What you’re missing!

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If you haven’t joined us over on carpescriptura.com, you’re missing a whole lot! We’ve already read all of Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus, and we’re currently making our way through Numbers. All this in addition to all the jokes, meme graphics, current events, and occasional theological discussions.

So come on over!

We’re back! Somewhere else!

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It’s been a long while since I’ve posted, and I’m so very sorry! Please don’t hurt me!

But the good news is that I am writing again! Except that I’m doing it somewhere else. I hope you will join me over at carpescriptura.com as we continue reading through the Bible.

How well do you know your Bible?

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via Scotteriology.

I’d say that up until recently, my Bible knowledge was perhaps slightly better than average. I grew up going to Sunday School and I studied a bit of the New Testament in university, but I’d never just sat down to read any of it. So I’m having fun periodically taking quizzes like this one, and seeing my scores improve.

You know the Bible 83%!
Wow! You are truly a student of the Bible! Some of the questions were difficult, but they didn’t slow you down! You know the books, the characters, the events… Very impressive!

This one is quite a good one for getting a quick assessment because of the breadth of difficulty levels. Some of the questions really required some quite specific knowledge, whereas others looked more like this:

In Jesus’ parable, who stopped to help a man in need?

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Donald Duck
  3. Don Knotts
  4. a Samaritan

So how did you do?

A discussion with Mormons

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I recently watched a very long but very interesting interview over on Mormon Stories. John and Brooke McLay were True Believers and highly involved in the LDS community, until they became disillusioned with the Church. There are four segments and each is about an hour and a half long, but it’s very much worth listening to.

I do read a bit about Mormonism, mostly fiction like The 19th Wife, and I’ll admit to the occasional conversation with missionaries on Mormon.org when I’m bored. But listening to John and Brooke speak casually with a sprinkling of Mormon jingo reminded me that the daily experience of being Mormon is still very alien to me.

Since much of my interest is with the more fundamentalist sects of Mormonism, I was interested to hear John talk about his discovery of polygamy in the early Church (part 2). He believed, as I have heard from missionaries, that polygamy in the early Church was okay because it was about finding a way to provide for widows. But John realized the other side of polygamy – being married, yet still having sex with more than one woman. From there, he was horrified to learn that Joseph Smith was known even to take other men’s wives, such as when he sent the husbands on missionary trips. This knowledge, for John, was a major step in his disillusionment with the Church.

Other factors that John lists in the segment are the homophobia and racism that are part of the doctrinal foundation of the LDS Church, and the conflict between his faith and his understanding of evolution.

In part 3, Brooke talks very movingly about the isolation that religious beliefs can cause. As a Mormon, she felt that she had to exclude non-Mormons and gays from her life. So moving away from the Church was her way to let more people into their lives. But because ex-Mormons are treated with such disdain by the Church, the McLays lost many friends.

But Brooke was wary of becoming an atheist and therefore having “no moral authority.” It was a throwaway line, but it shows just how far she still has to go to shed the intolerance of her upbringing. The statement was especially meaningful given John’s apparent lack of belief (while he never identifies himself as an atheist, he was casually using a lot of jargon from the atheist community, in the same way that both he and Brooke used Mormon jargon).

Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the interview is when John explains that anything critical of Mormonism or the LDS Church is branded as anti-Mormon, even if it comes from within the Mormon community. It was interesting to read the same complaint from Miriam Namazie in regards to Islam. It points to the way communities have of closing ranks and dividing the world into clearly delineated teams of supporters versus detractors, with an inability to see that criticism can be constructive and well meant.

(h/t: Friendly Atheist)

What’s your theological worldview?

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via Scotteriology.

So what’s your theological worldview?

Of course, the whole thing is Christian centred, so you won’t see “Atheist” or “Hindu” popping up. And, since many of the questions presumed Christian belief, I found myself picking the least objectionable answer rather than what I would like to say. I also had trouble with questions that had two clauses, such as: “The Gospel has to do with social and political action, not just saving people’s souls.”

According to the quiz, I’m a Postmodern Christian. Within a purely Christian context, I’d say that’s remarkably accurate!

