God’s approach to Mary would have passed the UVa sexual assault test *UPDATED*

2.1-12_MARY_The_Annunciation_Jan_van_EyckWith feminist inspired neo-puritanism infecting American college campuses, it’s no surprise that at the University of Virginia, where a gang rape did not happen, the administration has put into effect draconian rules prohibiting all non-consensual contact of any kind — including hugging:

U.Va. adopted its new “Interim Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment” to appease the Office for Civil Rights, where I used to work.

Under its policy, if you hug your boyfriend, and as an inevitable result your “clothed” “body parts” (such as “breasts”) touch him, you could be accused of “sexual assault” that “consists of” “sexual contact.” That’s because U.Va. now defines such touching, “however slight,” as sexual assault, lumping together both touching and intercourse as “sexual assault” when they are deemed “sexual” and occur without “affirmative consent.”

I mention this policy because, in connection with my earlier post about Leftist attacks on Christianity, using gay marriage as their most powerful weapon yet, I mentioned the Leftist theory that God “raped” Mary when he fathered Jesus.

Color me biblically literate, but when it comes to Jesus’s birth, the immaculate conception, I happen to think that it was , in fact, immaculate, rather than not a physical penetration. Or, as MacG so beautifully wrote in a comment:

maybe that the God of the old testament who made the universe out of nothing and humans out of the earth’s dust is Spirit as Jesus affirmed does not need a penis to blend a unique spirit with the flesh of humanity.

So what does this theological argument have to do with the University of Virginia anti-sexual assault policy?  Well, if a Leftist actually reads the New Testament, rather than just opining about what she thinks the New Testament maybe says, she’ll discover something interesting:  God, did in fact, politely ask Mary’s permission before initiating the conception and that Mary gave her consent (emphasis mine):

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

No sexual assault there.  Instead, pure informed consent all the way.  Thank God that God would pass muster at UVa.

UPDATE:  Thanks to those who pointed out my error about the immaculate conception, which refers to Mary’s being born without Original Sin.  As you can see, I’ve corrected the post.  Sometimes I reveal my essential Jewishness, don’t I?

Muslims aren’t the only ones engaged in an all-out War against Christianity

Weyden_DepositionReligion is in the news a lot lately. All around the world, in what I’m sure is just a bizarre coincidence, masses of people who just happen to be Muslim (and proudly say so) are busily decapitating people, shooting people, raping people, burning people, and stoning people — all of whom, I’m sure coincidentally, happen to be Christian. In the same way, I’m sure we shouldn’t make anything of the fact that these same Muslim co-religionists have developed a nasty habit of throwing men who are allegedly gay off the tops of buildings and then, should these men survive the fall, stomping them to death. In the Venn diagram of faith and behaviors, are intellectual masters in the media repeatedly warn us that we shouldn’t read too much into the fact that Islam has a near perfect overlap with psycho-sexual murder and sadism.

In yet another bizarre coincidence, America’s Progressives have also engaged in a religious war and they too have targeted Christians. You see, Christians have this freaky idea, rooted in who knows how many totally useless and forgettable tens-of-thousands of years of biology, that men and women somehow complement each other, and that faith and society thrive when they support that complementary quality.

Clearly, this pathetic Christian attempt to tie together science and faith is a bad idea. These Christians should leave the science to Progressives, who understand complicated things like Climate Change — and silly skeptics have to understand that it requires superior mental skills to engage with a scientific principle that has as a defining characteristic the fact that none of the data supports any of the predictions. It takes a real scientist to make sense of this mess and to elevate the predictions over the data. (Shhhh! Don’t tell the Progressives, but that belief system sounds remarkably like . . . faith, and a pretty shoddy faith at that.)

Anyway, the Progressive war against Christians in America thankfully hasn’t yet reached the level of beheadings, rapes, and crucifixions. It seems stuck on a remarkably powerful form of stupid. Normally, stupidity shouldn’t be that powerful, but the Progressives have an arrow in their quiver that doesn’t exist in the massacred Middle East, not to mention large swaths of Africa. The secret weapon here is the Christians themselves, many of whom have obsequiously load pulled the rope to raise the blade in the guillotine in the hope that, when that blade finally falls, their necks aren’t the ones in its path.

I have the perfect exhibit today to illustrate that Christian appeasement principle. It’s a sign on a church in Mill Valley. The picture quality is poor, but I think you get the drift:

Marin Church supports gay marriage

“Jesus had two dads and he turned out just fine!”

You really have to think that through a couple of times in order to appreciate it: In one of the most affluent, educated communities in America, the argument for gay marriage is that “Jesus had two fathers.” Really? This is the best that America’s Leftist theologians can do? They reduce the entire Old Testament to a statement that Jesus is the product of a same sex marriage — and wow! He was the Son of God. Who knows what’s going to happen once gay marriage is legal? Obama had better start worrying about having competition for his messiah status.

