Saturday, December 30, 2006

Bravo for these teens.

The death of Marine Capt. Kevin Kryst of West Bend, Wisconsin was a tragedy. He was another victim of the botched interventionists foreign policy of the Bush government. But not everyone agrees with that.

Timothy Phelps blames the man’s parents “for raising a child for the devil.” Eight members of the Westboro Baptist Church gathered at the funeral with signs thanking God for killing American soldiers. These Calvinist Baptists hate America because America does not execute homosexuals.

Sara Phelps, another church member, which is mainly made up of the family of the abusive Fred Phelps, said: “The government should invoke the death penalty for being gay.” These Christians argue that God is killing American soldiers as punishment for America’s “liberal” position on homosexuality.

Four local teens found out of the hate protest and decided to stage their own protest. Devin Merget, 16, said that church leader Fred Phelps “is the nation’s foremost homoephobe. I want to stress the importance of opposing bigots like these.” Ben Barker, 14, said “It’s ridiculous to think they are representing God.”

I applaud these teens as loudly as I can. (If one applauds on the internet does anyone hear it?)

As for the vile Phelps: well, he does more to turn middle America away from hating homosexuals than anyone I can think of. Most Americans, even those who are antigay, are disgusted by his actions. Just as the actions of the Klan helped civil rights for black Americans the actions of Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church help the cause of gay equality. When full equality for gay people arrives, and it will arrive, Fred Phelps ought to get a medal for his service to the gay cause.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What it would take.

Most people never give any serious thought to whether or not they ought to believe in a deity. Most people accept the idea through cultural osmosis. And the god they believe in is thus determined by the culture in which they are reared. In other words there is no intellectual attempt to draw a valid conclusion at all. No evidence is considered, no proofs are sought, there is only a conclusion that they accept. I can’t do that. If others can that’s their problem.

So what would I need to convert me to Christianity or any other religion for that matter. Here are the steps that I would need to go through and I will use Christianity as the example because I live in nations which are historically Christian.

The first thing that needs to be presented to me is proof that there is a god. To do that they need to define what a god is and then give me proof he actually exists. This is prior to the use of holy books, etc. The first thing is whether a being as they describe it exists. And since they assert the being exists the burden of proof is entirely their own to meet.

Assuming that they have done this they will next have to show that this being is comprehensible. If it is not then it is absurd to ask me to belief anything particular about something which is, by definition, not comprehensible. So if you resort to telling me how we can’t understand him then I would want to know how you understand that. If you say he is unknowable I’d want to know how it is that you claim to know something about something which is unknowable. If the being you believe is not one that can be intellectually understood then don’t expect me to understand anything about it.

Now let us suppose that you have done both these things. You have satisfied me that their is a deity and you have defined it in a way that is comprehensible. Now the real work begins.

At this point you have to give me compelling evidence that of all the possible gods which men have claimed exist that the Christian god is the one that is most consistent with what evidence you have presented. Still at the point the Bible is not strictly admissible to the argument. That comes later. Based on pure logic and non-supernatural facts of reality show me that one specific god is now the one that makes the most sense. And I suppose that along the way you would need to show why there is only one such deity.

So let us supposed that you have done this. I am not convinced that there is a deity and I comprehend what sort of being it is that is being discussed. Let us assume I have even accepted that a specific deity is the only one that makes sense. Now you have to show that he has decided to make himself known through a book.

So we have to take all the holy books that people have claimed were inspired or written by god and line them up. And you need to show me why one specific book was written by the only possible god. You would have to show that the book is reliable. It would need to be non-contradictory in nature. Now that doesn’t apply to human books only to god books. A deity I presume wouldn’t write contradictions. It would need to be historically accurate as well. It would need to correspond with what reality already shows us.

Once that book is picked out you would need to show me that there is only one logical interpretation of the book. If there are hundreds of interpretations you really have to show me why I must pick one of them over the others.

Now those are the steps I would need for a conversion. Now one last thing regarding comments to this posting. The comments section is reserved for remarks regarding this process. It is not the place to try and go through these steps. That I suspect would take far more space than our comments provide. If you think one step is wrong then comment on why it is wrong. If you think there are other steps that should be added then mention those and why you think they should be added. But please don’t attempt to use the comments as a forum to try and satisfy these requirements. This is about the methodology one ought to follow to draw a conclusion not about the evidence that satisfies it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Buddha Boy Right!

The people of Nepal are Buddhists and thus are inclined to absurdities consistent with Buddhism. And they are now gathering in a jungle to try and look at a 17-year-old boy Ram Bahandur Bomjan who they say is the a reincarnation of Buddha

Sure he is. And the proof of this is based on the claims, I repeat “claims”, that the boy allegedly goes without eating or drinking for month’s on end. His followers also claim that he is immune to fire and snake bites.

Now all of this is easily verified but the true believers refuse to allow that to happen claiming that any attempt to do so would disturb the Buddha Boy’s meditation. There is always an excuse.

If such a test is eventually allowed the media needs to be careful. Such a test should be done by someone like James Randi and not merely something done in front of the media. Media people, like most people, can easily be tricked by slight of hand tactics so the test must be carefully controlled. I would expect that if the controversy spreads as to whether or not this boy with shrub-like hair, is the Buddha that some sort of staged “proof” will be presented.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Splitting over hate.

Peter Akinola calls himself an archbishop. He thinks he speaks on behalf of a deity. But he’s a humble man -- just ask him. As he told one reporter: “Many people say I embarrass them with my humility.” The contradiction in that statement just whizzes past the archbishop’s little brain like a plane breaking the sound barrier.

Akinola is a symbol of an age old hatred within the Christian church -- a hatred for homosexuals. He is leading a schism within the Anglican church to protest the growing acceptance of gay people. Much the way the American church divided over support for slavery the Episcopal/Anglicans are dividing over whether to show acceptance of gay and lesbian members of the congregation.

Akinola says his church in Nigeria (that hotbed of enlightened intellectualism) is facing a threat from radical Islam. He argues “Should the church in this country begin to teach that is appropriate, that it is right to have same sex unions and all that, the church will simply die.” Interesting argument.

Fundamentalist Muslims are violent and hateful. If Christians don’t match them in hatred then they will lose out to Islam. So Christians must show they are willing to be as nasty as Islamists at least toward homosexuals. No wonder they call archbishops primates -- they act like primates.

Akinola is a key supporter of legislation that will turn all homosexuals in Nigeria into criminals. Not only that but the new law would make it illegal to oppose the new law. Very Stalinist of him, perhaps even Jehovah-like.

The New York Times writes that the legislation “includes measures so extreme that the State Department warned that they would violate basic human rights. Strictly interpreted, the bill would ban two gay people from going out to dinner or seeing a movie together. It could also lead to the arrest and imprisonment of members of organizations providing all manner of services, particularly, those helping people with AIDS.”

Primate Akinola argues that Nigeria has the right to pass legislation stripping people of their rights. “Does Nigeria tell America what laws to make? Does Nigeria tell England what laws to make? This arrogance, this imperial tendency, should stop for God’s sake.” Damn right! And Nigeria ought to reimpose the laws supporting slavery just to teach England a lesson.

Islamic slavers ought to be free of imperialist do-gooders and have the right to capture Primate Akinola and sell him into bondage. At least he’d be doing something productive with his life instead of wasting it on a fairy tale and hatred. The primate ought to know that there are many more Bible verses which condone slavery than which oppose homosexuality.

Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of the United States, argued that slavery “was established by decree of Almighty is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts.”

Davis was right. The Bible does condone slavery. It was traditional. It was the way the world worked for centuries. All the major churches of the day supported it. Only a few cranks spoke out against it. Now if you have tradition and Scripture both supporting slavery then who the hell had the right to end it? Even today Calvinists in the Christian Reconstructionist movement argue in defense of reinstating slavery as an institution based on Biblical law.

Slavery existed all around the prophets and the messiah when they walked the earth. And they never thought once to condemn it. Enslaving others was considered natural and normal, even moral. Slaves were commanded to obey their masters by St. Paul. He said slaves should serve their masters “as you would serve Christ.” The most the Bible did was lay down rules for slaves and masters but not one verse condemned the practice. To oppose slavery is to oppose Scripture.

