Sunday, June 25, 2006

Is the Devil a registered Republican?

John Jacob wants to go to Congress and he wants to unseat the current reperesentative, Chris Cannon. Jacob wants the Republican nomination so that means he needs to out-God Cannon. After all they are God's Own Party now, the party of theocracy, the American Taliban. So Jacob has gone public naming his greatest enemy in his election: Satan.

Yes, Lucifer, the Devil, Beelzebub, the old Horny Goat himself, is supposedly directly involved with trying to stop Jacob from winning the nominaation. How does Jacob know? According to the Salt Lake Tribune the reasons given were: "Numerous business deals he had lined up have been delayed, freezng money, he was countin on to finance his race." So business went down while he was campaigning and that is means Satan is out to get him.

Of course the man is running for office and that means neglecting business. It may also mean alienating potentail business partners who don't particularly care for his theocratic tendencies as a Republican. There are dozens of valid reasons while business will decline while he is off campaigning. But Jacob is convinced that it has to be a mysterious force. Talk about paranoia. Asked if the mysterious force was the old Devil he said: "I don't know who else it would be if it wasn't him. Now when that gets out in the paper, I'm going to be one of the screw-loose people." Well, no argument from me on that list bit.

What is strange is that Jacob, who is a Mormon, is running against another Mormon. It is the nomination he is seeking here. If the Devil is trying to stop Jacob, a Mormon, from winning then it would be because he wants Cannon, another Mormor, to win. Odd strategy on the part of the wiley one. I would think his holy Mormon underwear ought to protect him from the Devil. But then I'm not up to par on exactly what the old Joe Smith undergear is supposed to do. Obviously it doesn't help one wrangle million dollar business deals when distracted with other ventures. On the other hand if the Devil is involved in the primary race in Utah I guess that would make him a registered Republican.

But if the campaign picture (above) is any indication then Mr. Jacob should have paid closer attention to Satan. Apparently when he wasn't noticing the Devil stole his eyes and those of his wife. All they have left are those funny slits. Or maybe they are some of those reptillian aliens that the other nutters talk about?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Are believers happier?

Christians are happy people and atheists are not. I’ve heard that a lot but always from Christians. I get messages from the faithful telling me I must be unhappy, miserable and angry. Why? Because I’m an atheist.

Most of the time I’m in a pretty good mood. I have my ups and down like anyone but even during some real crap that life can throw at one I tend to keep my sense of humor and have a good laugh. I’ve loved and been loved and that means I’ve been lucky. I lived pretty much the life I’ve wanted and seen a lot of the world. So far I’ve packed more into my time on earth than most people and got some years to go I hope. And I would say I’m happy.

Are there things that would make me happier? Of course. It’s not material things but the people I love and care for that I can’t be with. Those are the only things that would really make me much happier.

Now I’ve been a Christian and an atheist. I’ve known hundreds of Christians in my life and hundreds of atheists. And quite honestly I was not able to tell a huge difference between them when it came to happiness. The only difference I could find was that during my religious days the Christians had strong motives to cover up any unhappiness or depression. God’s people were supposed to be happy and they played that role. It was expected of them. My atheist friends had no such motive.

I remember a guy I went to seminary with. His name was Mike. I really liked him. He worked as a security guard while putting himself through seminary. He was married and had a family and always said how happy he was in the Lord. I believed him. Even after I left the seminary he and I remained friends right up until the day he committed suicide. I never found out why he killed himself. It was a shock. No one ever expected he was unhappy. But obviously he was.

Now I’m a fan of John Stossel. I like his work. I know it comes across as simplistic but I also know there is a huge amount of professional literature backing up what he says in his reports. I enjoyed his newest book Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity. But John says that religious people are happier than non religious people. But if you read what he actually says it is slightly different: “People who say they’re actively religious are more likely to also report that they’re very happy.”

So people who identify themselves as very religious also identify themselves as very happy. I wouldn’t dispute that. I would not assume that means they are actually happier just that they say they are happier. Like Mike they could be faking it. Why? Because there is a lot of peer pressure in these churches. Whether the Christians like to admit this it can be hell living up to the expectations of your fellow believers.

So there are all sorts of things Christians will underreport. Rev. Jimmy Swaggart would never admit he was frequenting prostitutes until they caught him and filmed him. Rev. Jim Bakker would never admit he was having an affair until he was caught red handed. Rev. Jack Hyles (pdf file) ran the largest fundamentalist church in America and every Sunday preached from the pulpit with his mistress sitting almost right next to him. The women had been his secretary for years. And Hyles' son, who was also a minister, had more dark secrets then you could shake a stick at.

Ask these people if they were happy and I’m sure they would say they were. Ask them if they were committing these acts in secret and they would lie about it. Why? Because there are expectations. Christians are supposed to be happy. “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands,” goes the song. And everybody would clap. No one wanted to admit they weren’t happy especially if it was the church that was making them unhappy.

One of the stories we used to feed the non-believers was that we Christians were joyous in the Lord, thrilled to know Jesus, happy in the Spirit, etc. And even when I was feeling unhappy as a Christian I still pretended I was and so did everyone else. I can’t think of a time when anyone I knew in church, in the prayer groups I attended, at the Christian school I attended or at the seminary ever admitted they were unhappy. It just wasn’t done.

Happiness was assumed to be a result of your salvation. To doubt your happiness would be, well you can get the drift. People were going through all sorts of periods of doubt about what they believed. Would they admit it? Not usually. To admit doubt about the Gospel was unacceptable. Anything that didn’t live up to the expectations of the church was unacceptable. It was best to hide it, lie about it, go into denial, etc. And they did.

Christians have always been good at denial. There are so many areas where the hypocrisy is apparent and well known. I don’t see why reported happiness simply isn’t another one of them.

I also think that atheists are more likely to tell the truth about such things. There is no pressure in being an atheist. There is no expectation per se due to one’s lack of a faith in a deity. There is no expectation that your life has to be a “witness”.

An atheist is more likely to admit whether they were sexual active before marriage or even unfaithful while married. They are more likely to admit they are depressed or unhappy as well. You aren’t considered to be failing the “faith” or the “church” for these things. So you can be honest about them. It is much harder for Christians to face the truth about themselves and their beliefs and their life.

Now when you know people personally you can see through the facades they put up. I saw lots of unhappy Christians and unhappy atheists and I’ve seen people who were happy in both cases. I didn’t see much differences between them except that the Christians had more reasons to pretend everything was fine.

Cults take advantage of state failure

The German state school system is failing. Everyone seems to know that. According to Der Spiegel: “Every third German child is swotting up with a tutor or at one of approximately 3,000 after-school centers.” That’s a lot of extra schooling to replace what government is failing to deliver.

Now one of the problems they are finding is that cults like the wacko Scientologists are setting up “tutoring” programs which apparently do more than just tutor but promote the cult. The magazine says: “German experts on sects are now warning that the organization, which spans the globe, is currently making a big effort to infiltrate the German education market.”

It is claimed that the cult has established 20 such “learning centres” which are filled by students who have no idea what they are getting involved with. “Most of the customers of these centers have no idea who they are entrusting their kids to. There is rarely a mention of the word ‘Scientology’ in the brochures, at most the name L. Ron Hubbard appears and there...”

This is routine practice for cults. And the Scientologists, who have some of the most bizarre theories around, are among the most deceptive. They use various fronts to push their agenda and draw people in.

Of course the educational bureaucracy is now complaining that they aren’t in control of these alternative learning institutions. But if they were why would they be better run than the schools that are already failing? The solution here is what Der Spiegel has done. Expose the bastards. Warn parents which “learning centers” are cult centers and leave it up to the parents to decide.

So far the learning centers, the vast majority of which have nothing to do with the nuts in Scientology, do what the schools fail to do -- teach well. And parents are better equiped to decide what is best for their children than are bureaucrats. Letting the Scientologist be the excuse for state control will only turn the “alternatives” into smaller versions of the state system with all the same problems. It is better to encourage more private alternatives that are not involved with the cult.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

These people are hard core!

When people believe they can do strange things? Have you heard of the fundamentalist churches in America where the congregations dance around worshipping God? Sure you have. But these folk are a bit different. They do it with deadly snakes.

Why do the do it? Well, it's in the Bible! The Gospel of Mark says: “And these signs shall follow them that believe. In my name shall they cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them. They shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.”

If you go here you can listen to report on this movement. These people really do believe what they believe. They prove it every week by playing around with rattlesnakes. And they get bit to prove their faith.

Now what does this prove besides that they are fools?

Does it prove that their are blessed by some deity for showing enough faith to dance around with serpents in the name of Jesus? No.

Why not. Well, there are several things. First, about a quarter of all rattlesnake bites don’t have venom. So right off from the start you have a 1 in 4 chance of just getting pricked by the fangs. I was bitten by snacks as a kid. We played with them all the time though I wouldn’t do so now. Unless the stupid thing dug in and wouldn’t let go it was barely noticeable. But those were garden snakes not something deadly. And very often when American poisonous snakes do release venom it is too small to cause much more than local irritation to the victim.

You may not know that there are some 8,000 people bitten by venomous snakes every year in the United States but only between 5 or 10 people actually die from it. Faith or not most poisonous snake bites in the US do not lead to death. Toxicity of the venom varies from bite to bite and most adults, while they can become ill as a result of the bite, won’t be killed by it. The poison usually is not enough to kill an adult human.

And if you have watched snake handlers in action, and i don’t mean the religious kind, you will see that people can pick up and hold deadly serpents and often the snakes don’t bite at all. That isn’t faith. That is the snake. And if you do get bit the chances are you will live.

And by living through the experience you become less likely to be harmed by the snake the next time you are bitten. Your body can build up immunity simply be being exposed to the poisons. For very deadly snakes, which these are not, profession herpetologists will often inject themselves with the venom in very small doses, gradually building up their immunity, and the doses to which they are exposed. Eventually they reach the point where an actual snake bite is very unlikely to kill them.

The tongues-talking praise Jesus crowd in the American Bible Belt are very sincere people. Does it protect them? No, no more so then most people bitten by poisonous snakes in America. Remember of the 8,000 bites per year about 7,995 of them survive. Those are still pretty good odds. But snake handling Christians still suffer. They still get bit and say that God never promised they wouldn’t only that they wouldn’t die. But they still die as well. Somewhere between 70 and 100 of these people are known to have died handling serpents on God’s orders.

When Evangelist Spencer Evans was bitten during a service he went to a friend’s trailer to lie down. Eventually someone called the ambulance. They fond him very near death, his arm swollen badly. The emergency technicians took him to the hospital against his will. They had to cut his arm open to relieve the pressure that had built up from the effects of the poison. It took nine days of intensive treatment to save his life. The first Sunday after his release he was in church playing with snakes again.

Of course they have an excuse: “Some people were bit, and I believe God was ready for them and their time had come.”

But if one is bitten enough times the immunity builds up and one can live. Still, however, some people suffer worse bites. They may be bitten several times within a few minutes and even with a built up immunity can die.

A lot also depends on where one is bitten. A bit on the arms or hands, for instance are less likely to kill then if bitten in the chest or neck. Many of the people who survive bites were bitten in arms or legs while many who died were bitten in the chest.

The fundamentalist minister who started this practice, George Henley, was killed by such a snake bite in 1955. But deaths or not these are dismissed. The faithful have faith regardless of evidence and in spite of it.

If they are bit and die then God wants them to come to him and all is well. If they aren’t bit that proves their faith is true. If they are bit but don’t die that proves God is with them. Bit or not bit, dead or alive they have an explanation so that no matter what happens it proves the validity of their truth.

What is troublesome is that real nutters are spreading. Like fundamentalists in general they were once a movement of just backwoods hicks and hillbillies without an education. But now you have snake handling churches like the True Holiness Believers Gathering in Lethbrdige, Canada. There is the Right Hand of Jesus With Signs Following Church in Kamloops, British Columbia, Hiway Holiness Church of God in, Forth Wayne, Indiana and the Full Gospel Jesus Church in Cleveland, Ohio.

Like fundamentalism in general this even more extreme version is moving into more and more regions of the United States and beyond.

I should note, in relation to my previous article, that these people have great emotional highs from doing this. One reporter told of what one man who did this told him: “The joy of the Lord is within you and with the spirit of the Lord you don’t fear. He said it’s a lot like being drunk, but not having a hangover the next day.” These reporters noted that even after people are bitten the emotional high the people experience reaches new heights.

Most Christians do not support this practice and will find excuses to condemn the Biblical literalism of the serpent handlers. Of course the catch all phrase “they just interpret that wrong” is often applied. But these handlers take the Bible literally, do what it says and sometimes die for their faith. How many times have we heard from Christians that dying for the faith proves the faith is true? I’ve certainly heard that argument over the years. “If it wasn’t true people wouldn’t die for it, would they?” Yet the people who said that to me would say that taking up serpents is not of God yet people are willing to die for it, aren’t they. If anything these lunatics are proving their faith by doing it every Sunday. Unlike the rest who really take no risks at all.

If you're happy and you know it.

One of the worst arguments for anything is based on one’s emotions. For instance: “I know that God is real because he makes me happy. If you felt what I felt you would know he was real.”

One could, if they wished, simply assume that a person is lying. And in some cases they would be lying. But often they are not. But that still doesn’t prove anything and let me illustrate why with this story.

Some time in the past I’ve lived in some rather dangerous places. I remember having to open bags going into shopping malls as security was attempting to make sure you didn’t bring a bomb in. I’ve lived places where such things were not entirely uncommon at all and where your chances of being shot were relatively high. Now one took precautions.

That meant bars inside the windows of the house. And another set on the outside. That mean fences, security cameras, security gates on the doors. And in spite of such measures people were still attacked and killed. I personally went through two such attacks and was shot at on one occasion. So these were things you worried about.

Now one night I might be on side of the house and thought I heard a noise. Nothing more. What is my primary emotional response to it? Fear. And we all react with fear in some pretty typical ways. Our hearts beat rapidly, our body is flooded with hormones (an old evolutionary response to prepare us to fight or flee), we may tremble, etc. That fear is very real.

I’ve been through it numerous times. Noise followed by fear. Most of the time it was nothing. That is I felt the fear whether there was someone there or not. My emotions are based on what I believe to be real and not what is real.

In fact on the two occasions when I actually went through such attacks I did not feel any fear leading up to them. That was because I didn’t believe an attack was eminent. Suddenly there are men and I’m being shot at. They then flee and I’m getting the police for help. The level of fear in that experience was actually very low because I had no anticipation of the event, the attempt to kill me was itself over in a few seconds with the gunmen fleeing and relatively soon the police were there. My emotions told me nothing. They are terribly unreliable.

Emotions are entirely based on what we believe and our beliefs need not be accurate to elicit an emotional response. I hear the noise and think there could be someone ready to attack. I feel fear but inaccurately. Other times I feel safe and happy and I’m suddenly attacked. In both cases the emotions I experienced were based on false beliefs that I held at the time, or at the very least entertained at the time.

Now the emotional religionists might argue that the reason I felt fear is that sometimes there is a threat. I knew that people were killed by gunmen. I knew I had been attacked once and could be attacked again. So when I heard the noise my emotional response, while inaccurate, was based on prior actual experience. The problem with that is that the same thing happens even when there is no actual experience on which to base it.

In fact we can have an emotional response to something which we know is false. If I watch the film It’s My Party I can’t get through it without crying. I’ve tried. I can’t do it. I know it is pretend. But I respond to it emotionally.

Again the emotionalist might argue: “But in that case while you know that specific case is false you know of similar cases that are true or can be true. So your emotional response is still an accurate means of finding truth."

But then I think of a television show I watched one night. It was late. I was home alone and caught this old film in the middle of the tale. It intrigued me and I watched it. It was about the supernatural and about things which I most assuredly do not believe. It encompassed a combination of time travel and ghosts, neither of which I’m inclined to accept. The first I think impossible and the second unlikely.

But the plot put goose bumps on my arm and my heart raced with fear any way. I absolutely knew this was fiction. I also had no prior or similar experience which could bring about this emotional reaction. I also never heard of one legitimate case where this happened to someone else. It was, and still is, by all my assumptions entirely fictional without any chance of being true. And yet I still reacted to it emotionally. My emotionally response to the situation was not consistent with the facts. That happens all the times.

It is for this reason that people can testify in court as to what they saw but not what they felt? “Oh, your honor, I feel the person is guilty though I have no direct evidence,” would be considered highly inappropriate.

In fact the religionists who resort to the feel good theory of proving it/he/him/she exists constantly dismiss this sort of thing all the time. Scientologists are crazy people, perhaps literally. But they can tell you how much better they now feel that are following the nonsense of L. Ron Hubbard. The born again fanatic immediately dismisses that emotional response as false, a lie, invalid, etc. Chances are the response was just as real as that felt by the born again Christian and for the same reason.

What you believe can have a powerful impact on your emotions. So what do your emotions prove? Well, only that you held beliefs which you believed to be good. They say nothing about whether the beliefs are true. Give a room full of people a sugar pill and tell them it is a new wonder drug that improves one's energy and some of them will report they felt much better shortly after taking it. Does that mean the wonder pill exists?

Not at all. Tell me what you feel and I may learn some things about what you believe or how you think. But I don’t know anything about the truth.

By the way, you see the people in the picture. Look happy? Look excited? Come across to you as happy clappies praising Jesus? They sure do. But apparently they are just celebrating the Solstice.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The hatred of Martin Luther

Is it a coincidence that Germany, the home of Martin Luther and his doctrines, was also the home of Adolph Hitler and his doctrines? I think not. Many, many historians think not as well. British conservative historian Paul Johnson says that Luther’s notorious anti-Jewish tract On the Jews and their Lies the “first work of modern anti-Semitism, and a giant step forward on the road to the Holocaust.” William Shirer, in his The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich writes: “It is difficult to understand the behavior of most German Protestants in the first Nazi years unless one is aware of two things: their history and the influence of Martin Luther. The great founder of Protestantism was both a passionate anti-Semite and a ferocious believe in absolute obedience to political authority. He wanted Germany rid of the Jews. Luther’s advice was literally followed four centuries later by Hitler, Goering and Himmler.”

And the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada confessed that Lutherans “carry a special burden in this matter because of the anti-Semitic statements made by Martin Luther and because of the suffering inflicted on Jews during the Holocaust in countries and places where the Lutheran Church is strongly represented.” The Austrian Evangelical Church wrote “our churches shares the guilt of the Holocaust” because they are “burdened by the late writings of Luther and their demand for expulsion and persecution of the Jews.” And the Lutheran Church of Bavaria said that followers of Luther ought to take seriously Luther’s anti-Semitism and “acknowledge their theological function, and to reflect on their consequences” and said that the Lutheran Church “knows itself to co-responsible for anti-Jewish thoughts and actions that made possible or at least tolerated the crime of the ‘Third Reich’ against children, women, and men of Jewish origin.”

Some future postings will discuss the authoritarianism of Luther along with his anti-capitalist views on economics. Suffice to say that if you combine his authoritarianism, with his anti-market views, along with his anti-Semitism you have Nazism in a nutshell. The only thing missing is rampant racial nationalism. In this discussion I will only cover Luther’s views on Jews. I shall try to put his own words in italics throughout.

Now Luther, like many theologians, took various views on things and changed his mind. He argued for tolerance of religion when his faith was out of power and then argued for persecution of non-Lutherans when Lutherans held power. In his early years he was a bit friendly toward Jews but he ended his life with a full on assault on them. His essay On the Jews and their Lies was written three years before his death. This was not the writing of a young, inexperienced youth but the tract of a mature adult. Luther never repudiated this view and we can only assume that when he died it was the view he still held.

Now the entire vile document by this alleged great Christian can be read here. There is a CD-Rom out with 55 volumes of Luther included. But from a reading of the web site promoting it I can’t find Luther’s diatribe against Jews included. It would have been wise to leave it out and the CD doesn’t say it is the “complete” works of Luther. On the other hand the exclusion of this tract does give one a false view of Luther. What I shall do here is merely mention the “highlights” (lowlights?) of Luther’s tract. If you wish to read the entire document do so but be aware that it is rather vicious.

Luther said he the mistreatment of Jews was a sign that they were cursed by God and something they brought upon themselves by not believing in Christianity. He said “such ruthless wrath of God is sufficient evidence” that Jews “have erred and gone astray. ...Therefore this work of wrath is proof that the Jews, surely rejected by God, are no longer his people, and neither is he any longer their God.

Luther advised against trying to convert Jews or engage “much in debate with Jews about the article of our faith” because “From their youth they have been so nurtured with venom and rancor against our Lord that there is no hope until they reach the point where their misery finally makes them pliable and they are forced to confess that the Messiah has come, and that he is our Jesus.” Until the Jews are truly suffering it is useless to speak to them was Luther’s view.

Most the beginnings of Luther’s tract is an attack on Jews for being proud of being Jewish. This really upset Luther. He calls such pride “blasphemous and damnable”. Next there is a huge section on circumcision and why Jews ought not worry about it. Even throughout this section Luther can’t stop the pure evil of his comments from coming through. He refers to Jews as “real liars”, calls them arrogant, blind, senseless and a people who “continually perverted and falsified all of Scripture”. He says that never has the sun “shone on a more bloodthirsty and vengeful people than they are who imagine that they are God’s people who have been commissioned and commanded to murder and slay the Gentiles. In fact, the most important thing that they expect of their Messiah is that he will murder and kill the entire world with their sword.” (Sounds like the Left Behind series to me.) Luther continues: “They treated us Christians in this manner at the very beginning through out all the world. They would still like to do this if they had the power, and often enough have made the attempt, for which they have got their snouts boxed lustily.

