About Rationally Speaking


Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

What's Jesus' favorite college football team?

You would think this is in fact a fair (if insane and theologically rather silly) question to ask. After all, as an article by Joe Drape in today's New York Times reports, an increasing number of football coaches arrange for pre- or post-game prayers by their players, and in some cases even go to the extra length of bringing said players to local churches on Sunday mornings.

Of course, all of this is in the spirit of "team building" and has absolutely nothing to do with the separation of church and state. You see, participation isn't mandatory, and there will be "no retaliation" against players who might not want to participate because, say, they belong to a different faith or -- God forbid -- have no faith in the supernatural at all!

Yeah right, if anybody -- including the several coaches interviewed for the article -- really believes that simply saying "ok, Bob, you don't have to come, if you really don't feel like praising Jesus with your teammates" makes thins an acceptable practice in public schools, I'd like to tell these people about a piece of real estate I own in Rome and I'd like to sell -- it's called the Colosseum.

The relationship between a teacher, especially a coach, and his students is a special one, and it entails a significant degree of asymmetry, which makes it uncomfortable to say the least for any student -- even college-level -- to simply say no. Add to this the force of peer pressure, and football teams around the country are turning into yet another Christian evangelical field.

So, what, one might argue, don't Christians have the right to evangelize? Yes, that's why they can print what they want, own churches (tax free) all over the country, control tv and radio stations, and influence the political process of the most powerful nation in the world. Don't tell him that barring them from breaking the church-state separation wall is an instance of discrimination or persecution. Grow up! And while you're at it, just imagine the outcry if I were to walk into my undergraduate class and begin by having people reciting the Humanist Manifesto – no pressure though!

39 comments:

  1. You know what exactly is wrong here? If you read the article, you would note a Muslim student didn't have a problem at all with the prayers and such -- in fact he said he benefitted from it. Do you not see how people benefit from this -- if you read the article you should. Do you really think the Humanist Manifesto is going to bring a team together? The problem really lies with folks who seem to develop a rash everytime religion is mentioned. Is Barry Lynn so afraid of religion in the public square that he needs to sit around and think of ways to sue people? I'm amazed to see people so enamored with their own brains and their ability to reason that they fail to see what really inspires, motivates and educates other people. They fail to see for centuries that it has done this. It's like you don't even see the other part of yourself.

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  2. And this is not about hating reason, or that reason and religion are incompatible, it is about the exclusive reliance on reason, the exclusive reliance on the secular, and neither of those two things -- in terms of benefits to a group/team/family -- can compare to the positive effect religion has had in these areas. If you've ever played team sports you know this is not about "what's jesus' fav team?" This is about teaching young men what it takes succeed -- with other people, the team effort. That requires an understanding of the self, an understanding of morals because you are interacting with others, and it is just flat out ridiculous to prevent the discussion of religion when it is religion that has proved most beneficial in these areas -- especially so in the context of American history. You would have them strip all this religion down to some creeds that are bland enough for everyone to agree on and in doing so would rob the creeds of the very power they have -- it is their context, not simply just the words, which matter.

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  3. Heh, 3rd time is the charm. I actually like having discourse on this subject(s), but the area for blog comments seems to tempt rashness. The sports teams at my alma mater, the University of Arizona, follow the creed of "Bear Down". As far as I can tell this is entirely secular in nature, no involvement of religion or that spooky Jesus character. And the teams use this creed, it's great, inspiring, wonderful. So I guess what I am reacting to is the prosecuting of Christianity in the public square, just the utter attempt to silence it because it riles someone the wrong way.

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  4. The bottom line is "What happens to the kid who doesn't want to participate?" ...human nature being what it is

    Similarly with ID in schools "What happens to the teacher who, in teaching the controversy, decides to present the rebuttal to ID... just for completeness sake.

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  5. I would like to point out that Barry Lynn is a reverend of the United Church of Christ -- can't exactly be accused of being anti-religion, or even anti-Christianity...

