Thursday, May 21, 2009

Show From: May 8, 2009

First: a happy belated National Day of Reason to everyone! It was yesterday, coinciding with the national day of prayer. So, happy reason everyone.

Today I don’t have a Godless Wisdom, per say, but I found an article in the New York Times that was kind of interesting, so I thought we’d give that a read instead.
Does God Want You to Be Bankrupt?
This week, yet another Washington debate over who deserves a break on their debts drew to a close. On Thursday, the Senate voted against allowing judges to adjust the terms of the mortgages of people filing for personal bankruptcy.
Scratch the surface of the opposition in these sorts of debates, and it tends to ooze moral righteousness. “People who get themselves in over their heads,” the upstanding declare, “need to bear some responsibility for their foolishness.”
Maybe so. But if we can’t pass legislation that gives us new tools to determine who should be eligible for debt forgiveness, we need to look elsewhere for written instruction. Given that large numbers of Americans take many of their moral cues from their spiritual beliefs, I decided to turn to the good books of some of the world’s great religions for guidance on the subject.
Just about every doctrinal expert I spoke with, no matter the background, began by mentioning slavery. In ancient times, when interest accrued and compounded, it was common for the indebted to simply work it off. Often, this took the rest of their lives. Many of the teachings that grew up around debt forgiveness aimed to avoid that sort of outcome.
Still, the notion of enslavement, albeit of the psychological sort, survived to modern times. N. Eldon Tanner, a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wrote: “Those who structure their standard of living to allow a little surplus control their circumstances. Those who spend a little more than they earn are controlled by their circumstances. They are in bondage.”
This will be a familiar idea to people who have considered the idea of paying only the minimum amount on a large credit card debt, only to realize that if they do that, the debt may actually outlive them.
“Binding oneself financially is not something that trumps every other need,” added the Rev. Brian Daley, a Jesuit priest and professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. Scripture suggests that the redistribution of property is also a reasonable thing to do. “You just can’t mention it in public in the United States,” he said. “Our notion of capitalism is so absolutized that we give it a quasi-religious value.”
However strongly we believe in free markets (not, perhaps, as fervently as we did a year or two ago), the theme of forgiveness does run strongly through religious writings of all sorts. In the Old Testament, for instance, Chapter 15 of the book of Deuteronomy calls for the forgiveness of debts once every seven years.
Religious leaders were aware, however, of the chilling effect that could have on lending (particularly in the sixth year). “The Torah says don’t think that way, don’t be stingy” in that sixth year, said Rabbi Mark Washofsky, a professor of Jewish law at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. He added that later on, the Talmud introduced the idea of a Prosbul. This was a sort of workaround court that was not covered by the religious law. The Prosbul could administer debts during or right before the seventh year.
When the court confiscated property outright, sometimes this worked to the benefit of the debtor and sometimes to the benefit of the creditor. “In other words, the ultimate power resides with the community,” Rabbi Washofsky said. “It can intervene in what was a private transaction, in a situation of great need. The power is there. The real question is, do you use it and when?”
The answer depends on who you are ultimately reporting to, your immediate supervisor, your shareholders or the Entity that will ultimately render judgment on you.
Father Daley, of Notre Dame, said that the New Testament talked about debts to God resulting from sin. Another idea popular with rabbis and early Christians, he said, was the notion that doing good deeds turned God into a debtor. “God is a kind of referee or bookkeeper, noticing things that people do,” he said. “And if they do good deeds without obligation, God will repay them in judgment. I think being able to dismiss debts or forgive them is something that is seen as a generous and gracious act.”
Bankers that cater to Muslims, who are not allowed to charge interest because of some of the tenets of Islamic law, claim to foreclose on homeowners less frequently than regular creditors, according to Mahmoud Amin El-Gamal, an expert on Islamic finance and an economics professor at Rice University. He added, however, that any leniency was probably priced into the financing in the first place, making it a bit more expensive.
The Koran, meanwhile, offers one of the more useful ideas on debt. “If the debtor is in a difficulty, grant him time till it is easy for him to repay,” the passage in the second chapter, verse 280, reads. “But if ye remit by way of charity, that is best for you if ye only knew.”
Charity is not required here, according to Mr. El-Gamal. But during that granting of time, he added, the creditor is not allowed to charge interest.
This offers a possible compromise. If lenders and senators are unwilling to allow judges to permanently alter the terms of a mortgage loan, perhaps they would agree to allow qualified borrowers who have lost their jobs or fallen ill to take a two- to six-month break from making payments.
During this time, the lenders would stop the interest clock from ticking, not levy any fees and not tack on missed payments to the end of the loan. Then, once the borrowers were back on their feet, they could start regular payments again. If they weren’t able to make them by then, then foreclosure proceedings could begin.
Or, if this proves unpalatable or too expensive, how about selling an insurance policy that would pay for a six-month period of payments? That could satisfy both God and the gods of capitalism.
Perhaps if the Democrats want to enact bankruptcy reform, they ought to bring an imam to address their opponents.
Obama Watch:
Further details of Obama’s 2010 budget were released yesterday. Good news—abstinence only education is out! The relevant part of the budget reads:


Next up on the Obama watch, we witness the president taking a much needed middle stance on the National Day of Prayer held yesterday. While past observances have included a service held in the White House, Obama chose to simply offer a proclamation acknowledging the day while holding no public events.



