All posts by Kaleb Hunniton

Moving on: When your crush has a crush on Jesus

Jesus crush

We’ve all been there, that awkward moment when in trying to get to know someone you find out they have a crush on Jesus. They love him with all their heart, they say. They think about him constantly. They idolize his very being. They get down on their knees just to chat him up. They talk about him incessantly. They sing to him on Sunday, etc.

As difficult as it might be, if you find out your crush has a crush on Jesus you need to move on. It’s highly  likely — in fact it’s a sure thing — that your crush believes some pretty ridiculous things. You’re setting yourself up for failure in finding a mate if you’re willing to sacrifice sanity for some of the other qualities you might find in this person. You can do better.

To help you get over your crush, we’ve compiled a brief list of some of the absurd things they must believe in order to have a crush on Jesus. Hopefully, with this list close at hand, you’ll be able to take off the crush-goggles and see your crush for what they really are — a crazy person. Take a look:

When your crush has a crush on Jesus…

  • They’re crushing on a dead man who lived 2000 years ago (if he even lived at all) and who purportedly was born of a (married) virgin, walked on water, magically made water into wine, and came back from the dead three days after being executed, among other things.
  • Your crush believes that their crush was required by his father to die (temporarily) in order to forgive us for a sin committed by a woman 6000 years ago (the first woman, no less — sorry Darwin). What was this great sin, you might ask? She broke a nonsensical rule and ate a forbidden fruit because a talking snake sent by your crush’s father (specifically for the purpose of tempting her) persuaded her to do it.
  • Your crush believes that because this woman couldn’t resist the temptation of the talking snake, we’re all born of sin (because her two sons went on to propagate the rest of our species, hence genetically transferring the sin?) which is punishable by death. But hey, your sins can be forgiven if you too would only have a crush on Jesus. If not, sorry, you’ll be tortured for all of eternity in a lake of fire, regardless of what a good, moral person you are.
  • Your crush believes that a book written thousands of years ago by bronze-age men has every sort of moral relevance today, despite the fact that, for example, it condones slavery, its commandments don’t mention rape, and was clearly written by bronze-age men. They believe their Jesus crush made a few corrections and additions, but that they’re still free to evoke the old otherwise obsolete rules whenever they feel it would be to their benefit (so much for an unshakable moral code).
  • Your crush believes the father of their crush (who apparently created everything, has a grand plan, and is all-loving) to be a very angry man indeed. For example, your crush believes that several thousands of years ago this sky daddy was so angry towards his creation that he flooded the earth in a mass genocide, surely banishing everyone to hell, but saved one family of humans and every species of animal by shoving a pair of each of them onto a makeshift wooden boat. (They believe this despite the overwhelming and overlapping evidence we find in the fossil and geological records to the contrary.)
  • Your crush is still a child. They haven’t gotten over the “make-believe” stage of their lives, holding on to their childhood fantasies. While the rest of us were doing away with Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, your crush missed one.
  • To top it all off, your crush has probably eaten crackers and drank wine in church on Sunday to symbolize the consumption of their crush’s flesh and blood. (The rest of us call that cannibalism.)

So there you have it, just some of the reasons to get over your crush if you find out they have a crush on Jesus; just the tip of the iceberg, really.

In all fairness, if we’re to be completely honest with ourselves, there may be one benefit to your crush having a crush on Jesus as is summed up nicely by this meme:

jesus threesome 2

But otherwise, you’re swooning after a crazy person. Move on, and do so quickly. Godspeed!

10 signs you might be a moderate Christian and what you can do about it

Progressive-Christian

You’re a smart person, you stand up for secular values, you contribute to society in meaningful ways, you like gay people, you believe in climate change, etc. And you’re a Christian. But in your unique stance — balancing somewhere between faith and reason — are you being true to yourself and is your way of seeing the world helping to reduce the suffering of others? Maybe not…here are ten signs you might be a moderate Christian, the problems that come along with being moderately religious, and what you can do about it.