But why stop at attacking the church just because it has this old-fashioned idea about the sanctity of the biologically complementary male-female relationship, and its role in the perpetuation of humankind?  In an article that passed under my radar when it first came out in December 2014, Salon’s resident anti-religion writer, Valerie Tarico, explains what really powers Christianity —   rape.

Powerful gods and demi-gods impregnating human women—it’s a common theme in the history of religion, and it’s more than a little rapey.

[snip]

Though the earliest Christians had a competing story, in the Gospel of Luke, the Virgin Mary gets pregnant when the spirit of the Lord comes upon her and the power of the Most High overshadows her.

[snip]

The impregnation process may be a “ravishing” or seduction or some kind of titillating but nonsexual procreative penetration. The story may come from an Eastern or Western religious tradition, pagan or Christian. But these encounters between beautiful young women and gods have one thing in common. None of them has freely given female consent as a part of the narrative. (Luke’s Mary assents after being not asked but told by a powerful supernatural being what is going to happen to her, “Behold the bond slave of the Lord: be it done to me . . .”)

Although Tarico is careful to prove her intellectual bona fides by talking about all sorts of rapes in Greek, Roman, and Hindu mythology, Salon’s editors provided the appropriate illustration so that readers would fully understand that the article is meant to be an attack on that most rapey of all modern religions — Christianity:

Salon article illustration of Virgin Mary

Salon article illustration of Virgin Mary

(Keep in mind that, even as Salon made sure Americans knew that Christianity is the rapey religion, the real rapes, the ones involving actual violent sexual penetration against children and women, were taking place everywhere that ISIS and Boko Haram and other misbegotten fundamentalist Christians sects were on the move.)

One can’t help wonder whether that Marin church boasting about Jesus’s two dads fully understood that one of them — the divine one — was a wild-eyed rapist, probably indistinguishable from that wild-eyed, and of course totally imaginary, group of rapists at UVa a couple of months ago.

Jews and Christians are in the cross hairs good and proper.  The Muslim war against Jews is reaching peak ferocity in its battle against Israel, which has spilled into virulent anti-Semitism around the world, of the type not seen since the years before WWII.  Meanwhile, the companion Leftist war against Christians seems to be concentrating itself on the gay marriage issue, because the Left obviously feels that it has leverage on this issue.

I’ve quoted myself before on this subject and I’ll quote myself again.  This battle is not about whether, as a matter of civil law, states can decide what type of individuals can join together to get the benefit of various laws encouraging people to pair up.  If that were the case, the agitators would be working to do away with state issued “marriage” licenses and, instead, to have all state-sanctioned partnerships became “civil unions,” leaving marriage solely to the faithful.  I could live with that.

The various states could becoming laboratories, testing which unions best benefit society as a whole and, more specifically, the children raised within these many and varied unions.  (American black’s dire economic plight, combined with their propensity for violence, would seem to indicate that the current approach — 73% of black children are born out of wedlock — is not a good one.)  But that’s not the war the Left is fighting.  Its war is intended to bring down religion in America.

Back in March 2009, long before gay marriage got to the Supreme Court, I wrote:

As you know, one of my main reasons for supporting Proposition 8, which amended the California constitution to define marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, was because I believe that move to redefine marriage has the potential to put the State and religion organizations — especially the Catholic church — into a head-on collision.

Liberals, when confronted with this notion, will often argue that, while the Catholic Church objects to abortion, that’s never created a constitutional crisis.  What they ignore is the fact that, while the church is not in the business of providing abortions, it is in the business of providing marriages.  It also ignores the fact that abortion is a legal right, not a constitutional one, while gay marriage proponents have been framing it in the opposite way:  they say gay marriage as a constitutional, rather than a mere legal right.

Keep in mind that, for Catholics, marriage isn’t just a white dress, cake and Mendelssohn’s wedding march.  Instead, it’s a sacrament.  A basic tenet of the religion is the joining of man and woman before God.

So imagine this scenario:  Two men go to the local Catholic parish and demand that it marry them.  The priest, sympathetic to their love for each other, nevertheless states that he cannot, at a purely religious level marry them.  The men turn around and sue the Church for violating their Constitutional rights.  Suddenly, the judicial system is called upon to examine doctrinal issues to determine whether they mesh with Constitutional issues.  It’s a scary scenario for anyone who takes seriously the principle that government may not interfere with religious doctrine.

