Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Fox that Stole Christmas

The mere existence of this blog is evidence that I am not a Christian. With that in mind I should make it clear that Christmas never bothered me. At least it never bothered me until this year.

I can remember a good number of Christmases. For all of them there was a message there. It was “Peace on earth and good will to all men.” How could anyone complain about that? And the fact is that virtually no one did.

Christmas was never exclusively Christian. After all the bulk of the Christmas traditions, including the very day itself, are not of Christian origin. They are all adopted from non-Christian traditions. The day came from older non-Christian celebrations. The early Christians never celebrated Christmas but that is because no one knows when Christ was born.

Many of the Christmas traditions are older than Christianity and originated in pre-Christian Germany. The Christmas tree, the Yule log, holly and mistletoe are all adopted from German pagan sources.

Not only did early Christians not celebrate this holiday but at a few times in history Christians waged aggressive war against Christmas. When that joyless strain of Christianity, known as Calvinism, ruled Christmas was banned. The Christian theocracies of Cromwell’s England and the New England Puritans both banned the celebration of the holiday completely. Even today some Christian sects refuse to acknowledge the day because they say it is pagan in origin and has nothing to do with their religion. Like all theocrats they felt it was their obligation to impose, by force, their religious doctrines upon unwilling and non-consenting victims.

Non-Christians have long celebrated Christmas for non-religious reasons. The Swedish pro-globalization expert Johan Norberg pointed out that he had no problems with the holiday even though he is an atheist “since it is an old heathen holiday here, to celebrate mid-winter, and here the word for Christmas, ‘jul’ bears no relationship to Christ.”

The advocate of capitalism Ayn Rand said that that Christmas “is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men.” She spoke of the twinkling lights, the singing, the brightly wrapped gifts and noted: “One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.”

The famed evangelist of unbelief, Robert Ingesoll, was no Scrooge either. In 1891 he wrote: “I believe in Christmas and in every day that has been set apart for joy.” He said it was “a good day to forgive and forget---a good day to throw away prejudices and hatreds---a good day to fill your heart and your house, and the hearts and house of others, with sunshine.”

I’ve had Christmas presents and given them. I’ve had Christmas trees and sent cards. I’ve joined friends to celebrate the holiday. So why this year did it feel so different?

In past years if someone said “Merry Christmas” I took it as a cheerful greeting. It didn’t offend me. It didn’t come close to be a problem.

But this year each “Merry Christmas” felt like a slap in the face. It was as the words themselves were meant as an assault. And I have never felt that way prior to this year.

For as long as I can remember, and that is the good part of five different decades, many people said “Happy Holidays”. It was appreciated although Christmas is not celebrated by all people. After all, contrary to the impressions given by some, not everyone is a Christian. Not even in the US is that true. And if someone did say “Merry Christmas” not realizing this it was not taken as anything else but a greeting of good will.

What changed is that this year individuals with a political agenda discovered that not everyone celebrates the Christian interpretation that was imposed on this pre-Christian holiday.

A few rabid conservatives on Fox News, to boost their own ratings, invented the idea that their is a “war on Christmas.” This, they argued, was a direct assault on their religion.

The concept of “good will” was obliterated. War was declared. If a vocal minority did not get their way of having every aspect of this day endowed with their interpretation they would make the holiday miserable for everyone. All one had to do was watch these men on television for a few minutes to know that there was no “good will” left. It was anger and fury and rage and hatred. It was all screaming and condemning.

Cromwell and the American Puritans banned Christmas. But it took Fox News and the rabid Right to strip it of any good will and joy.

These men condemned businesses which understood that at this time of year people of all faiths, and none, celebrated different holidays. They simply made an effort to let all people know that “your money is welcome here.” It’s good capitalist common sense.

But the Fox fanatics endowed that recognition with sinister purposes. Anyone who didn’t says “Merry Christmas” was seen as some Christ-hater. For the first time in my life the simple phrase “Merry Christmas” took on political meaning and the word “merry” seemed so insincere.

It sounded more like a salvo in this war they declared than as a greeting. So for the first time in my life I have not wished a single person a Merry Christmas. I have in the past. I may again in the future. But this year the joy in that phrase has been stripped away. It makes me wonder exactly who it really was that declared war on Christmas. I know that the hard Right took away any joy in the holiday for me.

For as long as I can remember Christmas was a holiday that could be celebrated on many levels. It was a day that religious and non-religious could celebrate each in their own way. It was inclusive in that sense. But the Right hates inclusion. Their agenda is driven by exclusion. For them the world is divided between their allies and their enemies. Unless you are with them you are evil and an enemy and their goal is to make your life miserable. What is amazing to me is that they took a joyful phrase like “Merry Christmas” and managed to give it such negative meaning.

