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Sunday, December 28, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Heaven for the Godless?

The Fountain of Eternal Life in downtown Cleve...The Fountain of Eternal Life in downtown
Cleveland, Ohio, via Wikipedia

In June, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a controversial survey in which 70 percent of Americans said that they believed religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life.

This threw evangelicals into a tizzy. After all, the Bible makes it clear that heaven is a velvet-roped V.I.P. area reserved for Christians. Jesus said so: “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” But the survey suggested that Americans just weren’t buying that.

The evangelicals complained that people must not have understood the question. The respondents couldn’t actually believe what they were saying, could they?

So in August, Pew asked the question again. (They released the results last week.) Sixty-five percent of respondents said — again — that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them.

And they didn’t stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven — dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt — and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go.

What on earth does this mean?

One very plausible explanation is that Americans just want good things to come to good people, regardless of their faith. As Alan Segal, a professor of religion at Barnard College told me: “We are a multicultural society, and people expect this American life to continue the same way in heaven.” He explained that in our society, we meet so many good people of different faiths that it’s hard for us to imagine God letting them go to hell. In fact, in the most recent survey, Pew asked people what they thought determined whether a person would achieve eternal life. Nearly as many Christians said you could achieve eternal life by just being a good person as said that you had to believe in Jesus.

Also, many Christians apparently view their didactic text as flexible. According to Pew’s August survey, only 39 percent of Christians believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, and 18 percent think that it’s just a book written by men and not the word of God at all. In fact, on the question in the Pew survey about what it would take to achieve eternal life, only 1 percent of Christians said living life in accordance with the Bible.

Now, there remains the possibility that some of those polled may not have understood the implications of their answers. As John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, said, “The capacity of ignorance to influence survey outcomes should never be underestimated.” But I don’t think that they are ignorant about this most basic tenet of their faith. I think that they are choosing to ignore it ... for goodness sake.

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Friday, December 19, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

The war on Christmas free speech

The Freedom From Religion Foundation plans to replace a sign that disappeared from the Illinois Capitol and will add a biblical warning this time: "Thou Shall Not Steal."

Annie Laurie Gaylor heads the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. She says the sign protesting the display of religious symbols will be replaced.

The apparent theft from the Capitol's rotunda overnight Monday was reported to police.

The sign referred to religion as "myth and superstition" and stood near a Nativity scene sponsored by a Springfield group.

An identical atheist sign in Washington state was stolen and recovered, and one in Wisconsin was vandalized.

The replacement Illinois sign and the Nativity scene soon will be joined by a Hanukkah menorah to mark the Jewish holiday.


Here's some commentary from December 18, 2008 on FOX & Friends:

In other news:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation last week placed a sign protesting the display of religious symbols in the Illinois Capitol, but the sign was stolen from the Capitol rotunda overnight Monday.

A spokeswoman for the foundation said Tuesday it will be replaced — and it will be joined by another sign that takes its message from the Bible: Thou Shall Not Steal.

Capitol Police “are treating the incident as a criminal investigation,” said Henry Haupt, spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White, who oversees security at the Capitol. “If they find who did it, they will face a criminal charge.”

The sign was last seen in the first-floor rotunda about 9:45 p.m. Monday by a secretary of state custodial crew. Its disappearance was discovered about 7 a.m. Tuesday by another custodial crew.

The Capitol is under 24-hour security by Capitol Police and secretary of state security guards. They did not report seeing anyone tamper with the sign.

“We do not know who did it or what happened to it,” said Nathan Maddox, White’s senior legal advisor. “The matter has been reported to the (police), and they will do what they can on it.”

Maddox said White’s office has received “quite a few” complaints about the atheist sign since it was put up. However, he said the office also got quite a few complaints about a Nativity scene that the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee was allowed to place
in the Capitol.

“This is the first time we’ve had any destruction or vandalism,” Maddox said.

White said the rotunda is a public forum and displays from competing views are tolerated there.

Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation said her group wanted to place its sign in the rotunda if religious groups were allowed to place symbols of their religions.

The sign, which cost about $80 to print, read: “At this season of the winter solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

The sign was securely taped to an easel.

“It had to take an effort (to remove it),” Gaylor said. “Atheists never engage in vandalism. We don’t go around stealing the Baby Jesus. They don’t follow their own commandments.”

Gaylor said the group hopes to have a replacement sign in place by today. “We’ll put a ‘Thou Shall Not Steal’ sign with it,” Gaylor said.

The foundation has identical signs in the Wisconsin and Washington state capitols. Gaylor said the Washington sign was stolen two weeks ago but was recovered. The sign in Madison was vandalized.

Although the group received threats after the sign was placed in Washington, Gaylor said none have been traced to the Illinois sign. However, conservative TV talk show host Bill O’Reilly criticized the Springfield sign during his Monday show.

“That might be what set someone off,” Garlor said.

Maddox said security guards are being asked to keep a closer eye on the displays, both the atheist sign and the Nativity scene. By next week, they will be joined by a menorah to commemorate Hanukkah.


What do you think?

