Sunday, April 9, 2017

Marvel Comic Used in Indonesian Politics


Last week, Marvel released a new X-Men comic book series called X-Men Gold #1. A controversy arose when people started to point out some symbols the artist, Ardian Syof, had drawn into the book. The symbols don't mean anything out of the context of Indonesian politics and culture, but once you are clued in you can't see anything else. The symbols include:  "QS 5:51",  "212", "51". CBR.com  has really good article about this entitled Marvel Responds to X-Men Gold Artist Controversy and for a good explanation of the politics of these symbols in Indonesia please read Marvel will discipline an X-Men artist after controversial references to protests in Indonesia. In this blog post I want to focus on the "QS 5:51" symbol. Reportedly it is a reference to Surah 5:51 in the Quran.According to the CBR article:

Syaf, who is Indonesian, drew X-Men character Colossus wearing a T-shirt reading “QS 5:51,” meaning Quran Surah 5:51 — a verse of the Quran, as relayed by Bleeding Cool, commonly translated in Indonesian as “Muslims should not appoint the Jews and Christians as their leader.” The quran.com translation reads, “O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.”

This caught my attention because I thought that all Muslims would have translated this passage the same. I usually have heard it quoted the way Quran.com renders the verse. But given the political climate in Indonesia with a Christian running for president in Muslim majority nation, it's not surprising that they would understand the passage this way. It's the backlash that is throwing me. People seem to be angry that including this message encourages division and persecution against Christians and Jews. I agree. But why is it no one is seems to be discussing if the Quran is right or wrong on this? I have not found any Muslims responding that this passage is not divisive or intolerant. From  my own reading and study I would conclude that the Quran is endorsing Muslims  hating and subjugating Christians and Jews. I think that 1this important because some radicalized Muslims use this passage as justification for their actions. For example, this verse is cited by ISIS member for when they do things like blowing up churches in Egypt yesterday, April 9, 2017. They see it as a licence for the evil they do against others. If they have the wrong interpretation, then what is the correct understanding of Surah 5:51. Here is a video to consider,

Friday, February 10, 2017

FacePlant of the Day: Debunking Christianity: Is the Church really filled with hypocrites? No.

Well, David Madison is at it again - trying to take down Paul's letter to the Romans and demonstrate that his conclusion that it is bad theology and that people should ignore it. He has already written three attempts and this is his third. The last two points were failures of a faceplanting nature. Let's ee if his third attempt is any better at showing how bad Paul's thinking it is.  SPOILER: Madison fails a third time. My comments in red He is coming out of Romans, chapter 2.


Even in Christianity-soaked northern Indiana where I grew up several decades ago, there were cynics: those who gave wide berth to the church because, as they put it, “They’re just a bunch of hypocrites. Those people show up on Sunday, then forget about their religion the rest of the week.” Having been a pastor of two churches myself, I’ll side with the Christians on this one. I don’t think the blanket charge of hypocrisy is fair. But yes, there are those folks who preach one thing but do another.
One thing I wish is that Madison had defined "hypocrisy". Paul is talking about a person's actions being contrary to what they say they believe. Therefore I will use that concept to define hypocrisy. And using that definition, every  human being is a hypocrite.

It seems to been an ancient problem as well. The apostle Paul spotted the hypocrites and comes down hard on them at the start of chapter two of his Letter to the Romans. The second chapter is the topic of this post—as we make our way through all 16 chapters of Romans—one post at a time.

Paul does indeed point out the hypocrisy of condemning another person for the same acts you yourself doing.  But I think Madison misses Paul's larger point in this chapter.

“Why bother?” you may ask. Well, this epistle has been idealized and idolized forever by Christian scholars, who obsess about its potential for revealing the mind of the Almighty. Just scratch the surface—in fact they go far deeper than the surface—and the word of God is sure to come
seeping out. But Paul was a mediocre thinker and a bad theologian; couldn’t God have done better? There is so much bad stuff in the Bible, and it doesn’t hurt to keep pointing out that some of the most treasured Christian texts deserved to be sliced out. Thomas Jefferson took his scissors to the gospels to cut out the nonsense; I’m sure he would not have been kind to Romans.

