Feeds:
Posts
Comments

My faith as an atheist lies in two areas. The first will be one in which many atheists will disagree with me. The other, though, will probably have more widespread acceptance among atheists. This blog though is about the first one.

First Statement of Faith: God does not exist.

leap_2

Now that I have admitted that I believe this on faith and made some conservative religious types very happy, let me expand on that and make them unhappy.

I do not believe that an omnipotent, omniscient, moral being exists due to the fact that there is no evidence for his existence and to the fact that there are problems, both philosophically and ethically, with such a being creating what we see around us. However, I cannot prove that he does not exist.

In regards to a lack of evidence, this alone is not proof. I know that the standard (and correct) counter-argument to this is that you cannot prove a negative and, therefore, those claiming something exists have to prove that it does. My problem though, and why I say it is a statement of faith, is twofold.

First, just because a belief may be the most rational one to hold does not mean that it is correct. Our evaluation of what is rational to believe and what is irrational to believe can, has, and does change as we learn and experience more. Continental drift was rejected by the vast majority of scientists for many long years, and with good reason. Evolution was not believed to be valid for many long years too, and the reasoning for its rejection were also logical and rational for a long time. The same with the heliocentric model of our solar system. All of these, based on what was known at the time, and using perfectly good logic and reasonings, were correctly rejected. However, their rejection by most did not mean that they were not true.

Second, and related to the first, for this lack of evidence to be a strong argument against the existence of God, or of anything, it should be linked to other problem that makes the reality of God impossible. To phrase this another way, some existences in the line for proof are more likely than others.

For example, an invisible hippo living in my swimming pool would violate the laws of physics and economics (I would be even more broke than I am now if I had to actually feed a hippo). However, the existence of a unicorn is not physiologically impossible, does not violate any known laws. And, who knows, perhaps we will eventually genetically engineer one or one might evolve due to a changing environment. The point here is that some posited creatures whose existence is without evidence are impossible, while others are possible but lacking in evidence.

God’s possible existence is more like that of the unicorn than the invisible hippo. He is a possible creature rather than an impossible one.

Now, I know many will point to God’s attributes, such as omniscience and omnipotence (which includes the ability to violate the laws of physics, chemistry and all the other sciences) and say that such a creature is clearly impossible. However, that is overlooking one of the basic traits of such a God – he/she/it exists outside of time and space. Since God is not part of our universe and did not derive from it then he/she/it is not bound by its laws and regularities. This trait of God’s is as essential to God’s definition as the horn is for the unicorn. Remove either and the creature no longer exists.

GodSince God exists outside of space and time and is therefore not limited by natural law and, in fact, created them, then the violation of natural laws are not prima fascia evidence against his existence. Again, unless such a lack of evidence is linked to an impossibility then the lack of evidence is lacking in force as proof against something existence. It does not support the idea of God’s existence, but neither does it, by itself, constitute evidence that God does not exist.

After all, at one time we had no evidence coelacanths existed and they were widely, almost universally, believed to be extinct for 66 million years. But they do exist, as was discovered in 1938. Until it was found scientists were perfectly correct in doubting its existence since there was no evidence of it still existing. However, as the discovery of it in 1938 shows, they would have been incorrect in stating that this lack of evidence constituted proof that the coelacanths no longer existed. Perhaps God, like the coelacanths, exists in a remote and inaccessible place.

Then there is the problem of free will. How can free will exist if God already knows what you are going to do (part of being omniscient). Even if he/she/it does not control your actions and thoughts something obviously shapes them so that he/she/it is capable of knowing all. If free will really existed then God should not be omniscient.

Of course there are a couple of ways around that. One I will discuss a bit later. The other though is to concede that free will may not exist and modify God’s plan for salvation, heaven and hell. Or, for that matter, modify the claim that God is omniscient to have it limited by a certain element of uncertainty. In other words, knowing everything God can make very informed guesses at what a person will do and be right ALMOST all of the time. I have seen both of these arguments used by theologians and believers.