Let me throw in one more recent Leftie poster to drive home the point that this is an all-out war against Christianity, and it’s one that too many so-called Christian churches in America are unable or unwilling to fight. Keep in mind as you look at the poster below that we already know from the IRS’s battle against conservative and pro-Israel groups, that the power to tax is the power to destroy — which is precisely why our Founders and previous American generations understood that the state cannot get its greedy financial talons into America’s churches, synagogues, temples, and, provided that they don’t abuse their First Amendment freedoms by preaching mass murder and treason, her mosques too:

Taxing churches

The Bookworm Beat 4-27-15 — “not yet the Apocalypse” edition and open thread

Woman writingMy brain is filled with Apocalyptic imagery, but it’s not because Obama is president, the Middle East is in flames, our southern border has collapsed, our economy is stagnant, Greece may drag down Europe, and Islamist’s are resurgent everywhere. It’s actually because last night, when my work load finally showed signs of a much-desired longish-term slowdown, I started reading two excellent books.

The first is Simon Sebag Montefiore’s lyrical and highly informative Jerusalem: The Biography, which takes the reader from Jerusalem’s pre-Biblical beginnings, to Old Testament and New Testament history, and then through post-Biblical history, all the way up to the 1967 War. It’s a lovely book, but I’ve just finished reading about Jesus’s crucifixion and am working my way toward’s the Kingdom of Israel’s destruction in 70 AD, so you can see why I’d be having an “end of days” feeling.

The second book that I’m reading, equally good so far, isn’t helping. It’s John Kelly’s The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time, another elegantly written book that makes you realize the speed with which civilization can collapse (as if the recent Ebola scare wasn’t reminder enough). I think too that Kelly, with a historian’s true knowledge rather than a Progressive’s fantasy-science melange, might just be a climate change skeptic. It’s this bit of information that’s the giveaway, about the changing climate and demographic conditions in Europe in the five hundred years leading to the plague:

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You’ll never guess this priest’s clever idea for conservative Christians asked to serve gay weddings *UPDATED*

Gay marriage wedding cake photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, 26-1-2008.If you’re wondering why we’re suddenly hearing so many stories about conservative Christians (not Muslims, mind you, just Christians) being dragged before the thought-police for failing to bake cakes, make bouquets, or take photographs at gay weddings, you need wonder no more.

Coincidence is not at work here.  These small business people are being targeted. While the true civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s targeted the government that denied them their constitutional rights, as well as big businesses that cooperated with the government, we now have the flip side of that:  Those people pushing an agenda antithetical to individual citizens who claim their rights under the Constitution are working hand-in-hand with the government to destroy them.  The message from the institutional Left is clear: Get with the program or we will bankrupt you.

One priest, however, has come up with a clever idea that, if broadly applied, will bring that tactic to a complete halt. Father John Zuhlsdorf says that conservatives who don’t wish to have their freedoms of speech, religion, or association impinged upon by being forced to participate in ceremonies offensive to their core religious beliefs, don’t need to become martyrs.  Instead, with politeness and good cheer, they can disarm completely the Left’s economic terrorism:

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Some random last thoughts about RFRA and gay marriage

A friend sent me this poster:

Wedding cake ordered to make

I emailed my friend back, and thought I’d share with you the random thoughts the poster triggered in my fevered brain:

We know that gay lefties, each thinking of him or her (or its) self as a modern-day Rosa Parks, aren’t just stumbling into these bakeries or photographic studios by accident, but are, instead, deliberately targeting Christians. It’s the nature of the target, of course, that explains why these self-styled activists are no Rosa Parks. Parks targeted government discrimination. These lefties are targeting individual freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. Huge difference.

And here’s another “one more thing” to say about this gay mafia: Because they’re targeting good Christians, I can bet you the Lefties assume that the same people who place such value in their relationship with Christ would never dream of spitting in food — or doing something even nastier. If you watched that icky movie The Help, you remember that the black woman got audience applause for baking her own feces into a pie. The Left knows, however, that someone who will sacrifice a job rather than betray his faith won’t really do something like that.

Jesus would have supported RFRA

Jesus-and-Cross-BR550The useful thing about the Left’s willingness to expose its ignorance is that analyzing its errors often leads one to greater truths.  For me, the greater truth flowing from a poster highlighting Leftist stupidity is that Jesus almost certainly would have approved of Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as similar acts in other states and under federal law.

Being Jewish, I have to admit that I don’t usually run things through a “What Would Jesus Do” filter.  However, I started thinking along those lines when a large number of my Leftist Facebook friends got very excited about this Easter poster:

Flog a banker

My first thought was that, in general principle, the man who preached the Sermon on the Mount would not have approved of that poster. Jesus was not generally a fan of flogging:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

***

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

Still, there’s a grain of truth in that anti-Christian poster. Upon his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus did yell at the money changers and tip over their tables. What enraged him, though, wasn’t their profession, even though he did castigate their enclave as a “den of thieves.” Instead, he was upset because they were profaning the holy area of the Temple.  Matthew describes an angry man:

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

John describes a man willing to use the lash to clean God’s house:

And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;

And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.

