Atlanta is burning: A new and ominous threat to religious liberty (COMMENTARY)

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Kelvin Cochran, former Atlanta fire chief, speaks at the podium after being sworn in at the annual convention of International Fire Chiefs in Dallas, Tex., on August 27, 2009.

Photo by Patsy Lynch/FEMA, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Kelvin Cochran, former Atlanta fire chief, speaks at the podium after being sworn in at the annual convention of International Fire Chiefs in Dallas, Tex., on August 27, 2009.

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(RNS) If one’s religious beliefs are to be punished with (among other things) loss of employment, you don't need a vivid imagination to guess where such logic may lead.

  • Doc Anthony

    Hey now, wot’s THIS? Theologian Albert Mohler and attorney Kelly Shackleford are actually allowed to show up on the RNS article lineup once every blue moon? Whoda thunk it?

    Surely this is the end of the world! Possibly the universe!

  • Torin93

    In Protestant Tradition, all believers are priests and have direct access to god. So, you can have many people calling themselves Christian, but believing and acting in very different ways. There are some 2,500 different sects in Christianity, with so many differing views, how is a society to make reasonable accommodations without offending someone?

  • Glyndon Morris

    Georgia is a so-called “at-will employment” state, meaning that any employer or employee may terminate employment for any reason (or for no reason) at any time, without notice. Mr. Reed has repeatedly stated that he fired Mr Cochran for bad judgment in publishing the book. No one except Mr. Cochran has said that the termination was a result of Mr. Cochran’s beliefs. I am a gay man. Based on that book, if I were a citizen of Atlanta and my home caught fire and the fire department was in any way delayed in getting there to extinguish the blaze, I would be very suspicious. This puts the entire fire department in a tenuous position. The author is not just a citizen, he is not even just a firefighter. He is a civic leader with a position of trust. A significant portion of the Atlanta community can no longer trust this man to treat them equally. He needed to be removed.

  • Larry

    As usual, Christian pundits mistakes being persecuted with being admonished for obnoxious uncivil behavior. A perfect example of “it only applies if you are Christian” which runs through conservative misconceptions of religious liberties.

    Cochrane did more than “voice his religious views” he was handing out his religious tract unsolicited in the workplace. He made his views an issue and used his authority to give the appearance of official endorsement of the views expressed in the book.

    What the author deliberately omits is the nature of the fire chief’s employment. As the chief of the city fire department, it is a POLITICALLY APPOINTED POSITION. One whose life only exists at the fiat of the mayor. Any form of public embarrassment can easily be justified as grounds for dismissal. Handing out a tract that openly attacks members of the mayor’s constituency and gives even the faintest whiff of possibly discriminatory conduct must be dealt with even for just for political reasons.

    The first amendment was never a protection from criticism or from public reaction to one’s speech. One makes their views public, they invite criticism. Even religious speech is subject to criticism and public reaction when aired in public.

    Being the raging hypocrite he is, Mr. Mohler believes that freedom of religion does not apply to anyone but Christians. This is evidenced by his reaction to the incidents at Duke University. Somehow Christians must be allowed to voice whatever offensive views are possible but no other faiths.

    Btw Mr. Shakleford is a know liar and hysteric for the cause of furthering the conservative Christian persecution delusion.

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  • Greg

    “Cochrane … used his authority to give the appearance of official endorsement of the views expressed in the book.”

    Well that sounds like the same thing our president does. And actually, this whole new philosophy of gay marriage, abortion on demand, demeaning Christianity, shutting down religious viewpoints that have been the gold standard for thousands of years, labeling anything that has even the slightest, far-reaching hint of crossing any line this new philosophy dictates as the new normal, is labeled as racism, sexism, bigotry, etc., etc..

    The crazy thing is, this new philosophy has actually become a new religion in its own right. We’ll call it the “Imagine” Religion, named appropriately after the John Lennon song, which stated his own world view (which is quickly becoming a reality). In fact, this philosophical religion is probably the selfsame religion our Lord was referring to when he spoke of the End Times, before his Return. It is written that well reasoned, God Loving Christians would not be able to buy or sell without the Mark of the Beast, and of course that Mark is the way you Think. And just as Atlanta’s Fire Chief just found out, he refused the “mark,” and lost his job. I guess this Fire Chief actually believed we truly have free exercise of religion as is granted in the First Amendment!

  • samuel Johnston

    Old story. Wherever Christians have once been in charge and dictated policy, and then their authority is challenged, they scream “persecution”. Do they want equal treatment under the law? Not when it conflicts with their agenda. “God said it, I believe it. That’s the end of it.” Truly a philosophy suitable for a bumper sticker.

  • Greg

    Samuel,The Catholic Church is 2000 years old, and has been saying the same thing since the time of Christ. In looking back at history, I have come to believe that the teachings of Jesus Christ are wholesome & good, and are the recipe for a strong and just civilization. Over the centuries, each society will experience its share of ups and downs… and sadly, during the course of time, many Christians have run their ships aground, and have blackened the garments they wore, but that has never been the end, but merely a nudge from Jesus that we need to get back on track, and right the ship. And indeed that has happened time and again. But sadly, in our day, a new philosophical religion has come up from the darkness and is trying to transform us into the New Tower Of Babel. Man tells God to go away, deciding for himself what is right and wrong, and continues to build his New Tower. But all the good we have today is the result of a Christian society, not the new, androgynous philosophical religion being promoted by the John Lennons of the world. They are empty minded philosophers whose methods only bring more madness. Remember, Hospitals, Universities, Orphanages, Adoption Centers, Charities, etc., etc., etc., were all created and developed by the Catholic Church. The Church built Western Civilization. So now the new religion knows better?

