In preparation for their 50th Anniversary, American Atheists is launching a series of billboards in the Austin and Dallas areas with quotes of prominent conservative Christians to advertise their annual convention. Those featured in the billboards are: the now former pope, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, First Baptist Dallas’ Rev. Robert Jeffress, and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
Many people are criticising American Atheists for their supposed misquoting of the former Alaskan governor. The billboard that AA created can be seen here:
“We should create law based on the God of the Bible.”
Now, it certainly sounds like something that she would say, but did she actually say it?
In a 2010 appearance on Fox News, Palin said, when talking about the controversy surrounding the National Day of Prayer, “I think we should kind of keep this clean, keep it simple, go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant. They’re quite clear that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the 10 Commandments. It’s pretty simple.”
American Atheist Public Relations Director Dave Muscato has announced that the organisation will make corrections to the billboards, and I applaud them for doing so. It is always a good policy to admit your mistakes when they are pointed out.
Then again, it is an even better policy to do your research and remain intellectually honest. Even accidental flubs like these can make us look untrustworthy.
These billboards, nonetheless, are very informative and very entertaining. They are, what American Atheist President Dave Silverman calls, “David Smalley friendly billboards.” If you don’t understand that, it’s alright.
David Smalley, former editor for American Atheist Magazine and now owner and host of Dogma Debate Radio, has a very nice-guy approach when confronting theists, and this caused a bit of a rift between him and Silverman, who has a more in-your-face approach to advertising atheism.
When Silverman was on Dogma Debate recently, Smalley praised him and the billboards, and Silverman joked that they were “David Smalley friendly.”
Rick Santorum likes these billboards too. In an email to CNN, a spokeswoman for Santorum wrote, “At a time when many are trying to remove God from the public square, the senator is appreciative of someone helping him very publicly express his strong belief that we are one nation under God.”
A more comprehensive list of the billboards can be found here:
I very much like that the billboards with Jeffress on them will go up only a few miles from his church in downtown Dallas, and they have a nice little Pride flag under him. The rest of the billboards will go up in Austin, where the American Atheist 50th Convention will be held.
Correction 3/6: Dave Muscato, the Public Relations Director for American Atheists, actually commented on this post with a correction of that last statement about the placement of billboard featuring Rev. Robert Jeffress.
Just a quick correction! The Dallas billboard features a picture of a church with the caption, “Myths begin where knowledge ends.” The one with Jeffress is actually in Austin, where the convention will be on the 29th.
Thank you, Dave.
So apparently, John Christy, the Christian that was on Dogma Debate recently who I wrote about in my most recent post The Christian Listener, has his own blog. I was unaware of this until I got a call from David Smalley about John’s response to the discussion we had on the show.
After thanking us for having him on the show for half the post, he starts off with this:
Smalley kept using Malachi 3:6 as a reference stating, “I the Lord do not change.” Smalley used this claim as the Bible’s support of killing homosexuals and slavery. What he did not read, and I failed to bring to his attention, was the second half of that verse which also states “So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed”.
Looking at the full context of this verse, which John is so big about, we see that what David said was not out of context.
“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.
Always, every time, every single time an atheist quotes the Bible, a Christian will say some variation of, “You’re taking it out of context!” Even if they’re wrong, they will say it, because they will immediately say that we are wrong for “taking it out of context” once you say something from the Bible that they disagree with. “I the Lord do not change,” is not taken out of context. I have seen Christian apologists even quote Malachi 3:6 just as David did to prove similar points.
However, there are verses from the Old Testament where God does change his mind on things, as is clear from Jeremiah 18:7-10.
If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed,and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted,and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.
This could be construed as changing his mind, but if God is omniscient, then he knows what nations and kingdoms will do what he wanted and which ones will not, so it’s not really changing his mind if he knows what is going to happen.
Then Hebrews 7:21 says, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind…”
So God does change his mind from the Jeremiah verses, but also he doesn’t from the Malachi and Hebrews verses. This is but another contradiction in the Bible for people to cherry-pick all the verses that support their interpretations of it.
Next in his post, John says this.
Smalley also avoided my continual usage of Jesus’ statement to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). This is why a proper contextual understanding of the Bible is so critical to not only bring balance and understanding to God’s word but also to his nature.
Yes, it is true. Jesus did say the greatest commandments are to love God to love your neighbour. So what? It doesn’t mean the Malachi verse was taken out of context.
“You’re taking it out of context!” is not an argument unless you can show how it actually has been taken out of context. If someone quotes a person as saying, “I want to kill everyone,” and we look at the actual context of what that person said and what they actually said was, “It’s not like I want to kill everyone, but I am angry,” then that is an example of something being taken out of context. Quoting Malachi 3:6 as, “I the Lord do not change,” is not something that has been taken out of context. Please understand the difference.
During the most recent episode of Dogma Debate, we had on John Christy, a Christian listener of the show, for David Smalley and the rest of us to converse with. The segment was supposed to be only about twenty minutes long, maybe forty at the most, but we ended up talking to him for over an hour and a half. A reason for that is because 1) we had a lot to talk about, and 2) he takes forever to say anything.
He was a nice guy. I am not trying to hate on John. I like him as a person. I am not a bigot against Christians, as much as Christians (and some atheists) would like to think I am. I do not like his beliefs. I do not like what he stands for. I do not like the source he claims is his moral compass. There’s a difference. If the Christian can say, “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” then we can say, “Hate the beliefs, not the believer,” which is how I felt about John.
