Intercessory Prayer in a Nutshell

The "Russell's Teapot" comic strips often presented some rather pointed critiques of Christian orthodoxy. Unfortunately, as is often the case with atheist criticisms of Christianity, the author of that comic strip conflates a critique of Christian orthodoxy with support for atheism per se, when in fact it is possible to agree with many of those criticisms without being an atheist. In any case, from a couple of years ago, here is a comic that summarizes intercessory prayer:

Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.

The brouhaha over whether Patrick Kennedy should take communion just reminds me once again that that when churches practice closed communion the practice can and often will be brandished as a cudgel by those in power against those who don't toe the "correct" theological line.

Jesus didn't impose preconditions on who got invited to the table, and thus it is ironic that certain churches claiming to follow Jesus do just the opposite. Closed communion and the resulting imposition of gate keeping rules by religious authorities stands in stark contrast to what Jesus, who opposed the rigidity and exclusionary practices of religious hierarchy, stood for.

What's the Bible say about rhinoplasty?

Carrie Prejean tells Christianity Today that breast implants are not forbidden by the Bible:

"I don't think there's anything wrong with getting breast implants as a Christian," Prejean told the magazine, which advertises itself as a publication of "Evangelical conviction."

"I don't see anywhere in the Bible where it says you shoudn't get breast implants," said Prejean, 22.
The list of elective surgeries invented long after the Bible was written and which the Bible doesn't prohibit is rather long. On the other hand, the list of biblical prohibitions (for example, in the book of Leviticus) that Ms. Prejean (along with the rest of us) ignores is also rather long. It is easy to mock Prejean here, who has made a name for herself as a spokeswoman for the bigoted Christian right, but it does raise an interesting point. When you rely on the Bible as a rigid guide to determine what is acceptable and what isn't, you end up losing your ability to think for yourself. And that's the real sin, as far as I'm concerned.

"A God-shaped hole at the heart of our being"

Here is a quote by John Haught, taken from an interview with Amy Edelstein:

Sometimes people ask, “What is the evidence that the infinite exists?” For Augustine and for many religious people throughout the ages, the best evidence is the utter restlessness of the human heart. You could extend that also to the restlessness of the intellect itself. We all realize that no matter how much we know, there is yet more to be known; we all realize that no matter how much we get in life, how much we have, how much we possess, we are never fully filled up by it. So there is, in a sense, a God-shaped hole at the heart of our being. That’s what Augustine was saying—our hearts are restless until we rest in the infinite.

Finding common ground

Michael Ruse, who is an atheist, argues in favor of tolerance and respect for people of faith in an excellent column that criticizes the militancy of the "new atheists", which he posted at the Guardian website. He lays out four broad reasons why he disagrees with them, and I think anyone interested in this topic will find that it makes for great reading.

I thought the following comment that he wrote in that column about the reaction he has gotten from some of the militant atheists was rather telling:

I am not whining (in fact I am rather proud) when I point out that a rather loud group of my fellow atheists, generally today known as the "new atheists", loathe and detest my thinking. Richard Dawkins has likened me to the pusillanimous appeaser at Munich, Neville Chamberlain. Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True, says (echoing Orwell) that only someone with pretensions to the intelligentsia could believe the silly things I believe. And energetic blogger PZ Myers refers to me as a "clueless gobshite" because I confessed to seeing why true believers might find the Kentucky Creationist Museum convincing. I will spare you what my fellow philosopher Dan Dennett has to say about me.
When Dawkins, Coyne, and Myers use such vitriol against a fellow atheist who doesn't toe their particular party line, this shows that their brutish behavior is not directed only against people of faith, but against anyone who thinks differently from the way they do.

I especially appreciated his comment about how tactically foolish it is for those who want to promote the teaching of evolution in schools to attack religious people who otherwise might be your erstwhile allies. This is in contrast to PZ Myers, who wrote a few years ago that he opposed efforts like the "Evolution Weekend" project that many churches promoted, because it would mean allying himself in some sense with some of the very people of faith he was busily insulting.

It is a remarkable idea that atheists and people of faith might actually be able to get along. The fundamentalists of both the atheist and the religious camps can have at each other. The rest of us, Michael Ruse included, can try to find a common ground for dialogue and move forward.

Mr. Deity explains the Trinity

A bit of humor deflates a cherished, supposedly unassailable, and ultimately incomprehensible tenet of orthodox Christianity: