How Historicized Mythology Works.

Sorry about yesterday; I was laid up with one of those fun migraine-and-nausea episodes I get sometimes. All better now! On to today’s topic: the historical Jesus. We’ve talked about him before here, but some new stuff’s happened in the last year that’s brought my attention back to the subject.

English: Carrying the Cross, from the Gelati G...

English: Carrying the Cross, from the Gelati Gospels MSS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before we start, let’s be clear about something: a historical Jesus wouldn’t necessarily mean a divine Jesus. Having or not having a historical Jesus doesn’t confirm or deny Christians’ claims of his divinity or the truth of the various claims he made and lessons he taught. As I said last time, having a real live Jesus, even a kernel of him adorned by all those later myths, wouldn’t make Christianity’s claims more valid. We’d just be moving the burden of proof one step over, from “Did he actually exist?” to “Are his claims true?” That he doesn’t exist when Christians insist that he did is a symptom of Christianity’s problem, but hardly the religion’s biggest problem.

That we can’t move past that first question makes the second one all but irrelevant; if we could resolve the first question we’d just move to “Are this religion’s claims true in the main?” It’d make Christianity more reputable as a religion to have a real live founder, or so Christians think anyway, but most religions haven’t got one and they potter along just fine. And religions that had a real live founder certainly aren’t guaranteed to be making reliable claims–just think about Mormonism and Scientology, which both face problems with credibility stemming from the simple fact that they were invented recently enough that we actually can go sift the truth of their founders’ lives from the chaff their adherents spout about them. A real live founder doesn’t imply a religion is making true claims, and not having one doesn’t hurt a religion’s credibility at all, at least not any more than it would be hurt just by itself.

Valerie Tarico’s written a damn fine piece over at AlterNet about Jesus not having been a real person. It’s a good piece, and I wanted to talk briefly here about something she goes into it, namely about the two competing schools of thought about Jesus’ historicity. See, for a long time people thought Jesus’ story in the Gospels was “mythologized history,” which means that there was a wee bare kernel of the story that was real and all the other stuff–the miracles and whatnot–got built up around it over time. Now there’s another school of thought that’s gaining ground:

But other scholars believe that the gospel stories are actually “historicized mythology.” In this view, those ancient mythic templates are themselves the kernel. They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received.

When I heard that phrase, historicized mythology, a lot of things fell into place for me. Did they for you? It makes a lot of sense for me that this would be the direction it goes, not the other way. Here is why.

If you actually read the New Testament, one thing you’ll notice quickly is how few details there are in any of its myths. What few there are, are often incorrect. Place names get messed up, people’s ranks and titles get distorted, historical events get garbled, and names are usually more metaphorical than real-sounding. There really isn’t much there to make anybody think that these were real stories about real people doing real things–especially if you know anything at all about just when the books of the New Testament got written and in what order. They really do go from less detail to more detail, not the other way around. People embellished those stories from the very beginning–because they had to.

In the Dark Ages, possibly even beforehand, people wanted to know more about the bare-bones stories in the Gospels. I don’t think people function well with ambiguity; we want to have all the details about stories we find interesting. And there are a lot of details missing from the Gospels. When you get down to it, these stories don’t tell anybody much about a “real” Jesus. We don’t know what he looked like or how he dressed; we don’t know what he was like as a person to hang out with; we don’t know much about his family life outside of a few very basic and obviously mythologized incidents. We don’t know anything about his family outside of Mary and Joseph except for a few obviously-mythological shreds about her parents, and little enough as it is about any of the rest of ‘em.

So with the attitude of “if it ain’t true, well then it should be,” medieval minds went to work on those shreds and snippets.

Under their careful tending, Jesus’ family sprouted fully-formed from the brow of the Gospels. The Three Wise Men, unnamed entirely in the Gospels and even in the Apocrypha, gained names–and the reciting of those names became a magic spell in and of itself (one popular magic item in the Middle Ages was a ring with their names inscribed on it, thought to protect wearers). The woman who knelt to wipe Jesus’ face as he was dragging his cross? You know she got a name very quickly and became a saint besides–and the veil she’d used became one of Catholicism’s greatest frauds–er, artifacts, second only to the equally fraudulent Shroud of Turin, itself supposed by the gullible to be the cloth used to wrap the crucified Jesus’ body before he was resurrected. Every single character and important object in the Gospels, whether named or not, gained a name and backstory. Every artifact had been found, from the manger where Jesus had supposedly been laid as a newborn to the tomb where he was buried and even to splinters of the One True Cross that he’d hung upon for a few hours before facing his lousy weekend dead–and many of those were found multiple times. I bet you could name anything mentioned off-handedly in any of the four Gospel myths and I could go dig out my Catholic Encyclopedia and see that it has a name and a full story, especially regarding the lives of the earliest followers of Christianity, who were revered as martyrs for the cause even though evidence strongly suggests that no, actually, most of the martyrs Christianity reveres weren’t martyrs at all and probably didn’t even exist.

But we do not find any of those names and stories in the actual source material. Imagine for a second, those of you reading here who grew up Christian, imagine what it must be like to not have that rich tapestry of Christian mythology to bolster one’s faith. Imagine not having any idea who the Wise Men were or from whence they came. Imagine not having the faintest idea where Jesus had been buried. Imagine not having any idea what might have become of those twelve disciples Jesus is said to have had. Imagine not knowing anything about what the earliest history of one’s religion was. It really is as if a lot of that mythology just sprang up in the second and third centuries and got embellished in the next few–and we’ve got to wonder why this stuff didn’t exist contemporaneously with Jesus, if he existed, or why nobody chose to write a single word about those artifacts at the time they were made or discovered.

I think it bothered medieval minds very much that they couldn’t see any contemporary proof of anything in the Bible and didn’t know any of this stuff. I think it bothered their flocks a lot as well. With a little creative painting and writing, those omissions became miraculous events and magical artifacts, amazing sacrifices and inspiring biographies. And they lavished attention on their founder in the absence of anything solid about him.

As I’ve said before, I don’t really choose to get into debates about Jesus’ historicity with Christians; their sheer defensiveness over the question of Jesus’ historicity makes further dialogue impossible once I’ve unleashed that H(istory)-bomb at them. They’ve built an entire religion around their faith system being historically accurate; especially for the literalists, discovering Jesus is about as historical as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man (and in the exact same way, one impishly adds) can yank out a key brick in the Jenga tower pretty quickly. If there isn’t a historical Jesus, even a wee bare kernel of one, even just a poor itinerant wild-eyed zealot wandering around Jerusalem like half-a-dozen other men at the time all trying to push their own weird-ass takes on various extant religions, then there surely wasn’t a historical Crucifixion, a historical Resurrection, or a historical Redemption. That may well mean there’s no historical Sin Nature for which humans need to be forgiven (which was itself caused by a historical event, and it must be, for it is touted as a real thing that needs real forgiveness). If there is no real Redemption for real Sin Natures, then there might not even be a real Heaven or Hell! The rabbit hole goes deep when it comes to the Bible’s lack of historicity. If it’s just a morality tale, if it’s all just metaphorical, then there’s no need to get uptight about anything.

Remember the rule about evidence that we talked about last time? A claim of something’s reality must be accompanied by real facts and observations–not just an argument. If someone thinks there was a real live Jesus, then that person is the one who must present real live evidence for that claim. I’d take anything contemporaneous with the fellow at this point–anything at all. A single mention of this weird preacher wandering around town, a single passing reference, a single record. Just one thing. But right now, there is dead silence. And the people who think he was real can do their very best to make that dead silence into some kind of reverse-evidence for Jesus’ existence, denigrating that silence or puffing up the obviously-wishful later words about him written centuries after his supposed death, but it’s a pretty sorry soup that’s made from such weak bones. The simple truth is that if Jesus was supposed to be a real person who really inspired Christianity, there really ought to be, well, something about the fellow from his lifetime-ish that we can find and point to, and there just isn’t a single word.

Up till now, I’ve heard from quite a few folks–including some atheists!–who felt that Jesus simply had to have been real. Nobody with sense would ever say that a Jesus fitting the Gospels’ exact biography could really exist, no–it’s sort of like placing a story “before Europe but after Paris,” to borrow William Goldman’s phrasing–but a kernel of Jesus? Surely there had to be something. Our minds stretch and wince at the idea of all that mythology being based on, well, nothing. A long line of “well he must have” or “but they all thought he did,” on the backs of turtles all the way down. Or upon perhaps an amalgam of nameless itinerant men, all nameless, all featureless, all blending into a cultural memory that became a Jesus when someone needed to make up a founder for this newly-made mystery religion that was becoming known as Christianity.

The idea of a mythologized history didn’t sit well with me, and now I know why. The real answer is likely to be historicized mythology, and this theory fits in beautifully with what we actually know the Christian church did with their religion. It explains exactly why there are exactly zero mentions of Jesus in any contemporary sources, why the Gospels went from shortest to longest as they got written and compiled, why Paul (the one New Testament author we’re pretty sure did exist and can be fairly sure did write at least some of what is attributed to him) didn’t say a damned thing about Jesus as a person, and why there’s nothing in the historical record about what happened to Jesus’ twelve disciples.

English: The Mokvi Four Gospels 1300 Genealogy...

