I post mostly messages and commentary about religion and politics, and the scary occasions when they collide.
I am a: Liberal, Green, Christian, Math teacher
Lover of Math, Philosophy, Animals, Civil Rights, and Arguments of all kinds.

19th April 2014

Question

Anonymous asked: i'm sorta confused about the bible's view on premarital sex. i can't seem to find a verse that explicitly states that its wrong, so is there another passage that implies it?

"Sexual immorality" is how the bible defines premarital sex. Corinthians 7:2 is pretty clear on this: "But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”- referring specifically to the temptation towards sex before marriage(as compared to adultery). There are a number of other verses that make it clear that the only proper place for sex is within a monogamous marriage.

 

9th March 2014

Post with 3 notes


radicalhufflepuff said: Arguably, the Gnostic Christians believed in multiple gods; would you say they aren’t Christian? What about Mormons, who believe in the potential for all humans to become gods?

The Gnostics were not Christians- whatever they chose to call themselves, their teachings were considered heretical or at least non-canonical to the faith by the church, along with their gospels. The Mormon example is not really paganism, and is a fairly controversial belief among other Christians.

However, the better question might be, why is there a need to combine Christianity and paganism, and to what degree? If one worships multiple gods but still wants to follow certain Christian teachings, they are free to do so. The reason why I say that you can’t be both a pagan and a Christian is not because I’m some sort of gatekeeper of anyone else’s faith: It’s because of how Christianity and paganism are broadly defined. They are mutually exclusive. You can either follow Christ/the Trinity as the one true God, or you can worship multiple deities. If you believe that Christ is one of many gods that you worship equally, then you’re not Christian.

This doesn’t mean that they are a bad person or going to hell or anything else. It is simply a matter of definitions. 

Tagged: christianityreligionpaganismtheology

9th March 2014

Question with 1 note

Anonymous asked: Do you think that the possibility of extraterrestrial life is compatible with Christianity? Also what do you think would be the implications on Christianity if humanity were to come in contact with alien life.

Sure, I think it’s possible. The bible doesn’t preclude the possibility of other forms of life(whether we end up interpreting them as angels or demons or something else…), and the fact that it doesn’t specifically name “beings from another planet” only indicates that:

1. The Hebrews didn’t need such information and/or would not have understood it even if they were told

2. It is not relevant to Christianity

OR

3. There are no aliens

As far as how the discovery of alien life would impact Christianity, well, there’s thousands of different denominations with different ways of incorporating new information. I like this question, but it seems that most often when it’s discussed, the assumption is that the alien life will be atheistic- what if they’re not? What if they’re Christian, or something close to it? What if they believe in something entirely different but not wholly incompatible with “earth religions?” It’s hard to think that they’d have no beliefs at all(even if only in random chance/evolution) if they’re intelligent beings… and would the nature of the aliens themselves affect how religious people interpret them? Suppose they look like our conception of angels/demons?

There’s just too many unknowns to answer how aliens would affect religion, if they exist at all. Bottom line, I don’t know, and I’ll wait and find out with everyone else… but it’d make for interesting science fiction in the meantime.

Tagged: religionchristianityaliens

7th March 2014

Question with 1 note

Anonymous asked: Can you mix paganism and Christianity?

There are some pagan/Wiccan beliefs that are not incompatible with Christianity(the rule of three, for example). You can’t believe in multiple gods and be a Christian, no. So, it would depend on the particular form of paganism, and what belief.

Tagged: religionwiccapaganismchristianity

25th February 2014

Question with 8 notes

Anonymous asked: this might be a disturbing question, but i struggle with self harm and i've read that self-harm is a really awful sin. i tried to look in the bible but all i really found were self-harm in the terms of idol worship or demon possession. i dont fit into either of those categories. i know that it's bad to self-harm and im trying to stop, but are there any scriptures talking about this? (and also will my struggle possibly land me in hell?)

I don’t find it disturbing. But sin is not the issue with self-harm: living with it without seeking treatment causes harm to yourself. Causing yourself harm should be avoided, regardless of your religious views. Why fear hell when you’re putting yourself through torment in -this- life? 