Luther says the Jews “have scourged, crucified, spat upon, blasphemed, and cursed God” and he calls them “a defiled bride”, “an incorrigible whore and an evil slut with whom God ever had to wrangle, scuffle and fight.” Luther writes they are “the vilest whores and rogues under the sun.” But some argue that pious Jews worship God but Luther says they are still persecuted and that proves they are not of God at all because God doesn’t allow his people to be persecuted. Since they are persecuted that proves that God “will not listen to these Jews” and “They must assuredly be the base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth. If there were a single pious Jew among them who observed these, he would have to be heard; for God cannot let his saints pray in vain, as Scripture demonstrates by many examples. This is conclusive evidence that they cannot be pious Jews, but must the multitude of the whoring and muderous people.” He says that while they pray in the synagogue they are “full of conceit, envy, usury, greed, and all sorts of malice. The worst offenders are those who pretend to be very devout and holy in their prayers.

Luther warns his followers “be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer self-glory, conceit, leis, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practiced most maliciously...” He says, “I do not wish to have anything more to do with any Jews. As St. Paul says, they are consigned to wrath; the more one tries to help them the baser and more stubborn they become.

Luther is pretty disgusting, “wherever you see a genuine Jew, you may with a good conscience cross yourself and bluntly say: ‘There goes a devil incarnate.’” Even if a Jew is kind Luther says “you may rest assured that they are not prompted by love, nor is it done with your benefit in mind. Since they are compelled to live among us, they do this for reasons of expediency; but their heart remains and is as I have described it.

For Luther Jew’s are nasty people who rob Christians even though “we show them every kindness. They live among us, enjoy our shield and protection, they use our country and our highways, our markets and streets. Meanwhile our princes and rulers sit there and snore with mouths hanging open and permit the Jews to take, steal, and rob from their open money bags and treasures whatever they want. That is, they let the Jews, by means of their usury, skin and fleece them and their subjects and make them beggars with their own money. For the Jews, who are exiles, should really have nothing, and whatever they have must surely be our property. They do not work, and they do not earn anything from us, nor do we give or present it to them, and yet they are in possession of our money and goods and are our masters in our own country and in their exile. A thief is condemned to hang for the theft of ten florins, and if he robs anyone on the highway, he forfeits his head. But when a Jew steals and robs ten tons of gold through his usury, he is more highly esteemed than God himself.

Note that to Luther the Jew is entirely “other” and not German. There is “they” and “our”. “They” live under “our” protection. “They” use “our” country. So to Luther the Jew is the parasite living off the productive labour of hard working Gentiles. This is the sort of theory that Marx would pick up later in his diatribe against Jews and which the Nazis borrowed as well. Not only does this show contempt for Jews as people but a contempt for the role of the middleman in economic affairs. Here you have a passage of Luther that combines anti-market views and anti-Semitism. Something that Marx and Hitler both were happy to do. Whatever hatred Marx and Hitler had for Jews and markets it was Luther who got there first. He wrote that Jews “are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch-thieves and robbers, in the most impenitent security. For a usurer is an arch-thief and robber who should right be hanged on the gallows seven times higher than other thieves.

Luther assures his followers: “Since we are not conversant with the Hebrew, they can vent their wrath on us secretly. While we suppose that they are speaking kindly to us, they are calling down hellfire and every misfortune on our heads. Such splendid guests we poor, pious Christians are harboring in our country in the persons of the Jews, we who mean well with them, who would gladly serve their physical and spiritual welfare, who who suffer so coarse wrongs from them.” Notice again that in spite of having been born in Germany as much as he was Luther calls Jews “guest” in Germany. He refuses to accept them as Germans. Consider this description by Luther of Jews: “They have been blood thirsty bloodhounds and murderers of all Christendom for more than fourteen hundred years in their intentions, and would undoubtedly prefer to be such with their deeds. Thus they have been accused of poisoning water and wells, of kidnapping children, of piercing them through with an awl, of hacking them in pieces, and in that way secretly cooling their wrath with the blood of Christians, for all of which they have often been condemned to death by fire.” Now I have forced myself to read the diatribes of Hitler and I can assure you that nothing that man said about Jews came close to be as vile as what Luther wrote. Hitler was a vile Jew hater but even in his most vicious speeches he did not come close to the crude hatred of Luther.

Again Luther characterizes the Jews as an exploiter of the labor of others (another crude Marxist concept): “In fact, they hold us Christians captive in our own country. They let us work in the sweat of our brow to earn money and property while they sit behind the stove, idle away the time, fart, and roast pears. They stuff themselves, guzzle, and live in luxury and ease from our hard-earned goods. With their accursed usury they hold us and our property captive. Moreover, they mock and deride us because we work and let them play the role of lazy squires at our expense and in our land. Thus they are our masters and we are their servants, with our property, our sweat, and our labor. And by way of reward and thanks they curse our Lord and us! Should the devil not laugh and dance if he can enjoy such a fine paradise at the expense of us Christians? He devours what is ours through his saints, the Jews, and repays us by insulting us, in addition to mocking and cursing both God and man.

Toward the end of his disgusting tirade of hatred Luther finally tells his followers what must be done with these “rejected and condemned people, the Jews”. I will allow Luther to speak for himself and thus condemn himself.

“ First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians.

"Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them the fact that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

"Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.

"Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. For they have justly forfeited the right to such an office by holding the poor Jews captive with the saying of Moses (Deuteronomy 17:10) in which he commands them to obey their teachers on penalty of death, although Moses clearly adds: "what they teach you in accord with the law of the Lord." Those villains ignore that. They wantonly employ the poor people's obedience contrary to the law of the Lord and infuse them with this poison, cursing, and blasphemy. In the same way the pope also held us captive with the declaration in Matthew 16:18, "You are Peter," etc., inducing us to believe all the lies and deceptions that issued from his devilish mind. He did not teach in accord with the word of God, and therefore he forfeited the right to teach.

"Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let them stay at home. I have heard it said that a rich Jew is now traveling across the country with twelve horses his ambition is to become a Kokhba devouring princes, lords, lands, and people with his usury, so that the great lords view it with jealous eyes. If you great lords and princes will not forbid such usurers the highway legally, some day a troop may gather against them, having learned from this booklet the true nature of the Jews and how one should deal with them and not protect their activities. For you, too, must not and cannot protect them unless you wish to become participants in an their abominations in the sight of God. Consider carefully what good could come from this, and prevent it.

"Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us an they possess. Such money should now be used in no other way than the following: Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintenance of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God's blessing in a good and worthy cause.

"... Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen. 3 [:19]). For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting., and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.”

And if the princes don’t use force against the Jews Luther has one final solution: “But if the authorities are reluctant to use force and restrain the Jews' devilish wantonness, the latter should, as we said, be expelled from the country and be told to return to their land and their possessions in Jerusalem, where they may lie, curse, blaspheme, defame, murder, steal, rob, practice usury, mock, and indulge in all those infamous abominations which they practice among us, and leave us our government, our country, our life, and our property, much more leave our Lord the Messiah, our faith, and our church undefiled and uncontaminated with their devilish tyranny and malice. Any privileges that they may plead shall not help them; for no one can grant privileges for practicing such abominations. These cancel and abrogate all privileges.

If you doubt what I say here regarding Luther’s vile hatred and anti-Semitism go and read his disgusting tract yourself. This is what one of the “greatest” Christians of all time presents to the world. This is what he finds in his Bible. Many have tried to defend Luther saying his hatred for Jews wasn’t racial in nature like the Nazis. Instead they assure us that Luther’s hatred was religious. Oh, that’s so much better! Islamic fanatics kill, not out of racial intolerance, but religious intolerance. Is that better? The myths of religion, like the myths of racialism, are murderous doctrines. Both have been used to kill. Both are the enemies of freedom.

