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Mean religious kids?

in atheism, religion, science

A few people have asked me what I think of the numerous news articles about a recent study purporting to show that religious children are less altruistic than non-religious children.

The Daily Beast sums up the findings with the headline “Study: Religious kids are jerks.” An article over at Groopspeak makes the audacious claim that “Major study shows that religious children are less moral than non-religious kids” Rhetoric like this is pretty difficult to justify in light of a closer look at the study (see below), but we live in a world where we automatically share the link to that story that says “Beer is good for you,” “Bacon isn’t so bad after all” or “Coffee wards off cancer.” We latch onto claims that the world is the way we would prefer it to be without so much as looking twice to see if it’s true. [click to continue…]

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All Scripture is… just handy?

in Theology / Biblical Studies

In a shocking and unexpected move, overtly progressive Christian bloggers have been making bad arguments against unpopular conservative forms of Christianity and their whacky view of the Bible.  If I were not so busy pummeling homeless people with my fists and stockpiling guns, I would be outraged.

It started like this: Someone shared a link to an article by Fred Clark, summarising an article on 2 Timothy 3:16, telling us that his “fundamentalist” friends (he elsewhere in the article refers to them as “fundies”) like to use this verse to address any question about “the infallibility or inerrancy or “literal” interpretation of the Bible.” Surely there’s a bit of rhetorical overstatement here – I’m yet to encounter people using this passage to show that a “literal” interpretation of the whole Bible is correct. But Clark’s point – or at least the one that caught my eye and prompted me to comment on Facebook when somebody shared the article, was about authority.

Fred says that Paul doesn’t claim that Scripture is authoritative or inerrant. He only claims that Scripture is “useful”:1

This verse doesn’t claim that scripture is authoritative, or infallible, or inerrant. It claims that scripture is “useful.” As McGrath puts it: “The focus is entirely on behavior. Scriptures are not said to impart right doctrine, but to be useful in training people in living a particular way.” [Emphasis added]

On the face of it, this is not true. Sure, Paul is, in this context, talking about behaviour. But this verse doesn’t only say that Scripture is useful, it says that Scripture is god-breathed and useful. The writer of the blog was simply omitting the first part of what Paul says, and as a result his claim was false. When “fundies” cite this verse to show that Paul thought Scripture had authority, they are not referring to the fact that he called Scripture “useful” (although of course they don’t deny that). They are talking about the fact that Paul considered the Scripture to be breathed by God. So to deny that Paul calls Scripture authoritative on the grounds that he actually called it useful is simply not a true thing to say. [click to continue…]

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  1. I understand that some people think Paul didn’t write the pastoral Epistles, including 1 and 2 Timothy. In recent years I’ve become impressed by the flimsiness of the arguments against Pauline authorship of these letters. I will not comment on that issue here, but I will refer here to the author as Paul. []


Abortion is so hot right now

in Ethics

I don’t know the cause, perhaps it’s the current political climate in the US with political hopefuls vying to be their party’s candidate for President. But just now it seems the issue of abortion has exploded in my social media feeds, replete with (rather unwelcome) grizzly images of dismembered unborn babies. For what it’s worth, please be considerate of people who might not actually want to see such horrible things when they log in to catch up with friends or discuss other things. Do you want to be bombarded with unexpected and very graphic images of beheading victims, stabbing victims, crash victims and so on? But abortion is so hot right now, it seems.

Abortion is one of those issues where people just seem entrenched (the related issue of stem cell therapy is somewhat similar in this regard). No amount of pleading seems to get people to move – usually, at least. There are people who assume (quite wrongly, I say) that it’s simply a religious issue. You would never oppose abortion unless you were religious, they think. There are those (like presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders) who think (again, very wrongly, I say) opposition to abortion is an attack on women and their reproductive rights. I don’t think any comments like this have any merit, and I think they are evidence that many defenders of abortion rights are not seriously listening, or they don’t really want to know why people oppose abortion (or they do, but they are willing to misrepresent the opponents of abortion, which is a hallmark of partisanship).

In spite of my fear that very few people are really open to listening to the evil “other side” of the abortion issue, I know that some people do, and some people even change their mind about it once they’ve listened. It’s hard to predict what might give someone that little nudge across the line, but if it’s possible that something I say might help do the job then I don’t want to miss the opportunity. There is nothing new here. [click to continue…]

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in Ethics, Social Issues, Theology / Biblical Studies

You might have seen this video being circulated on social media lately, about a shopkeeper and a homeless man:

This does not sit right with me. In fact as far as reasons go for treating homeless people better, this is terrible. [click to continue…]

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Jesus never said ANYTHING about X!

in Ethics, Theology / Biblical Studies

Christians shouldn’t oppose X, because Jesus never said anything about X! Right?

With same-sex marriage being the topic of the day for a lot of “progressive Christians,” this is an argument I’ve seen lately. Since Jesus never said anything about same-sex marriage, Christians shouldn’t oppose it either. When I last saw it, I queried whether it was even true, but the same line was repeated back to me each time: Jesus said NOTHING about same-sex marriage (the capitals were used in the reply). [click to continue…]

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in Ethics

There is already plenty of exposure to the now infamous undercover videos of staff at Planned Parenthood where it is clear that they engage in the practice of selling the parts of aborted babies. After viewing them, I do not believe there is any way to dismiss the footage as a distortion, as misleading, or as taking things out of context in a way that only makes it appear that this is what the staff are offering to do, when in reality they are not. That sort of denial is not plausible, and yet that is the sort of thing we are seeing. Having seen this sort of denial a couple of times now, the most charitable conclusion I can draw is that the people who would make this claim are simply believing the best of Planned Parenthood and have not actually viewed the footage for themselves.

For that reason alone, here are the videos that I have seen, and you are invited to watch them for yourselves. There may be others, but these are the ones I have personally watched. You might want to argue that there is nothing wrong with what is happening here. You might want to argue that the law should allow the trade of unborn baby parts. You would be pretty consistent in doing so, I think, once you accept that unborn babies can be dismembered and killed. But I am just gathering together what I have seen, as others are doing, so that we can stamp out the claim (the hope, perhaps) that trade in unborn baby parts is not happening. It is. Deal with it.

Please be aware that some of the footage is very disturbing, dealing with abortion and the sale of parts of dead babies. You will see body parts if you watch the first video.

Fuller footage is available for those who allege that these videos have been creatively edited to give a misleading impression. This is not difficult to find for yourself and is available at Youtube. Watching the full, unedited footage is a prerequisite for anyone who wants to imply that these videos have been edited to give a misleading impression.

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in history

I’ve got a couple of blog posts in the works, but just now I wonder if readers can help me with a question. Here it is:

When did Christians first start praying to the saints? [click to continue…]

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