Another issue is justice. Life is unfair and unjust and how can a good and just God create and sustain such a universe? However, this one is a two edged argument against God, cutting against the atheist as much as the theist. This lack of justice in this life can be taken as evidence of some sort of an afterlife and a God. After all, we have an inborn need for justice and fairness. Life does not give us either fairness or justice. Therefore to satisfy this need, to right this wrong, there has to be something more than just this uncaring universe and this lone life.

Just as our need for food indicates that food does exist, even if we cannot find any now, so too does our need for justice and fairness indicate that something must exist to provide them. God provides just such a remedy for that hunger in the next life.

From there though we move to the related problem of contradictions between the traits of God and what we see in the universe. God is moral, and yet there is great evil in the universe; very bad things happen to good people all the time. Although those believers who have dealt with the Problem of Evil have come up with many different answers, all of them except one fails. The one that does not fail – the Book of Job’s answer. God is too great for our understanding, so great that he sees the good in what is happening or the reasons for why evil is necessary when we are unable to. And, truth to tell, this is a reasonable and rational possibility. One that also holds up for the question of God’s omniscience and human free will.

During my many debates with creationists when explaining why an unknown that has no scientific explanation (as of yet) does not constitute evidence for God. I pointed out that there are actually three other possible solutions to the question besides God did it. I won’t go over what the other two are (those who are interested can check it out at my blog “Turning Science Into Non-Science”). However, the third possibility is the one of interest in regards to the problems of God’s existence and why some element of faith exists in stating that God does not exist.

3) There is a natural explanation but we will never be able to solve it because we just do not have the intelligence to do so. For 800px-Homo_erectus_adult_female_-_head_model_-_Smithsonian_Museum_of_Natural_History_-_2012-05-17example imagine one of our early ancestors – possibly Homo Erectus – sitting on the shores of the ocean. She notices the tides and wonders what causes them. However her intelligence is too limited for her to ever understand how the gravitational effects of the moon and sun cause the tides. Because of this even though there is a natural explanation she might conclude a god caused the tides when taking baths.

This same argument holds for the question of evil and of free will. We are limited creatures and, perhaps, unable to see the very real solution to reconciling evil and free will to God’s omnipotence and omniscience.

Let me also say that while the existence of God has many different issues, I do not know of any belief system or outlook on the universe that does not have issues and problems – even atheism.
One such problem is that of existence.

Why does anything exist rather than nothing? I am not talking of the existence of the universe, which could be answered by some of the many different multiverse hypotheses floating around; but why does anything exist at all? An uncreated being might be one answer. Of course, then the question comes up of how did God come about. But note the definition of God as uncreated and eternal. So, it is a possibility that cannot be ruled out solely by logic and reason.

Also there is the question of what constitutes evidence? Most atheists (including myself) use science, reason, and logic in regards to answering the question of God’s existence. However, does all evidence have to be empirical and scientific or are other sorts of evidence of equal importance in areas outside of how the universe works? In which case, science and logic and reason would limit how God could and has manifested and worked within the universe, but does not eliminate the existence of such a being.

Personal experience and emotions are often used (and often justifiably so) in making decisions in our lives. Martin Gardner, one of the primary founders of the modern skeptic movement, believed that the emotional reasons were enough for him to make a leap of faith and believe in God. And, while I can bring up some arguments against this, they do not rise to the level of absolute proof.

Consider the limitations to reason and logic contained in the fact – the fact – that I cannot absolutely prove that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow. It always has, but that does not mean that it always will. Perhaps it will go supernova on us. Perhaps the laws of the universe will change. There is really no logical proof that this will not happen..

There comes an end to all logic and all reason. A point by which we have to take it on faith. Even reason and logic tells s this is true when you use these tools to seek an answer to whether they will always work. Just because they have in so many areas does not mean they always will. A bridge before it collapses may have had millions of cars and trucks cross it, yet despite that history of success, it still failed. Without access to look beyond or beneath reason and logic we have no way of determining whether their girders are still strong enough to support our endeavors or whether they are on the verge of collapsing

rabbit-hopping_2041499iThe Danish craze that has growing numbers of animal lovers hopping on the bandwagon 2So, bottom line for me – it is a leap of faith to not believe that God exists. However, this leap of faith is a much much smaller leap than the one involved in believing God does exist. Whereas the biggest unknowable question for me is that of why something rather than nothing exists, for the theist it is the multiple questions of evil and free will and why there is no evidence for God’s existence. My leap of faith in regards to not believing in God is a bigger leap than my belief that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, but still smaller for me than believing in a God with all of these problems and issues. In fact, my leap is just a short hop compared to the large leap of the believer.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