  1. You “believe in” evolution, but feel like God must have played in role in it.

    The problem: If you really understood evolution, you’d be unable to honestly hold this belief. Science and religion don’t mix. Evolution contradicts the Biblical account of creation. If you believe in evolution, then you are saying that you don’t believe the Bible’s account of creation. If the Bible was wrong about this, how do you know that it wasn’t wrong about everything, including the existence of God?

  2. You refuse to criticize Christian fundamentalists.

    The problem: In effect you’re supporting the fundamentalists, giving cover to them by validating the idea that one should believe something without a good reason. You don’t speak up when fundamentalists go too far, masking your silence under the guise of tolerance.

  3. You believe fundamentalists are a minority and that they hold no real power.

    The problem: By now we all know this isn’t true: http://www.thedailydolt.com/2012/10/05/tea-party-rep-paul-broun-evolution-and-big-bang-are-lies-straight-from-the-pit-of-hell-why-yes-he-serves-on-the-house-science-committee-with-todd-akin/

  4. You believe churches and other religious organizations that give back to society shouldn’t be taxed.

    The problem: When those institutions want to use their influence over their members to affect how those people vote, they are no longer simply religious institutions, they are political ones, and therefore should be subject to the same rules as any other political organization. If they do in fact give back to society, they should apply for tax-exempt status like every other tax-exempt organization.

  5. You believe faith is a virtue.

    The problem: Faith-based thinking closes the door to more sophisticated approaches to spirituality, ethics, and the building of strong communities.

  6. You do not want anyone to kill anyone in the name of God, but you want us to keep using the word “God” as though we knew what we were talking about.

    The problem: People who think they know what they’re talking about kill people in the name of God.

  7. in-gods-name1

  8. You prefer to relax your standards of adherence to ancient superstitions and taboos while otherwise maintaining a belief system that was passed down from generation upon generation.

    The problem: Your belief system was passed down by men and women whose lives were simply ravaged by their basic ignorance about the world.

  9. You don’t think homosexuality is wrong and evil like your church says it is.

    The problem: The Bible doesn’t like gay people, and is crystal clear about it (you can Google it, or, just read the Bible). Making up your own version of the Bible makes you actually less rational than the fundamentalists who live by it word-for-word. Your beliefs, in contrast, are based on nothing in particular—not scriptural knowledge nor empirical evidence. By failing to live by the letter of the texts—while tolerating the irrationality of those who do—you are betraying faith and reason equally.

  10. You live your life with an emphasis on feeling good rather than thinking critically.

    The problem: This is the same type of thinking we see in climate change denialists. Thinking critically is a long term investment in feeling good.

  11. You accept secular values.

    The problem: You attribute your morality to the Christian God of Abraham without even the most basic understanding of the scriptures that describe such a God. You’re deeply confused about the history of your own faith and the science regarding the natural emergence of morality.

So what can you do about it? The first step is to really study the Bible and understand the scope and context of what you’re reading and supposedly basing your life on. Then, admit to yourself that you need to take a hard look at your beliefs and either come to terms with the fact they’re not compatible with Christianity or join the fundamentalist Christians and stand up for everything the Bible represents. But choose quickly! You can’t have it both ways and be taken seriously for much longer. The rest of us are on to you.

“Religious moderation is the product of secular knowledge and religious ignorance.” – Sam Harris

5 reasons young people are indifferent or outright antagonistic to religion

In the News

Focus on the Family advises parents to teach kids gay sex is a sin

In the News

Attend church if only to protect your loved ones

The following is a letter I wrote to “Pastor Short” after attending his Christmas Eve United Methodist sermon with my partner and his Christian mother. We only went to keep his mother company and watch his father play in the church band. In the end I’m glad we went, if only to provide fact checking. Pastor Short’s sermon was an elaborate sales pitch for the accuracy of Biblical accounts of Christ’s birth by way of “scientifically proving” the Star of Bethlehem was real.

He does this by turning back the clock, and lo and behold there was a conjunction between Jupiter and the star Regalus in September of 3 B.C.

Here’s the letter I wrote in response to his quackery:

Hello,

I expect this email will never make it to Pastor Short, but it is my hope that it does.

