And Now For Something Completely Different…

A little comic relief, maestro!

 

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Loving Christianity Better Than Truth: The Craig-Price Debate

Craig Price

I’ve been watching and listening to numerous debates on YouTube between eminent atheists and Christian/theist apologists on subjects like “Does God Exist?”, “Does the Christian God Exist?”, “Did the Resurrection Happen?”, “What’s the Purpose of Life?” and so on. The debaters on the atheist side include Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens and Richard Carrier (whom I wrote about in my last post),  and on the theist side (among others)  Dinesh D’Souza, Rabbi David Wolpe and, most eminent of all, William Lane Craig.

If I had to score the debates he’s been in, though I disagree with him about virtually every point he makes, I’d give by far most wins to the phenomenal Dr. Craig. As atheist and debate aficionado Mark Smith notes about Craig, “He usually wins his debates. However, he wins his debates usually due not so much to being a great debater (which he is), but rather from debating people who haven’t the slightest clue how to debate.” A non-Christian rooting for one of Craig’s atheist opponents and caring about the outcome will probably wind up feeling like a Red Sox fan did last season suffering another visit from the Yankees at Fenway. Continue reading

Why You Should Doubt the Historicity of Jesus

As Richard Carrier explains in this talk given at a skeptic’s conference at the University of Wisconsin at Madison last spring, most academics who are paid to think, write and teach about Jesus will tell you that, while it’s really impossible to know for certain if Jesus was a historical figure, even the most secular of scholars in the field agree with near certainty that he probably did exist in some form or other. The key word there, of course, is the weasel word “probably.” Carrier doesn’t say so here, but these scholars are also very impatient with the alternative idea that Jesus probably wasn’t historically “real,” even though the degree of difference in certainty between their position and Carrier’s (and my) position is virtually non-existent. What the “historicists” have that Carrier and I don’t have is numbers in the academy who agree with them. That’s all they have, and when you get right down to it, that isn’t much at all.

When people who believe in a historical origin for the Jesus story find out how shaky the theoretical ground really is under their feet, they sometimes turn the conversation to less discomforting terrain, stating, for example, that it actually doesn’t matter if Jesus was real at all in the way the Bible says he was or was just made up out of thin air. The point is the wisdom in the religion and the good (or evil) that it hath wrought–or more neutrally, the impact it had on the rest of history. I disagree that this evasion is a suitable response to the challenge posed by Carrier and other mythicists. Their challenge is not aimed at the content of the religion. It’s aimed at the methods of historical research and the question of whether Christian history should be treated as a special case from other types of history,  one where it is not permitted to get too close to the central questions about its origins.

If  you think whether or not Jesus existed in history is an interesting question,  you’ll probably find Carrier’s cogent presentation on reasons not to believe in it provocative, to say the least.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

#FreePussyRiot: “Punk Prayer” Translated

To mark the impending ban of Pussy Riot from the Russian Internet for being “extremists” dangerous to the state, I’m reproducing  Carol Rumen’s translation of the Riot’s “Punk Prayer,” the song that gained them a trial for “hooliganism” and world attention in the first place.

(Chorus)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, banish Putin, banish Putin,

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, banish him, we pray thee!

Congregations genuflect,

Black robes brag gilt epaulettes,

Freedom’s phantom’s gone to heaven,

Gay Pride’s chained and in detention.

KGB’s chief saint descends

To guide the punks to prison vans.

Don’t upset His Saintship, ladies,

Stick to making love and babies.

Crap, crap, this godliness crap!

Crap, crap, this holiness crap!

(Chorus)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God.

Be a feminist, we pray thee,

Be a feminist, we pray thee.

Bless our festering bastard-boss.

Let black cars parade the Cross.

The Missionary’s in class for cash.

Meet him there, and pay his stash.

Patriarch Gundy believes in Putin.

Better believe in God, you vermin!

Fight for rights, forget the rite –

Join our protest, Holy Virgin.

(Chorus)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, banish Putin, banish Putin,

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, we pray thee, banish him!

Mystic or Manic?: Religion on the Brain (or Your Brain on Religion)?

Last night I was having a twittersation with someone named Simon Albert, a nonconforming, conservative Ron Paul supporter who refuses to go along with the Romney Republicans, about something entirely unrelated (at least in obvious ways) to politics: the nature of cosmic reality and what human minds can know about it. It’s not easy to have conversations of such weight in so ephemeral a format, but, of course, that rarely stops “tweeple” from trying.

It began when Albert tweeted, “God is real. #jesus #atheism.” Clearly, Albert was trolling for an argument with an atheist and he put a great big juicy worm on his hook. I bit. Continue reading

A Sufi View on the Proper Islamic Response to “Innocence of Muslims”

Sheik Imran Hosein is an Islamic scholar of the Sufi tradition, born in Trinidad and educated in Pakistan and Europe. He’s been a diplomat in his native Trinidad and Tobago and imam at a Long Island masjid, among many other accomplishments.  His academic specialty is Islamic eschatology, which, like Christian eschatology, concerns the end times. He gives a hint of the flavor of his scholarship at the end of the video posted above, the final segment of a three-part interview with a British vlogger who calls himself 108Morris108.

I’m posting the video here because, in a sense, Sheik Hosein answers a comment from Sreenivas on a previous post marveling at the audacity of Islamic protests against the film Innocence of Muslims in Libya and Pakistan. I have to say I think  Sreenivas’s main point about the irrationality of the attacks is hard to argue against. And in fact, Hosein expresses a similar disdain for what he suggests is a non-Islamic reaction that, without reflection and in pure reflex, lashes out violently at the wrong targets. He suggests the protestors behave like puppets on a string being yanked by their enemies. Protestors should peacefully target their own governments, he says, as the Tunisians and Egyptians did in the spring of 2011. Why? Because their governments are enabling the enemies of Islam.

Oddly, he criticizes governments in the Arab world (namely Saudi Arabia) that are lending moral and other forms of aid to the Syrian rebels. Is it because he thinks the Syrian rebellion is essentially violent and “un-Islamic?” Actually, he implies that it’s because the Syrian government, whatever evils it has done in the past, is a steadfast bulwark against Israel. And here is where the Sheik’s eschatology comes in. Just like George W. Bush, the imam believes end times are nigh.

What a mad world we live in!

Not So Innocent: How “Desert Warriors” Became “Innocence of Muslims”

Curious about how the infamous “Innocence of Muslims” was ever made? The writer Neil Gaiman has one take on the story from a Georgia (former USSR)-born actress and friend of Gaiman’s named Anna Gurji. Here’s a little taste:

My character Hilary was a young girl who is sold (against her own free will) by her parents to a tribe leader known as GEORGE. She is one of his (most likely, the youngest) brides in the movie.
The film was about a comet falling into a desert and different tribes in ancient Egypt fighting to acquire it for they deemed that the comet possessed some supernatural powers.
The movie that we were doing in Duarte was called “Desert Warrior” and it was a fictional adventure drama. The character GEORGE was a leader of one of those tribes fighting for the comet.
There was no mention EVER by anyone of MUHAMMAD and no mention of religion during the entire time I was on the set. I am hundred percent certain nobody in the cast and nobody in the US artistic side of the crew knew what was really planned for this “Desert Warrior”. Continue reading