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Just a little tidbit I found on YouTube. If it weren’t so sad it might actually be funny. As the anti-evolutionists seek to introduce biblical mythology, call it what you will–creation science, intelligent design–into the classroom, they seem willing to turn back the clock to a time more reminiscent of the dark ages and the Inquisition than bring it to the light of the 21st century. Just because the human mind cannot conceive of the possibility of evolution does not mean that evolution is not true. It is all about evidence. The scientific FACTS based on evolutionary theory point to the validity of the theory. Other than a few scribbles in some sacred texts written 3000 years ago, and other than personal revelation (which is not rigorous evidence) there simply is no evidence to support what Richard Dawkins calls the God delusion. I think I’ll put my faith and trust in FACTS and not in the mythology of creation. If I wanted to put my faith in the mythology I would then be forced to choose from among thousands of FACTUALLY unsupported creation myths–what if I pick the wrong one? What then…

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Who would have thought that a cup of coffee could be so offensive. When the following appeared on a Starbucks’ cup I laughed a bit and moved on with my life:

You are not an accident. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He wanted you alive and created you for a purpose. Focusing on yourself will never reveal your purpose. You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense. Only in God do we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny. — Dr. Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose-Driven Life.”

I don’t believe in a creator god, a sky fairy, the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny. I find people that do to be mostly uninformed, not because they are stupid but because they simply haven’t examined the evidence. But I am not offended by those who do unless they use that belief to justify blowing themselves up or telling me what to believe,

Because Ken Peck is offended by what he considers to be an anti-Christian blurb on the back of a coffee cup, I have to think that Mr. Peck is so unsure of his belief system that he must find some way to censor the remarks. In the Middle Ages monks burned books they considered heretical. Would Mr. Peck suggest that we return to those days. Sounds like it. Does Mr. Peck consider that Starbucks includes blatantly religious blurbs on the back of their cups as well? Does Mr. Peck even consider that balance is the most effective cure for hate?

clipped from wnd.com
Coffeehouse giant Starbucks is standing by its campaign to put thought-provoking messages on its coffee cups despite a national uproar and threat of boycott over a message some felt was “anti-God.”
Controversy erupted this week after a customer became steamed reading a quote that stated:
“Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance? Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure.”
The quote was written by Bill Schell, a Starbucks customer from London, Ontario, Canada, and was included as part of Starbucks’ “The Way I See It” campaign to collect different viewpoints and spur discussion.
One reader, Ken Peck of Lakeland, Fla., has since purchased a coffee with another message he felt was a slam against his Christian faith, and snapped a photograph of it.

  blog it

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After nearly 6-1/2 years of the Bush Theocracy, an absolutism born of the desire to control the private thoughts of citizens of the United States, to insure that the absurdest, religious based notion of intelligent design be taught in public schools, wars waged on abortion, homosexuality, and other moral campaigns, the stacking of the Supreme Court of the United States with right wing zealots, battles waged in support of the Ten Commandments –oh how the list goes on and on–the nation is indeed at risk of falling into the same sewer as the Taliban dominated Afghanistan. I fear for the deist wisdom of the Founding Fathers of this nation, a nation born of religious intolerance, as we fall into the devil’s own trap of becoming intolerant ourselves. How ironic! How the pendulum swings!

American Taliban

Updated January 25, 2007 and April 19, 2005 (originally published November 24, 2004)

The “War on Terror” has provided Americans with a helpful

introduction to theocracy. The fight against Al Qaeda, the war on

the Taliban, and the growing tensions with the regime in Iran has

offered a quick primer on the hallmarks of the religious state.

First is the rule of religious authorities, whether it be Bin

Laden’s new Caliphate, Mullah Omar’s Taliban regime, or the mullahs

in Tehran. Second is the imposition of the faith’s sacred texts as

law, in these cases, some variant of sharia law of the Koran. And

last is the direct involvement of the state in the most minute and

deeply personal aspects of individual lives, enforced by religious

police, informed by spies, and punished severely (and often

publicly).