I attended Tuesday night’s 9:00 Christmas Eve service. When Pastor Short explained that he would tell the Christmas story from the perspective of a star, I was delighted. What better way to celebrate the power of God than to revel in the inner workings of the universe, particularly in the magic of stars and the star cycles within which they operate.

Much to my dismay, Short’s sermon was nothing more than pure conartistry.

Short’s sermon was littered with nonsense — everything from his attempt at creating meaning through coincidental parallels and connections, to inventing pseudoscientific explanations for events and labeling them as science, artificially instilling profundity into commonplace occurrences, and declaring an exact date for the birth of Christ (Sept xx, 3 B.C.) after having just stated Christ’s precise date of birth is only known within a window of two to three years — all this in order to force a seemingly miraculous coincidence between Christ’s birth and the conjunction of Jupiter to the star Regalus.

Short would do well to stay out of the realm of science as he is clearly illiterate on the subject and should rather focus on scripture. His attempt at creating meaning out of coincidental events is no different than what astrologers do; and ironically he even started his sermon by warning against falling into the grips of astrology.

Among his non-understandings of basic astronomy were these fictions: stars of a zodiac constellation rising from the south in September (they would have risen from the east, just a few degrees south of east; they wouldn’t be in the southern sky for hours after rising as is the case with all of the Zodiac constellations in all of the Northern Hemisphere at all times of year), the claim that the conjunction of Jupiter and Regalus would light up the earth on a moonless night (even Venus which is 13 times brighter than the brightest star will barely cast a shadow on Earth on a moonless night…not to mention Short never corroborated the position of the moon on the night he was describing), his explanation of shooting stars and “not knowing stars did that” (they aren’t stars, they are small meteorites hitting the Earth’s atmosphere), his mention of the movement of stars in the sky as being due to Earth’s rotation as well as “star rotation” (whatever “star rotation” is, it has no effect on their position in the sky relative to us), and finally — and most importantly — his failure to mention the commonality of planetary conjunctions.

Planets conjoin with stars every night; planets conjoin with other planets every few weeks (here’s a list of a couple years worth of planet-to-planet conjunctions, which are much less commonplace than planet-to-star conjunctions:http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_conjunctions_(astronomy) ). Since the Zodiac constellations appear along the same path as the planetary orbits, you can find conjunctions of any planet to any constellation at any time in history you desire. Not to mention, planetary conjunctions only last for a matter of seconds, similar to an eclipse, so would not have had the staying power as alluded to in the Bible. Astronomers of the time were also well aware of planetary conjunctions, so it would not have been a significant event even in their eyes, in the same way they are not significant today.

This, with the added parallels of the constellation Leo and Christ the Lion and Regalus meaning ‘royal’ so of course it was connected to Christ’s birth, was a sorry attempt by Short to sensationalize Christ’s birth by injecting symbolism into an otherwise common astronomical occurrence.

If you want to tell a beautiful story from the perspective of a star, why not mention that every element on this planet — every atom except the hydrogen atom including those that compose our bodies — were forged by the compressive forces of a massive star that exploded into a super nova resulting in our sun, our solar system, and everything on this planet. That’s how all solar systems are formed, and it’s one of our most basic understandings of the stars and planets in our galaxy and all other galaxies visible to us in the universe. It’s astrophysics 101.

“Science has finally caught up to religion,” as Short so snidely remarked, couldn’t be further from the truth. It is only Short’s scientific illiteracy combined with his pseudoscientific explanations of commonplace phenomena that are sneakily compensating for the banality of the Christmas story.

The story of Christ should be able to stand on its own without one having to inject into it pseudoscience to heighten its impact on the followers. It is clear the story of Christianity is becoming more and more diminished by our modern understanding of physics, the universe, and our place in it, and Short is having to compensate by forcing the wonder of the universe to fit into his obsolete, Biblical understanding of the world. Short is forced to surf the internet in desperate search of a story that will captivate his audience. As a quick internet search will show, this story — that Jupiter’s conjunction with Regalus was the star of Bethlehem as described in the Bible — is littered across the internet. It’s the latest trend. Perhaps it’s out of laziness that Short wouldn’t back-check and fact-check the claims made in these internet trash stories. Perhaps it’s out of laziness that he wouldn’t write his own sermon from his own heart.