English: The Mokvi Four Gospels 1300 Genealogy of Christ (part) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just as people who believe in Creationism got an extra hurdle laid upon them when the Theory of Evolution got rolling, “historical Jesus” adherents have an extra hurdle to cross now that this concept has been written into the cultural lexicon. Simply put, we now have a really good explanation for the dead silence around Jesus in contemporary records. Anybody claiming he was real has to leap over that hurdle to explain why his or her pet theory works better. And as always, one simple contemporary fact would demolish this new idea, just as one simple mismatch in the archaeological record would put the ToE under serious scrutiny.

As it stands, it really seems like the entire reason that so many historians think he existed is because previous historians said he must have. We really do give Jesus a major pass on the rigorous requirements we set for other real-life figures. That the earlier historians happen to have been Christians with a big vested interest in Jesus being a real person doesn’t even seem to occur to the “historical Jesus” crowd. And I’m sure that the new historicized mythology camp wouldn’t be possible without some trained, credible historians joining the fold who aren’t Christians or as deeply married to the idea of a historical Jesus. Score another point for diversity!

And the hilarious thing is that really, if Jesus didn’t exist for real and we realized that as a culture, then his worshipers would figure themselves out. Some of them would simply deny the facts, like they always do, and drill down harder on their comforting lies. Of those who see the truth and understand it, though, a great many would stay worshipers, I’ve no doubt. Some, like me, would leave because if there wasn’t a real Jesus then there is no need to stay somewhere that is bad for us. But many would stay. His being real certainly wouldn’t make me consider joining the religion again–for the same reason that those who would stay, would stay: because his reality doesn’t impact his religion’s claims. If anything, evidence that he couldn’t possibly have existed would lead to a more nuanced understanding of the material, perhaps. In such a nuanced view of the religion, the showdown that fundagelicals often set up for their followers may well become less likely to occur. But none of that is nowhere near as fun as thinking that someone has all the answers, is it?

I see the question of Jesus’ historicity as fascinating because it hits right to the core of how humans know what’s true and what isn’t true–how we figure out questions like “Did So-and-so exist or not?” For that, I think the question is valuable. Just saying “Nope! No way!” because I don’t happen to be Christian would be just as immature and irrational as saying “Yes, of course he did!” because someone happens to be Christian or otherwise finds squirrelly the concept of him not existing. We need to be open to the evidence wherever it may lead–and we need to be ready to re-examine new evidence and ideas when they emerge. That’s what I’ve done here today: re-examined an idea in the light of new information. And I’ll continue to do it because I’m a history wonk and that’s how we roll.

Because of its importance to vast swathes of Christianity, I don’t see this question as one that will be put to rest any time soon, but I’m glad that historians are taking a second look at it lately and are asking the tough questions that would have been impossible to ask decades ago.

Posted in Religion, The Games We Play | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

But For Good People to Do Real Evil, You Need Religion.

The popular saying is attributed to a physicist named Steven Weinberg and goes thusly:

With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil–that takes religion.

And I know this saying is true. One of the most eye-opening conversations I ever had about good and evil happened while I was a fundamentalist and talking with a Muslim man.

English: Steven Weinberg at the 2010 Texas Boo...

English: Steven Weinberg at the 2010 Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was the early 90s, and I was already having some serious reservations about some of the stuff I’d been taught by my church. Remember, I wasn’t always a fundie; I’d converted in my teens from Catholicism, and I was now rounding 20 or so–but I’d been quite a fervent student. That summer I was working as a dorm-painter for my university to earn enough money to attend school the following year. It wasn’t awesome money, but it was more than minimum wage and enough to live on and put some aside. More importantly, if I worked on-campus, I could stay that summer in the dorms without having to move to an apartment for the summer, which was a much more pressing concern than even tuition.

The university painted the dorm rooms every few years. It was a much bigger project than the maintenance people could do by themselves, so they generally hired short-term help from the student body. I was the first–and that year, the only–woman hired for this work; most of the crew were African-American or Hispanic men. And before you ask, yes, I wore a skirt and tennis shoes for this manual labor. Utter impracticality couldn’t get in the way of my indoctrination.

My manager paired me with an earnest young Muslim man on the grounds of not knowing what to do with either of us, and the two of us set off with our work orders in hand every morning.

We made a really good team, Akkam and I. I don’t remember us ever having any trouble. After we got the hang of it, we quickly became one of the best and most efficient of the teams. He was from the Middle East, though I don’t remember what country; he had had an arranged marriage the year before and I gathered his parents were of middling income. He was midway through his doctoral studies; during that summer he was working to save money to support his wife and their newborn child for the year ahead.

As the work was fairly mindless, we were free to chat while we worked, and often we’d end up talking about ourselves–our lives, what it was like for us growing up, and sometimes (oh so cautiously) skirting around the edges of religion. We both sensed that it was unwise for two people working so closely together to talk too much about religion, but given how important it was for both of us, inevitably we’d both ask and answer questions.

Author Salman Rushdie having a discussion with...

Author Salman Rushdie having a discussion with Emory University students (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And as important as my religion was to me, his religion seemed even more important to him. He prayed five times a day–privately. I didn’t even notice at first, he was so subtle about it. I never caught him at it directly. But he’d vanish on a short break and come back a few minutes later, obviously not having gone to get water or to visit the bathroom. When he talked, it was with that quiet humble somberness you see out of deeply spiritual people so often. He did his best to treat me with complete respect, which really was one of the most surprising aspects of his understanding of Islam; he thought that how his religion often treated women was simply awful, and he was actually proud of how progressive he was about women’s rights. To hear him tell it, his own wife was astonished by how well he treated her; he didn’t demand she dress any particular way or act subservient, and he’d encouraged her to get her own education at home as she cared for their baby. He expected her to want a job at some point and he was fine with that. Though their marriage had been arranged, he said he’d been careful to ensure she seemed okay with the idea.

Now, I know that this might have been just talk. He might have been exaggerating. I never found out how accurate it was. But just that he wanted it to be true, just that he thought of himself that way, was mind-blowing to me. And the rest of his political views seemed to skew very liberal as well–more so than mine.

I’m telling you this so you know why what happened next shocked me so deeply–so much that I’ve never forgotten it.

The Satanic Verses had come out a year or so previously. The author, Salman Rushdie, won some nice awards for it, but he also earned the wrath of some of the leaders of the Muslim faith. One of those leaders had gone so far as to order a fatwa against him–in essence ordering all good Muslims to try to murder him by any means possible.

“So what do you think of all that fatwa business then?” I asked my teammate one afternoon as we relaxed on a break late in the summer. “I mean, the idea of killing someone for writing a book?”

I’ll never forget what he said. Never, ever, ever. I’d seriously expected him to kinda chuckle and distance himself from his religion’s murderous zealots. That is not what happened. His eyes suddenly took on a blazing fury. His voice, when he spoke, was like a sword.

“I totally agree with it. Anyone who criticizes Islam should die.”

For a long minute the words hung there. I stared at him, unable to reconcile the progressive, liberal, kindhearted, respectful man I’d known for weeks with the Muslim firebrand now before me. I had no idea what to say.

“You’re serious? You’d kill him if you could–just for writing something?” I finally asked, which in retrospect was probably not the best thing to follow up with.

He nodded quite emphatically. “I absolutely would.”

We’d taken a lurching leap forward toward a deep abyss, and now I stumbled and stammered back away from that edge. I don’t remember what either of us said afterward. I had been the one to open this wriggling can of worms, and I didn’t think it’d be fair to hold against him that he’d honestly answered me. I tried not to let it affect our work.

I lost track of him after that summer, but he’d given me a startling look into the very heart of zealotry and what it can do to a person’s sense of morals. As progressive as he was, Akkam was quite willing to murder in the name of his faith. I couldn’t understand it at all. But if I was honest with myself, I could see the same exact things were happening in my own religion. The zealots of my own religion had far more in common with Akkam than they did with, it seemed, me.

I wish I could be shocked when I hear Christians trying to rationalize away horrible genocides and crimes. I wish I could be surprised when I hear about Christians lying and stealing in the name of their religion. I wish with all my heart that I could. I wished it then, too. I didn’t understand how decent, good people could be induced to think murder was okay–and I’m not just talking about Akkam now. Obviously, many Christians condemn murders and genocides no matter who does them; obviously, many Muslims disagree with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and hate the violence that zealots in their religion are committing in various parts of the world.

But that day I had to come face to face with the simple fact that the more zealous someone seemed to be, the more willing that person was to excuse and even embrace those sorts of elements. I had to confront the startling idea of being so zealous about one’s faith that one can’t even tell that one has internalized some downright evil and dangerous ideas. I suddenly saw that just because someone saw himself as a good person didn’t mean that he was–and that people could slice away parts of themselves and present a very kind, loving face to the world yet have a slice hidden away that was horrific and violent.

I saw what fundamentalism can do to someone’s head with its us-versus-them mentality and its all-or-nothing, with-us-or-against-us mindset. That’s a really seductive mindset. It makes the fundamentalist into a zealous warrior on the side of good and righteousness. It gives the fundamentalist something big to fight against and a feeling of accomplishing much in the world. It can also nudge someone who is naturally very kind and humble into doing and saying things that are wildly out of character because that’s what the person thinks is expected. I’d already been doing such things for years–I’m not naturally someone to be confrontational or excessively firm, but you can bet that I’d come out with some whoppers and done some really awful things because I thought my religion called for it. My thankfully-short-lived involvement with a forced-birther campus group was one of those things, and while there, I’d seen how the group nudged people into talking about doing violence to clinics and abortion providers in the name of the “greater good” and seeing those acts of violence as good things because they were done in the name of “saving babies.” (They weren’t and we weren’t, but that’s what we thought at least.) In the face of some huge noble cause like that, such acts sound an awful lot more excusable to zealots who are already predisposed to see such acts as necessary for their god to do sometimes.