152568_600

The Pew Research Foundation released a poll about the troubles happening in Ferguson Missouri the other day that, while it doesn’t surprise me, still greatly concerns me. The findings of that poll were:

Blacks and whites have sharply different reactions to the police shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Mo., and the protests and violence that followed. Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that the shooting of Michael Brown “raises important issues about race that need to be discussed.” Wide racial differences also are evident in opinions about of whether local police went too far in the aftermath of Brown’s death, and in confidence in the investigations into the shooting.
………………………………………………………………..
By about four-to-one (80% to 18%), African Americans say the shooting in Ferguson raises important issues about race that merit discussion. By contrast, whites, by 47% to 37%, say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.
Fully 65% of African Americans say the police have gone too far in responding to the shooting’s aftermath. Whites are divided: 33% say the police have gone too far, 32% say the police response has been about right, while 35% offer no response.
Whites also are nearly three times as likely as blacks to express at least a fair amount of confidence in the investigations into the shooting. About half of whites (52%) say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the investigations, compared with just 18% of blacks. Roughly three-quarters of blacks (76%) have little or no confidence in the investigations, with 45% saying they have no confidence at all.

This same distrust of the police in Ferguson by blacks is also seen more generally in other polls, such as a recent Gallup poll.

All of these reactions are symptomatic of the underlying gap in the ways whites and blacks view the police in the U.S. today. Blacks have significantly lower levels of confidence in the police as an institution, and lower assessments of the honesty and ethics of police officers specifically.

Why this difference between how most blacks view Ferguson and the justice system and how whites view the same?

Is it because blacks are lazy and wanting handouts; to be coddled and want to moan and groan about how hard they have it rather than actually working to improve their own black culture?

Is it because whites want to protect their privileges; hate or dislike minorities of any sort, but especially the blacks?

While there may be a small minority of whites and blacks to whom this applies, for the most part both answers are wrong. I think what is needed is for all of those involved to walk a mile, or better, many miles in the other’s shoes. Let me say here that while I think it necessary for both whites and blacks to walk those miles, it is more important that whites do so. Whether they believe Elaine Riddick,Tony Riddickthere is a real problem or not the fact is that whites have the greater power. The system gives them that power both economically, politically, and in terms of justice. Those with the power almost always have the greater responsibility to correct and fix the problem. Besides, too many whites are in denial and have to play catch up. Until they do, until most whites recognize that there is a real problem in regards to race, nothing will happen. Blacks already know there is one, which puts them one step ahead.
For those whites who do not see this as a racial issue and believe that race it too often blamed and talked about, that we live in a post-racial age – I would ask, have you ever considered polls such as the Pew poll I quoted from? Or the Gallup poll I mentioned? You do not get that amount of suspicion, that amount of mistrust of the justice system on the part of blacks unless something is causing it.

In addition to the polls, consider the following facts:

  • A 2013 report by the Public Advocate Office of New York City found that when stopped by police and frisked it took “93 stops of African Americans to find a weapon” while a weapon was found on a white person “in one out of every 49 stops” . It took “61 stops of African Americans to find contraband” , but only 43 stops of whites to find contraband. Despite this, and despite whites being a larger share of New York’s population than blacks, blacks still constituted “84 percent of all stops” by the police.
  • According to the Death Penalty Information Center, even though only 50% of the murder victims were white, over 75% of the cases that resulted in the death penalty had white victims. A 2011 study by Pierce and Radelet found that in some parts of Louisiana “the odds of a death sentence are still 97% higher for those who kill whites than for those who kill blacks. These results are remarkably consistent with general findings from previous research across a multitude of jurisdictions in the United States over the last 30 years
  •  A 2013 analysis by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found prison sentences for blacks were 20% longer than for whites convicted of similar crimes

These few facts are only a small sampling of similar facts that are backed up by a large number of studies showing that the belief of blacks that our justice system is not blind and favors the white person is accurate. Even more, it not only favors the white person, but harangues, harasses, and can be an active danger to blacks.

blackgirlsconfinementBut, go beyond those numerous studies showing racial bias within our justice system and spend some time talking and, more importantly, really listening to blacks. For example, one of the companies I worked for had a production plant in an almost all white community. My black workers all had stories to tell of police who would pull them over and question them as to why they were there and what they were doing. They would often leave early every day to ensure that on those days there were pulled over they would not be late to work. This happened despite the fact that these workers had no outstanding tickets or warrants, had no defect with their car, and were not given any tickets.

