It’s Easter, So Let’s Call Christians Deluded

St. Sebastian, a Romney supporter

St. Sebastian, a Romney supporter

Given that it’s the most celebrated day in the Christian calendar, I knew a story intended to make Christians feel bad had to be lurking on the Web somewhere, and that my best bet of finding it would be on CNN.com.

It didn’t disappoint.

You see this scholar has finally destroyed the myth of Christian persecution in the first three centuries after Christ. It seems that Christians have been repeating ad nauseum for their own self-aggrandizing purposes that those first 300 years were nothing but a horror story of faithful followers of Christ being hounded by ruthless pagans, with relentless round-ups, limb-ripping, and ultimately execution for the faith.

Except . .  nobody was saying that. In fact, I have never read a history of Christianity, written by a Christian author, that did not emphasize that the early persecutions were periodic, some more intense than others.

But somebody’s gotta sell books. And in the age of the New Atheism and their band, the “Nones,” one way is to say that yet one more element of the Christian narrative is a fiction.

Why debunk this so-called myth now?

The debate over exactly how many Christians were persecuted and martyred may seem irrelevant centuries later. A scholarly consensus has indeed emerged that Roman persecution of Christians was sporadic, and that at least some Christian martyrdom stories are theological tall tales.

But a new book by Candida Moss, a New Testament professor at the University of Notre Dame, is bringing that message to the masses.

Moss says ancient stories of church persecution have created a contemporary cult of bogus Christian martyrs. She says too many American Christians are acting like they’re members of a persecuted minority, being thrown to the lions by people who simply disagree with them.

She cited former Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney claimed last year that President Barack Obama was waging a “war against religion,” and Santorum said the gay community “had gone out on a jihad” against him. Other Christians invoke images of persecution when someone disagrees with them on controversial issues such as abortion or birth control, says Moss, whose “The Myth of Persecution” was recently released.

The problem with invoking persecution is it implies your opponents are evil  and no common ground can be found with evil,  Moss says.

“When someone is persecuting you” she says, “there is no room for dialogue.”

Sorry? This would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that some people are everything they say they hate.

Let me see if I get this straight: You want more dialogue and Christians’ claiming persecution is an obstacle to such dialogue. So you’re going to call out your opponents as, well, either lying or deluded as a means of . . . opening up dialogue.

And we all know, it’s only Christians who claim to be persecuted. And given their overwhelming numbers in the media and pop culture, they do have the power to silence opposition to their point of view.

I think you can see this for what it is: one more way for the secular left to shut Christians up. (Nota bene: I have no idea whether Candida Moss is a Christian or not. And frankly, what does it matter. The effect is the same. John Shelby Spong considers himself a Christian. I consider myself an astronaut, but NASA still refuses to reimburse me for my dry cleaning bills.)

To be fair, the article does go on to cite the actual martyrdom of Perpetua and also how Christians won converts mainly by the quality of their lives, not their deaths. And no one who has read deeply the literature of the earliest centuries would miss how some writers of martyrologies neurotically indulged in the grotesque when either describing the torments of the martyrs or the glories of martyrdom. There’s undoubtedly superstitious baloney mixed into the earliest chapters of the Christian story.

Again — who didn’t know this? But to say that Christians must stop invoking persecution altogether because — what? — of the fair-minded and evenhanded way they are treated in debates of cultural and political importance in this country? is, again and again, just another way to tell Christians to shut up.

When you seek to silence or to marginalize, repeatedly, a group of people for their beliefs — by, for example, calling them deluded or ignorant — beliefs, by the way, that were an integral part of the founding and development of this nation and that remain of extreme importance in the lives of a significant portion of the American populace, what shall we call this? Sure, it’s not on the level of being fed to the lions. But neither is it dialogue.

Anders Breivik’s Murders to Become Stage Musical! They Have Officially Run Out of Ideas!

Will it be thumbs up or thumbs down for "The Events"?

Will it be thumbs up or thumbs down for “The Events”?

Well, it was only a matter of time before some Andrew Lloyd Dimwit decided that the mass slaughter of innocents deserved its own show-stopping tunes!

One of Britain’s acclaimed writers for the stage, David Greig, has created a musical show based on the murders in Norway committed in 2011 by Anders Breivik.

Greig, who has also written the book for the new Sam Mendes film musical of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, researched the project on Utøya island and in Oslo, visiting the country with the director Ramin Gray three months after the atrocity that saw the lone killer end the lives of 77 people.

Called The Events, the show examines the limits of human empathy and will be premiered this summer at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre, before it travels to London for a run at the Young Vic.

“I was most interested in how Norwegian society was feeling,” said Greig this weekend. “Oslo is not a huge city and everybody pretty much knows everybody else, so almost everyone we spoke to had been affected. Some people asked us not to write or talk about Breivik. I am not at all certain whether we give him a victory by ignoring him or trying to understand him. That is what I wanted to question.”

How about a documentary that investigates contemporary Norwegian society, culture, mores? Why did it have to have a cast album?

Iran Attacks Chase, BOA websites: ‘Ugliest Designs We Have Ever Seen, and You Call That User-Friendly?’

