Saturday, April 11, 2009

How to become a fundamentalist.

Step 1: Get Saved

Step 2: Get Baptized

Step 3: Get Lobotomized

Step 4: Get Fancy New Outfit

Step 5: Now go out, win friends and influence people.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

How they think.

All the comments here, while acted out, are allegedly straight from fundamentalist Christian discussion forums. I can't say if that is true or not, but it does correspond with the sort of rampant stupidity I ran into when I was one of them.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

He's back: the new deceptions of Ted Haggard

The odious Ted Haggard has re-emerged from under the rocks where he sought refuge after being exposed as a closet homosexual and drug user.

You will remember that Haggard was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals as well as the pastor of a mega fundamentalist church in Colorado Springs. Haggard regularly preached sermons attacking gay people but then spent his off-hours buying sex from a male prostitute and using methamphetamine -- a drug which is often used by individuals who are sexually repressed and want to loosen up. Haggard claims that he only bought the drugs but didn’t use them. No one believed him.

After Haggard was exposed as a liar and a hypocrite he started with the tearful confessions in the hopes of saving as much of his ministry as he could. At the time Haggard referred to “a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark and I’ve been warring against it my entire adult life.”

However, Haggard, who lied repeatedly during the outing process, is now concocting a new story that conflicts with what he said before. Remember that he previously said he had been fighting his homosexuality his “entire adult life”. I take that to mean from puberty until his exposure. But recently Haggard was invited to preach at a church in Illinois and told them something very different from his previous claims.

The first new facet to his story was that he claimed he was molested when he was 7-years-old. That was never claimed in his previous versions of the story. But for fundamentalists this claim is important. It verifies what they believe about sexuality -- that one is “recruited” into being gay. Thus Ted portrays himself as a victim and not as a “liar and deceiver” as he previously stated. According to one report Haggard claimed the alleged molestation was “an experience that ‘started to produce fruit’ when he turned 50.”

In this new, revised version of the fall of Ted Haggard he was not “warring” with his sexual attractions his entire life. Instead it was the results of him being molested which only “started to produce fruit” almost half a century later. Right! I suggest his first claim that he was “warring” with his sexuality his entire life is more consistent with the facts than his new claim that it only started when he turned 50 and then it “started to rage in my mind and in my heart”. One thing hasn’t changed, Ted Haggard is make to being a “liar and deceiver”.

Haggard is playing up to the lies fundamentalists tell themselves about sexuality. They can’t accept that sexual orientation is so deeply rooted in a person’s being as to be unrelated to any specific event. They want to see homosexuals as sexual vampires converting the young. But the evidence from studies of human sexuality indicates that sexual orientation exists long before individuals become sexual. The orientation may direct the sexual acts but the sexual acts don’t drive the orientation. Fundamentalists believe the complete opposite of what most experts in human sexuality say is true.

My guess is that Haggard is still as gay as he ever was. He will claim a miracle cure just the same as he previously claimed he was heterosexual all along. Most of his life Haggard successfully convinced people he was straight when he clearly wasn’t. All he has done is gone back to the same charade. And fundamentalists have to be believe him because it verifies their view of sex, sin and salvation. That none of it is true is not important. Believing it is true is all that matters.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Does God order hits on people?

I stopped for a bit to eat earlier today. There was a stack of the local newspaper so I picked one up to read. On the front page was a story that saddened me. There was a photo of an elderly woman who had been murdered.

Her killer was the woman who lived in the apartment above. When the killer was asked why she did it she replied that she was following orders from God.

My view is that she is crazy. I don’t think any deity told her to kill anyone. But I have to wonder how theists know what did, or didn’t happen.

How would a Bible-believing Christian know whether or not God had ordered the woman to murder?

There are two possible ways, that I can think of, both problematic for the Christian. One is that God doesn’t speak to people. That, however, would rule out Moses, Abraham, Paul and many others. Christians regularly say that God speaks to them in some way or another. One of the hymns I remember from my childhood said: “And he walks with me, and he talks with me and he tells me I am his own.”

