Black Jesus

African Jesus
Jesus wasn’t European. He wasn’t African either.

I’ve blogged previously on some of the moronic theories surrounding Afrocentric thinking; this image, liberated from Facebook, illustrates one of my favourites.

Like many nonsensical ideas, this is based on a grain of truth: some European artists did paint Jesus as white, and often blond with blue eyes. There are two main reasons for this, the first being simple ignorance; the second being that the Vatican, on a relentless mission to persecute Jews, tried to hide the awkward fact that their Messiah (if he had indeed existed) was a Middle Eastern Jew.

From the Afrocentric perspective, the inaccurate depiction of Jesus as a northern European could only mean one thing: yet another white conspiracy to steal the true history of the black man.

The top two pictures seem to based on a moronic misreading of Revelation 1:14-15:

14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.

So the designers of this image have decided that “hair white like wool” means Jesus sported an afro (they’ve obviously never seen a lamb) and “feet like bronze glowing in a furnace” means he had dark skin (they’ve obviously never seen molten bronze either).

This leaves the map, which is deliberately misleading. The continent of Africa is shown, with an inset showing the Middle East (which isn’t in Africa, although it is adjacent to Egypt).

This is about as nonsensical as conspiracy theories come, and incredibly easy to pick apart. So why do people believe it? This theory results from the collision of two strong and conflicting memes. The African diaspora has experienced incredibly brutal treatment from white society, but also received Christianity from whites. The impulse to separate the two is natural. Perhaps it would be more intellectually honest to reject Christianity altogether; many have of course done so. Some have adopted Islam (though this comes with the problem that it, like Christianity, originates outside Africa). Others have tried to adopt African animist beliefs, but this is fraught with difficulty. Animist belief varies widely from place to place in Africa, and has only been documented in recent centuries. Of course, adoption of Atheism may resolve much of this conflict, but is a step too far for Afrocentrics raised in strongly Christian homes.

Unfortunately, the teaching of myth as history is strong in the Afrocentric tradition, and it perpetuates rather than resolves the problems faced by the black diaspora in Europe and America. Teaching black children to adopt evidence-free dogma, rather than scientific reasoning, relegates them to the educational second ranks in Western society. Teaching a child to question, to look for evidence, and to keep an open mind, is essential to success in a modern, rational society.

The saddest thing of all is that, rather than celebrate the true strengths of African civilisation, which are unique, the Afrocentrics try to impose Western measures of success on Africa, and end up looking foolish in the process. The painting of Jesus (essentially a Roman invention) as a black man is a great example of this.

Does Religion Cause Rape?

One argument made for religion by its proponents is that it instills in its believers a sense of morality that atheists can’t possess. This argument suggests that without religion’s stick-and-carrot approach to morality (heaven if you obey, hell if you don’t), people will naturally revert to selfish, violent, animalistic behaviour.

If true, this raises a dilemma for Atheists: should we raise our children to fear a non-existent God if it makes them “better people”? Is lying to our kids acceptable in exchange for the benefits it may yield? But is religious morality the right morality anyway? After all, Deuteronomy 22:20-21 insists that women who aren’t virgins on their wedding night should be stoned to death. Which seems a little harsh, and in modern Britain wouldn’t leave society with many women suitable for marriage.

In order to prove their thesis that lack of belief leads to lack of morality, statistics are sometime used (or more accurately misused) by advocates for religion – take the following tweet for example, which came from @Eugene037:

Sweden, a country w/ most Atheist, has d most no. of rape cases n Europe accdg to UN Stats

Let’s break this down. First, is Sweden really the “country w/ most Atheist”? On the whole, Europe is less religious than any other continent, and religion is in rapid decline across the region. Wikipedia’s Demographics of atheism page breaks belief into three types: belief in a God, belief in a more general “spirit or life force”, and non-belief (Atheism). While belief in a specific God is low in Sweden, at 23%, there are countries with lower belief still: Estonia and the Czech Republic. However, Atheism in Sweden is only recorded at 23%, which is lower than Estonia, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany. In other words, the statement is false: Sweden is not the country with the most Atheists.

Furthermore, Sweden doesn’t deserve its reputation for liberal attitudes: it is a socially conservative country by European standards. In recent years it set the standard for European sexual conservatism, making paying for sex illegal (conversely, here in “uptight” Britain, prostitution is legal, which gives protections and benefits to sex workers that their Swedish counterparts are now lacking. I’ve interviewed sex worker activists on this subject, and will air these discussions in an upcoming podcast).

And finally, Sweden has a far broader definition of rape than most countries, making the quoted statistics suspect – free information activist Julian Assange is accused of rape, and is fighting extradition from Britain to Sweden, because he is alleged to have penetrated a woman without a condom during consensual sex. By the standards of most places, this isn’t rape.