They truly are the Fox that stole Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I know which I'd rather see

You have love stupid Christians. They give one so much material to work with. It amazes me how utterly idiotic so many followers of Jesus can be. Now before I get to the really dumb remark let me put this in context.

This is from one of those Right-wing web sites where people who aren’t sure how to spell journalist think they are one. Some Boobus Americanus out of Omaha, Nebraska has penned his little tirade “Homos on the Range.”

Now the author Doug Patton, from the picture provided, looks like one of those old farts that the world puts up. He comes across like one of those who talks about “going home to be with Jesus” while the rest of us are whispering under our breath: “Why wait. Do us all a favor.” Often women his age are called the “blue rinse crowd” and i suspect that today we’d refer to men like him as the “blue pill crowd.”

What has Patton aroused, if you pardon the pun, is the film Brokeback Mountain. In spite of the gay theme to it the film has been receiving almost universal acclaim. Even Christianity Today had to be somewhat complimentary in their review of it. Now Mr. Patton has written a long diatribe about the film which he has not seen and can’t see because he’s a “real” man.

The story deals with two men who don’t know how to deal with their feelings toward one another. They marry because that is what men did in the West almost 5O years ago -- back when Mr. Patton was middle aged. But Patton describes the film as being about “two young sheepherders who seek regular fulfilment of their lust for each other by engaging in homosexual adultery....” He’s so articulate.

He quotes the alleged film critic Michael Medved a lot. Medved is one of those guys who found out that he can make money pandering to the fanatics in the American Taliban and does. According to Patton, who may not have been fully awake, Medved compared the film to Leni Riefenstahl’s documentary on the Nazi Party Congress of 1933 as a “brilliant, convincing bit of film making, the sole purpose of which was to promote a political and/or social agenda.”

I hope Patton got that wrong otherwise Medved clearly has gone off the deep end. Riefenstahl wanted to make a movie that was dramatic and good film. She wasn’t so interested in making a propaganda film. And anyone who has seen her other films know this style of film making followed her regardless of the topic. The woman is dead and was rubbished enough by false accusations. Nor is there any evidence that Ang Lee was doing anything but telling a good story and producing an excellent film by all accounts.

Patton whines about Hollywood’s obsession with “deviant sex” and the lack of films about “Loving, monogamous sexual expression between a man and a woman committed to each other and to their marriage vows...” Well, maybe its because a film needs some drama to be interesting. A film about Ward and June Cleaver just lacks the drama that makes a good film. And whether the blue pill crowd realize it or not Hollywood often portrays such people. But by necessity of a story line with some dramathat can’t be the central part of the story. It would be like having a film about “Mom and dad take the kids for a picnic.” Wholesome but not entertaining. But Mr. Patton probably thinks a regular bowel movement is the height of drama these days.

Mr. Patton isn’t exactly an Einstein, more like a Frankenstein except the good doctor forgot the brain. But what was the really dumb remark he made that had me laughing? Of course Patton is gaga over the masochistic blood fest “The Passion of the Christ” which he says shows “noble suffering for the sins of all humanity”. The film made money as every Bible bigot in the country lined up to prove that such gore and guts films in the name of God are good for children. But Patton laments: “One might believe that numbers like those would have gotten someone’s attention. Yet, have you seen “The Passion, Parts 2, 3 and 4 yet? No, and you won’t unless Gibson produces them.”

Excuse me! Patton is whining that more films showing Jesus being brutally tortured are needed and not being made. Exactly how do you have “Crucifixion: the Sequel”?

Do they grab the supposedly resurrected Christ and crucify him again? Maybe Patton would have different methods of brutal murder. “See Jesus hung from the neck until dead! Watch every muscle twitch as his bowels break loose. Hear his neck snap. Bring the kids and get spiritual satisfaction.” Maybe they send Jesus to Texas and Pontous Bush refuses to pardon him and a tube is inserted in his arm and poison is introduced to kill him.

Exactly how do you have a sequel to the Gibson film? More blood, more pain, more suffering ---- exactly what is Patton looking for here?

It’s not like a film producer could simply invent a new Jesus torture plot line. If he did the Patton’s of the world would stop taking those blue pills and start taking their heart pills. They would be furious. You can’t do much with the plot line from the Gospels.

You have a certain leeway with them since they don’t agree with each other as to what was going on. But it’s not like you can turn Jesus into a James Bond character. It simply is not the kind of the film that allows for a sequel. The Passion of the Christ was very specific in theme. It was about the bloody, brutal torture of Jesus (as imagined by an old Catholic mystic). That’s it. How does a film maker do a sequel to that? Of course he can’t. The complaint about their not being a sequel just shows you how unthinking such conservatives can be.

