If Constantine had not endorsed Christianity, you would probably not even be believing it.
This statement was made to me in a comment thread here. It’s a fairly straightforward argument: the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine was an essential element in the spread of Christianity as we know it today; therefore, it’s stupid to believe in Christianity.
This is Constantine. Ugly sumbitch, ain’t he? Must have been a bad hair day.
The premise is hard to deny. If it hadn’t been for Constantine’s tolerance and later adoption of Christianity, it certainly wouldn’t be what we know it as today. It may have even been stamped out entirely. But the truth of the premise doesn’t necessarily mean the conclusion follows. Read more of this post
Guest post over on Defeating the Dragons about the meaning of “wisdom”.
When it becomes apparent that Christians like myself are depending primarily on history for empirical evidence of God’s involvement in history (imagine that!), atheists quite often appeal to probabilities….specifically, Bayesian probability.
Now, Bayesian probability is a complicated subject, but the relevant point here is that the probability of a particular event (or of a particular explanation being true) depends on its prior probability: the base rate of that particular event within the general population of events. Simply put, if a particular event is already known to be extremely rare, this “rareness” needs to be included in evaluating evidence for that event.
Bayes’ Theorem (image by mattbuck)
This becomes particularly important when we’re comparing competing explanations. Even if the evidence seems to point more toward one explanation, that explanation might not be the most probable if it was already very unlikely. For example, hearing a loud thunderous roar outside is good evidence that there’s a thunderstorm….unless, of course, you live in the desert outside Baghdad, where thunderstorms are vanishingly rare and roadside bombs are much more frequent. Read more of this post
I’ve been meaning to write about the Purity Culture for some time now, and while I intend to do a more complete treatment of it soon, something came up recently that I simply couldn’t overlook.
Last week, forgedimagination wrote a post over on Defeating the Dragons that really ticked me off. Not because of what she wrote, but because of the response she received. Earlier, she had written about victim-blaming and rape repentance as outgrowths of the Purity Culture, and they were featured on No Longer Quivering. Then things got messy.
But before I can say anything about this particular example, I need to explain a little about the Purity Culture itself.
Purity or Bust
For those of you who didn’t grow up in it, the fundamentalist Purity Culture is a clever scheme to keep Christian teens from doing the deed until they’re safely on their honeymoon. Preferably and presumably, it also keeps them from oral sex, making out, kissing, holding hands, or appreciating each other’s sexuality in any way. Because, you know….LUST. If you enjoy looking at someone, you’re lusting in your heart, which means you’re committing adultery with them in your heart, which apparently makes both of you Guilty Of Fornication. Cover those bra straps, ladies! Bounce those eyes, guys!
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“I realized that fundamentalism…is unnecessary.” YES.
Definitions can be tricky things. Words have wildly divergent meanings depending on who is using them and why. So nailing down concrete definitions is a good thing to do any time you get the chance.
I’m sure I’m appropriating this from somewhere, but oh well.
Atheist: a person who finds it improbable that an agent cause brought about our reality.
Theist: a person who finds it probable that an agent cause brought about our reality.
Agnostic: anybody else.
This is the bottom line. All other definitions are just rhetorical posturing.
The ring-like arcs in this image are the light from even-more-distant galaxies, bent into a halo by the gravitational distortion of the central galaxy. This gravitational lensing allows us to measure the weight of dark matter inside the central galaxy….something we don’t yet really know anything about. But we’ll find out someday. Image courtesy NASA.
Some questions have answers. But some questions are just impossible. Absolutely, unquestionably, without-a-doubt impossible.
I was raised to believe that all answers were knowable; all problems had solutions. They were all in the Bible, somewhere; if you just looked long enough and hard enough, you’d find them. All of life’s answers could be found by study, prayer, and listening to what authorities told you the Bible meant. 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,” was touted as the unquestionable proof that the Bible has All The Answers….despite the fact that this passage has nothing to do with the contents of Scripture.
Turns out, we were wrong. Not because the Bible isn’t useful. As it turns out, abandoning fundamental prooftext-crazed literalism doesn’t suddenly cause the pages of your Bible to crumble and fall apart. It’s still the same book. But we were wrong: the Bible doesn’t have all the answers, because some questions don’t have answers.
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Earlier, I wrote about the kind of stigma wrongfully attached to unwed parents. I also wrote about the Bible’s teachings on “fornication”.
In the latter post, I made the point that Christian obsession with sexual sin is arguably more prurient than puritan. But I also explained how “fornication” (as used in the Bible) is almost unquestionably a reference to prostitution and promiscuity, not sex itself. As it turns out, the Bible doesn’t actually ever call premarital sex a sin.
But does that mean all sex is okay?
This true-color image is an actual photograph of the surface of Venus, taken in 1982 by the Soviet Venera 13 lander. Image courtesy NASA.
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“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”
Let’s suppose, for a moment, that Paul’s statement here is universally applicable, straight from the Holy Spirit, and unaffected by any culturally-dependent standards or sensibilities. Let’s suppose, just for the sake of argument, that this passage prescribes the literal, underlying relationship dynamic divinely ordained for all marriages in all societies for all time.
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