Islam, Churchianity, and the 1st Amendment

RubikCubeby Deana Chadwell  1/22/15
ISIS just executed 13 young boys for watching a soccer game, and they’ve been throwing homosexuals off tall buildings; Boko Haram murdered thousands just last week. And worst of all, these groups have done it all in the name of religion.

As a “religious” person I find that very difficult to wrap my brain around – how does a person worship a god who demands such atrocities? If we have to include such belief systems in our concept of religion, then how do we define that term?

The word religion comes into English through Old French – probably riding in the boat with William the Conqueror in 1066. It came into French from the Latin words religāre (to tie up) and ligāre, to bind. Very interesting – it’s oldest uses have nothing to do with God.

“To tie up; to bind” – sounds like slavery. But Christ said, “… the truth will set you free.” He didn’t say, “Let me bind you hand and foot.” His Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16) has to be considered good news and not repression.

According to Merriam-Webster religion means a body of beliefs and practices regarding the supernatural and the worship of one or more deities. That is, however, inadequate. Not all “religions” are centered on a deity. In 1961 in Torcaso vs. Watkins the Supreme Court justices pointed out that, “Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others. “ Even atheists are having “church” services these days. So I’m not sure that religion necessarily has anything to do with God or with gods  – exactly.

If we look at the world’s great “religions” we can see some commonalities:

    • ritual practices –anything from baptism to smoking ganga (marijuana) and dancing (Rastafarianism); from circumcision to pulling teeth.
    • prayer/meditation – conscious messages to a deity or a silencing of conscious thought through chanting of mantras, or ritualized prayer  — memorized and oft-repeated or mechanized as in the Buddhist prayer wheels.
    • a concept of what happens to us after death – heaven/hell, reincarnation, nirvana, obliteration.
    • rules of conduct – often quite onerous, instituted with either the welfare of the follower or the welfare of the community in mind – sometimes with nothing other than the dissemination of the religion as a goal.
    • special holidays.
    • some sort of priesthood – imams, rabbis, shamans, gurus, prophets, witches, commissars– even temple prostitutes.
    • sacred writings – the Bhagvad Gita, the Torah,, the Qur’an,  the Communist Manifesto,  Origin of the Species, etc.
    • worship of a deity, or deities – either supernatural or human.
    • we also see an effort on the part of the followers to appease or gain the approbation of the worshipped being. This involves anything from volunteering and social work to ritual human sacrifice (either in the form of cutting out the hearts of young virgins or the deaths of suicide bombers. Perhaps these sacrificial behaviors can give us some idea about how the Latin verb meaning “to bind” came to be associated with religion.)

We know that our founding fathers were not thinking about  beheading children or raping young girls when they recommended  “the free practice thereof.” The brilliant men who started this nation started it from a biblical perspective in a context of controversy among Christian sects, not a war between rival religions. Their only lack of foresight is in this area – they assumed everyone knew that their reference was to the Judeo-Christian background from which they came. The Puritans had no problem condemning witches or fighting the Barbary pirates, nor would they have condoned human sacrifice or ritual sex.

But I digress. We need a clear, morally stable definition of this troublesome word. The Urban Dictionary (which is mainly a glossary of leftist talking points) states that religion — The biggest lie in human history. It has been responsible for more deaths throughout human history than all other unnatural causes combined.

There may actually be some truth to that – but with two caveats:

    • that we include Satan worship and communism as examples of religion,
    • and that we differentiate between Christianity and Churchianity.

Here’s where we can gain some thinking traction. The West has been now for hundreds of years steeped in the moral traditions of both Christianity and Judaism – our moral compass points always to our true north – Moses’ Ten Commandments and Christ’s famous two. And we associate that moral compass with the book it comes from: the Bible, the Word of God, and therefore to what we’re used to calling religion. This is why it is so deeply disturbing when we’re faced with “religions” that recommend, demand brutality, dishonesty, murder and death.

Allow me to suggest that if we include Churchianity in the list of world religions we would not find the problem so bewildering. There must be some perverse human tendency – original sin, for lack of a better term – that twists every encounter with true divinity into some knock-off that we’re comfortable with.  We saw that happen as far back as Cain and Abel. Cain wanted his own version of religion – not the relationship Abel enjoyed with God; Cain wanted to do it his way.

It took very little time for the gnostics to invade Christianity, a while longer for the hierarchy of Rome to enter the picture, and even the Reformation didn’t take Christianity back to its biblical basis. Wherever the Bible was ignored amongst Christians, the ugly parts of “religion” start growling. Christians, in spite of their “belief” in Christ, revert to Cain’s emphasis on his own accomplishments any chance we get. Churchianity has run inquisitions, burned people at the stake, abused Jews, started wars, made ritual the center of worship, made prayer into a mockery, and generally speaking, raised pan-handling to a high art. Churchianity is just like the other religions.

