A man rolling a marijuana joint

Hand rolling marijuana closeup courtesy Shutterstock

(RNS) I am sweating on the treadmill when a young man walks onto the patio outside my window, sits at a table and spreads out his drug paraphernalia.

He folds a piece of white paper to form a work surface. He measures a brown, leafy substance onto the paper, then, using a subway fare card, mixes in a white powder.

Next he puts half of his pile into a cigarette paper and carefully rolls it into cylinder shape. Now he rolls the other half. Both joints go into a plastic medicine bottle.

Off he goes down a stairway, pausing to light up, then on to his apartment in an adjacent building.

All this in full view of 11 floors of apartments and two exercisers in the fitness room. He looks my way from time to time to make sure I am watching.

It strikes me that he has made two calculations. The legal calculation is that he won’t get caught, and if he did get caught in a system that pays little attention to marijuana use, he would skate. Actions that have no consequences soon become routine.

The moral calculation is that not a single one of the people around him matters at all. The children who might be watching his joint-rolling — who cares? The people who are stretching to make rent payments here in the belief that this is a safe haven — who cares? His own family nearby trying to help him grow up — who cares? His own health and character — who cares?

This is the casual face of anomie, the breakdown of moral guidance and resulting alienation from society. It also has elements of narcissistic personality disorder.

So what? It’s his life to ruin. Yes, I see that. But in watching his legal and moral calculations, I am seeing the dysfunction of our national political leadership, where saying anything is OK, true or not, helpful or not, if it positions oneself for gain. I am seeing the corruption of many corporate systems, where whatever doesn’t actually land you in jail is OK, where giant companies make overseas acquisitions in order to evade taxes at home.

I am seeing the increasingly shrill and outlandish voices of the religious right, who sense they are losing the culture wars and want to shriek loudly as they go down.

I am seeing companies get regulatory approval for mergers by promising not to lay off employees or to engage in anti-competitive practices and then break those promises as bad for profits.

I am seeing athletes dope themselves and then deny and deny and deny; get caught, and skulk away. I am seeing parents game systems for the benefit of their children, without regard to social impact, like the well-heeled parent who bullied my son’s school into ignoring his daughter’s brazen cheating.

In a way, this young man making joints is the poster child for a nation that is losing its way. Freedom cannot survive such disregard for the rights of others. Democracy cannot survive such delusions of self-importance.

The ethical calculations we should be making are what benefits the other: Does my behavior bring light or darkness to the world we share; am I making healthy, if inconvenient, choices, because in the end healthy choices build up society?

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)

YS/MG END EHRICH

54 Comments

  1. Tom,
    You said, “this young man making joints is the poster child for a nation that is losing its way. Freedom cannot survive such disregard for the rights of others. Democracy cannot survive such delusions of self-importance.”

    Does it bring you any closer to God to know that he was probably a Christian?

    1. Where does his joint-smoking disregard YOUR rights?

    2. Neer-do-wells of society have been with us since Jesus whipped the moneychangers with a cord – and even before that. If we didn’t have low-lifes we wouldn’t need gods to punish them!

    3. The problems of class and financial disparity in America were caused by a religious right wing which gave tax breaks to the rich while ripping off the poor and sending their jobs overseas – in the name of Jesus ! Look up Jerry Falwell’s political influence and the billions of Evangelical dollars spent on politicians to exert exactly that kind of disaster on America over the decades.

    4. If you want to solve the world’s problems we could start by focusing on EARTH instead of referring our morality upward to an invisible, CELESTIAL AIR POCKET.

    5. Destruction of science education thanks to Creationist nonsense will be the ruin of America – a permanent setback – far FAR worse than a few kids lighting up to defy the system they are increasingly left out of.

    • Max –
      Thank you — I practice Native American/Catholic spirituality. But I am not so stupid as to believe creationism is any form of science. Keep religion out of the classroom. It is the far right that is responsible for the dumbing down of America. Anyone who watches American television knows the “New America” is loud and proud of being dumb — it’s like a badge now.

  2. Indeed. Is killing over 27,000 innocent unborn children mostly for reasons of convenience and comfort bring light in his world?

    Is encouraging sinful unions in complete rejection of God bring light in this world?

    • @Frank,
      You don’t think women should own their own bodies?
      Okay then, Same for you!

      New Law – Men don’t own their own bodies either!

      I know someone who needs a kidney.
      Your kidney will save her life.