Creationism-lite takes major hit

Just because the newspapers say so doesn’t make it so. Let’s look at the headlines regarding the recent ruling by a US judge over intelligent design or creationism-lite as I prefer to call it.

Here are a few of the headlines that need some correcting:

“Judge rules against teaching ‘intelligent design’” Chicago Tribune.

“Teaching of ‘Intelligent Design” is outlawed” The Telegraph.

First, it is legal to teach anything you want just not in state schools. Private schools can teach it. Parents can teach it. Sunday Schools can teach it. But government funded schools can’t teach it. The issue was not whether it is legal to believe this silly idea. It is legal. That is not debatable.

What is at issue is whether the teaching of this in a government school is a violation of separation of church and state. And it is. And in this case the judge laid out precisely why this is not science but religion.

Judge John Jones made a very thorough ruling. He covered the history of the case, the nature of science, and why creationism-lite is really a theological belief not a scientific one. He pointed to issues not widely reported by the press. For instance school board members lied about the origins of the bill and for the funding of the textbooks that were added to the schools to teach creationism. Jones wrote a stinging sentence: “It is ironic that several of these individuals [school board members], who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the I.D. policy.”

One of the board members, all of whom were booted out of office by the voters in the last election, William Buckingham was mentioned by Jones. He said Buckingham lied in court about how he raised funds in his church to buy creationist textbooks for the school. Buckingham’s response was a childish “if the judge called me a liar, then he’s a liar.” That’s from the “so’s your old man” school of logic. Buckingham said that Jones ought to be ashamed of himself and then denied that their is any such thing as separation of church and state. To be more precise he is saying their ought to be no separation of church of state.

He also argued that a supernatural explanation like Intelligent Design is not science because science is limited to the natural.

But John West of the Discovery Institute complains that this was “an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate.”

Not only is the judge a Republican, appointed to the bench by Bush, but a church goer as well. One of the board members of the Discovery Institute had to differ with his own group saying in an email: “I also read the judge’s decision (most of it at least). He’s not a ‘judicial activist.’”

Jones said that the proponents of Intelligent Design admitted that they had to change the definition of science in order to include supernatural arguments. This is what the fundamentalists did when they took control of the Kansas Board of Education. They deleted references to the “natural” in the definition to specifically argue that theology was now science. Not only that but the authors of the ID textbook that was used had originally used the word creationism in their text. They only changed it to “intelligent design” when the Supreme Court ruled that ‘creationism” violated separation of church and state.

West’s critique is just one falsehood heaped on top of another. His creationism is not taken to be a scientific idea by any scientific body in the world. And the ruling does nothing to prevent criticism of Darwinism which is a scientific theory and one that is criticized within scientific confines all the time. That is the nature of science. West must win some sort of award for having some many falsehoods in so short a space.

Nor is this censorship. Censorship is when the government prevents one from promoting an idea or thought through your own means or through means freely provided to you by others. Not having access to tax money and state schools for your ideas is not censorship.

And conservatives don’t use this argument when it comes to government funding of “obscene” art. When art projects are not funded the conservatives opposing those projects applaud and point out that no one has a right to government funding thus the denial of such funds is not censorship. But deny the American Taliban access to government funding to promote their ideas in government schools to an involuntary audience and they suddenly start whining like some Leftist denied funds for his art exhibit. Conservatives are hypocrites.

None of the ruling should be a surprise. The Supreme Court already ruled that creationism is a theological concept and that it’s teaching in government schools violates separation of church and state. Jones really just applied the law as it already stands. The difference was that the religionists decided to try a new strategy by putting their God-talk in scientific drag. But putting on a dress doesn’t make one a woman and calling creationism by any other name doesn’t change what it is. Jones said it was nothing but “creationism relabelled.”

The attorney who worked for the fundies on the school board complained that the judge ruled on the scientific merits of creationism. But after doing so he did admit, when questioned, that he himself had asked the judge to do just that. But said it was forced on him by his opponents in court.

It is likely that this ruling will stand for sometime. The people who can appeal would be the School Board. But all the creationists in this normally Republican town were thrown out of office in the last election and replaced by Democrats. They aren’t likely to appeal. And the decision covers the entire gamut of issues so it would be hard to undermine it because of its thoroughness.

Judge Jones was one of the best chances the Christian Right had of sneaking theology into science classes. So his ruling was a major blow to the American Taliban. You can see why conservatives are becoming opponents of the Constitution, which Bush called, “just a god-damned piece of paper.”

Monday, December 19, 2005

Fundies scream insults at gay couples

The UK has passed legislation allowing civil unions for gay couples putting them well ahead of the US on this count. But the British have always been more civilized.