The fact is that Christianity – as presented to the people of Asia Minor by the disciples – is not a religion. It lacks most of the attributes of the other religions:

    • It only had one recommended ritual or ceremony– Communion – the up-date of the Jewish Passover, but it was to be celebrated whenever a group of Christians wanted.
    • The emphasis was on private, or semi-private, personal, relational communication with the first person of the Godhead, not so much on public recitation of memorized prayers.
    • Christianity, in its purest sense, has only two commandments, two rules of engagement. In Christ’s own words, ““‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 28:36-40)
    • No special holidays were required.
    • No priesthood was essential – the apostles had authority to write the New Testament and to train men to teach its precepts, but they mandated no other hierarchy..
    • Mainly, the emphasis was not on earning approbation from God. That was the “good news.” Christ paid the penalty for our sin and our belief in His sacrifice eliminated our need to scramble around trying to piece together our own ticket to heaven. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

If we think of religion as man’s ruthless climb toward whatever he wants to pretend is at the top, and include Churchianity in that group, then we can look clearly at Christianity, and not only find new appreciation for all that it originally was, but we can also, without confusion, roundly denounce the actions and motivations of Islam, and get on with the business of stopping it.

Deana Chadwell blogs at
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Deana Chadwell

About Deana Chadwell

I have spent my life teaching young people how to read and write and appreciate the wonder of words. I have worked with high school students and currently teach writing at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. I have spent more than forty years studying the Bible, theology, and apologetics and that finds its way into my writing whether I'm blogging about my experiences or my opinions. I have two and a half moldering novels, stacks of essays, hundreds of poems, some which have won state and national prizes. All that writing -- and more keeps popping up -- needs a home with a big plate glass window; it needs air; it needs a conversation. I am also an artist who works with cloth, yarn, beads, gourds, polymer clay, paint, and photography. And I make soap.
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47 Responses to Islam, Churchianity, and the 1st Amendment

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Those who claim religion as the cause of mass death fail to consider that all those religious wars have been launched for the sake of secular power, with religion merely the convenient excuse or inspiration for action. Any claim that religion (other than jihadist Islam) is generally murderous depends on calling the secular totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century (and their recent successors, such as modern liberalism) religions. Some militant atheists, when challenged over the mass murders of Stalin and the like, have even defended their argument that way.

    But that just points out the danger of secular religion. Religion involves some sort of transcendental faith. The problem with a secular “religion” such as liberalism is that it involves faith in some vision of the real world. Perhaps its murderous nature comes from the necessity of forcing that vision on those who prefer to trust their “lying eyes” instead of the Collective.

  2. While you’re correct that Apostolic Christian worship was very simple, so much so that the Romans considered Christianity little better than atheism, there was certainly a hierarchy. Apostles, prophets, pastors/bishops, teachers, evangelists…just to name some the Bible mentions specifically. And of course there’s the need to reconcile saved by grace with “…faith without works is dead..” What’s more, early Christians also held all things in common, so there was a little more to it than “private, or semi-private” worship. I understand the desire to differentiate, but what you’re really describing happens in all belief-systems after a time; traditions become equated with religious tenets. For example the burqa in Afghanistan is held as the only way for a woman to be modest, yet there’s nothing like that in the Quran itself; tribal tradition is added to the original text and held as equal and punishable accordingly. Tradition has far more power than law, and bad traditions can ruin civilizations. Any belief system that started out perfect will always become adulterated by traditions that may or may not be in accord with that original perfection. In the 2nd Century Christian worship was plain and very simple, by the 4th they were burning incense and dancing around the tombs of martyrs. Pagan tradition trumped the simple doctrine, and that’s the case even today. I can’t recall anywhere in the Bible it says anything about “go ye therefore to the state college and get thee a degree in divinity, then hang out thy shingle and collect money from thy followers, and neglect not to buy thyself a Harley shouldst thou so desire.” At least it’s not in any of the six versions of the Bible that I’ve read, though obviously I prefer the original KJV. That’s a non-biblical tradition that is followed widely by supposedly biblical churches…so no matter where you go, you’ll find a few traditions of men mingled with the word of God.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Ayaan Hirsi Ali noted that Islamic societies have different ways of controlling female sexuality. The burqa, hijab, etc. represent one way; clitoridectomy is another; the restrictions of Saudi Arabia and other countries are another; and another (I believe one she faced herself) was sewing up the vaginal opening. The Koran doesn’t mandate a specific means.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I also did not read anything calling for execution by stoning (or any other means) of adulterers in the Koran. This tradition is much older than that.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Islamic societies have different ways of controlling female sexuality

        We have N.O.W.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          But, at least at present, we can choose not to join (or even pay attention to) NOW. Muslim women don’t have choices.

    • Rosalys says:

      “Apostles, prophets, pastors/bishops, teachers, evangelists…”

      Those are gifts – not hierarchy.

