January 22, 2019

Maybe the Billy Graham Folks Should Be Ashamed

Boy covering his face in shame

Every one of us has been wrong many times about many things. Most of the time, the stuff we are wrong about is trivial. Every so often, we end up being wrong about something that it anything but trivial. And in those case, I think it is normal for us to feel at least somewhat embarrassed. I think we might even go so far as to feel shame in some of the bigger and more dramatic instances where we are wrong.

Imagine discovering that you have been wrong about something non-trivial and realizing that you have been actively promoting it to others. That is, you have been out there proudly broadcasting something that you've now realized was wrong. In such a situation, I suspect that most of us would feel embarrassed and ashamed. We'd hope that no one had noticed but fear that they had. And even if we didn't feel like we owed someone an apology in this particular instance, it is hard to imagine that we wouldn't change our behavior and stop promoting what we now knew was wrong.

January 21, 2019

A Brief Review of A Quiet Place (2018)

House used as the Abbott family home in A Quiet Place

As is my usual custom, it took me quite a while to get around to seeing A Quiet Place (2018), one of the most talked about horror films of last year. I went into it with high hopes. The many positive reviews the film received made me think it might be something really special. But I also went into it with one big reservation. John Krasinski, who both directed and starred in the film, is none other than Jim from The Office. That was one of my favorite TV shows while it was on, and I've probably seen every episode at least four times. I was worried that I would not be able to take Krasinski seriously in any role other than Jim from The Office.

To my surprise, it only took me about 10 minutes to get over the idea that Jim from The Office was now the lead in a horror movie. I think that giving him a beard and barely allowing him to speak helped considerably. While there is no way I am ever going to accept him as Jack Ryan, having him in this film was not nearly as distracting as I feared it might be. For better or worse, that freed me up to focus on other things.

January 20, 2019

An Evangelical Ambush at the Walmart

City parking lot

It was still dark at 6:30 AM as I walked out of the grocery store. We have surprisingly few options for groceries in the town where I live, and that means everyone shops at the same store. I do my shopping as early as I can stand in order to avoid the crowds, so this is usually when I am there. As I made my way from the overly store to my car, I had little idea what was waiting for me in the darkness.

I had just starting loading groceries into my car, when she emerged. I heard her before I saw her. She called out some sort of pleasantry along the lines of, "My, you are here awfully early. I guess you are just trying to get your shopping done and get out of here, huh?" An astute observation.

I looked up to see a well-dressed Black woman walking toward me across the parking lot. I'd estimate that she was in her mid-30s. Having been accosted many times inside this store and its parking lot by mentally ill individuals who screamed gibberish until law enforcement arrived, I was initially wary; however, that was not the vibe I got here. She was not wearing a bathrobe and flip-flops, after all. Given the unusually cold weather, I figured she might have a dead car battery or something. I decided I'd offer to help.

January 19, 2019

Tale of a Good Christian

man praying at dawn

I attended a Christian college not because I was Christian at the time (I was far more public about my atheism back then) but because the school had a great reputation in the region. I encountered my share of religiously-motivated bigotry, probably more than I would have at one of the state universities in the area. Some of the negative experiences I had did probably come about because most of the other students were Christian. Still, I suppose this ended up being good preparation for life in Mississippi. In fact, there is not much I would change about my college experience. It wasn't always pleasant, but it helped to make me who I am today.

Some of you who are on Twitter may have seen the recent tweets tagged with #ExposeChristianSchools. If not, many people have been using it to share their negative experiences attending Christian schools in the aftermath of Vice President Pence's comments about how Christian education should not be criticized because he and his wife (i.e., "Mother") are offended by such criticism. While I support the hashtag, my experiences attending a Christian college were far more positive than most of what I saw on Twitter. I feel very fortunate for that.

In this post, I'd like to tell you about a particularly outstanding Christian professor who I admired and respected a great deal. If nothing else, this may serve as a reminder that even devout Christians at Christian colleges can sometimes be wonderful teachers and good people. The professor in question had his appointment in the departments of philosophy and held degrees in both religion and philosophy. The course I took with him was an upper-level philosophy course on the philosophy of religion. I ended up minoring in philosophy after being unable to figure out what I would do with a philosophy major.

January 18, 2019

Can a Scam Become a Religion?

scam road sign

If the founder(s) and or contemporary leader(s) of a particular religion never actually believed in what they put forward as the core tenets of their religion, could their creation still be a religion? Does this matter in determining what should be considered a religion? Should it matter?

I'm thinking of this in the context of the Church of Scientology, something that strikes me as a scam that became a cult. I am aware that some people, including the Internal Revenue Service, do consider it to be a religion. Maybe it is. But what if L. Ron Hubbard never believed any of it. Would that matter? And what if David Miscavige recognizes today that he is presiding over an extremely lucrative scam and does not take any of it too seriously. Would that make Scientology less of a religion?

I am not claiming here that Hubbard or Miscavige did not and do not believe in the core tenets of Scientology. I have no idea what they believe or believed. I just find the question of whether it would matter in terms of whether Scientology should be considered a religion to be an interesting one.