  • Neon Genesis

    Hey now, what’s this? You’re just now realizing the Internet isn’t persecuting your faith contrary to your conspiracy theory paranoia?? OMG! Surely this must be the end of the world!

  • Neon Genesis

    Shame on Religion News Service for running this homophobic bigoted fluff piece that even a kindergartener could refute by these homophobic radical theocratic bigots. You ought to know better RNS and it’s disappointing you would allow them a platform to spread their homophobic lies.

  • samuel Johnston

    Hi Greg,
    The city of Jericho, generally thought to be the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city has never been massively excavated, but an abandoned city nearby has been. It dates from 9000-7000 B.C.E. The City of Ur, dated at around 3500 B.C.E. (famous for being the origin of the Biblical Abraham) is less than half as old. Egypt’s Pyramids are from around 2600 B.C.E. The Homer of Greek fame is from about 800 B.C.E. The oldest extant Biblical texts are from the beginnings of the Second Century C.E.
    In short, the world is a very old place, and that is before we get into the fact that it is also a very large place.
    The Catholic religion is a synthetic religion, made up by the Romans from of bits and pieces of former religions, for the purpose of controlling the captive non Roman populations of Roman cities. It is modeled from the Greek synthetic religion of Sarapes, dating from the time of Ptolemy. Go to any large city library and look it up. It is only a secret from those who have not bothered to read ancient history.
    I will cheerfully grant you that the Catholic Church has built Western civilization. Yet, it has only borrowed from what went before, excelling only in organization, not original ideas. It is a religion promulgated by an army, not by original ideas. As for saying the same thing since the time of “Christ”. Short answer, yes and no, but that is for another epistle.

  • ATF

    Larry, thank you. I too believe that the actions of Cochran were inappropriate and the mayor acted in the best interests of the City of Atlanta and the fire department. Cochran created an uncomfortable atmosphere in the fire department for any LGBT firefighters and made it less likely that otherwise qualified LGBT folks would apply to work for the fire department. He also created an atmosphere where others who may be prejudiced against LGBT people would feel freer to act out their prejudices, even if that was just to have conversations with other firefighters that voiced negative comments about how LGBT people live. He made being LGBT a fire department issue – within the fire department and within the community that fire department serves.

    I also find it ironic that the writers of the article cite the common opinion shared by some Christians and that voiced by Catholic bishops regarding religious freedom and free expression. Catholic bishops have no problem firing LGBT people for being LGBT and expressing themselves by getting married. But the authors don’t want others to be able to fire people who are anti LGBT rights. Seems only one side is supposed to win on this one – those who are or support LGBT people’s right can be fired but those who oppose those rights can’t be fired. One side has religious freedom but the other side doesn’t.

    I am Catholic and I live in the Greater Atlanta area. I support Mayor Reed’s actions.

  • Eric

    “In fact, this philosophical religion is probably the selfsame religion our Lord was referring to when he spoke of the End Times, before his Return.”

    You and your swamp-fever dreams of persecution are the reason people like Mohler and Shackelford have jobs. Sorry, hoss, but Jesus didn’t have your and your special friends and your pet causes in mind. Nor are the End Times coming soon to a theatre near you. You and your fellow fantasists aren’t innocent, aren’t pure, aren’t true, and you certainly aren’t persecuted. You all are simply cowards. Period.

  • Ben In oakland

    I guess it is just a matter of whose on is getting gored. The Southern Baptist Convention, Mohler’s alter ego, championed slavery, and in fact was created out of a pro-slavery constituency. The SBC also defended Jim Crow and segregation, and it was southern baptists who claimed that anti-miscegenation laws were just reflections of God’s will.

    At the forefront of every gay rights battle, you find the SBC, opposed to anti-discrimination laws, supporting their repeal, so that baptists don’t have to serve my kind here. The baptists have claimed repeatedly that my civil marriage is not in their particular version of god’s plan, despite a great many other denominations’ disagreement. my religious freedom, and the freedom of those denominations, are clearly not what Mohler believes comes under the rubric of freedom of religion.

    So, I’m afraid was Mohler means is this: freedom of religion is for me. the freedom to follow my religion is for you.

  • There be Sodomites Today

    “Get out of our way,” the Sodomite Crowd replied to Lot. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge!

    We’ll treat you worse than them.”

    They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. – Genesis 19

    “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

    – Book of Jude

    For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.

    1 Peter 4

    The horrible thing these Christians are doing is rejecting the world and its ways. And they are being treated accordingly. The LGBT hammer is just a convenient weapon in the arsenal of hatred that has always existed towards Christians but was slightly held back. Now, with the weapon of political correctness, and the fangs and claws of the hatefulness crowd that hides underneath the sheep’s wool of “secularism” are finally able to inflict the wounds on Christians they have only dreamed about ’til now.

    This is a time where Christians should now be able to see the evil exposed. Homosexuality is just an idol within the mall of idolatry that permeates our materialistic society. There is nothing new to “progressive” values. Just a return to dancing in front of Molech and the many lascivious and licentious idols mankind has always chosen to consume.

    It’s a bit exciting to see the wheat from the chaff being separated before our eyes. The ones that can see and the ones that are blind.

    No Christian should be surprised that gay pride is demanding to take power and authority over The Church. It is a story as old as the same sex marriages engaged in by Nero himself.

    Chief Kelvin Cochran is just one more example of a victim of the same old enemy The Church has always faced. What’s ironic for the two-faced liars of freedom and liberty, is that it IS the first amendment that is causing believers to wake up to the horrors of the pride movement and its banner of the rainbow flag, that is stalking it.

