Recently Pope Francis said that even atheists receive redemption through Christ as long as they do good. The Pope stressed the importance of doing good over all else as the criterion for redemption. This is a historical new direction for the Catholic Church and the Papacy. This also comes following a slew of traditions that the Pope has already broken. The new Pope has also abandoned the gaudiness and excessive showiness that the Vatican normally portrays (see Pope Francis featured on the right compared to Ratzinger on the left and note the clothing and throne). Continue reading…
Sound the alarm! We all know Christianity is under attack in American civil life. But did you know the military wants in on the Christian bashing as well? According to Fox News contributor Todd Starns, Christians in the military face being prosecuted for “sharing” their faith. These allegations aren’t the first anti-Christian charges lodged against the military. The President received much slack after repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, Catholics and Protestants were depicted as potential extremists during an Army Reserve presentation and Christians, in the military, were allegedly blocked from accessing a South Baptist Convention’s website. Although the latter two claims were resolved, conservatives still use these occurrences to prove their persecution in the military. Continue reading…
A few months back news came out that over 51 percent of Americans support gay marriage. Recently, Rhode Island became the tenth state to legalize same sex marriage. There is a growing trend towards marriage equality in the country, but where is it coming from? Young people seem to share a large part of the blame. Pew Research Center recently released a poll showing that as much as seventy percent of young adults favor same-sex marriage. The young adults in this poll were “Millennials,” or those born after 1980. The report credits the Millennial generation for the overall shift in supporting same-sex marriage. When polled the major factor that led people to change their minds to favor same-sex marriage was knowing someone who is homosexual. The least influential change cited morality or religion for the shift in acceptance.
Age seems to be a strong factor in determining whether or not someone favors same-sex marriage. Noticeably, each generation’s average view on same sex marriage follows a trend, with the older generations disfavoring same-sex marriage with the highest frequency. This is strong motivation to think that same-sex marriage is now inevitable country wide and the question is no longer if, but when. In another poll (LifeWay), 64 percent of those polled agreed that same-sex marriage will become legal across the entire United States. It appears that many times society, unfortunately, progresses one funeral at a time.
“Christianity is Platonism for the people.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
In the course of fulfilling my duties as an underpaid slave to the university a teaching assistant, I’ve had the mixed blessing of reading and reflecting on Plato for two consecutive quarters these past few months. I say mixed because while this has afforded me an opportunity to understand Plato’s thought in more richly textured detail, it has served mostly to reinforce the position I already held on that most beloved of philosophers – which is, simply, that Plato blows.
Yes, I’m being hyperbolic. But allow me to make my case. I believe I can argue, with only moderate exaggeration, that any sincere atheist should have some serious misgivings about Mr. Plato – and this is simply because, as Nietzsche argued at length, Plato kind of invented Christianity. We must say “kind of,” of course, because Plato obviously never clearly articulated a concept even of a singular, all-powerful humanoid God, let alone anything as obtuse and ridiculous as a singular, all-powerful humanoid God which first creates imperfect beings in his image, then condemns them for acting on their nature and then creates a son to sacrifice for said imperfect beings who then somehow transforms himself into a sin sponge that sucks up all the ickiness in those poor beings simply by enduring some severe unpleasantness for a mere weekend.
But I digress – because here’s the thing. Plato may not have come up with the exact details of that ridiculousness, but he helped build the intellectual foundations absolutely essential to making the theological claims of Christianity thinkable at all. And in certain respects what he came up with, I dare say, rivals if not surpasses Christianity on the absurdity meter.
None, right? Not so, in a manner of speaking.
A friend of mine recently asked about the difference between hope and prayer and what these intentions would mean with a rejection of the supernatural. ‘Prayer’, in modern vernacular, has developed two meanings: prayer as meditation (presumably the original meaning, e.g. “the monks prayed for hours”) and prayer as hope or intent (the common meaning, e.g. “I pray you’ll have a speedy recovery”).
Prayer as meditation is particularly fascinating when compared with other popular meditative philosophies like Buddhism, which lack a supernatural agent. The broad idea in many forms of meditation is not to alter the physical world but to accept new perspectives through your own agency which would effectively alter your reality, e.g. death is both something one fears as well as a natural system playing out a normal course — meaning is in the eye of the beholder.
So when we ask what effect prayer has on reality, the obvious answer to our physical, empirical reality is absolutely none, save for the calming effects confirmed by neuroscience and how that might affect your communal actions throughout the day. But we must give credit to prayer’s ability to alter one’s internal perspective, at least as much as we credit music with affecting our moods.
But if hope and prayer in a Godless world merely shift our own perspective, what effect would praying for someone actually have on them? None, right? The issue at hand is your lack of agency over their thoughts: you cannot force another individual to meditate and realize alternative perspectives to their otherwise downed reality.
Strangely enough, this is the effect one does have when they convince someone that God does exist, that God has a plan for them, etc., albeit in a disingenuous fashion.
On the social media site Reddit, a mother asked users who were atheists how to deal with her son “coming out” as an atheist. She asked how to deal with such an immoral proposition that she had no idea how he could have reached. The user iopha put a touching reply that, especially as a classicist, I could not help but share:
First, off, though I am an atheist myself, I want to empathize a little: this must be difficult for you and your family. Your faith commitment is an important part of your life and it is bewildering to have your own child turn away from this. I don’t know exactly what you believe, but you might be worried about his soul in the next life, or his behaviour in this one. If you don’t believe in God, how do you know right from wrong? If you reject God, how will you be reunited with Him in the next Kingdom? Continue reading…