Do I really need to say that my white workers very, very rarely got pulled over. And this is only a mild version of what blacks experience.

The miles walked in the other’s shoes is for the white to understand that there is a racial problem in the United States so that they will take action. Because I hear it so often, I know that many whites will point to police shootings of unarmed white men and of police mistreating white people too. And it does happen, and I discuss one such story shortly. However, when you take a look at how often it happens, it happens much more often with blacks. In fact, while it is not difficult to find a white person who has had no problem with the police, it is very difficult to find a black person who has not had difficulties with the police. Often multiple times. And that difference is significant and troubling, and needs to be corrected if we are ever to have a truly just society.

I also know that many will point to all the laws that have been changed and enacted and then say “Surely justice is blind now!” However, it is not. The reason for this is that laws and the workings of the justice system consists of much more than just words on paper. Words on pages cannot do anything. It takes people to carry out the meanings of those words – police, judges, lawyers, jurors, etc. And if people are still biased and make judgments based on a person’s race, then even though the laws may be color blind, their enactment is not.

For the blacks the walk is needed in order to understand that this problem is usually not the result of overt racism, but the more subtle unconscious bias and bigotry that influence reactions and views. Fortunately, today people who are overtly and almost rabidly racist are a minority. Most Americans would say that they are not prejudiced and do not discriminate. Yet the facts show that most do. The reason for this discrepancy is due to unconscious attitudes and biases that even the most liberal of people can have in regards to race; biases and attitudes that have prevented our justice system from living up to her blindfolded standards, despite the advances made in our legal codes.

For example, which would you find most threatening when walking down a dark street at night, a black man or a white one? If you say black, then when serving on a jury for someone who shot in “self-defense” an unarmed black man because she felt threatened and at risk, you are probably more likely to sympathize with her and to either let her off or give her a lighter sentence. After all, you know from your own experience that a black person is threatening.

In Benaji’s and Greenwald’s book Blind Spot The Hidden Biases of Good People, they compare our social knowledge to that of the eye in that both have blind spots. In regards to social knowledge, this consists of what we think we know about different social groups.

These bits of knowledge are stored in our brains because we encounter them so frequently in our cultural environments. Once lodged in our minds, hidden biases can influence our behavior toward members of particular social groups, but we remain oblivious to their influence.

With this sort of hidden bias in place even in good people, it becomes evident why our justice system still has racial equity problems. Police will become more suspicious more quickly with the actions of a black person than a white. When a white person charged with shooting a black person claims that they felt threatened, juries are more likely to believe that since they too feel more threatened by a black person than a white.

Injustice

To put this in the context of the shooting of Michael Brown, the officer could well not be racist in imagesregards to his beliefs. However, due to his unconscious biases he saw a threat and reacted to it even though it did not exist in reality, or he resorted to deadly force sooner than he might have if faced with a white person who he did not see as threatening. In other words, it was not malicious intent on the officer’s part, but unconscious bias. That is not to say that if the evidence shows he shot and killed Brown when he had his hands over his head that he should not suffer the consequences, only that the source of the problem needs to be adequately defined before we can ever hope to deal and correct this on-going social blight.

What makes this even worse is the fact that some of these actions on the part of police and others is not due to racism or unconscious bias. For example, Libby Anne in her Love Joy Feminism blog recounts her extremely frightening experience with a police officer. Libby is a white, college educated woman with no police record and who as pregnant and with her young son when this happened, and it really gave her a sense of what blacks must experience all too often. It is well worth reading.