      • Rozy says:

        Gifts? I believe you are mistaken. Paul listed “gifts of the spirit” in his epistle to the Corinthians; (1 Cor. 12:1-12) wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc. To the Ephesians, Paul wrote of the different offices of the priesthood, which administer the gospel in the various congregations; (Eph. 4:11-14) even giving the purpose for which these priesthood offices were given. One being “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” The purity of the priesthood and its various offices was lost after the death of all the New Testament apostles and was restored and reestablished in its fullness in modern times through Joseph Smith. You can learn more here:

        • James Smith says:


        • Rosalys says:

          Christ didn’t come to purify a corrupt priesthood. The priesthood, in the ceremonial ritual sense, was done away with as we are now told to “…come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16) Animal substitutes are no longer needed as He became our substitute and the priesthood is no longer needed because He has become our High Priest.

          The offices are indeed gifts as some have received gifts which may better equip one to serve in those positions. But Hierarchy? As in the Bishop is way up there and must be obeyed, while I, lowly guttersnipe that I be, have no job but to obey my betters? Uh-uh! I have received the same Holy Spirit as the Bishop has and am as qualified to read the Bible as any other Christian to pray about and discern the truths therein. I do seek the counsel and wisdom of those who are older in the faith, but if I disagree with something they say based upon what I read in Scripture, I have every right to do so. In fact, I may be obligated to do so! So yes, there are offices, but those offices are gifts. They are NOT a hierarchy.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            The offices are indeed gifts as some have received gifts which may better equip one to serve in those positions. But Hierarchy? As in the Bishop is way up there and must be obeyed, while I, lowly guttersnipe that I be, have no job but to obey my betters? Uh-uh! I have received the same Holy Spirit as the Bishop has and am as qualified to read the Bible as any other Christian to pray about and discern the truths therein.

            Hallelujah, Sister Rosalys. And that’s probably why Catholics are much more comfortable with collectivism, for better or for worse. I’m not sure what the Mormon angle on that is. But I guess my take on it that Rosalys presents a solidly Protestant and Biblical point of view, and one that puts the onus on the individual to get things right. He can’t hid within a collective or get magic tokens thrown at him from a hierarchy based merely on authority. That’s sort of along Glenn Beck’s line who does not at all like the idea of collective morals.

            That’s not really a shot at Catholicism because I don’t dislike Catholics and I think the voluntary Orders and such where people go out of their way to voluntarily live by a certain Rule and by Obedience can be a great thing. Hell, at times I’ve thought how nice it might be compared to the rat race.

            • Rosalys says:

              Mormons are nice people and generally patriotic and moral, but Mormonism is a weird religion and they worship “another Jesus.” If you are interested, the late Walter Martin researched and wrote on Mormonism. I recommend his Kingdom of the Cults. I knew a Mormon once who told me that Walter Martin had it all wrong, but Martin did his research using Mormon texts; he quotes them extensively, contrasting the Book of Mormon with what is written in the Bible.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I wonder what those Mormons would have thought of The Mormon Murders, the story of a forger who sold a number of fake Mormon documents to the church, and eventually had to cover up his actions violently. (Some of his forgeries were documents that, if true, would have been extremely embarrassing for the Mormon church, whose hierarchy thus wanted them hushed up.)

              • Rozy says:

                Rosalys, If you wanted to know about Cadillacs, would you go to the Volkswagen dealer? When you want to know about Mormons go to the source!!! Kingdom of the Cults is about as false as it gets. Serious students of Mormonism read source documents. What other Jesus is there to worship, other than the one who was born of Mary, is written about in the New Testament, who died on the cross and was raised up three days later; who appeared to his apostles in the upper room, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to Paul on the road to Damascus. Who is this other Jesus that you mention that I supposed worship?

              • Rozy says:

                Please look at this web site and see if this Jesus Christ is familiar to you.

          • Rozy says:

            You are using the Catholic church as a model. It is very different in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are correct that we have direct access to God without going through any man, except Jesus Christ. However, the priesthood is for administering the saving ordinances, etc. If Christ was the only person needed, why did he call twelve apostles? Why was Paul, and others called and ordained? Why don’t churches today have prophets and apostles? Only one does and that is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. God speaks to his people through a prophet just as in ancient times. Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. If God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) then wouldn’t he have prophets and apostles today? Along with all the other offices of the priesthood mentioned by Paul? Don’t take my word, search for yourself. Ask God to lead you to the truth.

            • Rosalys says:

              I am not using the Roman Catholic model. I was brought up Catholic, but I left it over thirty years ago. I prefer to be known simply as a Christian. I do not believe in trans-substantiation, I do not believe that Mary was conceived without sin, and I do not believe that Mary (nor any of the apostles, nor any of the writers of the Bible) should be worshipped, hallowed, exalted, or adored with that which is due to Our Lord exclusively.

