In Citizen Tom’s blog, he wrote a post entitled “Three Things You Probably Don’t Know about Islam.” In the discussion that followed, Citizen Tom wrote:
What makes the Bible different is that it promotes freedom of religion. Jesus told us to render unto Caesar what Caesar’s and God what is God’s. The Bible says that what we each believe about God is a personal responsibility. Those on a quest for power hate that, of course. That’s why Christianity is so unpopular with power-hungry politicians.
The estimable and devout Catholic Biltrix has a post up discussing abortion. It’s worth a look. I replied there:
As a lifelong non-theist, I don’t have the “moment of conception” notion with regard to the beginning of life. For me, life is continuous for the past roughly 4 billion years, and that moment business is complicated because it can be tinkered with or even triggered artificially.
But death is not continuous. And at some point, a few weeks after conception, a human fetus has an impulse-sensing brain and a beating heart. Since we use brain death as an end-of-life measure, it seems reasonable to me to argue for brain-birth/formation/first signals as a beginning-of-life measure.
Thus, I am on your side when it comes to late-term abortions; these are indeed killing humans.
You voiced a rhetorical question: “How many women were killed by botched abortion procedures last year?” But there’s another aspect to this question, since about half of the <i>successful</i> abortions kill women, too. They’re just younger than the others.
I don’t think this should be decided at the federal level, as we don’t in general decide murder and self-defense at that level. But states can and should make these decisions, and in my state I would vote against late-term abortions, with “late” being defined as post-brain-formation.
(After my comment, another commenter put up a link to a non-theist who does argue that life begins at the moment of conception. Here is that link.)
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle
A decade ago, the ACLU threatened suit against the county of Los Angeles because they had a tiny crucifix visible on the county’s official seal. That had to go. The county caved in, despite thousands in the street protesting the rewriting of this bit of history. (By odd circumstance, I was briefly part of that crowd.)
Why can’t we all just get along?
People are quick to blame “Islamophobia” for attacks on the US. If we would just accept that the Islam culture is different, they’d just leave us alone. Somehow, terrorism is the fault of Americans. Religious Americans, of course. (This is, oddly, the approximate position of Ron Paul as well: That American activities are the cause of jihadist attacks, and that they’d leave us alone if we “pulled out of their countries.”) A commenter on Citizen Tom’s fine blog seemed to evince such a belief:
It’s Christmas time! A holiday, and holy day for many
Others faiths have different days, but atheists haven’t any
But certainly that doesn’t mean we cannot share the spirit
Someone calls “Merry Christmas!” I, for one, am glad to hear it.
For people, when they say this, aren’t “forcing their belief”
Or proselytizing, traumatizing, causing pain or grief
It’s just a greeting, woven in with larger, warmer feeling
Accept it! Smile! Return it! All the different faiths need healing.
The same with “Happy Hanukkah” or other well-meant greeting
I bounce them back as best I can, take pleasure at the meeting
I’d even answer back if I should hear “Happy Agnostica!”
(But I’ll decline and pass on celebrations with a swastika.)
The most important thing is: Let your soul be thus uplifted
By friends, and by your loved ones, for it’s by those we are gifted
To every island, every continent and every isthmus
I wish you all the best, and to you each a Merry Christmas!
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle
A brief note on a telling dichotomy:
When the left describes something they don’t like about Christianity or Judaism, they are not shy about it. They’ll even pin bombings or shootings on “Christian terrorists” or “Tea party” people ( which to many on the left seems synonymous), before any evidence is in hand at all. But they are often strangely gently and circumspect when it comes to handling Islam:
(Hat tip to Marmoe who alerted me to the Congressional report.)
The Obama administration has pushed its intelligence agencies into purging their training materials of “anything that might be offensive to anyone, particularly anyone of Islamic faith” (a quote from the purge order).
So what, exactly, would that amount to? Apparently, any reference to Islam at all in connection with terrorists. Even calling jihadists “terrorists is” offensive to them.
(Over at Citizen Tom‘s, he and I have been engaged in a discussion related to his “Speaking Truth to Power” posts, including the follow up. One aspect of the discussion in that follow up is worth pointing out separately, I believe. I wrote, in part:)
There is, as we’ve discussed before, a distinction between the “public personae” of political figures, which have generally been quite overtly religious, and their private philosophies which are sometimes less so. This is not always different; Ronald Reagan, for example, was quite devout both privately and publicly. But for years — centuries, really — it was necessary to be publicly religious in order to be seen to be fit as a leader in the US. You would not be criticized for being Christian here. The newer sort of evangelical faith was accepted by both political sides; our first evangelical president so far as I can recall was Jimmy Carter (for whom Pat Robertson campaigned).