Now, if you are white take a walk in a black person’s shoes now. You know that you have been stopped by the police for just being black. You have friends and family who may have experienced worse just for being black. If what happened to Libby had happened to you, wouldn’t you too put it down to racism instead of a bastard cop? It becomes hard to distinguish the reason for things such as what happened to Libby, but since racism still exists and makes its presence known in our society and our justice system, then it becomes too easy to ascribe all such actions to racism. Such actions are always wrong, yes, but not necessarily racist. But how does a black person tell the difference?

And so those whites who sit on their comfortable chairs and refuse to put on a black person’s shoes and take a stroll will point to those cases where the cause was not racism even though some blacks may have claimed it to be and then ignore all those other times when it was. And Ignore the fact that this sort of action is so common that it clouds many individual incidents and thereby makes it all worse.

To bring this back to Ferguson, did the officer fear Michael Brown because he was big or because he was big and black? This would not be a case of overt racism but one of hidden biases if so. Until we know for sure what happened it will be hard to say with certainty. The protestors in Ferguson do though have a right and cause to be upset. Too often such incidents become ignored and forgotten by the system. And given the disparity between the racial composition of Ferguson and of its police force, and the many documented incidents between police and citizens there, if I were there I would be protesting too.

04062012_Atticus_and_Tom_Robinson_in_court600_jpg_600

Until most whites acknowledge the flaws in our justice system in regards to race there will be no true solution. And the events of Ferguson will continue to tragically happen.

Falling Leaves

Most of us like and seek to simplify a complex world. We look for a THE CAUSE and focus on that, interpreting all of what we see about this and that through the lens of THE CAUSE. And that is where most of us get it wrong most of the time.

The great majority of world, societal, and cultural problems – the Islamic State, Israel/Palestine, Russia/Ukraine, Ferguson, police shootings, illegal immigrants, etc. etc .etc .- are not the result of a THE CAUSE, but instead, are more like a falling leaf.

index

To determine how a leaf will fall and where it will land it is not enough to know that gravity will pull it to the ground. Using that alone to determine where a leaf will land will result in far more mistakes than correct answers. The reason for this is tha5 many other factors play a role equally as important as gravity in determine a leaf’s final resting place.

Things such as wind strength, direction, and variability; the shape of the leaf; whether it is a fresh leaf or a dried one; altitude (air pressure). In fact, as the leaf tumbles through the air how it presents itself to the air and wind changes and in doing so change how fast it is falling and its direction in complex ways that cannot be simply modeled. Indeed, for a time, the leaf may even rise instead of fall due to these factors. It can even, eventually, wind up on higher ground than where it started.

To-the-Promised-LandHuman affairs are most often like a leaf.image

Too often I see a one word or sentence cause for an issue: US created ISIS, Israeli aggression, Palestinian aggression and terrorism, racism, lawlessness, personal responsibility, economic inequities, etc. Most of the time such answers are, at best, misleading and simplistic or, at worst, wrong. And even in those cases where they may indeed correctly identify a primary cause, it is not sufficient in and of itself to really understand what has/is happening and most definitely not enough to come up with good answers.

While researching and seeking to understand these individual parts and their role in causing whatever the current issue is – racism and Ferguson, Israeli policy and actions, etc. – taken by themselves they only create misleading illusions that, when taken for reality, leads to wrong and usually harmful actions.

Just as a scientist may study how the wind effects a falling leaf, how its shape matters, and all the other factors involved in its falling, when it comes time to actually predict the leaf’s fall all of these have to be combined with our understanding of gravity in order to at least have a chance at making an accurate prediction.
Bottom line – beware of the limits of simple answers. Resist their lure. Keep in mind that due to the fact that as the leaf falls it changes how gravity, air resistance, and wind affect it so that it can become almost impossible to accurately predict where it will land, so too do human affairs change and morph and change making accurate predictions difficult even when all factors are considered. The challenge quickly escalates beyond difficult to impossible when those factors are not considered.

human-origins-leakey_11101_600x450While reading the latest issue of Scientific American, the one devoted solely to articles about human evolution, I came across something that started me thinking about creationists and the many conversations I have had with them over the years.
Scientific American had this to say in regards to a wonderful new find of fossils of some of our early human ancestors in South Africa from the Rising Star cave system;

We observers may not yet know how these fossils will rewrite the story of our origins, but history tells us that they will indeed rewrite it. The Rising Star find is only the latest in a rash of discoveries since the start of the new millennium that are upending bedrock tenets of human evolution.