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  6. Matt, how on earth can someone construe the separation of church and state in public schools as "prosecuting of Christianity in the public square"? Christians can and do express themselves in all sorts of public squares, including public schools and universities. And they have a right to do so. It is public officials (like coaches) who don't have a right to shove Christianity down the throats of their students, nothing more.

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  7. So I guess what I am reacting to is the prosecuting of Christianity in the public square, just the utter attempt to silence it because it riles someone the wrong way.

    Nobody is prosecuting Christianity. If a group of high school kids wants to pray, no problem. If the kids on a team form their own prayer group, no problem. But it's the idea of coaches leading a team of public-school kids in prayer that's the problem. Don't you see that it will exclude someone at some point? Or worse? Imagine how a Jewish or atheist student would feel? Christians claim that since they are in the minority, their views shouldn't matter. But what about protecting the minority from the "tyrrany of the majority"?

    I'm guessing you're a Christian, so imagine this scenario: you live in India and you read about the same sort of thing with regards to the god Ganesh. The Christian kids are being pressured to pray to Ganesh along with the rest of the team (not that there are many high school football teams in India, but anyway, pretend there are). Now imagine it's YOUR kid being pressured to pray to Ganesh in order to fit in and bond with the guys. Now how do you feel?

    Not to mention that if you are a Christian, how do you feel about teenage boys being taught tacitly that Jesus determines the outcome of high school football games? If one team loses, does that mean that Jesus is displeased with that team in some way? Or that the other team has earned more of Jesus' favor somehow? And doesn't it kind of cheapen Jesus' message to turn him into a team mascot?

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  8. Do you really think the Humanist Manifesto is going to bring a team together?

    No, but how about making sacrifices to Satan? No reason players can't bond over a little Satanism, either. And how about those great post-game orgies you can have, eh? Sure beats praying and bible reading.

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  9. Once again, it is an ancient Greek mythology thing that has a sec/hum like yourself, Massimo, feeling that youth, beauty and intellect should be spent on "self". The thing about coaches influencing young people into particular beliefs is just canard. Who cares? You know as well as I do that profs do it every single day all across our country. My son’s college philosophy prof. divided up the room into who believes in absolute truth and who does not last week...and so on and so forth. You know how the rest of the story goes.

    The real objective here is to keep our youngest and brightest thinking that this life is "all about them”. That is height of a humanist/Greek mythological ideal, BTW. Were it not true - why aren't the humanist orgs recruiting from (and standing up for rights within) old age homes?

    cal

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  10. why aren't the humanist orgs...standing up for rights within old age homes?

    What makes you so sure they aren't, Cal?

    As for recruiting...humanist groups generally don't prostelytize, since they aren't peddling salvation.

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  11. cal wrote: "Once again, it is an ancient Greek mythology thing that has a sec/hum like yourself, Massimo, feeling that youth, beauty and intellect should be spent on "self"."

    Cal, where on earth did you get the idea that MP was promoting "self". From what I gathered in his recent post on the topic of "public" and "social contract" and based on his perpetual denigration of libertarianism, I would not have interpreted his philosophy as being high on "self".
    And I should think that the strongly religious would be the most opposed to coaches encouraging the players to go to church with him. What do you do when the coach is not from YOUR religion? What if the coach is Catholic and cons a bunch of protestant students to say the rosary and pray to the Virgin Mary? What if the coach is a Scientologist? No thank-you, I don't want my kids going to Hell because the performed a forbidden ritual or got drawn into some cult. There have to be plenty of team building exercises that don't involve the endangering of my children's afterlife.

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  12. BTW, Jesus' favorite team is the University of Florida Gators.

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  13. The Christian kids are being pressured to pray to Ganesh along with the rest of the team (not that there are many high school football teams in India, but anyway, pretend there are). Now imagine it's YOUR kid being pressured to pray to Ganesh in order to fit in and bond with the guys. Now how do you feel?


    I'm going to play devil's advocate here for a moment. I have had this thought experiment before, and the truth is I would just deal with it. How can I expect to change their entire culture just because of concerns to my kid? Every social group probably does something that makes a few people in their midsts feel uncomfortable. If we tried to stop it all, life on earth could get pretty boring. Tolerance has to work both ways.