              God spoke through His prophets in the Old Testament, and through the apostles (plus Mark and Luke) in the New. These men were used by God to give us the Bible and it is through the Bible that God speaks to us today; not primarily, but solely. There are no new revelations being given by God to us today. Yes, God has gifted many to be teachers, but we must judge what they say against what scripture says; and if it is contrary to what the Bible teaches then that teacher is wrong.

              “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Rev. 22:18-19)

              You are cherry picking verses, taking them out of context, and putting them together to come to a wrong conclusion. Your founder, Joseph Smith, was a treasure hunter, (New York state was littered with holes dug by him looking for pirate treasure) and an immoral man. He “received” the Book Of Mormon from the angel Moroni (what an appropriate Name!) on golden plates that could only be read by wearing special glasses. None of this can be verified – as opposed to the reams of documentation available concerning the texts of the Bible – because all of the physical evidence was taken back up to heaven afterwords? How very convenient! In truth, what Joseph Smith didn’t make up out of whole cloth, he plagiarized from the King James version of the Bible. Why would I turn to a religion founded by such a man as that – a liar, cheat, con man, and bigamist – to find truth?

  3. James Smith says:

    The only people who gave Jesus any problems during his earthly ministry were the supposedly God ordained “religious” leaders of the day.
    They were so determined that no one should disturb their situation that they did not recognize Him to the point that they willing committed the unpardonable sin (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit by attributing the miracles Jesus performed to Beelzebub) at which point the Lord withdrew His offer of the Kingdom of God to them and began to present the “Kingdom of the Heavens” which he hid from them in parables so that seeing they would not see and hearing they would not hear.
    This will only be until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, and a remnant, the last decendants of the nation of Israel (Kingdom of God) recognize and accept Him as the Messiah, mourning for Him as an only Son and then will His servants fight and in the process of the kingdoms of this world becoming the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ all “religions” including churchianity, Christianity, every other “anity” even including whatever Islam is, will be done away with.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      The Sanhedrin were not directly involved in government, but they were very influential and this was one of their main concerns. (Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard discuss this in Killing Jesus.) The Catholic Church had similar problems in medieval eras, partly through its influence on secular influences throughout Western Christendom, and even more so because of the temporal power of the Pope. When you mix religion and politics, you definitely corrupt the former.

      • James Smith says:

        The age in which we now live is an amazing and in many ways mystical parenthesis in Gods dealing with His chosen people Israel.
        The catholic church during this age has misinterpreted 16 Matthew to manipulate it’s followers into thinking that the pope can forgive sins on earth, but verse 19 specifically states that Peter was given the “keys” to the “kingdom of God” which is not the church and Jesus specifically stated in verse 18 that “He” would build His church. I think that this kind of false teaching is a very clear demonstration of where “religion” leads us. The problem isn’t mixing religion with politics the problem is being religious. The Lord is opposed to religion in any form. Replace the Sanhedrin with any other religious group and they would do the same things.
        Jesus did not die on the altar in the temple, He was crucified outside the camp of Judaism. John the Baptist who was of the tribe of Levi, left the priesthood and lived in the wilderness. The book of Hebrews is very clear that we also must go outside the camp. No one can bear his own cross and not live for himself while being religious.

        • James Smith says:

          Please forgive my mistake above, Peter was given the keys to the “Kingdom of Heaven” not the Kingdom of God. Sorry!

  4. Rosalys says:

    “To tie up; to bind” – sounds like slavery. But Christ said, “… the truth will set you free.”

    Thanks for the etymology of the word religion – it sure explains a lot! I got to the point where I would roll my eyes when someone said, “Christianity is not a religion; it’s a relationship.” To me it had become just another evangelistic fad, but really, it is absolutely true. And the more I read the Bible the more real that truth becomes.

    As for the traditions of men… Some traditions are diabolical, like most (if not all!) of the traditions of Islam. The religion itself, stripped of all it’s extra traditions, is still hellish! But some traditions and rituals are harmless enough until they get in the way of true worship (of the True God.) Even good things become not so good when the Lord can say, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” (Rev. 2:4) This breaks the first of Jesus Christ’s two commandments.

    As for the second of the two, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” we’ve also messed that one up. Today it is said that it means that you can’t love your neighbor unless you love yourself first. This is the exact opposite of what it means!

    Back to the first, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” I have been listening to The Chronicles of Narnia in my car. (I bought the Focus on the Family dramatization last year and it is wonderful! It features two favorite actors; David Suchet [most folks think of Poirot when they see him – as I used to. Now I think of Aslan!] and Paul Schofield as narrator. I listen to them whenever I get to the end of whatever book I’ve been listening to and before I get another, so I’ve been through them three or four times now.) The good characters revere and try to obey Aslan. In times of trouble they look for deliverance from Aslan. But of all the characters, it is Lucy who loves Aslan the most. Not what He does, not what He gives – she loves Him. He loves them all, but He has a special relationship with Lucy because He is her heart’s desire. At times she is the only one who can see Him because she is the one always looking for Him.