Indeed, that’s what the worst part was of the day I talked to Akkam about the fatwa: I wasn’t too sure I was too different. I suddenly perceived that we had some uncomfortable similarities.

I wonder suddenly if that’s why I didn’t fall too much deeper into the rabbit hole of fundamentalism. After that day, I looked a lot more critically at some of the stuff going on around me. I was a lot less willing to excuse or overlook evil deeds done in the name of good. And when I finally came face to face with the evil deeds my own god had done to humankind, I was more ready to acknowledge those deeds as evil and refuse to condone them, much less celebrate them as I see so many Christians doing nowadays.

What’s hilarious is that I can see that it utterly baffles Christians who see outsiders reacting with revulsion and disgust about their beloved religion’s history of evil deeds. Today I read an entertaining review of one such defense; in the review, I can see now where Christians are getting some of their wilder revisionary-history ideas, because this book seems to contain all of the cringeworthy rationalizations I’ve been hearing lately.

Christians don’t like the idea that their god might have murdered billions of humans or deliberately sabotaged us on numerous occasions or emotionally tortured his people into doing things like sacrificing their own children or advised his people to attack innocent foreigners and sexually enslave their very young daughters, or even that he allowed the murder of an entire family just to win a cheap bet with Satan. They don’t like thinking that their god didn’t once say “Hey, don’t own other human beings under any circumstances” or “don’t devalue women based on their sexual history.” So they contort and contort and contort themselves into figuring out some way to have these stories reflect a 100% good god. That’s inevitably going to involve figuring out some rationalization that makes those acts divine and not evil. Part of me rather suspects that at that point, their minds are willing to accept that if those things were okay under some circumstances then, then perhaps there’s some circumstance that makes them okay now.

And after years of internalizing those messages, after years of quietly hearing about this evil and hearing about how sometimes it’s totally called-for to treat people that way, suddenly a perfectly kind, sweet Christian couple–a couple who undoubtedly have some sort of standing in their community and who think of themselves as decent people–throw their own son out of the family home and physically and verbally abuse him (btw, content notice of domestic violence and anti-LGBT bigotry), all because he doesn’t have the sexual urges their religion teaches he should have. Evil deeds done in the name of good are still evil, and a good intention does not magically transform evil into good. And “because an invisible man in this book said it was okay” is not a reason for me to consider those evil deeds morally acceptable.

Unfortunately, when someone who thinks of him- or herself as acting on behalf of ultimate goodness and holiness, that can push that person into doing things that would otherwise be unthinkable. For all Christians’ talk of having “objective morality,” nothing about how they rationalize evil into good seems objective to me.

A truly good cause wouldn’t need someone to do evil deeds to support and advance itself, and I hope that zealots of all faiths figure that out one day.

Posted in Biography, Hypocrisy, Religion, The Games We Play | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Choices, Choices.

Oh, where would we be without entertaining stories of faux-persecution from American Christians? Today I noticed this story about a football player whining about having to miss religious services at his church (H/t: Friendly Atheist) because of scheduling conflicts with football practice, and I marveled anew at how absolutely incoherent Christianity can be.

English: Annapolis football player, United Sta...

English: Annapolis football player, United States Naval Academy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The young man, Vincent Johnson, belongs to a Christian church called the World Mission Society Church of God. This group is very gung-ho about attendance. Their website is absolutely huge, but like most church websites doesn’t tell you a damned thing that is useful about their group–like when exactly their services are scheduled in Mr. Johnson’s own church. But Wikipedia helpfully informs us that the group is a Saturday Sabbath church, similar to Seventh-Day Adventists, and additionally it believes that Saturday must be kept entirely free for religious observances and sometimes requiring members to attend three services on that day. So it’s not a case of him just picking a different church service that day; it’s not the time, it’s the whole day that is the issue here.

The original Fox News link somehow didn’t mention the Saturday Sabbath thing, which isn’t surprising given its right-wing evangelical Christian leanings, but when you deal with a church that goes in for this bit of weirdness, you can rest assured there’s some even weirder stuff going on under the surface. Churches that get caught up on Saturday Sabbath seem like the most legalistic and abuse-prone groups out there. Not that Fox News cares; a Christian isn’t being allowed to do whatever he wants, so that’s the story they’re going with. What they’ve left out should raise more eyebrows than what was left in, but their audience won’t even wonder.

Regardless, despite this requirement that he knew he had, Mr. Johnson decided to pursue membership in a football team at his university while attending there on a scholarship. I find it absolutely impossible to believe that he had no idea in the world that football teams frequently practice on the weekends or that he had no idea when those practices might occur.

At risk of stating the obvious, a football player often has to attend practices with his team, and this young man is no exception at all. When he missed too many practices due to his religious observances, his coach began to skip putting him into games. Mr. Johnson has decided that enduring the consequences of his actions means that he is being persecuted for being a Christian and moreover that he is being forced to make a dreadful choice:

“He asked me to choose between church and football. I said, ‘Coach, you can’t ask me to do that. It’s like asking me to choose between God and football.'”

If it seems hugely weird to you that a young person might feel this strongly about his religion yet select an extracurricular activity that directly conflicts with his religion’s requirements, you’re not alone. And if you’re making a shocked face right now at the idea of a Christian conflating church and deity like that, then you’re definitely not alone. And if you’re suspecting that the coach maybe didn’t actually “ask” such a question at all but rather made clear what was at stake, you’re thrice-times not alone.

Mr. Johnson has left absolutely nothing to chance here. Oh, sometimes a Christian might possibly leave a little wiggle room here or there. But not this Christian. He’s chosen to belong to a religious group that absolutely requires that he leave certain days wide open for them. Despite knowing this requirement, he’s also chosen to pursue a sport that requires intense dedication and frequent weekend participation. And when reminded of this incompatibility, he’s choosing to whine about how mean and hard and unfair it is that he can’t have both of these totally incompatible hobbies.

As one FA commenter has nonchalantly observed, “Surely choosing between God and football should be the easiest decision in the world for a Christian.” I agree wholeheartedly. Life’s full of tough choices, idnit? It’s a mark of the sheerest juvenile immaturity for someone to think that there is a way to reconcile any number of utterly disparate, utterly incompatible life choices.

I’ve got plenty of personal experiences to back up that assertion. When I was growing up, women framed their life choices in terms of “having it all.” As I’ve observed before (and feminists before me have written), having it all meant doing it all, because there really wasn’t any other way to have it all–not for women. Men could have successful, rewarding jobs, clean homes, and a rich family life without wearing themselves down to a frazzle–and nobody even raised an eyebrow at the idea of a man combining work and family, but for women, life was about making trade-offs: being less successful at work or sacrificing the family life we always wanted, or having a home that was a disaster area. We talked a big game about work-life balance, but we knew better than to even cry about how beyond-unattainable that ideal was. Things are a little better now, it seems; I see men taking a much more active role in their families than they ever have, and I see more women stepping into leadership roles in government and business. But back in my day, it wasn’t like that at all. Most of the women I knew might halfheartedly object to how impossible a dream it was, but we all still framed the problem as a question: how could it be done? Was it even possible?

I knew even as a child that if I got married, I would be doing a lot of extra work because my husband would find some way to get out of his share–which is what happened with Biff (and for that matter most of my live-in relationships afterward with only one glorious exception). I knew even as a child that if I had children, this disparity in labor would get even worse–so I never had children. I knew that if I got a high-paying job in certain fields, it’d destroy my free time and my ability to enjoy activities I liked–so I never went that route. Life’s full of opportunity costs. Do the one, and you can’t do the other. I might not have liked the equation, but I knew that this was the reality of it. The questions we framed thirty years ago are questions I still see women framing today.

Religion just added to those costs and made that balance even more impossible. There were jobs I could not take because I knew they’d demand I work on weekends. There were activities I couldn’t enjoy because my religion had decided they were sinful, like going to movies or playing certain games. Nowadays, many flavors of Christianity demand that their adherents sign off on Creationism and Biblical literalism, telling these Christians that if they figure out that Creationism is bullshit and that the Bible is filled with errors and problems, they can’t stay Christian. Such denominations are quite deliberately setting up a cruel and unnecessary showdown between faith and reality, and though it is backfiring by causing more and more people to reject the religion entirely rather than swallow lies, the strategy is working on enough people that they won’t let go of the idea any time soon.

Vincent Johnson’s church clearly puts a high value on church participation. He’s bought into the idea that he must participate in the way his church demands, or else he is rejecting his entire faith. And for what it’s worth, I sympathize that he’s in this dilemma. I believe him when he says that his faith is very important to him and that he doesn’t want to reject its demands.

But he expects the whole world to drop everything and find a way for him to enjoy both the sport he likes and the church participation he values, both on his terms.

It’s not anyone else’s job to find some way for him to work out this incompatibility between his voluntary activities. It’s his job. His coach is not required to let him play if he won’t practice as often as that coach thinks players should practice. I’m sure this coach–if he is anything like the ones I’ve known–gave practice schedules to all of the players at the beginning of the year, so none of these dates should have been a big shock to Mr. Johnson. It was his job to evaluate how capable he would be of meeting the requirements the coach outlined at the start of the year. His inability to evaluate his capabilities is not now his coach’s problem. His lack of planning does not equal a crisis on his coach’s part.