    Of course, in the U.S. its slightly different, because we are officially a secular nation. But its like what I said before about the Nedow Pledge of Allegiance case. Complaining too loudly about these things ultimately backfires. It rallies the Christians (or whichever group is in the majority) and makes it harder for secularists to get our message across.

    The best argument for secularism is that it allows us to each have our own religous beliefs (or none) peacably. We have to make a Methodist understand that seperation of church and state, for example, protects him for being forcebably converted to Lutheran-ism. If we complain too much about what they see as a right to evangelize then religionists see a common enemy in secularism (not the beneficial ally that it really is).

    After 911 my anti-religious sentiment was very high, almost Dawkin's-like.

    But now I realize its better to be "for" something (humanism, reason, etc.) than "against" something.

    I find I get more traction debating my Christian friends that way.

    I feel we should ignore the more petty grievances we have with Christian evangelizing and focus on other issues such as teaching critical thinking, evangelizing science and reason, making more people aware of the early history of their religions (where they can hopefully then see the folly for themselves), promote awareness of atheistic/agnostic historical heros, etc.

    We don't need to play the victims or worse give religionists the excuse to play the victims.

    Alan

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  14. Just to follow through: I would probably point out to my religionist friends how silly it is to assume that God would take an interest in the outcome of a football game when at the same time millions were dying of cruel diseases. I don't hold back in pointing out the illogic of some of their positions.

    But I never try to say they can't pray here or lead a group in prayer there. Because that puts them in a defensive position with respect to their freedom. Where as the above criticism only puts them in a theological defensive position. (a small but significant difference)

    Alan

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  15. "If we tried to stop it all, life on earth could get pretty boring. Tolerance has to work both ways."

    I'm pretty much with you on this one Alan (as I was before.)
    As long as it's not in the class room, and as long as no harassment or violence is involved, let them pray. We can alwys make enforcable laws to prevent it from going too far; we already have many. It's OK to take things on a case by case basis.

    Again, there's always room for compromise. (Well, not ALWAYS, but you get the point.)

    Personaly, I think the best way to promote our ideas is to take them to the street and convince people one person at a time if need be. Not to go crying to Daddy every time we see something we don't like. I think that hurts us more than helps us.

    Noah

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  16. I don't know if I can really agree with "going with the flow" on this one. I hear what you're saying, and I actually think the "under God" pledge thing is probably going to bring more negative than positive publicity to atheists.

    But with this issue, since young people (college or h.s.) who are already petrified at the thought of "not fitting in" are involved, I think it's worth standing up for the non-Christian/non-religious person's rights.

    And no, tolerance does not have to work both ways. The minute some non-Xian person wants to publicly invoke a non-Xian deity (like the Goddess), the Xians try to stop it.

    Read this: http://www.religioustolerance.org/wicchest.htm as one example.

    I'm really hoping one of these years that some smart*ass kid at a high school graduation ceremony in fundie country publicly invokes the Great Mother Goddess or hails Father Satan. Then we'll see the hypocritical fundies foaming at the mouth to ban non-Xian public prayers.

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  17. Well, I didn't mean that tolerance actually (in real life) *is* working both ways. Just that it ideally should. (Not speaking in absolutist terms either, I'm referring to tolerance of religious expression where no one's rights are infringed -- though there are gray areas).

    I have not doubt there would be a hypocritical outcry in the scenario you suggest.

    But, rational secularists (emphasis on rational) should try to hold a higher standard.

    What "rights" are we standing up for? Unless there is serious coercion or indoctrination happening, no one has a "right" not to be exposed to someone else's viewpoint. Lest our own arguments be used against us.

    I realize there can be a real problem with people in authoritative positions, teachers, coaches, etc. And in those situations where there is real coercion, action needs to be taken.

    And, I guess I'm trying to be pragmatic -- as in how to win minds in the long run. Going to court over what many people see as trivial events (such as a student invocating Jesus in a prayer before a football game) generally results in more negative publicity than positive.