Now thanks to the Bush administration, a Republican Congress and

the conservative ascendancy, Americans need not travel to Kandahar

to learn about the perils of theocratic rule. Right here in the

United States, a network of politicians, religious leaders,

“faith-based” organizations and (literally) their amen corner are

working overtime to make a particularly onerous concept of

Christianity the de facto law of the land. Armed with the Bible in

one hand and the Patriot Act in the other, George W. Bush and his

GOP jihadists threaten to fundamentally change the role of

government in monitoring Americans’ lives, liberties and

even bodies.

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clipped from www.reuters.com
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Roman Catholic Church has effectively buried the concept of limbo, the place where centuries of tradition and teaching held that babies who die without baptism went.
Pope Benedict, himself a top theologian who before his election in 2005 expressed doubts about limbo, authorized the publication of the document, called “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptised”.
“The conclusion of this study is that there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in revelation,” it said.
The verdict that limbo could now rest in peace had been expected for years. The document was seen as most likely the final word since limbo was never part of Church doctrine, even though it was taught to Catholics well into the 20th century.

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Writing from the point of view of an atheist, I find yet one more reason to reject any concept of the god(s) of the west. I find the apex of arrogance when men speak for god, in this case, the Pope speaking for his gods. If one of the founding theist principles is that god(s) is unknowable, then how, pray tell, can one speak so dogmatically about what this god(s) think or predict how this god(s) actually acts. Theological reasons are not arguments based in rationality. They are, however, ways to justify mythology, foment hatred and division among people and to continue to blind human beings to their own curiosity about the wonders of the universe. Theology is founded upon stone age/bronze age mythology spruced up to resemble rational thought. But, when closely read, there are just too many holes in the bucket to even attempt a fix. I simply wonder why so many people continue to be duped by the claims of those who speak for their deity.

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Reporting for Reuters, Andrea Hopkins writes:

By all accounts, the prayers started even before the gunshots stopped at Virginia Tech university, and the pleas to God from grief-stricken survivors of the massacre have continued ever since.

“God cares about Virginia Tech,” said Megan Martin, 24, joining about a dozen fellow students in a traveling prayer vigil that rambled across the sprawling campus a day after the worst U.S. shooting spree in modern history.

Carrying placards reading: “Jesus loves you,” “God knows and He cares,” and “Can we pray with you?” the small knot of students worked their way through the university grounds in Blacksburg, a Bible Belt town in the mountains of southwest Virginia.

I suppose turning to God(s) cannot do any serious harm to the individual that does the turning. The evidence, however, does not justify such a move. “God cares about Virginia Tech,” said Megan Martin, is quoted in the article. Is this God so cruel that he (she, it) only cares after the fact? Is this God(s) so indifferent that he (she, it) only takes an interest after the dastardly deed has been accomplished? God knows and He cares, is another after the fact fantasy that may serve to salve heightened emotions but does not address the fundamental issue–was this God who cares so much simply on vacation when Cho Seung-Hui decided to engage on a shooting rampage on the VT campus? Does the evidence point to a God(s) who cares, who knows? I think not. What the evidence points to is a random series of events that occur every so often because Americans are willing to sacrifice security for the right to bear arms for any purpose whatsoever. The evidence does not point to a loving God(s) but, rather, to a heightened probability that because guns are so readily available in the United States tragic events such as the VT shootings are more likely than not to occur.

While turning to God(s) is a defensive move in cases of unthinkable tragedy for many people, it seems to me that it is simply a misplaced use of human energy. Telling one’s self that God(s) really care, while that might have a temporary calming effect, does nothing to solve the problem that lies at the root of the VT shootings. Far more productive an approach is to focus the anger and frustration one feels in moments of unspeakable tragedy into efforts to place meaningful regulation on the ownership of weapons that have no other use than to cause permanent harm to those to whom the guns are directed. Gun nuts that demand no regulation of weapons spouting rights granted under the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed,) must ask: to what militia did Cho Seung-Hui belong when he began his rampage? Why was Cho Seung-Hui permitted to purchase and own guns? Why do we put up with this cowboy mentality? Is life really imitating the wild west shootout of the movies?