I truly think this a worthwhile exercise to closely examine Paul's writing in Romans. But I disagree that Paul was a mediocre thinker and he was not a bad theologian. In order to demonstrate this,  Madison has to show evidence in Romans. This he has failed to do so far. Might this be the post that shows Madison is right?  Naaaaaaah.

Paul goes on this rant against hypocrites although he had never visited the congregation in Rome. Near the end of the letter, in chapter 16, he says “hi” to quite a few people whom he knows there, so maybe he had reports of unsavory conduct. In 1:11 he had written, “I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you.” Hence his strong words against hypocrisy; maybe he’s giving advance warning?

 Advanced warning of what? Paul's point does not apply just to the church at Rome but to every person. The interesting thing is that it applies not just to them but to anyone at any time as well.

We can give him credit for impatience with hypocrisy, but then nasty Paul resumes the rant. God will run out of patience: “…for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does
evil” (vv.8-9). Wrath, fury, anguish, distress. Paul’s message here reminds us of John the Baptist’s severe words for the religious leaders who came out to hear him preach: “You brood of
vipers! Who warned you to flee the wrath to come? …even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:7-10) Yes, there are Hallmark moments in Paul’s letters, but there is uncompressing [sic]
severity as well. Don’t get carried away bragging about a ‘god of love’ in the New Testament.

So, Madison give Paul credit because he does not like hypocrisy, but calls him "nasty" because Paul said that those who are selfish and doe evil are going to suffer?  Huh? Whether you agree or not that God punishes bad people, I think everyone wants to see evil people be punished for the bad that they do especially when it is personally directed against us. How is this nasty or bad? If someone killed your child and laughed about it, would it be uncompromisingly severe for them to be punished for it? I don't think so. Paul is talking more about that. He's talking about everyone who has ever lied on you, stolen from you, and every other wrong befallen you. It goes both ways also. You deserve the same punishments for all the evil you have perpetrated against others. This is  Paul's point.

Can It Be? A Hint at Secular Ethics?

Again,to his credit, Paul saw that being in God’s favor didn’t depend on being Jewish, i.e., in the company of those who had heard God’s law for centuries. “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (v. 13). No matter who you are, you can qualify, and I find vv. 14-15 startling; did Paul really realize what he was saying: “When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness…”Do instinctively…written on their hearts…their own conscience bears witness? Atheists who argue that we don’t need religion to behave morally embrace these very concepts.

I think this is where so many people get confused. Secular ethicists make a startling assumption that people are capable of fulfilling moral law. Paul's not arguing from that point of view. In order to be justified by law one has to obey it completely and faultlessly. He's not saying that the gentile that does the right thing without having the law is perfect.. He is only saying that he/she is better than the Jew in those areas where their consciences are aligned with God. but the jew who has the law that does not obey it. No where does Paul say that anyone is righteous by obeying the law and in Chapter 3, he goes into why no one is righteous.

But Paul is caught in a major contradiction here, because he really doesn’t mean what he says in verse 10, i.e., that glory, honor and peace are for everyone who does good. The heart of Pauline theology, so earnestly embraced by Luther, was justification by faith, as stated so bluntly by Paul in Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” No amount of ‘doing good’ will do the trick. British scholar Michael Grant: “Paul commits flagrant self-contradictions, which caused
Augustine, among many others, the deepest anxiety.” (St. Paul, 1982, p. 6)

Paul is not caught up in a contradiction. The problem is that Madison does not understand what Paul said. He's not arguing that anyone is justified by the good that they do. He's pointing out that's it is better to follow the law than to disobey it but he doesn't argue that you just stop there. If he was suggesting that we all just obey the law, Romans would have been much shorter. I wonder if Madison has read chapter 3 yet because the rest of the letter is Paul explaining how he is not setting up a contradiction between faith and works. Madison seems to be getting ahead of Paul who has not even brought up "faith" yet. If you are gonna critique a man then at least follow his arguments more closely.

The Invasion-of-Privacy God

No surprise: personal monotheism is stated here with a vengeance. Paul is
confident that, on the Day of Judgment, “…God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.” (v. 16) God will judge your thoughts! The theologians who came up with this idea discovered the formula for terrorizing people. Jesus was in the same camp (at least as depicted by those who created the fictional Galilean peasant); he claimed that the hairs of our head are numbered—and the deity knows as well the thought-crimes inside our skulls: lust is the equivalent of adultery.

