In Mere Christianity, Christian thinker C.S. Lewis argued that you cannot regard Jesus as a moral teacher if you deny his divinity.
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. [Emphasis added]
Informed by Lewis’ so-called “Lunatic, Liar, or Lord” trilemma, atheist filmmaker Peter Breinholt produced a short documentary “Madman or Something Worse.” Breinholt contends that most of Jesus’ moral contributions were not original, and that most of his original contributions were not moral.
Nearly a year ago, I blogged about a fairly humanizing documentary of the Westboro Baptists done by BBC’s Louis Theroux. His2007 documentary, “The Most Hated Family in America”, was a huge hit. You can watch it here.
Four years later, Theroux returned to WBC to do a follow-up documentary, “America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis”. A lot has happened since 2007. Just last month, the Supreme Court ruled in the Westboro Baptists favor to protect their First Amendment rights to protest military funerals and express hateful anti-gay rhetoric. Despite that decision, however, the church still has challenges. Its numbers are dwindling, with several young people having recently left the group, and the members confront steeper opposition wherever they picket. But the effect of these challenges, as the documentary shows, has been to make the believers more determined and dogmatic.
Halloween is upon us, and that, for me, means it’s zombie-hunting season. This week, I’ve budgeted ample time to watch my favorite zombie movies and play my favorite zombie video games. I’m in such the Halloween spirit that yesterday I made this video:
Not long ago, Ted Haggard was arguably the most powerful evangelical Christian pastor in the United States. His megachurch, the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, boasted a membership a 14,000. Haggard was also president of the 30 million-member Nation Association of Evangelicals. This influence won him the ear of President Bush, with whom he spoke on the phone every Monday.
In late 2006, Ted Haggard’s world came crashing down. Mike Jones, a male prostitute, alleged that Haggard paid him for sex and drugs. Haggard confessed to some of the allegations, and was forced to resign from the church that he founded. More than that, his church exiled him from the entire state of Colorado. How very Christian.
For the next two years, Haggard was periodically homeless and unemployed. He and his family moved in and out of hotels, and stayed with strangers who were willing to taken them into their homes. To support his family, he applied to be an online representative for Phoenix University, hung up thousands of door-hangers, and worked as a traveling insurance salesman. He also went back to college for the first time in 30 years to study psychology.
The Texas state board of education, which earlier this year stirred national controversy with its overhaul of social studies standards, today narrowly adopted a resolution warning textbook publishers against infusing their materials with “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian distortions.” The resolution was approved by a 7-6 vote by social conservatives on the board, who warned of what they describe as a creeping Middle Eastern influence in the nation’s publishing industry.
The resolution declares that a “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias has tainted some past Texas social studies textbooks,” and that the board should reject any future textbooks that favor one religion over another.
The Washington Post points out that the “facts” used by the board in making the decision were not accurate; however, facts probably stand no chance against the political machine that is the Texas school board. It also raises the question of whether we should worry about the pro- or anti-religious biases of duly elected or appointed public officials. Texas wields considerable clout in the textbook publishing world as the largest “adoption state” in the U.S., where a central body approves public school textbooks rather than individual districts. It’s not clear whether the resolution will prompt textbook publishers to make immediate changes to sections devoted to Christianity and Islam.
Meanwhile, the Association of American Publishers claims that textbooks are already necessarily fair and balanced because “there is no good reason for them to submit things that would be biased”. Luckily for America, “bias” and “reason” go hand-in-hand.
Eli Brayley has become somewhat of a fixture at Utah State University. He has been open-air preaching outside the Taggart Student Center to the largely LDS student body since fall 2007, when he moved to Cache Valley from Canada.
Yesterday, Eli was invited by the Religious Studies Club to share his spiritual biography and explain his ministry.
(SHAFTers should take particular interest in Eli’s story, because his presence at USU unwittingly contributed to the creation of SHAFT. Eli started a religious conversation on campus, and several people and I felt that atheists/agnostics deserved a voice in that conversation.)
I was unable to attend Eli’s presentation, but a friend recorded it (thanks, Will!), and Eli has given me permission to post it here.
Hey kids! Did you know that your Christian friend may in fact be a “mutant”? According to some Christian minister-turned-author, today’s teens are only embracing a watered-down Christianity where God is viewed as a “divine therapist” whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem (gasp! Obviously, this feel-goodery must be stopped!
Dean drew her conclusions from what she calls one of the most depressing summers of her life. She interviewed teens about their faith after helping conduct research for a controversial study called the National Study of Youth and Religion. [...] The study, which included in-depth interviews with at least 3,300 American teenagers between 13 and 17, found that most American teens who called themselves Christian were indifferent and inarticulate about their faith. The study included Christians of all stripes — from Catholics to Protestants of both conservative and liberal denominations. Though three out of four American teenagers claim to be Christian, fewer than half practice their faith, only half deem it important, and most can’t talk coherently about their beliefs, the study found. Many teenagers thought that God simply wanted them to feel good and do good [...]
[Most] teens who are articulate about their faith [...] come from Mormon and evangelical churches, which tend to do a better job of instilling religious passion in teens, she says.
What ever shall we do to stop this horrifying new generation of “imposter” Christians whose takeaway from church is a nebulous belief in a God that wants them to be nice people and feel better about themselves?