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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Thirteen Ways Catholic Christianity Influences Daily American Life

atheism

#1. Christianity is the basis of Western culture. “Christianity has, for more than seventeen centuries … has been a major determinant of Western culture….”

#2. Christian values inform all aspects of life. “Nothing is unaffected by Christian hegemony (whether we are Christian or not)….”

#3. Christianity infuses even secular culture despite all efforts to the contrary. “Christian dominance has become … invisible … the phrase “secular Christian dominance” might be most appropriate….”

#4 Catholicism is the basis of all forms of American Christianity. “One [example] of institutionalized power … is the dominant Western form of Christianity that came to power when the Romans made Christianity the official religion….”

#5. Schools are Christian institutions. “Christian institutions have also played a deep, founding, and shaping role in U.S. school systems.”

#6. Prayer in public schools and the knowledge of the Ten commandments are important to Christian education. ”[P]ermitting prayer in schools and … posting of the Ten Commandments … lay the groundwork for more oppressive laws….”

#7. Christianity teaches that there is no compromise between good and evil. “A major Christian belief … is that everything not associated with good and Godliness is connected to the devil (Satan)….”

#8. The word Crusade still resonates with the notion of noble goals. “The word “crusade” … resonates with images of good white Christian knights fighting against evil.”

#9. The Blessed Mother still prevails as the model for all Christian womanhood. “Mary … exhibits as much transcendence as a woman can achieve as a passive and virginal (therefore perfect) receptacle for God.”

#10. The hierarchical model of Creation in which humanity rules over nature is still in place today.  “[W]e must free ourselves from the restraints [Christianity] has imposed … so that we can establish … mutuality, cooperation, sustainability, and interdependence with all life.”

#11. Most modern holidays have Christian inspirations, even the “secular” ones. “Most of our national holidays are seen as secular, even though their underpinnings are deeply Christian.”

#12. The “capitalist” or free market system is a product of Christianity. “[C]apitalism [came from a] Christian culture whose prime focus was individual salvation….”

#13. Christian morality still informs the present economic system that is opposed to socialism. “Our challenge is to reject … Christian morals by … building an economic system … based on mutual support, cooperation and a commitment to meet people’s basic needs.”

— Edwin Benson, Return to Order, 13 Ways Christianity Influences Daily Life that Secularists Hate, June 23, 2021

Quotes, I believe, were excerpted from the Christian Hegemony website.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Do Atheists Want to Turn the United States Into an Atheist Nation?

anti atheist sign

I speak generally about atheists and atheism. I cannot speak for all atheists.

The short answer is no!

I do not know of one atheist who is working to turn the United States into an atheist nation. I do know a number of atheists who are working very hard to stop theocrats from turning the United States into a Christian nation.

Most atheists want neutrality. Theocrats want authority, domination, and control. When it comes to government and public education, atheists want Christian dogma checked at the door. Atheists want science taught without creationism and other mythical Bible stories being part of the curriculum. Christians are free to learn about creationism at home or in their houses of worship. They are also free to home school their children or send them to Christian schools. However, when it comes to public schools, evidence-based science is the only science that should be taught in classrooms. Atheists expect public school classrooms to be free of sectarian prayers, Bible readings, and attempts to proselytize school children.

Atheists want oaths and prayers to God banished from the halls of Congress and any place our secular government does its business. Atheists want the first amendment and the separation of church and state strictly applied. Atheists know that the United States is a secular state, and they expect the government to function as a secular state.

Atheists promise to fight attempts to use government funds and programs to support churches and private religious schools. Atheists promise to work to end church tax exemptions, clergy tax exemptions, and the clergy housing allowance. The fight is direct and to the point . . . there is no place in the United States for state sanctioned, state funded religion.

Atheists respect the right of religious people to believe what they want, and they ask Christians to extend atheists the same courtesy. Atheists have no desire to turn the United States into an atheist state, and they sure as hell do not intend to let theocrats turn the United States into a Christian state. Atheists know that history clearly shows that when church and state are one, people die and freedom is lost.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Rebellion and How an Authoritarian God Deals With It

rebellion

Rebellion is a common word in the vocabulary of Evangelical Christian pastors, church leaders, husbands, and parents.

Here’s what the Bible says about God’s view of rebellion:

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (1 Samuel 15:23)

Those who practiced witchcraft were to be put to death (Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:9-11), so it is clear that God considered rebellion a serious matter.

God commanded a harsh punishment for a rebellious son:

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them; Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you and all Israel shall hear, and fear. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

The Old Testament is the written record of how a thrice Holy God dealt with a rebellious people, Israel. Page after page details God’s judgments against his people and those who got in his way.

