Thursday, March 6, 2008

Behold! There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, a fair amount of eye-rolling and even the odd curse!

Nothing evokes more eye-rolling or teeth gnashing on my part than debate with the religious on the topic of religion. Let me clarify this a little. Suppose I was to suggest that religious feelings source from the left frontal lobe of the brain on Wednesdays and are particularly strong if you have been eating cheese. Most religious people, quite rightly, would demand evidence to support this wild claim. Whilst I am reluctant to give up on the theory entirely, I am willing to admit that empirical evidence to support this hypothesis is largely lacking. Ok. Fair enough. What causes the previously mentioned eye-rolling and teeth gnashing is that the religious are more than willing to take this very tactic and run with it. It is very common for a religious debater to tell you all about God. They will even tell you things, stated as fact, which are entirely contrary to anything written in the bible. Rev Sam, for example, is happy to tell you that God does exist, no wait he doesn’t really, well he does…..sort of, we just can’t understand the nature of God’s existence….or can we…. The bible rather clearly claims that God does in fact exist, not is some uber-vague, intellectually bendy fashion but in solid, lay-man’s terms. Sam tells me that there is an explanation of this linguistic jiggery-pokery coming in the series he is running on Atheism. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, bow to his superior knowledge of scripture and hear him out before closing the book on this. Far worse than this though are those who will quote scripture to explain why the hold the view that they do. Whilst scripture is not going to budge an Atheist’s view, it is at least a reason why a religious person holds the view they do. Ok. Fair enough. Or is it? When used in this fashion scripture is taken to mean what it is plainly enough saying. It is not interpreted as some confusing metaphor; it is saying what it is saying. However, now we come to the irritating bit. When the religious person does not agree with what scripture is saying, the excuse making and obfuscation begin. It is suddenly metaphorical, or written in the context of the time….etc etc. These passages of scripture are not usually especially vague. Let’s take this little gem from Corinthians 14 34:38 (from St. Paul himself)

34women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church 36Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. 38If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored

Now you can try to twist this, bend it, compare it with other scripture to try to squirm and drag a meaning other than what it very plainly states from it but ultimately it is too clear for its own good. Paul does not caveat these statements, in fact, he ironclads them. In 37-38 he states that anyone who tries to counter these statements should be ignored because they come from the almighty. Ladies, God does not want to hear from you in church. It is disgraceful for you to speak there. That’s it, no vagueness, no hidden meaning. Not clear enough? Try a little Timothy

2:11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

Paul sure knew how to put them women-folk in their place!!

This kind of teaching was not a problem many years ago when men ruling over women was pretty much taken for granted. The religious folk saw no problem at all taking this literally and not needing to qualify it or except it at all. Many religious folk still hold this view. Some of the more civilized believers find this sort of scripture problematic. They don’t see women as inferior and don’t privately agree with this sort of sentiment. Good ole cognitive dissonance! The solution is to muddy the waters. Let’s claim now that the bible is not in fact the word of God. Its just a book written many years ago in the context of the time…… Yeay!! We have arrived in the land of double standards. Many Atheists accuse the theistic of double-think. Can you really blame them when faced with this sort of thing? Are the theists who want to distance themselves from this kind of scripture willing to go all the way with it? No, of course not. That would mean admitting that nothing in the bible can be trusted as having anything to do with God. Yes even that whole wacky Jesus dying for our sins bit. Jesus died so that your lippy woman who can’t help piping up in church won’t get you both a good roasting in that heathen barbeque of an afterlife Atheists like me can look forward to. No wait, strike that last bit. Hell doesn’t actually exist nowadays. Or does it? Damn it, I just can’t keep up with all this flip-flopping. One thing I am sure of: Hell hath no fury like a woman told to shhhh.

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