What Lefties, who are “instruction” learners, rather than “principle” learners, take away from John is very specific:  Flog people who handle money.  In fact, that’s completely wrong.  I’ve already noted that, as a general. matter, Jesus did not believe in using violence against his fellow man, even if said fellow man was doing something mean or sinful.  There was a bigger principle at stake here.  What drove Jesus to a violent frenzy was the desecration of the Temple.  Jesus had a clear hierarchy:  Treat your fellow man with love and kindness; but treat God, his house, and his words, with absolute reverence, untainted by government or commerce.

Jesus’s clear delineation between religious and secular matters appears again when he was called upon to talk about taxes. When hostile questioners tried to get Jesus to reject as a matter of faith the taxes that Rome imposed on Jews, he instead drew a bright line in the sand: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

The Founders, all of whom were steeped in the Bible even if they were not practicing Christians, knew about Jesus’s efforts to keep commerce and government away from the purity of faith. They were also aware of their own history: For more than 100 years, Christians and Jews had come to America to escape the stifling, and often deadly, restrictions imposed upon them by European governments because of their faith. It was in this context that the First Amendment came into being:

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.

Thanks to the 14th Amendment, the individual states are also barred from making laws that impinge on religious freedom. The only exceptions are laws that advance a clearly compelling state interest. For example, assuming we don’t lapse into complete dhimmitude any time soon, our laws against murder would prohibit sharia’s insistence that gays are an offense to Allah and must be hanged, thrown off buildings, or beaten to death.  Outside of abortion, which is a discussion for another day, American morality has been such that the State’s compelling state interest is to protect people’s lives, if at all possible, not to take them.

Given that both Jesus and the Founders upheld an inviolable sphere in which people are free to practice their faith without the sullying influences of government and commerce, what would Jesus think of Indiana’s new RFRA laws?  My feeling is that he’d approve.

Rich Lowry sums up precisely what Indiana’s RFRA law is and what it is not:

All the Indiana law says is that the state can’t substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, unless there is a compelling governmental interest at stake and it is pursued by the least restrictive means. The law doesn’t mandate any particular outcome; it simply provides a test for the courts in those rare instances when a person’s exercise of religion clashes with a law.

The law does not mandate casting stones at gays nor does it require Christians to hate gays.  And interestingly enough, the vast majority of Christians did not cast stones at gays, nor do they hate them (although they disapprove of their sexual practices).

The only thing that the law does is to say, consistent with both Jesus’s teachings and the Constitution, that people of conscience cannot be forced to bring commerce or government diktats into their own inviolable area of faith.  Put another way, to the extent marriage is a core sacrament to the faithful, the law cannot force them to sell themselves out — in effect, to become coerced money changers in their own temple.

Incidentally, while I’m on the subject of the gay lobby pushing ever harder on Christians and Christian doctrine, let me say that all of this was predictable.  Years and years ago, I warned that gay marriage had nothing to do with marriage and everything to do with toppling religion.  Here’s what I had to say on the subject in 2009, when Prop. 8 (defining marriage in California as being between a man and a woman) was a hot ballot item:

As you know, one of my main reasons for supporting Proposition 8, which amended the California constitution to define marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, was because I believe that the move to redefine marriage has the potential to put the State and religious organizations — especially the Catholic church — into a head-on collision.

Liberals, when confronted with this notion, will often argue that, while the Catholic Church objects to abortion, that’s never created a constitutional crisis. What they ignore is the fact that, while the church is not in the business of providing abortions, it is in the business of providing marriages. ***

Keep in mind that, for Catholics, marriage isn’t just a white dress, cake and Mendelssohn’s wedding march. Instead, it’s a sacrament. A basic tenet of the religion is the joining of man and woman before God. Marriage is one of the sacraments.

So imagine this scenario: Two men go to the local Catholic parish and demand that it marry them. The priest, sympathetic to their love for each other, nevertheless states that he cannot, at a purely religious level, marry them. The men turn around and sue the Church for violating their Constitutional rights. Suddenly, the judicial system is called upon to examine doctrinal issues to determine whether they mesh with Constitutional issues. It’s a scary scenario for anyone who takes seriously the principle that government may not interfere with religious doctrine.

