament. According to Paul’s letter to Titus, one of the requirements for deacans would that they only have one wife.[iv] So, if monogamy was the norm, why would Paul have to mention to his requirement to Titus, if everyone was to only have one wife, the issue wouldn’t even be up for discussion.

Rather, Paul made a distinction between marital behaviors among deacons and church officers and the laity. In fact, here is a great, but satirical video on the topic of “Biblical Marriage.” The following video is by self-proclaimed “America’s Best Christian.”

Feinberg also points out that marriage in the past and in some modern cultures were actually akin to modern-day business transactions. Feinberg notes that marriages in these cultures involved parents deciding who would marry who and, as also noted, these decisions are even done while the people getting married are still children. Elizabeth Abbott opines in her fabulous book, A History of Marriage. She states that “Nobles and royals contended as well with complicated diplomatic issues, betrothing their young sons and daughters to form or reinforce alliances they hoped would still be advantageous when the marriage eventually took place. Less privileged people, the great majority, had different concerns, but for them as well, marrying off children had serious financial implications for the entire family.”[V]

In another Huffington Post article, Sara Boboltz confirms this view by pointing out that marriages by the nobility was a way to merge assets and to create economic alliances. Abbott also points out that these negotiations were done by both sets of parents in negotiating a marriage contract which may include a dowry and/or a bride price that is to be paid to the bride’s father.[VI] You may be asking yourself, then how did the modern view of marriage come about? How did marriage morph into this romanticized concept that each of us are in our own personal romance novel? Abbott nicely answers this question whilst alluding to the Enlightenment period. Abbott states that, “By the next century (18th century), Enlightenment philosophers were examining marriage through the lens of reason and the exciting new principle of the pursuit of happiness. Their ideas, trickling down into the popular consciousness, softened long-held perceptions about the role of love. In the 1770s in France, unhappily married spouses applied theory to their personal realities, and the percentage seeking to annul their marriages on the grounds of lovelessness rose from less than 10 percent in earlier decades to more than 40 percent. In England, too, love was gaining ground as a legitimate feature of marriage. Thomas Blundell, for example, told his daughter, Molly, ‘that I would not compel her to marry, much less to marry one she could not love and so to make her miserable as long as she lives.’ All I require is that he be a gentleman of a competent estate, one of good character and a catholic.’

[VIII]

In an attempt to hold on to dogmatism, some may turn to the words written by Chief Justice Roberts in his dissent. Yes, marriage has changed overtime. It used to be a business transaction in order to bolster political, social and economic alliances and is now a union of two individuals based on love and attraction. Even in America, the recent court cases that, for example, struck down bans on interracial marriage was based on one common thing, marriage in this case was still a union between opposite-sex individuals, hence, same-sex marriage is a brand-new-thing. Therefore, it underminds “traditional marriage”” since it hasn’t been seen in the world before. Although this is an appeal to tradition fallacy, this raises a great question: have there ever been same-sex unions in the ancient world? Sara Boboltz points out that in the Hellenistic period of ancient Greece, same-sex unions were considered the most prominent union in that culture. However the most notable example can be found in Native American history, where a third gender or Berdache existed. Feinberg points out that according to anthropological research, the Berdache were boys who chose to live as stereotypical females. They wore traditional female garb and once they matured, they could find a husband. These individuals were highly respected and some thought they had special spiritual powers. Abbott adds that these people, according to the Native Americans also had two spirits of both male and female.[VIII]

Although Feinberg reminds us that this form of marriage may not work per se, in 21th century America, simply rejecting a system outright just because of a claim of “That’s just how marriage is” betrays one’s ignorance on the history and evolution of marriage.

3. Christianity Will Be Persecuted

Dedicated to a FaceBook Christian: Couldn't be less butt hurt. I'm very sad for the future of our country, but at the same time, I welcome the controversy and persecution of Christianity that will come as a result of this, for a few reasons. Chief among them is that God is glorified not only in his grace, but also in his judgement. Also, the persecution to come will weed out all the false converts, false teachers, and false churches. This largely means death to the American mega church. Also, periods of persecution, historically, are massive catalysts for Christianity, and for Christian growth. This will actually serve to make Christianity stronger. I see this as a good thing for my faith. -- -- Fundamentalist Christian who I met on FaceBook

Dedicated to a FaceBook Christian:
Couldn’t be less butt hurt. I’m very sad for the future of our country, but at the same time, I welcome the controversy and persecution of Christianity that will come as a result of this, for a few reasons. Chief among them is that God is glorified not only in his grace, but also in his judgement. Also, the persecution to come will weed out all the false converts, false teachers, and false churches. This largely means death to the American mega church. Also, periods of persecution, historically, are massive catalysts for Christianity, and for Christian growth. This will actually serve to make Christianity stronger. I see this as a good thing for my faith.
— — Fundamentalist Christian who I met on FaceBook

If viewers were able to visit our previous compositions, they may recall that we addressed the notion of the “hurt feelings card,” as articulated by philosopher and fellow “Horseman” Daniel Dennett. What has been drafted there will not be reproduced verbatim here; however, a sort of synopsis of it and how it is applicable to this subject matter will be.

If I were to initiate a dialogue with a member of the Southern Baptist congregation on the theme of same sex marriage and how it relates to his or her religious convictions, I may proceed to recite what has been contended in the previous sections of this post. The response thereto exclaimed by the member, however, may be akin to the following: “You’re persecuting my faith!” This precise statement is what Dennett titles the “hurt feelings card.” Any rational conversation with the user of this frequently exploited response, is essentially over, upon pulling the card. Especially for those who wish to assume a cordial or polite demeanor, Dennett notes in Breaking the Spell, the card “overwhelms the skeptical instincts of many a target of deliberate con men who know that just a touch of “hurt feelings” can deflect most if not all the questions any reasonable.”[IX]

Penguin, 2007), 3655

person would want to have answered” (p. 365). That is, skeptical participants in a dialogue with an individual who employs the card are virtually coerced into suppressing any rational speculations regarding the user’s religious convictions. It compromises rational dialogue, and the product thereof may even be an irreconcilable argument of sorts. Progress cannot be assumed under such hostile conditions.

There are a number of circumstances in which the “hurt feelings card,” executed by many adherents to Christianity, may appear within the context of same sex marriage. (As an aside, these circumstances could feasibly be generalized to other contexts). The first that we would like to address is when they are asked to defend their position regarding same sex marriage to other groups, who may not share their views on marriage. Immediately thereafter, in an attempt to evade any sort of criticisms that may undermine the credibility of their faith, from which they derived their contentions, they may deliver the “card.” This, however, is disingenuous. As noted above in the excerpt from Daniel Dennett’s text, the usage of this “card” undermines significantly the prospect of resuming any sort of discussion with the user – by extension, it partially renders these speculations immune to any criticism whatsoever. This is namely disingenuous due to its elusive nature, as no theory, philosophy, or idea, irrespective of ones personal convictions should be immune to rational examination or just flat out criticism. This is especially so for the domain of religion, as it is unparalleled in its ability to assemble itself as a conventional taboo, that the topic cannot be discussed in polite conversation.

One speculation relating to why this taboo has remained relatively stationary through the years is that religious convictions and faith have been alluded to, and ingrained into individuals’ psyches, as “sacred,” and thus, cannot be discussed. However, religions should not recieve special status simply because it’s religion and the claims they make are assigned the label of being, “sacred.” It must be analyzed and criticized no different than any other idea or assertion.