The article then goes on to lay out what some of the many changes that have occurred since the late 1990’s about our understanding of human evolution. Some of these changes are:

  • “The seven million year old fossils from northern Chad’s Djurab Desert have extended the human fossil record by more than two million years and raised the possibility that hominins emerged not in East Africa but to the west.”
  • “Fossils from Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia dated to 1.78 million years ago, show that hominins began pushing out of Africa hundreds of thousands of years earlier than originally envisioned.
  • “Neither is the cognitive divide between H. sapiens and archaic species nearly so pronounced as some scholars had envisioned”.

Where scientists and those who are scientifically literate view this as a vindication of science and how it works, and understand that not all things shown to be wrong with current scientific understandings threaten the underlying theory – we can make a distinction between the theory explaining the results and the results themselves – for creationists these and the many other changes in our understanding of evolution would be considered conclusive evidence of the falseness of evolution by creationists.

The reason for this is not due to any obstinacy on their part, or at least not deliberate obstinacy. Instead, I believe it arises from their literalist understanding of their religion and the Bible. To the creationists, if anything is proved wrong in the Bible then all of the Bible is suspect and proven wrong. It is why they are so adamantly opposed to Biblical scholarship, liberal and progressive Christianity, and, of course, science (although they will not admit this, saying instead that true science would not conflict with the Bible).

HallofHumanOrigins2

The fact that we can change our views of how things happened based on new evidence is seen as a sign of weakness. Creationists do not understand that the scientists and those who understand and appreciate the power and wonders of science, do not see this as discouraging but instead as exciting; do not see this as frustrating but as fascinating; do not see this as a step backwards but as a step forwards in our understanding of the universe and the world around us.

Their wonder is bound to one particular way of reading one book; it is a static view of the world, an unchanging and unchangeable view. It is above all a fragile view that cannot stand up to our increasing understanding of reality and so must be defended from it.

They do not understand the power and the wonder and the beauty of looking at the world as a place to be traveled and explored. And they are the ones the poorer for it.

Back in January I wrote a blog titled The Forgotten Protectors of Freedom. In it, while not taking anything away from our military men and women, I pointed out that the real protectors of our freedoms are not the soldiers who guard our borders and protect our overseas national interests, but, instead, those who fight for our freedoms and exercise our freedoms in order to keep them strong. Today, I would like to point out some of these defenders who have given up liberty and life in the defense of our rights.

10635968_739703889409329_3488106152884441491_n

First and foremost is James Foley, a journalist who was captured by the Islamic State and was cruelly executed by them on Tuesday, August 19th. It is his willingness to put his life in danger in order to inform us about the world and our role within it that makes him a protector of freedom. Without knowledge, without accurate and timely information, freedom cannot exist. At best, it is a sham. At worst, shackles. Foley worked and risked to ensure that our freedom is not a sham.

I also want to mention those journalists in Ferguson who were arrested for covering the protests and unfolding events in this city. They too are protectors of our freedom, pushing against authority and willing to risk the consequences of doing so in order to inform the nation. Without a free and active press willing to do such, there can be no freedom.

Watches

For that matter, the protestors in Ferguson, protesting over the fact that Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, was shot six times by a white policemen. While it is too soon to provide a fully informed opinion on whether the shooting was justified or not yet, they perceived a real and grievous flaw in not only Ferguson, but our nation as a whole – the racial discrimination that still occurs within our legal system. Their willingness to be visible and to protest, to create a scene and situation, forces this issue to be discussed. Hopefully, it will help to ensure that Brown’s death is not in vain and that he receives true justice. And, more, that we as a nation continue to be forced to deal with and correct the racism that still exists within this country.

More examples of those who protect our freedoms abound in our nation. Let me mention just one more, or rather three more, from my local area, Fort Worth. Three police officers filed an official complaint alleging “race-based discriminatory harassment and treatment” by the Fort Worth Police Department Traffic Division. Although the independent investigation found no hard evidence of a racial motive, they did find “hostile, harassing behavior”. Policies and training are in the works to correct this now.
It is these people and the many more like them who are the true protectors of our freedoms, who truly move us to become a better society.