      So…The Federal Government shall take ownership of your body
      and it will happily send a medical team to extricate your kidney tomorrow morning and insert it into my friend.

      What solipsistic, selfish nonsense to claim you have rights over fellow Americans when you reject such rules over yourself. For shame!

      The Golden Rule is apparently impossible to practice in concert with religion!
      The two separate ideas of “God” and “The Golden Rule” have always been MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE!

      Only those who claim that a God exists have trouble understanding this.

      • @Hellsgift2u,

        A government OF the people, for the People and by the People.
        That is fine by me.

        Superstitions and fascist dreams of ‘order’ have no place in America.
        The religious are welcome to their beliefs but the less people who believe this god nonsense the better.

        • Even in lieu of the Satanic faiths I never met a fascist who was more fascist than an atheist for they tend to put their faith (man is religious by nature) in Governments of the most evil order or in anarchy where only brute force and bullies remain all the while claiming total freedom.

          • @Me,

            “Man is religious by nature”

            Not true. We are born atheist
            and our parents indoctrinate us in a cultural delusion about God(s) depending on what country or geography we are born.

            If we are lucky we figure out how to quit the nonsense.

    • @Frank,

      For extra credit….

      Which Government is run entirely by the Clergy and has
      ABSOLUTE OWNERSHIP OF THE PEOPLE THEMSELVES including ownership of their bodies?

      I’ll give you a clue:
      “WILAYAT AL FAQIH”

      I suggest you move there because you have no interest in freedom or what it stands for.

      Know your enemy, America. It is religion.

        • Considering how indifferent you are to human beings after they are born, your squawking about the unborn smacks of hypocrisy.

          The fact that women get abortions for reasons you don’t like are immaterial. Its none of your business. Morality dictates that you stay out of such things out of respect for fellow people. It will never be your business. So you can take your alleged concern and stuff it any given orifice.

          Your concern is disingenuous bullcrap said to give yourself a sense of moral superiority that does not exist. Being a self-righteous buffoon does not give you rights to interfere with someone’s personal decisions.

          • I am an atheist who believes that abortion should be legal, safe and as widely available as possible; I also resent the “Progressives” who feel that giving MY money away makes THEM compassionate.
            Henry Kissinger could have been describing my feelings about “Progressive” Mainline Protestants and the Fundiegelicals: “What a shame they both can’t lose!”

  3. “Someone was tortured and killed for your benefit” – says Yahweh

    This is immoral, unethical and sick.
    No decency can come from such barbaric nonsense.

    • Max, millions of people from all nations have died in all wars fought here. Many were fought “in the name of religion “, some to gain total control of others (Hitler comes to mind there), and to “defend and protect the ‘freedoms’ of their country” (what freedoms?). There was even a Civil War (how can war be civil?) where Americans killed other Americans due to slavery issues. Most of these persons are looked upon with high regard for the “sacrifices” they have made. But, what has the loss of millions of lives to war accomplished? Has it brought peace, joy, satisfying work, clean and unpolluted water, food and air and brought mankind together as one united and happy family that loves one another?? And how many nations now have nuclear power to use at their disposal?? The answer to all those questions is obvious…NO, and they NEVER will! So, while the sacrifice of these persons to the god of War has been taking place, Jesus willingly made the ULTIMATE sacrifice for ALL mankind. He knew what to expect before his death, but it was out of his own LOVE for God and mankind that he accomplished that. Jesus said at John 15:13, “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends.” Jesus demonstrated this love to the nth degree, even though he suffered through it, but he also knew he would be rewarded for his faithfulness and love, be resurrected back to life 3 days after death, and eventually become King of God’s kingdom. None of man’s wars (and we’ve had 50 of them since the First World War in 1914) will bring the magnificent and exquisite blessings to people of ALL nations. There will no longer be a need or desire for drugs of any type!! It is man, and definitely not God, who has proven to be barbaric on his own.

      • @Fran,

        1. There would have never been a civil war if there had been no Southern Baptist Church which was founded by big plantation money to protect and enshrine Slavery.