    God wants us to be Lucy! Most of us are Peter, or Edmund, or Eustace, or Caspian, or Tumnis, etc. (and unfortunately some are Susan and turn away), but He wants us all to be Lucy.

    Thank you Deanna, for a beautiful article!

    • Timothy Lane says:

      And yet the initial status of Lucy and Edmund owed much to chance. She ran into a faun who was supposed to prevent her from being a threat — but Tumnus at heart was on the side of Aslan the lion, not Jadis the white witch. And Edmund ran into Jadis herself, and was unwittingly enchanted. But note that he believed Lucy in Prince Caspian when only she could see Aslan — unlike Peter and Susan. And he came back with Lucy in Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        And yet the initial status of Lucy and Edmund owed much to chance.

        It’s been a while since I read the book, Timothy, but I have the movie on Blu Ray and watched it not long ago. And there is much more going on in Lucy and Edmund than chance. Edmund is almost a perfect example of the evil of “victimhood.” Edmund saw himself a victim of his older brother. Oh, to have listened in on the conversation that Aslan has with Edmund on the rock as he sets him straight (as we see in the movie…I don’t remember how it goes in the book).

        I don’t remember Susan turning away. I guess I’ll have to re-read the series sometime. But Susan was always a bossy sort of character. She would have made a good feminist! 🙂

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I don’t think Susan is mentioned much in that respect, but in The Last Battle she isn’t with the group of friends of Narnia. But she and Peter are largely ignored after Prince Caspian, just as Lucy and Edmund were after The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). As for Edmund and his relationship with Peter, I don’t recall any particular mention of it in the book, but then I read it about 30 years ago.

        • Rosalys says:

          Susan, as stated in The Last Battle became more interested in boys and make-up and pretty clothes, and regarded her adventures in Narnia just childish games she used to play. I would consider this a turning away.

          Someone wrote a short story, The Problem of Susan, (which I haven’t read) which deals with an elderly Susan who had, after all, lost her entire family in a train crash. I guess the author felt it wasn’t fair (sound liberal to you?) that Susan be treated so.

          I’d like to see a book written about Susan and her struggles, and her eventual turning back.

      • Rosalys says:

        Lewis didn’t allow for chance. At the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Lucy is upset that she will never be coming back to Narnia because she is growing too old. She is distraught that she will never see Aslan again. Aslan tells her that in her own world He has another name and that she must learn about and grow close to Him there. Aslan then tells her that was why she was allowed into Narnia in the first place.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    The Great Secular Hope is that if everyone would just stop believing in the voodoo of religion, all would be well. Because, don’t you know, it’s been religion that has been the cause of all of man’s wars and conflicts.

    The Secular Belief is that “religion poisons everything,” to quote a subtitle of a book by Christopher Hitchens. The secular/atheist (and libertarian) conceit is that “morals” are the real problem, and if we’d just let everyone do their own thing, we wouldn’t have all this conflict and hurt feelings.

    And it’s not that I don’t agree with general sense of pluralism. I do. But anything taken to an extreme is destructive. And the Secular/Left has taken this to an extreme. We’re now at the point where people are so damn “open” about everything, the destruction of bad beliefs and bad practices cannot get a whiff of opposition from the Secular/Left.

    For instance, it’s absolutely true that once you normalize homosexuality, there is no reason to be “closed” to any other sexual practices, especially if the rationale for normalizing homosexuality was that laws or stigma against it was an act of “discrimination.”

    It’s arguable that the greatest wonder in the universe is the human immune system. It’s able to immunize your body against pathogens its never encountered before. And all the while it is able to discriminate between health and unhealthy body tissues. That is something that the Secular/Atheist (and libertarian) ideology has severely undermined. Once you say that the root of the evil is restriction itself (or a mere matter of economics), then you have no basis whatsoever for confronting evil practices and ideas — which will always arise and will always be out there. There’s no room for seeing the human character as something that needs to be developed. We all then just become schlubs of an ill-considered mix of cultural accidents.

    Now what the hell does all this have to do with the price of tea in China? I can hear many of you saying. Frankly, I’m not sure. The idea of religion is, at the very least, about holding certain values as good and others as bad (and many others simply a matter of not taking anything to an extreme….wine is good, but not too much).

    Many of the individual Christian or Jewish values are so common that we forget where they come from. But more than just individual values (important as they are), there are different Zeitgeists that comes from entire sets of values when taken as a whole. And this is what most people miss about Islam. The brainwashed will pick a good verse out of the Koran and a supposedly bad one out of the Bible and say, “See!” But this is the result of brainwashing, of the Left’s truly amazing ability to turn people against their own culture and cherry-pick in favor of denouncing their own cultures. But the truth is that, as Robert Spencer notes in his many books, Islam as a whole is a “supremacist” ideology. This is not just another religion like Hinduism where they believe in this god instead of that one. Islam is more of a Nazi-like movement whose aim is conquest.