The RFRA fight is not about protecting gays from discrimination. While the ignorant sheeple who are going around screaming about boycotting Indiana are incapable of understanding this, the people spearheading the charge know perfectly well that RFRA is in essence a shorthand for the established constitutional principle that states may not impose on religion without a compelling reason.

These same operators have a clear ultimate goal, which is to see religion overturned. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Castro, and all the other Leftists who took over Judeo-Christian countries understood that traditional religion, with its emphasis on personal responsibility, justice, morality, and grace, is the enemy of socialism and tyranny. In America, though, because the Constitution precludes direct attacks on Christianity, gay marriage represents a back door way to destroy both the faith and the faithful.  The tactic is working too, as Gov. Pence has already pretty much surrendered.

For more on the upcoming attacks on traditional religions, check out this Ben Shapiro post.

I can’t think of a better way to end this post than to quote Servo1969 about the nature of those groups that seek to overturn the Judeo-Christian tradition in this country — and their nature is not aligned with Christ’s principles about our responsibilities to our fellow man:

The thing to remember about all these modern “rights” groups is that no matter how much they use the word “equal” they don’t really mean it. They don’t want to be regarded as equal with their oppressors; They want to be regarded as better than their oppressors. They want to be given special treatment in all situations and they want it entered into law.

Modern radical feminists are actually female supremacists. They believe they are better than men and that men deserve to be punished collectively for their past transgressions against women.

Modern radical gay rights activists are actually homosexual supremacists.They believe they are better than Christians and that Christians deserve to be punished collectively for their past transgressions against homosexuals.

Modern radical [insert minority here] equal rights activists are actually [insert minority here] supremacists.They believe they are better than whites and that whites deserve to be punished collectively for their past transgressions against [insert minority here].

Christ, with his emphasis on the fact that we are all responsible for ourselves and all equal before God, would not approve.

The Bookworm Beat 2-6-15 — the “Fearless Friday” edition and Open Thread

Woman writingObama’s adversarial relationship with Christianity

What did we expect already from yesterday’s Prayer Breakfast? Obama long ago put the world on notice that he’s going full Bulworth (i.e., after six years in office, he intends, finally, to stop lying and speak the truth).

While before Obama just let out peevish little trickles of animosity, anyone paying attention could tell that:

(a) he’s profoundly ignorant about history — not just American history, but any history, including Muslim and Christian history;

(b) he hates Christians and Christianity;

(c) he hates America, no matter that this nation twice elected him as president (with a little help from the IRS, of course); and

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An amazing Holocaust story plus thoughts about the Big Bang and the human soul

Allies during WWII Hitler and the Grand MuftiHitler loved Islam.*  If you didn’t know that he loved Islam, you might think that Hitler, with his race-based obsessions, would have been hostile to a religion primarily centered on a Semitic people.  To Hitler, though, Islam was a manly religion that shared his goals:  the eradication of the Jews coupled with world domination.  That abiding respect for Islam as practiced by the world’s Muslims, led him to ally  himself closely with Muslims whenever possible:

As David Motadel writes in “Islam and Nazi Germany’s War,” Muslims fought on both sides in World War II. But only Nazis and Islamists had a political-spiritual romance. Both groups hated Jews, Bolsheviks and liberal democracy. Both sought what Michel Foucault, praising the Iranian Revolution in 1979, would later call the spiritual-political “transfiguration of the world” by “combat.”

 

[snip]

By late 1941, Germany controlled large Muslim populations in southeastern Europe and North Africa. Nazi policy extended the grand schemes of imperial Germany toward madly modern ends. To aid the “liberation struggle of Islam,” the propaganda ministry told journalists to praise “the Islamic world as a cultural factor,” avoid criticism of Islam, and substitute “anti-Jewish” for “anti-Semitic.” In April 1942, Hitler became the first European leader to declare that Islam was “incapable of terrorism.” As usual, it is hard to tell if the Führer set the tone or merely amplified his people’s obsessions.

The above historical fact is important to know because it explains one of the most amazing Holocaust survival stories I’ve ever heard.  My learning the story came about in a peculiar way, too.  I was speaking with a friend about our memories.  His is and always has been excellent, but is failing ever so slightly with age.  Mine has always been idiosyncratic, in that I can remember anything that interests me, but have almost no success with brute force, rote memorization (explaining why I’ve never been able to master a language in a classroom).  This conversation about memory reminded my friend of the story behind his Jewish relatives’ survival in wartime Paris.

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Atheists make fatuous arguments that don’t debunk God; Christianity is virtuous; and radical Islam is illiberal and monstrous

Why do atheists care if others prayMy sister watched The Unbelievers, a documentary that follows Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss as they try to convert people to atheism, with science as the true faith. That’s all fine. If they want to proselytize to willing listeners, good for them. I have just a few comments, based upon what my sister told me, and what I know generally about Krauss and Dawkins:

1. My sister said that Krauss and Dawkins spoke scathingly of people who believe in transubstantiation (the conversion of the wine and wafer into the blood and body of Christ during the Catholic service).