        2. There might never have been Slavery if God had added this commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Own Slaves”.
        Unfortunately, GOD DIDN’T DO THAT – instead he produced his 11th Commandment regarding the proper branding and permanent ownership of slaves: “Pierce the ear of your slave with an awl” (EXODUS, 21:5)

        3. All of the wars you mentioned were religious wars – Hitler was a Catholic who was determined to follow Jesus’ Parable of the Minas: “Bring to me those enemies of mine (JEWS) would not have me as their king, and EXECUTE THEM IN FRONT OF ME.” JESUS (luke 19:27)

        4. Jesus came to fuel WAR – NOT PEACE and he said so repeatedly:
        “I have come to set fire on the world…I wish it were already kindled!…to bring ruin!” Jesus (Luke 12:49-)

        God is not a bringer of peace.
        Religion is not a remedy for anything.

        • Max, happy Wednesday! :)
          1. There was probably a lot more involved which led to the start of the “Uncivil War” in the United States besides the actions of the Southern Baptist Church. Many “religions” have gotten involved in politics, business and wars through the centuries, including the time of that war, not following Scriptural standards or commandments. The Uncivil War lasted from 1861 to 1865 and led to the death of 618,000 Americans, resulting in some killing persons who belonged to their own a religion, or ‘brothers in faith,’ because they lived in the north or the south. What a shame!!! Some other reasons to be considered are: (a) Economic and social differences; (b) States vs. Federal rights; (c) The fight between Slave and Non-Slave states; (d) Growth of the Abolition movement; and (e) The election of Abraham Lincoln. That war still occured; and in spite of that fact, and all the ‘other’ wars that have been fought since then, racism, prejudice and hate are still, unfortunately, predominant qualities in our world today.
          2. Concerning slavery:
          (a) Before the Common Era, war, poverty and crime were factors that reduced persons to the state of servitude. Captives of war were often constituted slaves by their captors or were sold into slavery by them (Compare 2 Kings 5:2; Joel 3:7). In Israelite society, a person who became poor could sell himself or his children into slavery to care for his indebedness (Exodus 21:7; Leviticus 25:39,47; 2 Kings 4:1). One guilty of thievery but unable to make compensation was sold for the things he stole, evidently regaining his freedom at the time all claims against him were cared for (Exodus 22:3). At times, slaves held a position of great trust and honor in a household. Abraham’s aged servant managed all of his master’s possessions (Genesis 24:2; 15:2), and Abraham’s descendant, Joseph, as a slave in Egypt, came to be in charge of everything belonging to Potiphar, a court official of Pharoah (Genesis 39:1,5,6). In Israel, there was a possibility of a slave’s becoming wealthy and redeeming himself (Leviticus 25:49).
          (b) There were laws governing slave-master relationships. Among the Israelites, the status of the Hebrew slave differed from that of a slave who was a foreigner, alien resident, or settler. Whereas the non-Hebrew remained the property of the owner and could be passed on from father to son, (Leviticus 25:44-46), the HEBREW SLAVE WAS TO BE RELEASED IN THE SEVENTH YEAR OF HIS SERVICE OR IN THE JUBILEE YEAR, depending upon which came first. During the time of his servitude, the Hebrew slave was to be treated as a hired laborer (Exodus 21:2; Leviticus 25:10; Deuteronomy 15:12). A Hebrew who sold himself into slavery to an alien resident, to a member of an alien resident’s family, or to a settler, could be repurchased at any time, either by himself or by one having the right of repurchase. The redemption price was based on the number of years remaining until the Jubilee year or until the seventh year of redemption (Leviticus 25:47-52; Deuteronomy 15:12. When granting a Hebrew slave his freedom, the master was to give him a gift to assist him in getting a good start as a freedman (Deuteronomy 15:13-15). If a slave had come in with a wife, the wife went out with him. However, if the master had given him a wife (evidently a foreign woman who would not be entitled to freedom in the seventh year of servitude), she and any children by her remained the property of the master. In such case, the HEBREW SLAVE COULD CHOOSE TO REMAIN WITH HIS MASTER. HIS EAR WOULD THEN BE PIERCED WITH AN AWL TO INDICATE THAT HE WOULD CONTINUE IN SERVITUDE TO TIME INDEFINITE (Exodus 21:2-6; Deuteronomy 15:16,17). An awl is a small pointed tool for making holes in wood, leather, etc. Reminds me of getting my ears pierced.
