Thursday, November 30, 2006

British MP defends religion -- sort of.

British member of parliament Boris Johnson, a Conservative, has written a rather odd defense of religion. It is odd because he does not argue that religion is true merely useful.

Two cretins attacked a young man and stabbed him to death. They continued to stab him long after he had given them what they wanted, his cell phone and Oyster card (the card which admits one into and out of the London tube system). Johnson confesses he wants to see these men suffer for what they did. Who doesn’t?

But he says that we are better off if they “repent” and change. And the only means he can see for that happening is through religion. He says his “own faith is a very feeble tinsel object” but “if we throw out religion, then we lose a useful tool in changing lives.” “Before we go all the way with Dawkins and chuck out religion” we should look at these scum “and reflect that, if we are to have any hope of changing them for the better, then God is a useful card for society to keep up its sleeve.”

As I’ve pointed out several times the boundaries which Johnson believes are set by religion are not particularly strong. The believer is more likely, not less likely, to be a criminal. The US is a wonderful example. It is far more religious than most Europeans nations and far more crime prone. And the Bible belt states have higher crime rates than the godless liberal states in New England.

There is no doubt that religion can change lives. Any obsession or fanaticism can do that. The young men who went down into the London Tube with bombs had become very religious. The young men who drove those airliners into the Twin Towers were strongly religious. The young men who beat Matthew Shephard to death for being gay were religious.

Now it should not matter if these two killers repent or not. Why? Because they ought to be in prison for the rest of their natural lives. Killers like them don’t deserve freedom ever. Whether they repent and become sweet guys is not relevant to the rest of us if they remain behind bars. I’m all against the death penalty but heinous crimes like this deserve life and life in prison ought to mean life in prison. Letting such thugs out in five years is a monstrous injustice.

But using false claims about a deity is just silly. Johnson is pulling the old Santa Claus trick that parents used on children. “You better be good because Santa is watching and you won’t get anything nice for Christmas unless you are.” Did that ever really work?

I would think that the religious would be insulted by Johnson’s suggestion. Surely whether or not a deity exists is important. This utilitarian approach to god is not only likely to fail but is insulting to those people who choose to believe such tales. If Johnson wishes to insult such believers then do so openly and not with this backhanded form of praise.

Fundies fume over flapping film.

The God Squad is in another dither. These people really spend all their time being angry, upset, furious and just downright nasty. The most recent film to infuriate these theological throwbacks is Breakfast with Scot which is based on the book of the same name.

A gay couple wake up one day to discover that they have been given custody of a 11 year old boy. The boy’s mother was the girlfriend of one of the men’s brother. She asked them to care to take custody if anything happens to her and while mildly plastered one night they agree. Now the mother is dead, the father off in South America and they are new found, albeit reluctant parents.

But to their dismay they discover the boy is enamoured with dressing very feminine. Now to the ignorant that means “homosexual”. But homosexuality is not about gender identity but about sexual orientation. A boy, at this age, preferring to dress as a girl, is probably a transsexual not a homosexual. That is he sees himself as a girl. Homosexual men see themselves as men but are sexually attracted to men. It is possible the boy is a transvestite which is a man who enjoys dressing as a woman. But transvestites are often heterosexual. I divert into that little discussion for the stray Christian who doesn’t know anything about these matters except what they believe the creator of the universe has told them.

The film could be interesting because gay parents would have just as hard a time dealing with this issue as straight parents. But from what I’ve read neither the film nor the book say the boy is gay. In fact one review I read said it was stated that he was too young to know. That sounds reasonable to me. So how do the drooling, rabid fundamentalists see this film?

There is a vile outfit of bigots called “Americans for Truth”. In other words they lie a lot. And their is entire raison d'être is to vilify and attack homosexuals. And good Christians give them lots of money in order to engage in their hate campaign. People who wouldn’t help an AIDS orphan in Africa are driven by their “love of God” to pour funds on a group founded with only purpose in mind -- to attack one group of people.

Peter LaBarbera is the head bigot at this group and he demanded that his fellow hating Christianists join their crusade to protest this film. What has most upset him is that the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team allowed their logo to be used in the film. In the story one of the men is a former hockey player with the team. So basically what this means is the team allowed the film to depict the hockey team and the fictional connection to the team. That’s it.

But LaBarbera starts to distort and lie, like a good Christian, right at the start. His headline about this film was: “Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Sponsors Gay Movie Featuring Homosexual 11 Year-Old.”

In one sentence the man manages to lie twice. And I don’t say he makes an error. He is a liar, he violates the very moral principles he says he stands for in order to campaign for his hatred. The team did not “sponsor” the film. In this context a sponsor is a financier. The hockey team financed nothing they allowed their name to be used. LaBarbera uses lying words to imply they financed the film. And he claims the film is about a homosexual 11-year-old. Apparently he doesn’t know the difference between transsexual/transvestite and homosexual.

He also refers to this as a “homosexual propaganda film”. Talk about projection. Everything the fundamentalist nutters do is about propagandizing for their antiquated mysticism. They are actually very open about this. If a fundamentalist plays friendly with a non-fundamentalist the main reason is to convert. Sure some don’t do this but most do. They have courses in their pathetic churches where they are taught these things. They call it “soul winning”. Remember the fundamentalist family we discussed earlier that acted as a host family for an exchange student for the express purpose of converting him and using him to establish a church in Poland? That is the tactic I’m talking about.

And I know this is true because I was one of them once. They will lie to people in order to convert them. Everything one does is supposed to have one purpose -- to witness and gain converts. So everything they do is propaganda, not so for mainstream churches by the way. And because they are incapable of having any motivation but propaganda they project their own motivation on to the others. Thus any film, book or television show that has a gay character depicted in any way but the most vile way possible is automatically “a homosexual propaganda film”.

LaBarbera is an instant expert on the film presumably through divine revelation since it is not yet completed. So LaBarbera has not seen it. But then facts play only the most minor of roles in the life of the fundamentalist. The main thing is fanaticism and hatred. Their temperament is very, very similar to that of the Islamists. They are born out of the same disease.

LaBarbera tells his hate-filled donors that this is a “story about open homosexuals and endorsing child homosexuality.” Endorsing child homosexuality? That lie ought to be good for some big cheques from the bigots.

With foam dripping from his jowls LaBarbera terrifies his funding base telling them: “As a work of homosexual propaganda, the film is clearly meant to target the last vestiges of resistance to normalized homosexuality among Canadians. In the book, the homosexual couple live in Cambridge, Massachusetts and are a chiropractor and magazine editor, hockey does not figure at all.”

Ah, that secret gay conspiracy at work. Clever these homosexuals. Why the changes? Well, for the same reason that The Birdcage, a remake of La Cage aux Folles, was filmed with an American cast, in English, in Miami instead of with a French, cast, in French, in Paris. The film depicts the men being Canadian because it’s be shot in Canada, the main star is Canadian and I suspect we’ll find it is a Canadian company doing the filming. It is being funded by Telefilm Canada. So maybe not a secret gay plot after all.

And why the ex-hockey player? Typical drama for a film. Film makers like to increase the dram in every way possible. If the two men were drag queens themselves there would be no drama in adopting a boy who dresses up. Make one of them a former sports players and it gets more interesting. And if you are filming in Canada what other than hockey could be the focus? But LaBarbera like other Religious-Right lunatics has to find sinister plots and cabals around everything they don’t like.

Paranoia and viciousness seem to go together. These people don’t need a Bible they need valium.

Is God needy?

There is much about theism that simply makes no sense to me. And particular strands of that concept are particularly bizarre.

Consider the idea that this deity is all-powerful, all-knowing, etc. This is the most perfect being that supposedly one could imagine. And what are we supposed to be in comparison.

We are allegedly as far removed from this being as we could possible be. We would be like some child’s Play dough sculpture put up against Michelangelo’s magnificent David. The comparison would be comedic, perhaps even tragic. We are told we are horrible flawed creatures while the deity is total and complete perfection.

One Christian web site says that god “is the great and powerful Creator, and we, the insignificant and weak creation. Therefore, we humble ourselves and submit.” They say Jesus is god and “the knees of everyone born or created will bend in reverent homage to him.” They also note,”we must worship God because he commands it!” And if you look at the various web sites of different Christian sects they pretty much agree on this. God wants worship.

We are supposed to worship this deity because he commands us to do so and because he is worthy of worship.