    Islam on one side and “progressive-liberal” political power (comfortably wearing the sheep’s clothing of secularism) on the other. It’s incredible to watch the persecution of The Church denied by those that proclaim the mantle of “tolerance and diversity” as if it is not effortless to see that they don’t mean it by their actions.

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  • Jon

    What happens when a Christian is stopped from using his position of power to coerce people who don’t share his religious views? It’s used as an example of the “Christian persecution”. No surprise there.

    Christian privilege on display – to be able to claim that when someone objects to your actions of religious bullying, that you are being “persecuted”.

    Nothing new for Mohler, of course.

  • “If you vocalize your religious beliefs in public, as Chief Cochran did, you can soon be out of a job….”

    As it should be.
    It is entirely reasonable to hold religious texts accountable for their incitement to violence and division.

    “KILL HOMOSEXUALS” – Leviticus 20:13
    If a person distributes incitement to violence he should fired.

    Cochran STILL HAS HIS FREEDOM to believe that Witches and Gays should be burned alive. He can still go to a Tax-free church and sing the praises of burning gays alive – If that is what he believes.

    He is only being prevented from a job – not his rights.

    And since when do Right Wingers believe a job is a human right? That is quite a news flash.
    Whatever happened to pulling yourself up by your bootstraps?

    Care to explain that to your Republican friends in Washington how your job is now a ‘right’? Sounds like socialist Commie talk to me!

    For Peace, Culture and The Separation of Church and State

  • TBST,

    It’s incredible to watch the persecution of The Church denied…

    Despicable garbage. Shame on you!

    This is persecution: “Kill Homosexuals” – (Lev. 20:13)

    If someone made a law which said “KILL CHRISTIANS”
    how long would it be before someone called that hate speech?!

    When I see someone say “Kill Christians” then I will care about ‘persecution’ of the church. Until then, grow up and face the primitive garbage and nonsense at the heart of your religion.

    Nobody is taking away your right believe that killing gays is a good idea – believe it privately and discuss the joy of such hate with your Pastor. If you ever try it though, be prepared for the consequences from the law.

    Because that is the point. Your religion has no place in public law.

    Peace, Culture and the Separation of Church and State

  • Doc Anthony

    Well, at least we both agree that it’s the end of the world! You gotta start SOMEWHERE!

  • Doc Anthony

    Hmm. For a guy who preaches that “the Internet isn’t persecuting” conservative Christianity, you seem VERY eager to call on RNS to practice raw censorship on one of the rare occasions when a conservative Christian article actually shows up here. Discrepancy much?

    By the way, the Associated Press has dropped the word “homophobic” from its official “AP Style Book.” in the interests of accuracy. Why not follow their lead?

  • Doc Anthony

    Hopefully the courts will settle this issue.

    In Mr. Cochran’s favor, that is.

  • Frank

    Keep speaking the truth Mr Mohler. Christians wake up! Your religious rights are slowly being eroded in the name of sin.

  • @Ken,

    “Pol Pot….How are your fellow atheists doing in N. Korea?”

    More nonsense from the religionistas.
    You clearly don’t know religion when you see it.

    And you don’t appreciate your Atheist Constitution
    which only mentions God to say it shall have NOTHING to do with American Law
    and which preserves your Religious Freedom:

    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion…”

    Your right to your religion is ensured thanks to that phrase.
    Without it you would be forced to take A RELIGION: Agrarian Cults like Stalin, Pol Pot, or Mao, or Kim ill Sun, Hirohito, Sharia, Christofascism, etc…or whatever else some politician decides for you!

    Atheism is a simple disbelief in Gods – Yahweh, Jeebus, the Hidden Imam – whatever else.

    Shame on you for slandering the one thing that grants you Religious Freedome: An ATHEIST Constitution. You should be thanking your lucky stars!

  • @Ken,

    I prefer common sense to your Zombies.

    “ZOMBIES rose out of the graves and at cracker Jacks with the kids of Jerusalem enjoying the fine wines of the valley and mixing it up with the locals” – (Matthew 27:52)

    Keep it in church.

  • @Ken,

    “like a true Brown Shirt…”

    You stand there with a sign which says “KILL HOMOSEXUALS” (LEV. 20:13) and you dare to call me the ‘brown shirt’ for objecting to your ugly sign?

    It is far past the time for religion to back down and get back into the churches and the soap boxes where it belongs. It has no place in American Law.

    Supporting a book which demands death to Homosexuals. I mean really! What is wrong with you? Keep it in church.

    For Peace, Religious Freedom and The Separation of Church and State

  • ChicagoIrish

    @AtheistMax You’re a very sad man, @AtheistMax. What happened to make you so angry and bitter? I genuinely feel for you, and I will pray for you.

    And BTW, you omitted the second half of the religion clause in the First Amendment: : “….or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

  • Larry

    The world has a finite existence and will end eventually over the passage of time. So its always heading towards the end of the world. 🙂

  • ChicagoIrish,

    “angry and bitter”

    The city of Atlanta wants to act like a Christian Sharia Caliphate
    and you wonder what makes people angry?

    Did you not read the article? Try reading the constitution.
    Then keep the Christian nonsense out of our laws.

  • Larry

    I would guess one would be angry with ignorant, patronizing, passive aggressive remarks such as yours.

    Of course you cannot have free exercise of religion unless there is a prohibition on the establishment of religion. Many a self-professed Christian don’t really give a flying crap about free exercise of religion, unless it is their own. All other faiths are unworthy of such consideration in their eyes.

    It is why they can make so many silly arguments against separation of church and state. Since they don’t really care about the free exercise of religion, they don’t care about the government being subverted to sectarian ends.

    We both know that, “I will pray for you” is a typical concluding line from a Fundy who is unable to keep up an argument and is flustered.

    Christianspeak for “Go F— Yourself”
    “[I will pray for you], a phrase used to get the last word in and more often than not to add insult to injury disguised behind a phrase that is actually meant to be used as a progressive thing. It is a dismissal tinged with a suggestion of smug superiority. …It is essentially a declaration of forfeiture on the topic at hand, instead of the integrity to admit “

    “I’ll pray for you” may be perceived as a pious dismissal, a quick and convenient way to cease a discussion in which the other party is becoming too increasingly challenged—or even uncomfortable—to reflect beyond their comfort zone or to be open to learning something new and unique. It is a condescending last-word-getter.

    And it is always disingenuous; I have never believed the other party actually did make good on their word and really prayed for me….unless they were praying for an agonizing and lingering death for me starting immediately. What makes them think their prayer will benefit me if they’re only really praying for me to be “saved” or, more likely, that I’ll see things their way—my understanding of legitimate prayer is it doesn’t work that way. It is driven by love and compassion and a desire to be of service; not as a selfish device to placate one’s own motives.”

  • Larry

    Yes, the right of Christian fundies to act like pompous self important equine posteriors are slowly eroding. The rest of the nation is thankful for that.

  • ChicagoIrish

    Wow, Larry, you’re pretty angry and bitter, too. I’m not sure why, since you seem to have all the answers. I would think that with all that knowledge you’d be beyond being angry and bitter–but, alas, you are not, and I’m genuinely sorry for that.

    As for my prayer life, you–and your patheos post–couldn’t be more wrong. I know the Creator and I know that He loves you and @AtheistMax, and I have and will genuinely pray for you both. Like me, you need it.

    But I’m still curious as to why your and @AtheistMax’s comments just drip with snark and vitriol–or, as the Bible might phrase it, “gnashing of teeth.” Seriously–why?

  • Greg

    Samuel: We’re not referring to ancient landmarks of something that once was, but rather that the Catholic Church has been here, and has been a fully functioning institutional entity since the time of Jesus (inclusive of the Orthodox). That cannot be said of any other entity 2000 years old. The Church has been teaching the same thing for 2000 years, so today to suddenly call the Church intolerant, bigoted, sexist, racist, etc., is about as out of bounds as it gets. The new philosophical “Imagine” Religion held in great esteem by its founder John Lennon, and the Leftists of today, will fall flat on its face, and crumble within 50 years. All the while the Catholic Church will continue on, proclaiming Eternal Truth, until the day our Lord Returns.

  • Greg

    Atheist: Jesus came to clear up any misconceptions the Jews had concerning their relationship with God the Father. As for Leviticus 20:13, or for that matter, any of the Old Testament warnings, are mostly meant to get the person living a life of grave sin, back on track. It is a warning to straighten out your life. Our Lord was clear that Nature was established by God, and that the order of Nature (the Natural Law), must be upheld. What is really meant by Leviticus 20:13, is that persons who engage in homosexual activity, and do not repent of it, will experience the second death, or eternal misery with the Devil and his angels. God gives us free will in this life, but where we will spend the life after this one, will directed by Him immediately after we breathe our last.

  • Religion is a nightmare and the fact that it isn’t dying off fast enough is an increasing danger to our civilization.

    other than that I have nothing to be mad about.

  • “God gives us free will in this life”

    So I have free will because the Boss says so?
    That is not free will – it is a threat.

    “Would you like chicken or fish for dinner?”
    That is a free will question.
    There are no consequences, it is just a choice.

    “Choose chicken or I’ll kill you”, is not a free will question.
    It is terrorism.

    People, we need to grow out of this nonsense.

  • ChicagoIrish

    Sorry, @AtheistMax, it’s not that easy and it doesn’t work that way–and I suspect you know it doesn’t but don’t want to admit it. Either way, I believe that the posts you’re seeing in reply to you are actually God reaching out to you. Why not consider what He says? Read the Case For Christ by Lee Strobel (a highly educated man and a former atheist, BTW). What do you have to lose? I think you know: eternal life.

    Also, consider Pascal’s Wager (Blaise Pascal, another rather brilliant gent): The wager uses the following logic:

    1. God is, or God is not. Reason cannot decide between the two alternatives.
    2. A “Game” is being played, where heads or tails will turn up.
    3. You must wager (it is not optional).
    4. Weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
    5. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.

    Nothing personal, but only a fool would bet no. Just consider it–REALLY think about it. And remember that God loves you–even if you don’t love Him.
    But some cannot believe. They should then ‘at least learn your inability to believe…’ and ‘Endeavour then to convince’ themselves.

  • Neon Genesis

    Funny, for a guy who claims to believe in Internet freedom of speech, you seem to have a double standard when it comes to who should be allowed to write for RNS, as I remember you accusing Atheist Max of being a troll when Religion News Service allowed him to write his anti-Christian rant here. If freedom of religion means the freedom to write an article, when do I get my chance to write an article here, RNS? They should let everyone here write their own fluff pieces if they’re going to be consistent.

  • ChicagoIrish

    Sorry ’bout those last two lines….they were inadvertently copied along with the wager explanation. But they are relevant…

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  • Larry


    Sorry if giving you the plain truth of the matter sounds angry to you. I guess you are not used to hearing it from people. Evidently religious belief and passive aggressive attitudes are easily linked in some people.