When we get to the New Testament, the word rebellion is not used. Does this mean that God has changed? Of course not. How is it possible for a perfect God to change? Malachi 3:6 says:

For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

The Bible says, speaking of Jesus:

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)

It is clear, from the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God that God is immutable. He doesn’t change (though there are a few texts that seem to suggest otherwise).

Evangelical churches and pastors generally believe that both Testaments are authoritative (especially those Old Testament verses about tithing). Granted, Evangelicals are quite contradictory in their interpretations of the Old Testament, picking and choosing what they want to believe, but they do say all sixty-six books of the Bible are authoritative.

The key word is AUTHORITATIVE.

Evangelicals take seriously the matter of rebellion because they believe that the Bible is an authoritative text, and from that text they deduce an authority structure.

It goes something like this:

  • The Christian God is the supreme authority over everything. He is the sovereign King and Lord over everything. He is the creator. He is in complete and absolute control. Even with salvation, no one can be saved unless God permits them to be saved. Both Calvinists and Arminians alike believe God is the final arbiter when it comes to salvation.
  • The Christian God has established an authority hierarchy in the church. Under Jesus Christ, pastors (elders, bishops) are the head of the church. They have been called by God to teach, correct, lead, and direct the church. They are to initiate discipline when necessary to ensure the church is a pure, holy body (though many churches have a pretty low standard for pure and holy).
  • The Christian God has established authority hierarchy in the home. Again, under Jesus Christ, the husband is the head of the home, and his wife is to submit to his authority. Children are to obey their parents, and submit to their authority.
  • The Christian God has established an authority hierarchy for nations. All nations are to bow to the authority of the Christian God. Their laws should reflect God’s law. Better yet, theocracy, God rule, is the best form of government.

Evangelical Christians believe God rules over everything. There is no King but Jesus, and no God but the trinitarian deity of Christianity.

The problem here, of course, is that Evangelical Christians are human. Contrary to all their talk about being saved and sanctified, Christians are pretty much like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. For all their praying and confessing sin, they live and talk just like everyone else. Simply put, like all of us, they do what they want to do.

And that is a big, big problem.

You see, the authoritative God of the authoritative Bible demands absolute obedience. God expects Christians to implicitly and explicitly obey his commands. All of them. God will have none of this picking and choosing that American Christians love to do.

So everywhere you look you have Christians in some form of rebellion against God, their pastors, their parents, or their husbands. No matter how much they pray, read the Bible, go to the altar, and promise to really, really, really obey God this time, they continue to lapse into sin and rebellion.

This is what Jesus told his followers in Matthew 5:48:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

It seems “nice” Jesus didn’t lower the standard when he came to earth. God expects and demands perfection. God will have none of this “I am not perfect, just forgiven” cheap grace Christianity. Jesus expects his followers to walk in his steps. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they have been given everything they need pertaining to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)

The difference between atheists and Evangelical Christians is guilt. Evangelicals live in a constant cycle of living right, rebelling, feeling guilty, repenting, and going back to living right. This cycle can go on numerous times a day. Atheists can feel guilty at times, but since they are not encumbered by a long list of Biblical laws, commands, rules, regulations, precepts, or standards, they are less likely to feel guilty. With no God hovering over them and no pastor preaching at them, the atheist is pretty much free to enjoy life. Generally, atheists try to live by the maxim: don’t hurt or cause harm to others, and when they fail they are likely to make restitution and ask for forgiveness from the people they hurt. No need for a God, Bible, church, or pastor. As humans, atheists have all the faculties necessary to be a good person.

What makes it worse for Evangelicals is that when they go to church on Sundays, their pastors remind them, from the Bible, of course, of how rebellious they are. These fallible, frail, sinful men of God point out the sins of their congregants, reminding them that God hates sin. These whitewashed sepulchers call on rebellious church members to repent. You would think that people would get tired of all this, but each week they dutifully return to church so their pastors can remind them of their sinfulness and need of repentance.

Children, especially teenagers, get this same treatment from their parents. When children don’t obey their parents, they are chastised and reminded that God hates rebellion. But kids will be kids, as every parent knows, and in most homes, it seems that children are either starting into rebellion or coming out of it.

Parents are commanded by God to beat the rebellion out of their children (Proverbs 13:24). God provides himself as a good role model to follow.  Hebrews 12:5-10 says:

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

The Bible records how God goes about chastising rebellious Christians. He maims them, makes them sick, kills their families, takes away their possessions, starves them, and, if necessary, kills them. God goes to great lengths to make sure a Christian seeks after the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11)

Here’s how God expects Evangelical Christian parents to respond to the rebellion of their children:

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. (Proverbs 23:13,14)

Let me tie this all together.

A divinely authoritative text from an authoritarian God establishes authority structures (hierarchies) for the church, family, and nations. Disobedience to God-ordained authority is to be punished.