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  18. If you read the article you would note, again, that even a Muslim student felt this was good, nothing was being shoved down his throat. Futher this isn't about Jesus determining the outcome of a game, it is that kind of silly thinking which you think Christianity represents which makes me suspect where y'all are coming from. Again the article said from a couple coaches that "at the end of the day, it was about strengthening your spiritual foundations and to walk in a righteous way in whatever you believe," Mr. Smith said. "It reminded me of my fundamentals and made me a better person."

    Really, it seems like the proponents of this action can't make up their mind between not wanting to exclude anyone and then also wanting everyone be an individual. But you know what, we're supposed to have this tension. One of the ways we work with it is to appeal to tradition.

    In this respect the example about India is good, but misses the point. Place and tradition people. Christianity has been a dominant force in the tradition of our country. The majority of its citizens have always been Christians. What is wrong here is Barry Lynn and others are promoting a "doctrine" of toleration, which seeks to silence the expression of this tradition. The government is not supposed to do this, only ensure that it does not take sides. Letting a Christian coach speak has not turned any of these schools into purely theocratic institutions, nor is there any evidence that this is happening.

    So instead of the doctrine of tolerance, we should shift to the actual practice of it, something like what happens when we have a disccusion in a blog comment section. You see what the "doctrine" of tolerance does is lessen "the binding authority of community life, an authority that makes subtle appeal to manners, traditions, group sanctions, and respect for elders. At the same time, (it) increases the need for organization, authority exerted from outside the group, formal laws, as well as emphasizing the protection of abstract "rights" that are divorced from what the living community calls the "good"."

    This "doctrine" of tolerance promotes isolation, whereas the practice of tolerance recognizes the limits of the the individual, and thus the interactions we have can help "nudge" us into community. It takes us out of this lawsuit mentality and forces us to actual work, and live, with one another.

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  19. Further this isn't about Jesus determining the outcome of a game, it is that kind of silly thinking which you think Christianity represents which makes me suspect where y'all are coming from.

    I made this comment as an example of debating a theological idea as opposed to the right of religious expression. It was a silly example and I realize the incident in question was not this. I realize most pre or post game prayers most often relate to safety concerns and (as the article indicated)strength of character, etc. (though I still may challenge friends with theological questions about prayer in general - but that is another topic).


    So instead of the doctrine of tolerance, we should shift to the actual practice of it, something like what happens when we have a discussion in a blog comment section.

    I agree with this and most of my posts here have tried to make this point. Earlier I asked what is important to secularists as to the society they want to live in? It need be nothing more than people realizing the limitations of their faith (i.e. no extremism or absolutism), using reason and evidence to guide public policy, etc. This does not exclude religion or belief at least in its more pluralistic and liberal forms. Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine (as I stated before) believed in a creator, yet they were also completely devoted to reason and science and empirical evidence.

    This "doctrine" of tolerance promotes isolation, whereas the practice of tolerance recognizes the limits of the the individual, and thus the interactions we have can help "nudge" us into community. It takes us out of this lawsuit mentality and forces us to actual work, and live, with one another.

    This is needed not only in matters of religion, but in left/right politics as well. But its hard to do sometimes, especially when the side of the aisle that you sympathize with is under attack. Unfortunately, both sides feel the need to counter with rhetoric and public debate (such as the type found on well mannered blogs) suffers.

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  20. Matt,

    yes, of course I've read that one Muslim student didn't have a problem praying with a lot of Christians. Frankly, that's entirely irrelevant. The point isn't about how an individual, or a majority of individuals, feel, but about how subtly coercive the action is.

    On top of which -- and it astounds me that some Christians don't get it (obviously not all, since Barry Lynn is in fact a Christian minister) -- it is entirely unnecessary since in this society everyone has plenty of chances to worship whoever he wants, and proselitize however he likes. Just NOT by using a position of authority as a public official! Is that really so much to ask??