Nor is there any shortage of Biblical arguments made through the ages defending the inferior rights of Africans like Primate Akinola. Their black skin was described by many fundamentalists as the “curse of Ham” from the Old Testament and the Bible said the descendants of Ham would be servants to others.

Of course many Christians today, including some fundamentalists, no longer believe that. Instead they accept the modernists, liberal, non-literal interpretation of Scripture. They compromise the faith you could say.

In southern America the fundamentalist tradition supported slavery. There was no shortage of tracts and books defending slavery and arguing the inferiority of blacks. And all of it was done in keeping with Christian tradition. Entire books were written using the Bible to argue that the black race are the “beasts of the field” described in the Bible and that they were subhuman and required to serve the white race. No doubt there were some who had no trouble embracing both the Ham theory and the beast of the field theory though they contradict one another. But contradictions have never troubled the faithful.

Even today the Christian Party takes the view that blacks are “a serving order”. They find all sorts of justification for their position in the Bible. But one is apt to find justification for almost any position in the Bible. But there is more Biblical justification to enslave Akinola than there is to deny rights to gay people.

The last great split in Protestant Christianity was over whether or not to deny black people equal human rights. So it is no surprise that the current split is over a similar issue.

It should be noted that one of the American churches which has placed itself under the authority of Akinola has a history of leading antigay initiatives. The Truro church actually got the fraudulent exgay movement off to a start with the Liberation in Jesus Christ ministry under Guy Charles. They kept the delusion going for several years that they could change people’s sexual orientation via the white magic of religion. That illusion ended when Charles was shown to have not been as liberated as he felt it necessary to claim.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

God writes for the Times.

The religionists get rather perturbed when anyone questions their belief in the unlikely, the absurd, the ridiculous and the impossible. And if someone challenges them and manages to produce a best seller in the process they get very perturbed. And in response they write silly pieces.

In the Times of London John Cornwell decided to do something that the deity has not done -- reply to Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion. God seems rather silent on the issue but then he’s silent on all issues. He is deaf and mute, hearing no prayers and giving no answers. Instead religionists speak on his behalf much the way a ventriloquist speaks for his dummy.

In this letter from the creator the deity admits he read Dawkin’s book. Odd. A god wouldn’t read a book since he would know what was in the book before it was written. In fact it would be rather disappointing to be a deity since you know the end of every book before you read the story. It is like some person is constantly whispering “the butler did it” in your ear.

Cornwell, who like all religionists puts his own words in the mouth of a god, quotes a “poet” who “once wrote, ‘hatred of God may bring the soul to God’. For what many atheists loathe is not God at all but the false representations of Me.”

So many errors in one sentence. First, atheists, true atheists, can’t hate a god. You can’t hate the non-existent. Do Christians hate Allah? Do they loathe Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy?

There is a scene from The Fountainhead where the arch villain Ellsworth Toohey speaks to Howard Roark, whose career he has endeavored to destroy. He says: “Why don’t you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No one will hear us.” Roark replies: “But I don’t think of you.” And to the narcissist, obsessed with destroying someone else, this is unbearable.

But this is what the religionist doesn’t understand. The atheist doesn’t think of a god. And that leads to their stating that what the atheist is concerned about is the “false representation” of the deity. Of course the atheist is concerned about a “false representation” because those are the only kind of representations possible. If the mythical being called god does not exist then every representation of him, her or it has to be false.

God, with Cornwell pulling the strings, quotes GK Chesterton warning “When people cease to believe in God, they come to believe not in nothing, but in anything. You recommend in almost every line of the book that your readers should replace Me in their hearts and minds with you.”

First the deity puppet of Cornwell is lying. Dawkins does not advocate that people replace a belief in a deity with a belief in Dawkins but with a belief in reason. Equally we should note that the people most prone to believe in anything are those who fall for religion. The most absurd, and vicious, beliefs around are embraced by religionists.

The Cornwell hand-puppet deity resorts to the old, discredited argument from design. If a Boeing 747 can’t evolve then the human brain couldn’t evolve. In other words anything complex must have a creator but then that would include a creator as well who is even more complex and thus more in need of a creator, ad infinitum. The deity of Cornwell doesn’t seem able to offer anything but the most hackneyed old arguments around.

The Cornwall deity dummy argues that Dawkins speaking out about god is about a sensible as a theologian speaking out on biology -- ignoring the fact that theologians speak out on biology all the time. There is a quoted comment about imagining “someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.”

Terry Eagleton, who is quoted here, is off the mark. Dawkins didn’t write about theology but philosophy. I studied theology at seminary and there is no theology in Dawkins. The discussion in Dawkins is about the existence of a deity not about what a deity does or does not teach. His was a philosophical/scientific discussion not a discussion of such absurdities as the trinity, virgin birth, resurrection, atonement, etc.

The god of Cornwall barely gets past freshman dorm room debating tactics. What a disappointing deity he is. His rather mediocre mind and his sophomoric arguments are hardly worth dealing with. They are simply the same old claims rewritten and put into the mouth of Jehovah. He even includes the false claim that Hitler was an atheist. Hitler invoked deity on a regular basis in his political rhetoric. Hitler’s ability to spread anti-Semitic hatred was helped along the way by the works of prominent Christians like Martin Luther who preached that Jews be persecuted by Christians. And hundreds of years of Christian ethics in actions did just that.

The Cornwell puppet-god says that “Hitler played fast and loose with religion, to manipulate the German people”. But getting hold of religion is like grabbing a handful of Jell-O. Religion is belief, pure belief that need not be rooted in anything other than faith. It is something which is designed for “fast and loose” playing. Any claim is permitted provided the one making the claim calls his belief “religion” and claims to be a theologian. Not only is any such claim allowed but to question such claims brings forth columns purporting to be written by Jehovah in reply to such questioning.

Cornwall spends several paragraphs trying to play the Hitler card. It is a rather sad state of affairs for Christian apologetics to rely on Hitler as some sort of twisted justification for a deity. It almost appears as if Cornwall’s deity was unable to justify his existence prior to 1933.

In the end the sock-puppet deity of Cornwall resorts to the gibberish of modern, liberal theologians. He argues that he is incomprehensible and far beyond man’s mind. And here we find the trap of theology. The fundamentalist theologian tries to give meaning to his deity and he describes a being who is real, concrete and contradictory. The liberal theologian spins out tales of incomprehension and borders on saying nothing at all.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Clueless stewardess just doesn't get it.

An unnamed stewardess with BMI just doesn’t get it. She’s threatening the airline over something over which they have no control. But she’s described as a “committed Christian” so she’s obviously mentally challenged. The woman takes her Bible everywhere. (Gee, she must be great fun at parties.)

The stewardess was assigned to fly to Saudi Arabia and she was told that the law there forbids the importing of any religious books except the absurd Qu’ran. Now note that the airline did not write the law. They merely told her that she, like every visitor to this sandpit, can’t bring her Bible.

In light of the new found fondness for being victims she has claimed that she is being discriminated against by the airline. She now plans to take the airline to a government tribunal for “discrimination”.

The airline offered her other routes so she could take her favorite fiction reading along. But she has refused the offer. Now this is clearly not the airline’s fault but she can’t threaten Saudi Arabia legally so she goes after a completely innocent third party.

Now the Saudi government is a pack of savages, making them slightly worse than the Republicans, but not my much. And the law is wrong but let’s be honest here -- this stewardess is about as thick as they come.

Hell pizza. condoms and Christians.

I always enjoy the rank stupidity of people. It is so entertaining. If you ever want to have a good laugh listen to talk radio and hear the idiots that call into the shows. Rather amusing lot. And the funniest people are you day-to-day Christians. When a person of average to less-than-average intelligence thinks they speak on behalf of the creator of the universe they really go off the deep end.

Christians are a bit of an anomaly in New Zealand. Most people there simply don’t take religion that seriously - unlike the sad case of the United States. But the few who do can be quite something to behold.

Recently the believers started having fits because a local pizza chain sent out a promotion. The Hell Pizza chain has been something of a minor thorn in the side of believers. Obviously they don’t like the name. It pokes fun at one of their central beliefs --- that an all-loving, compassionate god has created a location where he will inflict torture and excruciating pain on human beings for eternity.