Now I can almost understand why we humans would want to worship such a being -- if he existed. But what I don’t understand is how any perfect being would need our worship. Surely such a being has no needs. There can be no benefit to him at all. He would have no need of praise. Yet he commands us to praise him. Can a perfect being have any wants at all?

Not only does he apparently need this worship but he needs it for eternity. One contemporary gospel song says: “I was created to worship you.” A Baptist Church says: “Humans were created to worship God!” Another fundamentalist site says: “Man and woman were created to worship God and even the hosts of Heaven worship Him.”

So we are left with this perfect being who existed for an eternity and then suddenly creates hosts of heaven and humans. He creates them to worship him. What drove him to do that? Action takes places due to dissatisfaction. A perfect being can have no dissatisfaction and thus no motivation to act. He certainly would not need pathetic and sad creatures constantly telling him how wonderful he is. Is God the ultimate narcissist?

Humans love praise but then we are told we are frail and sinful. I see no reason that a perfect being would have any need of worship.

Now I supposed the typical Christian has not considered this issue. And when faced with this question will reply it is done for our own good. We were created to worship this deity because of our needs not his. But we only have needs because we were created. Certainly prior to our “creation” we could not have needs at all. It was not done to make our lives “better” than they were prior to the institution of worship since we didn’t exist then.

And most of us apparently worship the wrong deity or don’t worship him properly and sufficiently. And for that we are told, by many believers, that we will be tortured for eternity. Not really a good deal if you ask me. If you make an error and worship the wrong god it’s eternal damnation. If you make an error and don’t believe in any deity it’s eternal damnation as well. And unless one is a universalists then Christian theology says that most humans who have ever lived, are living, or will ever live will be tortured for eternity because they were not sufficiently worshipful and believing.

Well, that doesn’t sound like something that was created for our own good. It sounds like something created because this deity was a very needy being indeed. Is this god suffering from an inferiority complex?

Consider the cockroach. Of what benefit would it be to you if the cockroach worshipped you? In fact, what benefit would it be to the cockroach? Yet the chasm between being human and being a deity is supposedly much greater than that between the cockroach and man.

A perfect being must be perfectly content. A perfectly content being would have no reason to do anything. He certainly would not have a reason to create sad, pathetic, sinful creatures for the express purpose of telling him how wonderful he is. A real god would have no need of worship. Our words and worship would mean nothing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Coverting Mormons to Darwin!

I always enjoyed this television show. It's not well known in the U.S. but then the U.S. is the major source of god addiction around. But John Safran has always had fun taking on the religious crowds. And here is his take on the Mormons.

Exchange student discovers life with fundies

A Polish exchange student, Michael Gromek, recently wrote of his six months in the United States. He described it as “My Half-Year of Hell with Christian Fundamentalists.”

Boy, don’t I know what he’s talking about.

Gromek says when he got off the plane in Greensboro, North Carolina he was greeted by the host family carrying a Bible and saying, “Child, our Lord sent you half-way around the world to bring you to us.” He says, “I just wanted to turn round and run back to the plane.”

Gromek was told that he had “the devil” in his heart because he liked beer and wine. And when the Christian host family learned his mother was separated from his father they concluded his “mother’s heart was just as possessed by the devil as mine”.

Gromek was also shocked to discover the real reason this family was willing to host an exchange student from Poland. “They wanted me to help them set up a Fundamentalist Baptist church in my home country of Poland. It was God's will, they said. They tried to slip the topic casually into conversation, but it really shocked me -- I realized that was the only reason they had welcomed me into their family. They had already started construction work in Krakow -- I was to help them with translations and with spreading their faith via the media.”

Gromek was isolated and knew no one but the host family. He finally decided he had to get the hell out of there and applied for a new host family. But it took two more months for that to be arranged. He says the two months after his decision were extremely unpleasant. “There were constants rows. I could sense that they just wanted to get rid of me.”

Pope sees Brokeback Mountain Buys Gay Cowboy Hat. Vatican Stunned.

Dysfunctionality and religion.

I have referred to the Gregory Paul article, “Cross-National Correlations on Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism the Prosperous Democracies” before. It appeared in volume 7 of the the Journal of Religion & Society.

But since I was looking at the survey mentioned in the previous post I thought I’d revisit this analysis as well.

Does religiosity, particularly Christianity, improve a society? The answer seems to be that it does not. In fact there is plenty of evidence to conclude it makes people worse off.

This survey shows that to be the case. Now they used prosperous nations, which means mainly Western nations in their comparison. All of these nations have similar wealth levels and relatively similar cultures (which a few exceptions). But they are not all equally religious. The United States is by far the most religious of the prosperous nations and equally the one with the greatest levels of social problems.

Here are some of the conclusions.

First the US “is the only prosperous first world nation to retain rates of religiosity otherwise limited to the second and third worlds.” The most secular nations are Japan, the Nordic countries and France.

They find that as nations have become more secular, that is as fewer people fall for religion, homicide rates have dropped. They find “the U.S. is the only prosperous democracy that retains high homicide rates.... Similarly, theistic Portugal also has rates of homicides well above the secular developed democracy norm.”

They find: “LIfe spans tend to decrease as rates of religiosity rise, especially as a function of absolute belief.” They find, “rates of adolescent gonorrhea infection remain six to three hundred times higher in the U.S. than in less theistic, pro-evolution secular developed democracies. At all ages levels are higher in the U.S., albeit by less dramatic amounts. The U.S. also suffers from uniquely high adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, which are starting to rise again as the microbe’s resistance increases. The two main curable STDs have been nearly eliminated in strongly secular Scandinavia. Increasing adolescent abortion rates show positive correlation with increasing belief and worship of a creator, and negative correlation with increasing non-theism and acceptance of evolution; again rates are uniquely high in the U.S. Claims that secular cultures aggravate abortion rates (John Paul II) are therefore contradicted by the quantitative data. Early adolescent pregnancy and birth have dropped in the developed democracies (Abma et al.; Singh and Darroch), but rates are two to dozens of times higher in the U.S. where the decline has been more modest. Broad correlations between decreasing theism and increasing pregnancy and birth are present, with Austria and especially Ireland being partial exceptions.”

In conclusion: “In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies (Figures 1-9). The most theistic prosperous democracy, the U.S., is exceptional, but not in the manner Franklin predicted. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly. The view of the U.S. as a “shining city on the hill” to the rest of the world is falsified when it comes to basic measures of societal health. Youth suicide is an exception to the general trend because there is not a significant relationship between it and religious or secular factors. No democracy is known to have combined strong religiosity and popular denial of evolution with high rates of societal health. Higher rates of non-theism and acceptance of human evolution usually correlate with lower rates of dysfunction, and the least theistic nations are usually the least dysfunctional. None of the strongly secularized, pro-evolution democracies is experiencing high levels of measurable dysfunction. In some cases the highly religious U.S. is an outlier in terms of societal dysfunction from less theistic but otherwise socially comparable secular developed democracies. In other cases, the correlations are strongly graded, sometimes outstandingly so.”

Now the US is not having these social problems because it is poor. A lot of people think social dysfunctionality is rooted in poverty but that is not the case. That is why given money to socially dysfunctional individuals does not improve their lives. They remain socially dysfunctional and merely have more funds with which to fund the bad habits that such dysfunctionality creates.

The Left wants to throw money at dysfunctionality. Yet the US is very wealthy yet very dysfunctional. The Right wants to claim that more religion solves social problems yet the nation with the highest level of religiosity is the most dysfunctional. Neither more welfare nor more religion seems to be the answer.

Family values and fundamentalism

I've been having some fun looking at a multi-year survey done regarding religious attitudes in the United States. You can create your own charts using their data. So I looked at the correlation between fundamentalism and marital status. After all the fundies are such "family values" people. Now I have long thought they are on this kick because they are so bad at family life themselves, much the way the big anti-erotica campaigners tend to be obsessed with sex privately.

Unless I'm reading this wrong this survey says that 32.1% of all Americans are fundamentalists while 43% are moderates and 24.9% are liberals. I am suspecting that an atheist is a liberal on theology but that really isn't very precise. Nor do I know how they define their terms in general.

Now if 32.1% of people are fundamentalists then in the different marital groups they should be similarly represented if things were merely based on the odds. But of course religion changes how people act. And that allows us to get an idea as to how religion changes behavior regarding marital status.