There are some scriptures which mention the act, but the sort of self-harm/cutting described is mostly related to pagan rituals and idol worship, as you’ve noticed. Those ritualistic beliefs were considered sinful, but for the vast majority of people who engage in self-harm today, that’s not the reason they’re doing it. The scriptures you may want to search for instead are those related to depression or anxiety:

Deuteronomy 31:8 – The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Psalm 34:18 – The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

1 Peter 5:7 – Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Being depressed, anxious, or suicidal- none of these feelings are sinful or wrong. They simply are, and they can be accepted and dealt with, but there is no need to do that alone. Most people can’t, and no one has to. But the advice I can offer you is limited, so if you need other resources, these are some hotlines/support sites that may be of assistance:

http://self-injury.net/resources/hotlines#self-injury

http://www.cuttingdepression.net/self-harm-hotline/

http://insteadofcutting.tumblr.com/hotlines

Please remember that God loves you, and loves the body you were given as much as you should. It is the only one we have throughout this life, and acting on self-harm won’t cure the underlying emotion. You seem like a good person, and I’m sure that you wouldn’t cause harm to anyone else, even if they asked you to. You would seek help for them- So love yourself just as much. 

Tagged: religionself-harmdepressionanxiety

24th February 2014

Question with 1 note

elisabethpond asked: hey i am sorry i am spaming your ask box but just one little questions. Do you think jesus really walked over the water or do you think it was a methapher by the author used to describe something else?

I rarely mind questions. That’s an interesting one, too. I lean more to this being a description of an actual event(not a metaphor), though it appears to also have symbolic meaning beyond the literal words.

Tagged: religionjesusbible

24th February 2014

Question with 2 notes

elisabethpond asked: hey i want to ask you a question. This is something i thought about before starting to go to church. Everybody is different because everybody in this world was raised differently and lived different situations. So if basically noone is the same why do we all say we believe in the same? Isnt faith an extremely personal matter? it is basically how i see the universe. Shouldn't that be my choice? i dont want to be arrogant, i am honestly confused about it. let me now what you think and thanks

I’m not entirely sure I understand your question. Faith -is- a personal choice, but we humans can still determine some measure of truth(or what is more likely to be true) within a belief system. Religion should have an internal logical coherence and not contradict known evidence from other sources without a reasonable explanation. If someone still wishes to believe in a particular belief system despite being made aware of the logical/evidential problems with it, I wouldn’t have an issue with that, to the extent they aren’t hurting anyone else… but I can say that their belief system is flawed due to <x> reasons. Same as anyone else can do for mine. It leads to interesting debates, but no one is required to believe in anything simply because it seems to be the most likely possibility.

If you’re asking, how are we ultimately judged based on our beliefs… well, I don’t know. I believe in one objective truth- which is why I care about finding it- and I also assume God is fair(including to those who don’t find His truth), and that if He’s not, there’s nothing we can do about it anyway… so believe in what you think is right, and don’t hurt other people in the meantime. 

Tagged: religionbeliefphilosophylogicgod

24th February 2014

Link reblogged from Brute Reason with 77 notes

Religion vs. Mental Illness, A Bit More Concisely This Time →

brutereason:

Chris Stedman, author of Faitheist and blogger at the Religion News Service, asked me to comment on why atheists should stop calling religion a mental illness for a piece he published today. I ended up giving him a way longer comment than he necessarily wanted or needed (#bloggerproblems), so I thought I’d publish the full thing I sent him since it’s nevertheless a way more concise explanation of my views than my huge post on this was.

Equating religion with mental illness is harmful for a number of reasons. First of all, when done to make fun of or put down religion, it also puts down by association people struggling with problems like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or schizophrenia. People with these serious mental illnesses already face plenty of stigma and discrimination, so derogatory remarks about how religious people are “all crazy” or “belong in a mental institution” are harmful.

Second, this comparison ignores the fact that religion and mental illness are different psychological processes. Religion largely stems from cognitive processes that are essentially adaptive, such as looking for patterns, believing in things that are comforting, and getting joy out of connecting with others and feeling like a part of something larger than oneself. Mental illnesses, by contrast, are fundamentallymaladaptive. People who cannot leave the house without having a panic attack, who feel a compulsion to wash their hands hundreds of times a day, or who are convinced that everyone hates them and they are better off dead, are experiencing symptoms that interfere with their ability to go about their lives. Except in extreme cases, religion does not operate this way. It is important to point out when religious beliefs and observances reach a level at which people cannot function normally, but we do the secular movement no favors by focusing on these instances to the exclusion of the vast majority of religious people who are healthy, happy, productive members of our society.