To make it worse the pizza company has named their pizzas after some of the so-called deadly sins. To promote their Lust pizza they sent out a coupon with a condom. Well, the Christians had fits galore over that. A condom implies sex and the typical Christian, despite what they may say to the contrary, feels at best ambivalent about sex and most think it a rather sinful activity. To say that they have real problems in this area is an understatement.

Now the Catholics were particularly upset. Catholic priests were livid since condoms are forbidden in Catholicism. They believe the only justification for sex is to have children and any sexual act which does not have the potential of leading to children is very, very wicked. Hence they condemn every sexual act except vaginal intercourse and then only approve of it if no form of birth control is used. So the distribution of condoms was roundly condemned by these priests -- as if priests have any moral authority these days.

Now I could focus on the comments made by the batty religious leaders but I’d rather focus on the rank stupidity of the people who follow these leaders.

The New Zealand Herald ran comments from lots of average folk. Reading what the average person has to say is not very encouraging. If this is average I cringe at the thought of what the below average are like.

Claudia McFie says that Hell Pizza imposed their views on others by mailing out the promotion. What the hell, pardon the pun, does it mean “to impose your view” on others. Apparently Claudia thinks that any expression of values is an imposition on others. Christianists fall for this irrational line of thinking a lot.

If an adult bookstore opens they accuse it of imposing its views on others. If a gay celebration takes place it is “imposing” the views of gays on the public. Expressing a viewpoint or simply living one’s life is not imposing a view on others. Consider two different issues: to impose a view and to impose taxes.

What does the latter mean? It means to force people to pay a portion of their income to the state. There is force involved. But to mail out a condom is not to use force. If mailing out a coupon with a condom is to “impose” on others then everything we do that is witnessed by others is an imposition on them.

What is funny here is that the people who say this sort of crap want laws which literally do impose their will on others. These are the people who would ban abortion, make “sodomy” a felony, close down adult shops, arrest prostitutes, etc. And they seem to imply that mailing out a condom to people is on the same level as using the power of the state against others.

Julian Morehu said Hells Pizza was stupid because a lack of fear is stupid. (See they will be punished for eternity for sending out condoms so they are not fearing the real hell.) Morehu has no understanding of rights. He says that the franchise showed a “lack of respect for peoples rights”. He meant “people’s rights” I suspect.

Of course no one’s rights were violated in any way shape or form. A TV commercial doesn’t violate rights. An ad in a newspaper doesn’t violate rights. A flyer doesn’t violate rights. They may annoy you but they do not strip you of life, liberty or property. There is no rights violation involved.

Morehu rambles incoherently on about sex and STDs. “Sure learning about condoms and different STDs out there is awesome, but its neither your place nor right to shove it on other peoples kids.” Okay, so Morehu has trouble putting in apostrophes where they belong. But what is he talking about? I don’t know. I suspect he doesn’t either.

I actually never thought learning about STDs was “awesome”. But again how is mailing out a flyer imposing on other people’s kids? And how is it not their right to mail out a flyer? Julian “the brain” Morehu says that the franchise was out for “free advertising”. I suspect the post office actually did charge them for the postage myself.

Morehu does give us a clue as to why he’s so clueless. He tells us he is a “Christian” who believes in heaven and hell. He digresses into theology and then says his main point was “I for one havent really liked your pizzas anyway.” Oh, that was his main point! Maybe he doesn’t know what a main point is either.

And get this logic. “You think hell is cool? According to Bible, which by the way is the only place to ever talk about Hell, therefore being the only place to have the facts about it, is pitch black.” Bad grammar again. As written he seems to be saying the Bible is pitch black. The logic here is hilarious. The Bible mentions hells (so he says) and therefore anything it says about it is a fact. JK Rowlings writes about Harry Potter so therefore anything she writes about Potter is a fact. What piss-poor logic.

Morehu wants that in hell you will hear “screaming, gnashing of teeth but if you wanna go there for sure have heaps of sex but when you find out whats on the other side remember me.” So the reason people go to hell is having “heaps of sex”. Is a heap of sex an orgy? And exactly why should anyone remember this clown if in hell? Assume this moron is correct and there is a hell and people go there for having “heaps of sex”. Is he really going to look down on the suffering (which he can’t see due to the darkness) and go “Ha, ha, told you so, told you so”? Rather juvenile I’d say.

Simon Stewart was a bit more intelligent, but just a bit. He compared Hell's Pizza to the Catholic Church and argued that the church did more good. The pizza chain sells “unhealthy greasy pizzas adding to New Zealands obesity problems” (what is it with these people and their inability to add the apostrophe?). They send “unwanted condoms to our homes” and “all they want to do is sell more pizzas.” So “not much good community service done here!.”

Now this implies that the reason to have any business is to serve the community. It implies the individual businessman exists only for the sake of others and has no rights of his own. He must serve others. Sounds rather socialist to me and rather Christian but the two go together well I think.

Now compare that to Catholicism says Stewart. Okay, he does say we should ignore the “public misdemeanours by some disgusting humans portraying themselves as priests.” What! Hey, dude, these guys weren’t “portraying themselves as priests”. They were priests consecrated by your church, ordained by your church, housed and fed by your church, and then protected and hidden away by your church.

Stewart says he “could write a list 50 pages long about the good things the church as brought to our society and the world” and then doesn’t. He lists not one. I suggest that if he had a list it would leave off little things like the Inquisition, the persecution of Galileo, and such matters.

Now I’d compare the pizza chain to the church. The pizza chain produces a good that people actually are willing to pay for. It doesn’t try to pass laws forcing people to like pizzas. It doesn’t attempt to rule others in any way. It offers a voluntary service to willing customers. It never tortured people for not liking pizza. It never burned a fan of KFC at the stake. It never coddled up to dictators or covered up child abuse. I’d rather have a pizza than a communion wafer any day.

And then Stewart gets right to the heart of the Christian pathology. “The only safe sex available these days is no sex at all.” See, these people are really obsessed with this issue.

Sean Reynolds pushes the same message, “if you use condoms you are eventually going to get a surprise. The only method that is 100% effective in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases or to prevent unwanted pregnancies is to simply not engage in sex.”

Amanda Ward says the promotion violated “parental choice as to whether our children are exposed to such things.” Nonsense. She says she is not willing to make any effort to keep her kids from seeing things which she disapproves of so therefore such things simply shouldn’t be sent out.

Again take this idea and generalize it. If anything which some parent might find offensive for their children were banned what exactly would be allowed? Should a fundamentalist nutter be allowed to stop Catholic churches from existing because they don’t want their children exposed to such rot?

A Madeleine Flannagan repeats the same rot saying “Hell Pizza will never again see a cent of my family’s money for their utter disregard of parental rights.” Again the Christianists seem to think that there is a right which controls the actions of others to prevent anything they find offensive. I’m sure people find this woman offensive so would her waddling down the street violate the “parental rights” of others? Of course not. Once again this moron has no idea as to what it means to have a right.

Vini Leavi is another incoherent believer lamenting that “promotion of hell and evil right out there in full public view is acceptable. So many are so not knowing. It’s just not funny. So get out to a Church near you.” (I suggest Vini spend less time in church and some time in the classroom studying grammar -- though I must say he did add the apostrophe -- a refreshing change of pace.)

Kathie Blackhurst is angry: “Enough having sexuality and promiscuity shoved down our throats,” she says. Perhaps not the wisest phrase to use Kathie. She says: “Enough foisting it on our young kids who don’t need to know.” Oh, you are so right, NOT! is this woman so naive as to thinks “young kinds... don’t need to know” about sex?

Gregory Fenner says that the opening of 3 branches of Hell in his area has “led to boycott pizza orders because of the offensive names and insensitive advertising of their brands of pizzas.” Hmm, 3 branches all in close proximity to his home. Sounds as if that “boycott” isn’t doing very well.

Jenny McKechnie says the pizza chain is guilty of “trivalisation (sic) of Hell and sin. Hell is a real place and I am thankful to Jesus for what he did for all of us in dying on the Cross.... Our nation’s obesity is mostly caused by our greed.” Nation’s are not obese only individuals are Jenny.

Monika Dongohue says “I’d be dragging them (Hells Pizza) through the courts if my kids got there (sic) hands these condoms or it had led to their misadventure.” (What is this loony talking about?) If you thought that was incoherent try this sentence: “Is it any wonder we have had the drugging and rape scandals when sex a fast food outlet is our cultural sage of sexual education?”