Next, I’d like to talk about my irony meter. It’s off the charts. Pope Benedict has arrived in Jordan for the first leg of his first trip to the Holy Land. This past Friday the Pope expressed “deep respect for Muslims.” First off, the Pope got in trouble back in 2006 after making a speech in which he said the Islam brings thing evil and inhuman. Second, the nature of Christianity rejects Muslims, who, by most accounts, will go to Hell if the Catholics are right. How much respect can you have for a people God sees fit to send to an eternity of hellfire? Not to mention that the Koran explicitly speaks out against the Catholics. Oh well, I guess it’s good to see the Vatican turning the other cheek for once, and this time it’s not a but cheek. The pope doesn’t say exactly why he respect the Muslims, but he does want to play a role in fostering peace in the Middle East. That’s fine. That’s great even. As long as he doesn’t come barreling through with any more of his anti-condom propaganda. Remember kids, always use a condom, no matter what some celibate old man tells you.

Ask the Atheists:

I want to ask you guys your opinions on some controversial items in the news. First we have the story of a school in San Leandro. Some parents want religiously themed music banned from school holiday programs. The compromise proposed is to adopt a policy of notifying parents of the holiday music program. What do you think? Is the compromise necessary? Should the music be banned?


Next, we have a story from the military. The Pentagon was involved in the production of a cable program that featured two so-called “extreme” missionaries embedded with a U.S. Army unit in Afghanistan trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.
The popular reality series, "Travel the Road," aired on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and featured Will Decker and Tim Scott, who travel the globe to “preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth and encourage the church to be active in the Great Commission.”
The other cable program green-lit by the Pentagon is “God’s Soldier,” which aired in September on the Military Channel, and was filmed at Forward Operating Base McHenry in Hawijah, Iraq. It features an Army chaplain openly promoting fundamentalist Christianity to active-duty U.S. soldiers in Iraq in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a watchdog organization, amended a federal lawsuit it filed against the Department of Defense last year, currently in federal District Court in Kansas City, Kansas to “include these despicable unconstitutional promotions of fundamentalist Christianity in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein.

What do you think? Is the military’s promotion of these television programs a problem? What about the evangelizing occurring in the fields?


Next, we have a school in Tennessee that less than a year ago was brought to court for illegally promoting religion. The courts ruled that the school’s actions were indeed illegal. Following in the fear of the judiciary system, the school prevented students from putting up posters that advertised the national day of prayer. The school was sued yet again in March for silencing the student led prayer event. A judge ruled last week that the schools could not prevent religious speech on posters. What do you think? Should student be allowed to promote religion on public school property?


Last, on Ask the Atheists, we have the story of a teacher who called creationism “nonsense” during class. A student brought a lawsuit against the pedagogue and a district judge ruled that the teacher had indeed violated the student’s rights. The student doesn’t want money. He just wants the teacher to be prohibited from saying similar things in the future. What do you think? Was the teacher right or wrong?


lidiya said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stuart said...

I am SOO MADD I just have to unload somewhere!!!!

I am an atheist and I have grown very disheartened by our self-defeatist culture. I was corresponding with one of the biggest atheist bloggers – the guy who guys by the name of ‘Sabio Lantz’ (he acknowledges that this is not his real name) over at

I told him that he should read this new book called the Real Messiah by Stephan Huller which I had been turned on to by Robert Price. I wanted to reach out to every atheist blogger to tell them that we can finally disprove the entire rationale of Christianity at one fell swoop.

He send me back a nasty email and then proceeds to slam the book in a manner which is worse than anything ever said about the Real Messiah by religious nutbars:

His negative review of this book is a depressing demonstration of the selfishness and self-defeatism that often pervades individuals on our side of the debate:

“My site and many others were spammed for the sale of this book. That alone is enough to stop me purchasing it until I hear amazing reviews from those I trust.”

The point is that I actually sent him links to positive reviews for
the book in Publishers Weekly:

And a list of New Testament scholars who support the book:

The aforementioned site was from a CHRISTIAN BLOG for God’s sake!!!

Look at the objectivity even with these people when compared to us.
Now I am not against someone having their own opinion about a book. ‘Sabio’ or whatever his fake name is can say whatever he wants about the Real Messiah IF HE READ THE BOOK. Yet it seems entirely self-defeatist to me for we atheists to deliberately sabotage a work whose specific intention is to destroy the Christian paradigm.

Unlike our enemies in the Religious Right we are rarely united, politically naïve and basically content to sit around engaging in intellectual masturbation while our rights are systematically stripped away from us.

My intention was not to spam anyone. I was simply trying to find a way for our side to go on the offense for once. We are always on the defensive while they (the religious folks) take shots at us.

I thought the Real Messiah was special because it is centered around a physical object which the author found in the Basilica di San Marco in Venice. It is universally understood to have been taken there by Italian sailors stole from the most ancient Church of St. Mark in Alexandria in the ninth century. Huller demonstrates that the throne goes back much further than that - i.e. all the way to the beginning of Christianity in Egypt.

In any event this throne is the real deal. It has an inscription written out in Hebrew letters and symbols which prove that Jesus was not the messiah of Christianity. Here are pictures of the throne:

We have to defeat the myth of Jesus Christ with another myth – a ‘rational myth’ to coin the language of Robert Price.

I am not asking you to ‘join my cause.’ I just want to defeat the oppressive ideas of Christianity with freedom and rational discourse. Is that really too much to ask?