As the numbers of non-believers (perhaps what Short meant by “liberal lu lus”) continue to grow in the U.S., his church and others are going to find that more and more of us non-believers will be sitting in the pews accompanying our religious family members. We non-believers couldn’t care less what you believe, except you’ll find we have little patience for charlatans preaching falsehoods to our loved ones, and we will be all too happy to expose you and your lies to our family and friends who’s minds you continue to manipulate.

If your doctrine has any relevance, you should be able to preach the doctrine without embellishing it with falsehoods and half-truths. It should stand on its own. Tuesday’s sermon did nothing of the kind. But then again, Short did admit the church is part of a market driven world. Maybe this is what he has to do to stay in business.

Sincerely,

Kaleb

Bigots weren’t born that way

So my gun-loving, heterosexual, republican, fundamentalist Christian uncle (self described minus the fundamentalist) this week mentioned to my mom that he had just read a study done on twins that apparently concluded that homosexuality is in no way genetic. From his theistic worldview, this meant his god didn’t make gay people gay and that this then reinforces the Bible’s teaching that homosexuality is an abomination, a sin in the eyes of his god. This conclusion also confirms, in his mind, that homosexuals can be converted into heterosexuals, that gay conversion therapy should be more heavily employed. In my uncle’s case, his reading of the Bible also suggests that homosexuals will burn in hell, which of course isn’t the case for all Christian readings of the Bible, but probably wasn’t the best picture for him to paint of my mom’s eternal relationship with her gay son. Trust me, he’s not a good person.

The universe creates gay

An aside: the current research on genetic influence on homosexuality

There is no consensus among the scientific community as to what degree homosexuality is genetic. As I’ll suggest further down, this is a moot point within the conversation of the morality of homosexuality.

A recent article on Think Progress sums up the current state of research, again with no conclusions:

The latest research suggests that variations in sexual orientation can be influenced — not by the genes themselves, but by how certain markers (“epi-marks”) on the genes interact with hormones inside the womb. These epigenetic markers act as switches that can be activated during fetal development, affecting how DNA expresses itself. The end result is the same: an individual’s orientation is determined before birth and cannot be changed. This actually jibes with some recent twin studies, which suggest that even identical twins who share a hormonal environment in the womb can still experience different levels of blood during development. Thus, even twins with identical DNA can have differences in how that DNA is expressed.

As is often the case, Wikipedia outlines a more comprehensive picture, in this case of where we are in studying the role of genetics and environment in determining homosexuality. Read the Wikipedia article, Biology and Sexual Orientation, here. Again, no conclusions.

If you’re looking for a conclusion on the matter, you can go to any conservative Christian website, as my uncle does to get his information about how the world works. You’ll read something more along these lines: Recently Micah Clark, Executive Director of the Indiana Family Institute gave commentary on homosexuality being unnatural based on his research using a population of one for his sample size. His research focuses on gay NBA player Jason Collins who has an identical twin brother who is supposedly straight, and so concludes that if the twin brothers share 100% of the same genes, homosexuality must be in no way genetic (don’t you just love the fundamentalist Christian version of the scientific method? It’s so easy. So elementary.).

Additionally, most of these Christian bloggers use the nature versus nurture argument to support their view that you can change a person’s sexuality. After all, if you’re not born gay, something in your environment must have made you that way, so they’ll just do their part to try and reverse what they see as your sinful nature.

These articles you’ll find on Christian websites are meant to reinforce their belief that homosexuality is a sin. Any evidence that suggests otherwise tends to be omitted.

The scientific community will be the first to tell you they have not reached a consensus on the topic; there isn’t enough data yet to do so. The data we have isn’t conclusive. Many of the studies that have been done have been biased on both sides of the aisle, very clearly breaking the rules of the scientific method. Eventually, we’ll hone in on a picture that more accurately represents the reality of the issue, and from what we’re beginning to see, it looks like it’s going to be quite a mash-up of influences that contribute to a person being gay.

