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Religion isn’t a special case, but that cuts both ways

Minaret 3Since I wrote about Katy Perry and the Dark Horse video, I’ve been involved in quite a lot of discussion about the subject in various places, which I’ve found helpful in crystallising the issues, and where any disagreement might lie. Ideally, I would have liked to cover these areas in the first place – blame fatigue and lack of time – but I think this is a topic that’s worth covering on its own.

One subject that appears to be at the root of a fair amount of disagreement is the sincerity or otherwise of the complaint. Was it a respectful request, or was it cynical rabble rousing? I favour the former, though the latter is definitely a possibility. I’d prefer to err on the side of assuming good faith, especially as none of us can know either way, but it’s an open question, and potentially has a bearing on how it should be responded to. However, this also ties up with a bigger issue. Read More…

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Katy Perry was right to edit her video, but I wish she hadn’t

Poor Katy Perry. It seems that whatever she does, she’s doomed to upset a handful of religious extremists, with nothing but lots of media coverage and record sales to show for it. Fresh from her controversial performance of Dark Horse at the Grammys, she’s stirred up a whole new fuss over the video for the same song, managing to offend Muslims this time instead of Christians.

It appears that someone was watching the video and noticed that if you looked closely and paused the video at just the right time, a man appeared to be wearing a pendant bearing the Arabic “Allah” before he was turned to dust. Now, I’m not an expert in Arabic, but seeing how often people claim to have seen “Allah” spelt out inside a tomato or by any number of strange objects, I suggest that it isn’t trivial to demonstrate that this meaning was either intended or even really there. But let’s assume that it was. Read More…

What Would Jesus Do? Good question!

WWJDOnce, long ago, I picked up the habit of wearing a wristband – they were quite fashionable at the time, in a nerdy God Squad kind of way – with WWJD written on it. It stood, of course, for “What Would Jesus Do?” The idea was to control for my normal human weakness and inability to live up to my ideals, but it ended up being just another reason for feeling guilty, a constant reminder of my failure even with a constant reminder of what to do.

I liked the sentiment – What Would Jesus Do? What, indeed? It seemed so simple, but so profound. If Jesus was truly God incarnate, where else would I go to find an example of how to behave? He was the ultimate man, and therefore the ideal to aspire to. Even though I struggled to apply it to my life, it seemed obvious that the principle was sound. Read More…

Want to protect Christians from persecution? Then ignore Douglas Alexander

Jerusalem RooftopsDouglas Alexander, a frontbench member of Her Majesty’s Opposition, has got into the news by speaking out about the treatment of Christians in the Middle East, and saying that politicians should “do God”. He says lots of people this Christmas will be risking their lives if they attend a church service, and that is both wrong and something that politicians should be opposing.

It’s clear that Mr Alexander feels the plight of Christians in certain parts of the world very keenly, as his faith leads him to identify closely with them. I don’t blame him for that in any way, but his words run the risk of exacerbating the very situation he wishes to correct. Read More…

Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air, which doesn’t reflect well on the church

Pope FrancisBack at the start of the year, you’d have got pretty long odds on the Pope being named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2013, but that was before Ratzi hung up his blingtastic papal shoes and cleared the way for a younger (or rather, slightly less old) man.

Pope Francis has undoubtedly had a good year. He immediately had a profound impact on perceptions of the Roman Catholic Church with his obvious humility and simplicity in dress, and his softly spoken inclusivity in speech has also been very popular from the beginning. To be honest, though, he mostly benefits from comparison with his predecessor’s considerably more prickly character. Read More…

Holy Nostradamus! Why those Biblical prophecies are meaningless

Bible CandlelightThere are two parts to a prophecy that need to be fulfilled in order to be considered successful: the prediction and the outcome. The prediction needs to be clear and unambiguous, while the outcome needs to be independently verifiable. By a remarkable coincidence, there are two things lacking in Jesus’s supposed fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. I wonder if you can guess what they are?

The first problem isn’t difficult to identify – the “prophecies” invariably come in the middle of a passage which appears to be talking about something entirely different, and are unfortunately rather short on useful details. Apologists tend to focus on the age of these passages (which is entirely irrelevant), or their number, but not their specificity. Here are a couple of oft-quoted examples, annotated with my comments: Read More…

Christianity doesn’t even meet its own moral standards

Cross SunlightFollowing on from my recent post about how Christianity falls into moral relativism, I was confronted with another well-worn apologist gambit that I was intending to address anyway – the claim that atheists don’t have any objective basis for morality, and therefore have no right to criticise Christianity. This is a bit different, as it rests on a claim about the subjectivity of atheism, not the objectivity of Christianity, so I thought it would be worth dealing with it separately.

In fact, for the sake of argument, I’m going to accept that atheism has no objective basis for morality, but Christianity does. I think I’ve pretty effectively demonstrated that this isn’t true, but you either agree or not, and there’s no point in rehashing those points. Even accepting these points, an atheist has a powerful response, by appealing not to his own morality, but Christianity’s. Read More…

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