Exactly. This is why we know Paul is not  arguing for Justification by works. WE all know not one us can be justified by those standards. 

I once had a parishioner who was worried that people were watching her through the TV. Crazy, yes, but just drop the TV, and that’s what personal monotheism is: God is always watching you.

Given what's come out how the camera's on your phones, tablets, and game consoles (not to mention all the cameras in public) maybe she ain't that crazy.

Who thinks it’s cool to have cameras—installed by the state, our boss, landlord or a god—spying on us in our bedrooms and bathrooms—indeed, everywhere? And with the capacity for getting inside our heads. This evil theology should be off-putting to decent people. As for the folks who have lost their faith and mourn its passing, Christopher Hitchens asked why—why would you want it back? Personal monotheism is totalitarianism: you can’t even have ‘secret thoughts’ without God knowing. Heaven, Hitchens said, is a celestial North Korea. He couldn’t imagine anyone yearning for it.

The problem here is equivocation. God is more than right to expect us to act the way God says we should act. He is not another human being equal to us. How is it evil to recognize it. Sure you might not like it but not liking something does not make it evil. I don't like Brussels sprouts so does that mean you and all of  humanity should call Brussels sprouts evil?! Who's crazy now?

Paul and Jesus should rub people the wrong way because they claimed to be on a first name basis with the Invasion-of-Privacy god. Beware all who position themselves this way—and posture accordingly. They rate themselves as supremely qualified to tell the rest of us what to do. As
we go through the Letter to the Romans we will see that Paul specializes in just that.

Paul did not rate himself better than anyone else. He once referred to himself as the "chief of sinners". He just said what had been revealed to him. As for Jesus he has every right. He is positioned above us. He is better than you and me. His more than qualified to tell us how to live and how to think. Her made you. You are accountable to him. So am I.

A Positive Note at the End

Paul had little patience with the notion of Chosen People. So being circumcised was irrelevant; this outward mark on the flesh counted for nothing: “Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God” (v.29).

Praise is not the same as salvation. Notice that Paul did not say that such a person who is spiritually circumcised has earned salvation.If you think a person can earn salvation on the basis of their own merit that you completely misunderstood Paul.

A nice sentiment indeed—now if only Paul’s theology had not been excessively infused with magical thinking, i.e., the notion that believing that a holy man had risen from the dead was the key to winning eternal life.

The only way anyone could prove that Paul's theology is bad is to show that he was wrong about Jesus. Good luck with that. Otherwise, all Madison has managed to do is to show that he does not understand Romans 1 or 2 and that he does not like being held accountable for his sin - welcome to reality.

David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years and has a
PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. His book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, was published last year by Tellectual Press.

Keep paying for David Madison.

Debunking Christianity: Is the Church really filled with hypocrites? No.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Faceplant of the DaY: Debunking Christianity: Maybe It’s Not the Worst Book in the Bible…

Well, I thought that because it took so long for David Madison to do a follow-up post on Paul's letter to the Church at Rome that maybe he wised up about his critique of the book. I was wrong. But on the other hand, I think that such posts that objectively evaluate Paul's letter to the Romans would be useful. I found Madison's evaluation really poor and fails to support his claims that the book of Romans is flawed. His words will be in black while my comments will be in red.

Maybe It’s Not the Worst Book in the Bible…



0 Comments
…But It’s a Contender

It would be such a relief—such a gift to the cause of compassionate religion—if Christians (especially of the paid-apologist variety, e.g., theologians, priests, ministers) could get over Paul’s Letter to the Romans..

I wonder if Madison thinks that all Christian clergy and apologists get paid for their work? If he does then he needs to meet more Christians. Also why should we chuck Romans under the bus? The only reason we should is if it is false and cannot hold up to scrutiny and does nothing to help us. Let's see if Madison can prove that the book of Romans is indeed false and unnecessary. 

