Most of the United States, from rightys to leftys, believe that Pastor Terry Jones is a wackjob extremist moron. He was planning to burn a stack of Korans at the end of Ramadan on 9/11 to tell the “Islamofascists” that we “aren’t going to take it anymore” (quoting Jones, not Rollins).
Jones is clearly outside the mainstream. His views don’t represent basically anyone who lives in the USA, and I applaud mainstream Christianity for publicly and emphatically distancing themselves from this loon. But…
…He kinda made a point. Unintentionally.
Terrorists — and here I refer to Jones as a terrorist, so keep that in mind — do what they do to provoke overreactions from their enemies and to provoke violence on both sides. Now, Terry Jones didn’t plan to do anything illegal in the US, but what he did is a very serious crime in some of the countries he was aiming at infuriating. So when Jones plotted his burning, he was engaging in a form of terrorism. It certainly horrified Muslims, and that’s the point he made. And it provoked violence. Specifically, it got the following reactions:
Iran: Threat of “a crushing response by Muslims across the world.” And conspiracy theories by President Ahmadinejad: “[The proposed burning is a] Zionist plot that is against the teachings of all divine prophets. Zionists and their supporters are on their way to collapse and dissolution and such last-ditch actions will not save them, but multiply the pace of their fall and annihilation.” And the Ayatollahs put out a hit on anyone who burns a Koran.
A Catholic school fired an 8th grade math teacher for being an atheist on Facebook. For the record, she says she’s not an atheist in reality — but she’s not sure about organized religion. She’s a classic Doubting Thomas, and somehow I doubt this is going to inure her to faith. Once again, the Apostolic Church proves its inflexibility, hypocrisy and lack of forgiveness.
(Plus, it shows how harmful the new Facebook privacy setting changes are.)
On one hand, it’s the school’s right to fire anyone they want especially because she signed a contract saying she had to “uphold the faith” while being a teacher. Pre-algebra has as much to do with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as it does with George, Paul, Ringo and John, but they have the right to think God is in the quadratic formula if they want. As a religious institution that’s funded by tuition and church tithes rather than tax money, they can freely fire atheists without breaking any discrimination laws — in fact, they could even argue first amendment protection here. Legally and contractually, I believe the school is entitled to fire her.
But legal right isn’t the same as ethically right.
“The bible must be seen in a cultural context. It didn’t just happen. These stories are retreads. But, tell a Christian that — No, No! What makes it doubly sad is that they hardly know the book, much less its origins.” -Isaac Asimov
Asimov brings up a point that Bart Ehrman makes in his own autobiographical introduction to Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why: Most Christians, especially fundamentalists and biblical literalists, don’t know the origins of the bible they read and revere. Ehrman started off as a born again evangelical, so serious about his religion that he wanted to become a bible scholar. His story led him down a path toward reasoning freely as his independent scholarship threw off the shackles of authority (the evangelical preachers and bible study leaders of his childhood) and let him reconstruct the bible himself. By his work, lay readers can skip the years of graduate education and see where the bible came from themselves.
The Problem of Evil is one of the main challenges of theism. It does not necessarily disprove the existence of a god, so this is not an atheism post per se (but enough so that it gets the atheism tag). I contend that the problem of evil must be addressed by secular thinkers as well as by theists. But the problem of evil is much easier for the secular, because we can admit that evil exists without shaming an omnipotent being. I offer secular definitions and resolution to the question of evil.
Last month, I read god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens. I found it engaging and entertaining, and I would recommend it to anyone who is an atheist, agnostic, or freethinker. There is one kind of person above all that I think would love this book, and that person is not really an atheist or freethinker. She is that person you hear saying “I’m not a fan of organized religion” though she may espouse some faith in a deity, she considers the Second Estate cumbersome, self-serving or straight up corrupt. Hitchens does not offer a strong argument that god does not exist. He argues that it is ridiculous to follow the major religions, and leaves open the question of whether some prime mover exists or not (though he repeatedly states that such a deity is unnecessary and irrelevant).