For those of us raised in this kind of Christianity, we well know how this works out practically. The Bible, in the hands of God’s man, the pastor, is used to dominate and control people. Individuality and freedom are discouraged, and, in some cases, severely punished.

Pastors remind their churches about “pastoral authority.” Parents remind their children that they are to be obedient, and threaten them with punishment if they don’t. Husbands remind their wives that they are the head of the home and their word is f-i-n-a-l. Collectively, Christians warn government officials that Jesus is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and God demands they submit to the authority of God, the Bible, and his people (this is the essence of the theocracy movement in this country).

Some readers are likely weeping by now. Their minds go back twenty years or more to a time when they were teenagers. Their parents considered them rebellious. Often their rebellion consisted of things such as listening to rock music, smoking, getting pregnant, talking back, having sex, or smoking marijuana. Their parents, needing to show them that they were in charge, sent them off to group homes to get their “rebellion” problem fixed. What really happened is that they were cruelly misused, abused, and debased. Years later, their lives still bear the marks of the Godly “rebellion” treatment they received.

It is hard not to see cultism in all of this. I am sure Bible-believing Christians — people of the book — will scream foul, but the marks of a cult are there for all to see if they dare but open their eyes. Millions of people attend churches that believe the things I have written about in this post. This is what Bible literalism gets you. How could it be otherwise?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Quote of the Day: What Does U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr Really Want?

bill barr

But at least since Mr. [Bill] Barr’s infamous speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School, in which he blamed “secularists” for “moral chaos” and “immense suffering, wreckage and misery,” it has become clear that no understanding of William Barr can be complete without taking into account his views on the role of religion in society. For that, it is illuminating to review how Mr. Barr has directed his Justice Department on matters concerning the First Amendment clause forbidding the establishment of a state religion.

In Maryland, the department rushed to defend taxpayer funding for a religious school that says same-sex marriage is wrong. In Maine, it is defending parents suing over a state law that bans religious schools from obtaining taxpayer funding to promote their own sectarian doctrines. At his Department of Justice, Mr. Barr told law students at Notre Dame, “We keep an eye out for cases or events around the country where states are misapplying the establishment clause in a way that discriminates against people of faith.”

In these and other cases, Mr. Barr has embraced wholesale the “religious liberty” rhetoric of today’s Christian nationalist movement. When religious nationalists invoke “religious freedom,” it is typically code for religious privilege. The freedom they have in mind is the freedom of people of certain conservative and authoritarian varieties of religion to discriminate against those of whom they disapprove or over whom they wish to exert power.

This form of “religious liberty” seeks to foment the sense of persecution and paranoia of a collection of conservative religious groups that see themselves as on the cusp of losing their rightful position of dominance over American culture. It always singles out groups that can be blamed for society’s ills, and that may be subject to state-sanctioned discrimination and belittlement — L.G.B.T. Americans, secularists and Muslims are the favored targets, but others are available. The purpose of this “religious liberty” rhetoric is not just to secure a place of privilege, but also to justify public funding for the right kind of religion.

Mr. Barr has a long history of supporting just this type of “religious liberty.” At Notre Dame, he compared alleged violations of religious liberty with Roman emperors forcing Christian subjects to partake in pagan sacrifices. “The law is being used as a battering ram to break down traditional moral values and to establish moral relativism as a new orthodoxy,” he said.

Barr watchers will know that this is nothing new. In a 1995 article he wrote for The Catholic Lawyer, which, as Emily Bazelon recently pointed out, appears to be something of a blueprint for his speech at Notre Dame, he complained that “we live in an increasingly militant, secular age” and expressed his grave concern that the law might force landlords to rent to unmarried couples. He implied that the idea that universities might treat “homosexual activist groups like any other student group” was intolerable.

This form of “religious liberty” is not a mere side issue for Mr. Barr, or for the other religious nationalists who have come to dominate the Republican Party. Mr. Barr has made this clear. All the problems of modernity — “the wreckage of the family,” “record levels of depression and mental illness,” “drug addiction” and “senseless violence” — stem from the loss of a strict interpretation of the Christian religion.

The great evildoers in the Notre Dame speech are nonbelievers who are apparently out on the streets ransacking everything that is good and holy. The solutions to society’s ills, Mr. Barr declared, come from faith. “Judeo-Christian moral standards are the ultimate utilitarian rules for human conduct,” he said. “Religion helps frame moral culture within society that instills and reinforces moral discipline.” He added, “The fact is that no secular creed has emerged capable of performing the role of religion.”