This attitude is being replaced, in recent decades, with a media-led outright hostility to Christianity. And in a curious juxtaposition, the modern trend is one of supplanting it in some respects with Islam as the protected faith. We now have officially appointed US Attorneys (such as William Killian) warning us that we are subject to prosecution if we write comments on social media considered demeaning to Islam. This was not something ever officially sanctioned by the US when it came to Christianity. In the described presentation, the US Attorney in Tennessee makes the assertion that posting something that is offensive to Muslims violates their civil rights, and is subject to prosecution. An excerpt:
“We need to educate people about Muslims and their civil rights, and as long as we’re here, they’re going to be protected.”
Killian said Internet postings that violate civil rights are subject to federal jurisdiction.
“That’s what everybody needs to understand,” he said.
There is now a “civil right” against being offended discerned by the current administration, exactly in accordance with Sharia (and United Nations) principles. Interestingly, Killian makes quite a few false statements in his presentation, if he is quoted accurately. Most are aimed against Christians. It is interesting to speculate whether US Atty Killian is subject to prosecution for violating the “civil rights” of Christians with his offensive statements.
Ah, but do not hold your breath while waiting; Christians are not afforded such rights by our uneven current government. The change in attitudes means that professing a Christian faith is becoming more and more risky. Thus, in many circles, you are at risk of being ostracized for your beliefs just as I am in other venues. Would that this was not a part of America’s modern culture (and government) for either of us!
And it brings me back to your central topic: We are hamstrung, those of us concerned about the rise of jihadism as a threat to Western civilization, by an ever-increasing environment of rules and attitudes that make it dangerous to speak that truth to those in power — or publicly at all.
You mentioned “many strange ‘isms” and I completely agree. You’re familiar, I think, with the short film Make Mine Freedom from 1948 that touches eloquently on that topic. In that post, I wound up in a lively discussion of racism — because the film showed black and which schoolchildren together in 1948. But its message about “isms” is an important one, and needs to be spoken, even if the “power” (from government to bureaucracy to most of the media) seems thoroughly infected with them.
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle
While the world has turned its thoughts to Christmas, other matters intrude: In the US, many are preoccupied by the much-hyped “fiscal cliff” and the planned increase in taxes as well as the aftermath of the the horrific shooting at the elementary school — the one in which no one had a weapon to defend themselves with. The US government’s plans to exact more taxes, and to reduce Constitutional freedoms, are much discussed.
I have obligations to Citizen Tom, voluntarily undertaken, remaining from the “Food for Thought Award” — and they include this seventh in a series on Sunday verses that have inspired my thought. In this instance, Luke 2 comes to mind, as it is both an account of the birth of of Jesus, and it begins with an announcement of government taxation:
2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2 goes on to describe the circumstances of Jesus’ birth and early life, continuing in Luke 3 with an account of Jesus being both the Son of God and the (great^76) grandson of God with each step in the 77-part intermediate lineage identified. Matthew goes into more background, but only a partial ancestry list.
But neither Luke nor the other synoptic gospels say exactly when the birth of Jesus occurred. The date seems not to have been celebrated in the first couple of centuries, though the common supposition, “everybody knows the date came from a later pagan ritual,” appears to be wrong. The Western world’s churches have celebrated this occasion on December 25 for more than a thousand years, even though the actual date this falls on would have been adjusted with calendar tinkerings. (Compare this to Easter, which gets a lunar-based calculation that is rather mathematically involved and independent of the calendar conventions of any given time.)
While the Romans instituted (at least by 275AD or so) the use of December 25th for the holiday of “Sol Invictus” (“the Invincible Sun [god]“), Augustine of Hippo wrote around that time about December 25th as a tradition among the Donatists that dates from even earlier. And at that time, before Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the early 300s and made it safe (or safer) to practice, Christians seemed disinclined to adopt anything pagan in their practices.
I would say, based upon my reading, that the Romans may have tried to usurp the Christian holiday, rather than the other way around. Though, obviously, many later practices were incorporated — but this seems to have begun much later, centuries in some cases.
But why December 25th at all? It appears that in the Western tradition, Jesus was conceived on March 25th, and December 25th is nine months later. Eastern churches use April 6 for the conception date, so their birth of Jesus is celebrated on January 6th. The days in between are now called “the Twelve Days of Christmas.” Did you know where that came from?
[Edit] As Mary Catelli points out in the comments below, Jesus is assumed to have died on the same day of the year as the crucifixion — something common to both Eastern and Western church traditions.
While the rest of the subject matter is not entirely on point, 1 Corinthians 5 has a good advocation for us regarding Christmas — with even a flavor of New Year’s resolutions tucked in:
7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
In any event, a Merry Christmas to you all full of sincerity and truth, and Happy Hanukkah any other holiday or special occasion that brings you happiness. Since I am something of a technical geek, I hope that this Christmas image and a bit of my own humble poetry may serve as a virtual card.
Merry Christmas to all who observe
Even any or no faith will serve
For enjoying Yuletide
Is just what you decide
May you get everything you deserve
And of other faiths and celebrations
May they please those in rapt contemplations
Of the times of the past
May your bright future last
And be ready with fast demonstrations
There were challenges during the year
But so far, we have made it to here
May I say in this letter
Let next year be better!
May it bring peace and joy without fear
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle