Carl Sagan |

November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996

21 years ago today.

Advertisements

Mashable Paid a Visit to Sword Class NYC (Video)

For several months I took classes at Sword Class NYC. I only stopped for financial and scheduling reasons, and plan to go back later this year. I loathe and detest both sportsball and traditional exercise methods, so Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) works well for me. It also plays into my fondness for high fantasy.

If you live or work in the New York City area, check out Sword Class NYC. They have a special rate for first-timers taking the introductory classes, and you don’t need to buy any equipment unless you decide to continue. Gym clothes and scuff-free wrestling shoes (or you can practice barefoot) are all you need to start.

How The Gospel Has Not Saved Brazil

In 1997 I made a fateful mission trip to Brazil. Though it was only two months, it changed the course of my life. Since my late teens I knew I was going into ministry, but in the year prior to that first mission trip I had begun to drift. What I felt lacking was a personal vision of how my career should unfold. The inequality, crime, corruption, and social injustice I saw in Brazil contributed to what I believed was a calling on my life to help usher in a transformation of that country. I had no grandiose notions of single-handedly ‘saving’ the entire nation, but I did come to see myself as one small part of that greater initiative. Little could I have imagined that the evangelical revolution in Brazil would make matters worse for many people.

Despite its image as a sexually liberated country, Brazil is actually profoundly traditional on the topic. Men are expected to be ‘manly’ and women to be feminine, and anyone who falls outside that norm are subject to discrimination. Gay men in particular have suffered violence simply for being who they are, even just walking down the street or waiting for a bus. Rather than combatting violence against the lgbtq community, evangelicalism in Brazil actually demonizes them. They are treated at best as having an illness, and at worst as being literally demon-possessed. As a result, gay conversion therapy has apparently been given the green light to continue in Brazil, while elsewhere in the world it is being banned as abuse. More on that here: http://bit.ly/2kbOK7j

As a starry-eyed young evangelical I believed that violence and crime would abate as ‘the gospel’ spread through a population. What I didn’t realize was that evangelicalism is still a religion, one subject to the preferences of those who adopt it. It would have shocked me then to learn that now, in 2017, there are entire gangs in Brazil that identify as evangelical and/or Pentecostal, and who continue to commit crimes and perpetuate the drug trade. Worse still, evangelical gangs have carried out campaigns of harassment against practitioners of Afro-Brazilian religions who live in neighborhoods they control. Read about that here http://bit.ly/2yqTOLy and here http://bit.ly/2BmkNVB .

Religions are all malleable, existing in the minds of believers and having no objective reality. That is why they change so much, including among groups that claim to have an unchanging faith. A Southern Baptist from 2017, for example, wouldn’t do very well pretty much anywhere in 1617, all else being equal. It doesn’t surprise me as much now as it would have even just a decade ago that evangelicalism in Brazil is taking the shape of the pre-existing prejudices and predilections of the Brazilian people. That’s precisely what it’s done in the United States and elsewhere.

The only real path forward for any nation is through education and a firm commitment to human rights. Ignorance cannot be eliminated with myths any more than adding wood to a fire can be expected to put it out.

American Atheists Embarrasses Us Again

American Atheists says that people who don’t believe in gods should clearly identify themselves as ‘atheists,’ avoiding terms like ‘Humanist’ and ‘Freethinker’ in order to ‘normalize atheism.’ And yet, that same organization regularly takes up frivilous causes that only harm the public image of atheists. Take their recent lawsuit against an animal shelter’s animal blessing event.https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FNJ.com%2Fposts%2F10155376086091234&width=500They might win this legal battle, but in the court of public opinion in only does non-theists more damage. This is, however, fully in keeping with the grand-standing history of American Atheists.