From The Washington Post, a fun fact that is unlikely to go viral in the MSM:
Predominantly, Muslim countries average 2.4 murders per annum per 100,000 people, compared to 7.5 in non-Muslim countries. The percentage of the society that is made up of Muslims is an extraordinarily good predictor of a country’s murder rate. More authoritarianism in Muslim countries does not account for the difference. I have found that controlling for political regime in statistical analysis does not change the findings. More Muslims, less homicide.
…nor do I play one on TV like some Republicans I could mention. Watch this amazing time-lapse picture of the sun and wonder. There are more things in heaven and earth, Marco Rubio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy
…were this grown-up:
Yet something curious has happened in the 18 months since the property directly opposite the Westboro church was purchased by a peace-loving charity and, in one of the more entrepreneurial acts against a hate group, transformed into a multi-coloured haven for peace, equality and gay pride. Despite appearances, the two opposing neighbours have developed a surprisingly cordial, even amiable detente.
“I go out jogging in the morning, and they’re taking out the trash, and we have small talk,” said Hammet. “Like, ‘Hey, it’s a beautiful day outside’ or ‘This damn snow: I wish I could get warm’. Just basic things that you say to neighbours.”
Occupants of the Westboro church and Equality House have even exchanged phone numbers. Recently, when someone took all of the Equality House gay pride flags and, without their knowledge, deposited them in Westboro’s yard, Hammet’s phone beeped with a text message. “It said something like: ‘A criminal has taken your flags and put them in our yard. We have put them in your mailbox. We would like to return them to you.’”
…brought to you by Alternet:
In Israel, Jewish women fought for years for the right to pray at the Western Wall, braving routine threats, abuse and harassment by ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews who believe the holy site should only be open to men. Finally, the reformers won a ruling in Israel’s courts, opening up a designated prayer section at the wall for women. The ultra-Orthodox responded by ordering their own wives and daughters to show up en masse and pack the women’s section, so that the women who actually want to pray there and who fought for the right to do so couldn’t get in.
From Courthouse News Service:
HARTFORD (CN) — Three high school Spanish teachers and a guidance counselor indoctrinated three girls into a religious cult “that promotes martyrdom and celebrates death,” the girls’ parents claim in court. The Doe family sued Avon (Conn.) Public Schools, Wellesley College, and the teachers, in Federal Court.
“All three girls experienced sudden and severe personality changes,” the complaint states. “They became flat and distant, reclusive, secretive, and non-communicative. They lost their humor and their empathy. They began speaking in a bizarre new language. They became unable to think critically or independently. They became dependent on the school teachers and guidance counselor who had indoctrinated them, especially defendant Tanya Mastoloni.
The youngest daughter, who is 16, was able to break free, but the 22- and 19-year-old remain under the teachers’ influence and even reported that their parents were abusive in order to get access to housing at Wellesley College over the summer, according to the 64-page lawsuit.
“On information and belief, the two older Doe sisters were indoctrinated into a religious cult that promotes martyrdom, and celebrates death. This has caused the elder Doe sisters to experience fantasies of suicidal ideation and martyrdom,” the complaint states…
At first you were thinking Catholic, right? Or maybe Muslim? Wrong, it’s even weirder than that. I think a closer look at Mommy and Daddy Doe is indicated.
At The Guardian today Andrew Brown presses the Pope’s point.
You’ve probably read that @Pontifex yesterday tweeted, “Inequality is the root of social evil”. This, to say the least, is not in keeping with the Reagan-Thatcher traditionals who revered the just-canonised “Pope John Paul II, a man regarded by American rightwingers as the spiritual arm of Ronald Reagan.” This new tweet is so simple and direct that the conservatives who’ve leaned on past Popes for political support are scrambling to stay upright on their own.
The American Christian right is convinced that God so loves everyone that there is no need for anyone else to do so. Pope Francis harks back to a much earlier tradition of distrust for the market, which had been dominant in American Christianity until the rise of Reaganism. Then, a group of Catholic intellectuals, some former Protestants such as Richard John Neuhaus, reacted against the liberalism of the 1960s by proclaiming that the church was far more than social work and that only the market allowed people the moral freedom essential to the Christian vision. Equality was to these people fundamentally immoral.
