Tag Archives: Iran

Are Christian values really Christian?

5 Aug

What are “Christian values”? Well there are as many different answers as there are different Christians, so your personal views very well may be different from others’. I googled the term and two of the first pages that popped up were the wikipedia page on it, and this “Access-Jesus” page. According to them “Christian Values” are this:

  • Worship of god above all things, including family members and loved ones
  • Fidelity in marriage
  • Faith
  • Rejecting worldly goods
  • Rejecting violence
  • Forgiveness
  • Love
  • Righteousness

So now that we have this grocery list of values, what about them makes them “Christian”? Lets go down the list one by one.

Worship of god above all things: Well, lots of Christians do this, yes, but they by no means have a monopoly on it. Other faiths do the exact same thing, many of them have been around thousands of years before Christianity was ever invented.

Fidelity in marriage: Again, what makes this Christian? Billions of people around the world are married, the majority of them aren’t Christian. Marriage has existed for millenniums before Christianity ever came on the scene. Heck, if you look at divorce rates among religious groups in the US, Christians have the highest, non-theists have the lowest. It would seem that you’re more likely to be faithful to your marriage if you’re not a Christian. (Just look at the news, it’s as if every month a new conservative Christian leader is being flushed out as an adultery or a sodomite)

Faith: Mark Twain once said “Faith is believing in something you know ain’t so.” Since when is faith a value? Taking something “on faith” is an admission that there is no good evidence to believe something, but you’re going to believe it anyways. Faith is the last stand of the indefensible. It make people credulous and gullible, which makes them extremely vulnerable to getting scammed (as they all too often do) which leads us to our next “Christian value”…

Rejecting worldly goods: Still, nothing that makes this specifically Christian. Many religions around the world preach this, far fewer actually practice it. Instead most believers like to flaunt their wealth and piousness by building bigger and grander churches, wearing flashy religious jewelery. There are a lot of very wealthy religious leaders around the world, many who live off the donations of a poverty stricken flock. This has been a problem for religion since it was created. In the middle ages there was a cycle where the church would become too corrupt and oppulent whereby a monastic order bent on poverty would be founded. These new monks would try to live as beggars and try to reform the church until eventually they too became rich from donations and tithes; at which point a new corrective order would be founded. Greed is just in human nature.

Rejecting violence: This is a nice one that again every faith preaches, but few follow.

Forgiveness: This is an interesting one to me because growing up, I honestly thought Christians had invented this. I remember my mom telling me that in Japan they didn’t have the concept of forgiveness until the west introduced Christianity to them. (I know, sounds absurd, but it’s just a blip of a memory I have that influenced me as a child). I felt for the longest time that Jesus was a revolutionary in bringing this concept of forgiveness to the world. Now that I’m older I realize just how silly this is. Forgiveness is not solely a Christian Value, it wasn’t something divinely given to us by a god.

Love: Of all the values, I think this one is the least Christian. Even though this value is universal, Christians like to claim they have the market on love cornered. “God made us knowing we were going to sin and decided to send all sinners to be tortured for eternity, but then changed his mind and made a big gruesome show of killing his son in order to appease himself so he would let a select few escape eternal punishment, and this is because he loves us all so very deeply.”  No, Christians very seldom practice love, and when they do there are always strings attached. It could be helping the homeless only after they agree to sit through a sermon first, or bringing food over to a church member, solely because they’re a church member, or any kind of aid that is contingent on the person accepting some dogma or jumping through hoops of another kind to appease the religious. For the most part, many of them do good works because they feel it will earn them brownie points with god. It’s not that they really love, it’s that they want a reward for their generosity. You want to see how quickly the “Christian value” of love evaporates? Try leaving a church, the whiplash will snap your neck.