To this extent, there is no persecution occurring, but rather efforts to examine the positions of those who find same sex marriage to be morally reprehensible, converse to the adhered-to deity’s preferences. Therefore, the “card” is not necessitated here, as it only serves to irrationally excuse an individual of faith from being subjected to criticism.

Secondly, and this pertains more evidently to same sex marriage due to the empirical evidence delivered through the media of the internet and news segments, is the notion that there is a persecution of one’s faith via coercion of faith-based institutions into complying with the same sex marriage ruling. However, this is not so. A primitive example would be a same sex partnership visiting a religious institution to cement their love via a marriage ceremony. The individual who would have otherwise been ordained to conduct the performance, upon obtaining an awareness of the sexual affiliation of the party, declines offering them his or her service.

Perhaps unfortunately, this example may imminently manifest itself in the present.

Franklin Graham, who is the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, maintained in an interview conducted for Fox News that “regardless of the ruling” will “refuse to marry any same-sex couple.” He went on to comment, “‘I will never recognize it in my heart because God gave marriage between a man and a woman and that’s what marriage is,’ … ‘And I don’t think the court – since it never defined marriage – doesn’t have the right to redefine it. God gave us marriage. Period. And God doesn’t change his mind.'”

From one position, this is all well (irrespective of it being grossly demeaning). Indeed, in actuality, the ruling is not coercing them into supplying this couple with their services. Under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, the government cannot compel a church to marry a gay couple, no more than it can compel a church to marry an interracial couple, if it goes against the church’s teachings and values. Nevertheless, we are talking about civil marriages or the obtaining of a marriage license. Therefore, it is flat out nonsense to claim that since gay marriage is legal, then churches will be obligated to marry gay couples against the church’s will. Some may say, okay, we know that the government cannot cross that line and force churches to marry individuals that don’t fit their criteria, but what about the businesses involved in a wedding such as bakeries, florists, etc. This is a different case because now we are discussing businesses and not religious organizations. In some states, anti-discrimination laws prevent individuals or businesses from discriminating against those on the basis of sexual orientation. So, one can choose not to serve a gay couple, but the owners do this with the knowledge that it is against the law. Also, there is a level of hypocrisy associated with this. For example, the same businesses that Franklin Graham is alluding to have no moral qualms about serving a couple, where one person is divorced (which Jesus spoke of as being blatantly immoral) or interfaith couples (though, in the Christian sense, Paul advised the Christians not to unite in marriage with unbelievers – which can be interpreted to non-Christians or non-members of a specific denomination; the Iglesia Ni Cristo subscribes to the latter).

To that end, the “hurt feelings card,” especially employed by those who subscribe to religious fanaticism, will dissuade any individual visiting this blog from contemplating any of the materials we submitted in previous sections of this post. In this respect, the most adept response would be to first establish that being deterred from employing such critical faculties as skepticism with the objective of remaining compliant with one’s faith is not conducive to achieving the truth. One may assert that the truth resides within the Bible, but as our verifiable contentions suggest, the truth is elsewhere. As Michael Shermer has noted on numerous occasions, “I’m a skeptic not because I do not want to believe, but because I want to know.” Exit the contentment of the cave!

Reason or Dogmatism?

Reason or Dogmatism?

Until we meet again, don’t forget to achieve the courage to use your own reason!

[i] Leviticus 20:13

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.

All biblical passages will come from the RSV translation

[ii] Romans 1:18-32

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,   because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips,   slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.

[iii] 1 Kings 10:1-4

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women: the daughter of Pharaoh, and Moabite, Ammonite, E’domite, Sido’nian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods”; Solomon clung to these in love.   He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.   For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.   For Solomon   every went after Ash’toreth the goddess of the Sido’nians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.   So         from Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done.

[iv] Titus 1:5-6

This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you, if any man is blameless, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of being profligate or insubordinate.

[V] Elizabeth Abbott, A History of Marriage (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2010), 26

[VI] Ibid, 53

[VII] Ibid, 90

[VIII] Ibid, 12

[IX] Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York:

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The Cult of Indoctrination (and How About the Kids?): Part Two

Hi Everyone!

First of all, a very happy father’s day to all the dad’s out there. Since my father (Jessica) is a good-for-nothing piece of trash who decided to abandon me and my family, he get’s no greeting from me. Second, Koda and I would like to thank both wordpress users Judeo Chrislam and Jayehn for there subscriptions. We’ve checked out both blogs and the material on them are fantastic, so check them out as well. Also a thank you also goes out to Benito of Backyard Skeptics for continuing to disseminate our blog. As a reminder, please like and subscribe. Also, if you have a question for Koda and/or I or a suggestion for a future post or what we could do better, please drop it in the comment box below or you can email us. Your comments, questions, and suggestions are deeply appreciated. This week we are going to continue addressing the topic of indoctrination by continuing to examine a list of quotes by preachers to those who may express doubts in there faith. You can catch part one, here. Unlike part 1, children will actually not be mentioned, but is still in the title for consistency sake.

 

(5) “Everything these `enemies` are saying is part of the persecutions, trials, and tests that we must endure to finish the race to the `holy city!` You must hold steadfast and resist these evil men!”

This quote could be a bit tricky. This is predominantly because the author unhesitantly denotes any information or individual whatever that challenges the author’s contentions to be “persecutions, trials, and tests” that were deposited via a deity to determine the strength of one’s faith.

One such “trial” discerned by the quote author may be the fossil record. For those who are unfamiliar, the fossil record essentially comprises data (in the form of fossils of extinct or extant organisms) that substantiates evolutionary theory. Despite there being a number of adherents to a religion who identify evolutionary theory as compatible with their convictions (please visit quote 8 for more information), there remain individuals who subscribe to Creationism — the uncorroborated notion that all organisms that inhabit this planet were fashioned by god. This is a remarkable claim, especially given that there is a litany of scientific evidence that suggests that contemporary organisms are a product of natural selection – a process that is wholly due to indifferent physical phenomena. One means by which Creationists account for such evidence is by rendering it to be god’s construct to evaluate the strength of one’s faith. This however, is curiously assumptuous as well – a detrimental assumption. It discourages, as do each of these quotes, skepticism. Maintaining that individuals must “resist the evil men” who perpetuate scientifically sound information, who are simply those who do not adhere to the religious faith, is tantamount to partially extinguishing this critical faculty. There will invariably be “evil men” who do not subscribe to the notion of there being a deity. However, individuals who (innocuously) encourage skepticism do not constitute “evil men.”

Our second comment regarding this is that a purported attribute of the deity is omniscience. Therefore, why must this determination be assumed if said deity is cognizant of the strength of one’s faith? One may attempt to refute this as maintaining that it is audacious of us to make mention of god’s “agenda,” as apprehending what occupies the supernatural realm cannot occur due to being restrained within the confines of the natural realm. However, aren’t the individuals who declare to know of god’s presence doing so as well? They may retort that they’ve been endowed with divine revelation, perhaps. For our refutation to this, please visit quote #6.

If there were a deity, who analyzed the strength of faith in respective individuals, and he indeed crafted the human self, then there is a fault. God purportedly equipped humans with a brain able to perform critical thought and rationally analyze their ambient environment. If god’s objective was to cultivate adherents to him in the greatest number of humans, then why did he or she supplement the human with such biological apparati?

Furthermore, by rendering any challenge to one’s beliefs, faith in particular, as persecution, the user is essentially halting rational thought. In any discourse, the suggestion that, “You are persecuting my beliefs,” is typically a `stop sign` for any further rational discussion on any issue. Take the current debate on gay marriage and how a conversation between a theist (who may oppose it) and a supporter of gay marriage (theist or skeptic).