Iraq/Syria

James Foley

Steven Sotloff
Other journalists who have also been captured but whose names have yet to be released.

Ferguson

The Journalists

Coulter Loeb, Lukas Hermsmeier, Ryan Devereaux, Bilgin Şaşmaz, Tom Walters, Ansgar Graw, Frank Hermann, Scott Olson, Kerry Picket, Rob Crilly, Matthew Giles, Robert Klemko, Neil Munshi, Wesley Lowery, Ryan J. Reilly

The Community, Organizational, Political Leaders

Antonio French, Maria Chappelle-Nadal, Malik Zulu Shabazz, Paul Muhammad, Alfred Long Jr., Anthony Shahid

Fort Worth Police

Sgt. Delbert Johnson, Lt. E. G. Edney, Sgt. Swayne Dalco
And all the others involved whose names I do not know and/or did not have the space to list. Well done. And may we all join them in protecting our freedoms.

Recently my newspaper had an editorial about a local issue. The subject doesn’t really matter, what does is the fact that they criticized the Fort Worth School Board for missing the opportunity to teach the students a valuable lesson- that life is not fair.

why_is_life_unfair_top-400x215

I am not going to get into the specific issue itself. Instead, let me discuss a more general truth and what it means, namely that life is not fair. The editorial is correct in this much – life is not fair. That is something every person experiences over and over again throughout their lives, from birth to death.

Further, let me add the related fact that the universe is a cold and uncaring place. Whether you do well and prosper, whether you suffer unspeakable pain and losses, or whether, like most, you fall somewhere in between – the universe neither cares nor notices.

Of course, that is not the universe’s job. It provided us life and a place to live that life. Nothing less and never anything more. To imagesexpect more from the universe and life than what it has already given you is an exercise in futility and frustration. However, there is more to be considered here, because within this universe we, humanity, exist.

It is our job, yours and mine, to create fairness; to create justice and mercy. We are a social animal, an animal with empathy, with a sense of justice, with a sense of fairness. Such has been demonstrated among our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees, as well as seen in our own very young, our babies. We have a need for justice, for fairness, for mercy. It is one of the reasons that religion came about. It is the reason why we have made such gains throughout the ages – established justice systems, developed democracy, established and expanded human rights, developed more inclusive and expansive moral codes.

equality-vs-justiceAnd this is where my local paper, the Star Telegram, got it so very, very wrong. Their mistake is, live-so-that-when-your-children-think-of-fairness-and-integrity-they-think-of-youunfortunately, a too common one.

Yes, life is unfair and the universe does not care. But, that is not their job. It is our job, our responsibility to supply, as much as we can, what life and the universe lacks: fairness, justice, mercy. The Fort Worth school board got it exactly right in their decision to pay these young people.

The Persecuted Christian

A bit over two years ago I posted “Gimme That Old Banned Religion”, about a t-shirt with the words “I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God the salvation of everyone who believes. Romans 1:16” on the front. On the back it stated, “This shirt is illegal in 51 countries.”

this-shirt-is-illegal
Obviously I checked out the accuracy of this back statement and then used this to discuss the interesting fact that many Christians in America claim that they are persecuted, not only in other countries but also here in the United States.

This blog has gotten some interesting responses, including two that I did not allow due to their abuse of language. A few days ago I received in comment that made me want to briefly revisit the topic of the “persecution” of Christians in America. Before I do though, I realize that many if not most Christians in the United States do not believe they are persecuted. In fact, I received a couple of thoughtful comments from Christians to this effect.

However, while acknowledging the truth of this, it is still also true that a sizable number of Christians do believe they are persecuted in the United States. Now, I am not going to deal with all the problems in claiming that Christians are persecuted in the United States. Much of it stems from the fact that “They wish to elevate the loss of their religious privileges – which are forbidden by the United States Constitution – to the loss of their religious rights – which is very much protected by the Constitution.”

What I want to focus on instead is the claim of a commenter that “Christians are the MOST persecuted in the world”. Really?