Righteousness: Again, other faiths practice the same thing. Feeling you and your actions are some how set-aside, better perhaps, than other people because you feel you have the “truth” is unfortunately not restricted to Christianity. Why is it that so many conservative Christian leaders in politics can commit horrible hypocrisies and get off scot-free while liberals go down in flames? Simple, they are “righteous” and many belong to “the family“. If you are a member of that family, you are seen personally chosen by god to carry out his work, and thus you can do no wrong. Think I’m kidding? Why is governor Mark Standford still the governor of South Carolina after leaving his post without telling anyone to go bang a woman, not his wife, in South America? His friends were the very same people who impeached president Clinton for having oral sex in the White House, yet they were silent when their friend did something much worse. Why? Because he’s righteous and can do no wrong.
That last one, righteousness, or self-righteousness, ties into the scary trend within the past half century of wedding “Christian values” with “Conservative values”. Today the two are pretty much synonymous.  Again, there are as many different definitions of “Conservative Christian Values” as there are conservative Christians but the majority, to me, seems to be as follows:

  • Dedication to dogma : Conservative Christians do one thing really well, and that is stick together. There is a party line that must always be towed, regardless of what happens in reality, there is an agreed upon narrative. Jesus is lord, America was founded by fundamentalist Christians for Christians, and Reagan was a prophet. No ifs, ands, or buts. There is a reason this group is such a strong, vocal, and cohesive voting block: their members swallow the dogma whole and fall in line.
  • The white male rules all. Don’t be fooled by the small handful of conservative public figures that are women or minorities, the white men still have the power in the party. This group has continually dug in there heels when it comes to leveling the playing field for women and minorities. (Here is a really interesting shift. Over the course of the 20th century, the religious completely switched sides on social issues. They once carried banners for women’s suffrage and for civil liberties for blacks, but in the 1970’s something drastically changed and I’m not exactly sure what it was. Perhaps it was the influx of people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Ronald Reagan. Somehow the people of progressive change for the better became the people who fought to deny women rights to their own bodies, or equal pay in the work place. After fighting to help blacks get equal protection under the law, they threw down their banners when the LGBT community stepped up and asked for their turn. What happened? It’s as if hate became a value.
  • Fear and war. Again, in the last half century, these have increasingly become conservative Christian “values”. Fear of immigrants, fear or minorities, fear of your neighbor, fear of the government, fear of foreigners. Everywhere you look, fear, fear, fear! It’s the reactor that powers the modern conservative movement. 9/11 was a turbo boost to their fear reactor and they used it very effectively. A fearful people are quick to bite their tongues and fall in line with the dogma, which leads to wars. We’re scared of Iraq, we must invade. We’re scared of Iran, we must invade. We’re scared of North Korea, Venezuela, Somalia, China, you name it. As a conservative Christian and they’ll most likely tell you that we should steam roll these countries. Ann Coulter famously said after 9/11  “we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”  The peace talks in the middle east are a farce, why? Because peace in the middle east is the last thing conservative Christians want. They want the wars, the killing, the blood. Why? Because according to their “to do list”, in order for Jesus to return and take all his followers to heaven there has to be an apocalyptic religious war. Peace would only delay that. Don’t believe me?
  • Ignorance. (The brother of faith)  This is fast becoming a virtue in the fight against the teaching of science in schools. Religion was invented to explain the unexplainable: where did we come from? Why do my crops fail? What causes rain? What causes fertility in women? Why did my family die in a flood? Where does the sun go at night? Over the course of human history science has slowly discovered the natural explanations for things and vanquished the superstition that once filled the gap in understanding. In the past two-three hundred years, when society and science started to break free of the shackles of religious dogma, we’ve made tremendous advancements in everything. This trend shows no sign of slowing down and there are many in this country that see this advancement in knowledge as a threat to their deeply held beliefs. Thus they dig in their heels and demand that science not be taught in schools, that their iron age beliefs with only their faith for “evidence” should be taught. Meanwhile the rest of the world (and their economies that benefit from new products produced by science) are moving fast ahead of us, which brings us to our next value.
  • Greed. The stories of Jesus being generous to those in need must be liberal lies edited into the bible. I’m sure Jesus asked for proof of health insurance before healing the sick and the blind. Increasingly conservative Christians are turning against the poor. Just this week a $30bn unemployment benefits package was passed by congress, with almost every single republican voting NO. They had been shamelessly delaying the bill since early July, when the benefits ran out and real people ran out of options. At the same time they decry the $30bn addition to the deficit, they are gearing up to staunchly defend making Bush’s tax cuts for the richest Americans permanent. That add another $600bn to the deficit, but no, we can’t help the poor people. I’m sure Jesus was meant something else when talking about a rich man, a camel, and the eye of a needle.