Having dispatched @Eugene037’s claims, let’s find some statistics that might more clearly reveal any correlation between religious belief and rape. Comparing stats between different countries is suspect, as varying laws, enforcement and cultural norms make accurate comparison difficult. Instead, I’ve chosen to compare US states with each other, as the legal and cultural differences between them are smaller than between nation states. For simplicity, I’m using voting behaviour as a proxy for religiosity – Republican “red” states have higher levels of religious belief and observance than Democrat “blue” states. I combined 2008 voting behaviour from 270towin.com and crime statistics from infoplease.com and the results are interesting:

Rapes per 100,000:

  • Average in Republican-voting states: 34.96
  • Average in Democrat-voting states: 28.33
  • Average in marginal states: 29.47

(I’ve uploaded my spreadsheet as a PDF if you want to examine the data for yourself: Crime stats by US state).

In other words, a woman living in a red state is around 23% more likely to get raped than one living in a blue state. (Murder rates are closer, but slightly higher in red states, while robbery is significantly higher in blue states, probably because they are more urbanised, and most robbery takes place in cities).

If you have trouble believing these numbers, think about this: the Bible doesn’t view rape as a serious crime. While a woman who isn’t a virgin on her wedding night must be stoned to death, a man who rapes a woman must simply pay a fine to her father (women are, after all, the property of their father or husband) and marry her (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) – and in a number of other passages, the book explicitly allows the kidnap of women to take as sex slaves. Take for example, Numbers 31:14-18:

Moses was angry with the officers of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—who returned from the battle. “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the LORD in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

The women themselves, of course, have no say in the matter. Women have little status in any of the ancient religious texts; which perhaps explains why they are more likely to be raped if they live in a more religious society, even today.

I’ll finish by trying to answer the question posed in the title: does religion cause rape? If I were to use the dishonest reasoning techniques of proponents of religion, I could say yes, based on the above evidence. But correlation doesn’t mean causality; it’s more honest to say that high incidence of rape and high religiosity have the same root causes: poverty, illiteracy, a lack of education, and a lack of trust in authority. Fix these things, and both rape and religion go into decline.

Whatever Happened To Jesus?

Well folks, here we are: 22nd May 2011. The Second Coming was yesterday, according to the lying fraudulent moron Harold Camping. To be fair, as we go to press, it’s still 21st May in some parts of the world. But unless Jesus decides to appear in Hawaii any minute now, we can assume it’s not going to happen.

Us educated, enlightened people can have a good laugh if we choose (watch the hilarity unfold live on the #May21 Twitter hashtag), at the poor suckers who believed Camping and prepared for Jesus. You can imagine their shock and disappointment, even if they didn’t get rid of their worldly possessions or tell their boss to go fuck himself. But really it’s not so funny.

Camping, like anyone who makes money from selling God, Jesus, Heaven or The Rapture, is a fraud and a liar. He’s also a very wealthy man, who’s made tens of millions of dollars from selling false hope to the poor, the desperate and – let’s tell it how it is – the stupid.

He’s not the only bad guy here: the US education system, for example, could be expected to arm people against obvious nonsense like the Rapture fairy-tale. And the desperately unfair distribution of wealth in modern US society has left millions of people poor and desperate enough – within the world’s wealthiest society – to turn to this modern-day witch-doctery for help.

On the other hand… perhaps we shouldn’t be feeling too sorry for those who were hoping for the Second Coming yesterday. The Second Coming would have been Step One; Step Two being the Rapture on 21st October (again, according to Camping). The Rapture is a hateful piece of religious nonsense; it’s based on the End Of Days idea in 1 Thessalonians, with some 17th-century American modifications. The idea is that at the End Of Days, the righteous will literally rise up into the sky (naked, apparently) and ascend to heaven; while everyone else on Earth is condemned to burn in Hell for all eternity. If you follow some of these Armageddon types (as I have the pleasure of doing), you’ll realise that their anticipation isn’t just about rising to heaven; they’re equally excited about seeing us sinners (representing approximately 99% of the world’s population) stay behind and burn in hellfire. Which is hardly the kind of loving attitude Jesus was trying to encourage in his followers. So go on then, enjoy a moment of gloating. They would.

My Favourite Christian Fundamentalist Tweeters

Religion is one of the great applications of Twitter. Although I’m an atheist, and strongly believe that a world without religion would be a better world, I believe in religious freedom, and wouldn’t engage with someone for their beliefs alone. However, many use religion for profit, mix religion with bigotry, or are simply too crazily entertaining to ignore. Most of the craziest Christian tweeters are based in the US, although Africa will undoubtedly offer competition in this field as its broadband connections become faster and more reliable. There are so many great examples to choose from… here are just a few.

@MissRaissa

Miss Raissa says on her bio: I am a young woman who loves God. I enjoy intellectual conversations and politics. I am 100% Pro-Life. I have a tough personality and I am also really sweet.

