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Category: Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day: How Evangelicals Justify Past Sexual Sin — Jesus Forgives, So Should We

josh duggar

Often this narrative [sin and redemption] is particularly prevalent among evangelicals who have been accused of sexual misconduct. After evangelical television personality Josh Duggar confessed to molesting his sisters as a teenage boy, he and his family used the salvation playbook. Michael Seewald, whose son is married to one of Duggar’s sisters, spoke out against the media condemnation of Duggar, who was never charged with a crime: “The ultimate answer … is what Josh found and millions like him. He found forgiveness and cleansing from Jesus Christ. There are many of you that are reading these words right now having had thoughts and deeds no better than what Josh had and did.”

Disgraced megachurch founder Ted Haggard resigned his post in 2006, after admitting to drug abuse and a sex scandal with a male sex worker. He returned to public church life with similar rhetoric: “I am a sinner and [my wife] is a saint. … I feel we have moved past the scandal. We have forgiveness. It is a second chance.”

In other words, there’s a tendency among evangelicals to see sexual (or other) sins that have happened long ago (or even not that long ago), either prior to conversion itself or prior to a “re-conversion” or renewal of faith, as, well, natural. Of course people commit sinful acts, because sin is part of the human condition, and of course people are victims of sin without God’s grace to help free them of it.

There are a few problems with how this manifests in practice. It can absolve “saved” individuals of too much responsibility for past misdeeds, since they’re considered the deeds of a past, different self. It encourages a culture of silence among evangelicals about their struggles, since salvation is “supposed” to mean that temptation goes away, and any “backsliding” is the result of insufficient faith. Finally, this theological approach also means that “sins” tend to be conflated, especially sexual sins: consensual premarital sex and sexual abuse are often seen on the same spectrum, both the result of a temptation too great to bear.

Without God, the implication goes, people have almost no agency. In Moore’s case, the fact that his alleged sins happened so long ago — and that the intervening years have seen him become more and more committed to the idea of a theocratic Christian state— only intensify some evangelicals’ sense that Moore’s actions then (even if true) don’t necessarily have a bearing on who he is now. It’s also worth noting that in the aftermath of Trump’s campaign, evangelicals have done an extraordinary about-face when it comes to their view on the importance of politicians’ personal morality.

Many, many Christian scholars and thinkers have been intensely critical of this “get out of jail free” approach to sin and grace, as I noted earlier this month. Among the most prominent in the past century was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and anti-Nazi dissident who was executed in a concentration camp for his activism. Bonhoeffer distinguished between “cheap grace” — easy forgiveness that allowed individual perpetrators and oppressive societies to get away, unchallenged, with their actions — and “costly grace,” or forgiveness that also asks hard questions, and demands social change.

It’s worth noting, however, that several prominent evangelicals — including the president of Southern Baptist Convention’s policy arm, Russell Moore (no relation) — have spoken out criticizing Moore’s evangelical supporters. “Christians, if you cannot say definitively, no matter what, that adults creeping on teenage girls is wrong, do not tell me how you stand against moral relativism,” Russell Moore tweeted.

Despite this, “cheap grace” has become seemingly common in some evangelical communities, especially when there are practical political or pragmatic reasons (i.e., a Republican in power) to overlook a sin and preserve the social status quo.

— Tara Isabella Burton, VOX, For Evangelicals, Sin is Redeemable — But can That Allow Sex offenders to Dodge their Actions? November 29, 2017

Quote of the Day: Atheists and Progressive Christians Must Work Together for the Common Good by Sarahbeth Caplin

work togetherLately, it’s occurred to me that progressive-leaning Christians like myself have more in common with atheists right now than with white evangelicals, the ones who, overwhelmingly, will stop at nothing to see the United States turn into a theocracy, using Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale as a handbook rather than as a cautionary tale.