If you think I’m exaggerating the quality of reasoning used by Christians in this matter go read it for yourself. Now I don’t think Christianity makes people stupid. However, I do think stupid people are attracted to Christianity.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Another minister at Haggard's church is out.

Another leader from Haggard's New Life Church in Colorado Springs has resigned. But so far they are rather obtuse as to the reason. The Denver Post reports that Christopher Beard stepped down from his position after "a series of decisions displaying poor judgment, including one incident of sexual misconduct several years ago." All that they will say is that misconduct did not involve Haggard or a minor.

Another news report merely describes the indiscretion as involving "another unmarried adult". One has to wonder why they are so reluctant to mention the gender of this adult.

Has been singer rewrite US history for Jesus.

Pat Boone is a has-been, a very old has been. Half a century ago he was a popular singer for a period of time. Not anymore. Some years ago he got sucked into the fundamentalist movement. One guarantee of holding on to some “fame” is for a “has been” to be “born again” and the fundies will act as if he still is the person he used to be. It’s part of their desperate need for status -- when you consider most fundamentalists are not very educated or well off you can understand this.

Boone’s career faded and by the 70s he was on the Gospel circuit -- a refuge for has beens. Desperate to revive Grandpa Boone tried to release a heavy metal album in 1997 while in his mid 60s. He even appeared in full leather at the American Music Awards to the howls and laughter of anyone watching. He only managed to lose his Christian following, the only following he had left. He apologized and was accepted back.

Boone is a far Right Christianist and a believer in miracles. He harassed the poor Rock Hudson when the man was dying of AIDS. He and and his wife would invade the Hudson home and preach at the man who was incoherent and suffering dementia. Boone and his entourage of nutters would gather around, pray at Hudson and babble in tongues.

Boone declared that through his prayers Jesus had healed Hudson. And they took the incoherent actor and dressed him in bright clothes to celebrate his healing. Hudson died instead. At this point, without missing a beat, Boone announced the clothes were really Hudson’s “going home” clothes since Hudson w now going home to Jesus instead of being healed. Apparently Boone believes he “saved” Hudson. Friends of Hudson say he was incapable of understanding anything that was happening around him -- probably a good thing. He had suffered enough.

Over at the Far Right nut site World Net Daily Boone is a regular author. He has used his column to defend Mel Gibson saying that he personally knows “Mel and Christ” and “my friend Mel is no anti-Semite.” Now to fit his Christianist far Right views.

In his current rant at WND Boone says that Jefferson openly said that the American constitution is founded on the Christian Bible. Jefferson would be surprised. He wrote: “There is not one redeeming feature in our superstition of Christianity. It has made one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.” Certainly the fundies of Jefferson’s day knew his views and attacked and smeared him constantly. Boone never actually tells us where Jefferson supposedly said this.

Boone then repeats the falsehood about having to swear on oath of office on the Bible. He says because America was founded on the Bible “we expect men and women we’ve elected to place their hands on a copy of the Holy Bible as they take their oaths of office.” As we’ve pointed out here most office holders never take an oath on the Bible. Congressmen do not use any book when they take their oath of office. The president elect may, if he wishes, do so but it is not required.

Boone says this oath “serves as an acknowledgement that the Bible, God’s holy word, is the very basis of the Constitution...” Yet the Constitution says that there is NO religious test for holding office and no says that the Bible, or any other book, is required for the oath. And he attacks those who “insist on changing a couple hundred years of our tradition” ignoring the fact that no such tradition exists only individual choice.

Jefferson did write about the inspiration for the principles of the Declaration of Independence. But

And when it comes to the American Constitution the main work explaining the origins and ideas of the Constitution was The Federalist Papers, written to convince the American people to support the Constitution. The Bible is not mentioned once. Odd to neglect this if the Bible was the foundation for the Constitution.

In fact Boone’s own stupidity regarding history is found in this quote: “As Madison and Jay and Hamilton composed the Federalist Papers, which led directly to the Constitution itself, they were greatly influenced...” The US Constitution was sent to the states for ratification in 1787. It was attacked by many critics and a series of letters were written in defense of the new document. These were the Federalist Papers which did not, as Boone ignorantly believes, led to the Constitution. They Constitution predates the Federalist Papers. This is elementary American history and easily verified. Boone doesn’t even know this much yet he wants to lecture on the history of the Constitution. His claims on the Constitution are about as well researched as his medical claims regarding the healing of Rock Hudson.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Fundie teacher preaches in class.

I’ve said it before and will say it again: fundamentalist Christians love captive audiences who have no choice but to listen to them preach even when they don’t want to listen, even when they are violating the rights of others to do so.

Once again a fundamentalist has proven himself unfit to teach children. In this case the teacher was David Paskiewicz, who is also a youth minister at a fundamentalist Baptist church. The minister was supposed to teach about the Constitution but he didn’t. He violated it.

One student in the class tape recorded the “history” listens of the teacher to prove that the class was being used by him to recruit impressionable youths into the fundamentalist sect. In one recording the teacher told students that they would go to hell if they didn’t get converted and become fundamentalists themselves. If that wasn’t bad enough he also came up with the claim that evolution and the Big Bang are false, that Noah’s ark really existed and contained dinosaurs and only born-again Christians will go to heaven.

The student who recorded the lectures and filed the complaint has received death threats and been harassed by other students. One student in the class, who also is in the minister’s religious youth group, attacked the complaining student, Matthew LeClair. He claimed that Matthew was denying the teacher his “First Amendment” rights. If this is the kind of Constitutional theory this fundamentalist minister was teaching he ought to be fired for that reason alone. The First Amendment gives anyone the right to preach anything they want with their own property or that which is made freely available to them by the owners. In the case of a state school financed with taxpayer funds the teacher does not have the right to preach. To do so he uses the funds of taxpayers who don’t agree with his religion and he uses the power of the state to compel an audience to sit and listen whether they wish to do so or not.

Fundamentalists in the town and the school are supporting the teacher, of course.

Matthew says the teacher started preaching the very first day of class. He said the teacher was not just expressing an opinion but telling students they were damned if they failed to accept his teachings. Matthew began teaching on the second day of class.

The teacher initiated the discussions on religion in his class and Matthew, who is a humanist, questioned the teacher about what he was saying. Fundamentalist in the town are now claiming the boy “set up” the teacher. Considering the boy was tape recording the conversation it is unlikely that was what he was doing. Fundamentalist accused the boy of just wanting to get a settlement from the school. The problem with that is that when he wrote the school he requested that the preaching stop, that he apologize for doing so and that he correct any misinformation he gave in class. No request for a financial pay out was asked.

Expect the rabid Right to come to the defense of the preacher using the school to impose fundamentalist Christianity on the students.

Smear an atheist for Christmas.

Jeff Jacoby is religious and Right-wing. And he is a pundit for the Boston Globe newspapers where he turns out screeds in defense of moralistic government, aggressive foreign policy and the like. All under the pretense that he supports freedom.

And every year at this time the Right pulls up the bugaboo of “banning Christmas”. It is as much a Christmas tradition with them as presents under the tree. They need to claim they are being persecuted in order to justify government involvement to promote their religion. Jacoby obeys the Right-wing tradition with a passion.

He starts with a lament that “Christmas Cards” in the U.K. don’t mention Christmas. Of course, Christmas is not the only holiday this time of year and a general holiday card could sell to lots more people. He at least acknowledges all the market does is provide what people want.

He referred to the “anti-Christian animus” that caused British Airways to order “an employee to hide the tiny cross she wears around her neck.” Typical distortion of the facts. B.A., which reveresed its policy, as is their right, had a ban on all jewelery worn on the outside of their uniforms. They did not ban crosses ,or any other symbol of execution. They banned jewelry. It was not anti-Christian, though again if BA wished to have such a policy it ought to be free to determine its own employment policies. It was a dress code regarding the corporate uniform which neither singled out crosses or other religious symbols.

To prove his point Jacoby quotes an editor at the UK's Daily Telegraph. This is like Al Gore proving a point by quoting Hillary Clinton. The Daily Telegraph is the most right-wing of the papers in the UK, a piece of information that Jacoby leaves out of his column.