The men most responsible for the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe are the unholy trinity of Martin Luther, Karl Marx and Adolph Hitler.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Jesus impregnates many women.

The story went that a woman was impregnated by God and gave birth to a miracle baby. No, I’m not talking about the Jesus myth. Apparently gullable Christians in England are falling for this crap all over again. Sure they buy into such rubbish every Christmas and I guess if you’ll fall for a story once you’ll fall for it twice. And the man responsible for these miracle babies in now in jail -Evangelist Gilbert Deya of the cult: Gilbert Deya Ministries.

Deya supposed will pray over a woman and declare that God has impregnated her. (Does the big J. relax afterwards and have a smoke?) Yes, Deya says Jesus impregnates them. Now you would think that such a story wouldn’t last long. But British Christians apparently fell for it. Things started to unravel when it was discovered that the DNA of one of the children did not match that of his mother and it turned out that the birth certificate from Kenya, where the women go to “give birth” was a forgery.

Deya, who was in the midst of building a £1 million church had an explanation. The DNA was not the same because they are miracle babies from God. He even claimed that one 56-year-old woman gave birth 13 times --- in just the last three years alone! Deya notes that these are things that can’t be explianed “because they are of God and things of God cannot be explained by human beings.” That line has been used to justify more bullshit than almost any other in history.

In August, 2004 the wife of the Evangelist/con man, who calls himself an archbishop, was arrested. It does not appear that Deya rushed to her side at all but avoided Kenya. Mrs. Deya had claimed to have had 10 children herself through this miracle process. Her “children” were taken into child custody for DNA testing and numerous parents have come forward looking for their missing children. Of course the DNA tests revealed that only one one of the children that Mrs. Deya claimed to have given birth to actually was related to herl the other nine apparently kidnapped.

She and four others were charged with kidnapping. Another woman, Eddah Odera, had told the Kenyan court that she gave birth to 11 miracle babies between 1999 and June, 2004. Again DNA test revealed the children were not hers.

It appears the scam worked this way: when a woman gave birth her infant at a “clinic” the child would be taken away and she would be told it had died. These parents have a difficult time picking their children out of those that have been recovered as they have grown considerably. Lucky Mbugua was lucky in a sense. Her son, Christopher, was stolen from her later and she had photographs of himl and was able to identify him. He was one of the children that the Odera’s claimed came from God.

Another minister from the cult, Benjamin Mensay, has defended Deya and says his wife has given birth to two miracle babies herself. As for the DNA problem he simply dismisses it saying the doctors have to explain it. He merely says: “My own point of view is that God is able to do all things.... If the medical profession cannot explain, we call it a miracle.” Typical of the faith ridden mind. There is a natural explanation: the babies were not born of these women and were stolen. Kidnapping is not a miracle.

Even a High Court hearing resulted in a Justice saying that the babies were kidnapped and that the motivation of this was the greed of the ministry which used the “miracles” to generate funds from a “deceived congregation.” But, Justice, aren’t they all decieved to one degree or another?

The woman who “gave birth” was deceived by the Deyas. She first had medical tests in London which showed she not pregnant. But then Mrs. Deya took her to Kenya to a clinic there which worked with the Evangelist and his wife. They told her she ws pregnant. She was given an injection to ease the birth which made her sleepy and 20 minutes later she was told she had given birth.

She told the court that the DNA evidence didn’t matter to her because she had faith. Meanwhile the “Archbishop” fled to Scotland and claimed “political asylum”.

Finally just a few days ago the “Archbishop” was arrested in Scotland and is now being held by British Immigration authorities for deportation back to Kenya. Kenyan authorities say that they believe the infants were stolen from Nairobi’s Pumwani Maternity Hospital and that the child stealing ring involves people in Britain, Ghana, Nigeria , Uganda and Kenya. It should be noted for the record that all the babies which Jesus supposedly fathered were black. Now there’s something I bet the church didn’t tell you. Apprently another miracle bites the dust.

However, if you believe this story, well, I don't have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you but I do have a book that God wrote which I can sell you. You can know it's from God because it says so. Just have faith.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

One wife, one man for life. Right!

You remember the Latter Day Saints of Utah, the followers of Joseph Smith who got revelations from God supposedly giving him permission to screw lots of women. (His wife Emma apparently didn't think that revelation was real and left the cult for another non-polygamous branch of the church.) Smith said the revelation in support of polygamy would never pass away but apparently when the Mormons wanted Utah to become a state, and the US Senate would not let a bunch of polygamists join the Union, they suddenly found out that God had changed his mind. Ditto for their anti-Black theology which God suddenly removed when the Civil Rights movement sprang up --- it would be nice if God didn't seem to follow the trends and actally set them. Of course the Mormons are very pro-family. Even to this day some as so pro-family that they have three or four of them (sets of wives and children that is). The church pretends this isn't so but they no damn well it is not uncommon in Utah for one man to have multiple wives.

The photo is of Emma Smith, the long-suffering wife of Joseph who denied that God had anything to do with his polygamy.

Now these theological nutcases think that through the secret rituals of the Mormon church, which Smith basically stole from the Masons, that each Mormon will become a god himself. And then with his multiple wives he'll screw through eternity producing spirit babies. Wacko! But to be a god and produce spirit babies you have to be heterosexual. So gays are not just second class Mormons they are kicked out. And the Mormons love a good gay bashing in one form or another.

So read this from a Mormon, who taught at the philosophy department at the Mormon's Brigham Young University, Jeffrey Neilsen. He wrote: When the church hierarchy speaks on a public issue and requests that members follow, it is difficult indeed if an individual feels the content of their message would make bad law and is unethical as well. I believe opposing gay marriage and seeking a constitutional amendment against it is immoral. And: it seems that virtuous moderation and loving kindness require us to exercise caution before making constitutionally binding discrimination against a whole class of people based only on fear and superstition. This guy is good: attempting to restrict an individual's rights and privileges based upon a religious claim is a dangerous rejection of our Founding Fathers' wise insight, and it should be unacceptable to all Americans.

Now he gets into really deep water because he admits the Mormon Church has been intentionally dishonest with the public about its belief in polygamy. He writes: We in the LDS Church must be more honest about our history, including the past and future practice of polygamy in our official doctrine. This will be difficult, for it will reveal that we have been less than truthful in our public relations, and it will show our inconsistency with current statements opposing gay marriage.

Remember that Bush's failed federal amendment said that marriage is only between one man and one woman. And the Mormon's are a bunch descended from polygamists, founded by polgamists, and infested with polygamists to this very day. So for them to get on their pompous high horse and pontificate about an amendment that specifically denies their own history and doctrine is proof of their incredible hypocrisy.

So what did the church do? Well, of course, they informed him that he his position at the university terminates at the end of the semester. They told him: "In accordance with the order of the church, we do not consider it our responsibility to correct, contradict or dismiss official pronouncements of the church. Since you have chosen to contradict and oppose the church in an area of great concern to church leaders, and to do so in a public forum, we will not rehire you after the current term is over."

The Mormons run their church the same way the Communists ran Russia there is no dissent allowed, no independent thinking, you take orders and obey. And they are espeically picky when it comes to any mention of the fraudulent history of their church that they peddle. They like to cover up the polygamy that is still going on. They like to pretend that the Church didn't murder people. They try to hide documents that they think prove them to be a fraud. These people follow the "Prophet Joseph Smith". Not only was Smith a polygamist but he "married" girls who were, shall we say, very, young.