Religious beliefs aside, atheists and progressive Christians need each other during these uncertain times. Our politics, if nothing else, are more alike than they are different. You don’t need to share spirituality to understand the consequences of enforcing so-called “bathroom safety” laws that target transgender people, rejecting climate change, allowing businesses to deny women’s health care, or allowing Creationism to be taught alongside evolution in public schools. As citizens, we all have common adversaries, among them faith-based ignorance and bigotry. As human beings, we also have common causes worth uniting for: freedom and education.

— Sarahbeth Caplin, The Friendly Atheist, Atheists and Progressive Christians Must Work Together to Fight Evangelicals, November 26, 2017

Quote of the Day: The American Declaration of Independence Dethrones God by Robert Ingersoll

robert ingersoll

The Declaration of Independence announces the sublime truth, that all power comes from the people. This was a denial, and the first denial of a nation, of the infamous dogma that God confers the right upon one man to govern others. It was the first grand assertion of the dignity of the human race. It declared the governed to be the source of power, and in fact denied the authority of any and all gods. Through the ages of slavery — through the weary centuries of the lash and chain, God was the acknowledged ruler of the world. To enthrone man, was to dethrone God.

— Robert Ingersoll, Individuality, 1873

Quote of the Day: Reading the Bible as We Do All Other Books by Robert Ingersoll

robert ingersoll

Too great praise challenges attention, and often brings to light a thousand faults that otherwise the general eye would never see. Were we allowed to read the Bible as we do all other books, we would admire its beauties, treasure its worthy thoughts, and account for all its absurd, grotesque and cruel things, by saying that its authors lived in rude, barbaric times. But we are told that it was written by inspired men; that it contains the will of God; that it is perfect, pure, and true in all its parts; the source and standard of all moral and religious truth; that it is the star and anchor of all human hope; the only guide for man, the only torch in Nature’s night. These claims are so at variance with every known recorded fact, so palpably absurd, that every free unbiased soul is forced to raise the standard of revolt.

— Robert Ingersoll, Some Mistakes of Moses, 1879

Quote of the Day: We Do Not Need The Forgiveness of God by Robert Ingersoll

robert ingersoll

I do not believe in forgiveness as it is preached by the church. We do not need the forgiveness of God, but of each other and of ourselves. If I rob Mr. Smith and God forgives me, how does that help Smith? If I, by slander, cover some poor girl with the leprosy of some imputed crime, and she withers away like a blighted flower and afterward I get the forgiveness of God, how does that help her? If there is another world, we have got to settle with the people we have wronged in this. No bankrupt court there. Every cent must be paid.

Robert Ingersoll, What Must We Do to be Saved, 1880

Quote of the Day: Some Things Happen For a Reason and Some Don’t by Sean Carroll

sean carroll

Some things happen for “reasons” and some don’t,
and you don’t get to demand
that this or that thing must have a reason.
Some things just are.
Claims to the contrary are merely assertions,
and we are as free to ignore them
as you are to assert them.

— Dr. Sean Carroll, cosmologist and physics professor at the California Institute of Technology, Quote from Bob Seidensticker’s blog

Quote of the Day: The Ugly Side of the Online Atheist Community by Chris Stedman

chris stedman

When I was invited to discuss atheism on “The O’Reilly Factor” four years ago, I initially wanted to turn it down. However, I ultimately realized it was a chance to show Fox News viewers a different side of atheism on a network where atheists are usually talked about rather than with.

It was December, so former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly attempted to paint atheists as bitter anti-religion Grinches on a mission to take Christmas away. I pushed back, emphasizing the value of the separation of church and state as well as atheists’ contributions to the public conversation on religion and ethics.

In an environment that rewards anger and sound bites, I attempted to humanize my community — one of the most negatively viewed in the country. Afterward, strangers from around the country messaged me to say the conversation helped them rethink their views on atheists.

But the chatter online took a different, but sadly familiar, tone.