My response was “Thank God [no pun intended] for the people who believe in transubstantiation or for those who don’t believe in transubstantiation but just believe that Christ died for humankind’s sins.” Since we’re Jewish, and I’m an undifferentiated theist, she was surprised at my vehemence.

I explained that the belief in the body and blood of Christ, combined with the story of Isaac, which forbids human sacrifice, is one of the few delicate strands keeping modern civilization from slipping back into human sacrifice. The desire to shed human blood to propitiate random Gods or to take on the strength of the dead lies very close to the surface.
Don’t believe me? Just witness the way the Islamists are boasting about eating parts of their bodies. Even their beheadings and crucifixions are intended as a sign of their worshiping on the Islamist altar.

2. My sister also told me that Dawkins and Krauss claim that the Greeks and the Romans understood higher mathematics, that fundamentalist Christians destroyed that knowledge during that Middle Ages, that moderately religious Muslims raised it up again during our Middle Ages, and that fundamentalist Islamists are destroying knowledge. From this potted history, Dawkins and Krauss conclude that religion is bad because, when fundamentalists grab hold of it, knowledge vanishes. (Yes, it is hearsay from my sister when I say that Dawkins and Krauss relied on this potted history for their conclusion but I still accept it as true because (a) I’ve heard other atheists make the same argument and (b) my sister has proven reliable on these things. Now, back to how dumb this argument is.)

First, for so-called logical people, the syllogism that (a) fundamentalists destroy knowledge; (b) some religions have fundamentalists; (c) therefore all religion is stupid, is obviously false. Do I need to explain why or can I take a short cut here and assume that you are all with me on this one?

Second, as I explained to my sister, what brought about the Dark Ages wasn’t Christianity, which was small potatoes when the Roman empire (which was the inheritor of some Greek knowledge) collapsed. It was the pagans who destroyed the Empire and, with it, its store of knowledge. It was the Christians, starting with monks sequestered far away in Ireland who began the laborious process of bringing light and knowledge back to the darkness. This process was not a straight line and there were definitely people and nations who perverted Christianity to suit evil ends. Ultimately, thought, it was this Christian journey that led to the Enlightenment, to the end of the slave trade, to the end of child labor, to the beginning of the 40 hour work week, and to most other civilized beliefs we have long taken for granted in the Western world.

As for the Muslims, yes, the Muslim world had preserved some of the Greek and Roman mathematical and scientific knowledge, and as well as the marvelous Indian numbering system that goes under the misnomer of “Arabic numerals.” During laxer periods in medieval Muslim history, some people — mostly Jews or former Jews — relied upon this knowledge to come up with important ideas.

But mostly, no, moderate Muslims were not a Renaissance of discovery and creation. Just as was the case when 19 al Qaeda terrorists used an airplane to destroy the Twin Towers, the medieval Muslim world created nothing. It simply hijacked knowledge from the people it conquered. This isn’t to say that I’m not grateful that those Medieval Muslims, unlike today’s fundamentalist Muslims, chose to salvage, not destroy, books and some limited ideas. I’m just saying that only the uninformed could pretend that they actually had an intellectually dynamic and creative culture.

So, to the extent that Krauss, Dawkins, and other atheists attack religion using a crude, false syllogism and a lot of historical ignorance, I’m neither persuaded nor impressed.

3. Dawkins and Krauss advocate science as a substitute for faith. I firmly believe in science, which I define as things that are proven true through careful observation or reliable experimentation, or everything that can be inferred from observation and experimentation. Nevertheless, science is no substitute for faith and, indeed, becomes just as dangerous as any other fundamentalist faith when people fall into that error.

Simply put, history proves over and over that substituting science for faith results stupid ideas. The most obvious example is the claim that the Big Bang disproves God’s existence. Huh? I currently believe in the Big Bang as the most reasonable theory to prove observable phenomena, but someone has to explain to me how the Big Bang disproves God?

It’s true that the Big Bang arguably challenges the Genesis version of creation. However, some would say that the Genesis version is an allegory, since it tracks the earth’s development, both geological and biological with rather uncanny accuracy, rather than a Bronze Age creation fantasy. Whatever. Whether Genesis is a truth, a fable, or an allegory, it doesn’t mean there is no God.

But why get caught up in origin stories. Let’s talk about the world in which we live. Moreover, let’s talk about my favorite example of elevating a scientific theory to the realm of faith.

