Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Burn a Qur'an, Don't Burn a Qur'an...

So everyone's got their panties in a wad in one way or another over a Florida pastor's plans to hold a Qur'an burning. General Petraeus worries that it will endanger our troops overseas in Muslim countries. The Obama administration has chimed in, denouncing the idea. Clearly, a lot of people are taking this very seriously.

Which is precisely the problem.

The rational reaction to this is to have no reaction whatsoever. What's being destroyed here but paper? Are the ideas contained in the Qur'an in danger of being wiped from all memory if these few copies are burned? Is the guy breaking the law? Is he harming anyone? Does he have any power to do anything more than make his idiotic little religio-political statement? No? Then move on, nothing to see here.

This pastor is an idiot and a bigot, and so are his little band of followers. But this whole crisis results from our fear of how a second group of idiots and bigots will react to the actions of the first group of idiots and bigots. Rational people are caught in the crossfire in a war between two groups of religious fanatics. The only power these people have is the power to spread their hate through the media. Let's ignore them and remove that power.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

James Madison on the Clergy

"What influence in fact have Christian ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In many instances they have been upholding the thrones of political tyranny. In no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty have found in the clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate liberty, does not need the clergy."
Wait a minute, I thought the Founders were devout Christians who intended to create a Christian nation! Just wait until Glenn Beck debunks this bit of revisionist history!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage

Theodore B. Olson provides a rare example of rational conservative thinking in this op-ed piece published in Newsweek. If Republicans still thought like this, I'd still be one.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bauer via Ehrman on Early Christian Orthodoxy

This is from Bart D. Ehrman's book, "Jesus Interrupted". Ehrman is discussing how the Orthodox Christan scriptural canon came into being, and references Walter Bauer's 1934 book "Orthodox and Heresy in Earliest Christianity".
"Bauer looked at our earliest evidence for Christianity in a range of geographical regions throughout early Christendom - For example, in Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor and Rome. He found that if the sources are studied in minute detail, they tell a very different story from the one told by Eusebius. In many places of early Christianity, forms of Christian belief that were later labeled heretical were the original form of Christianity, and in some parts of the church so-called heretics outnumbered those who agreed with the orthodox form of the faith. In some places Marcionite Christianity was dominant; in other places, one or another of the Gnostic systems prevailed.

Moreover, a number of Christian groups saw no sharp divisions between what would later be called heresy and what would be called orthodoxy. The clear theological distinctions of Eusebius's day were not original to the faith, but were created later when the battle lines were drawn up. Some people who were later considered heretics would have been seen, and were seen, as completely orthodox in their own day.

The way Bauer saw it, the church of the second and third centuries was not made up of one massive and dominant movement known as orthodoxy, with heretical groups at the fringes. Early on there were all sorts of groups with all sorts of views in lots of different places. Of course, all of these groups believed that their views were right, that their beliefs were orthodox.

But in the struggle to win converts, only one group eventually won out; this was the group that was particularly well represented in the city of Rome. The Roman Christians asserted their influence on other churches; as the church in Rome, the center of the empire, this community was larger, wealthier, and better organized than other Christian groups.

This Roman group acquired more converts than any of the others, eventually stamped out all of its competition, declared itself orthodox, argued that its views really were those of Jesus and the apostles, claimed that it had always been the majority view, and then - as a final coup de grace - rewrote the history of the conflict. What emerged was a Christianity characteristic of the Roman church. It was Roman Christianity - Roman catholic (meaning universal) Christianity.

Eusebius stands at the end of this process. It was his rewriting of history that made all later historians think that his group had always been the majority opinion. But it did not really happen that way."