Skepticism, Religion Archive

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Book on iBookstore

Book Cover to Leaving Christianity: A Collection of Essays by Jeff LewisI was hoping to have Part II of my yearly book review done this week, but that's taking a little longer than I'd hoped (I'm not as slammed at work as I had been, but I'm still working through many of my lunches). But, on a book related them, I'll mention that my book is now available through the iBookstore. So if you have an iGadget of some sort, you can go get it at the following link:

God? Leaving Christianity: A Collection of Essays

Friday, October 21, 2011

Does Religion Lead People to Inaction?

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of AtheismI only have time for a short blog entry again this week. I'm up to my eyeballs in work, so my lunchbreaks are getting cut a bit short.

Here's a question I've been pondering for a while. How many times have you heard a Christian, particularly of the evangelical variety, claim that it's not through works that we are saved, but through acceptance of Jesus? Can this attitude lead people to skimp on the works? Can Christianity lead people into inaction when it comes to charity?

Anyway, it's just a question. I think religion does influence people's actions, but I also think that people often adjust their interpretation of religion to match their existing ideology. So, if someone's of a charitable nature to begin with, they'll probably be charitable whether or not they're religious. And if they're of a selfish nature to begin with, they'll probably be more focused on the faith over works aspect of Christianity. I just worry that it could have a negative effect on some people, and skew them towards doing less.

On a related topic, here's an article on Jerry Coyne's website*, Why Evolution Is True, exploring the claim that religious individuals donate more than non-religious individuals. The entry is actually a guest post by Sigmund.

*because Coyne hates the term, 'blog'.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Microcosmic Hell

CreationJust for the sake of argument, let's say that one day, we discover how to create an alternate universe that we can have complete control over. We can even create souls. And just for the sake of argument, imagine that we can control time in the created universe, so that we can witness how it changes over the eons. Imagine, basically, that we get to play god*.

Now, imagine that Person A visits Person B, while Person B is playing with their creation, and the following exchange takes place.

Person A: So, whatcha doin'?

Person B: Oh, just torturing one of my creations.

Person A: Really? Why? Did it do something horrible?

Person B: He doesn't believe in me.

Person A: Did you give him a good reason to?

Person B: Well, a couple weeks ago, I was playing around with the little guys. I noticed they'd started developing religions, so I gave one of 'em a personal revelation. I told him to start a new religion, and to tell everybody else about me.

Person A: But, the one you're torturing now - did you give him a good reason to believe in you?

Person B: Well, he had the stories from when I visited, didn't he?

Person A: But how fast is time running in that universe?

Person B: Oh, it's probably been a few thousand years in their time.

Person A: And you haven't been back since?

Person B: Nope.

Person A: And you expect them all to keep on believing a two thousand year old story, even though they already had other religions going on, and you only revealed yourself to one of them? And you're torturing that one little guy right now because he doubted you?

Person B: Yeah, that's about right. But they are my creation. I can do whatever I want to them.

Person A: ...

When you think about it that way, the concept of eternal damnation to Hell seems like a pretty horrible concept. Now, when you're talking hypotheticals, it's possible that the creator of our universe could be such a petty, vindictive bastard that he'd punish people for simple doubts. But it really goes against the whole 'God is love' thing that most people these days want to believe in. It also seems a bit silly.

*Yes, this is very much like Theodore Sturgeon's short story, Microcosmic God.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

In Which I Actually Somewhat Sympathize with Pat Robertson - Divorce

Pat RobertsonI've been way too busy this week to write a good blog entry. So, I'll just post something a bit thought provoking.

If you haven't heard yet, Pat Robertson has once again landed in hot water, this time for suggesting that it might be okay for a man married to a woman suffering from Alzheimer's to divorce her. Many people have jumped onto his statements, but not always fairly presenting all that he said. Here, from the New York Times, is one of the fuller accounts I've seen of the conversation.

“His wife as he knows her is gone,” the caller said, and the friend is “bitter at God for allowing his wife to be in that condition, and now he’s started seeing another woman.”