Really sweet? If she says so herself… but many beg to differ, especially during her many outbursts against “evil” and “wickedness” – for example on her blog: Turn away from your wickedness. Depart from sexual immorality, fornication, adultery, drunkenness, lies, gossip, homosexuality, robbery, murder. Did you notice how she snuck in sexual immorality and homosexuality? It’s these types of statements that have won Miss Raissa more enemies than friends on Twitter. Miss R’s Congolese origins may help to explain her attitudes; African Christianity being a strand that can make even US varieties look moderate.

Miss R tweets liberally, and clearly struggles with the natural urges that afflict any woman of her age, as revealed by tweets such as: when you are dealing with lust – thus demonstrating how making lust “sinful” is a fantastic way of recruiting young people to religious causes.

Miss R can come across as a confused and misguided young woman, but her blog does contain a “Donate” button, and when pressed on what the donations are for, she tends to be uncharacteristically shy, saying that they will be used for “ministry”; she obviously understands the link between preaching and profit.

@BrendaSawJESUS

Brenda is a “Prophetess”, and as you might guess from her ID, she saw Jesus. She sees many other things too, and is here to warn us to turn to God before it’s too late. I’m never sure how much of Brenda’s persona is a money-making opportunity and how much may be caused by a mental illness, but given that she reaches thousands via Twitter and Facebook, and sells her book online (presumably at a profit if anyone buys it), I consider her fair game regardless.

Brenda explains how she achieved her role as a Spokeswoman For God on her blog as follows: At the end of 1997, God sent I, Brenda, a dream/omen warning of an eclipse crashing through my eldest daughter’s window. A few weeks later in 1998 she was diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever…

She interprets the above to mean that God was calling her, though in a similar position I’d have a few questions to ask God first, like: “An eclipse is a pretty vague way of warning about Rheumatic Fever isn’t it?”, or “How does an eclipse crash through a window?”, or “If you knew my daughter was going to fall ill, why didn’t you just stop it from happening in the first place?”

Brenda’s tweets tend to entertain; here’s a taster:

I am a End Times messenger of God..I am on social networking 2 relay the warnings that God is sending B4 Jesus appears!

Question: Isn’t being a false prophet a sin? Answer: Yes, but understand the difference. False prophets make up things. Real prophets don’t (I’d hate to ask how you tell the difference).

#PROPHECY Warning from the Lord God’ March 26, 2011 “Vision of Black People Worshipping and Explosion” (Brenda’s visions are always so impressively unusual).

@apiyor

Duncan Apiyo is (I believe) Kenyan, and boldly tweets his beliefs without regard to logic or political correctness.

His tweets range from the bigoted…

Нomosexuality is evil, nobody was created a homosexual, just like nobody was created a pedophile or a murderer. Romans 1

To the somewhat confused/confusing…

Love drives out fear, thats why the selfish, atheists and the nonebeliever will always be afraid.

To the what-the-fuck-are-you-talking-about???

Doing calculations to make my perpetual energy motion equipment a realityNobody knows all about electrons or neutrons, NO EVIDENCE. Nobody has seen them, hadron colider arround jupiter cant get you any evidence

Richard Carvath

We “don’t do religion” in the UK, so I’ve selected Mr Carvath as a relatively rare British example. While across the pond, the Republican Party is home to many religious nuts, their UK equivalent, the Conservatives, keep most of their remaining fundamentalists locked up in a closet somewhere, out of the public gaze.

Richard Carvath runs a blog where he describes himself as a political activist and a former member of the Conservative Party. It seems that his gay-hating, Muslim-hating views aren’t appreciated in the modern, newly-packaged Conservatives, at least not to be waved around too publicly.

While his blog is worth a read, Richard doesn’t appear to tweet, a great loss to moron-watchers everywhere. Searching for his name on Twitter only found one recent tweet, which sums up his importance to British society: RT @r2danny2: @JJBounce well Richard Carvath is just a twat really

@JoeCienkowski

Go out on a high, so they say, so I saved best till last. Joe’s Twitter activity has declined of late, but his one-man mission is to demonstrate, using nothing but pure scientific logic, that the Bible is literally true, including his “proofs” that the Earth is 6,000 years old. One of his key arguments is that you can trace a smooth population curve from the population of the Earth after Noah’s flood 4,000 years ago (8 people, apparently) to the current population, as revealed in this tweet: human population fits like hand in glove w Noah’s 8 people 4400 years ago to 250M in 0AD, 1B in 1804, to 6.7B today. 7B in 2012

Below are a couple more, though I can’t do Joe justice here – you can find his thoughts on Twitter and (I believe) elsewhere if you Google him, though his web site seems to have vanished for the time being.

there’s not a chance we evolved, as scientifically impossible. Real evidence shows creation- directly created male and female-is true

evolution is ‘fig newton’ of your imagination. It’s real only on ‘fairytale science’. In true reality, there’s clear 1st design

one tsunami and Japan is different as we know it. The amount of water (70% on earth) also proves the flood is literally true

the resurrection is a solid LITERAL historical fact that cant be discounted but only denied by incredibility

Sorry that I missed so many favourites… feel free to add more below.