Freethinker Sunday Sermonette: up against the Wall

Our weekly feature:

So we had a joyous inauguration, although the obligatory religious bookends were a bit hard to take. The Invocation by Pastor Rick (Warren) was a real piece of work, typically self-righteous and obnoxiously exclusionary. It goes without saying he alienated atheists, but then he went on to do the same for non-Christians (invoking Jesus as his Lord and Saviour) and then Catholics (by reciting the Protestant version of the Our Father). Obama, at least, had the courtesy to include non-believers in a short list of religious affiliations. I agree with PZ that it was a small thing, but appreciated. The Benediction by an 87 year old Reverend Joseph Lowery was harmless enough. It's what everyone expects. The Warren piece was not.

The religious theme continued into Obama's first full day in office, starting with a superfluous prayer breakfast, leading to an appropriate segue to his first real order of business, trying to clean up the Middle East mess. You'd think with all that praying this would be a slam dunk (in George Tenet's words), but I guess it doesn't work that way:

A female CNN journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Western Wall to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time.

So she went to check it out. She went to the Western Wall and there he was, walking slowly up to the holy site.

She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, using a cane and moving very slowly, she approached him for an interview.

"Pardon me, sir, I'm Rebecca Smith from CNN. What's your name?"

"Morris Fishbien," he replied.

"Sir, how long have you been coming to the Western Wall and praying?"

"For about 60 years."

"60 years! That's amazing! What do you pray for?"

"I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims. I pray for all the wars and all the hatred to stop.

I pray for all our children to grow up safely as responsible adults, and to love their fellow man."

"How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?"

"Like I'm talking to a fuckin' wall.

More like this

Check out this fascinating new study from the Barna group that appears to show the damage that is being done to the Christian faith by the political actions of right wing fundamentalists. This should serve as a serious wake-up call for the culture warriors who are attempting to increase the role…
This is the kind of story that makes me sick to my stomach--soldiers stateside were expected by their base commander to applaud for Pastor of Evil Rick Warren: The following is an email from one decorated combat officer, a man with the courage to repeatedly put his life on the line on the…
It's no secret atheists have an image problem in the US. That seems to be improving. What isn't improving is the public's view of Christianity. Young folks look around them and get the message. Christianity is a religion. Just like other religions. And that isn't such a good recommendation. The…
It's truly odd to hear a creationist make a population genetics argument--an idiotic one no less. Rick Warren, evangelist and who will be leading the invocation at Obama's inauguration, says the following about homosexuality: Warren, a creationist, believes that homosexuality disproves evolution;…

Brilliant, Revere!

Oh, good one! I'm sending that one on.

At least Lowery's contribution gave everybody with a brain & conscience a good chuckle, while driving Limbaugh, WorldNutDaily, and the other wingnuts up the wall.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 25 Jan 2009 #permalink

I wasn't pleased to see Rick Warren chosen to give the invocation. But being an eternal optimist (or just hopelessly naive), I thought that he might rise to the occasion, defy my preconceptions, and give a thoughtful, inclusive prayer that would add to the dignity of the event. I was wrong. Very wrong. Calling it "obnoxiously exclusionary" is being kind. It was offensive.

Somewhere around 75% of the US population declares itself Christian. Rick Warren is a Christian. He was speaking to fellow Christians and a majority of the US citizens.

There is little chance we'll all agree on everything. Perhaps if we ALL become a little more tolerant we'd get along a lot better.

Non-believers and fundamentalists have many common traits; the biggest one is the lack of curiosity towards the area which is unknown to them-the invention of the bad science. Both easily lead to mental sickness.

Agnostic and humble religious seekers have some common experiences; the biggest one is to having the competence or discipline to confront the brutal facts (Yet never lose faith)-this phrase was coined by Jim Collins in his book " Good to Great".

Jim Collins said, "We learned that a former prisoner of war had more to teach us about what it takes to find a path to greatness than most books. Every good-to-great company (person) embraced what we came to call the Stockdale Paradox: You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality."

I thought that was very similar for people to compare with faith- a path of holiness. Perhaps greatness and holiness are two sides of a coin. IMO.

I disagree with your view point on greatness and holiness being two sides of a coin because this allusion excludes great contributors to humanity who were not religious. Albert Einstein was not religious, penning letters to friends about the absurdity of Christianity. He was not holy but was great. Thomas Jefferson was great for his action in the early days of America without reverence for the divine; he was an ardent supporter of separating Church and State. Steven F. Roberts was a brilliant man who contended that we are atheists--just some of use believe in one less god than most others. Osama bin Laden is holy to some Muslims but he his not great. Reverend Ted Haggle is holy, as he is a Reverend, but he is surely not great for lying to his congregation for sodomy and drug addiction. Pope Innocent VIII was extremely holy (he was a Pope!) but endorsed a Medieval doctrine, the Malleus Maleficarum (1487), in which between 40,000 to 100,000 women across Europe were sexually tortured and executed on false grounds of witchcraft; Popes are quite holy but would you endorse Innocent VIII's actions? Greatness and holiness are not faces on the same coin.

The examples that you mentioned seem not holy to me; you misunderstood that holiness has to be linked with religious context.

Maybe, I use another term-sainthood to re-define the meaning see if it fits to the same coin.

For me, the sainthood is very close to the highly sanity. It happened to have a true story perhaps is very familiar to many people: A widow of a peasant who was very occupant on her sons and caused somehow psychological trauma between daughters-in-law and herself, she was a so sophisticated controller that deserved everyone to hate her. Nevertheless when she became aged; she was able to empty herself and transformed into graceful- humility and thoughtful. When grand-children and daughter visited her, she always was very grateful and expressed that she could not deserve this respect.

If we look people around us; some people is aging gracefully, some is not. The ones who have turned graceful are dearly to us; maybe they are not able to contribute greatly- but we are deeply appreciative of their sanity-sainthood so to speak.

The latest psychotherapy has affirmed the complicated process of maturity individually- not easy to measure or quantify in a standard format. Mystery, indeed.

Take away the religious context; I still assume that the sainthood and greatness are two side of the same coin. Anyway, they are not the same side- at least you agree with this.

Furthermore, the functions of the prophet and the priest shall be included in a vibrant ritual/ ceremony.

Usually in Europe, the formal scientific seminars always include music performances; I was glad to see the poetry and Benediction/ Invocation are parts of the pictures.

The competence of re-interpretation to update the collective world view is a kind of leadership; visionary and imaginative experiments.

"Greatness and holiness are not faces on the same coin."

How is the example of Mao Tzo-Tung? The people in China have thought that he was great, but people outside China have thought that he was insane.

How about Henry Kissenger? He did a great job, but not many people would think that he was belonging to sainthood. Many Americans think that Bill Clinton was one of the greatest presidents....

The source of integrity is the coin. One side and lack of the other side points to no coin.

One part that I've found Rick Warren's words interesting, "That's why we're called human beings, not human doings."