From The Angry Bear, on the Hobby Lobby silliness which our Republican federal courts are using to cripple the Affordable Care Act and expand the already enormous control that corporations exercise over our government.
The second momentary jolt for me was [Justice] Kennedy’s repeated indication that he believes that the constitutional rights that he said in Citizens United — he wrote that opinion — accrued to the corporation only derivatively as an “association of citizens,” in other words, through its members rather than as a separate entity, extend to all constitutional rights…
The First Amendment right Kennedy proclaimed of people unaffiliated with the corporation to hear the speech of the corporation was, of course, as I said yesterday really a proclaimed right of unaffiliated people to hear the corporation’s CEO’s speech, funded, though, by all the shareholders — or, as Kennedy out it, the association of citizens. The idea was that the political speech advanced the financial interests of all of the association’s citizen members, because they shared an interest in the financial success of the corporation and the political speech they were funding concerned financial matters. The premise was ridiculous; union members who owned shares of the company through their pension fund probably would not have supported anti-union candidates, for example.
From Andrew Sullivan:
…As for the case for allowing fundamentalists to discriminate against anyone associated with what they regard as sin, I’m much more sympathetic. I favor maximal liberty in these cases. The idea that you should respond to a hurtful refusal to bake a wedding cake by suing the bakers is a real stretch to me. Yes, they may simply be homophobic, rather than attached to a coherent religious worldview. But so what? There are plenty of non-homophobic bakers in Arizona. If we decide that our only response to discrimination is a lawsuit, we gays are ratcheting up a culture war we would do better to leave alone. We run the risk of becoming just as intolerant as the anti-gay bigots, if we seek to coerce people into tolerance. If we value our freedom as gay people in living our lives the way we wish, we should defend that same freedom to sincere religious believers and also, yes, to bigots and haters. You do not conquer intolerance with intolerance. As a gay Christian, I’m particularly horrified by the attempt to force anyone to do anything they really feel violates their conscience, sense of self, or even just comfort.
So I’m with Big Gay Al, and always have been. Let bigots be bigots. Let gays be gays. And when those values conflict, lets do all we can not to force the issue. We’re living in a time of drastic change with respect to homosexuality. It is perfectly understandable that many traditional-minded people, especially in the older age brackets, are disconcerted, upset and confused. So give them some space; instead of suing them, talk to them. Try seeing things from their point of view. Appeal to their better nature as Christians. And start defusing by your tolerance the paranoia and hysteria Roger Ailes lives off…
This from The Future of Socialism by Robert Paul Wolff:
At this nightmare moment in recent history, little need be said about the persistence and intensification of ethnic and religious antagonisms throughout the world. Try as we may, we socialists can no longer cling to the hope that class interests will unite men and women across national, ethnic, racial, and religious divides in a vibrant revolutionary movement to replace capitalism with a humane, just, egalitarian social order. Capitalists are doing their part. Not only are they crafting the elements of rational planning that a socialist economy would require. They are in the forefront of efforts to put the divisiveness of race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion behind us, for these divisions are not good for business. It is the people who remain mired in self-destructive and self-defeating irrationality.
As Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer is presently learning from her real base, gay money isn’t lavender. It’s green like everybody else’s.
Lots of good stuff in this Council on Contemporary Families symposium. Here’s a sample:
White Catholics and Mainline Protestants are less likely than the average American to be divorced, with 12.4 percent and 12.5 percent of their populations being currently divorced, respectively, compared to an overall average of 14.2 of Americans currently divorced.
But white Conservative Protestants and Black Protestants are more likely than the average American to be divorced, with 17.2 percent and 15.7 percent of their populations being currently divorced, respectively. Indeed, Evangelical Protestants are more likely to be divorced than Americans who claim no religion.
Thus the common conservative argument that strong religion leads to strong families does not hold up. Some have argued that evangelical Protestantism (the typical example of “strong religion”) is correlated with low socioeconomic status, and that this explains the increased risk of divorce. However, new research by Jennifer Glass and Philip Levchak suggests that evangelical Protestants’ cultural encouragement of early marriage and discouragement of birth control and higher education attainment explain the higher divorce rate in counties with a larger proportion of evangelical Protestants. In fact, living in such counties increases the likelihood of divorce for all couples, regardless of whether they themselves are evangelicals.
