“IN GOD WE TRUST” POSTER EFFORTS IN FLORIDA SCHOOLS
Last week, school boards in two different counties of Florida voted on whether or not to hang “In God We Trust” posters in public school buildings. In Pasco County, the posters were endorsed by Concerned Women for America. In Collier County, they were supported by the Christian Coalition. Though backing came from different groups, the effort to put “In God We Trust” in classrooms is spearheaded by The American Family Association of Tupelo, Mississippi. This Religious Right group wants the slogan to hang in a million classrooms across the country. It succeeded in passing a law in the Mississippi 2001 legislative session that requires all public schools to hang the motto in each classroom.
With some time to organize a response, Americans United for Separation of Church and State was able to succeed in deflecting one of these Religious Right efforts. The Pasco County school board voted to accept the poster donations, but in Collier County the board voted 3-1 against hanging the posters. Americans United was not alerted to the situation in Pasco County until the day of the vote. By contrast, in Collier County AU had two weeks to organize and respond. Concerted activity by AU members, other church-state separationists, and allied organizations forced the school board to recognize this effort for what it truly is – a veiled effort to reinsert prayer into our public schools and to destroy the wall of separation between government and religion!onation offers can come from a variety of right-wing religious groups at any time. Pleasebe alert, stay involved, and let us know if any proposals come up in your area.
States Legislative Coordinator, Americans United for Separation of Church and State CONTACT: www.au.org
A Book Review by Pierce Butler
The Born-Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible
by Ruth Hurmence Green
In her 60s, recovering from cancer, Ruth Green settled down to read the Christian Bible cover to cover. If she was looking for healing inspiration, her two years of study failed to produce it; she describes her experience as “increasing incredulity and horror. … I think the shock I suffered was worse than the trauma caused by my illness. …[it] left me stunned.”
Her ordeal led to a book, which the Freedom From Religion Foundation reports to have been its bestseller since 1979. The current (fourth) edition includes several shorter essays, including colorful reminiscences of a long and varied life (begun in the unpaved town of Sumner, Iowa, in 1915), which supplement one of the most effective debunkings the Judeo-Christian “holy book” has ever endured.
This is not to say that the Skeptic’s Guide is, say, a match for C. Dennis McKinsey’s 800-page (and 130-dollar) Biblical Errancy: A Reference Guide or other tomes which systematically dissect biblical falsehood and self-contradiction. Nor is it as factually informed as, e.g., Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman’s The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts.
What Green has given us is based on little more than a careful reading of the King James Version and her own admirable thinking skills and biting sarcasm. She’s not an experienced writer – as she herself points out, her text is rambling, repetitious, and not intended to be read through in a front-to-back continuous sequence. (It would also help if her editors would trim the occasional blooper, such as a passing remark that human life extends back more than a billion years.)
Instead, the meat of her case is presented in thematic chapters – how can you help but include overlapping material when considering, say,
“Biblical Cruelties” and “Treatment of Women in the Sweetest Story Ever Told”? To use this book as the author intended is to pull it from the shelf and extract whatever may be needed to shed light on the murk permeating “God’s word” in any given context.
In that spirit, what follows is a grab bag of excerpts taken straight from The Born-Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible:
Jesus makes the statement in the New Testament, repeated by the apostles, that unless one becomes as a child, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Matt. 18:3 But the attitude toward children in the Old Testament shows somewhat less admiration for their ability to discriminate: God refers to “you children which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil.” Deut. 1:39 Paul himself admits “…when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
If 500 Jews or Gentiles [I Cor. 15:6], besides the eleven did see Jesus during the 40 days’ interim between the resurrection and the ascension (a length of time recorded only in Acts), it must have been a ho-hum experience for them, as at the first meeting of the believers in Jesus held after the ascension, only about 120 were present. Acts 1:15
This total marked the number whom all the preaching and fantastic miracles, including the awesome sound of God’s voice issuing from heaven several times, had managed to convince during a period of from one and one-half to three years. Evangelists capture that many converts at one service, now that brains have been properly washed throughout the centuries.