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  21. I think the ugly situation at the Air Force Academy is relavent here. In that case young men and women had their education and careers threatened.

    If a kid wants to lead a prayer, maybe not so bad so long as those not wishing to participate can opt out. But when a person in authority, a coach, a teacher, a superior military officer starts pushing Christianity or any other religion there is wide open opportunity for abuse. Not all that rings of Christianity (or any other religion)is tranquil, enlightening and beautiful as the devout practioners would have us believe.

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  22. Alan, sorry for the misunderstanding, here is a blog that I think is down your alley, Positive Liberty.

    Massimo, thanks for letting me comment here and responding back. Yes, really, that is too much to ask. It is seeking to silence any attempt to speak about a whole avenue of thought, tradition, experience -- things which sustain our communities. Good government doesn't come exclusively from reason, but in conjunction with good character. It is the people on Barry Lynn's side of this that are seeking to suppress thought and speech. It is freedom OF religion -- we are free to talk about it and mention it wherever. Doing so doesn't mean we're going to base our federal budget on a divination, or that the football team is going to run the wishbone because God told 'em to.

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  23. Matt,

    I'm sorry but you keep missing a crucial and, I would think, rather simple point: there is no attempt to silence anybody. In our society it is simply ridiculous for Christians to play the persecuted card, since they are the majority and have plenty of outlets, public and private. What they shouldn't have (but take anyway) is a position of authority backed by the power of government and public institutions. But of course many fundamentalists want it all, because their real goal is, in fact, a theocracy. I wish they would all move to Iran to get a taste of what that's like.

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  24. matt scofield wrote:

    Good government doesn't come exclusively from reason, but in conjunction with good character.

    But this does not mean that "good character" must somehow be taught by the "good government", especially when it's assumed that "good character" only results from buying into a specific religious dogma.

    It is freedom OF religion -- we are free to talk about it and mention it wherever.

    As opposed to "freedom FROM religion"? Guess what -- your freedom OF religion automatically assumes that you are free FROM being coerced by the state into practicing or professing a religion you don't believe in. In other words, freedom to practice religion X means freedom from religions W, Y, and Z. Freedom OF religion cannot exist without freedom FROM religion(s).

    ...we are free to talk about it and mention it wherever.

    That's not what the First Amendment says.

    Massimo wrote:

    In our society it is simply ridiculous for Christians to play the persecuted card, since they are the majority and have plenty of outlets, public and private.

    Amen to that! One of my pet peeves at Christmastime is how Christians complain they can't put their nativity scenes or other paraphenalia in public places. Never mind that they can decorate their homes however they want, their churches however they want, and they can put the biggest, gaudiest life-size nativity scene out on their lawns if they want to. They just *have* to have the public spaces too. Hypocrites.

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  25. I'm continuing to play devil's advocate (or is it Jesus's advocate :)).

    Maybe I just like being contrarian or I like to see a good debate continue:

    I agree that Christians have no real reason to play the persecution card for all the reasons Massimo alluded to a few comments ago. I also fear that there are elements that want nothing short of a theocracy and that is very scary.

    But there is a growing "perception" among Christians that they are being persecuted. Its fueled in part by propaganda, but its also fueled by over zealous attempts to ban Christian symbols, etc. Last year many normal (non-fundamental, liberal, non-church going even) friends complained that "you can't say Merry Christmas anymore". Obviously, they were wrong, but where was the perception coming from?

    To me, a nativity scene on a courthouse lawn isn't that big of a deal as long as a private group places it there. After all, they're citizens making use of public property. However, if a secular group wants to display a secular shrine then that has to be accepted to.

    The battle we should be fighting is to allow secular or non-Christian symbology, but not to oppose Christian symbology unless (as I stated earlier) there is real coercion.

    The secular community has to win the propaganda war by not appearing to be denying Christians the rights they obviously have, but by forcing Christians to give secularists the right of free expression.