For the absolutely final final word on those anti-Christian and anti-life subhuman obscenities in Texas who tried to use a corpse to delay the still-birth of a doomed deformity, go to Stonekettle. And be glad you don’t live in Texas, unless you do. In which case embarrassment, despair, shame, regret or emigration would all be appropriate.
Evolution has been shown to occur in only 66% of the population:
From the New York Times:
JACKSBORO, Tenn. — In a mix of old-time religion, modern media and Tennessee law, a 22-year-old preacher who has become a reality television star because of his experience in handling poisonous snakes pleaded not guilty on Friday to illegally keeping dozens of them that he and his congregants routinely touch during worship services…
“This ain’t no longer just a fight for snake handling,” Mr. Hamblin, the father of five, told a group of supporters wearing red — to symbolize the blood of Christ — before his arraignment on a misdemeanor wildlife possession charge. “This is a fight for freedom of religion…”
“If they take him to jail, I’ll go to jail with him,” said Bucky Rouse, a former embalmer who is now an interior designer. “This is something we believe in.”
The Guardian brings us more news from the pews:
Of the 1,001 people surveyed, 35% of Americans said they believe in the statement: “With just Bible study and prayer, ALONE, people with serious mental illness like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia could overcome mental illness.”
Of the respondents who self-identified as either born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christian — 48% agreed.
…The Guardian’s got you covered:
While it is true that if e-coli bacteria from fecal matter is ingested, that it can can cause ailments such as cramps, fever, diarrhea, stomach pain, and other illnesses, the likelihood of anyone contracting these ailments from holy water under most circumstances is small…
Your thought for the day, from the pagan Syrbal:
Me? I’d tax ALL religious property, I’d happily see all public religious symbols outlawed. Your gods are invisible….so should be your worship, if you ask me. We all seem to agree that life-affirming things sexual should be private, I SO wish good manners and law dictated the same for religious practice. And fighting and killing over who and how one worships? Madness, madness…..so many broken bits of history tinged with religious hatred; and we don’t learn. The Bible lost me when Abraham took his son up the mountain. Any god that needs ME to do his killing for him isn’t worthy of my worship.
This just in from Israel. What if you’re not only a woman, but a black Jewish one from Ethiopia? Can you even get on the bus at all?
The sweeping ruling comes after several years of mounting tension and legal battles over the treatment of women in Israel’s public sphere, particularly the requirement that they sit in the back on bus lines through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, which set off civil disobedience campaigns involving many Jews from overseas.
Pope Francis has reaffirmed the reprimand of American nuns issued by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, and endorsed the plan to have three bishops supervise an overhaul of the nation’s largest umbrella group of American nuns.
The announcement from the Vatican on Monday dashed the hopes of Catholic sisters and their supporters, who had hoped that the new pope might not want to meddle with women’s religious communities because of his experience in the Jesuits, a men’s religious order…
From the New York Times:
“Having condoms distributed on campus is the university kind of validating hookup culture,” said Katelyn Conroy, a junior who leads the college’s Pro-Life Club. “The argument is that condoms prevent the spread of S.T.D.’s, but, really, if you hand out condoms on campus, it puts an idea in their head.”
An idea such as, “Holy Mackerel, maybe this weird balloon-type thing is one of those things all the other kids are always talking about that you can supposedly use to do that other thing that they’re always talking about. Whatever that thing is. Hey, Katelyn…”
Here’s retired (although not from blogging) professor of philosophy Robert Paul Wolff on what really matters:
A story from my Memoir. When I was twelve, my mother said to me, “Robbie, you come from a mixed marriage. Your father is an agnostic and I am an atheist. All the other little boys are going to go to Hebrew school and be bar mitzvah’ed and have big parties and get lots of presents, and you can do that too, if you want to. Or, your father and I will give you a hundred dollars and you can buy yourself some presents.” I thought about that for a bit and took the hundred. I used it to buy Natie Gold’s Lionel electric train set, which I coveted. That was my last serious engagement with organized religion. Little did I know then that I would choose a career in which a rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew would be useful.
