Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Who am I to judge?

Pope Francis set off a storm a few days ago. Addressing journalists aboard a flight from Rio de Janeiro on July 28, the Pope had some kind words for the gay people. He declared, “Who am I to judge them?

Progressive Catholics who are already awestruck by this Pontiff were left gasping for breath. Finally, we see some acceptance of the gay community!

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Let's take a look at what the Pope actually said.
When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn't be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem ... they're our brothers.
The Church's teaching, in the recent past at least, has been that homosexuality is not a sin. Homosexual sex, however, is indeed a sin. Any sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman are sinful as well. Within a marriage, any sexual activity that excludes procreation is also sinful. In plain terms, using condoms is sinful.

Nothing has changed here. NOTHING. Pope Francis is merely deferring to his boss in heaven (a.k.a God) to do the judging. The Church he heads just tells us what the rules are. And make no mistake, the rules have not changed!

Pope Francis's predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI had a harsher way of stating things. Back in 1986, as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he co-wrote that even the homosexual inclination should be seen as an objective disorder. Here is what he wrote:
Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.
The Pope has not disavowed this pronouncement. But he has promised not to judge!

The Pope who does not judge was not too scared to judge back in 2010. The Pope (Cardinal Bergoglio, then) spoke forcefully against same-sex marriage and adoption of children by same sex couples in Argentina. Here is what he said:
“Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
While the Pope may have declined to judge, history may not be so merciful!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Ten Commandments, all twenty of them!

The Ten Commandments that God gave Moses and the Israelites are something akin to the crown jewels of Judaism and Christianity. All Christian kids are taught these commandments at Sunday school. I know I was!

The story of the commandments is very interesting. The God of Israel, Yahweh, rescues the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and leads them them to their promised land - the land of Canaan.

En route, on Mount Sinai, Moses receives the Ten Commandments directly from God. On returning with the commandments, Moses finds the Israelites disobedient and indulging in idolatry. Angry, Moses breaks the tablets on which the commandments were written by God.

God once more gives the commandments to Moses. Here is where the story gets tricky. The second set of commandments are completely different and rarely repeated. We'll see why shortly.

The first set is the one that is cited all the time. Here they are, verbatim (from the New International Version of the Bible). I have marked in red, the important lines. But the interesting ones are in the second set below.

First Set Exodus 20:1-17 (NIV)
And God spoke all these words:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Now, we fast forward fourteen chapters for the second set - Exodus 34:10-28 (NIV). The interesting ones are highlighted.
Then the Lord said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.
Do not make any idols.
Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.
The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons.
No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.
Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel. I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the Lord your God.
Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast, and do not let any of the sacrifice from the Passover Festival remain until morning.
Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.
Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.
Yeah, if anyone asks you, the tenth commandment is this: “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.

Now you know why Christians do not mention this second set. God sure is very mysterious in his ways! :)

Note: The first set is repeated with minor changes in Deuteronomy 5.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Debates and Lectures page

Richard Carrier

Hector Avalos

Bart Ehrman

Robert M. Price

Christopher Hitchens

Sam Harris

Lawrence Krauss