We see things like this, complete with Biblical references, and wonder how any decent person can take the Bible as a legitimate moral guide.
When I posted this atrocity on Farcebook, one of my religious friends responded thus:
"Words fail me- hard to fathom that churches still think this way."
He's using the "No True Scotsman" argument, and truly believes that his particular congregation is immune from such hateful thought. It probably largely is, but whoever put that sign up almost certainly thinks that their motives are likewise pure. I responded to my friend as follows:
Since I live in a place defined by churches I'd like to think that most of them don't. But churches don't think -- people do. When I hang around my religious acquaintances long enough I find that many of them think that way about certain things while holding more tolerant views on others. I can't help but think that religion is essentially tribalism brought forward, and this cherry-picking of which parts of their sacred texts to follow or abandon is fundamentally dishonest. Grandpa said, "Be careful doing business with Christians. Someone who will lie to themselves without admitting it will lie to you without knowing it."
The problem is the concept of "faith". As used in the religious (not just Christian) sense, it doesn't mean trust or confidence or hope; it means believing without evidence. In other words, it means imagining that you know something that you don't. It's a failed epistemology -- an unreliable way of gaining knowledge. But many act on their religious faith without examining it for truth, as with the sign above and many other more subtle acts seen every day in religious cultures like ours.
In extremely religious cultures like Waziristan or the US South, Faith (pretending to know what you don't) is seen as a virtue to the extent that science and even knowledge (that shiny apple!) are denigrated. Our gods are defined as that which we cannot know -- our (hopefully) shrinking ignorance. It's a mistake to ignore or deny our ignorance, but a far greater mistake to worship it. I dream of the day when humanity outgrows childish superstition -- when we finally realize that the tribal urges that compelled us in our dark past are no longer relevant and must be abandoned if we're to make this young civilization experiment work.
I think it's time to start putting the boot into religionists. If we hurt them and make them fear us, these fraudsters and intellectually inferior morons will begin to respect us. I'm doing my bit but many Atheists just whinge about it and continue to take shit. That's not healthy.
No, it isn't healthy. But neither is being a prominent opponent of religion when you live in a society defined by religion. Choosing not to be a martyr is not choosing to be a coward -- it's living to fight another day. I'd love to be able to disabuse my friends & neighbors of what I see as their religious delusions. But they see them as their virtues and almost all of the surrounding culture agrees. Some of them work in soup kitchens on Thanksgiving, proselytizing as they go, but arguably usually doing more good than harm since the recipients generally agree with their message anyway. There's a time and place for resistance that might turn the tide. This time in this particular place where I find myself is probably not it. I speak out whenever I can, but I no longer rely on social contacts for employment or a peaceful life. Those who do simply cannot afford to go against the grain. My parents did, and the KKK/Church burned a cross on our lawn and poisoned our well.
Yet more evidence of the brand of cherry-picking which some churches will resort to in order to push their own brand of bigotry. Yet as noted in the article, they ignore the prohibitions on pork and seafood and clothes employing different fibers.
It may not be the only approach to take, but my own attitude is when confronted with such statements, Call Them On It ... and Don't Back Down. There are times when Peter Boghossian's Socratic approach is called for ... and there are other times when it is purely apropos to step on their toes until THEY apologize.
That approach was perfectly good for Henry Gladstone Kiku in Robert Heinlein's The Star Beast, and I find no fault with it when the situation is this egregious.
I recently had a discussion with a devout Christian about this very same thing - the No True Scotsman fallacy. I was telling that I am of the opinion, based upon available evidence, that his religion is one that promotes misery, hatred and death. He took umbrage with this, until I pointed out a homegrown version of this cult called the Westboro Baptist Church.
He gave the usual response that they're not really christians, until I pointed out that like him, they believe that: Jesus is the resurrected son of their god, that he died for the sins of mankind, that if you live according to the bible and accept him as a savior, you will go to heaven, and that he is part of the three headed omniscient and omnipotent deity both he and the Phelps worship.
I then asked if he had a hard time sleeping at night, with all that responsibility. He asked what responsibility I was talking about. I told him the one where he has the weighty burden of deciding who is and who is not a christian. The conversation abruptly ended.
I sometimes ask my good liberal Christian friends who they think more closely follows religious doctrine, them or Westboro Baptist Church or al Qaeda? A case could be made for all, as long as you're willing to apply your preferred interpretation. I contend that a "liberal" interpretation is farther from scripture, and that's why it's less harmful. And so it begs the question, why follow any of the doctrine at all if you define goodness as how far from it your beliefs range? Answers typically involve "Christ-like" love and/or forgiveness. I answer that these are things inherent to any social animal. Hell, your dog, if it could speak, could recount the sermon on the mount entirely from its own ethic.
I think that tribalist adherence to religious dogma is inherently harmful, and so-called moderate or liberal religious views are only a little less harmful. Moreover, they provide foundation and pseudo-legitimacy to the true believers. If our culture didn't give an automatic pass to religion, the more devout branches would easily be seen as the hate groups that they are, and their more moderate branches would be indicted by association.
Hell, your dog, if it could speak, could recount the sermon on the mount entirely from its own ethic. And, probably do it better.
"Christ-like" love ... inherent to any social animal.
The liberal interpretations of scripture and dogma, that have more respect for individual freedom and fulfillment, owe their existence to the same source of ethics that we nontheists have: human empathy and reason. That's what inspired (and inspires) liberal believers to look at tradition somewhat more critically, to conclude that certain historical teachings are simply wrong.
Often they'll find other scriptures and teachings to support their reform. (Easy enough with a book as self-contradictory as the Bible!)
Orthodox Jews consider the "oral law" as binding as the "written law", both supposedly handed down on Mount Sinai. That's quite convenient for things such as using empathy and reason to interpret the biblical death penalties out of existence.
Anyway, I'll repeat a succinct summation from our own Joan Denoo:
Pat's reply hit a lot of it on the head here. "No true christian" takes in a lot of ground and usually means "if they do not believe the way that I believe they are not a true christian." Pentecostals believe this about whether you have the "full gospel" and they apply it also in ideas like "speaking in tongues." They deny it, of course. Yes, even the baptist is going to heaven. That is the public reply. Privately it is all different. People speak with the other tongue.
I live in an are where it's not only Jehovah Witnesses that can come to your door passing out tracts and lirerature. Others come also, but be that as it may, I firmly believe that many dispise the JW's for not believing in a "soul." People want to believe if they die that they are "instantly in heaven" and that they have this thing given by god at birth and it always stays close to and around god. It's rubbish! They can thank Saul of Tarsus for that one because he never could tell if he was "in his body or out of his body." Christians want to apply that statement to the "proof of soul," and they call the lying old bastards other lies "doctrine." Many even at that time did not think so, and there was always discord because of this man. Strange also that he was a Roman citizen. Impossible to trace him now as we have mostly only his Bible writings, but I've wondered if he would also fall into the Flavian family?
So strange to me also that the "no true christian" people believe that if Jeebus returned today and the end of things arrived as they saw it in their Bibles, they believe that everything is defined, cut and dried, and all configured to be ONE thing and "the bibble tells them so." The truth is exactly the opposite. The earth, the kingdom, the doctrines, etc. all remain "without form and void."