    As for your prayer for us, here is something from the article I linked to, but you didn’t read

    “To this “prayer” nonsense, I have only this to say:
    It’s like rubbing your member against a tree. Sure, it feels good for you, but it does absolutely nothing for the tree, and it puts people off.”

    Pascal’s wager is a terrible argument to make for God. It posits that your God is so vain, so interested in false gestures and so oppressive that he expects lying and supplication over any substantively good acts. A Pascal’s wager deity is a being unworthy of respect. Those devoted to him are equally scurrilous, dishonest or cowardly.

  • ChicagoIrish

    Larry, I’m amazed at the conclusions you jump to, and with no knowledge! I’m fine with plain truth. In fact, that’s why I’m a Christian–I value truth and Christ embodies it.

    As to your very bizarre take on Pascal’s Wager, that is certainly your choice, erroneous though it may be. I stand by my statement that only a fool would bet against God–and you don’t strike me as a fool. But maybe I’m wrong. I hope not–I’d love to look back on this and laugh with you in heaven.

  • Larry

    “As to your very bizarre take on Pascal’s Wager”

    Not at all. You are just not used to an actual discussion on the subject. Pascal’s wager depends on a God more interested in phony gestures and coercion than good deeds. That is your premise.

    Better to pretend to believe in God, despite lacking actual genuine belief because of potential fear a deity who would be offended by disbelief.

    But a god willing to punish mere disbelief is not one worthy of worship. Pascal’s God is venal and infantile.

    You stand by your statement that God doesn’t value genuine belief and neither do his adherents. I can understand that. Many people who “boost” for their faith are rather shameless, intellectually dishonest, and arrogant. You fit the bill perfectly.

  • @ChicagoIrish,

    “Only a fool would bet no”

    So you fake your belief?
    Your God is a fool to not see through that one.

    And don’t call it ‘piety’ or ‘righteousness’ if you are just faking it.

  • samuel Johnston

    No question that as an organization, Catholicism is the oldest and most successful. Religion and religious ideas, however, are often much, much older.
    Obviously Judaism is older, and it is clear that some of their most famous stories were “borrowed” from the even earlier Sumerians. The Egyptian Aton/Amon cult/religion lasted for about four thousand years (roughly from 3600 B.C.E. to 400 C.E.). Buddhism is at least five hundred years older than Christianity.
    Success of a cult or religious practice, however says nothing about its validity, or “truth”. Human sacrifice is much older and more widespread than any particular religion, but few today practice it, or consider it efficacious, despite the fact that it is the central mythology of Christianity.

  • John Hutchinson

    The problem with your rather simplist argument is that all contracts / covenants only apply to those who subscribe to or enter into them. And in the case of the Mosaic covenant, from which you derive Leviticus 20:13, the Hebrews and their descendents were under that covenant until that contract/covenant was broken. (Contract / covenant legal paradigms do not differ inside or outside of Scriptures.) The nations (Gentiles) did not sign onto the Mosaic covenant.

    In Christianity, Christ has fulfilled the Mosaic Law (Romans 10:4, Matthew 5:17) for those who believe in Him and His counsel. Such are now governed by a New and different Covenant, whose telos (purpose) differs from that of the old Mosaic Covenant. I certainly believe on Scriptural, rational, historical and sociological grounds that same-sex relationships radically ‘miss the mark’ (a.k.a. sin) as to what constitutes the best erotic relationship. However, I have no Scriptural New Testament permission to disallow those who go down that route to do so. On the other hand, homosexuals have no right to insist that my conscience claim something true that I find to be very untrue. Such feints at tyranny are far more likely to cause a militancy than their conduct ever was.

    You can cite many ‘Christians’ that do insist on enacting and enforcing laws against same-sex relations. And Mohler is on record for even wanting to criminalize marital adultery; which has more of an old Roman Republican ring to it than Hebraic New Testament Scriptures. But one has to make a distinction between what the Scriptures clearly states and what idiots want it to say.

  • John Hutchinson

    Secondly, separation of church and state, whose terminology is not even in the Bill of RIghts does not lead to peace. Whenever one faction, (it really does not matter what nature these factions are, (ideological or self-interest)), constructs a society to systematically advantage their faction above their adversaries; it is the path to oppression, civil conflagration and war.

    This is Madison, The Federalist and the Founding Fathers talking, as well as Baptist Roger Williams (“The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience”) from whence the “separation” metaphor first emerged in 1644. This is the overwhelming observation of history. This is what is happening in France with their laicite regime.

    To advantage one taxpayer over another in the shelling out of public jobs denies representation to all those who are under taxation. It also violates the spirit of Article 6 Paragraph 3 of the Constitution against religious tests to any office. I just do not know whether the judiciary has evolved to also apply it to local municipalities as well.

  • pleazzze

    This world is upside down and the very people bringing down good and moral people will soon find themselves surrounded by evil ones. It is sad, but brought on by themselves who push for immorality daily. The crux of their being is crying out, accept my immoral behavior and if you do not. I will punish you. God will always win in the end and Cochran will sell more books in the meantime.

  • pleazzze

    It is very clear after reading these comments of who the wise and noble ones are and who is evil gnashing their teeth. This world is upside down and the very people bringing down good and moral people will soon find themselves surrounded by evil ones. It is sad, but brought on by themselves who push for immorality daily. The crux of their being is crying out, accept my immoral behavior and if you do not. I will punish you. God will always win in the end and Cochran will sell more books in the meantime.