None of this is religious persecution. The college is investigating, but I rather suspect they will find that he’s not being singled out in any way. It’s not anybody’s fault but his own that he chose to participate in a sport that conflicts with an activity he idolizes to such an extent he compares disobeying its demands to rejecting his god entirely. (Indeed, one thing that I noticed quickly while researching his church was that it often comes up in discussions of cults–yikes! The real surprise is that he got into football at all, considering.) It is hardly persecution or discrimination to hold him to the exact same rules everybody else is held to–and considering how Jesus-centric football is anyway, I find it unlikely that his coach just hates Christians and wants to make their lives hard.

I noticed commenters trying to find ways for him to reconcile his two idols, but I don’t suggest people waste time doing so. I worked at call centers for many years and can tell you that sometimes people just don’t leave anything to chance, and they do that for a reason. No matter what workaround someone comes up with, this young man has in mind already what solution he will accept: He wants to attend church as often as he pleases, but still play in football games alongside the players who do attend practice regularly and who do put in the work the coach is asking of the team, the players who probably also have shit they would like to do on a pretty Saturday but who show up to practice anyway because football is their priority. Nothing but his chosen solution is likely going to sound doable to him. I’ve talked to way too many people like this to be under any illusions about how such conversations are likely to go; he’ll find some big problem with every single suggestion offered.

So I’ll let him work it out for himself. I’m sure he’ll find some way to manage it. And if he can’t, well, his religion is replete with stories of people who made huge, terrible sacrifices to follow what they believed was that god’s will. Most testimonies include similar tales. Sacrifice is part of Christianity. It’s curious that he’s not celebrating that he has before him the opportunity to make one of those big personal sacrifices. I mean, come on, he considers church attendance just like his god! Surely this one is a no-brainer? Surely he wouldn’t hesitate even an instant if it came down to his god or some dumb sport? Why is he so singularly angry about and even incapable of making the choice before him?

Could it be that he realizes deep down that the religion is really bullshit, but football is real and it is what is really important to him?

Posted in Biography, Feminism, Hypocrisy, Religion, The Games We Play | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Brief Primer About What Proof Looks Like.

It’s gotten almost old dealing with Christians who are convinced they have some kind of proof for their god and for the validity of their religious viewpoints who turn out not to have anything of the sort. From Ray Comfort‘s insistence that bananas “prove” his god’s existence to ignorant zealots who don’t understand big words like irrefutable (and moreover don’t understand big concepts like “you can’t use the Bible to prove the Bible’s ideas”), it seems like I run into a Christian saying this kind of thing just about weekly. So let’s talk a minute here about what proof looks like to someone like me.

The fifth of Thomas Aquinas' proofs of God's e...

The fifth of Thomas Aquinas’ proofs of God’s existence was based on teleology (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If all someone has in terms of evidence for a fact-based claim is philosophy and arguments, then that’s not proof. I’ve talked before about my complete disdain for what I’ve come to call “logical Christians” (those Christians who are most drawn to and prone to using such arguments in lieu of actual evidence). I find the mindset utterly toxic, and haven’t seen it produce much more than Christians who think it’s okay to treat people disrespectfully and contemptuously–seriously, I have yet to run into a Christian using this approach who is at all loving. But it’s a mindset we’re going to see more and more often as the religion continues to polarize its adherents and drive off those who are actually loving people.

The entire attitude seems like such a uniquely American phenomenon. Americans don’t trust or like experts very much, and we really like the idea of an underdog coming up with something that totally stumps and amazes even the most learned scholars. Combine that attitude with a style of religious observance that stresses personal revelation and has decoupled itself from any kind of theological training, and you inevitably get Christians who are convinced that they are the first (and maybe the only) people in thousands of years who have actually proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that gods exist, and more to the point their own personal conceptualization of their own religion’s god exists in the form they think it takes–and that they know exactly what it wants and what it hates (spoiler: it always wants what that Christian wants and hates whatever that Christian hates).

It’s important to me therefore to think a little about just what “evidence” looks like and what it does not look like.

Evidence does not take the form of subjective feelings, even very strong feelings.

A Christian’s feelings of religious fervor, while very important to that individual, do not constitute proof that that Christian’s religion makes truthful claims. This is probably one of the hardest ideas for Christians to understand, since their religion is absolutely filled top to bottom with this overwhelming adoration of feelings; I know when I was a fundagelical, I was taught that my feelings validated my religion (though obviously a lack of feelings did not invalidate it, duh). I strongly suspect that teaching continues today.

The problem here is that feelings are really unreliable. We often feel things that turn out to be wrong. We all have had feelings of affection or love that turned out to be faulty, or feelings of certainty about a course of action that turned out to be disastrous. I can name a number of things I had strong feelings about once–including my former religion!–that turned out to be misinformed. The information we have at hand is what informs those feelings, and the information is what we should be looking at–not how that information makes us feel.

Further, every religion fosters similar feelings in its adherents, and quite a few non-religious ideas foster strong feelings. Those feelings don’t make the situation true. Certainty does not equal being correct. You can rest assured that Wiccans feel very strongly about their faith system, as do Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists. Dr. Who fans have been showing quite a lot of feelings lately with the new show coming out–that doesn’t make Time Lords real. I knew a guy in high school who was very sure he was a Time Lord, speaking of which, but obviously he wasn’t one. The sister of one of my first boyfriends really felt that the singer of Duran Duran loved her, but she’d never even met the guy.

When Christians use their feelings as “proof” of their religious claims, that makes me very leery of the rest of their claims. If they had real evidence, they wouldn’t need to rely on their feelings so much. Same goes for visions, by the way. That doesn’t mean a vision is without value to the person experiencing it, but it does mean that I don’t consider it a factual observation that demonstrates anything credible and objective about the supernatural.

A philosophical argument is not evidence for a factual claim.

When a Christian has only a philosophical argument to back up a belief in religion, then that person has no evidence. But oh, so many Christians adore inventing these contorted arguments that they think are slam-dunk proofs for their religion. Usually these are appeals to ignorance and circular logic–“we don’t know X: therefore Jesus,” or “the Bible says the Bible is true so the Bible must be true because the Bible never lies and the Bible said X and the Bible must be true and and and.” You’d be surprised how long these arguments can run; you can start feeling a lot like you’ve ended up on Time Cube or a 9/11 Truther site by accident.

Philosophy is a valuable exercise for humanity when done responsibly. But Christians use it irresponsibly when they create arguments that don’t line up with or confirm reality. I’m not even sure they really understand what philosophy even is–but debate itself, and the forming of complicated arguments, is quite a cottage industry among fundagelicals. Let one of those Christians go long enough, and eventually you’ll start hearing “but but but how do we even know what ‘truth’ actually even IS?”–sounding for all the world like a stoned college student, as a friend of mine has observed. These contortions are done solely to distance the Christian further and further from any resemblance of objective truthfulness. If they can distort the very concept of truth enough, then their religious views might start sounding reasonable! Tell me again why it is that subjectivity is supposed to be bad to fundagelicals, because that sure sounds like subjectivity to me.

I’ve often seen Christians use what they think is philosophy to avoid engaging with concrete, practical, pragmatic real-world situations–even while denigrating it. If a Christian is using a super-complicated argument to try to argue him- or herself into a real live god, then chances are that person really doesn’t have the first clue how to figure out what is true and what is not. It is safe to say that someone who minces words regarding what “truth” even means is someone who desperately needs every millimeter of wiggle room such contortion provides. I find this maneuvering dishonest and shady. If a religious idea cannot be proven without slicing and dicing common words to allow that idea to survive, then it doesn’t deserve to survive. Surely a god who created the whole universe doesn’t need that kind of dishonesty to demonstrate his existence or his wishes.

Philosophy itself should back up reality and confirm it, not exist as an alternative to it and in lieu of it. An argument should flow from the facts, not try to supplant them or explain away why the facts don’t line up with the claim.

A piece of evidence is observable and it doesn’t matter who is doing the observing.

A Muslim should be able to measure a fact and come up with the same measurement that a Christian comes up with–or an atheist, or a pagan. It’s that simple. Nobody has to buy into Christianity to observe a Christian’s evidence. If a Christian even starts going there, then that’s an indication that Christian doesn’t really have evidence and is admitting that only people with the same biases s/he has could buy into the claim. That’s the exact opposite of evidence.

Evidence for a real-world claim will involve real-world observable facts.

This one really trips up a lot of Christians, but it just means that we match demands for evidence and what forms of evidence are acceptable to the claim being made. If someone is claiming that their god is purely metaphorical or that Hell is just a metaphorical construct (which some Christians do think, and yeah, it baffles me too), then obviously I wouldn’t worry quite so much about physical evidence. But if someone claims, for example, that prayer heals cancer, then you absolutely bet I will require some evidence that the prayers in question actually physically heal cancer in a way that can be testable and observable before I accept that claim. If someone claims that there is some supernatural realm I should fear going to after death if I don’t fall into line with their religion, then that is a claim I will need to see credibly, objectively verified before I’ll take the threat seriously. This condition is true for other things besides religion, obviously; Bigfoot sightings come to mind immediately here–if someone claims that an ape-like hominid exists in the Southern United States, then we need to see some actual real-world proof of that existence before we add Bigfoot exhibits to the Smithsonian.

The more startling the claim, the more numerous and certain the observable facts around it should be.