          (c) There were also female Hebrew slaves, of which certain regulations applied to them. She could be taken as a concubine by the master or designated as a wife for his son. When designated as a wife for the master’s son, the Hebrewess was to be treated with the due right of daughters. Even if the son took another wife, there was to be no diminishing of her sustenance, clothing, and marriage dues. A failure on the son’s part in this respect entitled the woman to her freedom without the payment of a redemption price. If the master sought to have a Hebrewess redeemed, he was not permitted to accomplish this by selling her to foreigners (Exodus 21:7-11)
          (d) There were protections and privileges given to slaves. The Law protected slaves from brutalities. (It appears that many atrocities were committed against slaves before the Uncivil War occurred). A slave was to be set at liberty if mistreatment by the master resulted in the loss of a tooth or an eye. As the usual value for a slave was 30 shekels (compare Exodus 21:32), his liberation would have meant considerable loss to the master and, therefore, would have served as a strong deterrent against abuse. Although a master could beat his slave, the slave, depending upon the decision of the judges, was to be avenged if he died under his master’s beating. However, if the slave lingered on for a day or two before dying–this indicating that the master had not intended to kill the slave but to discipline him– he was not to be avenged (Exodus 21:20,21, 26,27; Leviticus 24:17). Also, it would appear that for the master to have been considered free of guilt, the beating could not have been administered with a lethal instrument, as that would have signified intent to kill (Compare Numbers 35:16-18). Therefore, if a slave lingered on for a day or two, there would be reasonable question as to whether the death resulted from chastisement. A beating with a rod, for example, would not normally be fatal, as shown by the statement at Proverbs 23:13: “Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die.” Certain privileges were granted to slaves by the terms of the Law. As all male slaves were circumcised (Exodus 12:44; compare Genesis 17:12), they could eat the Passover, and slaves of the priest could eat holy things (Exodus 12:43; Leviticus 22:10,11). Slaves were exempted from working on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14). During the Sabbath year, they were entitled to eat of the growth from spilled kernels and from the unpruned vine (Leviticus 25:5,6). They were to share in the rejoicing associated with the sacrificing at the sanctuary and the celebration of festivals (Deuteronomy 12:12; 16:11,14).
          (e) Lastly (and aren’t you glad about that? :-D), I will discuss the relationship of slaves during the time of First-Century Christians. In the Roman Empire, slaves were very numerous, with some owning hundreds and even thousands of slaves. The institution of slavery had the protection of imperial government. First-century Christians did not take a stand against governmental authority in this matter and advocate a state’s revolt. They respected the legal right of others, including fellow Christians, to own slaves. That is why the apostle Paul sent back the runaway slave, Onesimus. Because he had become a Christian, Onesimus willingly returned to his master, subjecting himself as a slave to a fellow Christian (Philemon 10-17). The apostle Paul also admonished Christian slaves not to take improper advantage of their relationship with believing masters. He said: “Let those having believing owners not look down on them, because they are brothers. On the contrary, let them the more readily be slaves, because those receiving the benefit of their good service are believers and beloved” (1 Timothy 6:2). For a slave to have a Christian master was a blessing, as his owner was under obligation to deal righteously and fairly with him (Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1). The acceptance of Christianity by those in servitude placed upon them the responsibility of being better slaves, “not talking back, not committing theft, but exhibiting good fidelity” (Titus 2:9,10). Even if their masters treated them unjustly, they were not to render inferior service. By suffering for righteousness sake, they imitated the example of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:18-25). “You slaves,” wrote the apostle Paul, “be obedient in everything to those who are your masters in a fleshly sense, not with acts of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, with fear of Yahweh. Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-sould as to Yahweh, and not to men” (Colossians 3:22,23; Ephesians 6:5-8). Such fine conduct toward their masters prevented bringing reproach upon the name of God, as no one could blame true Christianity for producing lazy, good-for-nothing slaves (1 Timothy 6:1). Of course, a slave’s disobedience in everything could not including disobeying God’s law, as that would have meant fearing men rather than God. Wrongdoing by slaves, even when committed at the direction of a superior, would not have have ‘adorned the teaching of their Savior, God,’ but would have misrepresented and disgraced this teaching (Titus 2:10). Thus, their Christian conscience would govern.