A deterministic view of the “choices” we make

The thing is, none of this really matters as part of the conversation of morality. It all comes down to the very different way the religious and non-religious see the world. The religious come to the table with their doctrine that already gives them the answers they seek. In this case that homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of their god.

In contrast, the deterministic view of the world given to us by science describes the situation like this: I didn’t choose to be gay in the same way that I didn’t choose to love 80’s new wave, or that I didn’t choose my friends, or that I didn’t choose my coffee table, or that my religious uncle didn’t choose to be a bigot, or that I didn’t choose to have a bigoted uncle. It just worked out that way based on a complexity of factors — all traceable back to the moment of the big bang.

Take my coffee table for example. This will be fun, I promise: In order for it to have ended up in my living room, many many things out of my direct control had to have fallen into place. The coffee table first of all had to exist; someone had to have designed and manufactured it before I even knew I was in the market for a coffee table. The design had to be marketable and so the design was the result of a cumulative consumer demand. Then, the table had to have happened to be on the showroom floor of the furniture store that I happened to walk into because it happened to be near where I happened to live at the time, and it had to be there on the day I decided to come in, a day that it had to have happened to not be raining. Then there had to be a sales person who happened to resonate with my personality and who had to have not been too busy with other customers who happened to be in the store at the time. I had to have walked in the door with a sense of my own design sensibilities which are the result of other life paths I’ve fallen into, such as having happened to have a design background. The coffee table had to be the right design for the home I had just moved into. It had to work with my current budget which is constantly changing. It had to serve functions unique to the layout of my home and to the way my partner and I use our living room together, right at that time.

In this sense, I in no way chose my coffee table. The coffee table happened to be the solution to a problem that presented itself at a particular time and place and was influenced by countless events outside of anyone’s control This is true of everything that happens in life. Every “choice” you think you’re making, isn’t really a choice at all. It’s based on an unthinkable number of other influences, including the culmination of your past experiences. Steven Hawking talks a lot about this in his book, the Grand Design.

And so with this line of thinking, this way of seeing the world, I realize my uncle didn’t choose to be a bigot. He happens to be a victim of his environment, one that has been consumed by a very effective religious meme. His brain is simply a host to the parasite of bad ideas. I don’t blame him. I only thank my “lucky stars” that I wasn’t caught in a similar intersection of circumstance. This is also what drives me to not fight individuals but rather the environments that foster bigoted brains, to fight the memes that fuel religion, to do my part in promoting social and cultural environments that encourage happiness among the most people possible.

Morality and genetics have nothing to do with each other

And so back to the question of morality: Nature versus nurture is an arbitrary metric by which to measure the morality of one’s actions. Homosexuality, whether you view it as a choice, determined by one’s environment, or genetically inherited, is either morally acceptable or not and this is based on the effect it has on the lives of others. I challenge anyone to give me a strong argument as to how homosexuality is immoral in this light. It hurts nobody.

Bigotry towards those who are causing no harm, however, is quite harmful to individuals and society at large, and is therefore the epitome of immorality. Bigotry, for example, is what drives perfectly normal, healthy, gay teenagers to kill themselves — suicide is found to be a disproportionate cause of death among gay teenagers. Bigotry is what drives individuals to live miserable, secret lives in the closet. Bigotry destroys lives, severs relationships, steals the right to the pursuit of happiness from countless victims. Bigotry must end. And we must end it by eliminating the memes that fuel it, the memes of religious thought, the incubators of bigotry.

Rush Limbaugh lays out the big-picture problem with religion

limbaugh1-555x370

“See, in my humble opinion, folks, if you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in man-made global warming … You must be either agnostic or atheistic to believe that man controls something that he can’t create.” -Rush Limbaugh

 

Yes Rush, that’s exactly the point. That’s exactly why atheists in particular tend to be so outraged by the religious. The religious are going to get us all killed (in this case by not helping to prevent global climate change) because they cannot grasp the science behind systems larger than themselves. The fundamentalists run to their little bibles when the thinking gets tough and make the assumption that their man-made god has everything under control. Thank you Rush, for once, for making such a clear point.