The Telegraph’s editor is quoted as referring to an “an increasingly godless age” and a “rising tide of hatred against those who adhere to biblical values.” Which biblical values? Stoning people to death was a biblical value? Having hundreds of concubines was a biblical value. Conquering the land, killing all the men and children and raping the virgins was a biblical value. Having slaves was a biblical value as well. Jacoby, like all advocates of biblical values, likes to cherry-pick his biblical values.

He mentions “two recent best sellers” as proof of this attack on Christians. One is a book by Sam Harris, The End of Faith, (Jacoby refuses to mention the title of the book). Harris attacks faith in general and spend a great deal of time on Islam, a faith that Jacoby attacks with great relish himself. The other “recent best seller” he mentions was an article in the Journal of Religion and Society that showed (he says “claimed” implying it is false) that faith correlates with higher social dysfunctionality. Of course this second article was not a “recent best seller” at all. In fact, you can’t purchase it in bookstores. But what’s a little hyperbole between hysterical Right-wing religionists.

After this litany of distortions, falsehoods and exaggerations Jacoby gets to his main, and worst point:

What is at stake in all this isn't just angels on Christmas cards. What society loses when it discards Judaeo-Christian faith and belief in God is something far more difficult to replace: the value system most likely to promote ethical behavior and sustain a decent society. That is because without God, the difference between good and evil becomes purely subjective. What makes murder inherently wrong is not that it feels wrong,but that a transcendent Creator to whom we are answerable commands: "Thou shalt not murder." What makes kindness to others inherently right is not that human reason says so, but that God does: "Love thy neighbor as thyself; I am the Lord." Obviously this doesn't mean that religious people are always good, or that religion itself cannot lead to cruelty. Nor does it mean that atheists cannot be beautiful, ethical human beings. Belief in God alone does not guarantee goodness. But belief tethered to clear ethical values -- Judaeo-Christian monotheism -- is society's best bet for restraining our worst moral impulses and encouraging our best ones. The atheist alternative is a world in which right and wrong are ultimately matters of opinion, and in which we are finally accountable to no one but ourselves. That is anything but a tiding of comfort and joy.

The problem is that this a load of rubbish. The United States is far more religious than most Western countries and it has greater levels of dysfunctionality. And within the US we can, as we did here, divide the US between the religious, conservative states and the more liberal, secular states. Most social problems are greater in those states with the highest percentage of conservative religionists. Gonorrhea is higher in the Bible-belt than in New England or on the West Coast. The same is true for divorce rates, out of wedlock birth rates, rape rates, murder rates, etc. In other words there is no indication that morality is secured by religion. In fact the more secular areas of the world, and within the US, seem to be more moral!

Jacoby can’t think straight. He says that atheism leads to moral subjectivity which religion doesn’t. What rubbish. Religionists may be adamant about their own particular faith, but the group as a whole is utterly subjectivist. You have widespread disagreement between them about what is right or wrong. The basics they agree upon, such as not killing are held just as widely among secularists. And secularists are more likely to actually avoid killing others.

Jacoby says that what makes killing wrong is that God said don’t murder. Crime statistics in the US show Christians more likely to kill than their secular neighbors. He says “without God” the difference between right and wrong is blurred and subjective. Religion prevents killing. It caused centuries of killing and inspires many such acts of human destruction today. The attack on 9/11 was inspired by religion.

Martin Luther launched his attack on Jews in the name of Christianity. John Calvin put poor Servetus to death by the flames, in the name of religion. The Inquisition did its work in the name of God. The Salem witch trials lead to the executions of 20 innocent people and the incarceration of ten times as many. The Bible was used to justify this exercise in tyranny. American slavery was justified throughout the South by Christians and the largest Protestant church in the US was created in defense of slavery: the Southern Baptist Convention. Lynchings were more widespread in the Bible-belt than outside. Polls today show that religious Americans are more likely to support the use of torture than secular Americans.

Maybe Jacoby is right that it leads to “subjective” morality but it appears that the religious groups are the least moral on a host of issues. Secular Americans are more likely to live decent and upright lives than their religious neighbors by a host of objective standards (some mentioned above). The only thing the “clear ethical values” of Christianity and Judaism has accomplished is to turn believers into hypocrites and justify their persecution of others and intolerance. It has not made them more moral but less so.

Photo: the man with the smirk is Jeff Jacoby.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Classic case of blame the victim.

Football star Pat Tillman left a lucrative career and a multimillion dollar contract and enlisted in the military in response to the 9/11 attacks. He was killed in a typical military screw up. His family was lied to about the situation. He was killed by American troops and it appears the Army tried to cover up the facts. Within days the cause of Tillman’s death was known within the military but for five weeks the military hid the truth from the Tillman family.

As might be expected the Tillman family has been very upset. They want to know the truth. The military is apparently not interested in the truth. Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich was led the first inquiry into what happened. And he’s rather unhappy the Tillman family is pursuing the matter, demanding to know the truth.

But Kauzlarich is dismissive of the parents. He seems to think their problem is that the Tillmans are atheists. He says there have “been numerous unfortunate cases of fratricide, and the parents have basically said, ‘OK, it was an unfortunate accident.’ And they let it go. So this is -- I don’t know, these people have a hard time letting it go. It may be because of their religious beliefs.”

Kauzlarich said that Tillman’s brother, Kevin, who served with him in Afghanistan objected when a chaplain was brought in to say prayers. And he thinks that the reason the Tillman’s want the truth and are unhappy with his investigation, according to ESPN, might “be because of the absence of a Christian faith in their lives.”

Apparently Christians are not as concerned about knowing the truth. There is no mention if the other families, who were not concerned, were also the victims of lies and coverups by the military. I suggest they may not have been. But easier to scapegoat the family for not being Christians.

“When you de, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don’t believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing and now he is no more -- that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don’t know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough.”

Death is tough. And it is tough for anyone. But what is clear here is the issue of deceit from the government. That surely is the motivation for this family. But Kauzlarich, who would be in the line of fire since he led the first investigation, wants to go after the family, the victims of the deceit, and dismiss them because they are atheists. He was asked if the family’s atheism was a factor in the investigation and he said: “I think so. There is not a whole of trust in the system or faith in the system. So that is my personal opinion, knowing what I know.” So their atheism is a sign just a pervasive lack of faith “in the system”. They should trust the government, not ask question, and believe in Jesus. Docile and obedient is what he wants.

Pat Tillman’s mother, Mary, said: “Well, this guy makes disparaging remarks about the fact we’re not Christians, and the reason we can’t put Pat to rest is because we’re not Christians. has nothing to do with the fact that this whole thing was shady. But it is because we are not Christians.”

The truth needs to come out. Too many lies have already been told regarding American military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pat Tillman was a man who loved his country and his family. Neither his family nor his memory deserves this shoddy treatment and innuendo because they don’t subscribe to the prevalent superstition in America.

Read the full story at ESPN. It is heartbreaking and infuriating. It is journalism at its best.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Soy and sin is destroying America.

The Christian Right is filled with lunatics. There is no shortage of crazy there. I mean certifiably nuts. These are people clearly programmed to believe almost any piece of nonsense that comes down the pike. Virgins births, resurrections, and the evils of soy.


Well, so says James Rutz of Megashift Ministries and Open Church Ministries. He has taken it upon himself, with the help of the extremists at World News Daily, to warn Americans about the dangers of eating soy.

“Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because "I can't remember a time when I wasn't homosexual." No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can't remember a time when excess estrogen wasn't influencing them.” In fact WND calls soy: "A devil food that is turning our kids into homosexuals."

Is anyone else rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter?

Typical of the trash fundamentalists turn out there is not one scientific reference listed. From reading the article it appears all Rutz did was pull out claims made by someone who presents himself as “Dr. Wong” one of these quack “naturopathic doctors”. You would be hard pressed to find any claims Rutz makes in his column that aren’t also found on the Wong site. It appears to be mostly plagiarism on the part of Rutz.

World Net Daily is one of those sites that has the most extreme lunatics on the Right. They are into secret conspiracies and Jesus, black helicopters and the Bible. I first ran into them when they were predicting that the blacks of South Africa had a secret plot hatched to slit the throats of all whites there.

I went to Rutz’s website as well. They were offering a video on-line which told the entire history of the planet in just three minutes. It didn’t download so I didn’t see it. But they also told me that there are millions of miracles happening all over the place including documented cases of people rising from the dead in 52 different countries. I told you these people would believe anything.