I’ll just say this: claims don’t get a lot more startling than “a big invisible wizard who always existed made every single thing in the entire cosmos and cares very deeply about where people stick their genitals, but nobody can see him or tell he’s there.” But that’s not to say that Christianity isn’t loaded with others just about as startling. Creationism, incidentally, suffers hugely here; it makes the rather daring claim that the backbone of all of biological and astronomical science is flat-out wrong, but cannot find more observable facts to support that claim than some weak, distorted chicanery about bacteria propellers and whatnot. That’s not exactly compelling.

An honest truth claim will set up conditions for verification–and for falsification.

If a god exists, then what can we observe in the universe around us to demonstrate that god’s existence? If a god does not exist, what differences can we see? I rarely see Christians even going here, and I’m not surprised. One thing that was a real problem for me as a Christian was realizing that I couldn’t think of a single difference between a universe-with-a-god and a universe-lacking-a-god. The universe looked exactly the same either way. Natural processes seemed to govern all of it; a god simply wasn’t necessary for any part of it to exist. And the more I thought about it, the fewer differences I could see between those two universe concepts. For that matter, I never even thought about setting up the opposite premise to examine–the “if a god does not exist” claim. I couldn’t even consider that idea.

If Hell and Heaven existed, then outside of religious texts, subjective feelings, and visions, how did we know they were a credible idea? If souls existed, then why couldn’t we detect them in any way? If our behavior was influenced by something spiritual, then why did human behavior seem to hinge so utterly on our organic brains and hormones and cultural conditioning? If a bodily resurrection was possible and occurred several times in the Bible’s various stories, why had we not had one single verified instance of it happening to anybody (not to mention the truly stupendous healings of lepers and whatnot)? If the Bible was a true history, then why we did we constantly make archaeological finds that refuted its stories?

It gets worse though (at least in my opinion). If communication with a supernatural realm is even possible, then we should be able to test that idea by, well, reliably communicating with that realm–but why haven’t we managed to get even one credible contact with it? If prayer really contacts that realm, then we ought to see something interesting happen when Christians pray, but we really don’t–which indicates that prayer is nothing more than standard-issue magical thinking. For all the posturing and contorting I see Christians doing, though, I don’t see them finding ways to get credible facts into their arguments. The mere existence of a supernatural realm would be the very first piece of evidence Christians would need to have to prove their claims, and I’ve never even seen one try to demonstrate that one. They just take for granted that such a realm exists.

It’s so disappointing to read the myths of the ancient world and think about what the world would look like if those myths were even halfway true, isn’t it? Pillars of fire from the sky, plagues infesting countries, flying prophets, towering angels with swords, worldwide floods, you name it. Nobody had to twist just so, squint just right, and tilt their heads jusssst the right way to see such undeniable evidence back then! But now we’re down to Christians arguing themselves into a god because there is no other way anybody would ever be able to buy into the idea otherwise.

In the end, I’d say this: there really are no compelling arguments I’ve ever heard for Christianity. I’m way past even feeling obligated to listen to every zealot who runs screaming into my line of sight claiming to have one. I’ve given Christianity more than enough of my attention and time; until something striking comes along, I don’t see any need to humor Christians who mistakenly think they have found the first real proof of their religion. I figure they’ve had a couple thousand years. If that’s not good enough, then I’d say it’s time to move on to the next big idea. A god who would condemn me for not earnestly giving my time and attention to every such cry of “wolf!” is not a god worth worshiping, but we knew that already, right?

There is a very good reason why “logical Christians” don’t take all this proof they think they have and do anything official with it; I think they know their ideas wouldn’t survive a peer-review process. They have a much better chance of fooling laypeople than skilled philosophers and scientists. See, it’s a lot easier to pretend to have evidence for a spiritual idea than to actually demonstrate  that evidence. And so far, Christians are content to buy into these false claims. We humans do seem as a group to prefer our smoke-and-mirrors. Reality may seem a pale competition for the fantastical nature of religion.

But I’d rather have reality than tortured “logic.”

Posted in Biography, Hypocrisy, Religion, The Games We Play, Theology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Duping the Educated.

I couldn’t wait another moment. We have to take a look at this news story and talk about it a little today. Yes, it’s that awesome.

The piece is called “Dallas researchers out to scientifically prove biblical version of creation,” but what it really proves is that people who think they’re educated can be terribly ignorant and gullible.

Institute for Creation Research in Santee, CA

Institute for Creation Research in Santee, CA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I admit, I’m still just amazed and dismayed to hear that people who stress over and over again how educated they are, who present themselves (almost defensively, it seems to me at least) as intelligent people, can be this ridiculously and mind-bogglingly incompetent when it comes to thinking critically. But creationism (which I will use here to mean both creationism and Intelligent Design, since the latter is simply the former renamed to better sneak it illegally into public schools) isn’t famous for its adherents’ ability to think critically. Even people who are really smart can fall for something this ridiculous.

English: Textual analysis of the various draft...

English: Textual analysis of the various drafts and precursors of the Intelligent Design book Of Pandas and People showing the frequencies of the terms “creation or “creationist” versus “intelligent design” and “design proponent”. Based on data from the Barbara Forrest’s testimony in the court case Kitzmiller v. Dover.. (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Yes, it really is just renamed.

Articles like this one won’t help clarify just how contemptuous real scientists are toward creationism or why; the whole thing sounds like its writer is hedging his bets to avoid angering his paper’s fundamentalist readers. Though he does make fairly clear that creationists are distinctly in the minority, he doesn’t spend much time dwelling on just how overwhelming the evidence is against their quackery. At one point he mentions almost insultingly inaccurate and incomplete information about how the ages of the Universe, the Earth, and the human species were figured out, which tells me that he is just as ignorant and uneducated as the people he is interviewing for his article (pro-tip to the writer if he sees this: we didn’t split from chimpanzees and gorillas; we share a common ancestor that is not a chimpanzee, gorilla, or human, and according to that Wiki page, the timeline cited in the piece isn’t even correct).

After reading it, one might be forgiven for thinking that creationism is just a new, fledgeling sort of science that just needs a little time to take off, and not a thoroughly-debunked, discredited fringe bit of blithering pseudo-science fakery done purely to promote forced-indoctrination of schoolchildren and to enforce and entrench Christian privilege in society. I find this whole piece to be utterly irresponsible, and if I, as a layperson who just puts on her robe and wizard hat for science, can see through this weasel-wording, I can’t even imagine how frustrated real scientists are about it. And it was utterly unnecessary to give it that much undeserved credit; as just one example, I pulled up this Tufts University writeup debunking one of the books this group thinks is admirable, The Genesis Flood, in 30 seconds on Google. No real scientist takes the idea of the Great Flood seriously, and nobody reputable thinks that book is anything close to credible. But you’d never know that from reading this article.

Here is what education and real science are fighting, my friends: this kind of gullibility, this kind of ignorance, this kind of total inability to really think. But don’t take my word for it. The writer himself makes perfectly clear why creationists buy into this bullshit. Without further ado, here are the reasons he unwittingly cites:

1. Sympathy and defensiveness for their creationist-leaning parents.

Henry Morris III, the CEO of the Institute for Creation Research that is profiled in this bit of hackery, said: “I remember being upset that my father was — I’m not sure ostracized is the right word — but knowingly distanced by the rest of the scientific community. It became clear his stand on creation was the source of the conflict and I was just always defensive for Dad.”

Look. I totally understand feeling defensive and sympathetic about one’s parents’ shenanigans. I had the same feelings myself about some of the stuff my own parents did when I was growing up. A bully at my school felt that way too, and once threatened to beat me up because I said that her grandmother was wrong about cats stealing babies’ breath. But that Mr. Morris felt this way doesn’t mean that what his father was saying was really true. And as an adult, he is no longer required in any way to buy into a parent’s tinfoil-hat weirdness.

On that note, I find it terribly sad and pathetic that Mr. Morris’ sympathy for his dad has blinded him to just what he’s gotten involved with here.

2. A feeling of faux-persecution.

The piece says, “Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist and the research director at ICR, said he has no chance of winning a Nobel Prize, even if he makes a groundbreaking discovery. Secular scientists, he said, would never bestow the field’s highest honor on a creationist.”

English: Student table at the Nobel Prize Banq...

English: Student table at the Nobel Prize Banquet 2005 with menu and the special Nobel service (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Not shown: Creationists.

Mr. Lisle is either lying here to himself or to readers in general. He doesn’t know that at all. He’s just hoping desperately that this is the case, because then he’ll have the excuse he needs to believe for why he hasn’t gotten anywhere near that award. The truth–that he has done nothing worth getting it and is virtually guaranteed never to do so because of how he conceptualizes science itself as a creationist–would be very upsetting to him.

The problem is that creationists don’t use real science. They don’t test their theories and indeed largely cannot test them; they don’t publish in accredited journals; their “findings” can’t be peer-reviewed or objectively verified or duplicated. For the most part, creationists spend their time trying to find inventive and creative ways to deny actual science because they are convinced that if they can debunk the idea of evolution, then their idea wins by default. It’s not that the scientist in question is persecuted and oh-so-maligned just because he believes something goofy, but because that scientist’s methods are sloppy and have no place in the march forward. Jason Lisle’s association with creationism marks him as someone who puts theology and ideology over reality, which isn’t awesome, but that’s not what would stop him from ever getting a Nobel Prize.