In my post on this blog 14 October 2016, I characterized this 16-chapter patch of scripture as a ‘toxic brew of bad theology,’ and stated my reasons for doing so. I also announced my plan to write analyses of each the 16 chapters, my atheist critique to be wrapped by January. I fell short of that goal: here I am starting in January. So, here goes, my take on Romans 1.

This post is not a faceplant because Madison failed to finish his chapter-by-chapter commentary by the end of  January. It's a faceplant because it fails to demonstrate that Romans is a ‘toxic brew of bad theology,’ I am willing to agree that if he could have shown that Romans chapter one was as bad as he says it is we should throw out the whole letter and everything else Paul wrote. However, Madision is unsuccessful in making a single meaningful comment toward his thesis.

Scholars suspect that Paul’s opening paragraph was based on a liturgical formula current at the time (1:2-5), more or less summing up basic Christian thought, one key point being that Jesus Christ was a
descendant of King David. So I begin with a digression: There is little doubt that Paul belonged to the school of thought that Jesus had been conceived/born the same way everyone else is. We search in vain throughout his letters for any mention of the virgin birth (which would have canceled “descended from David”). Matthew’s famous proof text, Isaiah 7:14, “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” was the furthest thing from his mind. He would have laughed it off.

Paul is not writing his letter in a vacuum. We know he got a lot of his interpretations from what Christians believed at the time. He was not making stuff up so vs 2-5 in chapter one is of couse something that would be definitional of Christianity. 

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, [a]called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a [b]descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power [c]by the resurrection from the dead, according to the [d]Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship [e]to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, - Romans 1:1-5 (NASB)
It is of course not a given conclusion that Paul did not believe in the Virgin birth. Just because he did not talk about it directly, does not mean that he assumed or taught that Jesus was conceived through sexual intercourse just like everyone else. Instead Paul focused on Jesus pre-existing his own birth in his letters - just like the Apostle John also said in John 1:1.  For example, look at  Colossians 1:16-20

16 For [x]by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He [y]is before all things, and in Him all things [z]hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For [aa]it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the [ab]fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in [ac]heaven.

Paul is saying that Jesus is everything that Jesus says He is in the Gospels. I find it impossible to assume that Paul did not believe Jesus had a miraculous birth given that he believed that everything that makes the Father God dwelled in Jesus Christ. This isn't a question of if Paul was right or wrong when it comes to what Madison wrote. He seems to imply that it's a unanimous conclusion that Paul would have rejected the thought of a virgin birth, but Paul himself never says anything of the sort. Faceplant number one. (I might keep a running count of his faceplants, but I have not decided yet).

Also look at the NASB translation of  Romans 1:3. Paul does not in any way claim that Jesus is Joseph's son. However "born of a descendant of David" could refer to Mary. Faceplant number 2.

Notice how explicit he is in 1:4: Jesus was declared son of God by his resurrection. That is Paul’s obsession; virgin birth would have diluted resurrection as the only credential that mattered. The birth narratives in Matthew and Luke (representing the minority school of thought in the New Testament)
indulged this fantasy that seeped into Christian thought decades after Paul wrote; some of the pious assumed it would be cool to graft the pagan his-mother-was-a-virgin idea onto the Jesus story. Those who want to adore Mary will not find an ally in Paul—who never so much as mentions her.

A lot of front-loaded assumptions here. Paul taught that Jesus was the Messiah that the Jews have been waiting centuries for. For him the Resurrection was proof, but there is no reason that the virgin birth would have taken anything away from the message. Madison only asserts without proof that the virgin birth belief was added to Christian belief decades after Paul wrote Romans. Where is the proof of that? Sure a lot of people today are teaching that  but that does not mean it's true. I'm not going to get very far into the fallacy that Jesus' birth story was stolen from pagan myths because Madison does not bother to prove it so I'm gonna just ignore this fourth faceplant and just count this assertion that the virgin birth is a fantasy and the failure in asserting that the virgin birth detracts from the Resurrection as one faceplant - faceplant number three.

Matthew, by the way, insults our intelligence in the first chapter of his gospel. He begins by tediously listing Jesus’ ancestors back to King David (gotta have that pedigree!) then drops the story of the virgin birth on us: Nope, Jesus didn’t have a father. How come the original readers didn’t catch this glaring non sequitur? And how come this is not the point that Christians today realize that Matthew was a fraud and toss the New Testament into the trash?

Matthew was writing to a primarily Jewish audience and wanted to show that Jesus was the Messiah whom had to be a descendant of  King David.Who said that Jesus had to be that descendant by a father? Mary was (from what I understand) his biological mother and a descendant of David. Also recall that Matthew's genealogical chapter is rather interesting in that it lists some women in the record and does not list every single individual in every single generation. This points to the face that one can't just ignore the women who played the part in bringing our Lord and Savior to earth. Faceplant number four.

End of digression.

Good maybe we will finally get a good argument. 

If I ever get around to writing a secular commentary on this dreadful epistle, I have the title ready: Paul’s Letter to the Romans: God Is Wrath. After his unctuous flattery of the Roman congregation (1:8-15), he gets down to business, to his flawed, ugly theology.

I want to mention four points.


No, God is not obvious by looking around at nature


In verse 20, Paul lays the groundwork for condemning unbelievers: “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse.” So God’s power and nature can be “understood” through what he has made? Actually, precisely because God’s nature and power are invisible, they are not understood. Presumably Paul had the natural world in mind, but theologians with a couple thousand years of practice know that this is feeble: indifferent nature shows no mercy to humans. I suspect Paul didn’t give enough thought to this, because in his letters he explains endlessly what God expects and demands. So rules of conduct to convictsinners aren’t at all so obvious from the “things that God has made.”

Faceplant number 5: Just because something is invisible does not mean it can't be understood. We know something of God's character and power from what God has made just like we can look at a piece of art, not matter the medium, and know quite a bit about the artist's skill, abilities, tastes, and personality. All of the earth, the stars, and everything we can see, count, and measure is in the best possible place for us to not just be sustained in our existence but to also be observed. Science, by it's very nature, depends on the assumption that the universe is intelligible and something that we can figure out. Atoms are invisible to use but we can not only detect them but use them to do amazing things technologically. We can find black holes by observing how they affect visible stars around them. Mathematics is not made up by us but discovered.This is why we can use it to describe nature to the point that we can make accurate predictions. We can tell what stars are made of and what kind of atmospheres distant planets have by studying the light coming from them. All of this points to the kind of God we have. No, it does not tells us about his expectations and commands  or rules of conduct - that is what the rest of Romans is about. Paul never tells us it is enough to stop at the first chapter and you know everything about God  What we are without excuse about is the fact that there is a God.

God can’t wait to get even



Because people resorted to other gods, especially idol worship, God kicks them to the curb. In verses 24, 26 and 28 Paul states explicitly that God “gave them up”—and we get insights into Paul’s tormented personality by his list of things that God gave people up to: (1) the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies; (2) to degrading passions; (3) to a debased mind and things that should not be done. Hmmmm…obsessed about sex much? More about that on the next
point. Suffice it to say here that Paul’s concept of God is weighted heavily toward revenge and punishment: God himself gives people up to sin. All this because people did not see fit to “acknowledge God.” No slack given here to folks who didn’t see eye-to-eye with Paul on
religion, those who—and this was the big no-no for Paul—cheerfully embraced lust (we’d all be better off if Paul had given it a try). Paul doesn’t seem to have heard the stories about Jesus
hanging out with sinners.

Faceplant number six: God has every right to give people over to themselves. Do not forget. Paul just argued that we have no excuse for not acknowledging God. Also those are thing that God keeps people from. Paul is not pretending that he is some saint who deserves God's mercy. He is building the case that that if you deny God, God has every right to turn you over to yourself. All the lusts and degradation that Madison seems to think that Paul is wrong in casting in a negative light are things that will destroy you if you are caught up in them. They are what is wrong with our society and they are why Donald J Trump is President of the United States. These things are the consequences of God allowing us to have what Madison says he wants - God gone out of the public sphere. It's not a punshment but consequences of what the unregenerate and unrepentant want. Makes me wonder if Madison has ever bothered to read the rest of the letter.

Knee-jerk disgust about women loving women, men loving me


Now, full disclosure before I get into this one: I am gay, so it’s no surprise that I have no patience with Paul’s rant against same-sex love. Sure, we can cut him some slack since his thinking was influenced by severe teaching in the Old Testament—and he lived centuries before human
sexuality had been studied. What would we expect? But the folks who want to point to these verses in Romans 1 (vv. 26-27) as binding “word of God”—because “saint” Paul said them—are blind to their own hypocrisy: they don’t notice that Paul shuddered at heterosexuality as well!
Everything in his writings about sexuality screams dysfunction! And we have the impulse to scream at Paul, “Get a life!”

I disagree. Paul did not hate sex and the Bible in no way - anywhere - casts sex as evil. It does put limitations and commandments on how sex should be practiced. Because God has given humanity the gift of sex he has every right to tell us how to use it properly so we don't destroy ourselves. We know that there are right ways and wrong ways to have sex.  For example God says don't have sex with your close family members. Is that because it's icky and disgusting or is it because it will destroy your family? Would not an omnipotent and omniscient deity know better than you do about what to do with your genitalia? I would think so. The point is that God does want you to have a life. Your best life.

Paul disdained men loving women: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.
But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:1-2) You read that right: marriage is okay because liability to immortality should drive you to it. Or how about this gem: “And those who belong to Christ
Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). And this: To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am” (I Corinthians 7:8). True enough, Paul’s delusions about Jesus returning soon warped his thinking: “…the
appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none” (I Corinthians. 7:29).

Madison has made this flawed argument before and it's just wrong. Faceplant number 6. Paul said that if you can remain unmarried and not be tempted by sexual immorality (sex outside of marriage) stay unmarried.  He did not say that you are less saved or immoral or angering God because you want to get married. Paul had nothing against marriage.

Outside of the most pathetic cults, you will never find a marriage counselor who urges couples to follow Paul’s advice. So please don’t quote him as an expert on love, marriage or
sexuality—hetero or homo. And since he was so wrong about so many things (see my 14 October 2016 post), don’t credit him with being tuned into God’s thoughts—about anything. Yet Paul remains the default authority on homosexuality for so many today. No doubt with Romans 1 in mind, the
Catholic Church cannot budge from its official position that gay people are “disordered.”

Paul's point is entirely missed. Madison again fails to point a single thing Paul got wrong. Of course, Madison can disagree with Paul, but it sure would be nice if he could explain how Paul is wrong. Paul is building up to chapter 3 demonstrating that all of us - gay and straight - are sinners and disordered. 

Paul’s long list of those who “deserve to die”

Full stop, Christians. How can anyone read the ending of Romans 1 and say, with a straight face, that Paul should be called a saint? Or that this text merits inclusion in “the good book”? Here he shows us his full venom: “… they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish,faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die…”

I wanna ask Madison: "Do you wanna be around people who are "gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish,faithless, heartless, ruthless"? Honestly? I do not. Yet we are. At some point, you, me, Madison, and everyone you know has  been guilty of at least one of these. It's not that all of them deserve to die - we are all guilty.

It’s a common Christian dodge that the nasty god of the Old Testament gave way to the loving God of the New Testament. But Paul does his best to keep the wrathful god alive and hovering over hapless humans. He includes gossips and rebellious children among those who deserve todie—according to God’s own decree. I guess it’s actually a good thing that—apart from obsessive scholars—the Letter to the Romans is pretty much ignored by the faithful, for whom The Man Upstairs is a benevolent
figure, a cosmic buddy. Hildegard of Bingen is a saint with far moreappeal than Paul: “”God hugs you. You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God.”

I agree that many Christians do try to dodge the force of  Madison's argument but thst unnecessary because Paul is not arguing that people who do evil things deserve to die for their sins and people who believe in his teaching do not deserve to did because they are better people. Paul's argument is that every person is a sinner in need of a savior.. He is building a case starting wit the simple fact that you should at least recognize that you have a creator to whom you are accountable.

One of those obsessive scholars was C. H. Dodd, who wrote in 1939 that The
Letter to the Romans is “the first great work of Christian theology.” Please, say it ain’t so.

Dodd makes a valid point that Madion has failed to disprove.

David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years. He has a
PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. His book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, was published last year by Tellectual Press.

Keep praying for him

Debunking Christianity: Maybe It’s Not the Worst Book in the Bible…