Rather than turning to God(s) how about turning to Congress and demanding that your lawmakers do something to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again. If you don’t then, it seems to me, that events like the VT shootings will surely occur over and over, again and again. One Italian journalist wrote that the VT shootings are as American as apple pie. It this the image America and Americans portray to the world? Is this the image we want to portray? It is time to stop the madness.

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I just finished reading Harold Bloom’s Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine. I had a hard time putting this extraordinary work of non-fiction down. Bloom’s scholarship is as solid as his writing style. For anyone wanting to think seriously about the origins of religious belief, about the monotheisms that pervade western thought, for those, like Zizek, who speculate that origins are less important in the development of cultural adhesions than are the actions taken by those who later revise broad social projects into working organizational entities (Marx was not a Marxist until Lenin came along to pragmatically implement his version of Marx’ ideas) simply must read this book.

Below I post several reviews of Bloom’s book:

From Amazon.com

Bloom’s occasional forays into religious criticism are particularly interesting, given his lifelong passion for poetry and his contributions to the study of literature. And while discussions of religion itself are in play here, it is the characters of Jesus and Yahweh that inhabit the pages, and Bloom’s literary critic more than his moonlighting theologian examining them. And what of that analysis? Bloom has an obvious affinity for Yahweh over Jesus (even though Jesus gets first billing in the book’s title.) But to ascribe that preference to his Jewish roots is perhaps too easy. A close reading reveals more. Bloom finds that Yahweh, with his covenants, tempers, resolutions, and even occasional forays into the physical where he fights, eats and walks in the cool of the Garden presents a more interesting character than the rather enigmatic Jesus who only comes truly alive for him in Mark’s gospel, and even more so beyond the canonical scriptures in the Gospel of Thomas. And though in sensibility and identification Bloom hews closer to Yahweh, he acknowledges the place Jesus and his followers have made in the world, through an application of his own theory of the anxiety of influence, noting that “The New Testament frequently is a strong misreading of the Hebrew Bible, and certainly it has persuaded multitudes.” Provocative statements like these abound, but Bloom is no provocateur. Whether one agrees or disagrees with his meditations on the names divine, it is hard not to respect his vigorous intellect and bracing candor as he explores their power.–Ed Dobeas

From Booklist

The most prolific American literary critic maintains a lesser career as a critic of the religious imagination. His most famous product in that capacity, The Book of J (1990), argued that a woman wrote the Torah. The American Religion (1992) descried a specifically American kind of religious creativity, of which the greatest expressions are American Baptism and Mormonism. This book is more personal than argumentative and more literary than religious criticism, unless Bloom’s frequent exasperated disparagements of Christian theology are considered a form of the latter. It is an examination of Yahweh (whom Bloom discriminates from God the Father in the Christian Trinity) in the Hebrew Bible and of Yeshua or Jesus of Nazareth (whom Bloom discriminates from Jesus Christ) in Mark, the one Gospel Bloom finds compelling. Yahweh is an all-too-human deity, says Bloom, and Yeshua is entirely human. Moreover, the two are akin in irascibility, unpredictability, and a penchant for irony. While Yeshua could be Yahweh’s son (but isn’t), Jesus Christ, a creation of Paul, the Gospel of John, and the rest of the New Testament, except the epistles of James, bears no family resemblance Bloom can see. The interest of Bloom’s analysis is undermined, especially for readers knowledgeable about Christian orthodoxy, by his anti-Trinitarian carping and his confused statements about the Incarnation and Atonement, which some may see as symptoms of willful ignorance or even anti-Christian prejudice. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved From Publishers Weekly