Smith wanted a girl, Helen Mar Kimball, who was only 14 years old in his marriage bed. So he told the family that if they married her off to him that they would be guaranteed a place in the celestial kingdom. Smith did have sex with this yourng girl but it was alright since he said God told him to do it. We should not forget that the age of puberty has been dropping and when Smith took his "wife" to his bed she was well below the average of age of puberty. Some have estimated that a 14 year old girl from around 1840 would be about as physically mature as a 9 year old today.

In addition to this child Smith also took into his marriage bed: Fanny Alger 16, Flora Ann Woodworth, 16, and Nancy Winchester who was either 14 or 15. And there were several other teenaged girls he took as "wives" as well. And numerous women who Smith "married" were already married when he took them. Smith wrote a letter to one of his prospective young wives and her family. He told them to come to the place where he was saying but warned them "the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safety...Only be careful to escape observation as much as possible...." Emma was smith's wife and he was not reluctant to tell the young things he wanted to bed to try and sneak past her.

Now we all know the silliness of Muslims being promised virgins in paradise if they go around killing people. Smith had no patience. He wanted his virgins in the here and now. So he claimed that God said he could have them and it appears in the Mormon scripture that Smith wrote. In Doctrines and Covenants it says of Smith "if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified." There is some question as to how many wives Joseph had in all but it was more than two dozen and could be over 30. And a good number of them were teens when he went after them. This is the kind of history that the professor was talking about.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The wisdom (sic) of Martin Luther

One of the great immoral monsters of human history is the man Martin Luther, a man who attempted to plunge the West back into the Dark Ages intentionally. Luther was not a man of the Enlightenment but a bitter opponent of reason and logic. Here are some of his "words of wisdom" on the subject.

Reason is the Devil's greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil's appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom ... Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism... She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.

Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but -- more frequently than not -- struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.

Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and ... know nothing but the word of God.

There is on earth among all dangers no more dangerous thing than a richly endowed and adroit reason... Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed.

Reason should be destroyed in all Christians.

Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his Reason.

To be a Christian, you must "pluck out the eye of reason."


Sunday, June 11, 2006

George Carlin on the best bullshit of all time

Touched by an angel.

For those of you who know the absurdly silly TV show Touched by an Angel here is a paradoy from the mind of George Carlin called Touched by an Atheist. Enjoy.

A little entertainment

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Has this Pope already died?

Generally speaking Popes get elected to that office very late in life. So we don't normally have to put up with one for very long. In the old days they could get appointed much earlier in life. One who shared the same name d' papal as the current Vicar of Christ was Benedict IX who could have been twelve or thirteen when he sat on the "Throne of Peter". He was a bit of a pervert and screwed anything that moved: man, women or animal. He was also in and out of office rather frequently and eventually disappeared from the scene though it is speculation as to what happened to him. Popes used to be a lot more colourful and had a tendency to bump on another off during certain periods. And at least one Pope was the son of a previous Pope! Yes, they were a much more interesting lot in days gone by. And old Ratzinger here is the oldest Pope yet. But I swear from this picture that he already looks dead. If you saw a picture of someone lying down with this expression you would be sure it was a corpse.

Prayer vigil saves earth from antiChrist.

Just to prove that fundamentalist nutters aren't uniquely American a group of Dutch born again fanatics were holding a 24-hour "prayer vigil" to keep Satan and the antiChrist at bay yesterday. What caused this? Well yesterday was the 6th day of the 6th month of 2006. In purely numeric terms that would be 6/6/06. Well, that is close enough to 666 to have the nut cases on edge. The number 666 is supposed to be the mark of the antiChrist and is taken from the bizarre texts of the Book of Revelations in the New Testament. That is one freaky bunch of nonsense and reads like someone writing on a acid trip.

An organiser from Ambassadors Ministries, Mathijs Piet, said, "We know that on this date Satanists will try and do many things, so we Christians try and do the opposite. We know the Devil hates it when we worship God." Apparently the day came and went without any fanfare or outbreak of Satanic forces. So obviously the prayer worked!

I know that if I hop into the bathroom on my left foot I won't find an allegator in the tub. Everytime I do this it works. Not once has there been an allegator in the tub when I hop on my left foot. I also find that the sun rises every day as long as I have something to drink the day before. Never fails!

Speaking of the supposed antiChrist that the fundie nutters go on about. According to the bizarre Left Behind series of books, which are a novel series about how the world will be under the antiChrist United Nations Forces, the antiChrist was conceived using artificial insemination with the sperm of two gay men. Nice little touch of bigotry there don't you think. Folks, gays are the new Jews.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pumpking pie, Jesus and challeging the cult of death.

I have a confession to make. I love pumpkin pie. I don’t mean in the sense of the juvenile film “American Pie”. And no I wouldn’t marry one -- there is only one person in the world I would marry and they know who they are. I just mean I really, really enjoy pumpkin pie.

Americans are decent cooks but they aren’t good cooks. They make nice meals but they don’t make great ones -- not generally. Which is a shame because the quality of the food in the US certainly surpasses much of the rest of the world including Europe.

The problem with pumpkin pie is that you can’t find it outside the United States. At least I never have. You can find pumpkin of course. Just not the pies. So there are long stretches of life with no pumpkin pie. Sad for me. But when I get the chance I eat it. Now how does any of this related to religion, life, death, Jesus and the rest of it?

I eat a lot of pumpkin pie when visiting the US because I never know when I’ll have another piece! I value it. That means I want more of it and I will act to gain more of it. Values are those things we act to obtain or keep. If we do nothing about it we don’t value it. So I do something about it. I buy them and eat them.

We all make choices based on our values. Beliefs are important because what we value is determined by them. If you believe pumpkin pie is an evil spewed out from the depths of hell you might well avoid it. What you believe determines what you value and your values determine how you act.

Now there is an economic perspective that we can use on this as well. Basically what you value or seek out are what economists would call the “demand”. I have a demand for pumpkin pie. I have a demand for good books, films with plots, and the company of my friends and those I love. Those are, in economic terms, my demand.

And then there is the supply side. If pumpkin pies were in unlimited supply, so that no matter how many are eaten there are still more than the world demands, the price of pumpkin pies would basically be zero. But of course if pumpkin pies were free the demand would go up. Even people who prefer cherry pies might take a pumpkin pie if the former were $4 each while the latter were free. So when the supply of something increases, but demand remains the same, the value or price of that good will drop.

Now there is another angle to this. How you value something is often determined, not by the real circumstances of the situation, but by your beliefs about them. Take this example: if you are driving along the highway and you tank is getting low you might want to fill up. You see a petrol station ahead but the price is rather high. But you also know that the next major town is about 40 minutes down the road and your tank will be empty before then. Considering the circumstances you pull in and fill up at a price that you think is a bit high. And then you drive on down the road only to find another petrol station, which you didn’t know about, with much lower prices.

You paid a higher price for petrol because you believed something that was false. Of course the opposite could also be true. You could undervalue something based on your own erroneous beliefs about the facts. There is no perfect knowledge so people make mistakes. They have errors in their value judgements.

And this brings us to the issue I want to discuss: the value of individual human life. What is the difference between the faithful and the irreligious concerning human life? Now the Christians in particular drone on about the value of life and how important it is. And they will argue that unbelievers can’t value human life at all because they don’t believe in God, Jesus, the Bible, etc. They call themselves “pro-life” implying their counterparts must be pro-death. In fact one such individual has even written a book attacking the secularists and folks on the outs with these religionists as The Party of Death.