Third, calling religion a mental illness keeps us from asking serious questions about what actually does attract people to religion. Often, it’s the sense of community, the support available to people who are struggling financially or emotionally, the quick way to make friends, and the opportunity to mark important life occasions such as births, marriages, and deaths using traditions that feel meaningful. Although some of us are trying, atheists are still not that great at providing these types of communities. Many refuse to even acknowledge that most people value–even need–such communities. Calling religion a mental illness is a convenient way to avoid thinking about what we could actually be doing to make the secular community more welcoming and inclusive, and what sorts of resources we are lacking that people can find in religious communities.

Finally, claiming that religion is a mental illness obscures the fact that we all–yes, atheists too–regularly engage in irrational thinking. Religion is a type of irrational thinking, but it is not the only type; introductory psychology textbooks catalog dozens of biases, fallacies, and other ways in which our minds trick us. While it’s impossible to become entirely free of cognitive bias, we can become more free of it by learning to notice it. If thinking irrationally is a mental illness, then we are all mentally ill, and the term loses its meaning. As a survivor of mental illness myself and as someone who plans to work as a therapist, I think we should save that term for situations in which people are truly suffering and having trouble going about their lives.

Don’t forget to go read Chris’s piece!

And incidentally, I’ve been quoted by journalists a bunch of times and it has almost always come out sounding weird and out of context and not like what I meant at all. Chris avoided this issue entirely and even let me see a draft of the piece to make sure he wasn’t misrepresenting what I said or getting anything wrong. If he ever asks you for a quote, say yes!

22nd February 2014

Question with 11 notes

Anonymous asked: Are you pro life or pro choice? And why?

I am pro-choice. No human being has the right to use the body or organs of another human being without their willing consent- not even to preserve their own life. If one believes that a fetus is a human life, then they are no exception to this rule. 

Beyond the legalistic understanding, pregnancy and childbirth is a deeply personal experience that cannot be adequately understood by anyone who isn’t in the situation. The fetus/unborn baby, however we want to name it, is intimately connected to its mother in a way that no other two humans ever are. It is a part of her body, and yet also separate. For all the difficulty that I might have when thinking about someone else’s abortion, it has no more affect on me than someone else’s pregnancy would. In my situation, it is very easy to say that abortion is wrong and ought to be avoided- but do I also have an obligation to provide a ‘home’ for a fetus that is unwanted by it’s own mother? If I care about preserving life, it seems that I might be required to say yes, if that baby has as much right to life- superseding the desires of the woman who carries it- as those on the pro-life side tend to believe it does.

But I wouldn’t volunteer for that job. Most people wouldn’t. The inconvenience it would cause me would always be far more of a concern than the life of that fetus. The only moral difficulty that abortion causes me is the question of what I would do if it were -my- fetus. And I don’t know what my choice would be, regardless of the circumstances behind that pregnancy. I’m not sure I could ever go through with an abortion… but then, I’ve never been in the position to find out.

So I can’t help but see the moral outrage against someone else’s abortion as judgment against the mother, not concern for the unborn life. A person may recoil at the thought of abortion, judging on what they think they would do, if it were theirs… but they have no feelings of tenderness for a life that does not yet exist and is not a part of themselves- only the mother can, and so only she should get a say in how that life is brought into existence.

All that said, I am all in favor of addressing the causes of unwanted pregnancy and eliminating the need for abortion of a healthy fetus. Why a woman may make that choice, I believe, is a far more relevant question for Christians than whether or not she should.

Tagged: religionabortionprochoiceprolifechristianity

22nd February 2014

Question with 1 note

Anonymous asked: Hi I have a question thats been bothering me. (Btw, I am kind of returning to religion) Ive been struggling with depression and some other issues. While going through this time I looked for verses to try to help me and I was wondering how do I know that God is willing to do any of the things that He did for the people in bible for me? I'm not sure if I am being clear, but will He really deliver me? What if His blessings were just for them, and I am destined to be miserable? Can that happen?

Christ’s sacrifice was made for all people, as a new covenant between them and God. No one is forgotten or abandoned by God. Here on earth, though, it can be difficult to remember this, and this leads to doubt or feelings of worthlessness. It’s understandable that you might feel that way, as I struggle with depression myself, but you are still among those who were destined to be reconciled with God. Nothing can change that.

God bless! :)

Tagged: religionchristianity