When it comes to marriage the fundies are right on target with 32.1% of all married people being fundamentalists just as in the general population. But things diverge from there. Fundies are slightly more likely to be widowed (36.0/32.1). I thought this might be because they are more likely to be older. But in fact that is not the case, only 32.6% of people over 56 years of age are fundamentalists. I guess fundamentalists just get widowed at a higher than average rate.

But what about d.i.v.o.r.c.e (as Tammy Wynette sang it)? Fundamentalists are slightly more likely to be divorced (33.7/32.1) but that is a huge difference. But where the big jump shows up is those separated but not divorced (43.7/32.1). That would seem to indicate that fundamentalists are more likely to break up their marriages but some just prefer to do it de facto instead of de jure.

So what else did we learn from 40 year survey?

Fundamentalists are more likely to not finish high school and well underrepresented among college graduates. Where 32.1% of the population is fundamentalist only 16.6% of people with graduate degrees are fundies.

When it comes to employment fundies are less likely to be working fulltime (30.7), less likely to be working parttime (30.8), less likely to be in school (25.8) and more likely to be keeping house (36.6). This would indicate that a larger percentage of fundamentalists are women and that is my experience.

What is the family income for fundamentalists? Well they are more likely to earn less than $15,000 (38.5) and less likely to earn over $25,000 (27.4).

We also see that fundamentalism is still a regional trait. With Southerners twice as likely to be fundamenatlists while fundamentalists in New England are underrepresented by half.

Some questions from a reader.

One reader asked some fair questions in one of the comment sections and I would like to answer them as fairly as I can. I choose to do so here because they are good questions and worthy of reply. There were three questions in this comment and I will take them one at a time.

“Do all people who believe in God have to be morons?

No, but it helps. I’m not being sarcastic. The fact is that the lower the intelligence level of a person the more likely they are to be religious. The fact remains that the lower the IQ of an individual the more likely they are to believe in a deity. And the higher the IQ the less likely one is to be religious. The more intelligent a person the more likely they are to have an education. There is also a correlation between disbelief and education. Someone with a graduate degree is twice as likely to have no religion at all as someone with just some high school.

And a survey of members of the National Academy of Sciences, sort of the cream of intelligent people, found that on 7% said they had a belief in a deity.

A moron is someone lacking intelligence and the surveys do show that a lack of intelligence helps one to believe in the supernatural.

But one does not HAVE to be a moron to believe in magic men in the sky.

An intelligent person can believe. Some of the worst fallacies in history have been believed by intelligent people. Marxism, the most economically illiterate theory around was promoted by intelligent people. National Socialism (Nazism) was quite popular at the universities. But the fact remains that the more intelligent a person the more likely they are to be an atheist.

“Can some want to follow Jesus and not be religious and still think for themselves, and love philosophy?”

Can you think for yourself and follow the thinking of someone else? Obviously not. If you are following the teaching of someone else you are not thinking for yourself. But I don’t think that is what you are asking. I just think you worded it badly. I think you are asking if one can be a self-thinker and still conclude that the teachings of another person are correct. And the answer to that is that one can provided one has concluded these things for himself and not merely adopted them because this other person said such things.

And more importantly those believes that you adopt from this third party need to be beliefs you can personally justify. You must have some reason to think they are true and simply liking them is not enough. Why do you think they are true? What evidence can you marshal to their defense?

Philosophy is an attempt to understand the world. Religion is a primitive form of philosophy much the way alchemy is a primitive form of chemistry. An alchemist can love chemistry but is not a good chemists. A religionists can love philosophy but I don’t think they are a good philosopher.

Certainly the ethics of Jesus are not particularly unique. Other religions said the same things and often said them better. And the comments attributed to him by the gospels are relatively narrow in focus. His philosophy in particular is very narrow indeed. He only deals with some specifics and doesn’t approach the vast majority of issues dealt with by philosophers. And some argue his ethics are his weakest point. I personally think the ethics of Jesus are one of the foundations on which Marxism was built -- and I oppose Marxism.

“Can I be a Christian and stand against organized religion?”

Well, in my experience one can be a Christian and stand for absolutely anything. The ability of Christians to compartmentalize their beliefs is astounding. Most do not integrate their beliefs into a coherent whole because they can’t. Most believe that Jesus has the power to heal them but go to doctors instead. Most believe that Jesus can resurrect one but they still bury their dead instead of praying over them for a miracle.

My belief is that religion is inherently incoherent. It is based on false premises and comes to false conclusions. And the reason that organized religion is such a problem, something you tacitly acknowledge in your question, is because when a mass of people come together, based on a incoherent or false idea, they are actually dangerous. Irrationality in one person is a bad thing. Irrationality in a large collective body (and I would argue that is almost inevitable) is particularly dangerous.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mormonism in five minutes courtesy South Park

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fundie Bible student burns church

Word of Life Bible Institute is a fundamentalist school. It is “committed to a literal interpretation of the Bible and rejects any attempt to reinterpret Scripture...” Caleb Uriah Lussier is, or perhaps we should say was, a student there.

He’s in jail now. In May he broke into the Christ Episcopal Church and placed all the Bibles into a bag and removed them from the church. He wanted to save them. He then took gasoline and spread it around the church and burnt it to the ground. Why?

Well Lussier is a fundamentalist. He said the Episcopal Church was filled with, as the press put it, “hypocrites who deviated from the teachings of the Bible and the world of God.” One police officer said: “He didn’t think they were following the Bible the way he thought they should.”

Lussier is suspected in another church arson as well where a bag of Bibles was found outside the church. Like a good Right-wing Christian he also removed the flags that were inside the church as well. Lussier also sent threatening letters to other churches.

Beware the debate tactics of the fundamentalist

I thought I’d make a few comments today on the debating style of fundamentalists. This is something that every atheist needs to be aware of. And if an atheist/fundamentalist debate takes place I want to explain the rules that one must insist upon.

The first thing the Christianists have a tendency to do is to throw out 101 and different arguments. To make an assertion may take seconds and to rebut can takes minutes or more. They know this.

I remember reading some of the authoritarian rubbish published by Gary North, an advocate of theocracy, stoning people to death, etc. North spoke about how he would throw pages and pages of material at his opponents. The idea was not to get them to actually answer him at all. His goal was to make it impossible to answer. If you throw out 100 claims and the person pulls out the most important ones and replies to them the tactic is to ignore the replies entirely. Simply point out that he missed all the other points.

The idea of such a debate is not to, in fact debate the issues, but to force the opponent to withdraw from the debate. The fundamentalist does not debate to find out truth. They already know the truth since the Bible tells them what it is. There entire strategy is to score points.

So they will trot out one fallacious argument after another until their opponent wearies from the constant discussion that accomplishes nothing. He can debunk the first 10 arguments or claims only to find his opponent now ignoring those previous claims for 10 new ones. And it will go on and on. At some point the rationalist has to conclude that they are wasting their time and drops the issue. The fundamentalist then crows that they won a victory.

Another tactic they like to use is to make claims to someone when that person is not able to comment on those claims. I do not mean the claims are true but that are totally outside the realm of knowledge of the rationalist. There are various kinds of arguments that the fundamentalist can use. They could rely on philosophical arguments if they wish. They could make claims about the universe and physics if they wish. They could claim historical evidence for their beliefs.

So what is the tactic I’ve seen them use. When I watch a fundamentalist debate a philosopher they avoid philosophy entirely. Instead they make claims about physics. In one debate I witnessed the minister was up against a man who knew philosophy and history. So the minister avoided making claims in those two fields. Instead he concentrated on physics.

The philosopher/historian, being a honest man, said that physics is not his realm and that he can not address arguments based on claims in that field. The minister and his fanatical followers in the audience then took this as a victory. On the other hand if they were debates a physicist they would stay away from that field entirely and make claims about history.

The fundamentalist is not shy about making claims in fields where he, in fact, knows almost nothing. He walks into this debate that he has God’s truth and therefore any claim in these fields which appears to verify the predetermined truth must be accurate. And he’ll repeat it. An honest opponent, who would speak about the fields he knows, is at the disadvantage. He knows he is not knowledgeable enough on that topic to make assertions. The fundamentalist has no such restriction. They will make claims in any field even if they have very little, or no, understanding of the field itself.