After the Tennessee State Capitol got a $16 million makeover in December, some members of the Congress were curious why a utility sink, formerly mounted on the wall, was moved to the floor. Some wondered, was it a sink for Muslims to wash their feet before praying?
According to the AP, Legislative Administration Director Connie Ridley wrote in an email:I confirmed with the facility administrator for the State Capitol Complex that the floor-level sink installed in the men’s restroom outside the House Chamber is for housekeeping use … It is, in layman’s terms, a mop sink.
Although Jesus is certainly welcome to use it (John 13:12) if He decides to land in Tennessee and can find any disciples there. Good luck with that, guys.
Tomas Young, paralyzed in Iraq by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (among millions of others; you know who you are), is in hospice care committing slow suicide. Chris Hedges writes about his decision in Truthdig:
Young joined the Army immediately after 9/11 to go to Afghanistan and hunt down the people behind the attacks. He did not oppose the Afghanistan war. “In fact, if I had been injured in Afghanistan, there would be no ‘Body of War’ movie to begin with,” he said. But he never understood the call to invade Iraq. “When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor we didn’t invade China just because they looked the same,” he said.
He became increasingly depressed about his impending deployment to Iraq when he was in basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. He asked the battalion doctor for antidepressants. The doctor said he had to meet first with the unit’s chaplain, who told him, “I think you will be happier when you get over to Iraq and start killing Iraqis.”
A group of feminist activists stripped off their shirts and flashed their breasts in the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris in celebration of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.
They were members of Femen, a Ukraine-based feminist group that has spread around the world and that frequently organizes topless protests. Femen has protested abortion restrictions in the Ukraine, and has also protested in support of the Russian band Pussy Riot. They have also staged anti-rape demonstrations in France.
Let us now consider Richard Mourdock’s view of God’s role in childbirth. Mourdock (have you forgotten so quickly?) is the Republican who lost his U.S. Senate bid last fall after telling the voters of Indiana that pregnancies caused by rape are all part of God’s plan:
“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” Mourdock said during Tuesday’s Senate debate, choking up.
On the likely assumption that Mourdock believes God to be both good and omnipotent, the Almighty must therefore have intended for Mrs. Darwin to carry Charles to term. What did God have in mind with that? While we’re at it, why did Mourdock’s God forsake him on election day? And wouldn’t an actually good God have forsaken Obama on election day? Furthermore, why didn’t Barry Bonds make it into the Hall of Fame? God made steroids, didn’t She?
From an interview with Gail Collins on her new book, As Texas Goes: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda.
Martha Rosenberg: You write, “Quite a bit of the information Texas students are getting seems to have arrived from another era. An abstinence-only program used in three districts assures them that if, ‘if a woman is dry, the sperm will die’ — which harks back to colonial-era theories that it was impossible for a woman to get pregnant unless she enjoyed the sex.”
From the Christian Science Monitor:
“Thursday, March 12, 2009: I had a sore throat. My father took me to the doctor. There a woman told us about a boy named Anis, ‘Anis was with Taliban.’ His Taliban friend told him that he had a dream that he is surrounded by heavenly virgins in Paradise. The boy then asked his parents if he could become a suicide bomber to go to the Paradise. The parents refused. But Anis exploded himself at a check post of security forces, anyway.”
For why this might not have been such a good idea, go here and scroll down to “Good News for Vegan Martyrs.”
My feeling is that organized religion is a contradiction in terms. I can see a lot of value in the symbols and myths of the various religions, but properly understood those symbols apply to the inner world rather than the outer, and those myths tell us how to find ourselves and engage with the world rather than relating actual historical events.
Unfortunately it seems that many, perhaps most, devotees of the various religious approaches are still stuck on finding absolute truth, something they’ll never have to question. Though the symbols and myths tend not to support them in this, too many religious people end up assuming that the approach they’ve settled on is true in an objective sense, transcending culture and belief.
This seems like the most reasonable explanation for this rather odd statement.
A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, of which [Egyptian President Mohamed] Morsi is a member, said that the United States should do a better job of protecting Islam.
“It isn’t a matter of freedom of speech,” Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Gozlan said. “It’s a matter of a holy Islamic symbol.”