But while they are so pro-life they are very willing, in fact sometimes happy, to inflict death themselves. The Bible is filled with demands that all sorts of sinners be put to death. Many modern day fundamentalists, who take this stuff seriously, as inflicted with this death syndrome. They want to kill others or at least want someone to kill them. Some, like theocrat Gary North, extol the virtues of stoning people to death for their sins. He says the biblical punishment is one where the whole community comes out and kills the sinner. He thinks this builds community spirit!

George Bush is one of the most fanatical religionists to ever sit in the White House. He is not adverse to sending people to their deaths at all. He is doing so as president and he did as governor of Texas. Texas executes more people than any other location in the United States. It is also one of the most fundamentalist Christian states in America. Pro-life apparently means they support state executions as well.

And we can’t forget that this mandate to kill doesn’t apply to just cold blooded killers. I think the first time I was aware of this was a Moral Majority rally that I attended while writing a story about Anita Bryant. There were some small children with their parents and these kids were carrying signs calling for the execution of gay people. Executing homosexuals is widely accepted in fundamentalist circles: Islamic or Christian.

Death is at the centre of the morality code of these people. You know that they love to demand that the Ten Commandments be put up in school rooms and court rooms. Read your Bible and consider what the penalties were for breaking those commandments. Over and over the Bible said such people should be put to death. Now Christians are quick to say that the Ten Commandments were never “repealed”. I wonder if they then mean that the penalties for breaking those commandments, execution, has also never been repealed. Actually I don’t wonder. For a large,, and growing, number of them the answer would be that it has not been repealed and death is still appropriate.

Of course it is one thing to run around stoning sinners to death. But how do they value Christian lives? Not highly either. Here is why. First, they believe there is an endless supply of life waiting for them. Unlike us non-believers who think this is the end they believe they have “eternal life”. In economic terms they believe that there is an endless supply of life that far exceeds our demands.

In other words the supply exceeds the demand thus bringing the value down to nil. It gets even worse. They also believe that the life to come is better than the life they have. Dying today rushes them into the company of Jesus, the saints, the angels of heaven and Almighty God. It is eternal bliss and joy. This life, they will say, is but a veil of tears. So you shed this old body and take on a heavenly body. You depart this sin ridden world of disease, misery and death for one of eternal salvation and worshipful joy.

It is not just an endless supply of life that they believe awaits them. It is also a major improvement over the one that exists now. The much revered St. Augustine put it this way: “I have no concern in this life except to depart from it as speedily as possible.” His view of life was not unusual for Christians. The great dark stains on Christianity are rooted in this very idea that this life is evil, that a better life awaits, and that the eternal soul has infinite value while the human body has none.

This concept applied to all equally. The unbeliever was endangering the soul of Christians so to kill his body was of no significance. This life has little value compared to the eternal soul and since the only way to salvation is through the Christian faith those who opposed it had to be killed. And from the moment Christians had the ability to slaughter unbelievers they engaged in it fervently and prayerfully. Augsutine noted that “unjust persecution” is that “which the wicked inflict on the Church of Christ” but there is a “just persecution which the Church of Christ inflicts on the wicked.”

Even Thomas Aquinas, who helped reintroduce the concept of reason to the West argued for the execution of heretics. “They deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be shut off from the world by death. For it is a far more serious matter to corrupt faith, through which comes the soul’s life, than to forge money, through which temporal life is supported. Hence if forgers of money or other malefactors are straightaway justly put to death by secular princes, with much more justice can heretics, immediately upon conviction, be not only excommunicated but also put to death.”

And contrary to common misconceptions this tendency to murder those who dare question the faith did not end with the Reformation. If anything the Reformation was a step backwards. It was a revolt not against the sins of the Church but against the revival of reason by Aquinas. It was a return to the older, even less tolerant views of Augustine. Instead of ushering in a time of enlightenment and tolerance the Reformationists stepped up the executions. As Perez Zagorin wrote in his book “How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West”: “The sixteenth century, which witnessed the Reformation and the beginning and spread of Protestantism, was probably the most intolerant period in Christian history, marked not only be violent conflict between contending Christian denominations but by an upsurge of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism in western Europe.” Zagorin goes so far as to say: “Of all the great world religions past and present, Christianity has been by far the most intolerant.”

What the Islamists do today is what Christians have done and, to a lesser degree, still do today. What restrains today’s fundamentalist Christians from acting as intolerant as fundamentalist Islamists? Only the lack of political power. The Islamists control much of the Middle East. Even “friendly” states like Saudi Arabia are under the control of fundamentalist Muslims. They hold political power.

In the West fundamentalist Christians do not have a firm grip on power. It is true they control the Republican Party but they still face an opposition, and thankfully a growing one. But they do control various states. It is for this reason that Texas is so quick to execute people. The state has only 7.5% of all the US population but they carry out one-third of all the executions. But the western Liberal tradition, that of Jefferson and men like him, restrains these fanatics. And they admit as much. They are merely waiting until “the Godly” gain control and they intend to bring back the Dark Ages but this time with attitude.

Could America’s willingness to execute people be tied to religion? It most certainly is. Who says so? Try one of the most Right-wing judges on the US Supreme Court. Justice Antonin Scalia said that government derives all its “moral authority from God” (the Founders said it was from the people). And: “Indeed, it seems to me that the more Christian a country is the less likely it is to regard the death penalty as immoral.” Get that! The more Christian they are the less they are against executing people. Why? “I attribute that to the fact that, for the believing Christian,” said Scalia who is a believing Christian, “death is no big deal. Intentionally killing an innocent person is a bid deal: it is a grave sin, which causes one to lose his soul. But losing this life, in exchange for the next?... For the non-believer, on the other hand, to deprive a man of his life is to end his existence.”

Scalia is a fervent believer himself and he is quite explicit: “death is no big deal.” Go and look at the video of the Rev. Paul Hill, who killed two people at an abortion clinic, one of whom was merely a bodyguard for a physician. He is joyous that he is to be executed. He said that his execution will only bring him to Jesus and what is there to complain about?

We witness the same mentality, the same exact belief, in another faith. It is the belief that motivates the suicide bombers of Islam. It is the belief that allowed young men to fly planes into buildings filled with people. They were going to the next life, the more important one. They were giving up nothing and gaining everything.

As Richard Dawkins wrote at the time of the 9/11 attacks: “I am trying to call attention to the elephant in the room that everybody is too polite---or too devout---to notice: religion, and specifically the devaluing effect that religion has on human life. I don’t mean devaluing the life of others (though it can do that too), but devaluing one’s own life. Religion teaches the dangerous nonsense that death is not the end.”

One of the letters left behind by the 9/11 killers said: “Take prisoners and kill them. As Almighty God said: ‘No prophet should have prisoners until he has soaked the land with blood.’”
“...How beautiful it is for one to read God’s words, such as: ‘And those who prefer the afterlife over this world should fight for the sake of God.’ And His words: ‘Do not suppose that those who are killed for the sake of God are dead; they are alive.’”
As one of these killers said, they love death.

Why shouldn’t they love death given their premises? If there is a God who wants people to punish evil doers and who will reward them if they do. If he offers them eternal bliss and happiness far exceeding anything good in this world, they why cling to life in this world at all?