Supporter: We should allow gay marriage because it isn’t inherently detrimental to any individual’s well being if two males or two females are permitted to secure their love for each other. Love does not discriminate.

Opponent: Well, I believe in the Bible’s definition of marriage and that marriage should only apply to `one man and one woman.`

Supporter: However, biblical marriage wasn’t always that way and allowing discrimination based on sexual orientation is still discrimination.

Opponent: You are persecuting my faith!

At this point, having any rational discussion on the topic is utterly hopeless. Daniel Dennett calls this phenomena the, “Hurt feelings card.” Here’s a fantastic film of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett (also known as the Four Horsemen of the atheist movement) talking about this phenomena

Note: it appears near the introduction of the film.

(6) “They are using `earthly` wisdom’ — not divine wisdom.”

There is a sort of dichotomy that has been established between the two wisdoms, per the quote’s author. Divine wisdom, purport such individuals who maintain that they have attained it, is the product of divine revelation. Conversely, `earthly wisdom’ is wisdom pertaining to the observable universe that is without endowment via a supernatural deity. Therefore, the author of this quote has fabricated a disparity between the natural realm (limited, fallible, mortal, `earthly`) and the supernatural realm (unrestrained, inerrant, immortal, `divine`). This idea is frequently fashioned among more contemporary theologians, who endeavor to exempt the presence of a deity from scientific research (because it cannot be measured, it cannot be refuted). We surmise that a similar phenomenon is occurring among those who maintain that they possess divine wisdom. They can communicate their narratives of how they achieved such knowledge; however, they may assert that the idea of their possessing such wisdom is unassailable. We will concur that the supernatural realm, by definition, cannot be examined or measured by humans – who are restricted within the natural realm. By extension, divine wisdom is undetectable if sought with natural methods. However, there may not be any divine wisdom to conduct research on.

There may be a number of contributing factors relating to why an individual may contend that he or she has been endowed with divine wisdom – and we would like to address a mere fragment of these factors here. While you browse through these factors, please bear probability in mind: which seems more probable to you? The below propositions or that the knowledge was derived from a deity that hasn’t been establish to exist to begin with?

  1. Dishonesty. This attribute is pervasive among humans. There is merit in doing so regarding the fabrication of the remark that one possesses divine wisdom, given that declaring to possess divine wisdom may result in media broadcasts, invitations to be the subject of interviews, and the awe from the masses – and that this assertion could be exploited by the user to deceive and manipulate others for the user’s profit. See, for instance, the ministry of Robert Tilton and how his ministry exploited the most vulnerable members of society for personal profit. This persisted until an ABC News special betrayed his charlatan-like activities.  Tilton is one of several individuals who has exploited the gullible and the most vulnerable members of society. Therefore, it is not irrational to speculate that dishonesty could be a probable factor.
  2. Auditory, visual hallucinations; delusions. Rene Descartes, a philosopher and mathematician of the seventeenth century, wrote in one of his Meditations of the fallibility of the senses. And indeed, he may well have been correct. This is best exhibited among those who are suffering from psychological disorders such as schizophrenia or by those who consume hallucinogens such as LSD and PCP. What is common among these two domains – the psychological disorder(s) and hallucinogens – is their propensity to produce hallucinations (a ‘false’ sensual experience) and delusions (a false belief) within the afflicted individual. For an individual undergoing such a state, he/she may erroneously suspect that a deity is communicating information to him/her, when in actuality the individual’s modified brain chemistry is causing hallucinations or delusions to transpire within his/her consciousness. Take the story of Andrea Yates, who, in an episode of psychosis, drowned her 5 children to death in a bathtub. According to a NY Times article, Yates admits that she drowned her five children in an attempt to save their soul (i.e., killing the children before they reach the age of accountability and were capable of sinning). The article did not say that she got these messages on high, but even if she didn’t, the disorder hindered her from recognizing reality. She rather felt that the delusions were her perception of reality.

This is not to say that those who are religious warrant a diagnosis of a mental illness, nor are we suggesting that the individuals who founded these religions I.E, Felix Manalo, suffered from psychiatric disorders. The objective of this section was to convey the notion that it’s not uncommon for individuals to establish false beliefs due to psychological abnormalities or substance use.

(7) “You can try to read the bible yourself but you’ll go insane if you do — it’s full of `mysteries` that only God’s messenger can understand.”

We will concur with the author of this quote – the bible is replete with, to use the author’s rhetoric, ‘mysteries.’ Browsing through the biblical texts can be tantamount to subjecting oneself to any sort of literary labyrinth: the Bible is elusive, riddled with contradictions and ambiguous passages that can be spun to the benefit of the spinner. (So much for the mantra, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14-33).) Moreover, attempting to discern, much less account for, each incompatibility is at best a laborious task. One such contradiction found in the Bible can be found in the infancy narratives in both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Matthew claims that Jesus was born during the time of Herod The Great. Luke’s Gospel claims that Jesus was born during the days of the Census under Corinius. Both claims cannot be correct due to the knowledge that Herod died in 4 BCE and the Census took place in 6 CE. Ultimately, one is left to perform mental gymnastics in an effort to reconcile this incompatibility, despite their essentially being irreconcilable. However, we must remember that God is supposively omnipotent and omniscient and hence, is able to dictate his teaching to us with “clarity.”

This begs the question, did God draft the Bible for us or was it a product of human endeavors? (we’ll be talking about the formation of the Bible in a subsequent post. For now, here’s an article that gives an overview of the formation of the Bible (New Testament in particular). Nevertheless, due to the convoluted rhetoric of the bible, we do to an extent sympathize with those who maintain that the texts are accessible only to those who are bestowed with divine knowledge.

For the sake of discussion, we will grant the notion that individuals could indeed be injected with divine wisdom, which appeared due to divine intervention. Those who have been supplied with such wisdom would be instructed by the deity to disseminate the teachings of the deity who selected them. From a historical prospective, this notion may have been plausible. This is due to the literacy rates in 1st century Israel/Palestein being remarkably poor. According to renowned bible scholar, Bart Ehrman, literacy in the ancient world was probably only as high as 10% and potentially as low as 3%. Only the upper-class were educated to be literate, which was limited to writing one’s name and being able to engage in rudimentary affairs. Only a select few of the literate individuals could actually write complete sentences and even fewer could draft complete books. People therefore were reliant upon those who actually could read or write to gain information about Jesus. The Jesus narrative probably spread via word of mouth and oral traditions. In this case, a messenger could have been more appropriate.

However, this comes with a disadvantage. That is, this deity has limited himself to one or few individuals to spread his/her message. This in return could limit the amount of people who could have access to these teachings. If correct, the souls of those who were unable to recieve these teachings may be in serious jeopardy regarding their posthumous destination. Do bear in mind that God is omnipotent and omniscient and is hence capable of revealing himself to everyone in a manner that could have facilitated the distribution and understanding of his message for everyone. Therefore, if he did care about the eternal souls of all individuals, he would be more than willing and happy to demonstrate himself before the entire world to give everyone a legitimate chance at truly knowing this deity.

