What does Ray think about religion in America? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
This chapter spends a lot of time talking about American Civil Religion. The problem is, Ray never defines it. Now it could be that I am supposed to know what that is, but I honestly don’t. If anyone else doesn’t know, they will be at a loss to wonder what Ray is talking about and it is his job to define it.
He starts off talking some about the history of religions and mentions how Judaism was affected by Zoroastrianism. Unfortunately, we don’t have any writings from Zoroastrianism at the time. Also, even a skeptical scholar like Bart Ehrman is skeptical of this.
More recently scholars have questioned a Persian derivation for the Jewish doctrine because of certain problems of dating.1 Some experts have undercut the entire thesis by pointing out that we actually do not have any Zoroastrian texts that support the idea of resurrection prior to its appearance in early Jewish writings. It is not clear who influenced whom. Even more significant, the timing does not make sense: Judah emerged from Persian rule in the fourth century BCE, when Alexander the Great (356–323 BCE) swept through the eastern Mediterranean and defeated the Persian Empire. But the idea of bodily resurrection does not appear in Jewish texts for well over a century after that. (Heaven and Hell. P. 104-105.
In talking about America next, Ray goes on to quote John Adams. “The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion.” Well, I guess that settles it. Adams was the second president so surely he would know. Wait. What’s that? There’s no source for the quote. Hmmm. I wonder what would happen if we looked it up….
Well, good luck to Ray if he can find it. The closest is in the Treaty of Tripoli. Even skeptical atheists recommend that this not be used as an argument. See more information on that here.
Thomas Essel says you could take one quote from Adams and ignore all the others and easily make a doctrine. Let’s suppose I made one from another Adams quote.
“[T]he safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not [sic] exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed.”
Also, little difference with me and Ray. I can tell you where that quote is from.
Okay, well what about James Madison?
“What have been Christianity’s fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.”
Again, this sounds really impressive, until you ask this person who goes on and on about evidence what his source is. It’s a good question, and sadly, Ray doesn’t give it. Some of us who actually do care about evidence looked it up.
As you can see here, Madison isn’t talking about Christianity. He’s talking about the marrying of Christianity to the state. He doesn’t want to see it, and rightly so. Both get damaged by that because both institutions use human beings who have a tendency to use both wrongly. Madison is not making an anti-Christian statement.
One has to ask how Ray got these quotes. Apparently, he got them and never bothered to look them up to make sure he was using them rightly or else they wouldn’t be in the book. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt that he did this without knowing the context. If he did it knowing the context doesn’t show it, then that is just plain immoral on his part.
Now for something incredible here. I’m actually doing to defend Mormonism from a misrepresentation. You all should know by now I care enough about truth that I don’t even want my opponents misrepresented. I am no fan of Mormonism. It is a false religion, though it is one that is fun to study. Ray though is shocked that Mormons and evangelicals can work closely together on social issues. He says even a cursory reading of the Book of Mormon will show you beliefs such as sacred underwear to people becoming gods of their own planets to Native Americans being from the diaspora to Joseph Smith as the last prophet.
Well, not exactly. The doctrine of eternal progression with people becoming gods wasn’t revealed until the 1844 King Follett Discourse of Joseph Smith. You’ll find beliefs like that more in the Doctrines and Covenants. The Book of Mormon is actually quite monotheistic. I also don’t think there’s any mention of sacred underwear in there. Mormons would also not say Joseph Smith is the last prophet since every Mormon president is said to be a prophet.
Finally, let’s look at verses which Ray says shows Christians shouldn’t be interested in ecomonic progress.
Luke 12:33 is about selling all that you have and giving to the poor for the Kingdom of Heaven. Ray still in his fundamentalist mindset reads this as if the apostles were to get naked and sell their clothes right there. (And then when the poor got everything, were they to do likewise?) Jewish teachers often spoke in hyperbole to make a point, this one about generosity.
In Mark 10:25, Jesus says it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. This is because many rich people at the time were tied to their money and didn’t want to part from it. Their wealth came first. The problem isn’t the wealth, but the person.
Finally, 1 Tim. 6:10 is the well-known verse about the love of money being the root of all evil, except it doesn’t say that. The verse really says the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Many great crimes are done even today and money is not a motive.
This chapter was thoroughly disappointing due to Ray’s lack of citing sources and doing fact-checking. It doesn’t help your case to say you’re evidence based and then don’t bother to do a basic search like that. Too many of Ray’s readers who think they are people of evidence will believe him as blindly as Christians often believe their pastors, and actually Ray blindly believed some source on this too. Let’s be better than that.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)