an object or objects used to disguise the purchase of a book on theology or religious belief.
There was a time when purchasing books on religious belief and Christian theology was quite an ordinary thing. A Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in religion tends to do that to a person. But recently I experienced a great sense of embarrassment at purchasing a book on the philosophy of religion and felt compelled to purchase something else to place on top of it to (half-)disguise my purchase. Lacking a word to describe this pointed to a lexical gap.
It began with a blog post by Keith Parsons, a professor of philosophy. In two sentences, he expressed a devastating critique of a book he once used when he taught courses in the philosophy of religion. He described C. Stephen Layman’s Letters to a Doubting Thomas: A Case for the Existence of God as follows:
I found the arguments so execrably awful and pointless that they bored and disgusted me (Layman is not a kook or an ignoramus; he is the author of a very useful logic textbook). I have to confess that I now regard “the case for theism” as a fraud and I can no longer take it seriously enough to present it to a class as a respectable philosophical position—no more than I could present intelligent design as a legitimate biological theory.
Others have said of this book that “[It] is the best book of its kind…”
Could Layman’s arguments be that bad? If Parsons assessment is to be believed, then the best book regarding “the case for theism” is “execrably awful and pointless.”
Curious as to the substance of Layman’s arguments, I decided to see for myself. However, on the walk to the checkout, I found myself embarrassed. “The cashier will think I’m religious,” I thought to myself. This thought was deeply disconcerting. I could feel the warmth of my cheeks reddening, followed by the flush of my entire face. And, thus, I needed a disguise.
In an effort to give the appearance that I was merely reading two sides to an argument (but really the cashier probably neither noticed nor cared), I chose Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great.
Sure, I already had a copy…but not in hardback.
Copyright © 2012 JP Laughlin
The “Great Quake of 2011” has given a new reason for some theists to issue dire warnings about their god’s supposed wrath at the world. Never mind that we know why earthquakes happen, that they happen frequently across the globe, or that no one was killed in this one. This quake was a sure sign that Jesus is mad at America. Why is he mad? Well, of course, it is because of the gays.
When I hear these warnings and threats from theists about natural disasters being part of their god’s wrath, I am stupefied by what the warnings imply. For example, given that the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan killed thousands and the “Great Quake of 2011” has killed no one, does that mean that Jesus was somehow angrier at Japan for some perceived wrong-doing than he was at the United States? And if the reason for his anger at the United States really is because of gay marriage, given that the quake killed no one, does that mean he’s not really all that angry about it? Whatever the answer, the message is clear. Jesus is angry at us and will punish the nation for our iniquities.
I am reminded of another side of Jesus that all of these warnings imply. That side of Jesus, according to his followers, who will also kill the righteous for doing the right thing. I’ve written about this idea before regarding this same message in The Room. The idea of Jesus-as-killer of the righteous is a pervasive idea that is supposed to bring some comfort to those who have lost a loved one. It’s not usually framed in this way; normally, god does the killing and Jesus does the saving. But since the two are one and the same, according to the theology, let’s not mince words.
For example, in our area there was a recent tragic death of a young girl in an automobile accident. She was active in her church, wanted to raise money for clean water instead of receiving gifts for her birthday, and by all accounts was highly regarded as a kind, thoughtful person. A number of people were injured in the accident, but she was the only fatality. The pastor of her church was later quoted as saying something like, “let her life serve as a lesson to other young people.” And what a lesson! Be kind, active in your church, think of others before yourself and Jesus just might kill you while you are young, rip you from your family, end the promise that you represent, all in accordance with his supposedly benevolent “plan.”
When we take what believers say about Jesus in sum, we get a wholly twisted picture. Jesus’ wrath is reserved for the wicked on one day and meted out to the righteous on the next. I cannot help but be reminded of the grotesque stories of Roman emperors who killed on a whim, adversaries and loyalists alike. The picture is of Jesus-as-Tyrant, cruel in his fickleness and perverse in his morality. And somehow, throughout all of this, he is supposed to be our savior. No, thank you.
Copyright © 2011 JP Laughlin