But by a quirk in the law the waiting period is shorter in Northern Ireland than in England so the law took effect there first. Now Belfast is home to some of the most Neanderthal fundamentalist around. And this hot bed of intolerance and hatred sprang into action. Normally these “Christians” prefer killing Catholics and other heretics.

So when the first gay couple appeared at city hall for the ceremony the Calvinist haters where there to hurl insults. According to The Times the protesters were from Rev. Ian Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church. Paisley is a very old bigot. I heard him preach decades ago and he seemed monstrously old then.

Paisley refers to himself as Dr. Paisley but his doctorate is entirely honorary. And it came from that bastion of fundamentalist know-nothingism Bob Jones University. When I visited that campus they had a “dating lounge” that was called the furniture shop because it was one large room full of couches. Dates were to be held in public, no hand holding was allowed, males and females were not allowed to be closer than 6 inches and dating anyone of a different race was forbidden at the time. I believe it now allowed provided they provide parental permission first.

Paisley’s church represents under 1% of the population but his anti-Catholic rhetoric is enough to put him in office as a member of parliament. As such he stood up and screamed insults at the Pope when the Pope addressed the British Parliament. Paisley had to be escorted out of the chambers by guards because he was so consumed with hate. Paisley’s web site prominently has displayed on it a link to an article on “5 Reasons Catholics are Not Christian.”

So members of Paisley’s antiquated church lined up to try and ruin the ceremonies for gay couples. Reports said these “Christians” sang hymns and chanted “sodomy is a sin” along with “you’re going to hell” and “filth, filth, filth”. Any one assumed to be gay was subjected to insults such as the scathing “you’re a sodomite and an abomination.”

A couple of wags decided the best way to deal with these bigot is laughter. According to the Times they “infiltrated the antigay ranks wearing garish sports jackets and toothbrush moustaches but no trousers, carrying their own placards.... [which] read ‘Bring back slavery’ and ‘Earth is flat’.” The paper said there “was so much laughter that event he moral indignation of the Christian fundamentalists seemed on the verge of giggles.”

Polygamy: Blame the gays.

Conservatives are a rather confused and stupid lot especially the more authoritarian kinds. They are the soul-mates of other authoritarians like Communists and Nazis. This wasn’t always the case with conservatives but now that they have joined the Jesus crusade they are open and flagrant statists.

And they are dishonest ones as well. Take a report from right-winger Stanley Kurtz that appeared in the neo-conservative rag “The Weekly Standard”. Now for those who don’t know neo-conservative means they don’t even pretend to support free enterprise or small government anymore. They want to police the world, use state power to force people to be “moral”, etc and love the welfare state. They are compassionate conservatives like King George.

These people hate homosexuals. No matter what they may call it themselves it comes down to hate. They are frothing-at-the-mouth, rabid haters of gay people. The more sane ones among them try to disguise it but most are very open about their hatred. Stanley Kurtz is one of these neo-conservatives who is making money off the Boobus Americanus with his anti-gay tirades. The argument is that if you allow gay couples to have equal protection under the law you will destroy marriage.

Apparently heterosexuals are not responsible for the state of straight marraige—gays are. It wasn’t the German government responsible for the state of Germany in the 1930s. It was Jews. Just ask Adolph. One argument conservatives have used is that if you let gays marry then people will marry pigeons and have polygamous relationships.

Of course polygamy is far older than gay marriage. It’s far older than Christianity and, in fact, the Bible, in numerous places endorsed polygamy. This Judeo-Christian culture they fawn over endorsed polygamy thousands of years ago.

Now Kurtz is harping on about a man and his wife who entered into a “cohabitation contract” with another woman. The couple exchanged rings with her. But they didn’t marry. Nor did they enter into a partnership agreement the way couples might. They live in the Netherlands, a nation the moral conservatives love to hate.

Kurtz notes that news of this “marriage” “spread through the conservative side of the internet like wildfire”. So what? Conservatives are dumb and prone to believe lots of stupid things. They think Jesus walked on water and was born of a virgin. They think George Bush told the truth about mass weapons of destruction. They think Republicans advocate “small government”. As a group they are prone to believe fantastical things.

Kurtz says that this “triple wedding is an unmistakable step down the road to legalized group marriage”. Well this cohabitation contract between these three people is not related to gay marriage at all. They didn’t marry. Nor did they enter into the equivalent of a civil union either. They did something entirely different. Small detail to the rabid Right who foam and froth more than they think. But then they can do the former and not the latter.

