Category Archives: Religion

The Door

A representative from the The Door (Christian Center) came to my apartment earlier. I usually don’t answer My Door for people who aren’t delivering packages to me, but she was very insistent. She knocked and clacked the clapper several times as if to say, “You must answer — your very soul is at stake!”

I answered the door, and she handed me this bookmark-sized ad for something called XTREME VENUE. I’d never have guessed that it was for a church group if she hadn’t told me.

She asks if I’m religious. I tell her that I consider myself a humanist now, though I did grow up with a Pentecostalist mom and went to a Seventh-Day Adventist church school for several years.

She tells me how much Jesus still loves me and how Jesus saved her, made her whole, and made her a better person.

Eventually, I ask her what I ask the LDS missionaries that I periodically speak to when they come to my door: “If you passed by someone on the street who is hungry, would you try to help them?”

“Yes, of course,” she says. Everybody says this.

I say, “We both know that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present. So, we know that God could help that person but doesn’t. So, why worship something that is less moral than you are?”

“But God gives us free will, so it’s our own decisions that get us to that point of being hungry,” she says.

I say, “Well, I think we have some free will but not much. After our genetic makeup and environment are accounted for, that doesn’t leave much room for our personal choices. Our lives are highly determined by the circumstances we’re born into. We can predict, with high certainty, how a person’s life will play out just by where they were born geographically and their parents’ circumstances. I believe, like most humanists, that, by focusing on making the afterlife better for everyone, we too often fail to do as much as we can to help people now who will suffer and die if they only receive spiritual nourishment.”

She says, “I believe that we do need to help those people, and it is my personal choice to help those people. At the same time, though, if you die, you will never have filled that hole that only Christ can fill. That’s why I urge you to read the Bible.”

“What do you think about abortion?” I blurt out.

“Well, I oppose it,” she says.

I say, “Where in the Bible does it mention abortion?”

“God said, ‘Before you were formed, I knew you,'” she says.

I say, “That is Jeremiah talking about a vision he had of God. Jeremiah says that God told him in this vision that Jeremiah would be a prophet to the nations. In Exodus, there’s a verse that says, ‘If two men are fighting and one of them bumps into a pregnant woman, causing her to miscarry, the man who bumped into her has to pay a fine determined by her husband and some judges. But, if the woman dies along with her fetus, the man who bumped into her must be killed, life for life.’ To me, that means that God thinks differently of the born and unborn.”

“What do you think about abortion?” she says.

I say, “Well, I don’t think it should be illegal. I think of myself as scientifically-minded, so I always try to look at the evidence. We know that making it illegal doesn’t actually reduce the rate of abortion; it just makes it more dangerous for the mother. While I don’t think we can stop abortion completely, I would prefer to reduce the rate of abortion overall. The best way the research says to do that is to make birth control as available as we can.”

She says, “We can talk all day about different theories. Scientists have a lot of theories, but they’re not proven. You know, Darwin had his theory of evolution and, even though it’s not proven because it’s just a theory, they still teach it in schools like it’s a fact.”

I say, “Well, that’s an issue with how non-scientists casually use the word ‘theory’ and how scientists use the word. When scientists use the word, it means that there’s a huge amount of evidence in favor of it. It’s as close to truth as we can get. Evolution is ‘just a theory’ in the same way that gravity is ‘just a theory.'”

She says, “It’s fun to talk about the scientific, but I think you still have to think about the spiritual. That is so important to me. My spirituality is informed by reading the Bible and praying. Just reading the Bible and thinking about all these things that people say about it isn’t enough. That’s why you need to pray while reading the Bible.”

I say, “Yeah, but there’s something I can’t get over about prayer: How do I know who’s answering?”

“Well, it’s Jesus. You would be praying to Jesus,” she says.

“Yeah, but how do you know that it’s Jesus answering? I mean, if you connect to wifi, hackers can intercept that signal and reroute you to what they want you to see.”

“Oh, I know it’s Jesus.”

“OK, but let’s say that it’s Satan that intercepts that prayer. And, Satan wants you to think that it’s OK to bomb an abortion clinic, because Satan wants you to believe that people who provide abortions are baby murderers.”

“But, I know that it’s not Satan. I absolutely know that it’s Jesus answering,” she says.

“You are certain that something is answering,” I say. “We both know that Satan is deceptive, though. Satan could disguise itself as Jesus to make us do its bidding. That’s exactly the type of thing we’d expect Satan to do.”

She says that you can protect yourself from that by saying, “My blood is pure, Satan!” or something like that.

By that time, either because we’d been talking awhile and her fellow proselytizers had moved on, or because she had increasingly become convinced that I’m the Devil, she had backed out of the fenced area outside my entryway and closed the gate.

“Read the Bible and pray!” she said, looking back while walking away.

“I’m afraid to pray! Don’t want to let in the Devil!” I said. “Have a nice day!”

Then I closed The Door.

The Door’s Pastor Joe Campbell “Healing”

When You’re Right, You’re Right

Sometimes I like to surf out onto the ol’ worldwide web and look for people with whom I unexpectedly concur on this or that. I know that may sound a bit weird as the whole point of the ‘Net is to argue with people, but I do it nevertheless. In this case, I have found a bunch of Republicans, conservatives, or other figures on “the right” who I think said something downright agreeable. Enjoy! (Also, please let me know if you know of other examples!)


“I don’t think we should ever tamper with abortion. You’ll never stamp it out. It’s been in existence since the world began, and it’s going to be here when the world ends.”

Barry Goldwater


Barry Goldwater on Abortion


Animal Welfare

“Factory farming amounts to a complete subordination of animal life to human convenience, the reduction of thinking, feeling beings to commodities only and of their fate, no matter how horrific, to a calculation of pure self-interest.”

John Conner Cleveland, speechwriter for George W. Bush, Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney, and Sarah Palin

Climate Change

“I have been to the Antarctic; I’ve been to Alaska. I’m not a scientist, and I’ve got the grades to prove it. But I’ve talked to the climatologists of the world, and 90% of them are telling me that greenhouse gas effect is real, that we’re heating up the planet. I just want a solution that would be good for the economy that doesn’t destroy it.”

Lindsey Graham


* * *

“Absolute certainty is unattainable. We are certain beyond a reasonable doubt, however, that the problem of human-caused climate change is real, serious, and immediate, and that this problem poses significant risks: to our ability to thrive and build a better future, to national security, to human health and food production, and to the interconnected web of living systems.”

Kerry Emanuel, long-time Republican and atmospheric scientist at MIT

* * *

“I’m a registered Republican, play soccer on Saturdays, and go to church on Sundays. I’m a parent and a professor. I worry about jobs for my students and my daughter’s future. I’ve been a proud member of the UN panel on climate change, and I know the risks. And I’ve worked for an oil company and know how much we all need energy. The best science shows we’ll be better off if we address the twin stories of climate change and energy and that the sooner we move forward, the better.”

Richard B. Alley, Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State


Gun Control

“As you know, my position is we should ban all handguns, get rid of them, no manufacture, no sale, no importation, no transportation, no possession of a handgun.”

John Chafee


* * *

“If I were writing the Bill of Rights now, there wouldn’t be any such thing as the Second Amendment. […] This has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud — I repeat the word ‘fraud’ — on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. […] ‘A well-regulated militia….’ If the militia, which was going to be the state army, was going to be well-regulated, why shouldn’t 16 and 17 and 18 or any other age persons be regulated in the use of arms?”

Warren Burger



“I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and have lived here even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.”

Ronald Reagan




“I’m an atheist. An agnostic is someone who is not sure; I’m pretty sure. I see no evidence of God.”

George Will

* * *

“It was old Tom Jefferson that had us separate the church and state and, while I have nothing against a minister being a member of Congress, he should leave the Bible at the front door. Just carry it around in his head, and don’t try to preach and practice religion in the halls of Congress.”

Barry Goldwater



“[N]owhere do our hopes take more visible form than in the quest of science…. The remarkable thing is that, although basic research does not begin with a particular practical goal, when you look at the results over the years, it ends up being one of the most practical things government does…. [O]ne thing is certain: If we don’t explore, others will, and we’ll fall behind. This is why I’ve urged Congress to devote more money to research. After taking out inflation, today’s government research expenditures are 58% greater than the expenditures of a decade ago. It is an indispensable investment in America’s future.”

Ronald Reagan


Abortion: Efficacy of Criminalization, Biblical Position on the Fetus

There are a few good studies that may help us figure out what to do about abortion. In a recent study, researchers at the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization found that making abortion legal neither increases nor decreases abortion rates.

In another study, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine found that making birth control widely available did reduce the abortion rate by 62–78%.

The aforementioned Guttmacher/WHO study echoed those findings.

In a 2006 study, WHO researchers estimated the number of maternal deaths worldwide from women obtaining illegal abortions to be 68,000. Millions more women, they say, have complications, many for the rest of their lives.

To me, these studies are sufficient to direct us in forming reproduction-related policy. However, I recognize that a lot of people are uncomfortable with abortion based on religious beliefs. The contention of people basing their opinion of abortion on the Bible seems generally to be that a fertilized egg has the same status as a person. If a zygote is a person, then the commandment to not kill must surely apply.

The closest thing in the Bible that I can find related to abortion is a passage from Exodus 21, verses 22-25. Here is the direct quote from Jehovah from the New Jerusalem Bible used on

If people, when brawling, hurt a pregnant woman and she suffers a miscarriage but no further harm is done, the person responsible will pay compensation as fixed by the woman’s master, paying as much as the judges decide. If further harm is done, however, you will award life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stroke for stroke.

No indication here is given of the stage of development. The fetus could have been 8 weeks along or 8 months along. To reiterate: if the fetus is killed, Jehovah demands a fine; if the mother is killed, Jehovah demands “life for life” or “wound for wound.” Jehovah clearly does not view a fetus at any stage of development as equal to a person.

The Exodus passage will probably seem familiar if you’ve ever looked at the Code of Hammurabi (the oldest known code of laws after the Code of Ur-Nammu): “If a man strike a free-born woman so that she lose her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss. If the woman die, his daughter shall be put to death.”