Rutz is also apparently any scientific research into life on other planets. It’s a plot by atheists wanting to find “life that has evolved on its own, without any help from our local God. ...So the moment they find even a microscopic fungus cell Out There Somewhere, you will hear the media chorus singing, ‘God is dead!’” We’ve been found out guys, pack up the bags and head for the hills. I’ll call atheist central at NASA and let them know the plot has been exposed. I think this man has watched too many episodes of the Twilight Zone.

I went to read some of his other articles. Loony stuff all around. He wrote “employees at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque are no longer allowed to have even a small photo of their family on their desks” because homosexuals “say such photos offend them.” He cites an anti-gay book by Janet Folger as the source. I was unable to find any reputable sources that backed this up. Christian loonies Concerned Women for America repeated the claim but cited Folger as the source. I could find nothing else, in other words, no evidence backing up the claim.

Folger is claiming that Christianity is about to be made illegal in the United States! She’s real reliable. She was the brains behind the ads which featured a “cured” gay man who was later found having drinks in a gay bar. She has run between various far Right political groups for years. Just a few days ago she told another fundie gathering that they were about to be persecuted by evil homosexuals.

She would be considered a truth source for Rutz. Maybe she was the one who saw all the resurrections.

But Rutz has more, you knew he did didn’t you. He claims there is “great progress in Iraq” because millions of Muslims are becoming fundamentalist Christians. I thought he said there was progress?

He is claiming that hundreds of thousands of Muslims all over the world are getting converted in a matter of just days! And it is happening because of a “mind-boggling array of supernatural healing.” “One woman had been in a wheelchair for 40 years, and the crowd was blown away when she suddenly stood up and ran back and forth across the stage, waving her hands and shouting in joy.” In that meeting he claims that 240,000 Muslims got converted in just three days. But he assures his readers that a some unnamed government agency “that officially counts crowds” stated that it was 300,000 people who got converted. Sure. I believe you. What he is saying basically is that 5 percent of the population of Lahore, Pakistan got converted in just three days and no body noticed except the unnamed government agency that counts crowds.

He also says that “roughly 1 million Muslims world-wide have reported having a very shocking vision of Jesus appearing to them” and most say he quotes the New Testament telling to become Christians. Rutz calls this “pretty compelling evidence for anyone skeptic or no. But we don’t need theology to tell us which way the wind in blowing in Iraq.” Please note that he seems to have a very weak idea of what “compelling evidence” means. He has not shown any widespread phenomenon of Muslims seeing Jesus and converting. He has merely asserted it. No sources are given, no evidence presented. He thinks that making a claim is the same thing as proving one and then used this proven claim as ‘compelling evidence” to make further unproved claims.

And the only reason people don’t know about all the wonderful progress in Iraq is because of “atheistic reporters”. For a moment there I thought he would claim they soy-eating gays.

And where did this “compelling evidence” come from. Well, from Pat Robertson who has such a stellar record at getting things right.

But Pat’s website says that the names of the Muslims who “saw Jesus” won’t be revealed for “security reasons”. Pat’s ministry reports on evangelist claiming “There is an end-time phenomenon that is happening through dreams and visions. He is going into the Muslim world and revealing, particularly, the last 24 hours of his life.”

As I said these people are quite literally mad. The Bible can do that to you. As for the picture: it's the soy slayer himself.

Rabbi Grinch and the Christmas Tree

A rabbi in Seattle got himself into a kettle of hot water which he didn't intend to do. And in the process he showed himself pretty ignorant as well. Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky whined about a bunch of Christmas trees at the Seattle airport. He threatened a law suit demanding that they add a Jewish menorah to the display of trees.

The unpleasant Bogomilsky was then not happy when the trees were removed. "Our goal was to include a menorah in the airport as well so that we could bring extra light with Hannukah's universal message of hope." Blah, blah, blah. He said his threats of a law suit "was never about removing Christmas treees -- it was about protecting the right to add menorahs."

If the airport is funded by tax funds there is no right to add menorahs. If the airport is private and not state funded there is still no right to add a menorah without the volunatary permission of the owner.

Bogomilsky is apparent stupid. He seems to think that a tree with decorations is a Christian symbol. Dumbkopf! The tree is not Christians. It is an old tradition that comes from the pre-Christian world and is today absent any religious meaning at all.

Bogomilsky's tactic was really to force a public building to display his religious symbols and he was looking for any loophole he could to do so.

The airport said the threatened suit left them no choice as they felt if they gave in to Rabbi Grinch they would then have to put up symbols of all other religions as well and that such a move would be impossible. They are right. The Rabbi is wrong several times over. The trees should go back up but probably won't. Christmas trees, lights, etc are not religious symbols. There is no requirement to give some idiot equal time with religious symbols just because he mistakingly thinks Christmas trees are religious.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Same drama, new cast.

Another tragedy within fundamentalist circles. There is this inability to accept reality because reality and the Bible don’t go together.

Pastor Paul Barnes ran the fundamentalist megachurch, Grace Chapel in Englewood, just south of Denver. He built it up from the ground himself. Sunday he resigned his office because he’s gay.

Barnes says he knew he was gay since he “a 5-year-old boy”. In a video farewell to his congregation hs said: “I can’t tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away.” But God wasn’t listening. Or maybe he was saying: “No.” Either way those prayers went unanswered.

Barnes told his congregation that he fought this thing his entire life and constantly failed. He spoke of his father giving him advice about the evils of homosexuals and Barnes thought to himself: “’Is that how you’d feel about me?’ It was like a knife in my heart, and it made me feel even more closed.”

Barnes says that the Bible says it is a sin and he cannot accept that he was ‘born that way” so he is desperately trying to find a cause so he can find a cure. Barnes is married and his wife says he only told her last week. The couple have two grown daughters.

Meanwhile the Rev. Ted Haggard, former leader of the National Association of Evangelicals, who resigned his office and his church because he was exposed as having a relationship with a male prostitute is now trying to be “cured” by a team of three pastors none of whom have the slightest idea what they are doing. But they know what the Bible says and damn reality full speed ahead. A friend of Haggards says that Haggard is saying that he is not gay. Maybe he should of thought of that before going to bed with men.

Haggard, like Barnes, like most fundamentalists are so deep into denial that they can deal with reality at all. They have constructed a world that fits what they believe the Bible tells them. But that world is a fantasy. It doesn’t exist. But if that world doesn’t exist they have to question the authority of the Bible and they never do that. They can’t do that no matter how much evidence accumulates.

As I’ve said before, fundamentalist is at war with reality and reality has a way of kicking you in the ass. Haggard was not the first. Barnes won't be the last. They deny, lie and fight it for decades. They marry, they pray, they preach, they weep. They go through a living hell trying to change and it doesn't work. And still they insist it has to be a choice.

Captive audiences and stolen funding.

There is something about a captive audience that gets the fundamentalist salivating. I can understand why actually. Those who are not among the born-again find their attempts to convert others intrusive, aggressive, often rude, usually unpleasant and often on par of a visit to the dentist -- for a root canal. So what does this mean?

Well, the average person will try to be polite but clearly uncomfortable and unwilling. They will be rather obvious that they are not enjoying this interaction and do not desire it. But the fundamentalist ignores such clues and presses forward as no social rudeness is too high a price to pay when souls are at stake. (I speak from experience since my former church often sent me out to convert others. We were trained to be aggressive and weasel our way into their lives in order to convert them.)

Considering that the average non-fundamentalist is not interested they will do their best to avoid a discussion. It is sort of the way people respond when they see two 18 year old “Elders” from the Mormons bicycle to their front step. The door may be open, the TV may be on but the homeowner in hiding in the bathroom pretending to not be home.

One way around this problem for the fundamentalist is to use the power of the state to access involuntary, captive audiences. And if they can get the Bush administration to fund their evangelism all the better. Alas, they have become welfare queens sustaining themselves at the expense of the hard working taxpayer.

I have covered how they attempt to manipulate rules and laws in order to convert school kids by using the government schools and taxpayer funding there. Now the New York Times has a major article on how they are using the prison system to accomplish the same goal.