Now we all know there are many different kind of relationships and have been for centuries. It’s not something that materialized as a result of recognizing the legal rights of homosexuals. And we also know that in the West the main practitioners of polygamy are Right-wing conservatives of a deeply religious bent. The main group practising polygamy are fundamentalist Mormons who have communities all over the American West. These are rock-ribbed Republicans, gay hating, conservatives. They are people who consider themselves hard cord Christians. They are part of a religious movement that is overwhelmingly anti-gay and want government forcing people to follow their ideas of private morality. These are people who vote for George Bush!

Kurtz mentions another case of alleged polygamy, that of Serge Regnier of Belgium. He calls Belgium a “cultural cousin” of the Netherlands but that’s not quite true. His only reason for doing so is that Belgium was the second country to recognize gay marriage. But Regnier is not married. He lives with three women in a polygamous relationship that has no legal sanction. He also notes that Regnier is unemployed “and the entire family is supported by government subsidies.”

Hmmm, maybe the subsidies and not “gay marriage” is what allows such polygamous relationships to survive. Certainly if you read “Under the Banner of Heaven”, about the fundamentalist Mormon cults that are polygamists, welfare payments are a major factor. One man has trouble supporting one wife and kids let alone dozens of wives. So he doesn’t! The extra wives are not legally married to him and thus they are single mothers in need of state assistance. Millions of dollars are channelled into polygamous communities through such welfare payments every month.

The US government sends billions of redistributed wealth to such polygamous communities all the time. And since these groups are big enough to form their own towns, like Colorado City, Arizona, they form school districts. Well that makes them eligible for millions more in education subsidies which get channelled into other activities by the cult instead of the schools. Polygamists are masters at miling the welfare state for all it’s worth.

Polygamy would have a damn hard time surviving without the welfare state. But neo-conservatives like the welfare state. They like government active in every sphere of life. So blame polygamy on gays. Ignore that the welfare state funds it, that religious Right groups justify it and that it existed long before it was legal to be gay let alone before gays could marry anywhere in the world.

Kurtz crows that since gay marriage was legalized in Holland there have been “increases in out-of-wedlock births and parental cohabitation”. This he says “emerged in the wake of the movement for same-sex marriage.” The technical term for that is bull shit.

Now I’ve been around long enough to remember life before gay marriage. OOPS, one doesn’t have to be too old for that. I clearly remember conservatives whining about these trends decades BEFORE there was the first gay marriage or civil union. They saw these same trends before the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws, before any nation allowed gay marraige or civil unions, and while most US states still prosecuted people for being gay and it was illegal for two men to dance together. They saw these trends then because they existed then. I is the height of dishonesty to blame these pre-existing trends on events that took place afterwards.

Kurtz is very dishonest. He argues that “the germ of an organized effort to legalize polyamory in the United States can be found in the Unitarian Church....” Well Unitarians are on the Left and that means worthy of slander to conservatives like Kurtz. And as Kurtz notes, “Unitarian churches in Massachusetts played a key role in the struggle over gay marriage....” So he acts like marriage with multiple partners started with the Unitarians while overlooking over a century of polygamy amongst the Mormons. Why?

Well, as he noted Unitarians supported gay marriage. Mormons oppose gay marriage. Unitarians tend to vote Democrat while Mormons tend to vote Republican. Kurtz wants to make the Left look bad because he is on the Right. So he distorts the facts. And he wants to link polygamy with pro-gay views. He can’t do that if he acknowledges that most polygamists are vehemently anti-gay.

Polygamy today is not practiced because it makes economic sense because it doesn’t. It’s a losing proposition which is why almost all these relationships survive off the welfare state. Polygamy in the West is practiced because it is “God’s will”. And it’s hard to blame gays for that.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The divine director

One of the most theological of films of recent years, one that was not obviously religious that is, was The Truman Show with Jim Carey.

If you remember the plot Carey was born in a fake community where his entire life is filmed and aired on television. He lives in one massive film studio where every aspect of his life is controlled by the great director in the sky who over watches and plans and plots.

Carey lives in a predetermined world and he starts to see the problems around him. He begins to figure out that something is happening to him, that he’s being manipulated and he years to escape it and find freedom.

In one sense this film shows the Calvinist view of God. It is also the world view of the fundamentalist Islamist. Both see God as totally omnipotent. In there mind this God controls everything. He chooses who will be damned and who will be saved. He sends a small child to hell with satisfaction. All that is done is the will of God.

God knows it all before it happens. If God knows it all then nothing can happen contrary to what God already knows. His knowledge thus predestines it. There is no free will for man.

In the Truman Show the entire world is watching as Truman seeks his freedom. Every attempt to find freedom is blocked by the director but eventually Carey outwits him and escapes. As he reaches the very limits of his world he finds an exit against the fake sky that is painted on the wall to give the illusion of a horizon. The director looks down on him and finally speaks to him. Carey looks up much the way you would imagine someone who imagines they hear God would look up.