Now I think both these topics are inherently dishonest. But then I think most fundamentalists are intellectually dishonest. They are not seekers of truth at all. They are “knowers” of truth battling for their deity. So, in fact, they can not be convinced since they are now open to being convinced in most cases.

In debates with fundamentalists (including those who are not Christian fundamentalists but who have the same sort of mentality) there are some rules that need to be established up front.

The debate needs to be limited to a specific topic and not some broad generality. For instance “Does God Exist?” is far too broad a topic. It allows the 101 argument approach and it allows the fundamentalist to make false claims outside the field of his opponent.

If a fundamentalist and a rationalist debates it must be a precise debate. If the fundamentalist says he wants to debate whether science indicates an intelligent designer that is very specific. I would then agree that a debate between him and a credentialled advocate of evolution would be appropriate. But the fundie must be strictly told to stay on topic. Otherwise he will try to divert attention from his own weak arguments by dragging in unrelated claims outside the field of his opponent.

Secondly, the debate needs to be further limited in focus so that the 101 approach can’t be used. It is too dishonest an approach for any legitimate debate. So if the debate is on how science proves intelligent design then I would suggest it be further divided into: “The three strongest scientific arguments for intelligent design.”

The advocate of the pro position can pick which three issues he wishes to concentrate upon. He then says I will be debating for intelligent design based upon the issues of A, B, and C. He need not give his arguments in advance merely define the parameters of the debate.

Under those conditions it is possible to have a real debate. But beware that even then there is a high chance the fundamentalist will try to smuggle in points D,E,F,G through to Z as well as include topics not originally agreed upon. His only hope of winning is to force his opponent into debating outside his field of knowledge or to swamp him with more claims than it is possible to respond to.

I so clearly remember the one fundamentalist minister literally using his 10 minute opening statement to make several dozen claims. Each claim, while false, only took a few seconds to make. To rebut those claims adequately would take at least a few minutes each. By making a few dozen such claims he guaranteed that his opponent, according to the rules of the debate, could not possibly respond to all these points. In fact it would be hard for him to even remember all the points. Some were made so fast that the opponent wouldn’t have had time to take notes even.

And, as anticipated, the opponent could not reply to all three dozen claims. The fundamentalist proclaimed he had won the debate because his opponent didn’t reply all his claims. The fundies in the audience applauded and walked convinced that God’s side had won again. Of course it is impossible to convince them otherwise.

Monday, November 20, 2006

What will Christians say about a naked Harry Potter?

Oh dear. When word of this gets out the Christianists are going to have fits - again. Daniel Radcliffe is the young star of the Harry Potter films. And Christians hate Harry Potter. Various fundamentalist types have been mounting campaigns to have the book banned from public libraries, school libraries, etc.

Their problem is that the Potter books are make-believe. But Christians can’t tell the difference between the fictional and factual. They think there really are witches, demons, devils and the like. So to them the Harry Potter books are pure evil.

And Mr. Radcliffe, 17, is not on their list of favorite people since he is the young man who brings Harry Potter to life in the films.

Well now it gets worse -- at least for the Christians. Radcliffe is about to take a live role on stage in London. And this is going to get fundamentalist tongues wagging -- provided they know what the play is about.

The play is a psychology drama by Peter Shaffer about a disturbed young man, played now by Radcliffe, Alan Strang. Strang commits a horrible crime were he blinds some horses and a psychologist is working with the lad to try find out why this happened. By the way the psychologist is being played by Richard Griffiths, who played Harry Potter’s nasty Uncle Vernon in the film.

Eventually the therapist unweaves the intricacies of Strang’s mind. He finds that the boy’s mother was hyper-religious and she had placed a graphic painting of the dying Jesus above the boy’s bed. As Strang went through puberty and his hormones ran rampant he would bring himself to orgasm. But this image of torture was there for to see. And this leads to his incident with the horses. (I’m reluctant to say much as this will run the plot.)

So all this imagery of the crucifixion and it’s connection to a warped teen is going to be enough. But then it gets worse -- at least worse for Christians. As the Brits would say there are scenes in the production where Alan Strang gets “his kit off”. In other words he’ll be standing, facing the audience, delivering a monologue with “his willy” for all the world to see.

In fact for 60 audience members there will be seats up on the stage, very up front and personal. A writer for London’s Daily Mail said: “I predict that those 60 seats on stage are going to be the most sought-after seats in London.”

Now the legions of teen age girls who moon after Radcliffe will be saving their pennies -- along with quite a few teenage boys with the same sentiments. And they will be able to get in. The producer of the show, David Pugh, said: “I am not going to start playing the game where I say you can’t come because you are 11 or you can’t come because you are 14. Who the hell am I to start saying that? I saw the play at 14 and it changed my life. If I hadn’t seen it I wouldn’t be producing it now.”

And Harry Potter discussion web sites already have had messages from teen age fans saying they are trying to get in to see the show. One 13-year-old girl posted a message saying she wondered what Radcliffe looked like naked only to have the message removed. Another girl said she was already “buttering up” her mother to get permission to see the play.

The nude scene is not a fleeting one. I’ve see the stage production and the film version. And for a nude shot it is relative long -- the scene that is. Pugh says “Daniel is fully committed to the role and he has not asked for any special favours.” That is theatre talk for Harry Potter will be naked on stage. But Pugh points out: “The nudity and those scenes are an essential part of the story. We are not doing it as an excuse to show Harry Potter’s willy.”

The matter was discussed openly with Radcliffe and his parents and his agent. “There were no issues Daniel was worried about. He said he would play whatever’s in the script.”

Radcliffe apparently really wanted to do the show. Author Peter Shaffer has been turning down requests to allow a revival of the play. But he changed his mind when Radcliffe did a private performance of the part for him. Pugh said he’s been wanting to do the play for some years but couldn’t find the right boy for the part. “When Daniel performed for us at the workshop we couldn’t take our eyes off him.” I suspect it will be like that in the theatre -- particularly during certain scenes. I wonder how long it will be before hidden cell phone photos of the willy in question appear on the internet.

Since Radcliffe is worth something like $40 million he isn’t taking the part because he needs the money. The fan web site announced that through the site fans could book tickets directly before they go on sale to the public.

Somehow I can't see this happening in Texas.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Penguin tale upsets fundamentalists

The intensity, in certain circles, of antigay hostility is truly astounding. Now consider the following true story. Two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York City (obviously liberal penguins) cared for a fertilized egg together and co-operated together to raise the chick. A completely true story.

A story book about this true incident was published and the fundamentalist crowd is apoplectic. Baptist Press is shrieking that the story book “has ignored an important fact -- the penguins long ago split up, with one of them going on to nest with the opposite sex.”

Ah, folks, did you notice we are talking about penguins here. They are birds. To crow (pardon the pun) that the penguins “split up” is about the silliest thing I ever heard. Two penguins of the same sex raised a chick and exhibited some homosexual behaviour. But the idea that a bird has a sexual orientation is a bit premature. Homosexual behaviour has been documented in many, many species. It is not unknown in the animal world any more than in the human world. But is it the same a human sexual orientation? That is not clear to me.

Presumably Baptist Press (who knew Baptist’s could read?) thinks there was a plot to cover up the “break up” of the penguins. (I honestly can’t believe I’m speaking about penguins “breaking up”.) BP reports: “Although the six-year relationship between Silo and Roy [the two male penguins] made headlines nationwide, the breakup was mentioned far less. The book was published before the two penguins split.”

And then they quote the fundamentalist Warren Throckmorton as saying that the penguin who left for a female was the “world’s first ex-gay penguin.” Throckmorton said: “"At times gay activists will use the animal kingdom to support the link between naturalism and human sexuality, and yet when Silo ... took up with a female penguin, the gay activists were downplaying the importance of that,. You can't have it both ways. It either means something or it doesn't."

It either means something or it doesn’t. Cut and dried, white and black. Typical fundamentalist thinking. It can mean something in one way but not in another way at the same time. Does it mean animals have sexual orientations? Not necessarily. But it does mean that homosexual behaviour, which is different from one’s sexual orientation, is not uncommon in the animal world. Fundamentalists used to claim that only sinful humans engaged in gay sex. And they claimed that proved homosexuality is unnatural -- a term they seem incapable of defining in a logical way.

Old Warren says: “"What we shouldn't do is commit the naturalistic fallacy that if it's natural then it's morally acceptable, I don't get my moral reasoning from watching the barnyard. I get my moral compass from other places. If I want to know what's moral, I go to church. I don't go to the barnyard."