  • win in the end

    Pagans lose in the end. If you weaken Christian’s and our moral soldiers what do you get? Sharia law with immoral leaders who will behead the sodomites, and you say is our country is thankful. Keep on preaching your sin, but do not be surprised at what you find at the end of your journey.

  • larry

    Separation of church and state nay not have led to peace, but its opposite, government entangled with religion always leads to war.

    Separation of church and state is the underlying concept of the establishment clause. It exists as the clause’s shorthand definition. Without it free exercise is impossible to implement. Attacking one is attacking the other. Revolutionary France had the separation part, but still doesn’t grasp the free exercise part. (Hijab bans would never fly in the US)

    All Mohler and associated don’t respect either part. It was inappropriate to hand out his tract in a public workplace (one incident gave the appearance of department endorsement). Mohler also decries the right of other faiths to worship.

    As with most fundamentalist Christians invoking religious freedom, it is purely self serving and bereft of understanding the concepts.

  • @John Hutchinson,

    “But one has to make a distinction between what the Scriptures clearly states and what idiots want it to say.”

    Yours is the simplistic and unexamined argument.

    There are no checks and balances in these horrific texts.
    And the Bible does not come with a rulebook on how to use the Bible.
    Because the Bible claims TO BE the rulebook!

    “Bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their king and EXECUTE THEM IN FRONT OF ME.” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    This is the closing lesson from the despicable parable of the Minas.
    Jesus – in a not very veiled threat – tells the story of what the Nobleman shall do to punish his servants. Jesus is spectacularly evil as he explains that part of the reward the good servant shall enjoy is the pleasure of killing the bad servants on behalf of the Nobleman!

    Jesus is saying that it is proper to reward the good servant by gifting him with the joy of killing the ‘bad’ servants!

    There is no civilized or SAFE way to apply this parable!
    Jesus is despicable.

    And yet the Church insists the Nobleman in Luke 19: 20 represents Jesus’ return at the Parousia to sort out the wicked from the good!

    Just like all of God’s other plan (Noah’s flood, etc) this one shall fail also. Having the good people kill off the wicked – Imagine the evil right there.

    Look into what you are talking about.
    As others have noted, Atheist Max is no slouch.

    For Peace, Culture and The Separation of Church and State

  • larry

    “Moral soldiers” are the problem. Makes no difference if they are Muslim or Christian. Extremism is an enemy to freedom loving people.

    Your argument is akin to all of those delusional fools during WWII who thought embracing the Nazis were the best way to prevent Communist oppression.

  • @John Hutchinson,

    “Whenever one faction…constructs a society to systematically advantage their faction above their adversaries; it is the path to oppression, civil conflagration and war.”

    Which is why religion disgusts me.

    The enemy of civilization is not Atheism it is ENFORCED DOGMA (RELIGION)

    As in: Agrarian Dogmatic Cults of Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot…etc.

    Our only protection from this dictatorial garbage
    is the Establishment Clause:

    “Congress shall make no law establishing a Religion (ENFORCED DOGMA)…”

    Churches are working hard to overturn the Establishment Clause because they are run by ignorant clergy who have no respect for civilization – and seek a Theocracy in America.

    I have no idea who supports the Separation of Church and State anymore because the sweeping ignorance (such as yours) about its absolute importance is breathtaking.

    Keep your wretched religion out of our laws and we will all get along fine.

    For Peace, Culture and The Separation of Church and State

  • Larry,

    “Hijab bans would never fly in the US”

    And…Thank goodness!

    Less than 2% of the American population are Muslim.
    Yet these Muslims have been free to fully participate in society away from the watchful eye of European Mullahs and Imams – studying and becoming professionals reflecting a larger percentage of scientists and doctors than their population would suggest.

    When Muslims arrive in America many freely voice their unbelief as nowhere else. I’ve seen studies which show Atheism growing rapidly in our communities.

    I think Muslims worldwide are pent up and frustrated to engage and participate in normal civilization. ISIS notwithstanding, most Muslims desperately want to get away from the oppressive Religious decrees and find their freedom – it is Very encouraging.

  • @pleazzze,

    “accept my immoral behavior and if you do not. I will punish you”

    Are you a priest?

  • ChicagoIrish

    @AtheistMax and Larry — Pascal’s Wager is exceedingly straightforward. Who ever said anything about faking anything or sincerity of belief? Of course I don’t fake my faith! Yours is a silly–and foolish–attempt to deny the truth, and it is truly amazing the lengths to which men will go to do so. But, alas, you both have the right to reject God as you do. It’s just very sad, and I do wish (and pray) that you will both reconsider Him and His love for you before it’s too late. Please, reach out to Him with an open mind.

  • Larry

    Yes it is straightforward. Straightforward boneheaded. It demeans both God and his adherents.

    Plus it misses the most obvious variation. If you believe in the WRONG GOD, you risk eternal damnation. So how do you know that you are really worshiping in a safe manner? You only have your take on the scripture (if its the right book) or the words of your trusted clergy to go on.

    Rather than insult our intelligence any further, I suggest you use the interwebs to find common criticism of such an old musty stale argument. You can start here. It is not my job to educate you.

  • Atheist Max’ signature is to post a kitchen sink of Bible quotations with little concession to coherence. Somehow, I do not think that’s terribly helpful for intelligible discussion, though Atheist Max supervising psychiatrist may find it useful for some therapeutic program he has.

  • Your posts are a put on, right?