The director tries to persuade Carey to stay but fails and the television audience applauds. I suspect that the movie audience applauds as well—if not physically then at least emotionally.

Most people who watch the film would be horrified if a real Truman show existed. That a man had his entire life controlled by others who planned who he would met, who he would love, who he would marry would disgust most people. If the show were true then the Director would be a monster.

Yet around the world millions of people not only believe in a divine Director doing exactly this but they applaud it. They see themselves as Trumans controlled by the Director. He plots and plans and they follow the script.

A sovereign God can not have his will flaunted. Nothing can happen that is outside his will. Every aspect of creation, all thoughts, all actions and ideas can only exist because he allows them to exist. There can be no such thing as free will for man.

One Christian web site explains it this way: “God not only knows everything about everyone before we are born, but God chose our destiny before anyone is born. Predestination is not a ‘Calvinist’ doctrine. Rather, it is a Biblical doctrine.” As they noted, “nothing happens beyond what God permits”.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Schlafly Zone

Poor Phyllis Schlafly has always been a bit off in the head. Here are some comments from her "Eagle's Forum Culture Watch."

"Evolutionists claim that their battle against creation-science is primarily a "scientific" issue, not a constitutional question. But our treasured U. S. Constitution is written by persons and for persons. If man is an animal, the Constitution was written by animals and for animals. This preposterous conclusion destroys the Constitution. The Aguillard Humanists leave us with no Constitution and no constitutional rights of any kind if they allow us to teach only that man is an animal."

"These subtle and dangerous attacks on God Himself and the Constitution must be repelled. There are additional "Fictions" being hurled by evolutionists against creationism, and we will consider these in our next "Briefing." As the battle moves into the courtroom again, WE MUST BE PREPARED TO DEFEND THE TRUTH! "

Does any else hear the theme song from the "Twilight Zone" playing in the background.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Can the vicar compete with the rugby boys?

One thing about desk top publishing is that certainly has increased choice in “religious” material. For instance the spurt, pardon the pun, of racy Christian calendars. It’s not that there is just one but several.

We have the Heavenly Hunks calendar from the UK’s Portsmouth Cathedral Choir. See the photo of course.

It shows 11 young men from the cathedral choir and the Bishop approved. No doubt. No doubt.

This stripping down is to make the church relevant I guess. The church organist says: “It is a refreshing story about the Church of England and a great example of some young guys doing something fun because of their membership of the church and of Portsmouth Cathedral Choir.” The local Bishop says: “I support anything that involves young people having fun as part of the church and congratulate these lads who have bared more than their souls to raise money for these charities.”

Far less appealing is the vicar, Michael Storey, who posed as “Mr October” in a calendar to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his church. They haven’t decided where to donate the proceeds. But the vicar, who is 66, isn’t the oldest male model. One parishioner who bared it for the camera is in his 70s. I wouldn’t count on this one being a best seller.

In Germany a Protestant youth group has decided to portray erotic scenes from the Bible. The idea is if they show the Bible to be pornographic, which it is, that it would get young people interested. The local pastor just bubbled: “It’s just wonderful when teenagers commit themselves with their hair and their skin to the Bible.” The photographer says that there is “a whole range of biblical scriptures simply bursting with eroticism>”

Then we have the utterly flabby assistant curate from Holy Trinity Church in the UK who stripped down for a calendar as well. It’s for their, (cough, cough) organ fund! When asked about it the curate said that God “was wandering in the garden of Eden talking to two people who were starkers.”

In Goucestershire (these Brits are really obsessed with this calendar idea) the local vicar has thrown his hat into the ring supporting a nude calendar by hanging the photos in the church for all to see. And Rev. Christine Musser of.... where else.... Cornwall, England got a tad bit of criticism because she is on a calendar showing local builders in a state of undress. But the calendars do have spiritual “words” on them. Her response: “Nudity and the Church are not traditionally linked, but to my mind, it was a group of guys who don’t come to church, but are very much part of the community who wanted to show their support for their community church. How could I not support them.” So she acted as their supporter!

Now you have to give them some credit for trying. But when you have calendars like the one put out by French rugby players then the competition is just a bit too hot for these Christians I fear. I suspect that little old church ladies would much prefer saying “Oh, la, la” . As they said in the US during World War I: “How will you keep them down on the farm once they’ve Paree?”

Monday, December 05, 2005

The god of the gaps

I’ve just started reading the book “The End of Faith” by Sam Harris. I have to say that what I’ve read so far is pretty damn good.

He makes an interesting point early on in his book that I’d like to pick up on. He write: “Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and his is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bedside was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.”