I’ve had Christians inform me that God told them to witness to me. It hasn’t worked so apparently God got it wrong.

Pat Robertson thinks God gives him weather reports. George Bush thinks God directs his foreign policy. (God’s record is pretty dismal actually.) Christians of all sorts regularly are told to listen to the voice of God. Not only do they talk to him but they expect him to talk to them.

I don’t see how the Christian can claim that God doesn’t speak to people. So that avenue of escape isn’t open.

The other escape hole they have is to argue that God doesn’t order murder. Unfortunately for them the Bible is full of incidents where God allegedly did order murder.

So, if there is a God, and if God speaks to people today, and if God also has a history of commanding the death of sundry types of people, they exactly how do we know that he didn’t order this woman to murder the old woman?

They could technically argue that the Bible isn’t accurate. It may recount God speaking to people and it may have him ordering the killing of people but the real God doesn’t act this way. The Bible got it wrong. But if the Bible got it wrong then precisely where do they get their view of their Christian God? It couldn’t be that God speaks to them as that would put them back into the bind they are attempting to get out of.

My answer to the bind is simple. The woman is crazy. I know she is crazy because there is zero evidence that a god exist and thus no evidence that he speaks to people and orders hits on old women.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Consensus about god. Really?

While the god delusion is certainly declining in the United States there is still a large percentage of people who tell pollsters that they believe in a God.

But one interesting thing about such surveys is that they generally go out of the way to avoid defining the term “god”. One result is a wide assumption that most people mean the same thing. The fundamentalist who worships Jesus will tend to assume that most other believers who attest to a god are also talking about the same deity.

Many people actually hold to a pantheistic view of god -- that god is everything that is. Others see a god as a prime mover, a force that got the universe running and then retired -- a basically deistic view as many of America’s founding fathers believed.

Even among those who claim to worship the same being there is widespread antagonism toward one another as worshipping the wrong god. A born again Christian is more likely to think that a Catholic is a heathen worshipping false idols than not. And both the fundie and the Catholic will be likely to look askance as the Mormons. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t like anybody but themselves and even then they aren’t so sure.

The Jews have Jehovah but no Jesus. Jesus-only Pentecostals have Jesus but no Jehovah. Unitarians have no trinity of gods. Most Christians don’t cling to Allah at all. Then we have Buddhists, Hindus, and hundreds of other sects.

If you were to define them precisely you’d find that the word “god” covers hundreds of different definitions. When the same word can mean hundreds of things then it is easy to get consensus. But the consensus is not real.

Once this phony consensus is assumed we then see the believers, mainly politicized Christians, claiming that consensus now justifies state involvement in some issue that they want regulated. The phony consensus is now used as the excuse to use government force against others.

The logic goes along the lines that their God wants a certain policy: stop gays from marrying, ban abortion, ban genetic engineering, etc. Next they point to the consensus in a god and argue that since most Americans believing “in God” that means that the “godly policies” they are pushing should be implemented immediately. Not only do they want it, but God wants it and so do the American people. In the end they are only speaking for themselves. The rest is a diversion.

One of the convenient things about having an imaginary friend in the sky who controls everything is that he whispers into your ears what you want to hear. You then promote the policies you wanted all along but claim to be representing this imaginary friend. That is pretty sad actually. When they pretend that everyone else’s pretend friend is actually their pretend friend as well, and then conclude that means that all the other deluded people want the same policies, we are getting into pure crazy.

“God’s will” has justified an unfathomable amount of lunacy. And far too often that lunacy has taken a vicious form where the intention of the believer is to literally harm others. Sometimes the harm is merely in denying others the same rights they have. Sometimes it is in using the force o law to penalize people for not believing what they believe. Other times it is to hurt people as punishment for their disbelief. The imaginary friend may be an illusion, perhaps a delusion, but that doesn’t mean the idea doesn’t end up harming lots of innocent people.