          I will be answering your No. 3 and 4 statements in my next response. :-)

          • @Fran,

            Please try to use paragraphs.

            I was able to read it but because your Bible excerpts ran together with your own commentary it was impossible to know what you are trying to emphasize.

            1. The Dredd Scott Decision and the Southern Baptist Church enshrined second citizen status on slaves, stripping them of equal protection under the law. The economy of the south has never recovered from the boom it wrongfully achieved under slave labor.

            2. Slavery is the OWNING OF A PERSON as property.
            God through His Word of the Bible COMMANDED AND RECOMMENDED PERMANENT ENSLAVEMENT.
            This is not ‘paying a debt’ as you say, it is inhuman and indefensible.

            Jesus personally endorsed slavery.

  4. Please spare us the mindless double talk. In a world where you are free to drink coffee, wine, beer, vodka, smoke cigs, ciagars, take prescribed medicines, eat massive amounts of sugar, watch TV until your eyes fall out, drive trucks that leave clouds of deadly smoke in their wake, you choose to complain about some guy smoking a joint? Last time I checked, freedom means FREEDOM. Perhaps you are confused?

  5. So what makes marijuana use such a “sinful” activity as opposed to other substances people use recreationally? State and Federal laws set up for their own sake. There is no morality behind such restrictions. Simply government flexing its muscles for its own sake.

    There are far more immoral (and illegal) activities which skirt our culture’s scrutiny or are perfectly accepted to a much greater degree than smoking a joint. Max was pretty good in itemizing such things. I don’t need to repeat them.

  6. The world overall is becoming much less violent and better behaved.
    Steven Pinker’s book “The Better Angels of our Nature” is a comprehensive study on the recent expansion of a more peaceful civilization.

    Wars are in decline overall and crime is falling in almost every country.
    Humans have never lived in a less violent, more peaceful period of human history.

    And this coincides with a growth of Atheism, Agnosticism and Secularism more generally throughout the world.

    • Ask the 300 Nigerian girls how peaceful this period of human history really is.

      Also ask the Chinese Christians and Tibetan Buddhists how peacefully the officially Atheist government of China has imprisoned, beaten, and killed the members of both groups.

      • Actually it proves his point. Violence and general nastiness is common mostly in areas where widespread religious belief governs culture. Nigeria has two competing religious/ethnics groups vying for political power: Christians and Muslims.

        As for the Chinese, why don’t you look up the total death toll of the Taiping Rebellion. 20 million people killed in 14 years. All in service of a group which thought of themselves as the new incarnation of Christianity.

        Wherever you are seeing trouble spots in the world nowadays, you are seeing religious belief as a major factor in the conflicts.

        • Interesting. You have NO criticism for the infamous deeds of the officially atheist Chinese government towards Christians and Tibetan Buddhists, and indeed you seek to deflect blame AWAY from that government.

          Now that’s atheism at its finest.

          • And remember, everybody from the Pope to the local Muslim imam has condemned the kidnapping of the Nigerian girls, so you cannot hide behind religionists on that issue.

          • Mao was a punter compared to the Taipings. It took him 30 years to do what the Taipings did in half the time. Your concern for Tibetans only reaches as far as snide comments, so it is not worth responding to.

            Bringing up Communists as examples of atheism is on par with calling Christians Nazis. Simply Godwinning on the other side of the autocratic spectrum. What ignorant people do to take cheap shots in a discussion.

            And remember those Nigerian terrorists are guided by Fundamentalist religious belief. Their beliefs are more like yours, than the Pope or even the local inams.

      • The Great God Pan

        I don’t imagine ordinary Tibetans were much better off as serfs under feudal Buddhist rule, when they could be punished by disfigurement via the amputation of fingers, eyes, ears or the nose. The monks might be worse off now, but then they were the ones doing the disfiguring. Hey, maybe there really is something to this “karma” jive!

        The Nigerian girls are victims of an explicitly anti-modernity religious organization.

    • “But know this, that in the last days, critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion, but proving false to its power; and from these, turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5

      “Also, there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth ANGUISH OF NATIONS, not knowing the way out because of the roaring of the sea and its agitation, while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man (Jesus) coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” Luke 21:25-28.

      ‘And in answer Jesus said to them: “Look out that nobody misleads you; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, “I am the Christ”, and will mislead many. You are going to hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not terrified. For these things must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress. Then people will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name. Then, also, many will be stumbled and will betray one another and will hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and mislead many; and because of the increasing of lawlessness, the love of the greater number will cool off. But he that has endured to the end will be saved. and this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:4-14.

      These scriptures describe what’s happening on earth right now to a Perfect T…. gratefully, God will soon intervene in man’s affairs, putting an end to all human governments (Daniel 2:44), as well as all the terrible conditions on earth, including sickness, disease, old age, death, wars, hate, prejudice, wickedness, etc. (Psalms 37:10,11; Isaiah 11:1-9; Isaiah 2:4; Revelation 21:1-4). Things will only get worse as time goes on, but deliverance will only come through God and his kingdom, not any man or man’s governments. Everyone will have to make a choice in the end…. for God’s rule or man’s rule.