Certainly Mr. Harris is correct about most of the American Taliban. Like their Islamic counterparts they swallow their scripture hook, line and sinker. Not only that but to entertain doubts at all is often seen as sinful. To the fundamentalist god gave man a mind in order for him not to use it at all when it comes to the existence of some deity and “spiritual” matters.

Why would a man require evidence that his wife is cheating on him and not require a second thought as to hell fire, damnation and all things godly?

Consider this: we can easily verify he has a wife. He’s seen her and so have lots of other people. Having a wife is not unusual. It requires no leap of faith. She can stand right in front of you. Her existence is easily verified. Nor is it particularly unlikely that any one wife might cheat on her husband. It happens all the time. Many a minister can verify this is true from personal experience.

It requires very little evidence to establish whether or not a man has a wife and only a bit more to determine whether she is cheating on him. It is not out of the question by any means. it is very possible.

But when it comes to things that can not be verified by evidence the man is quite happy to accept them on face value.

I think it entirely plausible that this happens. Many asks for evidence and proof and reasoning in precisely those areas of his life where he knows from experience that evidence and proof and reasoning is possible. But when it comes to the supernatural it is, by definition, beyond nature. It is not susceptible to reason and evidence.

So if it is beyond reason why accept it? Why does he believe at all?

Humans, I think, need answers to the questions they say. They want to know why. Why does this happen and not that? And God is the final answer to any question for which no other answer is possible. Most believers have a god of the gaps. God explains that for which no other explanation can be found.

A man, by sheer chance, misses an air plane flight. It happens thousands of time per day. Sometimes one of those planes crashes killing people on board. It could have been him on the plane but it wasn’t. Maybe his alarm failed to go off. Maybe he hit traffic on the way to the airport. Maybe he didn’t feel well enough to travel. And if the plane doesn’t crash he’s happy to take any of these things at face value. But when he doesn’t die because of such a small circumstance he attributes this to a deity who intervened to save him totally ignoring the same deity presumably sent hundreds of others to a horrible death for no apparent reason.

I can think of good people I know who are seriously ill. And I ask “Why them?” But I know such a question is an invalid question. Good people get ill just as some really vicious seem to live on far too long. There are some really sick bastards in the world who ought to have heart attacks and don’t. And there are some really great people who die far too young.

People want an answer to the questions about why such things happen. God provides that answer for them.

No, for them belief in a divine being is not a rational exercise. It’s a means of filling in gaps that are too uncomfortable to be left empty. The proof of this is the amazing coincidence that religious folks around the world ignore. It’s the coincidence that that 99% of all believers merely adopt one version or another of the deity worshipped in their own culture.

The Christian in America thinks he believes because his god is true. The Muslim in Iran believes the same about Allah that the devout Jew does about Jehovah. People merely grab the god of the gaps from their own culture. Only a very small percentage actually convert to another god. They are most likely to switch one version of the same god for another version such as Catholic for Baptist or Shiite for Sunni or Orthodox for liberal. They are unlikely to make a radical conversion. And many of those who do do it for non-spiritual reasons. They convert merely to marry someone they love for instance.

A man wants evidence if he is to believe his wife is cheating on him. He doesn’t want reasons for god. He doesn’t want reasons because god is the final refuge he finds when he faces those questions in life for which no answer can be given. Rather than accept that there are things in the universe which defy explanation he clings to the god of the gaps.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

How crazy was she?

On November 2 I reported on one Christian nut case on the TV show "Trading Spouses". Now I was not kind but I was accurate. She is certifiably insane and some video clips of how this "Christian" behaves is proof of it. In this part she returns home to family and goes off the deep end. You can see that her family is concerned that she's losing it totally. She makes a big deal of destroying the check that was given her by the show but when not on camera she accepts the funds. You can find my original comments at:

But if you want to see this crazy woman in action for the Lord go to this page.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Why sing carols when you can whine?

The American Taliban is at it again. Or still---depending at how you look at it. These nut cases are insisting that their fundamentalist view of the world is the norm and that anything that deviates from their uninformed and ignorant view of the world is an attack on them.

Jerry Falwell, the fat fundamentalist from the aptly named town of Lynchburg, along with something called the Alliance Defense Fund, supposedly have 1,600 born-again lawyers on the ready to attack anyone who says “Happy Holiday” instead of Merry Christmas.

Falwell started another fund raising gimmick called “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign”. Falwell says regarding “We’re kicking their butts, and they’re unhappy.” He argues “we’ve gone on the offense now.” I for one remember this rotund ball of fat preaching at my high school years ago. He was offensive then and is even more offensive now.