I have no problem when a person’s religious delusions cause them to harm themselves -- such as believers in faith healing refusing medical care. They are free to indulge their beliefs and suffer the consequences. But when they wish to impose harm on others because of their imaginary sky-buddy then it is a different matter altogether.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Debating deity: D'Sousza v. Hitchens.

I recently sat in on bits of a debate between the lunatic Right-wing Dinesh D’Sousa and Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great. D’Sousa, you may remember, was the Christianist who wanted an alliance with “moderate” Muslims to install a moralistic government that would bash gays, cover up women, ban porn and generally impose the fundamentalist version of Sharia law on the country.

D’Sousa’s argument was that such moralistic campaigns by the state would end the fanatical Islamist movement. He seems to think that the whole terrorist campaign is the result of Muslims being offended by homosexuals and Western “immorality”.

Prior commitments kept me relatively busy during the debate but I could hear bits and pieces. So I will report on what I heard and about something interesting that happened afterwards.

It was my unfortunate experience to mainly hear the D’Sousa arguments. All I can say is that he is a smarmy debater who falsifies facts and uses bad logic to try to make his case for a deity.

D’Sousa finds it necessary to defend religion because some religious folks are engaged in nefarious, vicious actions, from flying planes into buildings to bombing abortion clinics or shooting staff who work there. These folk act based on the religious beliefs they hold. It is my contention that all actions come out of positive beliefs not out of negative beliefs.

As I noted once before atheism is a negation of a belief not a positive statement of belief. The atheist says he has no reason to believe in a god, he denies a belief but the atheist qua atheist asserts no belief. Individual atheists do, of course, assert positive beliefs but they do not do so as atheists but in entirely different intellectual categories. For instance, the atheist may be a conservative, socialist, libertarian, fascist, etc. It would be his positive beliefs that inspire action not his negative ones. As I put it previously “you can not get positive principles out o a negative concept. Not believing in a god doesn’t tell you how to live, what to value, what sort of society to yearn for, etc. By itself it gives no directions, values or beliefs. How could it? It is the lack of a belief”

The Islamists or Christianists who act in evil ways do so precisely because of their faith. A positive belief (in the sense of one that is asserted as factual and no in the sense of being beneficial) causes the individual to take positive action (in the sense of acting as opposing to not acting). The lack of a belief inspires no particular action. When an atheist acts in a particular way it is because of other positive beliefs he may hold not because he is an atheist.

This is important because D’Sousa was making the point that since religious folk are burdened by the vile actions of other religious folks then atheism must be blamed for the actions of all atheists. He entirely neglects the fact that the religious act because they are religious while the atheist can not act merely because he is an atheist. It is not atheism that causes the atheism to act but other beliefs he may hold.

D’Sousa wanted to blame atheists for the atrocities of Pol Pot and other Marxist dictators. Ostensibly atheistic these regimes didn’t kill because they were atheistic but killed because they were Communistic and were creating the utopia for which they yearned. It was their positive beliefs that lead to positive action not their non-beliefs.

D’Sousa seems incapable of understanding the difference. Or perhaps he does and is simply dishonest. In his case I suspect the later is often the case.

Two remarks I heard him make were so clearly false that I can not fathom any reason for making them except dishonesty. It was, again, related to the example of dictatorial regimes.

One was that D’Sousa kept referring to the Nazi regime of Hitler as atheistic. That is just absurd. One German attending the debate told me he was baffled by the remark as Germany, under Hitler, was highly religious. Hitler himself was a member of the Catholic Church and never renounced his faith, nor did his church ever find him worthy of excommunication. Hitler died a Catholic in good standing.

The second dishonest remark was D’Sousa’s claim that Cambodia, under Pol Pot, was the quintessential example of a “secular” society. He seemed to be saying that these evil regimes were the best examples of secular government.