“Trying to find Iran on Apple Maps…wait for it…wait for it…got it…no, I think that’s Pittsburgh…”

So, according to “national security officials,” who could be anybody, including the guy who stands watch over the bins outside the Dollar Store, Iran is waging cyberwar against Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase.

National security officials told NBC News that the continuing cyber attacks this week that slowed the websites of JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are being carried out by the government of Iran. One of those sources said the claim by hackers that the attacks were prompted by the online video mocking the Prophet Muhammad is just a cover story.

A group of purported hackers in the Middle East has claimed credit for problems at the websites of both banks, citing the online video mocking the founder of Islam. One security source called that statement “a cover” for the Iranian government’s operations.

The attack is described by one source, a former U.S. official familiar with the attacks, as being “significant and ongoing” and looking to cause “functional and significant damage.” Also, one source suggested the attacks were in response to U.S. sanctions on Iranian banks.

The consumer banking website of Bank of America was unavailable to some customers on Tuesday, and JPMorgan Chase on Wednesday had the same problems, which multiple sources linked to a denial-of-service attack, in which a website is bogged down by a large number of requests. A Chase spokesman said Wednesday that the consumer site was intermittently unavailable to some customers, but did not acknowledge then that there was an attack. On Thursday, Chase said slowness continued but was resolved by late afternoon Eastern Time. Bank of America acknowledged on Tuesday that its site had experienced slowness, but would not say what caused it.

Senior U.S. officials acknowledge that Iranian attacks have been the subject of intense interest by U.S. intelligence for several weeks.

I love that they’re showing an interest. Obviously means they care. Would be nice if they now added some “effort” to their “interest” before I lose the very special .00001% interest I’m earning on my savings. And by effort I don’t mean a strongly worded e-mail to the editor of the Iranian Time‘s “Your Turn” column.

Atheists, Confronted with Hate, Pull Down Hateful Anti-Mormon, Anti-Christian Billboard

Atheism: The inevitable result of excessive radiation exposure

Yes, the American Atheists® sect says it was compelled to pull down an anti-Christian/anti-Mormon billboard outside the Democratic National Convention site. The sign, reflecting the carefully reasoned arguments it has marshaled in defense of its views, coupled the anti-Christian Sadistic God; Useless Savior, 30,000+ Versions of ‘Truth,’ Promotes Hates, Calls it ‘Love’ taunt with one mocking Mormonism: God is a Space Alien, Baptizes Dead People, Big Money, Big Bigotry.

Get it? Taking shots at both sides—Obama and Romney—to show how fair-minded they are.

Well, first of all, as everyone knows, Obama is a Muslim. (In fact, I have it on good authority that he prays five times a day, but instead of facing Mecca, he faces a mirror.) And the folks at AA would need a lot more than 12 steps to recover from the ass-whipping they’d received if they ever mocked Islam the way they do other religions. (Their “You know it’s a myth” billboard is pretty mild fare.)

Second, even if the president were a Christian, there aren’t 30,000 versions of “truth.” There are only five: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Reformation Protestant, Anabaptist, and Mine.

Third, Mormonism doesn’t teach that God is a space alien. That’s Scientology. Latter-day Saints teach that God was a man who became a space alien. Get your facts straight, fat heads!

A minister of propaganda for the American Atheists® had this to say:

“It is with regret that we tell our members and all of those who treasure free speech and the separation of religion and government that American Atheists and Adams Outdoor Advertising have mutually agreed to remove the billboards immediately,” Amanda Knief, American Atheists’ managing director, said in a statement last week.

“No subject, no idea should be above scrutiny and this includes religion in all forms,” Knief said. “We are saddened that by choosing to express our rights as atheists through questioning the religious beliefs of the men who want to be our president that our fellow citizens have responded with vitriol, threats and hate speech against our staff, volunteers and Adams Outdoor Advertising.” (emphasis added)

Wait a minute: They claim Mormons are bigots and Christians are haters, but their entire purpose for placarding their message in the first place was to broadcast their hate of religion and bigoted view of believers.

And if they should be allowed to express their beliefs publicly (which you should), why is it only hate speech, and thus presumably intolerable, when someone is attacking them? Why aren’t they guilty of hate speech? And exactly what kinds of threats were made, and by whom? If their staff or that of the billboard company were physically threatened, did they call the police? Is there an investigation under way?

Let’s just say, I’m skeptical . . . I have no doubt they received blowback for the billboards (Christians can be insecure jerks too), but why do I have a feeling some of the folks connected with the Democratic Convention put a little pressure on both the billboard vendor and the American Atheists. I mean, since when did the good folks at AA care about the opinions of their fellow citizens?

I wonder what William Murray, son of AA founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair, has to say about all this?

Religion Not Responsible for Most Wars. Neither Is Frank Schaeffer.

At least that’s our hope.

So a pointy head over at Foreign Policy has come to the conclusion most of us came to after reading a book or two: “[T]he chief complaint against religion — that it is history’s prime instigator of intergroup conflict — does not withstand scrutiny. Religious issues motivate only a small minority of recorded wars.”

