Blog Archives

How to talk to a true believer

I think this blog has failed to do something it could do reasonably well: Help literal Bible-believers and non-believers to understand each other.

There are too many stereotypes flying around on both sides (notably with both atheists and self-professed fundamentalists accusing each other of stupidity), and I think I have sometimes taken the lazy route of treating fundamentalism as ridiculous. The truth is that when you believe the Bible literally, it does form a coherent worldview. There are tensions and difficulties with it, but that’s true of all worldviews, and usually we’re all blind to the faults in our own belief systems.
This is not me going soft. I certainly will not stop supporting the victims of abuse. This is just me saying “We’re not getting anywhere by attacking each other.” I want to join Adam Laats in saying “why can’t we all just get along?
I had a message the other day from one of my oldest friends. It said (in part):
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is calling you back to Himself. It is time to stand up and be counted.

The seed which He put in you, even as a young boy the things that He spoke into your heart, He wants to bring to pass.

You have calling, you have purpose, you have destiny, and as you read this now, you know exactly what I’m talking about!

Open your Bible Jonny, take a deeper look! Allow His love to carry you, allow His grace to keep you. When everything has turned to dust, what remains true is God Almighty. He is calling you!

Now, I could say a lot of things about this, but I’m only going to say one: The idea that I just don’t think God exists is incomprehensible to my friend.

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The resurrection: Best-attested fact in history?

As a child, I was taught that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the best-attested fact in all of ancient history. This is an extremely popular fundamentalist claim, probably originating with Thomas Arnold. It’s a bizarre one to make, as well, because fundamentalists also insist we must believe in Jesus by faith. Which is it? If the resurrection of Jesus is a superlatively well-documented fact, surely I don’t need faith. Fundamentalists are pulling the same trick they try with ‘scientific’ Creationism: They’re claiming that the evidence is conclusive, and where it isn’t, then insisting that faith is necessary to plug the gaps. Read the rest of this entry

Why I’d love to be a fundamentalist (guest post by @kirstyevidence)

Kirsty Newman blogs over at Kirsty Evidence, where she battles the forces of ignorance by advocating an evidence-based approach to international development and education. You’d think that someone with such a cozy relationship with science (and reality) would have little time for fundamentalism, and you’d be right. But in the post, Kirsty wistfully remembers the simpler times when the world was black and white, and thinking wasn’t required.

This weekend, my devout Catholic father-in-law is visiting. Before he arrived, my husband and I had our usual ‘little chat’ where he pleads with me to at least try not to antagonise his aging dad. And as usual, I set out with the best of intentions to be a respectful daughter-in-law…

I managed a good thirty minutes before, apropos the Woolwich murder, my father-in-law came out with this statement: “The problem with Islam…” (always a worrying start to a sentence) “…is that the Quran is so ambiguous that it can be interpreted in many ways and this leads people to violence”.

BOOM

I couldn’t stop myself. I had to respond that this was just like the Bible – after all, the Bible is riddled with contradictions and contains a fair amount of violence. “Yes”, responded my father-in-law, “but the message of what you need to do in Christianity is clear” “Really?”, I asked, “But surely you just pick and choose what bits you follow? For example, you eat pork which is banned”. “Ah but the Old Testament was overruled by the New Testament” he replies. “So what about the rules in the New Testament that you ignore?” I query “For example, I note that people in your church have braided hair – was that not also banned?” “Well yes, but that was what Paul said, not what Jesus said”. “OK”, I rejoin, “but what about when Jesus said that you need to give all your possessions to the poor?” “Well that was just a message to one person” he replies “And in general we need to follow the spirit of that suggestion rather than the rule…”.

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Jesus is My Boyfriend

First up, big thanks to the awesome hosts – including Andrew, Jenny, and Nicola – as well as the excellent guests at my talk at Questival yesterday. It was a great bunch of people, and I highly recommend 1) considering attending next year, and 2) checking out the talents of Jonny Berliner, who, along with a superb first name, has a top line in comedy/ science/ singer-songwriter musical goodness.

And now, today’s post…

There’s a common idea among Christians that not just sex, but all physical contact outside of marriage, is a Bad Thing. This kind of repression is simply a denial of basic facts about human sexuality. When you try to suppress human nature, it generally has a way of escaping. And, for some evangelical women, it escapes in quite hair-raising ways.

Welcome to “Jesus is My Boyfriend” – an entire genre of Christian music and literature for women who literally want a romance with God.

“Although God certainly loves us even with unshaven legs, no makeup, and a bed-head hairdo, he also deserves to occasionally have his princess sit at his feet while she is looking and feeling her best… You are running away with your Lover, not confining yourself to a convent.”

Shannon Ethridge, Every Woman’s Battle

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Jesus Jihad: Could There Be a Christian Bin Laden?

I recently made the controversial claim that I could have been a suicide bomber.

I claimed that my faith was so devout, and my ability for critical thought so crippled, that if someone had shown me an interpretation of Scripture that made it seem like God’s will, I would have killed for the faith. And I was depressed enough to kill myself, because fundamentalism doesn’t offer any real answers.

Of course, Christians will deny a Biblical basis for such actions is possible. But Islamic scholars claim such a reading of the Koran is equally unsustainable, yet suicide bombers exist, and only preposterously politically-correct liberal commentators deny that faith is a motivating factor. So today I’ll show that, in principle, there’s no reason why a Christian suicide bomber couldn’t arise. Here’s what their propaganda leaflets might look like: Read the rest of this entry

I Could Have Been a Suicide Bomber

I could have been one of the hijackers in 9/11.

Luckily for me, there’s no culture of terrorism among young Christian fundamentalists (yet). But I believed it strongly enough that, if you’d shown me Bible verses that persuaded me it was God’s will, I would have blown up myself and other people for the faith. Read the rest of this entry

5 Even Worse Lies from Accelerated Christian Education

Top 5 Lies Taught By Accelerated Christian Education has had as many views as all my other posts to date combined. Luckily, there’s plenty more where that came from. I bought several brand new PACEs with my own money this week so I could check what is currently being taught. Most of the evidence here comes from these newly purchased PACEs; this stuff is being taught today. By the way, if you wish to support my project, buying me a PACE (they’re about $3 + p&p) would be the most helpful way. Alright, let’s do this.

5. The Second Law of Thermodynamics Disproves Evolution.

“The first and second laws of thermodynamics demonstrate what the Bible tells about the creation of new matter or energy. Things change, but they degenerate. These laws also demonstrate that the Genesis account of Creation is consistent with scientific evidence.”

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Criticism of ACE from Christians

Defenders of Accelerated Christian Education often dismiss criticism as coming from those pesky secular humanists, the source of most of the world’s evil. Yet on Christian Education Europe’s website, they admit they “have been surprised and disappointed by a general lack of interest ­– if not antagonism – found in some churches” toward their mission. If I were them, I’d think about why.

Child Abuse

I’ll start with a book that makes me want to cry with relief – Ungodly Fear by Stephen Parsons, a vicar. This book, subtitled “Fundamentalist Christianity and the Abuse of Power,” describes my old ACE school in the first chapter. It isn’t mentioned by name, and the staff have pseudonyms, but it’s unquestionably my school. I am titanically grateful to see it recognised in print that this type of school is abusive. It is described as authoritarian, “a regime of being ruled by fear,” with ruthless discipline. “Most days at least one child would get the paddle. So on average, each child would get hit with a spoon at least once a month.” The book describes a child being humiliated by a member of staff in front of the whole school. The author suggests the staff’s counselling techniques were in fact intimidation.

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