Special Dispensation for Lying?

Focus on the Family’s Texas affiliate, Free Market Foundation, just sent out an end-of-year fundraising e-mail. (“Giving Liberals a lump of coal and Texas a future!” Groan.) Once again, the pi0us folks at Free Market show they apparently have a problem remembering that lying is a sin. (Maybe there’s some special dispensation if political fundraising is involved?) In a list of FMF accomplishments this year:

We won the Odessa Bible curriculum case, defeating the national ACLU attempt to create national precedent outlawing Bible courses across the country in public schools.

Well, no. As we pointed out in June, the ACLU of Texas and a group of Odessa parents weren’t trying to outlaw Bible courses in public schools. They were trying to force the school district to stop using a particular Bible curriculum that illegally promoted a far-right Christian fundamentalist perspective of the Bible over all other points of view. In fact, a TFN Education Fund report had already exposed the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools — which provided the classroom materials to the Odessa schools — as a far-right group seeking to turn our public schools into Sunday schools.

Contary to Free Market’s claims, the ACLU won when the school district agreed in mediation to stop using the National Council’s curriculum. But we don’t expect Free Market to retract its false claim. Raising money seems more important to them than telling the truth.

35 thoughts on “Special Dispensation for Lying?

  1. I read the settlement proposed by the mediator at:

    http://www.libertylegal.org/Img/Med%20proposal%20final%20odessa.pdf

    One of the requirements for creating any new course was that parallel translations be used, where the clearly fundamentalist curriculum used the King James version. The usual reason for using parallel translations is a religious or scholarly attempt to gage the range of possible meanings that might be in the original texts. But for a Bible as influential literature course, is the meaning of the original texts important? The King James version might be the most appropriate and influential translation for a literature course. Perhaps the choice of translation was a concession by the fundamentalist curriculum to the presumed literature intent of the course, because most fundamentalists use the more modern translations, and are interested in the best scholarship, and even interested in learning biblical languages, and doing their own translations of particular passages of interest.

    I would think that more useful than a general Bible course, would be a course that focused on the biblical quotations, analogies and allusions most frequently found in literature and the popular culture. Of particular interest might be a compilation of parts of the culture that may not be commonly recognized as of Biblical origin, or which may be difficult to understand without knowledge of the biblical reference. With a daughter with a degree in linquistics, we became acutely aware of how often languages cannot be understood literally. The goal of the course would be to open up to greater understanding much of the literature of our culture.

    Based on the curriculum that the Oddessa district selected, I would be very surprised if they would want a more objective course. It will be interesting to see if they every adopt another course.

  2. Isn’t the KJV the one that creationists prefer?

    AG, just as you’ve posited that the kids’ needs for studying evolution can be met by a two-night read of “The Selfish Gene,” I’ll argue the same thing here. If the Bible is going to be taught (by a secular instructor, of course), the kids don’t need more than two nights “snuggled up” with it. And, of course, they should also study the sacred texts of many other religions. Wouldn’t want to appear biased or insult children of other faiths.

  3. Ben,

    I agree, schools tend to waste most of the students time. These things can be learned much more effiiciently when the students are interested and self-motivated. I don’t know of a resource for bible influence yet that is as efficient as “The Selfish Gene”. Snuggling up with the Bible itself would not be efficient for seeing its influence on western culture, since presumably young students would have to be educated some on the culture, while older more experienced students will have aha moments as they find familiar cultural echoes in the bible readings. Most of the Bible would be a waste since probably 90% of the influence comes from 10% of it. So a resource identifying the 10% would greatly accelerate the relevant cultural literacy.

    Not all religions were created equal in the their influence on western culture. The Koran was particularly hampered by prohibitions on translation. The influence of the other religions than Christianity and Judaism is less because of far shorter time of contact, and the dominance of Christianity itself. An objective treatment of Christianity is possibly just as likely to insult Christians as the children of other faiths. Noone said all the influences of Christianity on western culture were “good”, just necessary for cultural literacy.