One of the most amazing contradictions of the Bible may lie in the dramatic reversal of the roles played out in it by Jews and Gentiles. The Chosen People of the Old Testament gloried in a
Creator who showed partiality for them out of all the world’s millions. The Jews basked in his promise to be their special Lord forever, at the Gentiles’ expense. The New Testament then has this God break his contract with the Jews and make Gentile believers his Chosen People, while consigning his former favorites to burn in hell for continuing to trust in the Old Promise.
Several quotations from the Bible illustration God’s wrath at the Jews and others for their disbelief: Matt. 7:14”; on pg 161 she mentions “’… he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.’ John 3:36”; much later (pp 366-7), she quotes without citation from Romans 11:7-8: “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.”
Christianity asks not only that faith be put in such a two-timer but that the wondrous “love” he exhibits be made manifest in human beings, who are then expected to find happiness in the knowledge that most of their fellow creatures, including the Jews, will spend eternity in agony.
Nations are compared to or metaphorically represented as whores, daughters, and virgins. (Thus when it is prophesied a virgin will have a son, that prophecy may well refer to Israel or Judah producing a king or prince.)… “The virgin of Israel is fallen.’ Amos 5:2
Paul quarrels with both Peter and Barnabas, and he mentions others who have incurred his displeasure, forgetting to “bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not.” Romans 12:14 He speaks of two fellow workers “whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” I Tim. 1:20 … His tongue’s in one cheek, and he won’t turn the other one.
In a story of treachery that makes the Lord
despicable beyond belief, he is depicted as the instigator of a plot to bring about the death in battle of King Ahab: “And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? … And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him … I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he (the Lord) said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth and do so.” I Kings 22:20-23 (How can anyone ever “trust in God”?)
But the poor prophets – for them it’s Catch 22, for the justice meted out to them is right in line with typical biblical justice… “If the prophet be deceived … I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand … and will destroy him.” Ez. 14:9
A nation on its knees is on its last legs…
Paul is the wellspring of Christian theology – that stone-thrower rewarded for his fanaticism by being made a saint, a saint with his own special propensity for cursing people and striking them blind. Paul says that sin was decreed so that Jesus might come and grant grace. Thus, Eve was forced to play the Pandora role of loosing sin upon the world.
Rome had thrived for 1,000 years with pagan gods at the helm and expired after only 150 years under the Christian banner.
Incidentally, I found nine specific resurrections of the dead in the Bible, several ascensions, miracle workers by the number. I found that Jesus wasn’t unique in any way that would make him divine…
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The Born-Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible, by Ruth Hurmence Green (440 pages, indexed) is available from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. (PO Box 750, Madison, WI 53701; http://www.ffrf.org/) for $14 postpaid.
On Sept. 3, the United States and Israel pulled out of the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. They withdrew in protest of language in the draft declaration that equated Zionism with racism.
Last week, Abraham Fox of the Anti-Defamation League, arguing against the inclusion of such language in the declaration, said on the McNeil-Lehrer Newshour that such condemnation of Israel should not be included without an equivalent condemnation of the Islamic regimes of Iran and the Arabic neighbors of Israel. He obviously did not intend for anyone to take up his challenge but the fact remains that he basically admitted that the conflict is sustained by racism and religious hatred on both sides. Religion is at the root of the conflict and it is because of religion that people in the Middle East and many other parts of the world cannot live together peacefully.
Humanists, atheists, and non-believers have been making the argument for years that religions are inherently racist. Bible stories from both Old and New Testaments depict God’s encouragement and even participation in violence and enslavement of people simply because of their ethnicity or tribal origin. Statements attributed to Paul and even Jesus show that the early Christians considered anyone who disagreed with them, especially the Jews, deserved nothing less than persecu
tion on earth and everlasting torture in the afterworld.
It is no coincidence that religion is so often associated with conflict and bloodshed throughout the world. That is because there is no hope for the fundamentalist believers of one religion to find common ground or even recognize the humanity of those whom they believe refuse to recognize the “True God.” This is the essense of racism.