I’d also like to point out that Mr. Lisle makes another big mistake here too–did you see it? He conflates “non-creationists” with “secular scientists.” Not all top scientists are secular; many are religious–a lot more than we’d expect, as I saw Neil deGrasse Tyson say in a lecture once. To Mr. Lisle, though, anybody who doesn’t buy into the inane theories of the ICR is obviously “secular.” And that is where he makes his biggest error in judgement.

Creationism really isn’t “atheism versus religion.” It’s “reality versus a very narrow-minded and surprisingly new fringe movement in Christianity.” Creationism is a symbol of a much bigger problem: the culture war that fundagelicals kicked up thinking it would win them back the heart of a nation that is rapidly moving away from their control. This culture war isn’t just about what religion everybody will pay lip service to, but rather it hits to the core of about how we know what’s real and what’s not real, how we sift opinion from fact, and how much control we’re going to grant religion in the public sphere.

So maybe Mr. Lisle should produce some Nobel-worthy work, and let the scientific community get their hands on it and critique it. If it’s really worth a prize, then that’ll become glaringly obvious and we’ll hear about it in short order.

I won’t hold my breath on that one though. No, Mr. Lisle and his cronies will just continue to bleat and whine and moan about how meeeeeeeeeean everybody is to them while not actually producing Nobel-caliber work. They’re like the Nice Guys™ of the scientific world, whining that the Nobel committees won’t see past their scientific awkwardness and reward their niceness with a medal. They’re busy blaming those committees for their inability to win the award rather than themselves.

3. They don’t understand big words like “evidence” and “science.”

The author of this article writes near the end:

For example, Lisle cites the “spiral winding problem” as evidence that galaxies cannot be billions of years old. Essentially, he says if stars had been swinging around galactic centers for billions of years, they’d look more like massive phonograph records than what we see through telescopes, which are loose, hurricane-shaped spirals. Or oceans — if they’d been around a billion years, they should be more salty. Or genetic mutations — if humans are hundreds of thousands of years old, there should be more genetic wrinkles in our DNA. Or dinosaur bones — if they’re millions of years old, scientists should not be recovering soft, protein-based tissue in them.

But if you’re expecting some kind of citation about how Mr. Lisle knows anything about this “spiral winding problem” or some inkling that it’s not quite the problem he imagines (and hopes) that it is, you’ll be waiting a long time. This whole thing sounds like the infamous immune system testimony that creationist professor Michael Behe so foolishly put all his hopes on during the Dover v. Kitzmiller trial–one tiny little thing that creationists think is some kind of slam-dunk that real science dealt with a long time ago. And we do remember what came of him doing it, right? That was one of the more dramatic parts of the trial–when the opposing lawyer dropped over FIFTY peer-reviewed books and journals on his desk that talk exclusively about how evolutionary processes could have produced the human immune system.

In the same way, nothing in Mr. Lisle’s Gish Gallop there is any kind of problem to science; some of it’s stuff we’re still working on, but most of it’s stuff we resolved quite a while ago. And the reporter who wrote this piece would know this simple truth if he just would only spend about 30 seconds on a good search engine. You just don’t hear about any serious scientists shaking their poor widdle heads and going “Yeah, we’re just totally baffled about this one and we’ll never figure it out–MUST BE THE CHRISTIAN GOD! We just don’t want to admit it.” But Jason Lisle is totally okay with pretending that’s what’s happening. His “paycheck” in both a literal and spiritual sense depends upon him buying into this thought-stopping act; he needs this nonsense he spouts to be true for a number of reasons, and nothing is going to get in the way of his belief–not even simple facts.

I wonder what he could really discover–maybe even a Nobel-worthy discovery!–if he weren’t so shackled down with this baggage he carries. Every educated scientist the ICR employs and indoctrinates is a scientist who is not actually reaching his or her full potential and contributing as much as he or she could be contributing to the world’s store of knowledge. And folks, we’ve got some problems on this planet that we need all hands on deck to fix. We can’t be screwing around like this. Even studying duck penises is more worthwhile (and hilarious) than trying (and failing) to prove that an ancient body of mythology is reliable history.

Alas for creationists, sheer numbers are on the side of reality. Any ten-year-old with a smartphone can debunk creationist claims with a simple search engine nowadays, and more and more American states are rejecting creationism and cracking down hard on pseudo-science bibble-babble in public-funded classrooms. Scientists are learning to engage the public to dispel the myths and lies that creationists are spreading. In the end, you could say that creationists’ own efforts to sneak their pseudo-science into schools spelled their own undoing; it forced the rest of us to wake up to what they had been doing for years already in more religious settings.

One could also add, if one were feeling uncharitable, that fundagelicals’ inability to embrace real science is one of the reasons they are losing members so quickly–along with their inability to heal themselves of their sexism, racism, and anti-LGBTQ bigotry. But that’d hardly be charitable, more like rubbing salt in a wound. (Though let us not forget after rubbing in that salt that Germ Theory is after all “just a theory.”)

This battle will be won eventually. But you can count on creationists to make a lot of fuss till it’s all over, and a lot of reporters to write irresponsible puff pieces about them.

Posted in Hypocrisy, Religion, The Games We Play | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

(Un)Prophetable.

Prophets–the divinely-touched emissaries of a god–have always had a very special place in human minds, haven’t they? They are thought to be the conduit for divine words and power, the most effective demonstration there could be for the existence of a living god. Prophets told a religion’s followers what to do, how to react to events, and how best to worship their god. They worked miracles and advised kings. Sometimes they took the religion in whole new directions or up-ended a previously-held social order (like Jesus is said to have done). Prophets were infused with divine essence, so much so that they seemed insane to those around them. And why would they not be out of step and acting strangely? They gazed on a world that other people couldn’t even imagine. They spoke in prophecies, which might be foretellings of future events (which is what most of us think of when we think about prophecies in general), or else just a god’s words of instruction or admonition, and in the myths at least, they were powerful figures who were ignored or mistreated at their antagonists’ own risk. Societies might sometimes chafe against a prophet’s words, but they knew the risks of disobedience–and in a world where scientific concepts were understood poorly if at all, I can imagine that having someone around to explain mysteries–even incorrectly–was a real comfort to ancient people.

Prophet Ezekiel, Russian icon from first quart...

Prophet Ezekiel, Russian icon from 18thC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Bible certainly doesn’t step outside of those tropes for its own prophets. Christians generally believe that their god is literally a real live god, and moreover that he is passionately interested in what humans do and even more passionately interested in communicating with them. In the Old Testament, when that god was a bit more remote and hands-off, prophets gave messages to kings and helped direct the course of wars and great migrations. They called down pillars of fire from the sky, shook cities to their foundations, and more. Sometimes they were taken well and obeyed; sometimes they were persecuted. And either way, what they said happened. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and many others acted thusly as spokespeople for their god.

In the New Testament, the tradition of prophecy continued. Though some Christian denominations don’t think there are prophets anymore, the New Testament quite explicitly discusses the matter. It’s not hard to find various Christian sites that discuss how to tell if someone’s really a true prophet or a false one; if you go to that link, notice please that the site simply takes for granted the idea that yes, prophets do totally exist and can be hearing from a god. And of course some denominations–notably Mormonism–wouldn’t be quite the same without their conceptualization of their leaders as automatic real live prophets.

I know what many of y’all might be asking right about now, hearing that information: why would prophets be necessary at all in a faith system whose adherents seriously think they have an intimate “relationship” with a god?

And yes, I kind of wondered too at the time why this god would need to send emissaries when we all thought he was quite capable of talking to his people himself, but even then I realized that I–a very fervent Christian–still had, despite my fervor, the most terrible luck figuring out what messages were from my god, which were from my own head, and which were from simple cultural conditioning, group hysteria, or rational biases. For all our talk of having a big cosmic purpose and of talking with our god and hearing back from him, we seemed as a group to have a tremendous amount of trouble actually hearing his voice clearly and accurately. Having someone say that this or that statement or command was coming straight from our god was very easy for us to understand, and as long as it didn’t interfere too much with what we already thought our god should say, the folks around me were all too happy to celebrate each “prophecy” as a real live miracle.

I’ll add as well that for a religion whose adherents prize blind faith and obedience over proof and critical thinking, prophets fulfill a very real function in the religion: they act as a sort of ersatz “proof” of this god’s reality and his capability to communicate. Just as demon possessions can’t possibly be real if there aren’t any demons, prophets can’t be real if gods aren’t talking to anybody. The very idea of prophecy takes totally for granted that such things are true. I think sometimes that this desperate need for evidence is why Christians tend to ignore when their “prophets” make false predictions. I know of not a single prophet who’s ever gone on record with a prediction that could actually be rigorously tested who hasn’t also been debunked–but I didn’t hear much about them till after I’d deconverted. Such debunkings didn’t fit the narrative, so they just got blithely ignored.

Nobody wanted to look too closely at the idea of prophecy itself or test it with any kind of scientific rigor, obviously.

I think that deep down we knew what we’d find if we did.

Ah, but as with everything else related to the Bible, the folks calling themselves prophets nowadays don’t even come close to the phenomenon outlined in that book.

When non-Christians hear at all about prophets in Christianity, it’s usually in the context of a prediction that prophet has very foolishly made on record. Disgraced doomsayer Harold Camping is one such person; his numerous failed predictions about the end of the world made him a laughingstock in America at least. I’ve mentioned before that another very popular prophet, Edgar Whisenant, made a prediction about the Rapture in the late 80s that actually snagged me as a convert.