A very big problem I did have with him during the show was how when asked very specific and direct questions, he would employ how it takes forever for him to say anything, which derails the conversation to avoid actually answering the question. While the show was going on, I got comments from listeners who were saying exactly that. When repeatedly asked the same question because he was avoiding it, he just continued to ramble on as if he did not hear a thing (which maybe he honestly didn’t because he was calling in on Skype).
Getting onto some specific points from the discussion.
John claimed that Jesus was breaking the Mosaic Laws, such as when he broke the Sabbath, and this is why we shouldn’t follow those laws anymore. The problem here is that it’s not biblically accurate, which is funny, because John kept saying that we weren’t being biblically accurate, neither was the North Carolina pastor who wanted every gay to be put into a giant concentration camp for them to die off in.
The reason John is not biblically accurate is because Jesus was angered by the Pharisees for not following the Laws of Moses, as is clear in Mark 7:9-13.
And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)—then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother.Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
Jesus is clearly mad that people are not following the Old Testament laws, especially the hypocrites who claimed he was not. Jesus wants us to follow the Old Testament laws of Moses. Jesus wants disobedient children to be executed. It’s right there in black and white.
In response to when I pressured him about this, John claimed that Jesus was a law-breaker, that he broke the Sabbath repeatedly. This is partially true. Jesus was accused of working the Sabbath by the Pharisees, because he ate grain on the Sabbath, which required work. Also, the Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath by healing the sick. However, according to an apologetics site, Jesus was not sinning when he worked on the Sabbath.
When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, He was not breaking the Sabbath, but fulfilling it, because one is not at rest when afflicted, oppressed and bound by disease or infirmity. As many scriptures show, God delights in redeeming and restoring the afflicted, and giving them the rest exemplified by His Sabbath. God “hears the cry of the afflicted. When he gives quietness [rest], who then can make trouble?” (Job 34:28–29).
I’m not saying that I agree with the either John or the apologetics site, but it’s funny to see how Christians disagree with each other so much with their interpretations of who Jesus was, what he did, what he taught, and how we should live our lives according to his teachings.
Now the reason John brought this up was because he was saying that the coming of Jesus, that his time here on Earth, was him creating a new covenant and getting rid of the Mosaic Laws, such as stoning gays, disobedient children, people of other faiths, people who work on the Sabbath, and other people for what today would be considered barbaric and for arbitrary reasons. Well, that same article on Jesus breaking the Sabbath has this to say on that.
Had Jesus Christ actually broken the Sabbath, He would have been sinning. But the Scripture says that He “committed no sin” (1 Peter 2:22). Had He sinned, He could not be our Savior. But He, being undefiled and separate from sinners, offered Himself without spot and without blemish to God for our redemption (Hebrews 7:26; 9:14; 1 Peter 1:18–19).
Breaking the Sabbath, according to these Christians, is a sin even today. John did not say that Jesus did not break the Sabbath because he was doing God’s will or because it was a matter of life or death, only that Jesus broke the Sabbath, because he was creating a new covenant for people to live by. I, if I were a Christian, would spin this to say that the new covenant had already been made, so Jesus was still perfect and had not sinned, therefore he could still be sacrificed to God (who is himself…but is also his father…but is also a part of him…who is still separate…and then there’s that Holy Ghost thing…what?) for the sins that he let happen.
Speaking of, Smalley also tried to get an answer out of John on this one. Jesus was a sacrifice to God for the sins that God was fully aware were going to happen. God knew that Adam and Eve were going to sin by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. John responded to this by going around the question and speaking for a really long time without really saying anything that had anything to do with the question.
Here is the difference between Christians and atheists. Christians, when faced with the tough questions, will make excuses and/or go around the question itself. Atheists will straight up answer that question.
Another thing he claimed was that Christianity does not command the murder of people for things such as homosexuality, fornication, adultery, working on the Sabbath, etc. This is why he thought, when we played the audio of it, that the North Carolina pastor was being biblically inaccurate for what he said. However, nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus, or anyone for that matter, say that the laws of Moses have been voided, and it is all the more clear that Jesus himself wants us to follow those laws with how he quoted them himself. If he did not want us to follow these laws, then it would be just another contradiction added to the mountain of contradictions found in the Bible.
My favourite part of the interview, the part where you just want to facepalm so badly, is when John said this.
I’m not even allowed now to have my own opinion to myself. I don’t go out and attack homosexuals. I disagree with the Westboro Baptist Church, you know. But I can’t even just think that it’s sin in my own life. Now I have to conform to what society believes, otherwise, I’m gonna be in trouble. I’m gonna lose my friends…
Bigots should be ostracised. Why is the KKK ostracised? Why is it considered a hate group? Because it is! Soon NOM and other anti-gay groups and people will be seen as the same, and they should be. Persecuting others for their sexuality or their gender or their race is not acceptable. Thinking that they are inferior, that they are going to hell, that they are going to be eternally punished because of something that they can’t control should be frowned upon for so many reasons.
However, Christians are not persecuted in America. Christians are not banned from holding public office in several states. Christians are not misrepresented in the media. Christians are not told that less than half of all Americans would vote for them. Christians are not legally allowed to be discriminated against in the workplace. Atheists are. Gays are. No Christian can say they feel persecuted in a country where 80% of the population are Christian.