A number of prominent atheist bloggers criticized my interview, saying I was awful and suggesting I was allying with O’Reilly. The comments were worse. Anonymous posters ridiculed me, saying I should decline future television invitations because I was too “effeminate,” my physical appearance made atheists seem “like freaks” and my “obvious homosexuality” made me an ineffectual voice for atheists.

I had started an atheist blog almost a decade ago to explore the role of the nonreligious in interfaith dialogue. I went on to write for bigger platforms and appear on CNN and MSNBC to defend atheists against our detractors. But even as I spoke up for atheists, a subset of the community attacked me and my work, including a book I wrote about atheism and interfaith activism. There were some legitimate critiques, and I’m grateful for how they challenged me and helped me rethink some of my ideas, but others were petty and vindictive.

One of my most frequent online critics — who posted defamatory and false accusations about me — taunted me in ways that reminded me of the playground bullies who attacked me for being queer. He and his supporters frequently called me wimpy, weak, feeble and pearl-clutching, and characterized my work as “tinkerbellism.” When we faced off in a debate sponsored by humanist groups in Australia, he (hilariously) told me that I “sucked.”

Other bloggers went further, writing posts attacking my personal life; one went after my mother directly. (The author of that post later apologized, thankfully.) While most posts and comments were merely cruel insults, I was also threatened with violence and received death threats.

I was far from the only one targeted. A lot of online discourse can turn vitriolic, but writing on atheism seems particularly so. A study on Reddit found that its atheist forum, probably the largest collection of atheists on the Internet, was the third most toxic and bigoted on the entire site.

I’ve watched as many of the activists and writers I respect most in atheism — especially women and people of color — have left the movement, each expressing (privately, if not publicly) that the state of the discourse among atheists was one of the primary reasons they were leaving.

Beyond the nastiness directed at me, I was even more frustrated with the ways the atheist movement, especially online, has resisted efforts to address racism, sexism and xenophobia among our own.

….

I also felt a gnawing sense of smallness during my years as an atheist writer, exhausted with having to represent a singular identity. When I appeared on “The O’Reilly Factor,” the chyron that appeared below me read, “CHRIS STEDMAN, ATHEIST.” My friends and I had a good laugh about it, but it represented a bigger problem: to be understood as an atheist, I was often asked to reduce myself to just that.

This is a broad problem. When members of misunderstood communities challenge the stigmas placed upon them, we’re often tokenized and flattened out. Our culture is uncomfortable with people possessing a complex mix of identities, so we try to reduce them to the most digestible version of those identities. This feels especially true online.

….

— Chris Stedman, The Washington Post, I’m an Atheist, but I Had to Walk Away From the Toxic Side of Online Atheism, November 7, 2017

Quote of the Day: 1972 Government Report Said Personal Marijuana Use Should be Legal

jeff sessions marijuana

The criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use.  It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only with the greatest reluctance. … Therefore, the Commission recommends … [that the] possession of marijuana for personal use no longer be an offense.

— National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, 1972

Forty-five years later, marijuana is still absurdly considered a Class 1 drug by the Federal government. If U.S. Justice Department head Jeff Sessions has it his way, people will be arrested and incarcerated for personal marijuana use. Sessions is an anti-science idiot who thinks the drug policies of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon are good ideas.Sessions thinks the failed war on drugs should be ramped up, with drug users prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Jeff Sessions quotes on Marijuana use:

  • I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana—so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful,” Sessions said while speaking with law enforcement officers Wednesday. “Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.
  • We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.
  • I think one of [Obama’s] great failures, it’s obvious to me, is his lax treatment in comments on marijuana… It reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs that began really when Nancy Reagan started ‘Just Say No.
  • You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink… It is different… It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.
  • Good people don’t smoke marijuana.

Quote of the Day: Militarism Steals From the Poor by Dwight D. Eisenhower

dwight eisenhower quote

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

Dwight D.Eisenhower

Bruce Gerencser