Prolific literary critic, Yale professor and professional provocateur Bloom (The Book of J) here tackles the characters of the Jewish and Christian gods: what god do we meet in Hebrew Scripture? Who is the Jesus of the New Testament, and does he bear any relation to the Jesus most Americans worship? Does, for that matter, the Hebrew Yahweh resemble the first person of contemporary Christians’ Trinity? Bloom, as usual, skewers quite a few sacred cows-for example, he dismisses the quest for the historical Jesus as a waste of time, and says that Jewish-Christian dialogue is a “farce.” But in fact Bloom’s major points are somewhat commonplace, including his assertion that the Christian reading of Hebrew Scripture laid the groundwork for Christian anti-Semitism. A fair enough charge, but hardly a new one; theologians have observed, and debated, this point for centuries. Bloom’s real brilliance lies in his smaller, subtler claims, such as his nuanced discussion of the different ways Matthew, Mark and Luke present Jesus, his assertion that Bible translator William Tyndale anticipated Shakespeare, and his observation that, contra Marx, religion is not the opiate of the people but their “poetry, both bad and good.” The book is learned, even erudite, and sure to be controversial. (Oct. 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

My point–Read This Book.

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Žižek (2001) makes the claim that in order to break the liberal-democratic hegemony in order to reclaim an authentic radical posture, one must endorse a position that refuses to compromise (in the pragmatic political sense) and be willing to accept both the positive and negative effects of one’s position. To do otherwise is to fall embarrassingly short of the “unconditional ethical demand.” In order to accomplish this goal Žižek suggests that one cannot turn to foundational theorists. He argues that Christ does not become Christian until he encounters St. Paul and later Augustine, bishop of Hippo; that Marx does not become a Marxist until he is interpreted by Lenin; that Freud does not make sense until he is seen first through the eyes of Jung and, finally, through a Lacanian lens. The point made by Žižek is simply this: the revisionists, those that first put into practice that which the foundationalists offer reject the “irresponsibility” of the foundational thinkers. Žižek argues that the foundationalists advocate grand projects, but, when the chips are down, they are unwilling to pay the price for implementing their positions with concrete and often cruel political acts. “Like an authentic conservative,” Žižek writes, “a true Leninist is not afraid to pass to the act, to assume all the consequences, unpleasant as they may be, or realizing his political project.” Žižek goes on to write, “[A] Leninist, like a Conservative, is authentic in the sense of fully assuming the consequences of his choice, i.e. of being fully aware of what it actually means to take power and to exert it.” (emphasis in original)

In brief, what Žižek suggests is that in order to break the strangle-hold of any established institution, in this case perhaps global-liberal-capitalism it is not enough to simply fixate on adjusting the old program to new conditions. To do so is something like moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. Change, in Žižek’s terms, is not nostalgia, not more of the same, not a return to the good old days. Change, rather, is brought about by radical acts that are bound up by in but are significantly different than their theoretical origins. Žižek sums up this way: “What Christianity did with regard to the Roman Empire, this global “multiculturalist” polity, we should do with regard to today’s Empire.” This clear reference to Gibbon’s argument that the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of Rome was the root cause of the decline and fall of the once great Empire is arresting. What does Žižek see as the uncompromising force of the 21st Century that will prove to be the underlying action that will bring about the decline and fall of the West?

References

Žižek, S. (2001). On belief. London, UK: Routledge

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Reported by STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer on Yahoo.com

The powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his militiamen on Sunday to redouble their battle to oust American forces and argued that Iraq’s army and police should join him in defeating “your archenemy.” The U.S. nilitary annoucned the weekend deaths of 10 American soldiers, including six killed on Sunday.

Security remained so tenuous in the capital on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the U.S. capture of Baghdad that Iraq’s military declared a 24-hour ban on all vehicles in the capital from 5 a.m. Monday.


There you have it, the surge must be working. The article goes on to report that at least 47 people were found dead on Sunday, 17 of whom were executed and dumped in Baghdad. What a strategy for winning George II seems to have.