So in conclusion, there are no values that are uniquely “Christian”, values are universal, regardless of your creed or politics.

Bring the country back to God!

5 Jul

Well, 4th of July has come and passed and now the orgy of nationalism is finally subsiding. During the build up to this climax I saw a number of signs and videos proclaiming how the christian god was integral to America. This got me thinking. It seems like everywhere you turn nowadays, there is a politician or somebody screaming that we need to “bring the country back to god!!!1”. They feel that if we only acknowledged their god enough by editing him into the constitution, plastering him all over government buildings, printing him on government memos, putting him on the currency, and altering the pledge to include him, the country would prosper, Al Qaeda would surrender, and all crime would end. Yes, if only we would prostrate our selves enough before their god, everything would be right in the world.

There are many things just patently ridiculous with this claim, but it brings to mind the image of superstitious witchdoctors spreading the blood of a chicken around a campfire to ward off evil spirits. What these people are demanding is basically the same thing. They want to put up a physical sign of their devotion in order to ward off bad things and gain favor with their god. It’s like a band of ancient goat herders erecting a statue to Zeus in order to gain his favor and protection. The “logic” goes: the more religious you make your country, the more it will prosper.

Well, lets check that with reality shall we? In a previous post I compared two maps, one showing religiosity, another showing quality of life. Contrary to the “logic” of “more god=better”, some of the worst places to live are the most religious. (This even carries over to the US, the one outlier on the global scale. The most religious states are the worst states in terms of health/education/poverty) Take Saudi Arabia and Iran for example. They’re theocracies. There is zero wall between church and state and the religion is the government. They put god first in everything and their countries are hell on earth. Human rights violations off the charts.

Oh, but GP! Those are Islamic nations! They’re worshiping the wrong god! You see, if they only worshiped Jesus then everything would be fine. <facepalm> A) it’s the same god, just different religion B) theocracy is theocracy, it doesn’t matter what god or religion it espouses, it will always be prone to violence, bigotry, oppression, and tyranny.  There have been christian theocracies in the past and they too made life as miserable as possible for their citizens. The Vatican, a christain theocracy, stood in the way of human advancement for centuries. It was only during the renaissance and enlightenment that the church began to loose it’s power. Only then did things start getting better. Here in America, a handful of puritans fled England, unhappy with the theocracy there, only to land here and set up their own theocracy! What happened? They started persecuting each other. Meanwhile England exploded into a civil war. Present day Uganda is moving fast towards becoming a christian theocracy. American evangelicals, unhappy that the bill of rights and the constitution prevent them from establishing “god’s kingdom’ in America, have gone to that poor African country to stir up hate and superstition. Being gay is now a crime punishable by death in Uganda, in keeping with god’s “perfect” word in the bible. Lets see, how much do you want to bet that Uganda will soon be a utopia of christian love, where everyone will happily live in god’s kingdom?

