What Do You Mean?: Justin Bieber, Jabez, and Christianese

So I came across this video of Justin Bieber and his pastor friends at a recent Hillsong conference. Hillsong, for those who don’t know, is a very trendy chain of churches, with a worship band that makes incredibly popular praise music. One of the men featured in the video is Carl Lentz, quite simply the hippest of the current crop of hip pastors, whose Hillsong campus has famously been visited by celebrities like Bieber, Selena Gomez, and Chris Pratt.

Now obviously the video is mocking them, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. However, I’ve shared it here because of the phrase Chad Veach, a pastor (and amateur drummer?), says again and again in various ways starting at 1:17: Read More

Advertisements

I’m Nice and You’re Confused: On Compassionate Homophobia

We have reached the anniversary of an important landmark on the road to equality for LGBTQ people. It has been fifty years this week since the Sexual Offences Act was passed, which partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales. Despite great leaps forward for LGBTQ people, the last five decades have sadly not been an unimpeded march of progress: Only this week, Trump announced via Twitter that trans folk are no longer welcome in the US military. Meanwhile, Russia is denying the torture and murder of LGBTQ people in Chechnya. Despite all the progress made in some nations, the big and small injustices and indignities endured by one of the world’s most misunderstood and beleaguered minorities, continue apace.

So in light of all this, I’ve been thinking about how my own views on homosexuality have changed over the years, and I’ve been meaning to write a post about it for a while now. I’ve been remembering back to the homophobic attitudes I not only encountered when I was a Christian, but even held myself. People of all religious persuasions and none can be homophobic, of course, but most of my firsthand experience of homophobic remarks, attitudes, and actions occurred when I was a Christian. Read More

Bitter Truths: The Fear of Resentment and the Dismissal of Critics

 

A couple of months ago, my mum told me that a colleague had confided a shocking secret to her: a man they both knew, who was well-known and respected in our community, had sexually abused this colleague decades ago when she was a child. Although shocked, my mother had believed this woman’s account straight away, and had never doubted it.

I didn’t say so, but my horror at hearing that this man was a child abuser (thankfully now tried and found guilty) was mixed with my pride in my mum for believing the victim. I wasn’t proud of her just because she believed the woman, but rather because of the reason she gave for believing: “She came across as a very bitter person.” It might sound odd to say that I’m proud of her for that, but it’s because too often, someone’s bitterness is used as a reason to dismiss them out of hand. An example that springs to mind is that of televangelist Lori Bakker insisting earlier this year that most of the women who participated in the Women’s March on Washington had been abused as children: Read More

A Few Thoughts on Science, Religion & the Uncomfortable Newsboys

My fiancé and I had a visit this weekend from my aunt. She stayed for three days, during which we took in a few of London’s finest museums. I rate the Imperial War Museum very highly, but the Natural History Museum has got to be my favourite. We managed to spend a couple of hours there, at the dinosaur exhibition and the human evolution exhibition. For reasons I can neither comprehend nor defend I hadn’t ever seen the human evolution exhibition before. It was wonderful. To me, human evolution has got to be the most enthralling subject in the world. I’m exhilarated by the thought of having a connection to something so similar, yet alien;  that mind-blowing sense of recognising oneself in something so physically and cognitively foreign. It is the same reason why, when people get to know about cephalopods, they become fascinated by them. I think it’s also why I love having pets and love learning about animals. And then there’s the great question of why we’re here and the other humans aren’t. How did we survive and thrive so well while they died out?

Read More

Shut Up & Think: Prayer as Peace and Prayer as a Gimmick

Three days ago, the centre of my wonderful home city, London, became the scene of a terrorist attack in which four innocent people were murdered and many more were injured. The aim of the attacker was to incite terror, so it was immensely satisfying to visit the city centre the very next day and see for myself precisely how hard he’d failed. London is a huge and resilient city and, as always, the centre was jam-packed with shoppers and commuters, tourists and photographers, buskers and dancing Hare Krishnas. Walking the pavements from Regents Street down to Embankment, I didn’t for so much as a moment remember to feel afraid – that is, until I approached Trafalgar Square. A sliver of anxiety ran through me as I saw that dozens of police vans and personnel in high-viz vests had formed a formidable ring around the iconic plaza, where crowds of people had come together to remember the victims. The police kept a protective watch as the crowd observed silence, lit candles, and gave strength to one another.