In closing I want to share a letter that I was given many, many years ago. It was not written to me. It was written to friends and family of a young man named Jack. Jack was a fundamentalist Christian who was also a gay man. He tried to find the promise “cure” for being gay offered by the ex-gay movement. He had gone to a group misnamed “Love in Action” seeking this “healing.” Yet no matter how hard he tried the reality was that he was still gay. Jack killed himself. And in his letter he explains why. Read it all:

"TO: Those left with the question, why did he do it?
"I loved life and all that it had to offer to me each day.
"I loved my job and my clients.
"I loved my friends and thank God for each one of them.
"I loved my little house and would not have wanted to live anywhere else.
"All this looks like the perfect life. Yet, I must not let this shadow the problem that I have in my life. At one time, not to long ago, that was all that really mattered in my life. What pleased me and how it affected me. Now that I have turned my life over to the Lord and the changes came one by one, the above statements mean much more to me. I am pleased that I can say those statements with all the truth and honesty that is within me.
"However, to make this short, I must confess that there were things in my life that I could not gain control, no matter how much I prayed and tried to avoid the temptation, I continually failed.

"It is this constant failure that has made me make the decision to terminate my life here on earth. I do this with the complete understanding that life is not mine to take. I know that it is against the teachings of our Creator. No man is without sin, this I realise. I will cleanse myself of all sin as taught to me by His word. Yet, I must face my Lord with the sin of murder. I believe that Jesus died and paid the price for that sin too. I know that I shall have everlasting life with Him by departing this world now, no matter how much I love it, my friends, my family. If I remain it could possibly allow the devil the opportunity to lead me away from the Lord. I love life, but my love for the Lord is so much greater, the choice is simple.

"I am not asking you to sanction my actions. That is not the purpose of my writing this at all. It is for the express purpose of allowing each one who will read this to know how I weighed things in my own mind. I don't want you to think that, 'I alone,' should have been the perfect person, without sin. That would be ridiculous! It is the continuing lack of strength and/or obedience and/or will power to cast aside certain sins. To continually go before God and ask forgiveness and make promises you know you can't keep is more than I can take. I feel it is making a mockery of God and all He stands for in my life.

"Please know that I am extremely happy to be going to the Lord. He knows my heart and knows how much I love life and and all that it has to offer. But, He knows that I love Him more. That is why I believe that I will be with Him in Paradise. "I regret if I bring sorrow to those that are left behind. If you get your hearts in tune with the word of God you will be as happy about my 'transfer' as I am. I also hope that this answers sufficiently the question, why?
"May God Have Mercy On My Soul."
"A Brother & A Friend."

Almost three decades later this letter still causes my eyes to tear up. A young man’s life destroyed because of a belief. Those who say we should not challenge the deeply held, sincere religious beliefs of others, are saying we must not challenge a belief that leads people to die needless or to kill others. It is the belief in an afterlife that makes this life so valueless to so many believers. And that belief allows them to take lives with relative ease if necessary. It may be their own or it may that of others. But in the end life in this world holds no value to them because they believe in a better life in another world. Belief in an afterlife is a cult of death. It denigrates the one life they do have and offers them a fantasy in return. That belief must be challenged. To not challenge it is to be an enabler for a system of ideas that can only bring more death and more misery.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Mark Twain on the Bible and Religion

Mark Twain was the most famous of American authors during his life time. His works like Tom Sawyer were considered American classics. What is not widely known about him is that he thought the Bible another work of fiction but not a partuclarly good one. Here are some comments that Twain made over his life time, some in his books and some not.

It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.
- Letters from the Earth

The Christian's Bible is a drug store. Its contents remain the same; but the medical practice changes...The world has corrected the Bible. The church never corrects it; and also never fails to drop in at the tail of the procession- and take the credit of the correction. During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. the Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumb-screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood.
Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry.....There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain.
- "Bible Teaching and Religious Practice," Europe and Elsewhere

...a God who could make good children as easily a bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave is angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell--mouths mercy, and invented hell--mouths Golden Rules and foregiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man's acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him!
- No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger

God's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.
- Notebook, 1898

God, so atrocious in the Old Testament, so attractive in the New--the Jekyl and Hyde of sacred romance.
- Notebook, 1904

The best minds will tell you that when a man has begotten a child he is morally bound to tenderly care for it, protect it from hurt, shielf it from disease, clothe it, feed it, bear with its waywardness, lay no hand upon it save in kindness and for its own good, and never in any case inflict upon it a wanton cruelty. God's treatment of his earthly children, every day and every night, is the exact opposite of all that, yet those best minds warmly justify these crimes, condone them, excuse them, and indignantly refuse to regard them as crimes at all, when he commits them. Your country and mine is an interesting one, but there is nothing there that is half so interesting as the human mind.
- Letters from the Earth

Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion--several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven....The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.
- "The Lowest Animal"

In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.
- Autobiography of Mark Twain

I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's.
- Mark Twain in Eruption

Man is kind enough when he is not excited by religion.
- A Horse's Tale

If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be--a Christian.
- Mark Twain's Notebook

Christianity will doubtless still survive in the earth ten centuries hence--stuffed and in a museum.
- Notebook, 1898

The so-called Christian nations are the most enlightened and progressive...but in spite of their religion, not because of it. The Church has opposed every innovation and discovery from the day of Galileo down to our own time, when the use of anesthetic in childbirth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the biblical curse pronounced against Eve. And every step in astronomy and geology ever taken has been opposed by bigotry and superstition. The Greeks surpassed us in artistic culture and in architecture five hundred years before Christian religion was born.
- Mark Twain, a Biography

There are those who scoff at the school boy, calling him frivolous and shallow. Yet it was the school boy who said, Faith is believing what you know ain't so.
-Following the Equator, Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

One of the proofs of the immortality of the soul is that myriads have believed in it. They have also believed the world was flat.
-- Mark Twain, Notebook

I cannot see how a man of any large degree of humorous perception can ever be religious -- unless he purposely shut the eyes of his mind & keep them shut by force.
-- Mark Twain, Frederick Anderson, ed., Mark Twain's Notebooks and Journals

Irreverence is another person's disrespect to your god; there isn't any word that tells what your disrespect to his god is.
-- Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger

Concentration of power in a political machine is bad; and an Established Church is only a political machine; it was invented for that; it is nursed, cradled, preserved for that; it is an enemy to human liberty, and does no good which it could not better do in a split-up and scattered condition.
-- Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its laws or its songs either.
-- Mark Twain, Following the Equator, ch. 51, "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar" (1897)

A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and he is turned out for what he knows.
-- Mark Twain, quoted from Barbara Schmidt, ed., Mark Twain Quotations, Newspaper Collections, & Related Resources

Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.
-- Mark Twain, quoted from Barbara Schmidt, ed., Mark Twain Quotations, Newspaper Collections, & Related Resources

It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either.
-- Mark Twain, Following the Equator, "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"

If the man doesn't believe as we do, we say he is a crank, and that settles it. I mean, it does nowadays, because now we can't burn him.
-- Mark Twain, Following the Equator

"There is one notable thing about our Christianity: bad, bloody, merciless, money-grabbing and predatory as it is -- in our country particularly, and in all other Christian countries in a somewhat modified degree -- it is still a hundred times better than the Christianity of the Bible, with its prodigious crime -- the invention of Hell. Measured by our Christianity of to-day, bad as it is, hypocritical as it is, empty and hollow as it is, neither the Deity nor His Son is a Christian, nor qualified for that moderately high place. Ours is a terrible religion. The fleets of the world could swim in spacious comfort in the innocent blood it has spilt."
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