    This is certainly one reason there is affinity between the Left and Islam. Both are causes that do not play well with others because they do not ultimately recognize the right of other beliefs to exist. They believe they are right and mean to change the world to match their image.

    Christianity, on the other hand, is about internal changes. Granted, for many it’s a “religion,” it’s about Jesus Magic, or whatever you want to call it. Instead of having a relationship with God, it’s about making him your butler, for all intents and purposes. I love Rosalys’ comments about Narnia, because Lucy certainly had the prototypical Christian approach…which is pretty rare indeed. And from a sincere and wholesome love of Being, it’s very difficult to ever get the gumption to start slaughtering people — something Islam finds easy to do because of its perverse doctrines. Rather than shaping the human soul for good, they make a mess of it.

    As for whose religion is true, I don’t know. But there is the idea that orthodoxy is confirmed by orthopraxy — that if you have a good belief, it will play out as such in people’s actions. Islam has been one of the deep scars on the world since its inception, while Christianity has done more to de-brutalize men than any other force, conceits and delusions of the Secular Left notwithstanding.

    • This is why I feel so blessed to be able to publish on this site — the conversations are absolutely fascinating. I love the reference to Aslan, who is, hands down, the best Christ figure in literature. The Christ of the Bible is more lion than lamb, and Lewis gets just right when he has the lion on the “cross.” instead of the meek and mild little sheep.

      Rosalys and James — Seems like we see Christianity in much the same way. It’s delightful and enlightening to read your responses. Brad — as always I appreciate your clear understanding of the issues.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Deana, thanks for giving us so many interesting topics to talk about including your usual eloquent take on things.

    • Rosalys says:

      “It’s arguable that the greatest wonder in the universe is the human immune system. It’s able to immunize your body against pathogens its never encountered before. And all the while it is able to discriminate between health and unhealthy body tissues. That is something that the Secular/Atheist (and libertarian) ideology has severely undermined.”

      Kind of like a spiritual AIDS virus!

  6. Timothy Lane says:

    There was an interesting suggestion that I encountered in an article linked from HotAir. The writer noted that newsliars have 3 concerns: building people up (if they like them), tearing people down (if they don’t like them, or they’ve been built up long enough), and their political agenda (“the narrative”). He thinks that when the second phase on the Synod on the Family closes October 25, the Catholic Church won’t make any liberalizing changes such as allowing the divorced to take communion. At that point the libertinists will finally realize that, no matter how much they like the Pope on economics and politically correct rhetoric, he will never give the absolution for abortion, homosexuality, etc. that they crave. And then they’ll turn on him. At that point, he might actually learn something. (Some of this, I should note, is my addition to the points made by the writer.)

  7. Timothy Lane says:

    There was a nice article in the Federalist, linked to by HotAir, which argued that the pope is indeed a leftist ideologue who is likely to do a great deal of harm to the church by turning it increasingly political. His peronist background is mentioned specifically in the article. For those interested, the link is:

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I am not using the Roman Catholic model. I was brought up Catholic, but I left it over thirty years ago. I prefer to be known simply as a Christian. I do not believe in trans-substantiation, I do not believe that Mary was conceived without sin, and I do not believe that Mary (nor any of the apostles, nor any of the writers of the Bible) should be worshipped, hallowed, exalted, or adored with that which is due to Our Lord exclusively.

    Three cheers for Rosalys, our own non-namby-pamby Christian (who is still sweet as an angel). Christians could learn something by her example.

    This is America. People can believe any weird shit they want, including Mormonism. And it’s not that orthodox Christianity doesn’t ask people to believe some incredible things. But the things are the things. And, in my reading, they are meant to raise you beyond mere animal to a Child of God. That is, they are not there to tie you to other people but to tie you to the Transcendent via humility, charity, and Divine love.

    Christianity may be wrong or untrue, but it’s not a cult. A cult has as a primary motivation the desire to simply stamp out more believers for the sake of doing so, deluding people that this collectivist submission is what is best for them (which often justifies dishonest and manipulative behavior on the part of the cultists).

    I know Mormons. I like Mormons. You have to have an affinity for people who are hard-working, family-oriented, and are not closet Marxists as too many Catholics are these days. But Joseph Smith was about as obvious of a religious huckster as you could hope to find, magic golden plates and all.

    So was Paul a huckster who claimed to have had an extraordinary experience on the Road to Damascus? Well, we do know that such experiences (perhaps not as profound) are somewhat common. People have them. There are books that have been written that collect them together. How one interprets what Paul experienced is clearly up for debate. But we know how he interpreted it. And because of what he was doing before this event, and what he began doing after this event, there wouldn’t appear to be any motivation of hucksterism (unlike Mohammed who constantly interpreted “God’s will” to whatever the hell that violent pervert wanted to do).

    But I’ve read some accounts of Joseph Smith. With all due respect to my Mormon friends, how anyone can believe his obvious bullshit is astounding.