    It is my understanding that the creationists, like most fundamentalists, prefer the New American Standard for the New Testament and the NIV for the Old. Both are the most up-to-date and literal translations of the earliest texts. There are a very small minority of fundamentalists that believe the KJV had special devine inspiration, but they would be a minority even among the creationists. The New KJV is picking up some following.

  4. AG, if you’re an evolutionist who doesn’t believe in creationism, why do almost all of your opinions and suggestions line up with the creationist way of thinking? I can spell out all the instances, if you’d like.

  5. Ben,

    No need to spell them out, I’ve noticed the convergence although arriving from quite different perspectives myself. I believe in freedom, family values and the pursuit of knowledge and understanding through hopefully unifying theories. The fundamentalist Christians in the United States strong identify with the constitution, have family values, and earnestly seek the inerrant truth of the bible. So we both share the values of freedom and family. Where we diverge, seeking truth in different directions, actually unite us in a way as well. Neither of us accepts the post-modernism, multi-culturalism and political correctness, or the idea of teaching without values.

    Libertarians, although mostly atheists (almost certainly a higher percentage than the Democrats for instance), have always been more closely aligned with conservatives economically, and these Christians are conservatives. There are other similarities, although we are discussing state run schools here, there is a higher percentage of homeschoolers in both groups, libertarians are more apt to be unschoolers in the John Holt tradition, while the Christians are more likely to use curriculums. Both groups are highly skeptical of anthropogenic global warming, the libertarians on rational skepticism grounds, the Christians because they believe God/nature is in control. There is actually a Christian path to libertarianism, pacifism, the autonomy of the “priesthood of the believer”, the example of Jesus never using coercive government means, and Christian tolerance. The fundamentalists, as earnestly seeking as they are, still only get about half of this right. So, the Christian libertarians are not usually fundamentalists.

  6. Tried to post a minute ago but something odd happened. Sorry if two posts appear….

    I believe that evolution should be taught extensively and taught well in all public schools. A few nights with “The Selfish Gene” won’t cut it. Biology should not be an elective. There are unanswered questions, but no weaknesses, in the theory.

    I think religion should be discussed from a secular perspective in a social studies class. The kids shouldn’t read the Bible in school. If they do have to read the Bible, they should have to read every word, including Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and all of the other barbaric chapters. Picking and choosing 10% isn’t the right thing to do.

    I think that Cynthia Dunbar and some of her colleagues are liars of the worst type. Also, Dunbar should correct the typos on her Web site so she’ll look like less of an idiot. Probably won’t help, though.

    It appears that most creationists do favor the KJV:

    http://www.icr.org/home/resources/resources_tracts_kjv/

    http://www.rae.org/versions.html

    http://www.bibleprotector.com/VFC_KJB_Creationism.pdf

    http://www.kjv-only.com/ifnew.html

  7. Ben, We shouldn’t be surprised that advocates of KJV only are creationists. The former are probably a nearly totally included subset of the latter. No doubt some of these are prominent in the creationist movement, since they are rather fervent types. But creationists are far larger in number than this subset. I don’t know how we can resolve this issue one way or the other. My own experiences attending creationist/ID conferences and discussing bible translations with them are merely anecdotal, and are not a random sample. The ones I’ve met are no longer defending the obvious errors in the KJV, and are retreating to the non-existent or yet to be discovered “original texts” being inerrant. Some errors are just too obvious to spin away. The KJV should be respected as a remarkable work of scholarship for its time that was undertaken in good faith.

  8. Sorry, I disagree with you that any “sacred” text should be respected. By now, you know all the reasons I feel this way, so I won’t repeat myself.

  9. Ben,

    It has nothing to do with the text being “sacred”. The respect is for good scolarly work that set a democratizing precedent for western culture and was an important influence on both the english language and western culture in general. It set standards and broke down the ecclesiastical class prejudices. I came late to an appreciation for historical perspective late, after being turned off of history in public schools, so there is hope.