Thanks.

Vox Day could have told you the same thing. In fact he did: in his Irrational Atheist, which I wrote a review of here.

Anyone with even a superficial grasp of world history learned a long time ago that the number one cause of all wars is this.

Meanwhile, it seems like Frank Schaeffer*, author, polemicist, piece of work, and son of the late evangelical apologist Francis Schaeffer, has experienced an epiphany of sorts: “I’m burnt out on rhetorically burning others. I’m going to try Hume’s agreeableness for a bit. Instead of damning each other, maybe we can learn to show mercy to those with whom we disagree, taking our cue from a teacher who said that love of enemy — not correct theology or politics — is all that can make us whole.”

Why do I have a feeling that Schaeffer took a lot of heat–even more than usual–for his ohbitchuary of Chuck Colson? It’s odd that Schaeffer feels compelled to take a page from the book of an eighteenth-century agnostic when it comes to confronting one’s enemies and not from, say, that of a first-century Galilean. (Perhaps the latter’s “whitewashed walls” remark was too inflammatory for the reborn progressive.) I also find it interesting that Schaeffer blames his bad behavior as a lefty on his walk on the right side. (So it’s sorta still the fundamentalists’ fault, damn them to the hell he doesn’t believe in but that only fundamentalists–damn them again!–do.)

Couldn’t it be that Schaeffer simply thinks that he’s right about everything and that anyone who dares disagree with him is evil and stupid? Couldn’t it be that Schaeffer just likes to win?

In any event, I’m sure Billy Graham’s friends and family are greatly relieved.

H/T: Internet Monk

*As a fire-breathing right-winger, he was Franky Schaeffer. As a fire-breathing left-winger, he was Frank Schaeffer. Can we expect a further diminution of his Christian name now that he’s a irenic progressive? Perhaps Fran Schaeffer? (I assume he’s leaving Fra Schaeffer for the day he joins the Trappists . . .)

Razing the Temple of Atheism before It’s Built

Atheist Alain de Botton wants to build a Temple of Atheism in London:

The philosopher and writer Alain de Botton is proposing to build a 46-metre (151ft) tower to celebrate a “new atheism” as an antidote to what he describes as Professor Richard Dawkins’s “aggressive” and “destructive” approach to non-belief.

Rather than attack religion, De Botton said he wants to borrow the idea of awe-inspiring buildings that give people a better sense of perspective on life.

“Normally a temple is to Jesus, Mary or Buddha, but you can build a temple to anything that’s positive and good,” he said. “That could mean a temple to love, friendship, calm or perspective. Because of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens atheism has become known as a destructive force. But there are lots of people who don’t believe but aren’t aggressive towards religions.”

But the aforementioned meanie Richard Dawkins is playing spoilsport:

“Atheists don’t need temples,” the author of The God Delusion said. “I think there are better things to spend this kind of money on. If you are going to spend money on atheism you could improve secular education and build non-religious schools which teach rational, sceptical critical thinking.”

Oh, poo. I say it should be built. Think of all the fun stuff that would be constituent elements of such an unholy space: the Altar of Eugenics, the Statue of the Goddess Reason, instructions on how to celebrate the Feast of Brutus, organized pilgrimages to The 104th, the Enver Hoxha Library of Burned Books, and Mao Zedong “Great Leap Forward” sack races for the kids!

It would be made entirely of smoked glass, with no foundation or floor plan. Negotiating the space would be an act of sheer will and chance, and only the smartest and strongest will make it through the entire structure, although even they will be left with a nagging feeling that it was all ultimately futile and for no good purpose.

A waste of money? I think not. Before something can be wasted, it must have some endogenous purpose, no?

Teacher Penalizes Student for Saying ‘Bless You’ at Sneeze. I Have a Phrase for the Teacher, and It Definitely Includes ‘You.’

Once upon a time it was considered rude not to say such a thing. Welcome to the 21st century. Won’t you come on in?

A health teacher in Vacaville knocked 25 points from one student’s grade for saying “bless you” when another student sneezed in class.

The teacher said his policy has nothing to do with religion – he just doesn’t want class time to be disrupted.

“When you sneeze in the old days, they thought you were dispelling evil spirits out of your body. So they were saying, ‘God bless you’ for getting rid of evil spirits.’ But today, I said what you’re doing doesn’t really make any sense anymore,” said teacher Steve Cuckovich.

He doesn’t want class time disrupted. OK — was there an absolute “No Talking” policy in force that cost other students 25 points for violating? Perhaps someone made the mistake of saying “Thank you” after a borrowed pen was returned?

I don’t think the parents are buying it, and they pushed back, saying that Mr. Cuckovich didn’t have a right to impose his beliefs, or lack thereof, on others.

(Please note: there are many explanations for why we say “Bless you” or “Gesundheit” after a sneeze, including the wish for “health” when the sneeze is seen as a forerunner of illness.)

This is being played as one of those oddball man-bites-dog stories now. But the time is coming when to say such a thing as “Bless you” will be deemed a form of proselytizing, of attempting to foist one’s “superstitions” upon someone else, and other penalties will follow.