    My friend is an atheist/agnostic like myself and his kid plays youth football after which there is always a prayer led by the coach. He does not protest, because the majority (vast majority) of his community is Christian. He does not feel he has the right to suspend their traditions on behalf of his one child. However, he is not worried because he has planted the seeds of critical thought and skepticism in his children. Likewise, secularists need to fight the bigger battles to instill critical thought and skepticism in the larger community by fighting for school curriculums, writing newspaper columns, evangelizing the rational skeptic viewpoint to co-workers and friends, etc. Not by giving ammunition to right wing Christian propagandists who can then successfully claim via perception that Christians are being persecuted. This moves the otherwise semi-neutral liberal Christian majority onto their side.

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  26. Alan,

    I completely agree with you on this one. Technically, Christians are creating their own phobia out of propaganda and misconceptions about what the Constitution says or protects (believe it or not, I met people in Tennessee who actually thought the Constitution protected their right not to be offended!).

    Nonetheless, a much more effective response is to allow the public display of Christianity as long as this comes with the display of other religious and secular symbols. That usually pisses them and they back off. And if they don't, the public is treated to a multi-cultural extravaganza, which ain't gonna hurt, as far as I can tell.

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  27. "In our society it is simply ridiculous for Christians to play the persecuted card, since they are the majority and have plenty of outlets, public and private. What they shouldn't have (but take anyway) is a position of authority backed by the power of government and public institutions."

    Please understand, that the reason Christians do feel persecuted is because they are. BUT in the end of it all, God most likely permits this. Maybe I'm explaining this to the wrong (or disinterested) audience. But if Christians had not lost their effectiveness, it is hard to imagine that humanism would look so attractive to such a number of people. I have followed the hypothesis for awhile that this climate we are currently living in is a chastisement because of the way many Christians are living.

    Do we deserve it? Probably, yes. But what ineffective Christians really deserve, is FAR worse than that!!

    "Our Lord taught that Christians are (supposed to be) the salt of the earth and the light of the world. And there are severe consequences if we become ineffective."

    "Whenever God's people turn from his truth and become ineffective, He chastens them by raising up a 'heathen' power to rule over them." - Bill Gothard

    See Gen 18:20-19:26
    Matt. 5:13
    Deut. 28:13
    And so on.

    cal

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  28. On a related topic:

    Last night I saw a CNN report on "Hell Houses", a sort of haunted house aimed at scaring kids to Christianity. At the end of this hell house which features various acted out scenes of earthly and hellish suffering, there is a Jesus character who is there to offer people another way. Apparently many people are moved and come out crying and claim they need the Lord in their lives.

    Once I got past rolling my eyes at the sheer lunacy of the whole concept, I started to get angry at the way CNN was presenting the story.

    They did not critique the Hell House concept based on any rational or theological basis, but instead they complained that some people were being "scared" and that they were being "traumatized". The minister had to defend the concept saying the "milk and cookies approach doesn't work for everyone".

    I thought CNN was being ridiculous and patronizing. People go to scary regular haunted houses and see slasher movies all the time, but you don't see CNN stories complaining that people might get "traumatized".

    Lastly, they criticized the minister for profiting on the Hell House theme and even an upcoming movie based on it. Again, this is a bit of fallacious attack. Does CNN (or any mainstream media outlet) criticize other folks for making money by selling screen plays?

    Instead of focusing on the irrationality of the Hell House concept, CNN instead attacked the approach (as if there really was a Hell, but its too scary for us weak, fragile beings to contemplate).

    The CNN story could have put the minister in a position to defend his silly assertions (thus exposing the non-sense of it all), but instead by attacking the approach and the minister, they again are giving right wing Christians more fuel to claim there is a liberal conspiracy to silence them.

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  29. cal,

    Unfortunately, you are directing your post to the wrong audience in the sense that this audience (I assume) does not accept the logical premise by which the rest of your argument necessarily flows.

    There is no evidence or there is contradictory evidence that for us negates the premise that the God of the Bible exists in the manner which the Bible describes Him.

    Therefore, its hard for me to accept that God allows persecution of Christians or that Christianity should look more attractive than Humanism.