Furthermore, throughout history, multiple individuals have claimed to have been the subjects of devine revelation from god. For instance, there is Joseph Smith, who founded the Mormon Church. According to the Mormon Church’s website, Joseph wanted to serve God, but did not know which denomination to affiliate himself with. So Joseph began praying. One day, as Joseph was praying in the woods, God and Jesus came down from heaven to Joseph in a vision. Joseph claimed that God anointed him to be a prophet who would establish Christ’s true church. Later, Joseph found two gold plates and was given the authority to translate them into what we know as “The Book of Mormon.” This, in turn, established his church, which we now know as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In fact, he isn’t the only one to claim to be the anointed one by this God (for whom there is no verifiable evidence to corroborate his existence). Multiple individuals have claimed to also be anointed by God to be his messenger: the Pope of the Catholic Church, Felix Manalo, The founders of the Watch Tower Society, etcetera. They cannot all be correct because each individual or group makes contradictory claims. However, everyone could be mistaken (see quote 6 for more information).

In sum, the inaccessible nature of the biblical texts (particularly the ambiguity of various passages), compounded with the notion that there may indeed not de facto be any messengers of God, lessens the credibility of there being a deity – especially one that possesses the attributes that are portrayed in such texts. Therefore: The former half of the quote? We rationally concur. The latter half of the quote? There is a litany of information that deters us from suspecting it’s credible.

Ultimately, we cannot know – hence why We advise you to employ skepticism, to remind yourself of what probability suggests.

(8) How do you think everything came about? Do you believe those atheistic evolutionists that say the world and everything in it came out of nothing?”

One misapprehension demonstrated by the author of this quote is that “atheistic evolutionists” is at best an antiquated phrase. Indeed, with the advent of ample evidence to suggest that evolutionary theory (it may well be addressed as a fact, Richard Dawkins noted), there has also been an elevation in the percentage of theists who accept evolutionary theory as plausible. Pope John Paul II, Kenneth Miller, and Francis Collins, all adherents to a religious denomination, accept evolutionary theory. In fact, check out Pope John Paul II’s letter to the Pontifical Academy of Science, where he remarks that, “Evolution is more than a hypothesis,” and makes mention of the various advances in science due to the theory of evolution. Therefore, “atheistic evolutionists” is a bit of a misnomer.

Secondly, according to Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist, “something out of nothing” per the Big Bang theory is incorrect – as the ‘nothing’ alluded to here not philosophically ‘nothing,’ but rather a reference to quantum particles, which have been demonstrated to behave in a manner that is peculiar to what is examined at a larger scale. In relation to a philosophical ‘nothing,’ which by definition relates to an absolute absence of something, I invite you to entertain the idea of virtual particles. Such particles, suggest scientists, literally enter and exit existence. That is, they ‘appear from nothing.’ Mathematical calculations suggest their existence, although a bit more research is required to better corroborate their presence (or lack thereof). I’m not particularly well versed in the field of physics, however.

Thirdly, there exists the less probable notion that the Universe is eternal. Given that there are limitations to humans’ intellectual capacity, attempting to fathom the idea of an eternal Universe is rather challenging (which may in part deter individuals from espousing it fully as feasible). Irrespectable of this, however, maintaining this idea suggests that there could have been a multiplicity of big bangs, that the state which the Universe is presently occupying is temporal – none of which necessitate there having been a “something out of nothing” phenomenon.

Ultimately, however, I am encouraged to respond with the humble “I don’t know.” I find this to be a rather credible response, as it is not predicated upon unsubstantiated assumptions that cannot be verified via scientific research (e.g., the realm of supernaturality). I alluded above to the notion that there are limitations to human intellect – and this is invariably so. While advances in technology enable us to transcend a number of limitations (e.g., those that are due to our fallible sensory modalities), we are the individuals who assemble and employ these technologies (which is to say that these technologies are similarly fallible, and are littered with limitations). Therefore, and I quote J.B.S. Haldane, “…the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”[i] There will inexorably remain a number of physical phenomena which cannot be understood, or even those that cannot yet be identified; however, this isn’t to say that they are attributable to the activities of a deity. While the conviction that there is indeed a deity cannot be wholly objected to, I find that, when subscribing to probability theory, the notion that the grandeur of the Universe, as well as its entering existence, was a function of divine intervention is negligible as compared with the probability that it appeared via physical phenomena.

(9) “Everyone is going to die. The question is where are you going to spend eternity? What if you’re wrong about there not being a God?”

What if you’re wrong, sir or madam?

This alludes to the infamous argument titled Pascal’s Wager. In sum, since we are unsure whether a God exists or not, Pascal suggests that it is the safer bet to believe in God, so that you could qualify to get into heaven. If you’re correct, then congratulations – you’re able to enter the supernatural realm of paradise. If you’re incorrect, then you are incorrect – there are no ramifications. However, he asserts, if you either do not subscribe to the notion that there is a deity, you could face eternal torture in hell. Therefore, the theist argues, it is in your best interest to just believe in god and have the possibility to spend eternity with him (or her or it) in the afterlife. While superficially a rather sound contention, Pascal’s Wager is riddled with a number of faults.

Firstly, the position isn’t an assertion of this deity’s existence. Rather, it’s simply an argument for why people ought to believe in God. What is most astonishing relative to this position is that I could maintain, utilizing the paradigm of his argument, that a belief in a silver-pigmented shoe with yellow laces will enable an individual to enable one to be reincarnated as a deity, while to not do so would be to condemn oneself to residing within the shoe for eternity — to be subjected to the odorous nature of the interior without hiatus, to be encapsulated with indelible despair due to the vile odor. I’m not suggesting that this shoe is in existence; rather, I am noting why it would be advisable to subscribe to this entity – why not?

A second fault I detected was that Pascal failed to acknowledge that he may be wrong, but another religion may be right. Pascal was assuming that his religion (Christianity, Roman Catholicism in particular) was correct; however, Islam may be the right religion. Or perhaps, it’s one of the Eastern religions such as Hinduism or Buddhism. In other words, there are many religions and many Gods to choose from, so Pascal may be wrong about the Christian God, but it might be one of the countless number of gods that are or have existed. Thirdly, even if we were to grant, for the sake of discussion, Pascal’s contention that the correct religion is Christianity, which denomination of Christianity is it? According to one source, there are 35 mutually exclusive denominations that are prevalent within the United States alone. This calculation, of course, does not account for the myriad of other denominations that are of a lesser dominance, such as Iglesia Ni Cristo.

Each Christian denomination asserts their credibility while exerting efforts to extinguish the credibility of the remaining denominations. if you want to know what’s wrong with the Catholics, go ask a Southern Baptist. If you want to know what’s wrong with the Southern Baptists, go ask a Quaker. If you want to know what’s wrong with the Quakers, ask a Catholic. If you want to know what’s wrong with all of these denominations, ask the Iglesia Ni Cristo (and if you want to know what’s wrong with the Iglesia Ni Cristo, you could ask pretty much every religious denomination out there, as well as Jessica). This exercise could go on indefinitely. Some may argue that all denominations are the same, but its like a preference, such as one’s preference for an ice cream flavor. However, one’s preference for a certain ice cream flavor is discrepant – religious convictions may be preferences, but they declare that their adhered to denomination is infallible. I (Koda) enjoy vanilla ice cream, but it would be foolish of me to instruct others to subscribe to this flavor as their favorite because this is the correct flavor. Even if we attempt to harmonize all the denominations of Christianity together, one does not have to go very far to encounter problems because each denomination makes contradictory claims that make it impossible for all of them to be correct. Some include the discrepancy in the number of sacraments recognized by each denomination; infant baptism; the formulation between fate/grace/works/salvation; views on the trinity; views on social issues such as gay rights, sex education, the death penalty, environmentalism, and much more. In this respect, the various denominations are not akin to flavors of ice cream because not only does each denomination claim to be the true way of worshipping this deity, each denomination claims to know god’s instructions and expectations for worshippers.

