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Tennessee pastors endorse candidates from the pulpit

0ea41a7c4ae03c80597bdff1bc387257Seven Tennessee pastors have pledged to endorse various political candidates in their September 26th sermons. This action could endanger their tax-exempt status with the IRS, but that is not stopping a group of pastors of various denominations from encouraging their congregations to vote for their pre-selected candidates.

The issue has raised First Amendment questions about why a church’s tax-exempt status should be linked to its political partisanship and that restricting what a preacher can say to his congregation is a limit on free speech. Jeremy H. of Brentwood said, “Churches have been allowed to spread their misinformation with lies and scare tactics for generations. The last thing they need is the ability to politically indoctrinate their followers as well.”

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission told The Tennessean that “the mixing of the sacred nature of the church with the exceedingly worldly nature of politics is … unseemly.”

“It puts congregations in an awkward position. It’s not a wise thing for churches to endorse candidates. We think candidates should endorse us,” said Land. Land also expressed reservations about potentially alienating members of their churches with differing political views. “I’m supposed to minister to everyone.”

Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, commented, “Clergy serve as spiritual advisers, not political bosses. Pulpit politicking violates federal tax law and offends the vast majority of church-goers.”

This rebellion by clergy has rekindled the debate of whether churches should be tax-exempt at all. In 1881, President James Garfield said, “The divorce between Church and State ought to be absolute. It ought to be so absolute that no Church property anywhere, in any state or in the nation, should be exempt for equal taxation; for if you exempt the property of any church organization to that extent you impose a tax upon the whole community.” [emphasis added]

See About.com for more information about tax-exempt status for churches.

Do you promise to tell the truth?

swearingonbiblePosts on Facebook, Twitter, and popular wiki question sites often humorously ponder what exactly an atheist is supposed to do should they find themselves in court preparing to testify. Obviously an atheist cannot swear on the Holy Bible, so what prevents atheists from perjuring without fear of eternal damnation?

Before the question of an atheist lying under whatever oath they may or may not take is addressed, please open your mind to the possibility that just maybe there have been Christians that have lied despite their sworn oath to God on the Bible. Most people, regardless of their religious denomination, engage in “sinful” behaviors because it suits their basic needs at that very moment. But that’s okay. Christians have accepted that they are forever flawed beings that fall short of the glory of God and can easily ask for forgiveness. (Spoiler Alert: Forgiveness is almost always granted by the voices in their heads.)

Having considered that, does it really matter if anyone swears an oath to a deity on a holy book? If lying under that oath will best serve their interests at that moment, they will do so. And in the case of Christianity, there is an easy method of redemption already in place if they should bear false witness. Compare this to the plight of an atheist, who cannot so easily wash their hands of their intentional deceit. An atheist must live with the consequences of their decisions unlike Christians, who can blame their misdeeds on Satan or mumble some conciliatory words with clasped hands to make their problems disappear.

In conclusion, any person, believer or otherwise, will lie under oath if it serves their needs. The key difference is that an atheist will carry the burden of their decision to do so for the rest of their life. The Christian on the other hand can distance themselves from their deplorable act of hypocrisy by calling upon the death of a martyr two millenia ago. How convenient.

The Mystery in the Box

I was just looking in my neighbor’s yard. There is a large wooden crate behind his deck that hasn’t been touched in the last 6 months. As far as I can tell, it is there to stay. This got me thinking about people’s belief in god.

If my neighbor told me that inside his crate was $1 billion, I would probably call him crazy. But if he told me that I could have the $1 billion, he might pique my interest for a moment. I’d want to see some sort of proof or obtain some form of collateral, but he would have my attention. Here’s the bombshell: he tells me that to obtain the treasure, I would have to spend an indeterminate amount of time cleaning his house, mowing his lawn, doing other various chores, and finally giving him 10% of my annual income.

Well, screw that. Sure he lets me play basketball on his nice court, gives me a meal once in a while, and takes me on his annual ski trip with his family, but I’d still want some sort of evidence that the $1 billion actually existed before I donated vast amounts of my time and resources to obtaining it.

I know this isn’t a direct parallel to the god belief that so many among us hold, especially considering that the rewards of most modern religions don’t come until after death (if at all). Add in to that the uncertainty of whether our actions are predetermined or based on free will, and you have an even stickier situation which should give more people pause before devoting their livelihoods to the religion of their choice. Unfortunately, it does not.

People, for the most part, tend to carry on the beliefs of their ancestors and hold them dear without ever taking a moment to question them (After all, questioning those beliefs is a sin in itself.) What does it take to actually get someone with such a deeply internalized belief to question it? A traumatic experience? A trip to rock bottom? Too often, these events further entrench beliefs rather than diminish them.

I guess atheists need to start having a ton of babies.

Reward offered for mosque construction site arson arrest

The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is offering a $20,000 reward for leads that result in the arrest of the arsonist who set fire to construction equipment at the future home of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

Police and firefighters responded to the blaze on August 28. The BATFE has confirmed that the incident is in fact arson and that chemical accelerants were used in the fire. The fire occurred in the wake of a media storm surrounding the proposed construction of a similar Islamic center in Manhattan two blocks from Ground Zero.

Gubernatorial candidates Democrat Mike McWherter and Republican Bill Haslam have chimed in on the subject condemning the violent actions while stating that the crisis can best be handled as a local zoning issue. Apparently, the ability of people to legally acquire property and develop it for worship should be decided by local zoning boards. As an atheist and antitheist, I never enjoy seeing more houses of worship being developed, but the thinking that goes behind the statements of both candidates are laced with an air of moral superiority that has been typical of outspoken anti-Islamists in the preceeding weeks.

The Christian high and mighty in Middle Tennessee have been very quick to lump the small, peaceful Muslim community in Rutherford County and surrounding areas with the radical jihadists of Al Qaeda. This only shows them for the bigots that they are. A commenter on my last article insisted that establishing any moral equivalency between Christianity and Islam was absurd. Obviously that commenter does not believe that Christianity has any blood on its hands, and he would be well served by reading up on the Crusades and the Salem Witch Trials, just to name two high-profile instances of hate, rash judgment, and persecution perpetrated by his own faith.

To those that set fire to the construction equipment, we must wonder if they know that what they did is in fact the very definition of terrorism.