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Friday, September 30, 2005

Quotes of interest.

Y'all know from previous posts that I keep an eye on the happenings over at the Raving Atheist. On the one hand, I do this because I often agree with some of his points. I am, after all, a devout atheist. On the other hand, I often think the RA goes too far, and makes questionable logical points that are supported more by venomous rhetoric than anything else. So, hey, there's something for every member of the family.

Recently the RA has been having an argument of sorts with Jill of Feministe regarding New York's Unity Church- a Christian Denomination set up to serve Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and, for all I know, Wookies. Not that I'm making fun of the GLBTW movement or anything, I'm just saying that we're all desperately in need of a new blanket term here. Anyway Jill was, apparently, complimentary of this effort to include those with alternative lifestyles (okay, a blanket term that actually means something. I mean, fuck, Jeffrey Dahmer had an alternative lifestyle, you know?) within the Christian tradition. The RA, on the other hand, couldn't help pointing out that there are some rather lengthy tracts in the Bible that are negative in regards to homosexuality. More elegantly:

Gays, bisexuals and the transgendered don’t escape Leviticus alive. That Sunday School course couldn’t teach GLBTs anything but self-hatred. Unless, of course, the premise of the class is that the Bible is somehow gay-friendly, which you’d have to be really, really stupid to believe. Is Jill suggesting that GBLTer’s are really, really stupid? Recommending that church is like suggesting Jews join a denomination that uses Mein Kampf as scripture, but which has a Saturday School course explaining why der Fuhrer wasn’t actually anti-Semitic and how all those passages suggesting otherwise have been “misinterpreted.”


Now, I think the RA may be going a bit far here in comparing the bible to Mein Kampf, if only because Mein Kampf had a single author and some sort of consistency, whereas the bible is a confused, internally contradictory mass of information in which God seems somewhat borderline. So, in any case, I think there probably is more interpretive room in the bible than in the writings of Adolf Hitler. That said, I do largely agree with the RA's concluding point:

If she believes the crazy myth that salvation is available only to those who accept the resurrection story (presumably the reason she’s not recommending that GLBT’s crash the Hindu or Wiccan religions) she’s in no position to criticize the lesser, subsidiary rules about what behavior disqualifies one from the kingdom of heaven. Everything else is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.


I've always had a hard time understanding how those who believe in some parts of the bible can reject others for the same reason. Once you've accepted that there is a supreme being who has an interest in setting arbitrary rules for humans, how can you criticize any such arbitrary rules?

What's made all this interesting is that Jill has responded several times, and the RA has continued the dialogue. You can see his second and third responses here, if you're curious. It's worth reading through, even if it's such a morass of arrogance that I am somewhat ashamed to share an identity (atheism) with the RA.

Along the way, though, the RA managed to drop two good quotes like porridge from the mouth of an old, senile man. The first neatly sums up my own view of religion in many instances:

"...religion is merely politics in a dress."


Meaning, of course, that religion is just politics disguised as something else. I don't think any student of history would have a hard time seeing at least a little truth in that statement.

The second quote is, if you can believe it, a bit more offensive. And by "a bit" I really mean, "a whole lot."

"...it’s not just “most” intelligent people who reject Bible literalism – it’s all of them. Does Jill know an intelligent person who takes the Wizard of Oz literally? Or Mein Kampf? The Bible is a combination of the two."


I'm not going to say a whole lot about that, save that he has a point about the bible. It is a mixture of both a fantastical tale and a set of authoritative moral judgments that, in other circumstances, would be easily dismissed. I won't go so far as to claim that the bible is in fact as bad as Mein Kampf, but if we ignore the orientation of the moral content, you can at least see his point. As it happens I do think there are some good messages in the bible, as there are in all religious traditions, but I also the think the bible is an insidiously destructive pack of philosophies, many of which we'd be better off without.

So, it's been an interesting week. Go take a look at the circus, have some peanuts, and maybe drop back by and let me know what you thought of the clowns.

Me? I'm going to be somewhere else.

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