There are so many problems with this that it’s hard to figure out where to start. The US should be protecting Islam? What does that mean, what would such protection look like? And why should Islam receive special protection? Oh, right, it’s the One True and so on. Everyone else is mistaken. This kind of thing doesn’t fly regardless of the religion you’ve decided is the One.
It appears in addition that Mr. Gozlan completely fails to understand the meaning of freedom of speech. It is very much a matter of freedom of speech, regardless of how outraged he might feel about it. Freedom of speech means that no one gets to tell anyone else what they can and cannot say, regardless of the emotional states provoked by what is said. This in no way defends those who intentionally make outrageous statements, whether because they believe the statements or because they intend to gain notoriety through them. People like the maker and the promotor of the anti-Islam film currently pissing people off are subjecting as many of their fellow beings as possible to the chaos and fear that fills their psyches. Such people need help to resolve their issues, but help doesn’t come in the form of repression of civil liberties.
One take on the statements of the Muslim Brotherhood is that they strike one as more appropriate to the society of a village than to that of a city. As the world becomes more cosmopolitan and interrelated, those who wish to hold onto traditional ways find it harder and harder to do so. Some retreat to uncrowded spots like the part of Kentucky I grew up in. Others attempt to impose their rigid views on their city neighbors, at gunpoint if necessary.
What kind of religion needs defense anyway? A solid religious view seems to me invulnerable and completely capable of defending itself. What we’re really talking about here is the inner world, perhaps the world model, of those who need others in other countries who don’t share their beliefs to defend those beliefs anyway. This kind of need is typical of those whose sense of self has dissolved into a concept or belief, so that the concept must succeed if they are to maintain any sense of being an agent in the world. Such a situation often leads to desperate attempts to promote the concept and aggressive reactions to perceived slights against it.
But as the world modernizes and people move their families and cultures to new surroundings, a critical value is that of tolerance. Nobody can claim special status for their culture or beliefs, just as nobody can claim that others’ beliefs are inferior. Of course philosophical disputes are fine, but legal sanctions are beyond the pale.
As most of us move to cities, we learn to live with difference. Perhaps we’re headed for a future of tolerant cities and intolerant villages, each with its own One True Way. If so, we in the cities need to keep the villagers from affecting our civic life and freedom.
Going through some old family records last night, I came across this epitaph written by Colonel Ezekiel Polk for his tombstone in Bolivar, Tennessee. Born in 1747, he died in 1820, with all his faculties evidently intact.
Peter alerts us to Holy Smoke, whence cometh this:
My friend smiled and said “You know I’ve thought about this for some time and I want to be cremated. Then I want my ashes put into some turkey load shotgun shells and have someone that knows how to turkey hunt use the shotgun shells with my ashes to shoot a turkey. That way I will rest in peace knowing that the last thing that one turkey will see is me, screaming at him at about 900 feet per second.”
And while we’re on the subject of animals and the afterlife, take a look at Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, USA:
…We are a group of dedicated animal lovers, and atheists. Each Eternal Earth-Bound Pet representative is a confirmed atheist, and as such will still be here on Earth after you’ve received your reward. Our network of animal activists are committed to step in when you step up to Jesus… For $135.00 we will guarantee that should the Rapture occur within ten (10) years of receipt of payment, one pet per residence will be saved…
For years I’ve been meaning to find out if this outfit is for real, and if so how business is doing. I just checked, and still don’t know. The site is still up, but: “This service canceled due to lack of clients. Thanks for all of your interest & excitement over the past three years.”
If you believe in the Rapture, would you feel comfortable entrusting Fluffy to a bunch of hell-bent atheists? But supposing you did, have these godless sinners returned your money? All of it, or adjusted for those years in which no rapture occurred?
As for Holy Smoke’s reloading service, it appears via Google not only to exist but to be offered by several other legitimate-sounding entrepreneurs. Is “legitimate” the right word to use in this particular context? What the hell, why not? This is America.
RALEIGH, N.C. — The man police say walked into a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday morning and shot members of the congregation was a former Fort Bragg soldier with two good conduct awards and five achievement medals…
At the time of his discharge, Page was a psychological-operations specialist. Garcia said psychological operations soldiers provide their commanders with the ability to communicate information to large audiences by radio, television, leaflets and loudspeakers. In the field, these soldiers rely on language skills, regional orientation and knowledge of communications media to deliver information.