You Scored as Emergent/PostmodernYou are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don’t think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Emergent/Postmodern
82%
Modern Liberal
61%
Classical Liberal
43%
Roman Catholic
36%
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
32%
Reformed Evangelical
21%
Neo orthodox
21%
Fundamentalist
7%
Charismatic/Pentecostal
4%

An Atheist’s Christmas in Wales

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One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

It’s that time of year again – the malls are bustling with last-minute gift buyers, your mailbox is bursting with cards, and Faux News keeps telling you that you are waging a war against it all. As an Atheist, it can be difficult to decide what to make of it. Am I compromising my integrity by participating in a Christian holiday? Or is it okay because it was stolen from the Pagans first and, in any case, is just about secular consumerism?

The Myths

Christmas is not a Pagan holiday – sorry. The date was moved to coincide with Pagan celebrations and many of its traditions (“O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum…“) are Pagan in origin. But Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, a decidedly un-Pagan topic.

There is no War on Christmas(TM). The whole concept comes from the same place as the Medieval theory that Jews use the blood of Christian babies in their dark rituals. That is to say, it was made up by people who stand to gain from your fear and hate. Most Atheists would be perfectly happy to be wished a “Merry Christmas” and open presents with you.

The Facts

Christmas, as we know it today, is a very recent invention. Most of its ‘traditions’ have been tacked on in the last 150 years or so and have little or nothing to do with Christianity (in fact, most are either Pagan or commercial – or both – in origin). In other words, the support for a ‘traditional/Biblical Christmas’ is about as hollow as the support for a ‘traditional/Biblical marriage.’

Christmas, whether we like it or not, is a cultural construction. Atheists have as much claim as Christians do to everything beyond the Christ-mass (which I sat through for many years and shan’t miss).

So what does this all mean?

It means that Atheists choose, as individuals, whether to celebrate Christmas or not, whether to wish “Merry Christmas” to others or not, and whether to be offended when it is wished to them or not. As far as my Christian readers go: relax, enjoy your federal holiday, do your holy-day thing, have fun opening your presents, try to make it through without throttling any relatives, and try not to break the law.

What does Mr. Popular Sentiment do?

Last year, I sent out cards wishing my friends and family a “Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.” This year, I stuck to wishing them a “happy New Year.” When speaking, I also just wish people a “happy New Year” (I don’t see much inclusiveness in “happy holidays”).

For the past few years, I haven’t bothered with anything special on the 24-25 unless I am visiting extended family. Christmas with my parents is whenever close to the season we get to see each other. My husband is Russian, so he prefers to open presents on New Year’s day, and I’ve adopted that as well. We do decorate, and we own a plastic tree that gets pulled out of the closet every year for the purpose.

Closing Comments

I am never offended by a simple well-wishing in the form of a “Merry Christmas;” however, some people have been taking the War on Christmas(TM) too far. For example, a customer at my work sent out an e-mail to our entire mailing list last year to the effect of “Merry Christmas! That’s right, I said it, because that’s the kind of man I am. I stand by my principles and I don’t care what the liberal PC-police has to say about it!” Turning the phrase as a soapbox launchpad is a huge turn off, FYI.

Another example is the Boys&Girls Club ‘Holiday Angel’ program. Last year, my office decided to donate toys to charity instead of buying each other more useless things. One subset of the office refused to participate because the program title used the term ‘holiday’ instead of ‘Christmas’! I’m sure that all the little children who didn’t get presents that year appreciated that my co-workers stood by their principles.

Blogging the Bible

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A couple years ago, Slate‘s David Plotz undertook a project to blog the Bible – much as your humble narrator is doing, but in a far less verbose manner.

I’ve only read a couple of the entries so far, but it seems to be rather interesting. Plotz focuses more on his own personal impressions of his reading rather than summary, although it seems pretty easy to figure out what’s going on based on his commentary, so I don’t think that reading the Bible is necessary to enjoy the blog.

He only goes through the Old Testament. Being a Jew, that’s where his interests lay.

He’s also written a book based on his experiences called Good Book. Have you read it? Leave your impressions in the comments!

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