  • What’s interesting is that Religion News Service contains no reporting. It’s a commentary site. I have to say that compared to ordinary political blogs (which often run with just a short list of posters who do so avocationally while holding other jobs), the quality of that commentary is decidedly substandard even though the participants are not tasked with producing much copy. I cannot believe Eckstrom actually monetizes this in any serious way, so I’d be fascinated to know which philanthropic agencies are bankrolling it.

  • Jim

    Exactly how long would President Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary allow an instructor to remain on the payroll if that instructor self-published a book in which he stated that genuine Christians must support same-sex marriage as a matter of morals and correct theology and the instructor had self-published this book without obtaining President Mohler’s prior consent? A day maybe? A couple of hours? We all know that President Mohler would send the instructor packing without so much as a nod to the instructor’s religious freedom and freedom of speech. Cut the hypocritical posturing, Mr. Mohler. The mayor did exactly what you would do in his place–fire an insubordinate employee who had willfully violated policy. This issue has absolutely nothing to do with genuine religious freedom and you know it.

  • C R Lord

    Torin93 – Genuine Christianity has no sects. It stands alone and apart from the misunderstandings of meager finite minds that lack a spiritual base that is given only through divine revelation from God.

    Christianity is not a religion as some would suppose but an individual, personal and intimate relationship with a holy God. It’s true adherents understand with complete clarity that they are unworthy of the least of God’s mercies and they have placed their faith in the blood of Jesus Christ shed on Calvary as payment in full for their many transgressions against God.

    Religion is man’s feeble and wasted attempt to placate God by supposing that they can do enough good to outweigh their evil and earn the salvation that is only available through Jesus Christ plus nothing.

    It is readily easy to know just who is who in this particular experience. Those who trust to their own righteousness instead of the righteousness of Christ are deceived and are led by either men ignorant of their true nature and the need they have of Christ or those who are deliberately deceivers.

    The name Christian is attached to all sorts of birds of prey and cults and false religionists. Even many protestant denominations that believe perfunctory acts of so-called worship will win them the favor of God and others who have departed from the faith or never were in it to start are deceived into the error of believing that they need to add something to the substitionary atonement of Jesus Christ in order to enter God’s kingdom. In addition, there are those who have departed from the faith and live to be rich in this world forsaking the teaching to set their affections on things above along with others who bring new heresies into the body of believers. Further, there are some who have been deceived into believing in what I call the “seeker friendly gospel” that is never demanding of its adherents and will even allow teachings and actions that go against scripture in an effort to be more “tolerant” of others.

    Real Christians are those who love the Lord Jesus Christ above all things and all men and live to love and serve him and are willing to die for him. Anything other than that is a pathetic and shabby misunderstanding of Christ’s call to denying self and living for God above all and always loving our neighbor as ourselves.

    Christians don’t seek to be accomodated by anyone and they have always been offensive to everyone outside of genuine Christianity because they fly in the face of secularism and religion and believe with all their heart that Jesus Christ alone is sufficient for the sinner to come to terms with their sin and find the peace with God that men seek and fail to find in other places and through other leaders.

  • C R Lord

    Greg: The Roman Catholic Church contends that its origin is the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ in approximately AD 30. The Catholic Church proclaims itself to be the church that Jesus Christ died for, the church that was established and built by the apostles. Is that the true origin of the Catholic Church? On the contrary. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament will reveal that the Catholic Church does not have its origin in the teachings of Jesus or His apostles. In the New Testament, there is no mention of the papacy, worship/adoration of Mary (or the immaculate conception of Mary, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the assumption of Mary, or Mary as co-redemptrix and mediatrix), petitioning saints in heaven for their prayers, apostolic succession, the ordinances of the church functioning as sacraments, infant baptism, confession of sin to a priest, purgatory, indulgences, or the equal authority of church tradition and Scripture. So, if the origin of the Catholic Church is not in the teachings of Jesus and His apostles, as recorded in the New Testament, what is the true origin of the Catholic Church?

    For the first 280 years of Christian history, Christianity was banned by the Roman Empire, and Christians were terribly persecuted. This changed after the “conversion” of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Constantine provided religious toleration with the Edict of Milan in AD 313, effectively lifting the ban on Christianity. Later, in AD 325, Constantine called the Council of Nicea in an attempt to unify Christianity. Constantine envisioned Christianity as a religion that could unite the Roman Empire, which at that time was beginning to fragment and divide. While this may have seemed to be a positive development for the Christian church, the results were anything but positive. Just as Constantine refused to fully embrace the Christian faith, but continued many of his pagan beliefs and practices, so the Christian church that Constantine promoted was a mixture of true Christianity and Roman paganism.

    Constantine found that, with the Roman Empire being so vast, expansive, and diverse, not everyone would agree to forsake his or her religious beliefs to embrace Christianity. So, Constantine allowed, and even promoted, the “Christianization” of pagan beliefs. Completely pagan and utterly unbiblical beliefs were given new “Christian” identities. Some clear examples of this are as follows:

    (1) The Cult of Isis, an Egyptian mother-goddess religion, was absorbed into Christianity by replacing Isis with Mary. Many of the titles that were used for Isis, such as “Queen of Heaven,” “Mother of God,” and theotokos (“God-bearer”) were attached to Mary. Mary was given an exalted role in the Christian faith, far beyond what the Bible ascribes to her, in order to attract Isis worshippers to a faith they would not otherwise embrace. Many temples to Isis were, in fact, converted into temples dedicated to Mary. The first clear hints of Catholic Mariology occur in the writings of Origen, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, which happened to be the focal point of Isis worship.