Basically these fanatics hate the idea that people are wished a “Happy Holidays” instead of a Merry Christmas. They seem to have the bizarre notion that Christmas is a Christian holiday. Everyone with any education, which leaves out the shock and awe forces of the US Taliban, knows that Christmas was a pagan holiday confiscated by Catholicism a few centuries back in order to make it easier for pagans to become Catholics.

Now the fundie crowd hates pagans and don’t consider Catholics to be Christians. Why they are so intent on protecting Christmas trees and the like, all pagan symbols, is absolutely bizarre. There is absolutely no evidence that anyone name Jesus was born on December 25th and historically the Christian church did not see December as his birth month at all. Many in the Orthodox churches still believe the birth of Christ was in January. Most historians think it was months later.

The fascist nut case from the fraudulent Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, has been pushing the idea that this “war on Christmas” is part of a campaign to “get Christianity and spirituality and Judaism out of the public square.” Now how a Christmas tree is related to Judaism doesn’t seem to come to O’Reilly’s mind. But this is the idiot that called for price controls on gasoline so he is clearly off the rails.

What does O’Reilly and crowd mean by the “public square”? They mean that they want their religious views supported with stolen money taken from taxpayers under the threat of force. He thinks that stealing money from people is part of the Judeo-Christian perspective provided you have the IRS beat people instead of doing it yourself. That’s not even good conservatism but then conservatives these days have gone bonkers under Franklin Delano Bush.

K. Hollyn Hollman of the Baptist Joint Commission for Religious Liberty hit the nail on the head saying: “I think it’s disingenuous to say that Christmas is threatened just because government is not promoting your view or your favorite way of promoting the holiday.”

What is funny is that a Fox News “poll” (it is not a poll at all) asked views of the station if there is a war on Christmas and more of O’Reilly’s own viewers said their is not such war than said there is. Even his own audience knows he got a few screws loose.

Joseph Conn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State says Falwell is trying to restore his tainted image. He was roundly criticized for saying the 9/11 attacks by fundamentalist Muslims was caused by “abortionists and the feminists and the gays.” Right Jerry! If you believe in resurrections you’ll believe anything.

Of course there is a very good reason to refer to this as the Holiday Season. Because it is nutballs! Because it is. It starts at Thanksgiving and ends with New Year’s Day. It includes New Year’s Eve and Hanukah as well. There are at least six such events during this period of a few weeks. So it is a holiday season unlike any other time of the year.

To refer to this as the Christmas season is not inaccurate but neither is it inaccurate to say it is a Holiday Season as well. I happen to like Christmas and not because of any of the rubbish the Christians have imposed on it.

It started as a celebration of the return of the sun with the Winter Solstice. And I will go to a Solstice party this year myself --- my first actually. I don’t mind taking time off in the middle of winter to lift one’s spirits. And as a blatantly commercial holiday it does a damn lot of good for the economy. It would be a disaster if we ever returned to the “true” meaning of Christmas and gave up the commercialism. Capitalism has done the world far more good than any organized religion. So celebrate the commercialism. That buying and selling feeds people. It provides homes and medical care and happiness to billions. The commercial aspect of Christmas does more good for the world in a few short weeks than all of Christianity combined for the entire year.

And no one is attacked for not being commercial. The capitalists don’t hold rallies to call for the jailing of sinners. They don’t attempt to pass legislation controlling the reproductive cycles of women, the reading material of people or engage in hate campaigns against homosexuals.

We need a lot more capitalists in the world and a lot less Christians. Everyone’s life would be improved if Jesus would just do what the nutters claim he intends to do --- rapture them out!

So Jesus, if you are listen, please take these nut cases to your bosom. They say you started this mess so you deserve them. But the rest of us are innocent victims of their lunacy.

PS: This just in. You can’t please the religious nutters no matter what. Whine and whine they do about how the word Christmas isn’t being used enough to satisfy them. In the backwater town of Sapulpa, Oklahoma Christians are up in arms over the Winterfest Christmas Parade whinging that having the name Christmas isn’t enough to satisfy them.

The Chamber of Commerce says they are not kicking Christ out! For someone’s sake it has the word Christmas right in the title. The baptized clueless ones of Sapulpa, say the Chamber is denying the Christian aspects of the season. The Chamber says they’ve never had complaints from the Taliban until this year. They attribute it to the campaign being put on by the Fox news channel in the US to hype claims that Christmas is under attack. Fox is owned by Rupert Murdock who, while making money exhibiting porn films in other countries, plays up to the Religious Right in the US. with his Fox channel which pretends to be a news service.

Reminds me of the fundamentalist nut case I met who was upset about a cartoon about Santa. He was upset that this denigrated a Christian symbol!!!


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