      Also, the world empire of false religion will be done away with by God for misrepresenting him and his Word, the Bible, through the centuries, (Revelation 18:1-8) and the earth will finally be filled with the truth concerning God, his son, Jesus (Isaiah 11:9).

      • @Fran,
        You have listed a number of claims and assertions.

        Since Jesus’ 11 Guarantees have been completely disproved
        there is no reason to believe any others.

  7. I do like your articles Tom, even though at times I find them curious. You lament the woe’s of society losing its way and then lump the religious right into the mix. I may not like them much either, but their cause is very close to your point in this article. They see decline and are speaking out. How is that different enough from your view to warrant their (apparent) teasing in this piece?

    • Society losing its way BECAUSE of the religious right. Morality is a dodgy thing when people try to buy themselves absolution or use their power to force their religious views onto the public.

      Bible thumpers have been jumping into bed with oligarchs to undermine democratic institutions, promote the worst excesses of Mammon and mire people in superstition and bigotry. The see decline because peace is dangerous to strong religious belief. Without conflict, when people lack fear, they don’t run into the arms of religion in any great numbers.

      • Exactly, Larry.
        The biggest problem in America is the pride we exude about our amazing ignorance.

        Republicans are shaking their red, white and blue pom-poms
        while all of the grown ups are trying to figure out how we get out of this dumb mess!

  8. A year or so ago, the comments section at RNS became nearly unbearable because of religious fundamentalist trolls who co-opted every post to tell people how they were going to hell. Now we have the same problems from their atheist twin siblings. I’m getting sick of every comment section being taken over by anti-theist fundamentalist trolls like Atheist Max and Great God Pan. They co-opt every discussion in an impotent attempt to prove how enlightened their anti-religious dogmas are. I have stopped commenting under my own name because of the trolls. Is there any way a moderator could encourage them to go back to 4chan or infidels or wherever other echo chamber spawned them?

    • @Louis,

      For the record, I thank RNS for giving a voice to the Atheists like me.

      I never attack people personally. I reject racism and bigotry. I think the editors at RNS understand that I will not cross that line. My comments should be deleted if I do.

      The news is filled with Religion and its nefarious consequences:
      Creationism, Intelligent Design, Religious encroachment into American Law, Superstition, Catholic crimes, Blasphemy laws and the anti-freedom that religion promotes worldwide.

      RNS has some wonderful writers and they do a great job with these religious topics.

      The proper response to a comment you don’t like is to DO MORE COMMENTING YOURSELF.

      • Max says the answer is “Do more commenting yourself.” Well, that’s okay by me. I love freedom of speech.

        Let’s start with this comment: “Atheism is little more than Hell without the flames.”

        • There is no such thing as hellfire; it’s no wonder people become atheists or leave religion completely when they are taught that an unloving God torments the wicked ones in in a place of fiery torment forever. I’m just glad I know the true and comforting condition of the dead, whether good or bad, not conscious of anything at all, like in a very deep sleep, but with the hope of being resurrrected back to life on earth during Jesus’ millenial rule (Ecclesiastes 9:5,10; John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15).

        • You are the one trolling here. Asking for censorship. You are engaging in a phony discussion in order to make cheap attacks. If you don’t like reading opposing points of view, don’t bother in online discussions. Its the nature of the beast.

          Max is right, if you don’t feel like having conversations being monopolized by a few speakers, pony up something to contribute to the discussion.

      • Religions have been politicized for ages, when, in fact, it should have been absolutely free and clear of politics. I keep hearing the terms, “separation of church and state”, but religions have proven false to that phrase. They seem to think they can bring a ‘theocracy’ to governments of man, but the only true ‘theocracy’ is God’s kingdom or heavenly government that will rule over mankind on earth (Daniel 2:44).

  9. I think linking this author’s article to any particular religiously based morality and dismissing it on that basis is a little unfair. The underlying theme is a general one. It is simply that society has become increasingly selfish and individualistic, and this is becoming gradually more broadly acceptable and tolerated at all levels, including leadership. The joint rolling individual was a metaphor for this, rather than a commentary on the relative harm or benefits of cannabis smoking. The deliberately public display was an assertion of this individual’s right over the rights of others (including children) to not have to witness it. The adding of the white powder was an indication that this ‘individual right’ will never be, by its very definition, bound by what is acceptable or beneficial for society, rather only by what the individual desires and thinks they can get away with. In the end it’s a person’s choice of which attitude is applied to individual decision making – just what’s good for me versus what’s good for all of us.