As if church is a reliable place to learn about morality.

Whether or not penguins have gay sex does not address whether gay sex for humans is “moral” only whether it is natural. And natural means found in nature. Now Throckmorton’s fellow Bible addicts had proclaimed for decades that the alleged “absence” of homosexual conduct in the animal kingdom proved that “not even animals” would stoop “so low” as to engage in gay sex. So they were wrong. And now they turn the argument inside-out to attack people who support equal rights for gays.

As I said animal behaviour only tells us what is natural not what is moral. And equally it tells us what is natural and not what is immoral. But that claim was made by the Religious Right for decades until they were once again show to be ignorant of reality -- they delve in reality so little one can hardly blame them for being so woefully misinformed.

Now what would make homosexuality immoral? First, not that absurd collection of fairy tales called the Bible or the other absurd collection called the Qu’ran. Cloaking ancient bullshit with god talk doesn’t make it a source of rational morality.

I start with some certain presuppositions regarding my moral code. First, is one doing something that violates the life, liberty or property of another person? If the answer is yes then I say it is immoral and it ought to be a crime.

Next I ask if one is doing something that is inherently self-destructive? Consenting sexual activity between adults is not inherently self-destructive. Now there is a case to be made that indiscriminate sexual contact is inherently self-destructive but that is true no matter the genders of the partners. Something that is inherently self-destructive, is, I believe, immoral. But homosexuality is no more inherently destructive than heterosexuality.

My ethical values however go much deeper. I also ask whether or not one is treating their partner in a loving manner. There can be cases where a voluntary sexual encounter is inappropriate, even immoral, merely because one party has “used” the other in a manner that they have reasonable cause to believe will cause distress for the other. That to me is immoral although it is certainly not a crime and ought to remain outside the realm of the legal system.

But what amazes me is the inability of fundamentalists to see morality in a proper perspective. They seem to focus almost exclusively on the genitals. I have heard parents saying the most abominable, damaging things to their children. And good Christians just ignore this. But let two adults rub their genitals together and the fundamentalist explodes.

I remember one time I was in New York City’s Washington Square near the great arch. A young boy, I would guess around 14, was practicing his tennis serves by hitting the ball against the arch. His father was standing there “instructing” him. But this man was a monster. He would scream the most abusive things at this boy if he missed the ball. The man was psychotic in my opinion and I’m sure that the boy today has little to do with the creep.

At first when you hear this abuse you are taken aback. My first thought was one of disbelief. Did I actually hear what I thought I heard? He was now quiet and I ignored it. Then there was another vile outburst at the child. I turned to watch. And then another. I had enough now. The park was filled with people and they all pretended they didn’t hear a thing. This was child abuse. It may not have been physical, though I am convinced that the man was not beyond that, but it was severe abuse.

I lost my temper and went after the bastard. I started screaming at him. He seemed horrified that anyone would say to him anything remotely similar to the way he was treating his young son. The boy was shaking and trying to tell me: “No, it’s my fault. It’s my fault. Don’t yell at him.” At that point I knew this kid had been abused his entire life and had accepted the lie that he was responsible for his treatment. I wanted to smack this father right then and there. I told him off and walked away because I was on the verge of assault.

A few seconds later I heard this mindless fuck scream again at the boy and turned to go back. A man who had witnessed my intervention however decided he would say something. And he was now letting this father have it as well.

Now if public surveys are anything to go by the overwhelming majority of people in that park were Christians. Yet it took a godless atheist to stand up for a child who was being terribly abused. The others just ignored it and only after I said something did another person step in.

But what do you think would have happened it these people stumbled across two individuals rubbing their genitals. Outrage. Now I’m not saying it is appropriate to have sex in public view. But I am saying the Christians have a disproportionate view of what it means to be moral.

Even if I assume, and I don’t, that homosexuality is “immoral” it would be so far down the list of moral crimes as to warrant almost no attention at all. A man who mistreats his wife bothers me a lot more than two individuals fo the same sex loving one another. There are so many “sins” rooted in hatred and contempt for others. Yet these get ignored.

We have Christianists endorsing the use of torture by the US government. We have the use of torture ordered by a self-proclaimed “Christian” president. And most fundamentalists are saying nothing about it and those who do speak out are endorsing it! Let two men kiss each other good bye in public and watch how the Christians respond. The kiss offends them. Torture doesn’t.

All around us we have people inflicting emotional, and often physical, pain on others. And the fundamentalists are in the forefront of inflicting such pain. They intentionally say things which are meant to hurt people. And to me anyone that intentionally tries to inflict emotional pain on others is immoral. And that immorality is of a far more serious nature than any two adults voluntarily touching one another in way intended to give pleasure.

What sort of warped values must one have to spend so much time attacking people for bringing pleasure to one another while ignoring those who inflict pain, discomfort and abuse?

Friday, November 17, 2006

The White Rose

Some years ago I became a admirer of a tiny band of students who called themselves the White Rose. It started with five students, all in the early 20s from Munich University. The White Rose had but a short life, from June 1942 to February 1943 but these brave students should never be forgotten.

At a time when the Nazi dictatorship was at its height of power these students printed leaflets questioning the basic ideas of national socialism. They appealed to a tradition of human rights and classical liberalism.

On February 18, 1943 the brother and sister team of Hans and Sophie Scholl took the newest leaflet to the university and scattered them in a hallway for students to find. As they were leaving they noticed they still had some more leaflets undistributed. Sophie took them to the top of the stairs and flung them into the air. A janitor witnessed this and betrayed them to the Gestapo. They were arrested along with anyone associated with them.

Four days later they were sentenced to death and beheaded. Their last tract was smuggled out of Germany and Allied planes dropped millions of copies of it on Germany during the war. As Hans Scholl went to his death he said: “Es lebe die Freiheit!” (Long live freedom.)

The students of the White Rose were executed because they didn’t believe what the all powerful government of the day demanded that they believe. Worse yet they expressed their disbelief. They published their skepticism and urged others to share their heresy.

From the janitor who betrayed them to the judge who order their deaths to the government that ran the court these people were held in utter disrepute. They are today considered monsters and rightfully so. Civilized people do not believe in executing or punishing people for their beliefs.

So what do we make of Jehovah?

Here is an alleged deity who promises that he will punish individuals for their thought crimes for the rest of eternity. The torment that the Nazis inflicted on the students of the White Rose ended with a guillotine blade. The torment we are promised by Jehovah is eternal. In that sense his torture is far worse than any inflicted by human monsters.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

More who would Jesus landscape.

We recently learned, via a couple of fundamentalist types, that Jesus would not offer landscaping services to homosexuals. That refusing to work with gays is the Christian thing to do. Well the morons who came up with that idea have finally done a press interview and they are, well, the very morons I said they were. And they showed, inadvertantly, that their fellow born again types are equally as hateful and vicious. Sabrina Farber, the woman who seems to speak for husband in violation of New Testament principles, says that they got an extra $40,000 worth of business from their fellow bigots.

Of course she could be just lying as well. Hard to tell when Christians are lying or when they believe something since they don't need evidence for anything just faith. Her reply to the people who were shocked at her blatant bigotry was to say: "Why can't people handle it when you say the truth?"

Exactly what "truth" was it? What she said was that she and her husband will not work for gays. That expresses her bigotry but nothing about truth. If I say I don't like liver that expresses my preferences but says nothing about truth. These Bible-mongers are so confused by their obsessive hatreds that they confuse preferences, like bigotries, with truth.

She said her husband had landscaped for gays in the past but that he "grieved" over visiting their homes. Grieved?

Of course like other fundamentalists Farber is convinced that their hatred is really love. Gee, the Nazis must have really loved the Jews. Sabrina (isn't that a witches name?) said that the choice to refuse to work for gyas is not a "jugdmental choice or a hating choice". She is so used to twisting reality to fit her fundamentalist views she can't see the obvious. What else is it? Of course it is both judgmental and hateful.

Come on, it doesn't take but two seconds to find how fundamentalists are consumed with hatred for homosexuals. It's drips from their mouths in their sermons, it is preached in their schools, it is found in their tracts describing homosexuals in the most vile of terms. And then they find they are emotional "grieved" when near these "sinners" so they refuse to come near such people. But that isn't being judgmental or hateful. Next you thing you know she'll be telling us how smart fundamentalists are?