Read More

Meaning and Morality: Thoughts After Watching the Debate Between Craig and Kagan

I’m a fan of watching formal debate. One of my favourites is William Lane Craig and Shelly Kagan debating and discussing the question “Is God Necessary for Morality?”. I was struck by how poorly Craig argued his case in comparison to his usual performances, but then the loosey-goosey format didn’t seem to play to his strengths. I’d never heard of Shelly Kagan before but after hearing his passionate defence of animal welfare I’ve decided that I probably love him. Anyway, the discussion made me think about some things: Meaning and morality, the priorities we hold, and the different ways I thought about them both pre- and post-deconversion.

At the outset, I have to admit that I might have found Craig’s argument to be difficult to fully comprehend. Craig stressed that his argument wasn’t “life, if it is finite, is meaningless” but rather “life, however long it is, is meaningless if God doesn’t exist”. But he also kept on talking about how our existences are rendered meaningless by the eventual end of everything, and at the same time, he didn’t appear to make a very robust argument that only the existence of God can bring  meaning to human actions. That being the case, I have dealt with his argument in much the same way I might have if he had based it in the idea that “human life is only meaningful if it is infinite” rather than “human life is only meaningful if God exists”. So if what I write appears to be a strawman, it’s unintentional. Listen to the debate yourself before deciding if my characterisation of Craig’s argument is fair. I certainly did intend it to be.

Read More

Where’s the Bar?

After I “came out” as an atheist, I started noticing something about the responses I got from Christians. Here’s the kinds of things people would say:

“How sad that you don’t believe anymore!”

“Doesn’t it make you miserable to think that your life doesn’t have any purpose?”

“Wouldn’t you like to believe that there’s a God who really, really loves you?”

“But Christians are happier than atheists!”

Read More

Why I’m Not a Christian Anymore

It’s a bit of a paradox: people don’t really change, yet we are capable of huge, life-altering changes in our beliefs. I’ve previously written about the change in my beliefs and moral perspective on abortion. The biggest area of change, though, has been in my beliefs about the supernatural.

Read More

On Morality & Ethics & Butter & Stuff

Just some thoughts about moral struggles and such.

*   *   *

A few evenings ago I stood frozen in the dairy aisle of the supermarket, my mind racing, torn between two different butters. These innocent -looking little packs of rich yellow dairy produce had triggered a moral dilemma as my various values clashed and fought for supremacy. Read More

In Defence of Halloween: Why Halloween isn’t Bad for Kids

As a child, I loved Halloween. It wasn’t just all the sweets, or the dressing up, although they were big parts of why I loved it. It was the thrill of running around the neighbourhood in the dark crunching through piles of leaves. It was knocking on doors and meeting strangers. It was preparing and practising my song or joke or whatever I’d chosen to earn my handful of monkey nuts and mini Mars bars. And it was the closing in of the night as it grew darker and colder and spookier.

If October 31st fell on a school day, all the kids would come in dressed up in costumes. That is, until one parent objected. So as not to single out one child, this meant that all of us were prohibited from wearing costumes on Halloween. Somehow, I  gleaned the information that the parent, whoever they were, had objected on religious grounds – and I remember wondering “What’s the harm in having fun and putting on costumes?”.

Over the years, I’ve learned that this parent wasn’t the only person to object to Halloween. I’ve encountered a number of people who think it promotes evil and immorality to children, usually (if not aways) on religious grounds. A comprehensive list of reasons some people feel his way about Halloween can be found here, in an article by the Reverend J John titled ‘Six reasons why I believe Halloween is far from harmless‘, published in 2013 in The Mirror.

I thought I would have a go at defending Halloween, and explaining why I think it’s such an important and exciting holiday for children, responding to various arguments I’ve heard for why some people think it’s harmful. Read More