When ruminating upon any of the aforementioned faults of Pascal’s Wager, the notion of it being an incredible assertion is readily apparent. If the above paragraphs were not adept at conveying these faults, then I invite you to entertain the ideas portrayed in the following Youtube video:

Until we meet again, don’t forget to achieve the courage to use your own reason!

[i] Haldane quote derived from: Possible Worlds and Other Papers (1927), p. 286.

Posted in Atheism, Church of Christ, Iglesia Ni Cristo, n | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Cult of Indoctrination and How About the Kids?: Part One

Hi everyone!

First of all, Koda and I would like to thank everyone for their support. We’ve received comments on Facebook of those who have enjoyed our writings. A special thanks for WordPress user “hessianwithteeth” for being our first subscriber! If you haven’t visited his blog, I think you will enjoy his writing. Thank you for your subscription. Secondly, we would like to extend a huge thank you to Benito of Backyard Skeptics for disseminating our blog. Benito contacted us via email and mentioned to us the excitement he had for young people, such as us, for having the courage to discuss difficult topics. Finally, as a reminder, please like and subscribe to our blog if you haven’t done so. Your support and suggestions are greatly appreciated!

As you may have noticed, the topic of this week’s post pertains to the notion of indoctrination and the psychology behind it. Since children are usually susceptible to these indoctrination tactics, we thought it would be fruitful to dissect these tactics, along with giving nonbelievers or simply those who are currently doubting their faith something to think about. We are not trying to deconvert you, but rather trying to examine rhetoric that preachers use to convince individuals of the truth of their religion or even the existence of God.

Note: Some of the material comes from a defunk website that was created to refute the teachings of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. Although I took the information from this website, one could easily adapt these quotes to fit any religious group imaginable. The website can be found here.

“You’ve been in the church for many years. You’ve expended a lot of effort, time and money on it. Are you letting these enemies take your name from the “book of life” and put your efforts to waste?”

There are a few faulty dimensions of this quote, with one being that the preacher, when uttering this sentiment, is appealing to the psychological phenomenon known as entrapment. Dianne Halpern defines entrapment as a situation in which an individual makes a prior investment and decides to stay in an unfavorable situation on the basis of the prior investment.[i] One way to consider the phenomenon is to imagine that you have been in a long-term relationship for ten years. You know that the relationship has ran its course and you are unhappy with the present state of it. Do you stay or leave? Before you think of leaving, you are reminded that you have been with this individual for a long period of time and you have invested time and money into the relationship, so you decide to stay solely because of your prior investment.

By appealing to this, however, the preacher is betraying the institutional nature of the church of which he is a member. Namely, the preacher is using a marketing tactic by appealing to individuals’ fears of uncertainty and doubt – also known as (FUD). This marketing method attempts to retain members who are contemplating leaving the church and/or beginning to doubt the existence of a deity. FUD, as defined by one source, is a method “intended to make a company’s customers insecure about future product plans with the purpose of discouraging them from adopting competitors’ products.” In this context, FUD would be the preacher’s maintaining that if the member were to vacate his or her membership, then a number of complications would accompany it. This method is an effort to dissuade the individual from identifying the option of departing as conducive to his or her preferences. It’s a method to preserve said individual’s tendency to be obedient to the pastor.

A malignant byproduct of this, especially by alluding to individuals who do not adhere to the specific religious denomination of which the author of this quote is a member as “enemies,” is a sort of discouragement from the employment of skepticism. For instance, as a child of elementary school age, Koda was notified via his male peers that his female peers were riddled with (the fictitious yet notorious) “cooties.” Koda began to exhibit apprehension for his female peers, but he wasn’t persuaded absolutely. Upon approaching the lunchroom monitors, who were themselves male, with a few of his male peers to better ascertain whether the suspicions of his peers were correct, the monitors confirmed them (albeit in what they suspected was a comedic manner). This is to say that authority figures are markedly adept at discouraging (either deliberately or undeliberately) children from employing skepticism, and while to a lesser degree, this feature of authority is applicable to an adult as well.

This is all to say that the quote is a bit of a fallacy. Preachers are not accepting of members vacating their church, and the quote demonstrates that preachers may have to resort to using FUD methods to appeal to the recipients’ sentiments, to coax the recipients to remain members. Moreover, given that it inherently discourages skepticism, it should be altogether discarded as hazardous.

Again, as a disclaimer: We are not making reference to all religious denominations – simply those that subscribe to a sort of fanaticism (one of our objectives is to inoculate against this, of course).

“The bible prophesied such men who will try to separate the “chosen ones” from Christ’s “true church.” You must stand firm and steadfast to your membership-do not pay attention to those evil men! They are instruments of satan who are here to snatch away your chance to the “holy city!””

“True church” is a bit of a misnomer.

We have entertained the idea that there are a myriad of religious denominations – the number of which may be incalculable. The companion religious texts, which are asserted to be inerrant by their respective religions, are oftentimes riddled with ambiguity. This ambiguity becomes the source of denominations within religious denominations, e.g., the number of denominations of Christianity (Catholic, Lutheran, Iglesia Ni Cristo, etc). I suppose this is all well, aside from the multiplicity of religions often severing communities; however, each denomination and subdenomination holds the contention that their church, their religion, is the “true” church, the “true” religion. Who is correct? It would not be logically irrational to speculate that they cannot ALL be correct. Who is incorrect? They perhaps could ALL be incorrect – which seems especially probable, given that there hasn’t been verifiable evidence projected by any of the litany of denominations. This therefore discredits the notion of Satan and that of the “holy city.”

The author of this quote is unable to demonstrate the existence of heaven. Moreover, there haven’t been demonstrations that the biblical texts are accurate, much less inerrant. Satan, however, is a bit discrepant from the previous two. As an entity, satan is without any mention in the Old Testament, which makes immediately suspicious the notion that there IS such an entity. (We’ll address satan further in a future post.) Rather, the notion of satan has evolved overtime to explain the existence of evil in the world. This sort of betrays the idea that satan is but a human construct to better apprehend the oddities of the ambient environment. Here’s a fabulous video explaining the evolution of Satan in the Bible.

Secondly, since evil men applies to anyone who is not a member of the Church of Christ or of any organization who expresses this view, atheists are not particularly phased. They’re simply members of a collective out-group. They may as well say that, from the position of the Church of Christ, the out-group (including atheists) are the instruments of Darth Vader who want to establish intergalactic supremacy. While a bit sophmoric, this idea appropriately conveys our conjecture – namely, the notion that all individuals that are external to the in-group sphere are malicious is rather inane. In psychological terms, as described by James Alcock and Stan Sadava in their book, An Introduction to Social Psychology, this phenomena is known as out-group homogeneity or that members of the out-group are no different I.E, saying that all individuals not apart of one’s own denomination are of Satan.[ii]

The quote is also reminiscent of an attempt to extinguish one’s ability to reason and simply obey the whims of the Church – a theme that will appear frequently throughout these quotes. Let’s remember, preachers are well-educated and, as demonstrated by research, Americans are not well versed in religious matters. So, this results in what James Alcock calls informational influence conformity. “My entire family and friends are believers and here’s a man who is well-educated in religion, it can’t be so wrong.”[iii] It’s rather telling of the strength of the phenomenon of conformity. However, if the study of psychology has aided me (Koda) with fathoming one dimension of the human, it is that humans have been equipped with the mental faculties that enable them to transcend these phenomena. Just as humans are able to improve the reliability of their sensual modalities with the advent of technological advances, so individuals can improve their ability to evade the poor psychological phenomena with the advent of advances in data and knowledge. To become aware of this category of conformity is to inoculate against it’s occurrence. Remain skeptical! (Yes, we also encourage you to be skeptical when visiting our blog posts.)