Where to begin? Every prediction has proven wrong. Every allegedly new phenomenon is, in fact, same old same old. Despite being wrong again, and again, and again, nothing shakes the believer’s faith in the “science” of climate change.  When a doctrine is infallible, it’s not science; it’s faith.

We can also look at a less contentious subject than climate change to prove how wrong science is.  When it comes to diet, it seems as is everything science has ever taught us is wrong. We were told to give up all fat, eat carbs, and use fake sugar. We promptly become obese and diabetic. It turns out that natural fats in moderate quantities are beneficial, that carbs in excess are bad, and that fake sugar messes with our bodies. It’s Sleeper all over again.

Just the other night, on 60 Minutes, scientists proudly admit that, despite humans living with them for 15,000 years, scientists know next to nothing about dogs. I could even argue that they know less than nothing about dogs.  For years many scientists have claimed that dogs do not know “love,” something every dog owner knows is a manifestly false statement. Only now are scientists catching up to the love our common sense always knew was there.

Over and over again, scientists are forced to concede their ignorance and errors — and yet the true believers consistently assert that anthropogenic climate change is unfalsifiable. It must always be true. If that’s not faith — and one in which Dawkins (or, at least, his foundation) and Krauss (who is not a “climate scientist”) unquestioningly believe (see here, beginning at 13:30), I don’t know what it.

(For those interested, Lord Monckton does a beautiful job of debunking the climate faithful who try to debunk the skeptics.)

Having said all of the above about The Unbelievers, I have to say something nice about two famous atheists, one who is incredibly rude and vulgar (that would be Bill Maher) and the other of whom is polite (Sam Harris).  Both of them stood against Ben Affleck, who desperately tried to argue there’s nothing illiberal about Islam.  Amusingly and expectedly, Affleck supported his position by throwing out the term “racist.”  This is an idiocy that could only come from a Leftist who doesn’t understand that Islam is not a race but is, instead, a religion that can be and is embraced by people all over the world, regardless of race or natural origin.

Thinking about Affleck’s last-ditch argument, I have to say that Leftists are constantly unable to separate ideology and behaviors from skin color.  You know, I think they have a name for people like that.  Wait.  Wait.  It’s coming to me.  Oh, yeah!  Racist.  Affleck’s a racist.

And yes, I loved it when Affleck says “we’re endowed by our forefathers with inalienable rights.”  No wonder the Left is so willing to throw those rights overboard.  They don’t come from a Creator; they come from dead white men.

Anyway, you  have to see the video to appreciate it fully.  Here it is:

I disagree with Harris and Maher on many things, but they are brave and honest about this and deserves kudos. Also, to the extent I’m vaguely religious, I pray constantly for their safety, and hope that they don’t end up like Theo Van Gogh.

Also, since I’ve wandered into the subject of Islam, I’d like to commend to your attention an incredibly solid post explaining why it would be an incredible mistake for America to define itself by fear of radical Islam. Our culture may mot be perfect, but the Islamist culture is monstrous and, for that very reason, fundamentally weak.

Barack Obama, in his own words, on Islam and Christianity

obama-churchBarack Obama self-identifies as a Christian.  He seems, though, to find Christianity troubling.  Meanwhile, although he denies being a Muslim, he obviously finds it an emotionally and aesthetically attractive belief system.  Why do I say this?  Because someone was good enough to assemble a list of his statements about both religions, and to put them side-by-side:

Obama on Islam:

1. “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”

2. “The sweetest sound I know is the Muslim call to prayer”

3. “We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country.”

4. “As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam.”

5. “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.”

6. “Islam has always been part of America”

7. “we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities”

8. “These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.”

9. “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

10. “I made it clear that America is not – and will never be – at war with Islam.”

11. “Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.”

12. “So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed”

13. “In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.”

14. “Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”

15. “Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality”

16. “The Holy Koran tells us, ‘O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.’”

17. “I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month.”

18. “We’ve seen those results in generations of Muslim immigrants – farmers and factory workers, helping to lay the railroads and build our cities, the Muslim innovators who helped build some of our highest skyscrapers and who helped unlock the secrets of our universe.”

19. “That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

20. “I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story.”

Obama on Christianity:

1. “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation”

2. “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.”

3. “Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?”

4. “Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.”

5. “The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.”

6. From Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope: “I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union that confers equivalent rights on such basic matters as hospital visitation or health insurance coverage simply because the people they love are of the same sex—nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount.”

7. Obama’s response when asked what his definition of sin is: “Being out of alignment with my values.”

8. “If all it took was someone proclaiming I believe Jesus Christ and that he died for my sins, and that was all there was to it, people wouldn’t have to keep coming to church, would they.”

9. “This is something that I’m sure I’d have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell.”

