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November 28, 2009

On the evolution of a monotheistic god

Op-Ed Columnist - The Religious Wars - NYTimes.com
Mr. Wright also argues that monotheism emerged only gradually among Israelites, and that the God familiar to us may have resulted from a merger of a creator god, El, and a warrior god, Yahweh. Mr. Wright also argues that monotheism wasn’t firmly established until after the Babylonian exile, and he says that Moses’s point was that other gods shouldn’t be worshiped, not that they didn’t exist. For example, he notes the troubling references to a “divine council” and “gods” — plural — in Psalm 82. In another revelation not usually found in Sunday School classes, Mr. Wright cites Biblical evidence that God (both El and Yahweh) had a sex life, rather like the Greek gods, and notes archaeological discoveries indicating that Yahweh may have had a wife, Asherah. As for Christianity, Mr. Wright argues that it was Saint Paul — more than Jesus, an apocalyptic prophet — who emphasized love and universalism and built Christian faith as it is known today. Saint Paul focused on these elements, he says, partly as a way to broaden the appeal of the church and convert Gentiles. Mr. Wright detects an evolution toward an image of God as a more beneficient and universal deity, one whose moral compass favors compassion for humans of whatever race or tribe, one who is now firmly in the antigenocide camp. Mr. Wright’s focus is not on whether God exists, but he does suggest that changing perceptions of God reflect a moral direction to history — and that this in turn perhaps reflects some kind of spiritual force. “To the extent that ‘god’ grows, that is evidence — maybe not massive evidence, but some evidence — of higher purpose,” Mr. Wright says.

November 25, 2009

Greta Christina's "Top One Reason Why Religion is Harmful"

Greta Christina's Blog: The Armor of God, or, The Top One Reason Religion Is Harmful
I'm realizing that everything I've ever written about religion's harm boils down to one thing. It's this: Religion is ultimately dependent on belief in invisible beings, inaudible voices, intangible entities, undetectable forces, and events and judgments that happen after we die. It therefore has no reality check. Armet And it is therefore uniquely armored against criticism, questioning, and self- correction. It is uniquely armored against anything that might stop it from spinning into extreme absurdity, extreme denial of reality... and extreme, grotesque immorality. (I can hear the chorus already. "But not all religion is like that! Not all believers are crazy extremists! Some religions adapt to new evidence and changing social mores! It's not fair to criticize all religion just because some believers do bad things!" I hear you. I'll get to that at the end, after I make my case.) . . .

November 24, 2009

Baltimore passes bill requiring crisis pregnancy centers to post signs warning people they will not discuss abortion

Baltimore City Hall Pregnancy Center Bill Passes - wjz.com Crisis Pregnancy Centers (or CPCs) are designed to look like a Planned Parenthood type establishment where women can come and get some honest information about reproductive matters but actually they are religious facilities cloaked in secular trappings. CPCs will not give out any info on abortion and many won't give out birth control information either. They exist to fool women, to pressure them into not thinking they have any choices. They are misinformation centers at best. This bill would require a small sign go up saying basically that the CPCs will not give you any information about abortion (which is true, they absolutely won't, their entire reason for existence is to NOT tell people about a thing). So of course the Catholic church is crying religious discrimination.
Just three councilmembers voted "no" to the limited pregnancy center bill. It requires all pregnancy centers that do not offer abortion information to post signs in English and Spanish to that effect. If the mayor signs the legislation, they'd be required to put up a sign in the waiting room making it clear they don't offer the service. For weeks, the centers and the Catholic Church have called the bill harassment. "It's aimed at one particular group of people, that is mostly volunteer, non-profit groups --most of them are not Catholic-- who are seeking to help women bring their babies to term. That should not be a crime. That should not be suspect," said Archbishop Edwin O'Brien.