Consider the following:

  • In every country in which Christianity is outlawed and expressing Christian beliefs illegal, so too are other religious beliefs, including atheists. Does the Most Persecuted Religion trophy go to the group with the most individuals being persecuted? If so, then Christianity has an unfair advantage in that they are the largest religious group in the world. A better measurement would be a proportional one in which you look at laws outlawing and restricting a religion. By this measure, Christianity is not the most persecuted religion in the world. At best, it is tied with many others.
    o-MOUNT-SINJAR-570slide_360952_4043069_free
  • In Iraq  today a religious group is in danger of being totally wiped out by ISIS. Those who follow the Yazidi faith are being hunted and killed for their faith. Just because they are not as numerous as Christians does that mean that their persecution doesn’t count? Or perhaps it counts, but just not as much. How do you compare their persecution with their smaller numbers with that of Christians? After all, they are in grave danger of giving their all, just as the widow did in Mark 12: 41- 44

    41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

    It seems to me that even though the Christians today might be persecuted out of their abundance, those who in their poverty of numbers are in danger of being wiped out are being the more persecuted.
    slide_360952_4042733_free

  • Does it count as persecution when those persecuting you are also a Christian, just of a different variety? For example, the Catholic persecution of Protestants, the Protestant persecution of Catholics, the persecution of Quakers by both, etc. It seems to me that this should not count towards the count for most persecuted religion. Instead, this should be reserved for persecution by those of a totally different religious belief.

jews-arriving-auschwitz-PSo, who do I think is the most persecuted religion? The Jews. They have been persecuted for far longer than Christians have, have suffered more deaths and restrictions than Christians have. What is of interest here is that the Jews have suffered deaths and restrictions frequently at the hands of Christians. In fact, this makes me wonder, does the fact that Christians persecuted other religions mean that they should be deducted points for most persecuted religion? This question is especially important in light of the fact that the religion that has engaged in the greatest amount of persecution of the Jews is Christianity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYes, Islam has done so too. Both have anti-Semitic elements within their respective sacred books. However, for most of history,einsatzkids Islamic countries have been a safer place for Jews to live than Christian European ones. That is not to say that Jews were considered the equals of Muslims, nor that they did not suffer persecutions and extra taxations . They did. However, what the Jews experienced in Christian Europe was worse, on average, than what they experienced in the Middle East. Just consider, the greatest number of Jews being killed for being Jewish occurred during the First Crusade and in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Both of these were Christian countries and these actions carried out by Christians.

So, how does the fact that Christians have engaged in severe persecution fit into these Christians calculations for being the most persecuted religion?

A more basic question, though, is why do so many Christians seem to feel this is important. They seem to believe that if a religion can survive such persecution then that is evidence that that religion contains the truth and is the one correct religion. However, is this true?

Not really. Although my tone may have, at times, been slightly sarcastic in my questions and points above, the questions and points are all valid. Christians have been and in many countries are still being persecuted – along with atheists, Jews, and other religious groups.

Christians have also often been the persecutors.

And it is Judaism, not Christianity, which has suffered the greatest amount of persecution throughout history.

Yet this belief that being persecuted validates Christianity still permeates the thinking of many Christians. It is why they so often try so hard to twist and distort the reality of Christianity within the United States so as to claim that they are persecuted too. It validates, in some strange way, their belief in the ultimate and exclusive truthfulness of their religion. Never mind the reality.

And the reality is? Persecution is no measure of how true a religion is. It is the result of many other factors instead – politics and economics, geography, social norms and values, and the interactions with other religions. If persecution were the measure of a religion’s validity then Judaism would be the winner. Of course, the atheist would rank fairly high too. Not to mention the Yazidi. Or the many other religious groups.

worldpeacechildren

Instead of contemplating with joy how persecuted Christians are, even within the United States, these Christians should instead be working to protect all of those persecuted regardless of religious belief – atheist, Jew, Yazidi… all. They should be working to rid the world of persecution and discrimination for any reason whether it be for religion or race or gender or sexual orientation. They should, instead, be working to create a culture, a society, a world in which each is free to follow their conscience and to live their lives as they best see fit. That is a much more laudable goal than watching all their trials and tribulations sinking in a gentle pool of wine.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 141 other followers