    Finally, it seems perverse to us (who don't accept the Old Testament as fact) that a benign loving God would be so vindictive as to punish his worshipers for being ineffective. For starters, how could He not know they would be ineffective? He created them ineffectively? Theoretically, God transcends time and space which means He knew ahead of time (before the beginning of time) that they would be ineffective. So in a way He intentionally created ineffective people so that he could persecute them.

    Again, you may reject the logic in my above paragraph because you have accepted a different premise.

    Often times we must realize that our arguments against each other are futile because we are starting from a different logical premise.

    Quoting Bible scripture to prove Biblical beliefs constitutes circular reasoning and will never be effective to those of us who do not accept the Bible.

    Alan

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  30. I would go even one step further than Alan here. It's not just that Cal starts with different logical premises, the problem is that her premises are in fact not logical at all. As Alan says, at best Cal is engaging in circulr reasoning, at worst she begins her reasoning chain with obviously contradictory statements.

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  31. "It's not just that Cal starts with different logical premises, the problem is that her premises are in fact not logical at all."

    It's not that you don't believe that Christians do not deserve judgment - I know that you do. It's just that your premise only provides that they merely deserve any judgment that comes from man alone.

    Your usually all-inclusive pov is leaving a few possibilities out, I think. A "just" deity actually would judge his followers, too.

    cal

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  32. "Therefore, its hard for me to accept that God allows persecution of Christians or that Christianity should look more attractive than Humanism."

    Well, currently humanism looks more attractive to you. And there is undoubtedly a REAL reason for that.

    "it seems perverse to us (who don't accept the Old Testament as fact) that a benign loving God would be so vindictive as to punish his worshipers for being ineffective."

    Your idea of what "perverse" means needs to be revisited.

    Normal parents don't allow their children to run up bills or purchases for things that they don't have the ability to pay for. That's not perverse. That is teaching a person you love the laws of cause and effect. God would love any of us, if he deliberately taught us the laws of cause and effect in NO UNCERTAIN terms.


    "So in a way He intentionally created ineffective people so that he could persecute them."

    Yes and no. Yes, he created us. WE made ourselves ineffective.

    "Quoting Bible scripture to prove Biblical beliefs constitutes circular reasoning and will never be effective to those of us who do not accept the Bible."

    But the reason for using the texts at all is self critical of "me" and my beliefs, not you. What's the fundamental problem here?  Circularity means that something only confirms itself. Well, if life some things actually do. Math problems confirm other math problems, and so on and so forth. Sometimes reality also confirms math, but usually we prefer to have the data analyzed by the use of MORE math. ???

    This can happen, so there are realistic applications for what appears to you as being circular.

    cal

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  33. This persecution isn't the blood and sacrifice type, it is the attempt to tell Christians that they cannot, if they hold public positions, discuss the things that have formed their character, the things which make them representative of their community.

    Unless you misspoke Massimo, you would go even further than censorship and prevent Christians from holding office ("What they shouldn't have is a position of authority backed by the power of government and public institutions.")

    Really, I'm telling y'all, just being a public official and mentioning Christianity doesn't mean Theocracy is down the road. Everyone knows instances of discrimination upon religion will be prosecuted, as they were at the Air Force Academy.

    It's not that "They just *have* to have the public spaces too." Rather, it is that Christians are the majority in most of the communities in America, so when they elect or place one of their own in an official capacity they should be allowed to express their traditions. Its the majority tradition of the majority of this country, so it is flat out ridiculous to say public officials can't say something which represents that. Some things the minority has to deal with, like driving by a nativity scene and really just getting over it instead of suing somebody. You aren't in the majority and you can't sue your way there.

    The whole point is what Alan gets at, talk your game too, don't make me shut up. Put it out there, force Christians to recognize your free expression. Get in a position of power Massimo, tell us how the Humanist Manifesto formed your character and allowed to have the success you've had...

    ...but I doubt this will happen. Not because of any lack of talent, I'm sure you are capable. It is that these modern humanist, secular creeds only serve to atomize the individual from community and tradition, hence the low birth & marriage rates among the progressives these days. Y'all have got reason down fine, its other people you misunderstand.