    Is Jesus part of a Trinity? Hard to believe, but possibly true, and even if not true, the construct of it is not, at least to my mind, designed to draw someone into a cult…something that the Sacraments definitely have the ability to do.

    Islam is so obviously a tribal-conquest and death cult. It pervades it. Had Christopher Hitchens not been blinded by prejudice, he might has said “Cults poison everything” instead of “Religion poisons everything.” Hitchens could not, or would not, see the extreme cultish behavior of the Left. This is how to understand global warming or Darwinism, for example.

    Cults are not truth. They are not even religion, per se. They are human chain letters which are structured simply to rope people in, to capture them mentally and emotionally. And once captured, the psychology works in this way: “If I must submit, in order for this submission to be good and true and not the exploitation of me, I must make others do the same in order to normalize it all.” It’s not, of course, spelled out so clearly in a cult. But that’s how it functions with the dynamics of people and organizations.

    Certainly there can be a fine line between honest proselytizing and cult behavior, inside or outside of religion. Is respect shown for facts and evidence? Are specific items of faith noted as such? Are the general metaphysics reasonable and sound from an Ultimate point of view, or do they sound like what a man would tell others in order to rope them in and to satisfy his own worldly desires? Is a free and open exchange about doctrine allowed, even encouraged? Is the result of these beliefs the creation of a complex, wise, and good man or just one who is captured by a belief system in order to feed the system itself, ad infinitum? Is a person made to grow in his or her god-given gifts or does he somewhat lose his mind — his talents and abilities siphoned off to serve someone else?

    I think Mormonism, for instance, has both aspects. It does seem to produce a lot of good. Nothing in this life is 100% as pure or simple as Ivory soap. But there’s also that mind-numbing cult aspect, and I’ve seen it many times in the Mormons who come to my door, professing concern for my soul, but whose only interest is to rope somebody in like they’ve been roped in.

    • Rosalys says:

      Mormons are, generally speaking, very nice, law abiding citizens and often patriotic Americans to boot! (I would even have preferred Mitt Romney as president to that effan[commie]b-st-rd that we are stuck with for the next two years.) I’m sure that Rozy is a lovely woman and that she is sincere in her beliefs, but sincerity doesn’t make it true. My own sincerity isn’t what makes Christianity true. What I believe to be true is based on what I read in the Bible. Mormons believe that the Bible has some truth in it but that over the centuries it became corrupted. God supposedly tried to set the record straight through Joseph Smith. I had two Mormon missionaries come to my door thirty years ago and speak with me for two hours telling me that very thing.

      This is the second time I’ve had a Mormon tell me that Walter Martin had it all wrong. All I know is that every assertion he made about Mormon doctrine, in The Kingdom of the Cults, is researched and footnoted using Mormon publications and documents.

      Most of the cults were founded by narcissists and control freaks. Christianity is founded around Jesus Christ. He is different from all the rest. Don’t go to christianity-dot-com to find about about Him. Go to the Bible. To improve upon Rozy’s analogy, don’t go to a Yugo dealer to find out about Ferrari!

      Brad, no one has ever called me “sweet as an angel” before. Not my mother, not my best friend, not even my husband – and they love me! 🙂

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Brad, no one has ever called me “sweet as an angel” before. Not my mother, not my best friend, not even my husband – and they love me!

        I measure sweet in the full spectrum. Some measure only the saccharine part of the dial. A lost art is being able to look another human in the face and saying, “Don’t do that. It’s not good for you” (aka, act like an adult). You don’t tend to make any friends that way, at least short-term. But it’s often the right thing to do.

        I looked up Kingdom of the Cults and too bad it’s not yet in Kindle format. I would have at least read the free sample of it.

        One of the prime problems of Islam ever having a “reformation” is that it can’t be reformed in the way those who speak about reformation mean. It is what it is. It can only be re-written. The nastiness of Islam is inherent and written all throughout it’s dogma. A true reformation of Islam means getting away from it.

        However, if one takes the Bible as the primary document, one can reform, especially because men and their institutions inevitably get off course. But you can get back to the gist of the Bible, particularly the New Testament if one is a Christian. It’s like a map. Your GPS might malfunction and you might find yourself in the brambles without a clue as to where you are. But there does exist a Way, an overall guide. Granted, such a Way is inherently a matter of faith. But it’s a known Way, it’s been written down, and although there are various different things one could emphasize, the general gist is not hidden or hard to find. And because the way is Good, reformation therefore requires not re-writing the texts but re-discovering them.

        Libertarians are a cult as well because they think they, and only they, understand the deep truths of politics and society. Just as Mormons think they need to reform the Bible, Libertarians think they need to reform the Constitution. It’s a large bit of hubris and a whole bunch of arrogance.

        Cults are inevitably about lording one’s supposed superiority over another. We’ll grant that most Mormons are very decent people, and our allies in conservative causes. That’s no small thing. But it’s still a cult. If the Bible is not true, then by all means, write a new one. But don’t make it look like P.T. Barnum hucksterism (golden tablets) if you do so.