10. “I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That’s just not part of my religious makeup.”

11. “I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.”

12. “I’ve said this before, and I know this raises questions in the minds of some evangelicals. I do not believe that my mother, who never formally embraced Christianity as far as I know … I do not believe she went to hell.”

13. “Those opposed to abortion cannot simply invoke God’s will–they have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths.”

14. On his support for civil unions for gay couples: “If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount.”

15. “You got into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

16. “In our household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology”

17. “On Easter or Christmas Day, my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites.”

18. “We have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own”

19. “All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra— (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)”

20. “I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”

The list doesn’t mean that Obama isn’t a troubled, doubting Christian, or that he’s a closet Muslim.  As Queen Elizabeth I said, it’s not up to us to make windows into men’s souls. But the list of those statements, all of which I remember him making in real-time, strongly indicate that, whatever his actual beliefs, Obama’s affinity (which is different from his faith) seems to hew towards Islam, rather than to the Judeo-Christianity that has for so long underpinned our nation.

Currently, you can find the list here and here.  I found it at American Thinker.

 

Secularists: It’s Christians who are killing Christianity

A joyous full immersion baptismBefore I explain how Christians are killing Christianity (at least according to Alternet and Salon), a short anecdote:  I have friends who used to joke that they would take up smoking when their kids were teens.  Why?  So that the kids, who they assumed would be rebellious, would rebel against Mom and Dad by not smoking.  And now back to Alternet/Salon, where an atheist triumphantly reports that, not only is Christianity dying in America, but also that children raised in Christian homes are part of the demographic most enthusiastically embracing atheism:

The fastest growing religious faith in the United States is the group collectively labeled “Nones,” who spurn organized religion in favor of non-defined skepticism about faith. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers. This is hugely significant. The trend is very much that Americans raised in Christian households are shunning the religion of their parents for any number of reasons: the advancement of human understanding; greater access to information; the scandals of the Catholic Church; and the over-zealousness of the Christian Right.

Speaking facetiously, I would suggest that, as children in Christian households become teens, their parents ought to indulge in a little Satan worship to help drive their rebellious youngsters back into the religious fold.  On a more serious note, the fact is that young people do rebel . . . and that older people seem to crave faith.  It’s natural when you’re invincible (as all young people are) to feel that you don’t need a God.  And it’s equally natural that, as you age, and see the chaos inherent in the world and feel mortality breathing down your neck, that faith starts to seem like a light and a refuge.  I wouldn’t immediately start panicking about non-religious millennials.

Another analogy relevant to this issue:  Imagine a family with a dog.  One owner hates begging dogs and refuses to feed the dog table scraps.  The other owner loves feeding table scraps.  Torn between the two owners, it’s no contest:  The dog will become a beggar.  The lowest common denominator behavior always wins.

Christianity makes demands upon its adherents.  You have to elevate yourself against your baser instincts.  American secularism, by contrast, encourages people to indulge their baser instincts (mostly their sexual ones).  In a competition between the two, the lowest common denominator behavior will prevail.

Here’s hope, though:  Humans aren’t dogs.  Dogs will beg until they’re too fat to move and everyone hates having them around . . . and they’ll still beg.  Humans, however, have a sense of self-worth that dogs lack.  Unlike dogs, humans have to look at themselves in the mirror and many of them who have spent years living the self-indulgent life of the secularist don’t like what they see.  Religion promises redemption.

Anyway, this is a bit of a choppy post, so I’d very much like to hear what you have to say on the subject.  I think what I’m trying to say is that Christians shouldn’t give up the fight to raise their children in the faith, no matter the numbers.  And having said that, here’s one more choppy point:  secularism ultimately is very thin gruel, since it doesn’t offer answers addressing every thinking person’s existential anxiety.  Faith always fills the vacuum . . . and Islam is the most aggressive faith in the world, one that has no compunction about alternately enticing and bullying lost souls to get on board.

(And while we’re on the subject of faith, David Goldman analyzes the faith underlying modern secularism.)

The gift of forgiveness

Matthew, a firefighter, fell asleep on the way home from a 24 hour shift.  When he awoke, he had caused a crash that killed 30-year-old June and her unborn son.  Left behind were her 18 month old daughter, Faith, and her husband, Erik.  What Erik did next will astound you:

You can read more about Erik and Matthew here.

These are the types of stories that explain (a) why people who subscribe to the religious part of the Judeo-Christian doctrine are happier* and (b) why I envy religious people their deep faith.

_____________

*I subscribe to the moral part of the Judeo-Christian doctrine.  While I’m no longer the atheist I was when I was young, I would be lying if I said that I believed in a personal God, the way these two men do.