  10. I think you grossly overestimate the importance of the Bible. What would have taken the Bible’s place if religion had never existed? It’s very possible that the resulting literary works would have been much more scholarly and enlightening than the Bible. Yes, I already know you disagree with me.

  11. Ben,

    There isn’t a human culture that wouldn’t have been quite different if religion had never existed. Evolution did not produce a fully formed rational brain. There seems to be some irrational baggage that has accompanied its obvious adaptive benefits, like religion, music, art, emotions, etc.

    The importance of the KJV is more historically nuanced than merely being the text of a religion. The credibility of its scholarship combined with democratizing power of the printing press and the crystalization of a vernacular language to overthrow of a powerful elite, that had a monopoly on not just the latin text, but learning itself. To imagine a counter factual without the bible, might require another text important to the powerful elites. Maybe something like translating the works of Aristotle or Plato into the vernancular languages. These more intellectual works seem to lack the emotional power that religion has for the cultures of modern humans. Perhaps the democratization of political works like those of Machiavelli or Marx. But Marx has elements which lack rational rigor too, such as the dialectic and historical determinism and has prejudices such as the arbitrary class distinctions, so its power may come from its similarities to religions.

  12. Once again, I disagree with your opinions. As far as the modern world, the planet would be in much better shape if more people would put down their bibles and read “The End of Faith” instead.

  13. Ben,

    Harris wasn’t merely focused on the Bibles, but on all religious belief, although he appears to uncritically accept some Christian values such as love and honesty and rejection of hatred and greed. If you think these can be arrived at through pure reason and empiricism, then you are unfamiliar with the results of western critical philosophy, i.e., nihilism.

    If you really believe in reason, then you aren’t entitled to just any opinions, but only those you can justify.

  14. Love and honesty are not Christian values any more than they are Muslim values or humanist values. If you think love and honesty ARE Christian values, then I can make a very good case that hatred and greed are also Christian values. Love, honesty, hatred, and greed all existed long before Christianity came along, and they will exist long after Christianity becomes a footnote.

  15. Ben, I very much doubt that you can make a case that Christ or Paul advocated hatred and greed rather than the contrary. Of course these values all existed prior to Christianity, evolution gets the credit, but Christianity is the source of the western evaluations of these qualities. Modern humans can seem quite comfortable nursing their hatreds, and hatred is socially acceptable in many cultures, and can serve a unifying purpose. Don’t just assume you have some rational basis for your preferred values, if you have such as basis, share it, or better yet, publish it.

  16. I never said I could make a case that Christ or Paul advocated hatred and greed. I can’t even make a case that those two dudes existed. On the hand, I could definitely make a case that many Christians practice hatred and dishonesty as much as they practice love and honesty. If I started citing acts of dishonesty or hatred committed by Christians, it would quickly become a full-time job. New examples would stack up before I could list the old ones. Of course, I’m sure your definition of what constitutes an act of dishonesty or hatred by a Christian would differ radically from mine. For instance, is Ted Haggard dishonest? Swaggart? Bakker? The people who committed perjury during the Dover trial? Did Falwell practice hatred on a regular basis? Does Rick Warren? I say “yes” to all of the above. I’m guessing you don’t.

    Nor did I say that I have a rational basis for my “preferred” values. But Christians don’t own the values of love and honesty any more than Muslims or atheists own them. You might as well have said something about “the Christian convention of wearing clothing.” Do most Christians wear clothes? Well, yeah. Does that mean the wearing of clothing came about because of Christianity? No. Do Christians espouse and actively exhibit love and honesty more than people who are non-Christians? Not the ones I know.

    Did you happen to see Melody Myers’s comment? If you had to make a wager, do you think she’s a Christian?