  9. Timothy Lane says:

    Robert Tracinski has an excellent article in The Federalist (linked on Hot Air, where I came across it) on the differences between Islam and Christianity (from a conservative atheist’s point of view) that explain why Islam is so violent. The link is:

    • Rosalys says:

      Good article!

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Excellent piece. I will print it and give it to those mindless types who claim all religions are basically the same, looking to do good.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      That was pretty good indeed. And I must say, pretty good for an atheist, for an atheist (materialist he must be) is left to parse this question through sociology, psychology, and politics. That’s as deep as he can go.

      Granted, it is a step up for someone to notice that there are material differences between religions that play out as well in the world of sociology, psychology, and politics. But an atheist necessarily must parse all this in the realm of “the least objectionable.” He has no wider or ultimate way of viewing things.

      As your resident fence-sitter (but certainly no atheist), I’ve long since dispensed with playing the fence-sitting referee who opines from on high from the supposedly favored secular/neutral position. Even though many religious types are often obnoxiously dogmatic on the other end of the scale, it still would not do to try to say Christianity is better (and different) from Islam because of a mere body count.

      To use that lens is to redact the moral element from the universe and judge everything by a weak (and usually smarmy) pragmatism, which in practice usually means assuming a superior position for oneself but granting that some dogs are less vicious than others.

      But the atheist is ultimately not honest about this issue, even if he is sympathetic, for what he ultimately must come to is his real judgment: “Your pretend fairies are less harmful than the other guy’s.” You are ultimately condescended to. To be a logically coherent atheist, I would have to say that all religions are various fevers, some more virulent than others…which is pretty much the line of Christopher Hitchens.

      But in this day and age, to look out on the universe and to see only the material dimension is to disqualify oneself from being able to make large moral pronouncements…about competing religions or otherwise. It is an idea consistent with the verse oft-quoted by Dennis Prager: “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.” Maybe “fear” doesn’t resonate with the modern ear. But that quote might just as well have been, “Belief that good and evil are more than just a matter of mass preference is the beginning of all wisdom.” This idea an atheist can never know.

      An atheist, by being an atheist, has already declared that there is no such thing as right and wrong. There are only majority opinions. I, on the other hand, will tell you that Christianity is better than Islam, and not just because its adherents are responsible for murdering far fewer people, but because either the Creator of the universe is a complex Being (perhaps Trinitarian, perhaps angry one moment, loving the next) or the Creator of the universe is a mindless butcher like Allah. I hope it’s the former, and grant the slim possibility of the latter. But the very existence of morals themselves suggests (but does not prove) the idea of a law-giver, of some deep order set into this universe, as deeply set (if not deeper) than the charge of the electron or the weight of a quark.

      This may seem like an odd thing to say about an ally, but I think what Dennis Prager says about “cut-flower ethics” is absolutely central to the West regaining its bearing. It’s not enough just to jabber on about how Jesus is better than Mohammed. One must recognize the moral input that underpins the West’s basic ethics. As Dennis notes,

      If not from the Bible, from where should people get their values and morals? The university? The New York Times editorial page? Those institutions have been wrong on virtually every great issue of good and evil in our generation.

      If those ethics are planted in nourishing soil, you may indeed cut them and display them in a vase and talk about them. But the flowers will eventually wither and die. It may be fashionable, even seem pleasingly magnanimous, to grant that Christianity is better than Islam due to its social effects. But without dealing with deeper causes, one is simply displaying flowers in a vase, cut and soon to wither.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Your reference to flowers made me think of this:

        GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
        Old Time is still a-flying:
        And this same flower that smiles to-day
        To-morrow will be dying.

        The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, 5
        The higher he ‘s a-getting,
        The sooner will his race be run,
        And nearer he ‘s to setting.

        That age is best which is the first,
        When youth and blood are warmer; 10
        But being spent, the worse, and worst
        Times still succeed the former.

        Then be not coy, but use your time,
        And while ye may, go marry:
        For having lost but once your prime, 15
        You may for ever tarry.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Ah, Robert Herrick. A very earthy poet. My college English teacher assigned us a paper on which of several poems of that era we would use as a courting tool. That was my personal favorite, though I suspected that Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” might be more effective.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          What an interesting poem. Prime long gone by, now lots of tarry-time.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Yes, lots of tarry-time during which we can think of all the stupid things we did or didn’t do in our youth.

            Life’s a bitch and then you die.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              And it depends upon how one defines “prime.” The pre-adolescent can be described by what fills his diapers, the adolescent by what fills his sweet tooth, the young adult but what satisfies his penis, the middle-ager by what satisfies his bank account, the elder statesman by what satisfies his conceit of wisdom, and perhaps finally the eternal tarrier who realizes that he didn’t invent this game.

    • Wow. That is a great article — such clear thinking.

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