While I don’t really want to go out on a limb, I think I will. I am sort of thinking out loud here. These ideas are in the process of forming in my own thinking but I thought it was time to share. It seems to me that the Iraq war is q 21st Century version of the 11th Century Crusades. Christians and the Christian God fighting Muslims and Allah for control over lands that both consider sacred but for very different reasons. In the 21st Century, the sacredness of the land from the Western point-of-view is the oil riches that lie beneath the ground. Nevertheless, the battle is one with deep religious undertones. Islam and the complete submission to Allah and the Western submission to greed and acquisition of great wealth as an outgrowth of Christian theology. Why does Muqtada al-Sadr refer to the United States as the archenemy? Why else, unless this was, at the core, a war for religion and religious supremacy–the control of the Middle East by the West–domination of Islam by Christians? To ignore this possibility is to ignore the historical record. To ignore this possibility is to live in denial.

Think about the fact that it took a fundamentalist Christian president of the United States, backed by NeoCons and evangelical church leaders to engage the United States in the renewal of this ancient battle. Even George I, (remember him–Saddam tried to kill my daddy), had the sense to accomplish military objectives but leave the dictator in power so as not to destabilize the region. Not George II. His goal, to insert a Western democracy in Iraq, code for lets Christianize the Middle East, demanded the destabilization of the country in order to accomplish his goals. What remains is the simple fact that to date over 3,000 American men and women have lost their lives, over 25,000 more are wounded in battle, scarred for life. This does not count the few British soldiers and even fewer coalition force troops that have been killed or seriously injured in this war effort.

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Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationists can still persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy. They lobby for creationist ideas such as “intelligent design” to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. As this article goes to press, the Ohio Board of Education is debating whether to mandate such a change. Some antievolutionists, such as Philip E. Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of Darwin on Trial, admit that they intend for intelligent-design theory to serve as a “wedge” for reopening science classrooms to discussions of God.

Read the whole story at Scientific American. Maybe, just maybe, the science will outweigh the mythology.

What is important to remember in this entire non-debate is that scientific investigation is something quite different that belief or faith. In fact, in St. Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God, Aquinas sets forth the a priori that in order to be persuaded by his arguments one must first be a believer, have faith that the word of the Bible is true. If all one intends is to persuade the already persuaded then it seems to me that the argument of intelligent design fails. It persuades only those who believe the literal truth of the Christian bible. For this group of fundamentalists perhaps there is a debate, one that, if evolution is correct, undermines their very belief structure. But for the rest of us, intelligent design is so badly flawed that it is hardly worth the time. Nowhere else but in the United States is there a debate. Nowhere else do people believe that watching The Flintstones is like watching a documentary film. So read on, look at the science; you should find that there is no debate between Darwinian evolutionary science and intelligent design–except among those already persuaded that evolution is the work of Satan himself.

Read the Whole Article | digg story

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Appearing in the Peninusla Clarion. The writer demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of both the point of the first amendment and the history of ‘In God We Trust’ as a jingoistic slogan. Now I suppose it is okay for a citizen to be ignorant but for an editor to actually choose this letter for publication is simply unconscionable. See for yourself. I am deeply offended by Shannon’s bigotry, intolerance and anti-intellectualism. Her lack of knowledge and understanding regarding alternatives to faith suggests a world view that excludes cognition and rational thought rather than working toward acceptance and clarity. I am tempted to ask Alice Shannon to stay in Alaska and not wander into the lower 48 but that would be falling into her trap. How about an old fashioned face-to-face debate. Maybe that would be enlightening (pun intended).

Believe or else!

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I am bothered by the construction Judeo-Christian tradition (ethic, ethic principles, morals, values) that seems to have cropped up in American English usage in the past 35 to 40 years. It seems to me that two factors are in play here. The first is associated with guilt and the second is associated with the US long-term commitment to Israel and the sustenance of democracy in the Middle East. Neither factor is particularly consequential nor accurate. The assumption of the first is that Christianity developed from and is the inheritor of (the fulfillment of, the extension of) Judaism; that the two are one in the same. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Judaism and Christianity are not born of the same tradition. In fact, the closest religion or religious tradition to Judaism is Islam in the sense that neither Judaism nor Islam compromise in the slightest regarding a strict interpretation of monotheism. Christianity, on the other hand, goes to great length to understand God as multiple entities somehow encapsulated in one; a singular trinity. While Christians draw from Jewish sacred writings, they choose to alter the order of those writings to suit an historical purpose. If Christianity did, in fact, arise from a sect of Judaism then there would be no need to recalibrate scripture. Islam’s sacred texts do not base their authenticity on the writings of another, rather, by paying attention to precursors, the Qur’an lays down its own monotheistic and ethical path that takes great pain to show appropriate respect to the “people of the book.”