The problem, of course, is that the Bible is quite clear about what happens when a prophet makes a prediction that doesn’t come true: “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:22) That said, I’m sure that Pat Robertson is very glad indeed that most Christians don’t have the faintest idea what’s in the Bible, after his famous false prediction about Mitt Romney winning the 2012 election, when he said, “the Lord told me Romney will win.”

Christians don’t tend to remember those false predictions at all, any more than people who give money to psychics ever remember their false predictions–it’s such a well-known cognitive bias that it has its own name by now, the Jeane Dixon Effect (after the super-famous-at-the-time psychic Jeane Dixon, who let loose a veritable slew of predictions that largely didn’t happen). In the same way, fans of current famous psychics like the recently-deceased Sylvia Browne don’t even notice that their accuracy rate is barely that of random chance. Given that there doesn’t seem to be anything supernatural “out there” communicating with anybody, it shouldn’t be surprising that Christian psychics–er, prophets–are any different at all. Derren Brown, a well-known British debunker, did a very good documentary about how he pretended to be a prophet and miracle worker–and Christians ate it up with a spoon for the most part. Here’s an entire Wikipedia page just about the various Christian prophecies that didn’t come true.

What’s funny is that Christians–especially fundagelicals, who seem to me to be the most glaringly ignorant of their religion’s history–often point to the story of Jesus’ biography as told in the Gospels as if it was some massive fulfilled prophecy, which just tells me they don’t actually know what a prophecy actually is and how little they know about how their Bibles got written. We could spend a whole post on this subject alone, but I’ll just let it go at this: No, Jesus’ life is not actually evidence of any fulfilled prophecy, because 1) the New Testament was written decades after Jesus’ supposed death, not before it, so we don’t actually know how much the writers heard before his birth; 2) the events in his life do not have external corroboration, so this is a bit like using Harry Potter books to prove Harry Potter is real; 3) even if by wildest coincidence the Gospels are even halfway correct about Jesus’ life, their authors have written about him making several false predictions, which according to Deut. 18:22 makes him, at best, a false prophet. Also 4) Quite a few of those “prophecies” are very obviously mistranslations and misunderstandings of the Old Testament verses that were getting shoehorned into his biography. So basically, people writing about a character who lived decades previously and who didn’t understand much about their source material could make up whatever they wanted–and did. We’ll come back to this idea at some point soon because I find it interesting, but the idea I want to convey here is that there has never been a single confirmed prediction made via prophecy that can be definitively put down to a supernatural agent’s influence.

I don’t normally talk that much about false prophets. I certainly could; there’s enough of them to fill a blog all by themselves. I just view such charlatans as low-hanging fruit, not really worth discussion. Most of them are well aware of how risky it is to put specifics into their “prophecies” and stick to the other side of being a prophet–general exhortations and vaguely-worded sort-of-predictions that could mean just about anything. There’s much less risk of being proven wrong that way. Most of them try hard not to ping outsiders’ radar too much.

As approaches go, this more cautious approach gets received about as well as the bolder predictions anyway. When I was Christian, I belonged to a church that took prophecy very seriously. At many revival services–and quite a few regular Sunday night services (those were the ones that got rowdy at my church; the morning services were usually fairly subdued and staid)–there’d be this ominous, swelling silence that’d spontaneously arise during a service, and then a minute or so later someone would stand and yell very loudly in tongues (glossolalia). This yelling was very different from how people normally spoke in tongues; speaking in tongues was supposed to be part of one’s private prayers, not something one exhibited for crowds. But “a gift of tongues” was meant for a group, and it always had to be interpreted. It was also at least in theory a real live language, one living or dead, though in practice it always came out sounding exactly like what you’d imagine a lower-class uneducated Houstonian in the 1980s/90s would sound like trying to imitate what they thought was Hebrew or Arabic (by way of King James Version English cadence, of course, and often right down to the totally misused “selahs”).

So we’d wait and pray and be all oogly-boogly and wild-eyed–OMG OUR GOD WAS TALKING TO US RIGHT NOW THIS SECOND–and then at some point somebody would stand up and give the “translation” to the “tongues.” I do not remember a single one of these “gifts” to be anything really important or ground-breaking. Usually they were vague warnings of future difficulties or exhortations to hold true to the Cross or something. Afterward we’d all party and dance and yell anyway.

That’s the kind of prophecy you run into more often in Christendom nowadays–overwrought, histrionic drivel like this, from one of these self-appointed panderers prophets, Chuck Pierce:

The confrontation of the enemy is at hand. You must be filled with praise to enter into that conflict ahead. War is stirring in your midst. War is rising. Unless I rise and inhabit your praises, you will not be able to praise in the midst of the conflicts ahead. I am calling you into a place, and I am going before you so that I am waiting to give you victory. I will establish Myself in your midst. When your conflicts arise, praise Me, and I will assure you of victory in your wars ahead.

I’m not exaggerating here: this exact (and meaningless, and beyond pointless) “prophecy” was something I could have heard back in my old Pentecostal church at any point in my years in that denomination.

It simply amazes me that once I used to think this kind of blather was a real, live communication from a divine being to his awed children.

Pandering to Christian persecution fantasies never gets old to them,, and “war is stirring” rhetoric  certainly isn’t going to be a surprise to anybody. But I can easily guess why Mr. Pierce has to hedge his bets and be as vague as he can; he’s certainly been peddling and pandering with his vague little “prophecies” for a while now. He claims–just like any cable-TV-infomercial psychic might–that he’s had remarkable success with his prophecies, such as predicting Hurricane Sandy (but weirdly, his god was silent about all those other bad storms like the one that did so much damage in Japan, and speaking of which, did you hear any prophets predicting the hurricane before it hit, when people could actually do something to prepare for it? Yeah, me either). I’m not saying this to be mocking the guy, though mockworthy he truly is: I read the previous link a few times and all I got out of it was him gloating about how he’d supposedly predicted the hurricane and doing generic rah-rah for himself. Reminds me of those twits who “like” their own Facebook comments.

Are churches actually paying this doofus to squint at them and intone magic utterances at them? Oh yes, they are. This guy makes a living lying his ass off for Jesus. The cool part about being a “prophet” is that you’re not required to be accurate or even make predictions; you don’t have to be a skilled public speaker or even a nice person to be around, because prophets have a reputation in the religion for being a little weird. If you have no other marketable skills but have the ability to speak in riddles and sound earnest, you too can be a prophet!

I would like to point out here that it was realizing that none of these so-called “prophets” ever actually came up with anything really noteworthy that was part of my eventual waking-up from Christianity. The second one of them foolishly went on record with anything specific that actually could be tested, the prophecy turned out to be false. And Christians would just conveniently ignore that false prophecy and the charlatan could continue on the evangelism route, confident that nobody important would ever hold his or her feet to the fire.

Still, they know it’s better not to get too specific, just in case. Normally they do what Chuck Pierce does and try to be as urgently vague as possible. Otherwise they come out with eye-bulging inanity like this (emphasis mine):

The Lord showed me after the first three years into President Obama’s first term, America’s covenant alignment would polarize and the America as we know would no longer exist but begin to fade quickly. That occurred in May, 2011. President Obama made a statement that was overlooked by most that set all of this in motion. Next, He showed me that by within three years (by May 31, 2011), a statement would be made regarding Israel in this nation that would realign the nation and determine the future of this land. (With President Obama’s speech of mid-May 2011 endorsing the Palestinians’ demand for their own state based on borders that existed before the 1967Middle East war, I believe that statement was made (this returns us to the warfare dimension of that season and time in U.S. History!) I sense that three years into this last term there was a shift to turn America from its current covenant aligned form into a new form. I then saw a massive storm hitting the East Coast. This storm would be sent as a sign for this shift that would come on the East coast and water would cover Atlantic City.

I saw that and literally just groaned on his behalf. (He is Chuck Pierce–a fundagelical. He cannot groan. So I groan for him.) Do you see what happened in this quote? This is a “well if I don’t say so myself” self-done back-patting, nothing more. And of course his “prophecy” involves Atlantic City. That’s like Jerusalem for fundagelicals, right?

Oh, it gets so much worse. This prediction came from shortly after the 2012 elections, when fundagelicals were all convinced the end of the world was at hand because the Scary Black Muslim Atheist Kenyan Space Alien got re-elected; Chuck Pierce uses rhetoric that wouldn’t sound out of place at all in a Chick Tract:

Then He showed me high places. These were altars that had been built by the enemy and positioned strategically throughout the land. I saw how the sacrifices on these altars were empowering and keeping an atmosphere held captive by ruling hosts. Next, the Lord showed me the atmosphere. In this vision, He showed me different layers of the atmosphere in relationship to His presence versus the demonic spiritual rule in that particular area or region. (Some areas have already been taken over, and darkness actually rules those areas.) There were 10 ruling centers already developed within the United States. Then He showed me the communication systems between these centers. I saw how one sacrifice empowered one dimension of an evil presence, and then that presence would communicate to another center as together they networked their plan of control. (I could go into great detail here, but I will wait for another time to do this. As a matter of fact, I believe it would be unwise to share everything I saw. In the next book when we are dealing with worship, perhaps I will share more.)

Oh my, he’s going to share dangerous, secret knowledge in a book “dealing with worship”? I didn’t hang around the Music Ministry offices enough, clearly. That sounds like some next-level shit, right there. I’m down with that. But we know it won’t be like that at all. This is just a desperate ploy to sell books.