In both cases they are using a captive audience that exists by virtue of state power. In both cases they are accessing these audiences with state funding. In other words they are using the power of government to confiscate the hard earned incomes of others to fund their evangelism. Need I point out that if they took these funds directly it would be called stealing. But they think that having George Bush take these funds on their behalf makes the all venture legitimate.

The New York Times article starts out with a description of a program for prisoners which is much preferred over normal prison life. Things like privacy for using the toilet are provided. There are books and instead of bars there are doors. There are projects and even pizza and a chance to visit family in normal surroundings.

Access to these special privileges, however, was not dependent on good behaviour per se. It was dependent on satisfying a group of extreme fundamentalists that you were making “spiritual progress”. Now what these fundamentalists mean by spiritual progress is that one is becoming one of them.

One inmate in the program left the easier life it offered because he said his Catholic religion was denigrated by these fundamentalists. Now I know the typical fundie hates Catholicism and thinks Catholics are heretics doomed to hell fire. So when this prisoner says “I personally felt spiritually crushed” I can understand. Other inmates said the fundamentalist staff members would routinely run down and insult other religions.

Apparently a judge found this troubling and well he should. The prison was using taxpayer funds to finance a program with the express purpose of converting prisoners to fundamentalist Christianity. Conversion or advancement toward conversion meant the prisoner was rewarded with a nicer life by the program. If he did not make said conversions or steps in that direction he could be expelled from the program. (You can read a transcript of the trail itself here.)

Now I think it is acceptable that if you have a prison population that the prisoners be allowed access to religious counseling if they request it. They should be allowed to practice their religion when at all possible. I do not think the ministers should be paid by the state. I do not think they should be allowed to solicit conversions. The prisoners should be told that if they wish such things that they may contact any ministers who volunteer for such a program. I would allow them to use space in the prison (as the prisoners really can’t leave for this). But it would not be financed by the state other than indirectly through the use of space in the prison.

In the case I’m referring to here the judge said the ministry overstepped the boundaries and ordered them to return the $1.5 million in taxpayer funding that they used for their evangelism. Remember there are hundreds of similar type ventures all living on state welfare payments. Of course some of the Theopublicans are not happy about this. The merger of church and state is a goal of theirs. They like the idea of using tax funding for evangelism for the same reason socialists like tax funding for charity. Most people like to have the things they want especially if they can force others to pay for them.

These Theopublicans have filed an amicus brief in court trying to overturn the requirement that the taxpayer funds be returned. They want the fundies to be able to keep the money. Those urging the courts to overturn the ruling include Bush administration bureaucrats and attorney generals from the more fundamentalist states such as Alabama, Virginia, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Texas, South Carolina and a couple of others.

These theocrats argue that the showering of state funding on evangelists is a wonderful thing because the purpose of these funds is to reduce crime. So they argue that the purpose is “secular” not religious. Yet the program rewards people for becoming fundamentalists and punishes them if they don’t. The question is not one of intentions but how it is carried out.

They argue that the program is not unconstitutional because the government doesn’t directly promote religion. No, it gives taxpayer funds to evangelists to promote the religion. It is true that Bush and Congressmen and Senators themselves are not in the prison converting people. But they are financing it.

These theopublicans also argue that just because such funding is going to fundamentalists and not other religions is just peachy with them because there is no requirement “that prison officials establish a faith-based program for every religion.”

They come up with an absurd analogy. They argue that if the Navy has a chaplain on a submarine they are “not obligated to have Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim Chaplains on every sub. The Navy can choose to have only one Chaplain even though many, if not, most of the crew adheres to a different religion.” I have no idea why chaplain is capitalized here by the way.

True a submarine underneath the ocean does not carry one chaplain with each denomination. Submarines would need to be several times their size for that to be possible. But prisons are not in the middle of the ocean underwater. They are easily accessible by ministers of hundreds of denominations and there is no reason to restrict access to just fundamentalists. But it is not the access that is the issue it is the blood $1.5 million that people got from the taxpayers.

They again argue that the tax funded program is not religious indoctrination because the “religious conversion... comes as the result of the success of the Program in their lives, not from an affirmative effort to proselytize.” Again if prisoners want to convert to such things they ought to be free to do so. That is not the issue. The issue, which these public officials don’t get is that the program is funded by the taxpayers.

One specific religion is given high sums of tax funding to finance a program that rewards prisoners who convert and expels those who does not. Government is paying for the indoctrination directly. If a fundie nutter evangelist comes to a prison of his own volition and preaches to prisoners who wish to hear his words no problem. The moment he wants money from the pockets of the general public it is a different matter altogether.

They also argue that the government is not involved because it gives these evangelists free reign to do what they want with the money they get. “Quite simply, there is no pervasive involvement or monitoring of the program by government officials.” Say what! They think this is a good thing. So the Bush administration doles out $1.5 million to fundamentalist evangelistic group and there makes no effort at “monitoring of the program” and this is good!

Around America there are millions of people who worked hard to an income. They pay their taxes. To do that they go without things they may need. After all government must be fed even if the kids might go to bed hungry. Instead of that day of rest you’d dearly like you work the overtime to pay the taxes. Instead of buying the kids those Christmas presents they really want you make due with less because the state has to be financed.

And then some fundamentalist nuts come along and take $1.5 million of those funds to finance conversion experiences for prisoners. And these political fucks (and I use the word very intentionally as they really piss me off) argue that this is quite legitimate because the government does not monitor how these funds are used. So people around America are worse off in their personal lives so fundamentalist can access federal funds with no strings attached and no monitoring of how they spend those funds. And these theocratic elected officials say that it is the lack of monitoring how the funds are spent that legitimizers the spending of those funds.

More absurdly they contend that to deny them uncontrolled access to taxpayer funds would be discrimination because: “A rehabilitation program based on the philosophy of Christ or Moses or Buddha or Muhammad should be treated the same a rehabilitation program based on the philosophy of Marx or Rand or Nietzsche or a contemporary social scientist.”

Now are there conversion programs for Moses, Buddha, Muhammad, Marx, Rand or Nietzsche? No. And if such programs existed they ought not be financed on the backs of the taxpayer either.

What I find particularly amusing is that right after they argue that the government has no obligation to fund all groups and can fund only fundamentalists if they choose they then appeal to equal access to funding as a justification for these programs. I believe that all these groups have the equal right to access taxpayer funds on this matter and that is no right whatsoever. If any of them wish to set up volunteer projects funded at their own expense so be it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Fundy legal threats open door to pagans.

Did I ever say fundamentalists are hypocrites? To quote Rowan & Martin: “You bet your sweet bippy."

Let’s start at the very beginning (yes, Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp).

The Hollymead Elementary School has a sytem they call “backpack mail” where the school puts notices into the backpacks of students to notify parents about special events.

Two children being raised as fundamentalists wanted to promote Vacation Bible School through the system. Vacation Bible School is usually a week long, daily “Sunday School” for children during the holidays. It is mostly used by fundamentalist churches to try and recruit new children as converts.

The school said the system could not be used for sectarian religious or political purposes. Well, the parents of these pint-sized zealots went to Jerry Falwell’s “Liberty Counsell” which threatened law suits demanding the right to use the compulsory school attendance laws to distribute to children propaganda for a religious indoctrination course.

Falwell’s outfit threatened the school with a lawsuit and they backed down now alloowing religious organizations to send fliers out through the school.

Well, this holiday season a couple of parents used the system, not open to all religions, to invited people to an education program on the pagan origins of many Christmas traditions. Well one fundy blogger immediately attacked the school for allowing this pagan material to be distributed. Another Baptist minister attacked saying this was proof that Christians needed to abandon the evil schools for good Christian schools.

Personally I think the school had no business promoting any private organization, religious, political or otherwise. But I do love seeing the fundies fume over a policy that they pushed through with their bullying law suit threats.

Battle of the videos.

Here is a little video sure to upset Christianists and Bill O'Reilly -- not that it takes much to upset either one.

Bill O'Reilly and his Right-wing cohorts say its child abuse.

Here are some of the kids from Jesus Camp and I don't think Bill O'Reilly finds this disturbing at all.

Or would he complain about a woman preacher telling children that Harry Potter should be put to death?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Vatican "discovers" Paul's tomb, AGAIN.

Today’s London Telegraph claims: “St Paul’s tomb found under altar.” It told readers that the tomb “has been found under of Rome’s largest churches and the stone coffin will shortly be raised to the surface to allow pilgrims to see it.”