  10. Max,

    Regarding “hell”, also known as Sheol in the Old Testament, and Hades in the New Teatament, it does exist, except it is the common grave of mankind, where the dead are asleep in death, NOT being tormented forever. Even Jesus in the grave sleeping in death for 3 days. Therefore, the Bible confirms it is not a place of fiery torment (Ecclesiastes 9:5,10). The reason for a savior is to forever put an end to death and resurrect the dead back to life on earth (John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15). I am always repeating these scriptures, but I don’t mind :-D

    • @Fran,
      You have thrown out huge portions of the Bible: ‘Savior’, ‘Hell’, ‘Redemption’, ‘Salvation Theology’ and decided they are worthless.
      And on your own and you have constructed a religion which works for you:

      1. Loving something, even if it is only an idea, does have emotional rewards.

      2. Religion gives you confidence that things will work out okay in the end no matter how badly things are going in life at the moment.

      3. Religion gives you simple instructions when life is too complicated.

      Of course you can’t defend your religion – you rejection of much of the Bible. And you don’t want to.

      But I must note for other readers that these beliefs of yours
      do come at a very high price.

      You said,
      “Only the Theocracy of God, not human Government will be the answer.”
      You are lining up with Tom Ehrich’s point of view perfectly.
      It is a good thing you do not vote. I wish more Christians would stop voting.

      • Max, no, it is the truth about God that gives me confidence about the future, that gives me direction on how I should live my life, how I should treat others, and what is right and wrong. I have constantly cited scriptures on many subjects to which there are no responding scriptures in opposition to them.

        The reason I mentioned that the theocracy of God is the answer instead of man’s governments is because:

        “And in the days of these kings shall the GOD OF HEAVEN shall oset up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, BUT IT SHALL BREAK IN PIECES AND CONSUME THESE KINGDOMS, AND IT SHALL STAND FOREVER.”

        You have free will, as we all do, to take a stand for those things we believe in. Go ahead and pledge allegiance to man’s governments (even tho they are on their last legs). I pledge allegiance to God’s kingdom based upon the above Scripture.

        Just a few things you should be on the lookout for in the future:

        1. Man’s political systems will put an end to Babylon the Great, referred to as a harlot, who represents the world empire of false religion, which has been closely enamored with politics (Revelation 14:6-8; 18:1-10).

        2. Man’s political systems will be destroyed by God (as reflected at Daniel 2:44) at the war of Armaggedon, the war that will end all wars, and will defeat those political systems:

        “They are, in fact, expressions inspired by demons and perform signs, and they go forth to THE KINGS OF THE EARTH, to gather them together to the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Revelation 16:14). God will be the victor of that war.

        3. God’s day is coming:

        “For you yourselves know quite well that Yahweh’s day is coming as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying “Peace and Security!” then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them as the pangs of distress upon a pregnant woman. And they will by no means escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3)

        Wise advice to us comes from God: “Seek Yahweh, all you meek ones of the earth, who have practiced His own judicial decision. Seek righteousness. seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Yahweh’s anger.” (Zephaniah 2:3)

        Max, I hope you will be ready when that “day” arrives! Because when it arrives, everyone will see the powerful and just actions of the only true God, Yahweh, and know that He exists!

        • @Fran,

          It is no secret that the world will end someday.
          The Sun will explode and the oceans will boil.

          But No humans will exist on that day anyway. We, or other mammals, will have evolved into different creatures by then. There will be no humans.

          You really should study science. You don’t seem to understand that humanity is going to evolve into other things before the end of the earth.

          The death of our star is 4 billion years in the future!

  11. Well marijuana would not be my choice for a symbol of the degradation of America any more than a glass of wine if put in it’s proper perspective of temperance and is not illegal. It could be a source of degradation and sin, it could be a medicine, it could be a source of relaxation. That depends on the person and an honest examination of conscience which can not be formed without the Holy Spirit or a sound religion as a moral guide as to what constitutes a sin. I do however realize that most would not know the meaning of temperance or sin because America is quickly becoming lost and can’t discern it’s ass from it’s elbow without God or the Holy Spirit so in that sense asking for common sense on marijuana may well be a lost cause.

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