Within this ideological framework, the ends justify the means. In this light, Mr. Barr’s hyperpartisanship is the symptom, not the malady. At Christian nationalist gatherings and strategy meetings, the Democratic Party and its supporters are routinely described as “demonic” and associated with “rulers of the darkness.” If you know that society is under dire existential threat from secularists, and you know that they have all found a home in the other party, every conceivable compromise with principles, every ethical breach, every back-room deal is not only justifiable but imperative. And as the vicious reaction to Christianity Today’s anti-Trump editorial demonstrates, any break with this partisan alignment will be instantly denounced as heresy.

….

“What does Bill Barr want?”

The answer is that America’s conservative movement, having morphed into a religious nationalist movement, is on a collision course with the American constitutional system. Though conservatives have long claimed to be the true champions of the Constitution — remember all that chatter during previous Republican administrations about “originalism” and “judicial restraint” — the movement that now controls the Republican Party is committed to a suite of ideas that are fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution and the Republic that the founders created under its auspices.

Mr. Trump’s presidency was not the cause of this anti-democratic movement in American politics. It was the consequence. He is the chosen instrument, not of God, but of today’s Christian nationalists, their political allies and funders, and the movement’s legal apparatus. Mr. Barr did not emerge in order to serve this one particular leader. On the contrary, Mr. Trump serves a movement that will cynically praise the Constitution in order to destroy it, and of which Mr. Barr has made himself a hero.

— Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson, The New York Times, Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell, December 30, 2019

Quote of the Day: The Rise of Christian Fascism

chris hedges

The greatest moral failing of the liberal Christian church was its refusal, justified in the name of tolerance and dialogue, to denounce the followers of the Christian right as heretics. By tolerating the intolerant it ceded religious legitimacy to an array of con artists, charlatans and demagogues and their cultish supporters. It stood by as the core Gospel message—concern for the poor and the oppressed—was perverted into a magical world where God and Jesus showered believers with material wealth and power. The white race, especially in the United States, became God’s chosen agent. Imperialism and war became divine instruments for purging the world of infidels and barbarians, evil itself. Capitalism, because God blessed the righteous with wealth and power and condemned the immoral to poverty and suffering, became shorn of its inherent cruelty and exploitation. The iconography and symbols of American nationalism became intertwined with the iconography and symbols of the Christian faith. The mega-pastors, narcissists who rule despotic, cult-like fiefdoms, make millions of dollars by using this heretical belief system to prey on the mounting despair and desperation of their congregations, victims of neoliberalism and deindustrialization. These believers find in Donald Trump a reflection of themselves, a champion of the unfettered greed, cult of masculinity, lust for violence, white supremacy, bigotry, American chauvinism, religious intolerance, anger, racism and conspiracy theories that define the central beliefs of the Christian right. When I wrote “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” I was deadly serious about the term “fascists.”

….

Tens of millions of Americans live hermetically sealed inside the vast media and educational edifice controlled by Christian fascists. In this world, miracles are real, Satan, allied with secular humanists and Muslims, is seeking to destroy America, and Trump is God’s anointed vessel to build the Christian nation and cement into place a government that instills “biblical values.” These “biblical values” include banning abortion, protecting the traditional family, turning the Ten Commandments into secular law, crushing “infidels,” especially Muslims, indoctrinating children in schools with “biblical” teachings and thwarting sexual license, which includes any sexual relationship other than in a marriage between a man and a woman. Trump is routinely compared by evangelical leaders to the biblical king Cyrus, who rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem and restored the Jews to the city.

….

The ideology of the Christian fascists panders in our decline to the primitive yearnings for the vengeance, new glory and moral renewal that are found among those pushed aside by deindustrialization and austerity. Reason, facts and verifiable truth are impotent weapons against this belief system. The Christian right is a “crisis cult.” Crisis cults arise in most collapsing societies. They promise, through magic, to recover the lost grandeur and power of a mythologized past. This magical thinking banishes doubt, anxiety and feelings of disempowerment. Traditional social hierarchies and rules, including an unapologetic white, male supremacy, will be restored. Rituals and behaviors including an unquestioning submission to authority and acts of violence to cleanse the society of evil will vanquish malevolent forces.

….

Christian fascism is an emotional life raft for tens of millions. It is impervious to the education, dialogue and discourse the liberal class naively believes can blunt or domesticate the movement. The Christian fascists, by choice, have severed themselves from rational thought. We will not placate or disarm this movement, bent on our destruction, by attempting to claim that we too have Christian “values.” This appeal only strengthens the legitimacy of the Christian fascists and weakens our own. We will transform American society to a socialist system that provides meaning, dignity and hope to all citizens, that cares and nurtures the most vulnerable among us, or we will become the victims of the Christian fascists we created.

— Chris Hedges, Truthdig, Onward, Christian Fascists, December 30, 2019

Bruce Gerencser