The scary thing is that Sabrina and hubby have five kids. Still young kids too. What if one of them were gay? Imagine how this action by his parents (4 boys and one girl from the photo I saw) might effect one of the boys if he finds he is gay. While parents like this might well deserve the trauma of grappling with finding a child of theirs is gay no child should have parents like this.

Friday, November 10, 2006

And now for some equal time

The fundamentalist nutters deserve what they get but I think I should take some time out for other kind of lunatics. And who better than the crazy Scientologists. Enjoy this take on them.

Who would Jesus landscape?

There they go again. You know it one thing to say that gays are evil sinners undeserving of the right to marry. It is an absurd belief out of the Dark Ages but no where on the same level as people saying we despise homosexuals so much we refuse to even have dealings with someone who is gay. And don’t get me wrong. Bigots have the right to stay away from the people they hate provided they don’t use force against someone else. I defend the right of assholes to be assholes. And I defend the right to call them assholes too.

We go back down to the Theocratic Republic of Texas once again. (I am starting to think that the water down there contains something that lobotomizes people. Of course the Bible has a unique ability to cut off the rational faculties as well.) In Houston we have a garden service called “Garden Guy” that is “guy” not “gay” please note.

Michael Lord and Gary Lackey are a gay couple and they sent out requests for landscaping bids on their home. Well, Garden Guy is owned by “Christians” and they sent back an email saying they would not quote on the job or even look at the property, “we cannot meet with you because we choose not to work for homosexuals.” The typical Christian, loving, what-would-Jesus-do-if-were-a-gardner sort of thing.

Lord and Lackey told friends of this incredible response over a landscaping job and the word spread from there. Some people stupidly sent messages as hateful as the one the Christians typically send. Others merely expressed dismay at this sort of bigotry. And the Jesus addicts out there applauded and lauded them.

The owners say they have been flooded by messages from Christians cheering them on. And the silly woman who started the ruckus says: “We’ve become accidentally crusaders for Christ.” Really? Exactly which verse was it that said: “Thou shalt not landscape for homosexuals.” I missed that one. In fact it didn’t even come up at Bible college.

Now you might think it says homosexuals are dogs worthy of death -- that is a favorite theme of many Christianists. But no where does it say that if you own a landscaping business you are forbidden to do work for homosexuals.

Of course up to a few weeks ago the couple would have been thrilled to landscape for Ted Haggard. Apparently the good moral Christians also portrayed themselves as members of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (who knew they existed). But the Association says they are misrepresenting themselves (thou shalt not lie) as they are not current members at all. And the Association says their “conduct does not conform to the policy and practice of the APLD.”

In fact I’d like to see more Christianists follow a policy similar to this. I think every born-again Jesus addict ought to refuse to allow fire-fighters to put out a fire on their property until they have written assurances from each and every member of the team that they are god-fearing heterosexuals. And to prove their faith in Jesus they should sit right there in side of the house until that happens. If Jehovah could protect Daniel in the furnace he can protect these accidental warriors for Jesus.

And before they dial 911 for help they need to know that the person taking the call is not gay and that no gay police members service on the police force. You sure as hell don’t want some homosexual with a gun coming around to your good Christian home. And hospitals! Don’t forget the hospitals. A good Christian who wants nothing to do with ______ (fill in the blank with whichever group God hates today) should be making sure that they don’t seek medical care with such people.

It is time these Christianists really separate themselves from evil. They should not buy from any store that will not give them a 100% guarantee of heterosexuality among their employees. No bisexuals either. Bisexuals are just people who sin with both sexes!

They should not even attend churches without absolute assurance that no homosexuals are there. In fact they better check out those kids lest any of them be budding pre-homosexuals. They should not buy electricity from producers who hire homosexuals, purchase water from companies that might employ such sinners, or drive in cars that might have had a homosexual involved in the design, production, distribution or sale of the vehicle. And while they're at it they better toss out that King James Bible -- apparently the King was a queen. He was buried with both his main male lovers. In fact the one is the only non-royalty buried there.

In the name of Christ they ought to cut themselves off from anything and everything that has anything whatsoever to do with gay men or women. They might have trouble finding employment and admittedly they couldn’t drive, fly, take a train, a bus or even walk (sidewalk could have been built by a company that hires gays) anywhere. They’d need to grow their own food (and hopefully it would rain since the water supply could be tainted by gay labor). They have to grow cotton and weave their own cloth for clothes. They’d be no entertainment but they can read the good book for enjoyment but only during day light).

Maybe they should just moved into a cave and hunt animals. Back to the stone age ought to be their motto. It describes their mentality and it describes where they would be in they consistently tried to implement this policy.

I do like the views of Ray Hill, a former evangelical Baptist (smart man) who said: “The Garden Guy isn’t the only landscape company in the Yellow Pages.” Amen, brother, amen.

And for those of you who still fantasize that the illusion of socialism works please note. Marriage is a government monopoly. Notice how almost universally gays get screwed on that. Why? Because there is no competition. But what effect can the bigots at Garden Guy really have on homosexuals? Very, very little. All they do is increase the business for their competitors.

Competition is great. Monopoly services are not regardless of who runs them. And government is the biggest monopoly of them all with all the defects one would expect.

And one last thought on these silly people. What would have happened if these accidental Jesus warriors had gone into a store and been told “We’re sorry we don’t serve Christians”? I suggest that the Christians would be in an uproar. There would be no talk about how a small business ought to have the right to choose it’s clientele. They would be weeping and gnashing teeth lamenting the awful treatment that they were receiving.

Now you know I think Jesus said a lot of things that were nonsense, provided the gospels quote him accurately. But for the life of me I don’t remember anything he said that could remotely be interpreted to justify this sort of stupidity.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Help a blogger arrested for his secular thoughts.

Abdel Karim Suliman Amer is a young Egyptian blogger. He is a defender of rights for women and freedom in general. Though raised a Muslim he defends secularism and has criticized aspect of Islam he finds unacceptable. And he has paid a high price for speaking his mind. First, he was thrown out of Al-Azhar University because of comments he made on his blog. Worse yet the university then went to prosecutors about him. And now he has been arrested and is being held in jail. It is important to have as many people as possible sign a letter of protest being organized by moderate Muslims in support of Kareem (as he is known on his blog).

Use this link to sign a protest.

For more information on the situation you can go here.

He has been arrested before but was released. The first time he was arrested over his opinions he wrote: "I wasn't jailed, for my mind was and still is free... if my body was jailed then there is nothing new about it, it only means that I was moved a big jail into a small disciplanary cell because I did not follow the rules that the seventy million Egyptians are forced to abide by, and I broke the widespread tradition in the Great Jail of the Arab Republic of Egypt!"

"It is very terrible that freedom would be taken from a human being because of an opinion or belief of his, but... it is very beautiful that his detention would be an encouragement for him to stick by his principles, and a reason for him to defy and hold on to what he thinks is right, even if he violates the traditions and beliefs of the majority of the people within the boundaries of his society..."

As of now the charges against him appear to be spreading "malicious rumours that disrupt public security," "defaming the president of Egypt," "incitement to overthrow the regime," "incitement to hate Islam" and "breach of the public peace." As you can see these are all thought crimes.

Feel free to use this information of copy it fully if you wish. It is important to get this out to the blogger community and send in tens of thousands of letters of appeal.

ORU goes further

I reported on how Oral Roberts Unversity went in and tried to erase the fact that they were giving an award to Ted Haggard for Distinguished Service to God. There problem was that the original material could still be found through the page source function on the computer. To rectify that little problem they have deleted the entire page completely.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A blast from the past.

Colorado Springs has been called the “evangelical Vatican of the West.” For those not in the know the “evangelical Vatican” is Wheaton, Illinois.

And as life would have it I lived on Gundersen Drive which is the same street as about a dozen major evangelical organizations. For proximity I was living on the 500 block and Christianity Today is headquartered on the 400 block. In fact I worked at one of the major evangelical organisation there but I shall spare them a mention.

So back to Colorado Springs. One of the evangelical “ministries” there is a place called The Summit. I first heard about the Summit in my previous life as a born again nutter (now fully recovered thank you). The Summit is an old hotel which was purchased by Rev. Billy James Hargis in 1962.

Now Hargis is not so well known anymore. One reason is that he died in 2004. But he was a major force on the Christian Right in the 50s, 60s and 70s. He was a rotund man who was obsessed with the Communist conspiracy to take over America.

The current leader of The Summit is Rev. David Noebel, who worked closely with Hargis for years. Hargis operated a campaign called Christian Crusade. But make no mistake about it David Noebel was playing second-fiddle to the main man: Billy James Hargis. Hargis was the speaker and Hargis was the man who raised the money they needed.

But if you go to Summit Ministries web site you will find no mention of Hargis at all. Down the memory hole. Even though Hargis was instrumental in starting The Summit he gets no mention whatsoever and Noebel is listed as the founder.

Now let us go to a trip I was taking across country. Not to Colorado but close enough. It was a two day drive either way. There were three of us sharing a camper truck. Myself, a young lady and this older gentleman who owned the camper and was doing the driving. We were going to a conference. Along the way, there and back, I and the young lady had a lot of time to talk. I had known her but not very well but got to know her better on the trip.

She was a student at American Christian College at the time. Hargis used to travel the country on campaigns with “The All-American Kids” a group of students from the college who would sing at his rallies. She was a member of this group.

And we got to talking about the school and about Hargis. She confided to me some things which astounded me at the time.

Now remember that Hargis was one of the biggest fundamentalists on the political scene at the time. But I learned that Mr. Hargis, like Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, et al had another side to him.

Apparently two the students got engaged. No surprise there until they got married. On the night of the honeymoon they felt they needed to confess their sins to each other. Neither he nor she were virgins. Not particularly shocking if you think about it. Except they both had lost their virginity to the same man: Billy James Hargis. And Hargis was the man who had performed their wedding. How cozy.

The vice president of the college was David Noebel.

The whole incident came to light as word went around campus as to what had happened. I figure if I had heard about it surely it was common knowledge on campus. Apparently it was. And as people started talking three more young men came forward to admit that Hargis had sex with them as well. All in all there were four male students and one female student who had sex with Hargis. One the students began a three-year sexual involvement when he was about 16 years old.

Noebel was told about this and he told the school board. They faced Hargis who admitted the incidents but said it was the fault of “genes and chromosomes”. (Actually a far more accurate answer than the one Haggard was concocting).

Hargis was basically forced out, or bought off depending on how you interpret it. He was given a large sum of cash to retire and promised a yearly stipend to leave. Noebel got Summit Ministries. The college, without Hargis to raise the funds, closed in 1977. Hargis got to pretend he was retiring for health reasons.

But in a short time the various ministries Hargis founded were having cash problems and most of them agreed to let Hargis take over again. The college did not and obviously neither did Summit Ministries in Colorado Springs.

Time magazine described Hargis as an “ultra-right Fundamentalist” who “has long denounced sexual sin and spoken out as a defender of traditional values in an increasingly lax society.” Yep, that’s pretty accurate. But boy isn’t this de’ja vu all over again.

Hargis was very, very close to the ultra-right John Birch Society that preached there was a secret conspiracy by bankers to take over the world. Noebel, like Hargis, was also close the Birchers and believes the same conspiracy theories.

Noebel, like Haggard, is on (or was in the case of Haggard) close friends with James Dobson of the antigay Focus on the Family. All in Colorado Springs. But now you know why Billy James Hargis disappeared down the memory hole at Summit Ministries.

Haggard was not the first, neither was Hargis for that matter. And Haggard certainly won’t be the last. Already some names are floating about. People have become sick and tired of the moralizing and the push for theocracy and far, far more willing to expose such people than they ever have been before.

Here is a photo of Noebel with Hargis.

Down the Memory Hole

A certain minister who we shall not name is an alumnus of Oral Roberts University. That is not surprising. And if you do a Google search "ORU distinguished God Ted Haggard" you get a hit saying "For his Distinguished Service to God, ORU will be honoring Ted Haggard, Class of 1978..." It will take you to this page. But you will be hard pressed to find any mention of the man.

But if you do a page source on the web page you find what used to be there. Admittedly its in there with all the html crap but it is there. It says: "For his Distinguished Service to God, ORU will be honoring Ted Haggard, Class of 1978. Haggard is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, as well as the senior pastor of the thriving New Life Church in Colorado Springs. In 2005, Time magazine named Haggard one of "The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America." A powerful voice in both ministry and government, Harper's magazine asserted, "No pastor in America holds more sway over the political direction of evangelicalism than does Pastor Ted, and no church more than New Life." Haggard has also written (or co-written) over a dozen books, and lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Gayle, and their five children."

Gee, how quickly they have flushed him down the memory hole.

I had hoped this filth was over.

I had hoped the filth about Haggard was over. And then I read the Denver Post's account of what went on at Haggard's church. Haggard is still denying he had gay sex so what was the "sexual immoality" to which he confessed? Could somebody make sense out of this pile of crap that is being pushed out by these people?

And the depth of hatred these people have for gays is astounding. The Denver paper says that one of the pastors involved in the inquiry "said Haggard's admission that he received a massage from a gay man was enough grounds for the board to remove him." Did you get that?

This man is saying that even if there were no sex involved the fact that Haggard was touched by gay man was sufficient grounds for dismissing him from his position.

Now it is clear these men don't believe Haggard and who can blame them. But still to justify their charge of "sexually immoral conduct" on the basis of a massage is a bit lame. I was actually surprised they ruled so quickly especially since they have never bothered to collect any evidence. They merely spoke to Haggard. I would have thought they'd gather more facts first. But apparently they don't need them. Certainly had I been on the board (not likely) I would have suggested speaking to the accuser first. I wasn't on the board so I wasn't restrained by that position but apparently neither was the board.

This pastor also said that Haggard "is not in touch with truth and reality, and he readily admitted that." Duh! If he were in touch with truth and reality he couldn't be a fundamentalist. But I supposed they mean he is still lying about his situation. Of course he is. He's been taught to lie about it for his entire life. It is pretty clear that Haggard is gay and doing the wife and kids thing because he felt he had to do it to make God happy. Haggard supposedly told htem that there were "warning signs" about desiring men. But this pastor assured the paper that homosexuality is not a predisposition but a temption to be fought.

What an idiot! Doesn't he realize that is exactly the attitude that pushed Haggard into marrying and that is why his wife is in such pain today!

The church says they will have the inquiry board spend more time with Haggard looking at his sexual "issues". They intend to make him take a lie detector test and will bring in a psychologist. No doubt one of the frauds from the "exgay movement" who replace pschology with theology.

Haggard saga closed.

The Haggard saga is over. But the sick attitudes of fundamentalism lives on. Haggard admitted that he lied about everything. But the self-loathing that fundamentalism imposes on those people unfortunate enough to be caught in its web, who are gay, spewed out of Haggard like the intellectual vomit that it is. Here are Haggard's sickening words:

"I am guilty of sexual immorality, I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark and I've been warring against it my entire adult life.

And right up to the last he still has to try and claim the accusations are not "all" true. He has refused to say what is untrue. But what is there left? Two accusation were made. One that he had sex with a male prostitute and second that he used drugs. We have recordings of him ordering the drugs. His own church said he is guilty of sexual immorality. That covers the lot but Haggard still wants to leave something unnamed open.

As long as these people thinkl, based on that pack of lies called the Bible, that being gay is "repulsive and dark" then will turn out countless tragedies like this. A damnable religion and a damnable book and people suffer because of it. It was this attitude that forced Haggard to hide the facts and to hurt an innocent family.

None so blind as those who refuse to see

One can't help but feel compassion for Ted Haggard's wife and children. This has to be awful for them. But we must not remember how the church itself brought about this tragedy. As I said the church will refuse to consider their own role in this sad affair.

And one example of that is remarks from one of Haggard's congregation. Christine Rayes said: "This doesn't make what Ted accomplished here any less. The farther up you are, the more you are a target for Satan." It wasn't the devil it was Ted.

See it was that mythical beast Satan. The devil made him do it. Will these people ever embrace reality?

And then just a short distance from Haggard's congregation the repulsive George Bush was engaged in more gay-baiting. There he was campaigning for another Theopublican, Marilyn Musgrave, who like Haggard is a Pentecostal who also campaigned against gays. And Bush made sure he appealed to this bigotry in his speech.

There is this massive layer of lies that the fundamentalist must with in order to remain a fundamentalist. And now they will work extra hard to push Haggard back into the closet he never wanted to leave in the first place. And when that is done they will pretend that their faith has been vindicated.

And it will happen again and again and again and they will never learn. See in fundamentalist circles there is a lot more in closets than just skeletons.

Haggard dismissed by his church for sexual immorality

In spite of Ted Haggard’s claims to the contrary not even his own church believes him. Claiming first that he never knew the male prostitute he later changed his story and said he did know him. He claimed he never had sex with the man just had a massage. And he initially denied that he bought drugs and then changed it as well claiming he bought them but threw them away -- several times.

Unrealistic! Unbelievable! Apparently even his own church has trouble believing the twisted stories that Haggard invented. On Saturday the board set up by Haggard’s church to investigate the accusations said: “Our investigation and Pastor Haggard’s public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct.”

In other words Haggard was having gay sex while leading an antigay campaign.

They said that the only solution they see is to dismiss him from his position. They claim Haggard agrees with them and will be issuing a letter of apology. Haggard is again changing his story, he is supposedly admitting that he had sex with the man. I expect we’ll still see some bizarre claims by Haggard -- bizarre claims and fundamentalism just go together.

Of course these fundamentalists believe that religion can change sexual orientation. So they are saying that Haggard can “get healing and restoration.” I suspect it is a matter of time before Haggard pretends once again that is 100% heterosexual, just as he has been pretending for his entire adult life. He will repent and be forgiven and there is a good chance he’ll be back in the pulpit if he does.

Only the fact that Mike Jones, the former prostitute, had evidence that he knew Haggard prevented a whitewash in my opinion. Haggard was denying even knowing Jones until the tapes of him were released.

What I am fairly sure of is that the churches that are in the Haggard tradition will demand he reflect on his own life but they will not reflect on their own views. How can they? Once God’s word settles it then it is settled. And they think the Bible has all the answers in the world -- at least all the answers that are important.

They will not reflect upon how their own view on homosexuality pushed men like Haggard deep into the closet. they will not reflect on how their beliefs encourage such men to marry, to have families without changing their sexual orientation, without being able to change their sexual orientation. They will not reflect on how the pain to Haggard’s wife and five children is directly related to the repression that they actively encourage.

Their fundamentalist mentality does not allow them to see the world as it is. They can not perceive reality as it exists. They instead see the tortured world of the Bible and they insist that all reality be twisted to fit the Scriptures. The war against gays that fundamentalists engage in is not really a war against gays at all. Gays are only one battle and symptomatic of the problem with fundamentalism. They merely illustrate the issue, they are not the issue.

The issue is that fundamentalists can not accept the
world as it exists. They are at war with reality. Their creationism is an example of their war with reality. Anything which does not fit the collection of fairy tales they idolize is reshaped until it does. The Bible is the Procrustean Bed by which all life is either amputated or stretched.

Two thousand years ago, and more, some unknown people, created stories. Some are wonderful some purely barbaric. Other people collected those stories and called them holy. And since then other people have been using those ancient stories to try and tell people how to live. And the result has been centuries of pain and horror. From the executions and torture of the Inquisition to the mental torture and legal harassment and inequality of gays misery has been the result of this bibliolatry.

The really sad thing here is that the fundamentalists will not look within themselves. They can’t. They are not allowed, by their own faith, to question what they believe. So they will continue to go on inflicting mental torture on new generations of Ted Haggard’s. And they will feel good about it.

Remember the words of Thomas Jefferson: “On the dogmas of religion, as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and abbsolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.”

Friday, November 03, 2006

More on the Haggard saga.

Update on the Haggard saga. As is now known there were two sets of accusations levelled against Haggard. One is that he had regular sex with a male escort and the other is that during these encounters he used illegal drugs. On Wednesday Haggard denied both. He said: “I’ve never had a gay relationship with anybody. I’m steady with my wife. I’m faithful to my wife.” The issue was not a relationship but sex, they are not the same thing.

Regarding the second allegation Haggard said: “I have never done drugs, ever --- not even in high school.”

So two accusations and two denials. I’ve not seen any other accusations made.

Ross Parlsey, acting head pastor of Haggard’s church, has stated publicly that Haggard confessed there is truth to some of the accusations. And church members received an email saying "It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true.”

In the television interview I saw Parsley said the same thing but claimed he didn’t know the specifics. Is this another lie? Can we really believe that the man who replaced Haggard as the leader of the church was NOT told to what Haggard admitted? I think he knew precisely what was in the Haggard confession.

James Dobson, the fundamentalist leader of Focus on the Family, was quick off the mark to say these accusations were false. “Ted Haggard is a friend of mine and it appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday’s election -- especially the vote on Colorado’s marriage-protection (sic) amendment, which Ted strongly supports.” Like so many things Dobson got it wrong. Haggard’s admission is hard to ignore.

Even without knowing what Haggard said there is a certain logic which ought to make clear what his confession said. Consider the logic. A male prostitute says a man hires him for sex and uses drugs before said encounter. The man says part of that is true and part of that is not true. He can only be confessing to the sex. Why would he be meeting a male prostitute if all he wanted was drugs? The man advertises his sexual services. He doesn’t advertise as a drug dealer. So the only reason Haggard would have been in touch with the man was to purchase sex. So we can pretty much assume the sex has been admitted to. That means Haggard’s denial regarding the sex was a lie.

So if he lied about the sex could he also be lying about the drugs? He could be. Perhaps time will reveal the truth about that. And the content of the voicemail messages seems to indicate that Haggard may also have been asking the prostitute to purchase drugs for him or it could be code for sex. One message said: “Hey, I was just calling to see if we could get any more. Either $100 or $200 supply.” In another messaged he said: “I’m here in Denver and sorry that I missed you. But as I said, if you want to go ahead and get the stuff then that would be great. And I’ll get it sometime next week or the week after or whenever.”

Now this sounds like drugs. One would hardly arrange a rendevous this way. If you want to meet for sex you don’t say I’ll see you next week or whenever. If you want to meet you say “Hey, I’d like to see you” not “get the stuff”.

Now it seems elementary logic would say that Haggard was having sex with the man and was using him to buy drugs for him. I think both accusations seem probable. But if Haggard is admitting only some of them what would they be?

Could he actually think it is better to admit to being a drug user than gay? In fundamentalist circles that is certainly possible. But does he think he can claim to buy drugs from the man but deny having sex with him? After all why get in touch with a male escourt in the first place?

I would say this much. At this point I don’t really see how he can deny the sex part of it. Not that he might not try but I don’t think he can convince anyone but the true believers. And if the voicemail messages do say what has been reported then I would argue the drug claims are mostly likely true as well.

I wonder what Haggard’s weekly phone call with George Bush will be about this week? Or will the line be busy?

Interestingly the former prostitute, Mike Jones, says that he voted for Reagan and for George Bush for president. He says he doesn’t work for any poltiical group but was really upset when he found out this man he had been having sex with for some years was a leader in the campaign against equality for gays. He said the issue tormented him for some months before he decided to go public.

Jones said: "I could have blackmailed him. God, I could use the money. I could have blackmailed him; that would have been really easy to do. But I didn't. So no, there's no backing behind me at all. I came out on my own."

Jones says he last saw Haggard in August and had already known who he was at that time but didn’t say anything about it. He says the Foley case was in the news and with the election coming up he figured Haggard was letting things cool down for a bit.

I suspect that before this is over all the claims about Haggard will be verified.

Ted Haggard on video: surreal

Welcome to the Ted Haggard video festival. Here is Ted Haggard in operation. Now these aren’t “sexy” videos about him and his male prostitute friend. Just him in his everyday existence.

This first clip borders on the bizarre. This is from the film “Jesus Camp” and the camera crew is filming Haggard preach. Haggard denounces homosexuality as a sin and then jokes to the cameraman: “I know what you did last night. For a $1,000 I won’t tell your wife.” Now what would put the concept of homosexuality, marriage, hiding it from the wife all in his mind at the same time? In light of what has just happened this is surreal.

In this next clip we see the eminent scientist Richard Dawkins reporting on Haggard. The interesting this here is Haggard lecturing Dawkins on what evolutionists believe. Dawkins says that Haggard is completely wrong and Haggard says “then you don’t know the scientists I know.” Dawkins is probably the most prominent evolutionist around and Haggard lectures him on what evolutionists believe and then has the audacity to tell Dawkins to not be arrogant.


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