  17. Ben, I think the question would be whether we should judge Christianity and the Christian influence by a selective sampling of those who call themselves questions. “Christians” who don’t behave in accordance with Christianity are not the ones responsible for Christianity’s influence. Of course part of Christianities “good” influence is a consequence of negative components of its history, and the cognitive disonance with its proclaimed beliefs. A history of wars with and persecutions of “fellow” christians lead to Christian support for separation of church and state, and tolerance of other sects, and standards on humane treatment of civilians and POWs. Christianity motivated movements to end the slave trade and then slavery, even though some Christians were comfortable with the practice.

    I saw Myers comment, she seemed too lost to bother with. I doubt she is a thoughtful person or is likely to participate in a dialogue, I can give her a try.

  18. Ben,

    I am not familiar with Haggard at all, or with the positions taken by Swaggert and Bakker. If your concern is with the views of these others regarding homosexuals and homosexual marriage, in what sense can you call their position “hate”? I think the standard fundamentalist position is “hate the sin, love the sinner”, but I think that sense of “hate” is not the interpersonal type that we are discussing,since it is directed at a behavior. I oppose government licensing of homosexual marriage, because I don’t think government has any business being involved in the licensing of marriage, heterosexual, homosexual, polygamist or otherwise, so I don’t consider Warren’s opposition to homosexual marriage hatred. I think he might be confusing government licensing with moral sanction, if so, I think he has his theology wrong.

  19. Rick Warren compared homosexual marriage to marriage resulting from incest, pedophilia, or polygamy…then he lied about it later.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rwk845iMXY

    For real fun, we could look at the hate mail Christians send to people like Richard Dawkins and Pat Condell. It’s scary enough that I wonder how those guys ever leave the house without a bodyguard.

    Here’s an example of an email to Pat Condell. I hope the moderator will allow it; the language is pretty strong:

    guess what pat? YOU ARE THE ONE WHO WIL BURN IN THE LAKE OF BRIMSTONE YOU SORRY [string of explitives deleted].
    READ THE BIBLE INSTEAD OF BURNING IT AND YOU WILL REALIZE THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT IS OUR FRIEND AND IT IS YOU THE BLASPHMER WHO WILL BE ETERNALLY TORTURED

    Can’t you just feel the love? These are not isolated examples. As I said before, if I started listing more, it would occupy my time for years to come.

  20. I doubt that Rick Warren lied, that requires that he knew what he was saying was untrue. The setting for his earlier quote showing that what he said was untrue, was in an informal setting, and he probably forgot. Do you ever give people the benefit of the doubt? There are different levels of comparison, so Warren may not have recalled his earlier comparison because he was thinking of a different line of comparison. Homosexuality, like bestiality and pedophilia is not likely to result in reproductive success and so might be a sin under “spilling the seed” types of texts, although I’ve seen this text interpreted quite differently when the cultural context is properly understood. I’ve never really seen a good biblical argument that polygamy shouldn’t be sanctioned. Also apparent to me in the video is that Warren is not treating homosexuals differently. They can join his church, just like other sinners, but like other sinners they must renounce their sins. I doubt they would be disciplined by the church if they backslid, unless it was apparent they weren’t trying. Perhaps you, like I, think it is silly to consider behaviors between consenting adults, “sin”.

    The hateful speech you quote is pretty typical of the hatefullness and hypocrisy of modern humans. The person evidently forgot “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone” and “judge not lest ye be judged” and “turn the other cheek”, and “blessed are the meek” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Few Christians can live up to Christian standards, although many are earnestly trying. That doesn’t mean the standards have not had an impact on western civilization which should be acknowledged. The refusal to recognized distinctions among them and the refusal to acknowledge any positive influence on western culture is daemonization in order to justify hating them. It is perhaps fortunate that modern humans must daemonize and dehumanize others in order to hate, things might be worse if hating came even easier.

  21. I don’t hate them. The majority of my best friends are Christians. I love them all.

    Love the Christian, hate the Christianity.

    Hee hee.