There is nothing new in this. They made this claim a few years ago for the first time. I read a report from a few years ago on it just yesterday. Is the media’s memory so short-term that the Vatican can make the same announcement over and over and get tons of free publicity each time?

Here is a report from February, 2005 saying the same thing (that’s almost two years old). And this report says the tomb was discovered in 2002. I wonder how many times they have announced the discovery of this same tomb. Clearly they announced it in 2002, 2005 and now again in 2006. It’s the same tomb each time. And assume another flurry of press reports on Monday when the Vatican announces the discover again.

All this ignores whether the body is that of Paul or not. A Vatican archaeologist (isn’t a Vatican archaeologist anyone who tries to figure out the Pope’s thinking?) says: “I have no doubt that this is the tomb of St. Paul, as revered by Christians in the fourth century.”

Well, he would say that wouldn’t he? But notice what he said a bit more carefully -- most people won’t. He says he has no doubt it is Paul “AS revered by Christians in the fourth century.” Actually all he is saying is that the tomb he thinks he found was the one which was presented to the public in the 4th century as that of Paul. Remember that would be a few hundred years after Paul died. The only evidence that it is Paul is that in the 4th century people said it was. Remember the faked Shroud of Turin -- same sort of provenance.

So what inspired this search for a relic? Well the Archbishop “was inundated with queries from pilgrims (i.e. tourists) about the whereaboouts of the saint. The same requests have persuaded the Vatican that there is enough demand from tourists to warrant raising the sarcophagus to the surface so that it can be viewed properly.” It’s a Vatican equivalent of a new ride at Disneyland.

Last year the archaeologist, Giorgio Filippi, also said: “The tomb that we discovered is the one that the popes and the Emperoror Theodosius saved and presented to the whole world as being the tomb of the apostile.”

Theodosius began to rule in 379 which is three hundred years after Paul died. Now do you really think that in the year 379 the Emperor and the Pope made any real effort to determine if this was Paul or not. These are people who made all sorts of absurd claims about saints, miracles, etc.

So they will bring the coffin to the surface and put it on display. Hundreds of thousands of people will rush to the Vatican and light a candle in front of the dead man in the tomb. Each time they light a candle they will drop a little money for the impoverished Vatican. It is no accident they use very short candles for such purposes -- the sooner they have to be replaced the sooner someone else will light it for a fee. No doubt there will be banks of these candles so no tourist misses the opportunity of donating to the Vatican. And come morning the magic money machine of the coffin starts pulling in the cash again.

One Christian website pulls some distortions. It announced the Vatican will announce that archeologists “have positively identified the tomb of St. Paul.” But the sources they cite use words like “may” and “might” nor “is”.

There is little doubt that this man Paul existed. And he is a critical figure in history. After all he is the man who invented Christianity -- really invented it. His letters laid out Christian doctrine. That he never knew Jesus and was in conflict with those who did know Jesus is of little importance in the end. He set the course for what Christians would believe far more than Jesus did.

There really are no tests that can be made to show whether this is Paul or not. It’s not like we can compare DNA samples. There is nothing to link the Paul of 65 A.D. with the body that was presented by Theodosius three hundred years later. In fact there is dispute over when Paul died. It is said he was martyred but his demise is lost in history except for stories. There is no hard evidence as to the date of his death or how he died. There is little doubt that the tomb they are putting on display is the same one that was presented to the public by Theodosius. But nothing really links that tomb with Paul.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Theocrat wants Bible pledge for all office holders.

Rev. Donald Wildmon is an old fart who runs something called the American Family Association. He is of course a fundamentalist nutter. And “family” as ever is his code word for “we hate anyone not us”.

His most recent ActionAlert to theocrats in America is another one of those fundamentalist attempts to distort the facts to make things sound really, really bad. It is headlined: “A first for America... The Koran replaces the Bible at swearing-in oath.”

For the record when someone is elected to certain offices where they are sworn in there is no law, and never has been, which mandated they use the Bible. In fact most swearing-ins are without any sort of book. It is a purely personal decision whether to use one book or not. If someone wanted they could be sworn in with The Origins of the Species by Darwin -- something I’d like to see only because the fanatics would turn somersaults over the incident.

What upset Wildmon and others on the theocratic Right is that Keith Eillison, a new member of Congress, is a Muslim. He took his oath of office using the Qu’ran. Well Right-wing windbag Dennis Prager had fits. He said that the law must step in and use force to prevent this from happening.

He wrote that Ellison should have been forced to use the Bible “not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.” Wow! These hysterics really know how to get worked up about bullshit. Prager not only wants to violate the Constitution, which forbids any religious oath to hold office, but he wants to ban people from holding office who are not believers in the Bible. He says “Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don’t serve in Congress.”

Get that. If you don’t believe the bullshit in that collection of fairy tales, and you don’t think that some deity is behind this collection and are thus willing to swear an oath up this book he says you shouldn’t be in Congress.

The Library of Congress notes that other than the oath itself and the date of inauguration “nothing else about the event is mandated law” including “the use of a Bible”. When John Quincy Adams was sworn in as president he took the oath on a book of laws and the US Constitution.

Prager is ignorant of his history. He claims that “for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they don’t believe in the New Testament.” That is just false. Prager and the conservative web site he writes for, are making it up as they go along.

Rev. Wildmon is just as ignorant, but I suspect you already knew that. He urges his fundie followers to e-mail their Congressman “to pass a law making the Bible he book used in the swearing-in ceremony of Representatives and Senators.” He is doubly ignorant in fact. Congress can’t pass a law on this as the Constitution supersedes on this issue.

The Founding Fathers, who were not theocrats, wrote a Constitution which specified that individuals elected to high office, including Senators and Representatives, are required to take an oath supporting the Constitution and then it immediately says “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” And the oath of the president is spelled out in the Constitution and there no mention of the Bible, God, Christianity or religion.

One of the first Justices of the Supreme Court, Joseph Story authored the first detailed commentary on the US Constitution and he said that the absence of any religious context in the oath of office “cut off for ever every pretence of any alliance between church and state in the national government.

Nor is this even the first time an oath of office in the US was taken on the Qu’ran. The US ambassador to Fiji, in 1999 used the Qu’ran when he was sworn in.

As for Prager’s claim that all Jews take their oath of office on the Bible the Jewish Anti-Defamantion League says that is pure rubbish. “No Member of Congress is officially sworn in with a Bible. Under House rules, the official swearing-in ceremony is done in the House chamber, with the Speaker of the House, administering the oath of office en masse. No Bibles or other holy books are used at all. Members may, if they choose, also have a private ceremony with family and friends. At these unofficial ceremonies, Members frequently solemnize the event by taking an oath while hold a personal family Bible.” In other words in an unofficial ceremony some Members may use the Bible but in the official ceremony none do. Why? Well, it’s that damn Constitution. Hey, George says don’t worry. Remember he said “It’s just a God damned piece of paper” anyway.

And in a similar vein I just got a copy of a speech given at Hillsdale College. Now Hillsdale pushes itself as a Christian college though not like most Christian institutions. It plays itself up more as a conservative college.

This is the pro-family, conservative, Christian college where its president and leading spokesman had an affair with his daughter-in-law, left his wife and moved in with his son and his wife (the one he was having the affair with) then went off and married another woman. That left the daughter-in-law despondent since she was sure he would marry her. She took a pistol and committed suicide on the campus. (Really, I don’t make this stuff up.)

This lecture, sent out free to tens of thousands of would-be donors, was about the “Dangers of the ‘Wall of Separation’ Between Church and State”. See if you don’t have theocratic government it is “dangerous”.

It was Thomas Jefferson who coined the phrase a “wall of separation” in regards to religion and government. He wrote in a 1802 letter that the First Amendment built “a wall of separation between Church & State.”

But as we have seen Justice Story, appointed by President James Madison, said something similar when he said the constitution “cut off for ever every pretence of any alliance between church and state in the national government.” Separation of church and state was not invented by “godless liberals” in the 1960s.

Today the theocratic Right is trying to promote revisionist history where this idea of separation of church and state doesn’t exist. They want a theocracy and they have to distort American history in order to persuade people to give it to them. Much the way they distort the facts about taking an oath on the Bible. I’m starting to think these people are pathological liars.


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