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  34. Matt,

    I most certainly didn't mean to say that Christians should be barred from holding public office. It would be astoundingly inconsistent with all my writings.

    What I meant was that they cannot (according to the Constitution) use positions of power in the public arena (like being a judge, a politician, or a football coach) to actively promote their religion.

    It may be that just because politicians talk about God we aren't on the road to theocracy, but what the politicians inspired by the religious right are saying and doing very much is on the road to theocracy.

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  35. Does no one else here see the irony of asserting that it's OK to bully and coerce people to pray to a certain deity because it happens to be what the "majority" believes? This friggin' country was founded by a persecuted religious minority being tyrannized by the majority.

    Look, just because you happen to think like most other noodleheads in this country on *anything* related to religion/spirituality doesn't mean that you have the right IF YOU ARE IN A PUBLIC POSITION to force or coerce people into thinking like you. You can stand on the streetcorner and pray openly and audibly to Jesus, hand out leaflets to passersby, ask for donations to your church, organize and invite people to tent revivals, go door to door to try to persuade people that your god is the "right" one, or even dress up like Jesus every day and walk around your neighborhood with a sign telling people they need to repent. Doing all of these things is within your rights as an American, and I will defend your rights to do these things as best as I can. NOBODY IS SILENCING YOU. We are just asking you to treat the rest of us justly and fairly in certain very specific situations, OK?

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  36. Alan,

    Good posts. But... first, as Massimo already pointed out, you're using "logical premise" very loosely there, ain't ya? :O)

    Seriously now, there's not much of a point in using logic and critical thinking against Cal's type of "reasoning" (how is it called, a reasoning lacking reason? anyway...)

    Why? First, because their "interpretation" of the Bible makes everything possible, since it's not based on reality, but on what they want to see there. Whatever they like, they say is the word of god on what we should do. Whatever is embarassing, they say is... er... demonstration of cultural circunstances of the past? I don't remember the exact expression, but it was something to that effect. It does not matter if it is writen in the Bible, in clear and literal language (which is rare, but happens), that "the lord ordered the genocide ofr whomever". They will twist snd turn their spines to impossible extents to "prove" that what it REALLY meant was something else. But man was still created from dust, etc., since the Bible is literally true... Can you argue with that type of "thinking"? As soon as the trends in society change, their biblical interpretations change too - or are they going to say they've been living the exact same way and saying the exact same things for the past 2,000 years? Thinking of it, I wouldn't be surprised if they DO say so (even if obviously not being true)...

    I do every once in a while, but just for fun, to see what will be the "reasoning" of the day, stuff like that. But I don't have any illusion that logic and critical thinking will help here. Oh well, Massimo talked about it in a post one of these days ("Why bother?")

    Adrienne, careful there! Next they might tell us to go away and start our own country if we don't like what the majotiry is doing to you... (I'm sure many of them already say that, like Bush the Elder on atheist not being worthy of citizenship) :-)

    J

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  37. Adrienne, being "subjected" to someone expressing their beliefs, as the college ball coaches were doing, is niether force or coercion. I may be jumping the gun on the persecution thing, but you are jumping the gun on this imagined coercion. It is wrong to sue a public official because they are expressing their beliefs, it is right to take them to court if they discriminate based on your beliefs.

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  38. Matt,

    I'm going to take Adrienne's side here. I think you are dramatically underestimating the power a public official (a politician, a coach) has on people, especially -- but not exclusively -- kids. Opinions can and should be expressed, but leading students in prayer is not expressing an opinion, it's using a position of authority to coerce people into a specific religious practice. And it is unconstitutional.

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  39. Adrienne, careful there! Next they might tell us to go away and start our own country if we don't like what the majotiry is doing to you... (I'm sure many of them already say that, like Bush the Elder on atheist not being worthy of citizenship) :-)

    Ha, j, that thought did occur to me too after I posted. I dunno, though, sometimes Canada looks mighty appealing these days...bit chilly, though.

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