If you want to slim for Him, there are now plenty of programs, books, and DVDs to help you. Christian diets are now part of a multi-million dollar industry. Many are claiming that faith is providing the ingredients missing from traditional diet programs that tend to be universally discredited as inevitably failing and even leading to weight increase.
Overeaters Victorious was founded by 248-pound Neva Coyle from Minnesota, who had failed at every commercial diet program she tried. She turned to the Bible and lost 100 pounds. The ingredients provided by faith are motivation, and power to do the impossible.
Faith can provide a positive and a negative motivation. First, there can be the positive desire to please a deity. Programs such as Praise Aerobics, or Praise Moves (the Christian alternative to Yoga) can tap into this motivation in two ways. On a surface level, you can participate in worship as you move to the worship tape that is played as you exercise. On a deeper level you can please ‘the Master’ by caring for your body (the body that he made and gave you as a gift) for him. And subliminally, of course, you are making yourself beautiful for him (Roman Catholic nuns don’t have the monopoly of being married to Jesus)…
Myth 2: Atheism is just another religion.
This myth is being resurrected again by people ranging from academics trying to counter some of the influence of the recent spate of books challenging faith, to extremists wanting atheists banned from American schools by using the ruling that religion and state must be kept separate.
It was the good Catholic G.K.Chesterton who sought to tease atheists by saying ‘there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it’. Atheists would reject his categories and go on to argue that there are at least three kinds of people; the two that Chesterton mentioned and a third category who know an unhelpful and untrue dogma when they see it and are quite capable of rejecting it.
Atheism, of course, is not another religion. Although non-theistic religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism exist, most religions, are based on a belief in gods or a god, and atheists reject such a notion. Let me quote A.C.Grayling who makes the point so elegantly:…
Myth 1: Without religion we would have no moral values and our society would be worse off.
Surely, the argument goes, the benefit of having a god in your life is that it gives you rules to live by. “If God does not exist then everything is permissible,” said Dostoyevsky, and indeed, without the threat of eternal toasting what’s to stop us? And without a moral backbone based on religion, our society would suffer.
Of course, there are plenty of things to stop us from behaving totally selfishly. With, or without religion, human beings have tremendous capacity for empathy and often modify their behaviour because they know of the pain that they might cause others. And although religion is good at shunning, society is good at disapproving of behaviour in order to protect itself too. We have survived in our present form because we are good at stopping those things which are threatening to our tribe. With, or without a god, we are capable of love and altruism and nobility because of choice, rather than the desire to avoid the ultimate, eternal, divine shunning. I am sure that both theist and atheist would agree that morality based on positive choice is preferable to one based on fear.
There is also growing evidence that religion appears to have little clear positive benefit on society, and there is a case to be made that it is, in fact, very detrimental…
Readers outside the UK may be unaware of the teddy bear incident that has been one of the headline stories the UK press this week. For those of you who don’t know, Gillian Gibbons, a primary teacher from Liverpool, recently went to Sudan to work. She asked her class for ideas for what to call the class teddy bear. One pupil, named Muhammad, suggested “Muhammad”. Someone on the school’s administration staff reported the incident and Gillian was charged with insulting Islam – a crime which could have resulted in 40 lashes, a six month prison sentence, or a fine. Gillian, who protested that no insult was intended, was found guilty and given a 15 day prison sentence. Because of public demonstrations against the leniency of the sentence, she is being kept in close police custody for her own protection.
The philospher A.C.Grayling argues that no religious person is automatically worthy any more respect than any other person. In fact, if anything, the opposite is the case. Faith is a commitment to belief, contrary to evidence and reason. Therefore to believe something against evidence and against reason is irresponsible and ignorant and merits the opposite of respect…
The danger and the pain of the conflict between pre- and post-Enlightenment cultures were illustrated in a recent court ruling fining Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas, £5.2 million.
The church comprises around 70 members of the pastor’s (Fred Phelps) extended family. For years the church has denounced homosexuality and picketed the funerals of Aids victims. However, they later extended their pickets to the funerals of soldiers, who they say are being punished by God because of America’s tolerance of homosexuality. Last year, they caused outrage when they attended the funeral of Matthew Snyder with signs reading “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “You’re going to hell”.
Matthew’s father, Albert Snyder, wept when he heard the verdict. “I hope it’s enough to deter them from doing this to other families. It was not about the money. It was about getting them to stop.”
Daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper – co-defendant along with another daughter, Rebecca Phelps-Davis – vowed to continue picketing military funerals…
“If they win, they win. If they lose, they win!”
This statement was spoken with frustration and a degree of sarcasm in Christopher Brookmyre’s recent comic novel “Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks”. In this book Brookmyre wittily explores and exposes the fraudulent activities of people involved in the world of the paranormal. One of the major themes of the novel is that whatever evidence you present people with, some of those who believe in the paranormal will just go on believing because the belief meets a need. They are like unsinkable rubber ducks. Whenever you think you have sunk them, they just bob back up again.
After I had recovered from the tears of laughter that the book did reduced me to on one occasion, and as I started to reflect on the book’s central thesis, I was reminded of a research study to investigate the effectiveness of prayer. I am not implying here that the dishonest charlatans portrayed in Christopher Brookmyre’s novel are the same as millions of sincere Christians engaged in prayer. However, although motives may be different, I was struck by the fact that the unsinkable rubber duck principle still seems to apply…
I listened recently to a fascinating radio broadcast where Adrian Shine was discussing how, to date, he had failed to find the mythical watery monster of Loch Ness (Saturday Live, BBC Radio 4, 18/08/08).
Two things made this conversation interesting for me and took it above the realms of the usual “the-monster-must-exist-coz-I’ve-seen-pictures” story. First, this man was no fool. He was a serious naturalist who had spent over thirty years exploring and collaborating in over 200 university projects on the loch. He writes in learned journals and can do the science.
Secondly, when asked why he hadn’t found the leviathan, he simply stated that it didn’t exist. At least, there wasn’t a shred of scientific evidence that it did. And he should know, because he has spent the best part of a working life doing the sonar, going in the submarines, looking in the mud, sampling the plankton, testing the photographs, and analysing the data…