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Sunday, December 14, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Vatican issues document condemning biomedical technology

Human Embryonic Stem CellsHuman Embryonic Stem Cells
Image by anwer2007 via Flickr
Sent in by Sean

The Vatican issued its most authoritative and sweeping document on bioethical issues in more than 20 years on Friday, taking into account recent developments in biomedical technology and reinforcing the church’s opposition to in vitro fertilization, human cloning, genetic testing on embryos before implantation and embryonic stem cell research.

The Vatican says these techniques violate the principles that every human life — even an embryo — is sacred, and that babies should be conceived only through intercourse by a married couple.

The 32-page instruction, titled “Dignitas Personae,” or “The Dignity of the Person,” was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal office, and carries the approval and the authority of Pope Benedict XVI.

Under discussion for six years, it is a moral response to bioethical questions raised in the 21 years since the congregation last issued instructions.

It bans the morning-after pill, the intrauterine device and the pill RU-486, saying these can result in what amount to abortions.

The Vatican document reiterates that the church is opposed to research on stem cells derived from embryos. But it does not oppose research on stem cells derived from adults; blood from umbilical cords; or fetuses “who have died of natural causes.”

-- Boston Globe

The Vatican's position is outright unbelievable!

How can they be so concerned about a cell that is far from being a human, when it is later OK when a child dies because mom and dad believe in prayer healing?

It's also OK to punish someone with the death penalty, although the condemned person is much more of a human being than an unfertilized egg. And why is it OK to send human beings to war, or into Third World countries for dangerous evangelistic mission trips? It's OK to die for a religion, but it's not OK to prevent a cell with severe disabilities from developing?

And what about all the warfare and human sacrifices, the killing of all humans during the flood story (I know it didn't happen, but they believe it did)? Is that an example of God valuing every human life?

I personally value every person, regardless of any disability (I happen to be a special ed teacher and plan on adopting a handicapped child), but caring for disabled children is not easy. Severely handicapped children may be loved just as much as any children, but the burden on a family can be devastating. Health insurances do not take these children with open arms, and many families suffer financial disaster. Does the Catholic Church ever offer to help pay for any or all medical and educational needs of a severely handicapped child?

Let's ask ourselves: Does a fertilized egg suffer if it is not allowed to develop and be born? No! Is it likely a human being born with severe disabilities will suffer tremendously?

If I had a baby on the way with a life expectancy of two years, unable to ever eat, walk, crawl, sit or participate in life, only to finally die a painful death, I would not want that baby to be born.

And last but not least: As a man who is unable to have biological children, what's wrong with in vitro? I am planning on it!

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Saturday, December 06, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Thursday, December 04, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor accused of shoplifting

Official seal of Pittsfield, MassachusettsImage via WikipediaPITTSFIELD — The pastor of a New Ashford church is accused of shoplifting merchandise at the Carr Hardware he worked at in Pittsfield.

Joseph D. Slonski, 53, of Windsor Road, Savoy, was charged with shoplifting by concealment after allegedly stealing a chainsaw chain valued at $25.99, according to Police Capt. Patrick F. Barry, head of the department's detective bureau.

Slonski pleaded not guilty to the charge Tuesday in Central Berkshire District Court.

The date of the alleged crime was not immediately available, and Carr officials had little to say about the incident when contacted by a reporter on Wednesday.

"I cannot comment at this time," said Bart Raser, an owner of Carr Hardware/Just Ask Rentals on North Street.

Police said Slonski was an employee of the North Street hardware store. He also is pastor of the Christian Harvest Center, "a full gospel church" located on Mallory Road in New Ashford.

"(Slonski) was an employee" of the Pittsfield store, Raser said, adding that the Savoy man no longer works there.

Slonski did not return messages left at his home and church.


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"Prop 8 - The Musical" starring Jack Black, John C. Reilly, and many more...

Prop 8: The Musical, created by award-winning Hairspray composer Marc Shaiman, features stars such as Jack Black and John C Reilly lampooning backers of the constitutional amendment, which limits marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

The ban was passed by voters during the November election, five months after gay weddings were legalised in the nation’s most populous state.

A number of legal challenges are seeking to overturn the amendment, which was opposed by Hollywood heavyweights including Brad Pitt and Steven Spielberg as well as President-Elect Barack Obama and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Its passage sparked protests nationwide.

Prop 8: The Musical, directed and staged by Hairspray director Adam Shankman, features well-known stage and screen actors taking part in a Sacramento community college threatre group production.

It opens with the colourfully-dressed “California Gays and The People That Love Them” dancing and celebrating a “brand new bright Obama day” and “happy days for the gays”.

Then a black-clad crowd led by John C Reilly and Allison Janney describes how they will “spread some hate and put it in the constitution” via Proposition 8.

They claim the Bible says gay love is a sin. But Jesus Christ, played by Jack Black, intervenes to point out the Bible “says a lot of things”, including that shellfish is an abomination and it is acceptable to stone your wife or sell your daughter into slavery.

He urges them to “choose love instead of hate”.

The musical finishes with Neil Patrick Harris telling the Proposition 8 crowd about the “money to be made” from gay marriage before the entire cast unites in opposition to the ban, declaring that “gay marriages will save the economy”.

Mr Shaiman says in a note introducing the video that he is releasing the musical “six weeks later than he shoulda”.


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