“This is a terribly hard thing,” Mr. Robertson said, clearly struggling to think his way through a wrenching situation. “I hate Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most awful things, because here’s the loved one — this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years, and suddenly that person is gone.”

“I know it sounds cruel,” he continued, “but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but to make sure she has custodial care, somebody looking after her.”

When Mr. Robertson’s co-anchor on the program wondered if that was consistent with marriage vows, Mr. Robertson noted the pledge of “till death do us part,” but added, “This is a kind of death.”

He said the question presented an ethical dilemma beyond his ability to answer. “I certainly wouldn’t put a guilt trip on you if you decided that you had to have companionship,” Mr. Robertson said, apparently suggesting divorce as a way to avoid the sin of adultery.

So, why do I sympathize at all with Robertson? Well, this is a tough issue. It deals with identity, our obligations in a marriage, how to handle stressful situations, etc. And in fairness, he did specify that the man should ensure that his (soon to be ex-) wife is taken care of.

Why do I only somewhat sympathize with him? It's his glaring hypocrisy. He has no trouble promoting traditional marriage when it's used to support his bigotry in denying homosexuals the right to marriage, but he's willing to ignore traditional marriage when it's an inconvenience to a heterosexual spouse. There's also his inconsistency in saying that this is a type of death, which would make sense to a materialist, but not to a mind-body dualist like him. Plus, I'm not so sure I like his answer. Marriage is a commitment we make that should be taken very seriously, and unless a couple has made some type of agreement before something like this happens, I'd say that a person is obligated to care for their ailing spouse.

Anyway, I'd love to give this more thought and write something better, but I just don't have time right now.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Special Privelages

LiquorThere's an abandoned convenience store near the entrance to the development I live in. Just recently, we found out that someone's planning to buy it and make it an active store again. But, we also have a church nearby, and somebody asked if there was a problem with a store selling alcohol (beer & wine) being so close to a church. Somebody else in the neighborhood pointed out the city ordinance, 5430.A, which deals with that. I guess I'm sheltered, because I'd never heard of this before. Anyway, here's what the ordinance says:

The sale of alcoholic beverages within the city by any dealer whose place of business is within 300 feet of a church or public hospital, the measurements to be along the property lines of the street fronts and from front door to front door, and in a direct line across intersections, is hereby prohibited. This section shall not apply to temporary sales authorized under section 5420, subsection 5.

Just below that, there was some wording that caught my eye, "5500. - Sexually oriented commercial establishment." It had a similar ordinance at 5510:

A person commits an offense if he operates or causes to be operated within 1,000 feet of a church, a public or private elementary or secondary school, a United States military installation which contains a training school for armed forces members, a residential dwelling unit in which one or more persons maintain a residence, a public park, or another business of a type hereinafter enumerated in this section, a business of one of the following types:

A. An adult bookstore as hereinafter defined.
B. An adult motion picture theater as hereinafter defined.
C. A business or enterprise which offers for a consideration nude human modeling.
D. A business or enterprise that offers for a consideration physical contact between persons when one or more of such persons are nude or semi-nude.
E. A bar, nightclub or other similar commercial establishment that offers as entertainment, for the purpose of providing sexual stimulation to the customers of such establishment, live performances by a person or persons who expose specified anatomical areas or who perform specified sexual activities.
F. An adult arcade as hereinafter defined.
G. An adult motel as hereinafter defined.
H. An adult theater as hereinafter defined.
I. An escort agency as hereinafter defined.

Why did churches get thrown in there? Schools and hospitals are public buildings providing a valualbe service, and I can sort of see why people wouldn't want liquor stores, porn shops, or strip bars nearby (though I don't necessarily agree with the alcohol sale restriction). But churches? They're private organizations. Why should they get any special consideration? What makes them different from the Elks Lodge, the Women's Forum, the Kemp Center for the Arts (which happens to be across the street from a bar), the Boys and Girls Club, or the Y?

It's just one more example of the undeserved special treatment that religion gets in this country.

(It's also kind of funny that you can't have an adult bookstore within 1000 feet of the base. You have to be 18 to join the military, so they're all adults.)


Selling Out