  22. “Few Christians can live up to Christian standards.”

    I agree, and virtually none can live up to the even higher standards that are held by an average atheist.

  23. The “average” atheist believes in nationalism, environmentalism and “scientific management”, i.e., central planning. These faiths are responsible for much of the destruction of the wars and totalitarian regimes of the 20th century and threaten to destroy trillions of dollars of wealth this century. Their “progressive” ideology has devolved into worship of the “noble” subsistance-culture savage as an apologia for a “materialism” that produced LESS material wealth.

    All values are subjective. “Higher” standards don’t exist, and believers in them dangerously feel entitled to impose them upon others by force or fiat.

  24. Wow. You sure run around with a different group of atheists than I do. Silly me, I thought being an atheist simply meant not believing in any gods. I didn’t realize it meant marching in unison to the nationalist/environmentalist/scientific-management drumbeat. You’d better alert the people at Merriam-Webster that they need to update their definition.

    These atheists you describe sure sound like an ugly bunch, similar to some of these people:

    http://adultthought.ucsd.edu/Culture_War/The_American_Taliban.html

    Your last sentence is especially accurate, though—as a description of religious folk.

    If you want to talk to some atheists who are funny, rational, intelligent, interesting, and even compassionate, you should read the posts and the comments at this blog:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/

    They’ll be happy to logically dismantle your perception of atheists entirely, if you wish to debate it with them. If you do, please use the same screen name you use here so I can follow the fun.

  25. For anyone else reading these posts (I can’t imagine anybody has stuck with it), if you’d like some honest, accurate insight into what many atheists believe, how they live, what they expect out of life, what they value, etc., simply read some Dawkins, Hitchens, or Harris. You’ll find that the word “atheist” probably doesn’t connote everything you think it does, and it definitely doesn’t justify the misinformation posted above.

    As for Christianity and how the words of Jesus have (or have not) impacted American society, here’s an interesting article written by a Christian:

    http://harpers.org/archive/2005/08/0080695

  26. Ben, I looked at pharyngula, the scope of the discussions are not wide enough to generalize to their positions on progressivism, although those supporting Al Franken are likely “true believers”. If you have a particular discussion that you think is enlightening, please point it out.

    You won’t find out what atheists believe by reading Dawkins, Hitchens or Harris. You will find out what they don’t believe in, which is God, and they are just a small sample. Dawkins and Hitchens are not raving progressives. I don’t know about Harris.

    If you think my characterization of the average atheist was misinformation, then you must think that the average atheist was not a left wing Democratic party supporter of Obama or internationally a European social democrat or even further to the left. Are you thinking that libertarian atheists represent the “average”? I think you underestimate the extent to which the progressive atheists outnumber the libertarian atheists.

  27. The scope of the discussions at Pharyngula is as wide as you want it to be. Just ask questions or make comments.

    Yes, you can learn plenty about what atheists believe by reading those authors I mentioned. Either you didn’t read closely enough, or you didn’t read the books at all. Maybe you read the Amazon reviews.

    I’m not nearly as well-read or knowledgeable on these topics as the nice people at Pharyngula. They will give you a much better debate, if you want one. Go on over there and quit wasting your time with me.

  28. In my experience, which is pretty extensive since I myself used to be an atheist, and I participate in many forums on which atheists predominate, most atheists lean towards progressive politics. I’ll agree with AG about environmentalism, but I see very little evidence that atheists generally support nationalism or “scientific management”.

    What I do find is that most atheists are keen on EVIDENCE. They try to make rational, evidence-based decisions about religion, politics, and ethics. For example, because “scientific management” has been an abject failure wherever it’s been tried, they’re not too keen on it.

    They’re far more likely to consider themselves citizens of the globe and members of the human race than most of the fundamentalists I know.

    Pharygula is fascinating, and I read it every day, but I don’t recommend theists post there unless they have a very thick skin.