Again the German attendee was confused. He remarked to me that he couldn’t think of a single German that he knew who actually attended church. He always thought of today’s Germany as an example of secularism. And he is correct. This is also true o virtually every successful, Western nation around. The United States is pretty much alone when it comes to religiosity among the Western, modern nations.

And, I should point out, that among the Western nations the religious US is pretty much alone in its tendency to execute people with a regularity that is frightening -- with the most religious backwater states, such as Texas, taking pride in how many people they can kill in any one year. The US is again pretty much alone in an aggressive, interventionist foreign policy that is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. To the degree that other Western nations have been involved it has been under duress from the United States and in a very limited capacity.

The reality is that most the West today is secular and relatively peaceful. D’Sousa must know this. I sincerely doubt he is that ignorant and thus conclude his comments about secular societies being dictatorial is based on dishonesty and not ignorance.

After the debate Christopher Hitchens remarked to me that he was surprised that “so many libertarians” had sided with the religious side of the debate in a post-debate poll that was done.

Actually Mr. Hitchens was in error. He assumed the audience to be predominantly libertarian. In reality it was predominantly conservative with libertarians making up no more than 20% of the audience.

I was not present for the poll so I asked him what the breakdown was. He said it looked to be about a 50/50 split. He was disappointed at that but I was pleased. Yes, if the audience was predominantly libertarian I’d be unhappy -- libertarians tends to be more intelligent and less likely to be theistists. But when I realized that a predominantly conservative audience had split 50/50 on the god question I took that as an encouraging sign.

This audience, for the most part, should have been D’Sousa’s core group of supporters. That he could only muster half the audience in support of his position is just another sign that the United States is finally joining the West in the post-Christian era.

Photo: From a different debate. D'Sousa is on the far left and Hitchens on the right.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Death by prayer.

Prayer works. Right, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Sorry, folks, but I grew up around the faith-healing hacks and know what charlatans they are and how so many believers take that stuff seriously. They are, in fact, often deadly serious.

Neil Beagley, 16, was one of those believers. So were his parents. All three belonged to the Followers of Christ cult. Neil had a urinary tract blockage. It is easily treatable. But Neil didn’t see a doctor. Nor did his parents want him to. Instead they gathered around and prayed for him.

Well, that didn’t work and Neil got even worse. So of course they did more of the same thing. Remember the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. As Neil got more ill they got more church members over to pray for him.

In this sense I guess God is supposedly like a politician who ignores one person but pays attention to a petition with 1 million signatures.

When the urinary tract is blocked starts to build up in the blood and that begins to poison the body. In this case the heart failed. So a 16-year-old boy is now dead because he trusted in prayer. He is dead because his parents trusted in prayer. He had a whole group of people around him who truly didn’t lack faith in the matter. They were real believers. And Neil is really dead.

Neil was 16 so he was old enough to make his own decision, even a stupid decision to commit faithicide -- death by faith. His faithicidal tendencies were encouraged by his fanatical parents and the cult they belonged to.

The really absurd thing is that these God addicts never learn. In the case of this family a 15-month old cousin, Ava Worthington, had recently died as well. That infant, who clearly wasn’t old enough to make a decision, had bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection.

Baby Ava died because her parents, Carl and Raylene Worthington (the sister of Neil's father) refused any treatment for the child except mumbling to their imaginary friend in the sky. They claim that their defense is “freedom of religion”. I don’t care if the parents pray to they are blue in the face. I don’t care if they pray for themselves and die as a result -- it just cleans up the gene pool and wipes out another pocket of stupid. But when they refuse care for their baby, resorting to mystical mumbo-jumbo instead they they are guilty of neglecting their infant.

I don’t really care if they believe God tells them that is okay to let a baby die to prove their faith. They choose to have that child and they are responsible for giving it decent care. To neglect the medical care of a sick infant merely because they have theological delusions is no defense.

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