“They refuse to identify themselves in fear of retributions although nobody’s after them! Who are these “evil” people fleeing from? Proverbs 28:1 is correct!”

First, let’s dissect what the verse is attempting to convey. The translation we are using comes from the Revised Standard Version (RSV).

“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”

As we read this passage,we understand it to be conveying the following: immoral or malicious individuals are willing to perform ill behavior while concealed, but they will not do so in the public setting. Conversely, upright individuals will perform in either the public setting or within a more private environment. The preacher is attempting to attribute the anonymous activity of atheist bloggers to immorality by appealing to this particular verse. We will not object to the notion that there may be individuals who subscribe to atheism who behave in an immoral manner; however, this is applicable to adherents to a religion as well. Ultimately, I find the author of this quote to be misapprehending the nature of the circumstance due to which anonymity is pervasive among atheists, as well as not appropriately utilizing the passage.

Jessica and I are members of a realm in which the conventional notion is that atheists are hazardous, and may even fervently declare that they are the epitome of immorality. The author’s quote is paradigmatic of the fallicious conventions (this notion of immorality will be addressed in a subsequent post) of 21st century America. Anonymity in this respect is therefore excusable – Jessica and I are apprehensive about the prospect of our identity being betrayed, and subsequently our being subjected to retributions. Our sample size of two, we suspect, could be generalized to a greater number of atheists as well.

In Jessica’s case, their is an exorbitant amount at stake if she came out of the atheist closet right now, including her family and safety (she may be promptly removed from her residence and ostracised from her family members). I invite you to visit (or revisit) her introductory remarks from the first blog post to better grasp her position.

Furthermore, the biblical excerpt itself does not make mention of conditions in which anonymity can be assumed for the performance of a moral action. As mentioned in the link where this quote originated, people who report crimes to the police can do so anonymously. If I were to have been the witness of a crime, and the perpetrator exclaimed that any individual who were to report his behavior to a law enforcement agency would be chastised and physically mutilated, then anonymously reporting the crime would be much more appropriate relative to reporting the crime without the facade of anonymity. Moreover, students are encouraged by school guidelines to report acts of dishonesty or forms of unacceptable behavior to school administrators, perhaps under the condition of anonymity. This is to say that working out of anonymity is not always evil as the passage suggests. To this end, the author’s employment of the biblical passage is rather mistaken.

As an aside, we would like to address the fraction of the quote that identifies the individuals who do not adhere to the author’s religious affiliation to be “evil.” From our position, we are a bit dismayed that our encouraging people to use rational thought and skepticism constitutes evil. In fact, I regard it to be morally reprehensible to not do so, to promote the suppression of reason in the name of fanaticism. Hence why we have assembled this blog to supply those with the tools of critical thinking and rational thought, to be able to approach their preachers in order to ask questions and ultimately separate fact and fiction. To get the truth.

“Our evil enemies will just fall to shame like those in the past! Don’t waste your time on them. Here, I’ll tell you what they’re trying to “accuse us of” and I’ll “prove” to you why they’re wrong!”

This quote appears to be directed at those who are seeking reassurance regarding their faith or religious convictions. If so, it suggests that the recipients of the quote has approached a minister (who, suspiciously, is affiliated with their religion) who, as an individual occupying an authority status, will reinforce their convictions and effectively further cement them into their psyches. From a psychological perspective, this phenomenon is a fantastic example of Confirmation Bias – the seeking out of information to confirm one’s personal views or assertions. The minister is without objection – he or she will unhesitantly explicate his or her biased position (e.g., interpreting ambiguous biblical passages in a biased manner so as to align them with what he or she wishes to communicate) relating to why atheists and other religions/denominations are of the devil (see quote 2 for why this idea is a foolish construct). Of course, there may be ministers whose objective is to disseminate what they perceive to be the “truth”; however, given the rhetoric of the quote, the author/minister’s intention may be to retain membership to his or her respective church. One can deduce from this that both the member seeking reassurance and the minister are participating in this affair, contributing to the efficacy of the encounter in two specific ways – the member being subjected to confirmation bias, and the minister disingenuously endeavoring to preserve the convictions of the member (perhaps through deliberately exploiting this psychological phenomenon for the minister’s profit).

Again, this quote is in essence an appeal to authority. The author makes explicit that, as he or she has assigned him or herself a sort of position in which sound information relating to the “truth” can be supplemented to those who solicit it. However, this is another method through which skepticism is discouraged: by this minister declaring to possess a monopoly of what is, that any other individual who suggests otherwise – this sphere partially comprises those who employ verifiable evidence to substantiate their position, rendering them credible – is akin to an employee of the devil, the minister is effectively dismantling the availability of alternative positions to the members, therefore better ensuring that the members will remain compliant with and obedient to the minister. This, of course, is hazardous.

By proliferating the idea that those who were coerced into suppressing the mental faculties that would otherwise enable them to employ skepticism should exert efforts to revive them, fellow skeptics are inoculating against the adverse effects of childhood religious indoctrination. Although undermining these effects is a trial, namely because these convictions were ingrained via authority figures at a young age, thinking rationally should undoubtedly take precedence over succumbing to what one has been indoctrinated with. To conclude, we should not forget that the beliefs that both the member and preacher subscribe to may be attributed to indoctrination that they were subjected to at a young age. To remain terse, however, we will be penetrating this notion of child indoctrination from the position of the “member.”

Young children are inherently inquisitive, which is to say that their skepticism is of colossal strength. They’re also not given to establishing an affiliation with any religious or political denomination. This is to be expected, as children are not yet equipped with the sort of critical reasoning that is identified in older individuals. This can be better determined with examining the moral development of the human. Diane Papalia, Dana Gross, and Ruth Feldman in their book, Child Development: A Topical Approach, describe Kohlberg’s first stage of moral development (pre-conventional morality) as based on external factors (rewards and punishments).[iv] Despite these stages not being fixed, the idea that children commence the trek to fashioning a morality with an external source of pleasure or an external source of pain illustrates the primitive nature of a child’s critical reasoning ability.

This idea pertaining to critical reasoning is also applicable to how children respond to their caregivers. As it is evolutionarily advantageous, children are biologically predisposed to be compliant with their caregivers – a principal source of authority. If a child were to reach for an operating stove, the caregiver startling him with a “No!” would deter him from repeating that behavior. The child, predisposed to espouse the guidance of the caregiver as sound, cannot yet discriminate between what is sound and what is unsound. Similarly, a child, if indoctrinated, is apt to espouse the religious convictions conveyed to him by his caregivers. One method of indoctrination, to which Jessica was subjected, was that when religion and faith was talked about in the home, any deviation from the normative religious talk was met with disapproval or even punishment. Richard Dawkins, who finds child indoctrination to be tantamount to child abuse, has written prolifically and extensively on this subject, and I invite you to visit one of his articles here. To return to the quote, one could maintain that, when employed in the presence of a child, it establishes within the child’s mentality that the minister, or simply the author of the quote, is the source of what is, reducing the probability that the child will resort to the skepticism that was alluded to earlier.