  29. What did you do to me Leigh and Bob? Pharyngula is a cesspool of personal attacks, namecalling and infantile inside wisecracks. Leigh, I am not suprised that you don’t think that those atheists support nationalism, most don’t detect it. Keep in mind however, how uncritically the supported the soveignty of Saddam Hussein as if all sovereignties were equally worthy of respect. They also support the United Nations which is all about nations having rights and votes, but only pays lip service to individual rights. They also propose national health care systems, religiously assuming that you or I have more obligation to provide health care to someone in the United States than someone in say Sweden or Denmark, which, of course, is only true if one beleives in nationalism. Nationalism is subtly pervasive and dangerous.

    They probably think it was perfectly OK for FDR to conscript innocent civlians, hold them in camps for weeks, sleep deprive them, verbally and physically abuse them, condition them to follow orders and desensitize them to killing, i.e., boot camp. It makes waterboarding seem like a picnic. FDR also put Japanese Americans in concentration camps and approved the firebombing of civilians. Yet, you will probably find that they revere him, while reviling Bush, who didn’t conscript and used the most accurate weapons in history. 90 seconds of waterboarding pales in comparison to what FDR did to those innocent conscripts for weeks on end.

    Back to Pharyngula. Go here to this discussion to see the kind of “civility” I encountered:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/01/the_ways_of_the_bush_administr.php

  30. Hmm, I have found some civility and intercourse there. But there sure is a lot of mindless vitriol.

  31. AG, since that other site we visit is down, I’ll post here: I apologize if my last comment offended you. That wasn’t my intent.

  32. The NEWEST Pretrib Calendar !

    Hal (serial polygamist) Lindsey and other pretrib-rapture-trafficking and Mayan-Calendar-hugging hucksters deserve the following message: “2012 may be YOUR latest date. It isn’t MAYAN!” Actually, if it weren’t for the 179-year-old, fringe-British-invented, American-merchandised pretribulation rapture bunco scheme, Hal would still be piloting a tugboat on the Mississippi. roly-poly Thomas Ice (Tim LaHaye’s No. 1 strong-arm enforcer) would still be in his tiny folding-chair church which shares its firewall with a Texas saloon, Jack Van Impe would still be a jazz band musician, Tim LaHaye would still be titillating California matrons with his “Christian” sex manual, Grant Jeffrey would still be taking care of figures up in Canada, Chuck Missler would still be in mysterious hush-hush stuff that rocket scientists don’t dare talk about, and John Hagee might be making – and eating – world-record pizzas! To read more details about the eschatological British import that leading British scholarship never adopted – the import that’s created some American multi-millionaires – Google “Pretrib Rapture Diehards” (note LaHaye’s hypocrisy under “1992”), “Hal Lindsey’s Many Divorces,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers)” and “Thomas Ice (Hired Gun),” “LaHaye’s Temperament,” “Wily Jeffrey,” “Chuck Missler – Copyist,” “Open Letter to Todd Strandberg” and “The Rapture Index (Mad Theology),” “X-Raying Margaret,” “Humbug Huebner,” “Thieves’ Marketing,” “Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal,” “The Unoriginal John Darby,” “Pretrib Hypocrisy,” “The Real Manuel Lacunza,” “Roots of (Warlike) Christian Zionism,” “America’s Pretrib Rapture Traffickers,” “Pretrib Rapture – Hidden Facts,” “Dolcino? Duh!” and “Scholars Weigh My Research.” Most of the above is written by journalist/historian Dave MacPherson who has focused on long-hidden pretrib rapture history for 35+ years. No one else has focused on it for 35 months or even 35 weeks. MacPherson has been a frequent radio talk show guest and he states that all of his royalties have always gone to a nonprofit group and not to any individual. His No. 1 book on all this is “The Rapture Plot” (see Armageddon Books online, etc.). The amazing thing is how long it has taken the mainstream media to finally notice and expose this unbelievably groundless yet extremely lucrative theological hoax!

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