Your average non-veteran, reading this, might wonder how a homicidal racist with the I.Q. of a rutabaga could have functioned successfully in such a sophisticated military unit. I may be able help you out on this one.
Page’s old outfit was the Fourth Psychological Operations Group. My own old outfit, back in the mid-1950s, was the First Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Battalion. It was also at Fort Bragg, also in the Special Warfare Center, and had the same official mission described above by Garcia.
Back when I was there the Special Warfare Center maintained a small library of books, leaflets, and other material bearing on psychological warfare. One day a new commanding officer inspected it, and was appalled by the sloppy appearance of the shelves.
“What the hell is this, sergeant?” the colonel said. “Why aren’t those books dressed?”
To dress, in military terminology, is to form a straight line left to right in order of height.
A Pew survey from 2009 asked about the permissibility of torturing people suspected of terrorism. The religiously unaffiliated and those who never attend church were more likely than Catholics, evangelicals or mainline Protestants to say that torture can rarely or never be justified. The nonreligious were also more likely than Protestants, Catholics or Mormons to oppose the war in Iraq…
It is practically never that Thomas L. Friedman commits good sense in good writing, both at the very same time. Let us all rejoice, therefore, in this:
I’ll make this quick. I have one question and one observation about Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel. The question is this: Since the whole trip was not about learning anything but about how to satisfy the political whims of the right-wing, super pro-Bibi Netanyahu, American Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, why didn’t they just do the whole thing in Las Vegas? I mean, it was all about money anyway — how much Romney would abase himself by saying whatever the Israeli right wanted to hear and how big a jackpot of donations Adelson would shower on the Romney campaign in return. Really, Vegas would have been so much more appropriate than Jerusalem. They could have constructed a plastic Wailing Wall and saved so much on gas…
From the BBC:
…the former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath says Mr Bush told him and Mahmoud Abbas, former prime minister and now Palestinian President: “I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,’ and I did.”
Asked if there was anything in retrospect he might have done differently the night he followed Trayvon Martin and shot him dead, George Zimmerman told CNN:
“No, sir. I feel that it was all God’s plan and not for me to second-guess or judge it.”
From the New York Times:
The network and its allies say the legal action is part of a campaign by the church to cripple an organization that has been the most visible defender of victims, and a relentless adversary, for more than two decades. “If there is one group that the higher-ups, the bishops, would like to see silenced,” said Marci A. Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University and an advocate for victims of clergy sex crimes, “it definitely would be SNAP. And that’s what they’re going after. They’re trying to find a way to silence SNAP.”
Lawyers for the church and priests say they cannot comment because of a judge’s order. But William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a church advocacy group in New York, said targeting the network was justified because “SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church.”
Mr. Donohue said leading bishops he knew had resolved to fight back more aggressively against the group: “The bishops have come together collectively. I can’t give you the names, but there’s a growing consensus on the part of the bishops that they had better toughen up and go out and buy some good lawyers to get tough. We don’t need altar boys.”
I once asked a Harvard theologian for suggested reading on what strikes me as the only important question about any religion: Does it do any good for mankind as a whole? Plenty of evil has notably been done by plenty of religions, and plenty of good by some — the partial abolition of slavery for one thing. Has anyone attempted a balance sheet?
The professor was polite but plainly puzzled that anybody would find such a question worth asking. He had no suggestions, anymore than I would have if asked for a good read about the Council of Trent.
But here are a few thoughts, vaguely on point, from Jared Diamond’s fascinating book, Guns, Germs, and Steel:
Chiefdoms characteristically have an ideology, precursor to an institutionalized religion, that buttresses the chief’s authority. The chief may either combine the offices of political leader and priest in a single person, or may support a separate group of kleptocrats (that is, priests) whose function is to provide ideological justification for the chiefs. That is why chiefdoms devote so much collected tribute to constructing temples and other public works, which serve as centers to the official religion and visible signs of the chief’s power.
Besides justifying the transfer of wealth to kleptocrats, institutionalized religion brings two other important benefits to centralized societies. First, shared ideology or religion helps solve the problem of how unrelated individuals are to live together without killing each other — by providing them with a bond not based on kinship. Second, it gives people a motive, other than genetic self-interest, for sacrificing their lives on behalf of others. At the cost of a few society members who die in battle as soldiers, the whole society becomes much more effective at conquering other societies or resisting attacks.