I don’t think fundagelical “prophets” like him even really think this stuff through. Why is his god so worried about America’s elections when half the planet is at war and children are starving all over it? Ebola is cutting a swathe through West Africa, but American politics is just so much more of a priority? Seriously, I’m not even kidding around here: how narcissistic are modern American fundagelicals? Because every damned time I think someone has won the prize, another entry rolls in to top the previous big winner. These totally out of whack priorities remind me of the weird hypocrisy of those beefy, corn-fed Bubba Christians who are absolutely convinced that their god earnestly cares about who wins the local high school foobaw game. I mean, really when you get down to it, America’s just one country, and we’re doing pretty well all things considered. But fundagelicals–who seem to regard America as a new incarnation of Israel, and themselves as their god’s Chosen People 2.0–don’t even stop to wonder why their conceptualization of deity gives a third of a shart about momentary, fleeting current events in the face of serious need in this world. It’s like all that suffering doesn’t even matter. I just don’t know how someone can be that immoral and egocentric.

There’s something so cheap, so obviously fake, about Christian “prophets.” So dollar store. So Wal-Mart. Slickly-packaged, airbrushed, blow-dried, sequined, glittery, loud, over-salted, swaggering hucksters, the lot of them. Only the spiritually-blind could ever mistake this performance art for anything divine.

And if I sound a little wistful or sad, then you may rest assured that it is because I am; I am sad that Christians have sold themselves so cheaply and are as gullible as they are, and wistful to realize that there really aren’t any real prophets, not really. I’m about as friendly to the idea of spirituality as someone can get, but grifter conjob bastards like these make me realize anew that there simply is no evidence for a single bit of any of it.

Whatever is out there, it either does not or cannot communicate with us; we are on our own.

There’s a sweet simplicity to that.

I’d rather just go with the idea that humanity is on its own than give a single second more attention to the charlatans who claim to speak for the supernatural. It is nothing but a waste of time to do more than the bare minimum required to debunk their claims. They drag humanity back; they spend our precious finite moments lying to people and stroking egos and feeding paranoia and outraging fears. Since these hucksters lack the capacity to feel shame for what they are doing, it is upon the rest of us to deny them soapboxes and funding for their lies and self-serving blather, and to call attention to their predations.

“Prophets” are another symptom of the sickness that is fundagelical Christianity. As the religion’s adherents get more and more desperate for some kind of sign that their god is real and communicating with them, we’ll see more and more of them.

(H/t for original linkie from Right Wing Watch.)

Posted in Biography, Hypocrisy, Religion, The Games We Play | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Interlude: The White Man’s Flag.

I can’t stop myself from briefly stepping back from our regularly-scheduled posts to add my wholehearted support for the people who are facing police brutality and oppression in Ferguson. It dismays me that so little has changed from decades past. There’s been a lot of ink spilled of late about it, but this post here really solidified a lot of things for me. I was shocked reading it–but grateful, too, that the person who wrote it did so.

I couldn’t help but remember something that happened to me a long time ago, as I read that post. You see, in 1992 or so, I was working in Houston at a print shop. I was still very Pentecostal. I still remember I was wearing my favorite plaid jumper that day (for the Brits reading this, I mean a skirt-with-sleeveless-blouse-attached sort of dress that you’re meant to wear a shirt under)–it was one I’d sewn myself, Black Watch plaid, and a white mock-turtleneck that I wore with pretty much everything like it was the fundie Garanimals.

That afternoon a gangly young African-American man about my age came in to buy stamps. Though I didn’t normally handle register stuff, I happened to be waiting for a big print job to finish, so I grabbed him a book of them out of the drawer.

He accepted them from me, but then he looked at the book of stamps and an expression of unmitigated hatred and disgust came over his face. It was the most palpable expression of emotion I think I’d ever seen, an honest and completely genuine, unprovoked response. He wasn’t doing this reaction to get a rise out of me. He really hated that book of stamps.

“Is everything okay?” I asked, suddenly very concerned.

He startled as if suddenly becoming aware again that another person was standing nearby. He flashed me the book of stamps and shrugged and shook his head. “That’s a white man’s flag,” he said under his breath.

That’s when I noticed that the stamps depicted the United States flag.

A lot of things went through me right then.

I was hurt he’d say that. Angry. Offended. I grew up military and there ain’t much that unites most military folks–brats and servicepeople alike–as much as respect for the flag. I didn’t know what to say.

In retrospect, I’m touched that he felt comfortable telling me such a thing. I’m about as white as it gets–light-blue eyes, blonde hair, freckles, paler than milk most of the time, and wearing a plaid jumper that day, for chrissakes. Maybe he felt bold because I’m a woman so maybe facing oppression just like he was, or maybe because I was close to his age, or because I didn’t come across like a managerial type (I was the manager of my little corner of the shop; I just didn’t dress like it because this was a college shop and fancy clothes were considered too corporate for the market). But at the time, I didn’t have any idea how to respond. I was young, and I’d never encountered anything like this situation.

Finally I said, as gently as I could, “It’s your flag too, you know. People of all races have died for that flag. It’s every American’s flag.”

He just shrugged. I don’t think he believed me. I wanted to put my hand on his shoulder but I sensed that wouldn’t be welcome. I wanted to tell him I was so very sorry that he felt that way, but I didn’t know how to say it without coming off like a jackass. I could tell he was trying to find some way to put into words how he felt as well. We were both struggling to find some way to meet across a gigantic divide. We both spoke English, but the words of that language seemed so inadequate right then. We were both Americans, but our worlds were totally different.

We stood there together like that, heads awkwardly bent over the book of stamps, till my printer screeched at me and I had to run to fetch my print job before paper went everywhere. The regular cashier showed up and that was that.

I still have no idea what the “right” response would have been–if there’d even been one. Maybe there wasn’t and that was the whole problem.

Over time I would learn that why yes, it’s not that unreasonable for someone like that young man to feel that way about the American flag–about nationalistic American ideals themselves–that seem like they belong to and encompass everybody but him. That’s why I’m bringing up the incident now: to tell you that sometimes it takes something startling like that to wake someone up to what’s happening. That’s what woke me up.

And white America does definitely need an awakening.

Oh, we talk a big damn game about equality and liberty for all, but we live in a country where many Black mothers have to teach their children how not to get shot by cops when (not if, when!) they get profiled. I don’t know about y’all, but I missed that lecture. Maybe it was between the ones about my first period and how to correctly load a dishwasher.

I also missed how to accept mistreatment from the police and how to best abase myself before oppressive white people so they wouldn’t see me as a threat. I never learned that police could hurt me worse than any citizen or that the justice system would always see me as less than human so I had to step extra-careful and doubly-gently as other races do. I never saw people want to kill me for my race, or had to learn how to bottle up my rage and anger to react nonviolently; as a white person, nonviolence is just part of how I handle things, and as angry as misogynists and forced-birthers make me, I have never even once thought about reacting to them with violence. I’ve never had to suppress that urge on a systemic level; I can’t tell you how horrified I am that anybody in this country actually has to do so.

What’s happening in Ferguson this week is nothing less than an atrocity–the inevitable boiling-up of decades of a simply sickening, dehumanizing level of pandering and race-baiting and fearmongering against an oppressed group that has been kicked every single which way but Sunday and have finally had it up to here.

As for that young man I met so long ago, I still remember his face and the sullen tone of his voice–like he’d been daring me to say something, like maybe I was the first white person he’d ever said that sort of thing to and he was testing the idea. When I hear about racism, I think about him and about what he said that hot late-summer afternoon. A week previously I’d heard some church friends complain about the Black Student Union and wonder aloud why we didn’t have a White Student Union (and this was in the early-90s, let me reiterate–though I read the same thoughtless, blithe bit of privilege-blindness not even a week ago online). Now I was suddenly realizing why we needed the one but not the other. I don’t know who that man was or where he is now, but his words have always stayed with me.

I don’t want that kind of statement to be true. I don’t want my flag to be a white man’s flag. I don’t want it to be a symbol of oppression. I hate thinking that it certainly seems to be that way sometimes. Here we are. This injustice simply can’t stand. It can’t go on like this. We need a real change, not just posturing, not just gestures. This racism and endemic injustice simply cannot be just the accepted way of things. Mothers and fathers should never have to teach their children how to endure injustice in the name of keeping them alive a little longer. Children should never fear their own police. Citizens should not ever fear their own criminal justice system.

And nobody should be pushed so fucking hard that violence becomes the last resort, the last scream, the last gasp, the last blazing flame of humanity’s spirit before it dies, the last attempt to gain a single inch against a system that has been set against someone his or her whole fucking life.

You see this flag? This is everybody’s flag. This is that young man’s flag, and mine, and every other American’s. This flag means justice for all. It means equality of all citizens. It means liberty. It means us, together, united, for all, holding hands, making a better country.

It is obscene to talk about “good things coming out of” something like what’s happening in Ferguson. Obscene. Cruel. Unthinkable. Inhuman. We shouldn’t have had to get this far before a real discussion about racism emerged in this country. We’re here now, though. What will we do about it? If we finally get to the point where those in the dominant group are willing to take a serious look at what’s going on, then at least we’ll have salvaged something out of this stinking pile of festering evil. White people have had the luxury of ignoring that evil. It didn’t impact us. We could afford to allow this shadow-America to happen. But Black people have had to navigate around it their every waking day. Now we know, collectively, what’s happening. We can’t just ignore it anymore. This injustice, this shadow-America, it can’t stand. It can’t stand, do you hear me?

Not under this flag.

Flag of the United States of America

Flag of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Posted in Biography, Off-Topic, The Games We Play | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments