OnlySky, Phil Zuckerman, 1 Oct 2022: On Yom Kippur, and its homophobic beginnings, subtitled “Most Jews don’t even know what the holiday was originally about”
Because most Jews don’t know the Bible (in particular Leviticus) any better than most Christians.
How do we explain this paradoxical reality? Why do so many Jews, Christians, Mormons, and Muslims believe that their most sacred scriptures come directly from God, while simultaneously ignoring or simply denying the immoral, unjust, and inhumane elements therewithin?
Simple: their religions have been domesticated, diluted, and modernized. Aside from a minority of fervent fundamentalists out there, most people’s religious faith has been qualitatively and progressively secularized.
Jerry Coyne, 6 Oct 2022, Thursday Reading is about a Substack post by Freddie deBoer (whom I’m not familiar with) on the same day: Postmodern Religion Still Doesn’t Make a Lick of Sense
First came the idea (from Daniel Dennett perhaps) of “belief in belief” (which I also detected in Stephen Prothero). This is the notion that the particular religion isn’t as important as believing in *something*, becuase belief is good for you, or has a broad social function.
deBoer calls this a delusion, and rejects it. But deBoer hears of something he calls postmodern religion (or post-belief religion), which is the notion that
pretty much nobody ever believed any of the supernatural claims in religious stories – not the burning bush, not water into wine, no splitting of the moon, no siddhis, none of the supernatural events common to Mahayana Buddhism. In this telling nobody, or almost nobody, has ever believed in transcendent extra-material deities or their magical works in the world of man.
deBoer calls this “projection” and Coyne calls is “bushwa.” Coyne concludes,
The only way that such belief is justifiable is if you admit that you don’t accept any of the truth claims of the religion but simply like seeing the candles, hearing the choir, and smelling the incense—and think that it’s good for society to have such rituals. To me, the real believers that enable the incense-sniffers are a drag on society, though, and we always have books, soccer, and wine for entertainment. Why is smelling the incense when you lack all belief better than smelling the bouquet of a fine old Bordeaux?
I’m somewhere in the middle. I think there are plenty of people — even some priests, it’s been reported — who harbor doubts about the supernatural claims of religion, while going along with its practice for the sake of family or community. Further, most people don’t feel a need to explicitly abandon religion; it never occurs to them to think it through; they take it for granted. Thus my position has been that “seeing through” religion, understanding it as a social phenomenon distinct from knowledge of the actual universe, is a private project. That society will never become completely secular. The weight of tradition, including all those churches and cathedrals!, lies heavy.
Considering religion and culture…
Salon, Catherine M. Roach, 8 Oct 2022: Lusty Puritans and the theological roots of free love: America’s sex story is wildly contradictory, subtitled “This is why American culture feels both pearl-clutching and porn-saturated at the same time”
It’s an excerpt from the writers book Good Sex: Transforming America through the New Gender and Sexual Revolution.
Salon, Celia Viggo Wexler, 10 Oct 2022: Sorry, fellow Italian-Americans: Columbus was a thug. But the church was the big problem, subtitled “Christopher Columbus was a criminal. But the vicious Catholic doctrine that empowered him has never been revoked”
The is the “Doctrine of Discovery”. A convenient thing for the Pope to have discovered. (Surely popes don’t just make things up as they go along?)
A decree Issued in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI, it essentially told Catholic countries that any lands they “discovered” were theirs to keep and exploit, provided the inhabitants were not Christians but heathens ripe for conversion.
The idea was simple and attractive: Plant a flag and a cross on a land not claimed by any other Christian ruler, and it’s yours.
This thinking has filtered into US law as well, the article goes on to explain.
Salon, David Boyle, 13 Oct 2022: Supreme deceit: How Sam Alito snuck medieval state Christianity into the Dobbs opinion, subtitled “Alito’s opinion overturning Roe is literally built on fake history — and a sneak attack on the First Amendment”
Alito’s opinion sneaks in a 12th-century religious penalty for abortion — not a criminal statute — citing it in a section meant to support the history of criminal punishment, and with its ecclesiastical origins neatly excised.
[…example spelled out…]
Why hide those words? Unless he was sleepwalking, Alito understood perfectly well that he was committing a gross material omission, obscuring the fact that the “penalty” in this medieval text was merely religious and penitential, not civil or criminal. Religious “crimes” are not crimes at all, by our modern legal standards.
OnlySky, Hemant Mehta, 12 Oct 2022: On ’60 Minutes,’ Bart Barber revealed the cruelty of Southern Baptists, subtitled “On many hot-button issues, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention took the least ethical road imaginable”
This discusses a 60 Minutes interview last Sunday with Bart Barber, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention. The interview went well, to some. “…many Southern Baptists, even some who have been very critical of the SBC, praised Barber for his appearance on the program.”
Yet, as Mehta highlights, “Things broke down, however, when Barber was asked about the SBC’s positions on various ‘culture war’ issues.” Abortion; gay people; Trump. He said this to Anderson Cooper’s face.
COOPER: Do you still believe that gay people can be, should be converted out of being gay?
BARBER: I believe that sinners should be converted out of being sinners, and that applies to all of us.
COOPER: Can somebody be a good Christian, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention and be gay or lesbian and married to a person of the same sex?
More examples. Conclusion:
Even in Barber’s finest hour so far, as the most powerful leader in his faith showcasing his religion to the widest TV audience he’ll ever get, he made it clear that Jesus is homophobic, that his God wants to further traumatize child victims of sexual assault, and that the thrice-married racist who paid hush money to porn stars he was having affairs with when his current wife was pregnant with his fifth child and who remains a threat to democracy could still get his vote.
It just goes to show you: If you’re looking for moral decency, you won’t find it in the SBC. Your ethics—and your kids—are safer outside of it.