If Jesus has anything to do with it, which one do you think will make it past St. Peter — Barbara Johnson or a nasty, vicious little shit named Father Marcel Guarnizo? (Details here; video below)
There Barbara Johnson stood, before Jesus and her family, first in line to receive the Eucharist at the funeral Mass for her mother, a woman so Catholic she’d come to after her heart attack and crossed herself.
If you’ve seen Wednesday’s Washington Post, you know what happened then: The Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, of Gaithersburg’s John Neumann Catholic Church, “put his hand over the body of Christ,” Johnson said. He “looked at me and said, ‘I can’t give you Communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin.’ ”
…the Mormons don’t seem be taking over the world after all. This from an interesting post on Religion Dispatches—
The ascendancy of Mormonism as a world religion once seemed inevitable. The year was 1984, and sociologist named Rodney Stark made a startling projection: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would grow to 267 million members by 2080.
That’s the narrative drumbeat to which tens of thousands of young LDS men and women marched off to proselyting missions in Latin America and Asia during the 1980s and 1990s, as LDS Church membership shot up from 4.4 million to 11 million members. Mormons imbued this growth with theological significance as the fulfillment of a prophecy that the Church would one day “fill the earth”— a sense captured in this Church video.
But new data suggests that Mormonism may no longer be (as it is often described) among the fastest-growing faiths in the United States. Instead, American Mormons appear to be settling into the twenty-first century as a maturing minority having an increasingly hard time holding onto younger members.
A vicious, extremist nut is a vicious, extremist nut whether disguised as a Christian, Moslem or Jew. It would be nice to think that a just God exists, able to consign the whole lot of them to hell. It is particularly sad to see this sort of swine slowly taking over Israel, a nation born of such bright dreams.
The Israeli public has been rocked by a series of recent reports about the behavior of extremist Jewish groups, which has included forcing women to sit at the back of public buses, erecting signs calling for the separation of the sexes on sidewalks and even the physical assaults of schoolgirls by ultra-Orthodox men who found their school uniforms immodest.
Naama Margolese, an 8-year-old American immigrant who attends the Orot school in Beit Shemesh, became a focal point of the outcry after an Israeli news station filmed her facing daily abuses from extremists. TV news footage showed the shy, bespectacled second-grader shaking and brushing tears from her eyes as she described men who spat at her and called her “prostitute” for attending the school.
A group of extremists has taken issue with the Orot school’s location, near a hard-line religious school for men. Though the Orot school was exclusively for Orthodox girls — nearly all of whom dress in long skirts and long-sleeved shirts — in August a group of men began gathering every week to curse and threaten the students.
“My stomach hurts every time I need to walk to and from the school and I know those men will be there,” Naama said. “They are scary.”
From God is Not Great, by the hell-bent Christopher Hitchens:
Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason marked almost the first time that frank contempt for organized religion was openly expressed. I had a tremendous worldwide effect. His American friends and contemporaries, partly inspired by him to declare independence from the Hanoverian usurpers and their private Anglican church, meanwhile achieved an extraordinary and unprecedented thing: the writing of a democratic and republican constitution that made no mention of god and that mentioned religion only when guaranteeing that it would always be separated from the state. Almost all of the American founders died without an priest by their bedside, as also did Paine, who was much pestered in his last hours by religious hooligans who demanded that he accept Christ as his savior.
Speaking of Vogons, here’s more from From Crazy for God, Frank Schaeffer’s memoir of growing up evangelical:
“The other day,” said Pat [Robertson], “I was invited to speak to the Orlando chapter of The Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association. At the end of my talk about how God will bless us if we plant a seed of faith and give richly to His work, by supporting the 700 Club’s special fund, I said, ‘Now bow your heads, open your hearts, and close your eyes so no one but God and me can see you. Now each one of you men’ — they were all successful, married, Christian men in their midforties to fifties — ‘raise your hands if you still masturbate.’ And do you know, over half raised their hands!”