    (2) Mithraism was a religion in the Roman Empire in the 1st through 5th centuries AD. It was very popular among the Romans, especially among Roman soldiers, and was possibly the religion of several Roman emperors. While Mithraism was never given “official” status in the Roman Empire, it was the de facto official religion until Constantine and succeeding Roman emperors replaced Mithraism with Christianity. One of the key features of Mithraism was a sacrificial meal, which involved eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a bull. Mithras, the god of Mithraism, was “present” in the flesh and blood of the bull, and when consumed, granted salvation to those who partook of the sacrificial meal (this is known as theophagy, the eating of one’s god). Mithraism also had seven “sacraments,” making the similarities between Mithraism and Roman Catholicism too many to ignore. Church leaders after Constantine found an easy substitute for the sacrificial meal of Mithraism in the concept of the Lord’s Supper/Christian communion. Even before Constantine, some early Christians had begun to attach mysticism to the Lord’s Supper, rejecting the biblical concept of a simple and worshipful remembrance of Christ’s death and shed blood. The Romanization of the Lord’s Supper made the transition to a sacrificial consumption of Jesus Christ, now known as the Catholic Mass/Eucharist, complete.

    (3) Most Roman emperors (and citizens) were henotheists. A henotheist is one who believes in the existence of many gods, but focuses primarily on one particular god or considers one particular god supreme over the other gods. For example, the Roman god Jupiter was supreme over the Roman pantheon of gods. Roman sailors were often worshippers of Neptune, the god of the oceans. When the Catholic Church absorbed Roman paganism, it simply replaced the pantheon of gods with the saints. Just as the Roman pantheon of gods had a god of love, a god of peace, a god of war, a god of strength, a god of wisdom, etc., so the Catholic Church has a saint who is “in charge” over each of these, and many other categories. Just as many Roman cities had a god specific to the city, so the Catholic Church provided “patron saints” for the cities.

    (4) The supremacy of the Roman bishop (the papacy) was created with the support of the Roman emperors. With the city of Rome being the center of government for the Roman Empire, and with the Roman emperors living in Rome, the city of Rome rose to prominence in all facets of life. Constantine and his successors gave their support to the bishop of Rome as the supreme ruler of the church. Of course, it is best for the unity of the Roman Empire that the government and state religion be centralized. While most other bishops (and Christians) resisted the idea of the Roman bishop being supreme, the Roman bishop eventually rose to supremacy, due to the power and influence of the Roman emperors. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the popes took on the title that had previously belonged to the Roman emperors—Pontifex Maximus.

    Many more examples could be given. These four should suffice in demonstrating the origin of the Catholic Church. Of course, the Roman Catholic Church denies the pagan origin of its beliefs and practices. The Catholic Church disguises its pagan beliefs under layers of complicated theology and “church tradition.” Recognizing that many of its beliefs and practices are utterly foreign to Scripture, the Catholic Church is forced to deny the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

    The origin of the Catholic Church is the tragic compromise of Christianity with the pagan religions that surrounded it. Instead of proclaiming the gospel and converting the pagans, the Catholic Church “Christianized” the pagan religions, and “paganized” Christianity. By blurring the differences and erasing the distinctions, yes, the Catholic Church made itself attractive to the people of the Roman Empire. One result was the Catholic Church becoming the supreme religion in the Roman world for centuries. However, another result was the most dominant form of Christianity apostatizing from the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the true proclamation of God’s Word.

    Second Timothy 4:3–4 declares, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

  • C R Lord

    Neon – Homophobic? A mere word created to disparage people whose high moral standards are in agreement with the God you despise and reject. Why should anyone accept your bigotry and intolerance for others? Your have not articulated anything to prove your false assumptions and accusations except your bias and hatred of those who believe in the truth of the scriptures.

    I would say you are heavily Christophobic. You fear that Christians may be right about your sexual choice and the condemnation of a holy God for it and that you might have a day of accountability before this God who you are angry at for interrupting your sin with his laws on sexual behavior. Your attack on what you call bigots is only a clear cut confession of your own livid bigotry and intolerance of those who oppose what you support.

    The Bible calls it conviction of sin. It must run deep within you for you to be so adamantly hateful toward those who believe it. I highly suggest that you put aside you hatred of humans and argue with God who calls the lesbian and homosexual lifestyles abominations and against normalcy, and I suggest that you deal with him personally before you die.

    God’s love will reach out to you up to a point and that point is when you shut him out of your life by your own choice entirely because you love your sin far more than you should and close out God’s voice forever. After death the offer of a free gift of salvation to sinners is gone and only judgment awaits. Christ died to free you from sin, death and damnation in the lake of fire. You have to decide whether to trust him or to turn from him. Eternity awaits your answer.

  • Ben in oakland

    You know, you could just switch christophobic and homophobic, Christian andgay, everywhere they appear in your screed, and you would have an equally accurate description of homohatred being perpetrated by Christians.

    If I weren’t on vacation, I’d take the trouble to do it.

    Meanwhile, since you appear to be a baptist or other type of fundamentalist, with a Catholic-phobic, whore of Babylon mentality, perhaps you could expand on Catholicism? It should be interesting.

    As for the high moral standards of antigay Christians, I would refer you to TED Haggard, Cardinal O’Brien, and Newt Gingrich.

  • Larry

    @ C R Lord

    Jehovah’s Witness or Seven Day Adventist?

  • Jack

    Rubbish…..this is but another example of how recognition of gay rights including gay marriage is not the end but the beginning of a broader struggle that goes far beyond those limited aims. They could easily have reprimanded the fire chief if he was seen as “in-your-face” with employees regarding his book. Firing him indicates that their beef with him involved the book itself, not their view of his conduct on the job.

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