As is currently the trend among both liberal and conservative Christian denominations, praising connections to their Jewish past has become something of an obsession. Jews are quite often suspicious of such “friendship.” History of relations with Christians, beginning with the words of Christian Canonical scriptural texts, are at best difficult. Christian triumphalism and reliance on the anti-Jewish rhetoric of the Christian Bible has often led to mass slaughter of Jews, wholesale persecution of Jews, expulsion of Jews from Christian nations, and other lesser but equally onerous attacks on Jews. We need only turn to the first Crusade of 1096 when Christian Knights on the way to slaughter Muslims in the Holy Land stopped along the way to kill Jews in Germany, or explore the politics of the Spanish Holy Order of the Inquisition which caused Jews to convert to Christianity or be burned at the stake. In 1492 the Spanish Monarchs expelled Jews from the Iberian peninsula followed only a few short years later by the Portuguese monarch. Need I mention the pogroms in Poland and Russia against Jews by Christian zealots. Oh, and then there are the NAZI atrocities. The new found friendship, while welcome, is suspect. I believe it derives from a modern sense of guilt and a rational sense that the acts against the Jews of the past are unsupportable and unforgivable. The easy way out is to claim an allegiance, one disrupted for 2,000 years by a sort of family dispute, but one that is born of the same traditions and beliefs. The use of the term Judeo-Christian is a guilt ridden form of saying let’s bury the hatchet. I am reminded of Rodney King’s words, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

I am all for getting along but not for the wrong reasons. I think it is important for Christians to follow their belief system but to recognize that it is not nor has it ever been rooted in a Jewish tradition. To claim such is to misread both the Jewish and Christian texts. The New Covenant is not intended to extend the old, rather it is a full and developed replacement of the old covenant so far as the Christian is concerned. For the Jew there is but a single covenant between God and man. It is and has always been and has not been replaced by anything. For the Christian the Messiah has come while the Jewish believer still awaits the coming of the Messiah. The old joke about the argument between the rabbi and the priest about whether when the Messiah comes will it be Christ returning or something altogether different ends with the rabbi suggesting that the debate is easily settled. He says, “When he arrives, why not just ask him?” These are not similar traditions. Do they derive from something similar? Jacob Neusner (1984) in a well documented work argues that the voice of Jesus and the voice of Rabbinic Judaism, Hillel, seem to have said many of the same things. But is Christianity the religion of Jesus or that of Paul, the apostle to the gentiles? Neusner asks the question is the historical Jesus and the historical Hillel perhaps one in the same person?

If the ethics of Christianity and the ethics of Judaism are similar then, it seems to me, it is enough to find ways to act responsibly toward one another and toward the other without having to compromise one’s fundamental beliefs to assuage guilt.

The second reason, the political connection of the United States and Israel, does not require a religious connection. If the relationship between the United States and Israel is one that is productive for both sides then it is one worthy of pursuit. If, on the other hand, the relationship is not good for one or the other side or both then it is not. To think of the relationship as one that is connected to a Judeo-Christian connection is to marginalize the Muslim population of the Middle East. It is, for the Christian, the Crusades by proxy. The Judeo-Christian connection, in this sense, is obscene and not worthy of rational consideration.

On all counts, as a Jewish American, a voting participant in our grand democratic experiment, I soundly reject the Judeo-Christian connection on all grounds.

References

Neusner, J. (1984). Judaism in the beginning of Christianity. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.

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