The worst part of this “bring the country back to god” bullshit is that the country was never “of god”, so you can’t really “bring it back”. The religious right has been working tirelessly for years to propagate this American creation myth that the US was founded by Jesus as a Christian nation. Reality and the facts don’t matter (they’re fundamentalists after all, they never have) so the fact that god is nowhere in the constitution and that the majority of the founding fathers were not christian, doesn’t bother them. Just deny everything and insist on your own version of history until people finally cave in. Our founding fathers had seen the dangers of theocracies. They left Europe to get away from the mixing of religion and government, and now people try to claim that to be American is to be Christian. No thank you. If people actually payed attention to what happens when you try to “bring a country to god” they’d run in the other direction as fast as they can.

War & Pacifism

13 Jul

During an 8 hour drive today I had a lot of time to think about war and pacifism. I abhor war. Yes I find it very interesting to study, but it really is a tragedy any time one group of people commits organized mass murder on another group of people.

In order for you to kill another human being you must first de-humanize them. You have to separate yourself from them, and them from humanity. It’s much easier to kill them when they’re detached that way. It’s the same principle behind road rage. People who commit acts of road rage often view their targets as just cars. It’s much easier that way. You wouldn’t react that way if you were both walking on a sidewalk. Yes you might get upset if someone did something rude or inconsiderate, but without a car you would be forced to see them as a person.

The really sad thing is that once you realize that the people you’re killing are people, you realize that in any other situation you might be friends with them. They could be your neighbor, your co-worker, a lover. Someone you’d invite to your kid’s birthday party, someone you’d go out and see a movie with. Someone who’d send you a get well card when you were sick. Another human being with pains and joys just like you.

There are some people in the my country who want to bomb and invade Iran. I imagine they view Iranians as a sub-human, America hating, nefarious people. But here, look at this picture of some of these “wicked” people:

They are the same as you and me! Why would you want to drop a bomb on these three women?

As the world has gotten smaller through the internet, I have met and befriended so many interesting people in ways not even conceivable 20 years ago. I’ve met people in Germany, El Salvador, Australia, England, South Africa, Holland, Canada, Switzerland, you name it! These are awesome people, and you know what the most amazing thing is? They are all just like you and me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love watching war movies, yet there is something I think few people stop and think about while watching them. That something comes across in this gripping scene from “All quiet on the Western front.” (Fast forward to 5 minutes in, that’s the important part)

Yes, you might be watching a war movie and around the main character people are getting shot left and right, and the action pulses on. But stop. Rewind. Now pay attention to that anonymous soldier getting shot. As he collapses to the ground the action goes on, meanwhile he is bleeding to death and going into shock. You might not know it, but he has a name. He had birthday parties and cake growing up, like you. He had a childhood, like you. He probably was nervous the first time he kissed a girl, excited when he got his first bicycle. He had a family, and perhaps even now has a wife and child who will never see him come home because he is hemorrhaging in the dirt.

Another thing nobody considers is the actual pain and damage inflicted on the other person. On the subject of their line of “tactical” guns (aka, not for hunting animals), Remington states:

Tactical is more than just a type of gun or knife. Tactical is a state of mind. It’s knowing you have the right tool for the job, and the confidence to do it, regardless of how intense. In situations where tactical performance matters, why would you rely on anything but the best? Remington, tactically smart.”

Right tool for the job? It’s a fucking human being! Not a goddamn leaky sink! Your taking a piece of metal and shooting it into another person just like you or your child with so much force that it’s going to rip and shred every bone, vain, and muscle it touches. “Right tool for the job”? What a euphemism.

One of the downsides to modern combat is just how impersonal killing has become. You press a button and a building miles away blows up. Big deal. You no longer have to get close enough to your victim to grab hold of them, feel their pulse, their sweat and look them in the eye as you plunge that blade into their body, then watch and listen as they scream and the light fades from their eyes.

So, after this long post, does this mean I’m a pacifist? No. I think this picture can best sum up pacifism:

Pacifism

As much of a tragedy as war is, I’m not a pacifist. I believe in defensive war, but not offensive. People and nations have the right to defend themselves from outside threats, but I don’t agree with using offensive force to get one’s way.