Finally, As Papalia, Gross, and Feldman point out through the work of James Fowler (a professor of theology at Yale Divinity School) faith may actually arise due to not only parental influences, but the way that they can explore the world. In his model, he presents 6 levels of faith development, however the book only describes the first three. The first is when children are infants, they recognize the existence of the other and develop trust that their needs will be met by more powerful individuals than them. Before children reach school age, they may associate God’s view with either their own (due to their inability to see unfamiliar concepts outside their point of viewe (egocentrism) or that God’s views match those of the child’s parents (simply a system of rewards and punishment). His second stage, around school age, children develop a sense of a deity as they continue to absorb the belief systems of caregivers and other family members. They are now able to divorce their desires from that of the higher power, I.E, acknowledging that the desires of the higher power are different than the child’s. The final stage discussed is when the child has reached adolescence (and some adults never leave this stage) where children now developed their own ideologies about a deity or lack thereof and rely more on peers and other social groups to further develop their views.[v] The section concludes by summarizing the other stages such as questioning one’s beliefs and coming to a conclusion of a so-called universal faith. Note: Fowler is not only referring to religious faith, but children adopt the beliefs of family members, so I am guessing the book is using faith as synonymous with belief system. However Fowler’s ideas have not escaped criticism. Some argue that Fowler’s ideas are just too rigid and there is more to the development of faith than trying to read Kohlberg and Piaget into theology.

Note: we were actually supposed to cover the entire list of selected quotes we developed for this post, but as you can see, there is so much to talk about. Therefore, we have decided to divide up the original post into two. Stay tuned for the conclusion of the list that will be published next week!

Until we meet again, don’t forget to achieve the courage to use your own reason!

[i] Diane Halpern, Thought and Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking (4th edition) (Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003), 323.

[ii] James Alcock and Stan Sadava, An Introduction to Social Psychology: Global Prospectives (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2014), 366.

[iii] Ibid, 172

[iv] Diane Papalia, Dana Gross, and Ruth Feldman, Child Development: A Topical Approach (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003), 437.

[v] Ibid, 438-9

Posted in Atheism, Christianity, Church of Christ, Iglesia Ni Cristo, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Introduction and All That Boring Stuff

Hi Everyone!!!

This is our first post and I hope all of you are ready for us, Haha!

My name is Jessica and I have my partner in crime, Koda, with me.  These are actually not our real names and we will not disclose them for reasons you will see below.  I (Jessica) am an agnostic atheist in the closet from my family and friends for reasons that will be expressed below, and Koda is an atheist.

More About Jessica Stanford

I currently live on the west coast of the United States and planning on attending graduate school in the spring semester for my MA in government.  My ultimate goal is to earn my  Ph.D in political science with an emphasis in contemporary continental political theory.  If possible, I would also like to earn my  J.D so I can either be a practicing attorney or teach law school students.  A little about my path to atheism: I was raised as a member of a new religious movement called, “Iglesia Ni Cristo” (the English translation is “Church of Christ”).  Among their basic teachings is that a man from the Philippines (Felix Y Manalo) is the last messenger of God, according to prophecies in the Bible.  Also, they believe that the establishment of the church in the Philippines by the same individual signifies the end times and that the impending judgement day is near (something the church has echoed since its founding).  This too, the church claims, is supported by scripture.  Finally, they believe that they are the one and only true church originally established by Jesus in the first century and will be the only church saved by Jesus on judgement day.  As Paul mentioned in his letter to the Ephesians, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior,” (Ephesians 5:23).  A few verses down, Paul’s letter reads that Jesus actually died for his church only and meant only to redeem those in the church.  According to the church of Christ, Paul was referring to them.  I believe the Wikipedia page gives a fair account of the history of the church and its teachings.  The link can be found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iglesia_ni_Cristo

I’ve always been a skeptical individual my entire life and skeptical about everything.  For instance, when I was told a story, I would always ask the people telling me this story to prove their point.  The only place I never applied my skepticism was my religious views.  I was born into the church, so I did their version of Sunday school and I would say that parents are instructed to indoctrinate their children early.  As Solomon says in Proverbs, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” (Proverbs 22:6).  To back up, I was born to a mother who belonged to the Church of Christ and a father who was a conservative Methodist.  Both my parents constantly fought over where I would go to church.  Both believed that they belonged to the correct and only true church.  Since my father wasn’t around much, my mother won that battle.  So, at the age of 13, I signed up to be a Bible student and, after ten months, I was baptized into the church.  We found out ten years ago that when my father was overseas in Thailand, doing business, he met a housekeeper and he fell in love with her.  They had a child together without us knowing.  My mother found out a year later and my father chose his second family over us.  I was only a teenager when that was all going on.  This I feel added to my mother’s religious zeal.  She would always express to us how she thinks that her husband cheating on her was a blessing by God because if he didn’t cheat, he could have dragged us away from the “One and only true church” (according to her).  At the same time, my mother developed stage 4 cancer.  It was a huge shock because we thought she was already cancer free (she had cancer 12 years prior).  So, she had to stop her career and focus on getting well.  A couple of years later, I found out that an uncle, who I was close to, had cancer as well.  He died five months later due to complications with his lungs.  After his death, I was devastated because he held a very high position in the Church of Christ.  I thought his prayers would be answered since, I thought, he was close to God.  As Jesus says in Mark, “Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, `Be taken up and cast into the sea,` and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:23-24).  Their is no doubt he prayed and he prayed constantly and earnestly.  Because of what happened to my uncle and my mother’s ongoing battle with cancer, I began examining my beliefs and why I believed what I believed.  The first thing that went away was the biblical literalism that I was raised with (the Church of Christ believes that the Bible is the literal word of God).  Hence, I began to reconcile my faith and scientific discoveries.  I was already somewhat ambivalent towards Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, but after dropping my biblical literalism and actually educating myself on what evolution is and is not, I was convinced that evolution was the best explanation of how living organisms changed overtime and subsequently led to the emergence of humans from ape-like ancestors.  Also, I accepted the fact that the Bible wasn’t a science or history textbook, but a collection of books meant to tell a story of the human condition and of a man who was willing to give up his life for the sake of his church (this was the stance of the Church of Christ on the meaning of the death of Jesus).  The next thing that went was this strict exclusivist view of salvation.  I thought that other individuals from other Christian traditions can too be saved as well as ordinary good people.  After all, the Church of Christ was only founded 1,500 years after the Council of Nicea (where the Church of Christ believes that the early Church of Christ apostasized into the current Roman Catholic Church).  I found it hard to believe that someone like Mahatma Gandhi was going to be tortured forever just because he was born in the wrong part of the world and at the wrong time.  At this point, I was in the middle of a rigorous political science major.  Midway through my undergraduate career, I added philosophy as my second major and a minor in religious studies.  I felt that these classes would be interesting, since I was interested in either law school or graduate school.  Also, I felt that the religious studies minor could help in bringing answers to the questions I had about my faith.  As I advanced in my studies, I learned about the history of all the religions of the world, including Christianity.  Essentially, I was not getting the full story from my church or any other Christian dinomination and all the other religions did not seem believable to me.  So, in the Summer of 2013, after I graduated from college, I decided that I no longer accepted the religion I was raised in.  Furthermore, I had serious doubts about the existence of any gods.  This is when I started really soulsearching and trying to get the answers to my questions.  (Un)fortunately, I found the responses by theists to atheistic challenges, such as the problem of evil, to be untenable.  So, a month later, I admitted to myself that I was an agnostic atheist.

Some may ask, “Jessica, why have you concealed your identity and why haven’t you come out to your family that you no longer believe?” The reason is because my church has a policy in place in which individuals who leave are made an example of by the congregation.  If someone is excommunicated or walks out on the church (the church will frame it as the former) a letter is sent out to the local congregation that the individual in question is attending and/or all the congregations of the church all over the world alerting them of the excommunication.  From my fallible memory, I remember the excommunication letter to read as follows (this was based on a letter I heard read in 2012):

To members of the Church of Christ all over the world:

This letter is to inform you that (person’s full name and entire family) have been expelled from the church for (reason Y) (This reason can range from walking out on the religion to being discovered to have had a glass of champagne at your friend’s wedding).  This letter is to inform the security team not to allow them onto church property.  Furthermore, we instruct that all members of the Church of Christ refuse to speak to them (essentually promoting religious shunning).

Sincerely,

(Whoever is signing the letter on behalf of the church administration)

So, one major reason is because if I came out, the church will instruct my family members to shun me.  This could escalate to the point that they may throw me out of the house and onto the streets.  It wouldn’t surprise me if this ever happened.  I’ve seen marriages and relationships break apart just because one person changed his or her mind on the religion.  Some may be asking, “Why does that matter?” Well, until I move out for my  Ph.D,  I have no way to support myself financially.  Also, when my father stop supporting us, my mother took control of my credit and if she found out that I no longer believe, she could refuse to pay my credit cards (that she took out in my name), which would ruin my credit, potentially forever.  I don’t fault my mother for taking out these credit cards.  It’s true that we were struggling to get by, and the only source of income we had was on credit.  It’s just unfortunate that my credit could be held hostage in this situation.  Furthermore, I have a disability that may make it somewhat difficult if I were kicked out of the house without any notice.  This is why I have to be in the closet about my atheism and why I have to conceal myself, in order not to be detected.

More About Koda Costero

Having read Jessica’s self-introduction, as well as having become more familiar with her present conundrum, I must humbly submit that my narrative will be in comparison akin to the introduction that one may find on a food blog “about the chef < 3” page.  Nonetheless, I will endeavor to be as terse as the circumstance allows.

Yes, I can be called Koda – a pseudonym that I have arbitrarily selected for the blog.  I am a resident of the northeastern region of the United States and I am currently enrolled as an undergraduate student at a college (that evidently cannot be specified).  My declared major is psychology, but my academic interests are not restricted to this.  I find great solace in studying evolutionary theory, becoming more well versed in biology, studying environmental concerns, familiarizing myself with the myriad of religious affiliations (as well as the atheistic position, to which I subscribe), studying rhetoric and philosophy, and altogether augmenting my sphere of knowledge (whilst remaining aware that not all can be known, as a function of human intellectual limitations).  I would also like to introduce myself to the field of computer science, and given that the internet is a grand resource for introducing oneself to quite a bit, I may well do so.  Along with higher education, the internet is what has cultivated my ability to learn and my ability to question.  However, as the cliche reminds us, “it hasn’t always been this way.”

Indeed, my upbringing comprised me being baptized in the Lutheran Catholic church that was proximate to my residence at the time.  Along with being coerced into attending what is colloquially titled “Sunday School” at the age of four (to perhaps the age of seven), I was required to attend mass.  My immediate recollection of Sunday School was marvelling over the teaching of Noah’s Ark.  “The tigers are awesome!” I would remark, to my teacher’s dismay. Perhaps my disposition was not an appropriate fit for biblical studies. Nonetheless, I wasn’t able to resurrect (pun intended) the skeptic mentality that I was encouraged to slay whilst a member of the church.

(Un)fortunately, complications arose between my biological parents, and my mother departed (a euphemism for “was driven away”).  I remained with my father.  There was a significant alteration in the regimens that the household members would otherwise subscribe to had my mother remained, and one such alteration pertained to church attendence – we never again visited.  Despite this abrupt halt in the Sunday morning schedule, I maintained faith that there was a deity, and that he would rectify the puncture in my parents’ relationship.  Alas, this did not occur, and I involuntarily and unintelligibly resorted to the notion that this is simply god’s will.  This mentality persisted until I entered high school.

Upon entering high school, I no longer derived contentment from conducting what I found to be tedious prayers – they were without merit.  (Incidentally, I will add that I am pleased that I was not the subject of the Placebo Effect – otherwise the product of this period would have been irrevocably different, I suspect).  Therefore, I abstained without reluctance from the practice.  I began to feel marginally unencumbered, but my suspicion at that moment was simply that this was due to my no longer being required to perform this task each evening, as well as prior to each soccer match…and each school examination.

I then enrolled in college.  I selected the college that was most proximate to my residence and offered the best value for my family’s financial circumstances.  It was happenstance that the college was founded on a Catholic tradition; however, this did not deter professors from encouraging skepticism and cultivating academic discourse within the classroom.  It was such a delight for me, being introduced to this realm of higher learning.  The culmination of my first year was a seminar course titled Science and Religion.  I previously had paid little to no mind on the subject matter, but the theme of the seminar course fascinated me.  Fortunately, the professor assigned material that suggested he was not biased – that is, he selected articles and passages from works of literature that were representative of each position.  During the class periods, the professor would conduct a fruitful discourse among each attending student.  There were no spectators permitted – only participants.  Moreover, we were urged to ruminate upon the following question: “what if you are wrong?” This was integral for me to permeate the barriers that were obscuring me from rationality and critical thought.  Henceforth, I visited accessible online websites that further reinforced my professor’s sentiments.  It was comparable to enlightenment for me, obtaining these critical faculties that were previously unavailable to me – it was an ineffable sensation, being liberated in an unprecedented manner.  It is simply a function of the contemporary status of affairs and evidence that skepticism has directed me toward identifying as an atheist.  (However, as an aside, my biological parents would be apt to exhibit great unease if my religious affiliation were to be revealed to them.)

Hence why one of the few objectives of this blog is to encourage others to obtain these critical faculties such as skepticism and rationality.  These are not simply paramount relative to the religious and scientific domains, but also for the litany of life’s dimensions.  As an introduction to the blog then, I will cite Immanuel Kant’s delightful mantra that appeared in his work “What is Enlightenment?”, as I find that this best portrays what Jessica and I wish to communicate to the viewers: Sapere Aude! (i.e.,  achieve the courage to use your own reason! ).

What are the Goals of This Blog?

Not only is this blog meant to tell our stories as young atheists in the closet from our love ones, but it is also meant to share our experiences as young atheists in a country heavily influenced by religion.  This blog is meant to foster skepticism, to combat fanaticism, and to inoculate against the religious presence that discourages the usage of reason.  Our wish is that you question everything you hear or read, that you keep an open mind to alternative reasonable ideas and that you think about all claims that are told to you and take them with a grain of salt.  Our blog is also meant for people who have had similar experiences to share their stories and to get the sense that you are not alone in your ideas.  Our blog is meant to be a refuge where people can be safe to ask and talk about difficult issues.  Our blog is not meant to disabuse any individuals of their religious affiliations, or even of the existence of God.  However, we hope that our writings will at least have you think about what you believe and why you believe them.  Our blog will also be discussing general topics pertaining to philosophy, ethics, theology, religious studies, the psychology of religion, science, and just about anything we want to talk about.  We may also discuss issues concerning church/state separation. We plan on putting up a new post once a week.

How To Get a Hold of Us?

If you have questions for us or if you would like to share your story, please drop a comment below.  If you would like to contact us, you can email us at remedizingfanaticism@gmail.com

Until we meet again,  Achieve the courage to use your own reason!

Posted in Atheism, Iglesia Ni Christo, Religion | 45 Comments