From Crazy for God, a memoir by Frank Schaeffer, a recovering evangelical who was once a leader in the antiabortion movement:
And this was the same chapel that the Billy Graham family sometimes dropped by to worship in, along with their Swiss-Armenian, mutimillionaire in-laws, after Billy — like some Middle Eastern potentate — arranged for his 17-year-old daughter’s marriage to the son of a particularly wealthy donor who lived up the road from us in the ski resort of Vilars.
Did the followers of Billy know that he’d plucked his 17-year-old daughter out of her first semester at Wheaton College to marry a man almost twenty years older than her whom she had never met until Billy introduced them? Would they have cared?
Here’s an excerpt (via Jay Bookman), but watch the video for the full intellectual experience. That Rick Perry will probably be the GOP’s White Hope in 2012 would be hard to believe — if we hadn’t just lived through eight years of George W. Bush.
SMITH: Governor, why does Texas continue with abstinence education programs when they don’t seem to be working? In fact, I think we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate in the country.
PERRY: “Abstinence … works.”
SMITH: “But we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate among all states in the country. The questioner’s point is, it doesn’t seem to be working — abstinence education.”
PERRY: “It, it, it works. Maybe it’s the way it’s being taught, or the way it’s being applied out there, but the fact of the matter is it is the best form of — uh — to teach our children.”
SMITH: “Can you give a statistic telling me that it works?”
PERRY: “I’m just going to tell you from my own personal life, abstinence works …”
What’s clear from the record is that [Michele] Bachmann brought deeply held religious values and legal training from outside the mainstream to her career, values shaped during her unusual law school experience at Oral Roberts University.
“It was a real shocker for me to show up and hear people speak in tongues in chapel,’’ said Burnetti, Bachmann’s classmate. “It was a very exceptional place to go to school.’’
In the interest of knowing thine enemy, I direct you to this. Don’t laugh. These pre-Gadarene swine are behind you, and catching up:
…Even the most conservative evangelicals said they were “New Testament Christians.” In other words, they believed that after the coming of Jesus, the harsher bits of the Bible had been (at least to some extent) transformed by the “New Covenant” of Jesus’ “Law of Love.”
By contrast, the leaders of Reconstructionism believed that Old Testament teachings — on everything from capital punishment for gays to the virtues of child-beating — were still valid because they were the inerrant Word and Will of God and therefore should be enforced. Not only that, they said that biblical law should be imposed even on nonbelievers. This theology was the American version of the attempt in some Muslim countries to impose Shariah (Islamic law) on all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
It was my old friend, the short, stocky, bearded Armenian American Rousas Rushdoony who in 1973 most thoroughly laid out the far right/religious right agenda in his book, The Institutes of Biblical Law. Rushdoony changed the definition of salvation from the accepted evangelical idea that it applies to individuals to the claim that salvation is really about politics. With this redefinition, Rushdoony contradicted the usual reading of Jesus’ words by most Christians to mean that Jesus had not come to this earth to be a political leader: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
According to Rushdoony, all nations on earth should be obedient to the ancient Jewish/Christian version of “God’s Law,” so that the world will experience “God’s blessings.” Biblical salvation will then turn back the consequences of the Fall, and we’ll be on our way to the New Eden. To achieve this “turning back,” coercion must be used by the faithful to stop evildoers, who are, by definition, anyone not obeying all of God’s Laws as defined by the Calvinist and Reconstructionist interpretation of the Bible…
…how to figure out which harlot would just as soon see the baby drowned in the bathtub. Once King Solomon determined that, he returned the baby to its mother. Once our solons made the same determination, they decided to leave the kid with the kidnapper.
There’s a upside, though. The harlot who actually gives a shit about the baby will be granted visitation rights. Details yet to be worked out, but the best guess at the moment is from five to seven p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. Supervised visits, of course, so she won’t smuggle in food stamps or Medicaid.
Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house.
And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.
And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.
Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living. And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.
Somehow I missed this beauty when it first came out. In case you did, too, the full story is here. As far as I can tell from Google, the case has not yet been resolved in court.
RALEIGH, N.C. — A Bible-waving preacher protesting at a gay pride event was kissed on the cheek by a female gay rights supporter — a 74-year-old woman who was charged with simple assault, with the preacher’s blessing.
Joan Parker admits she kissed a preacher on the cheek at the Saturday event in Salisbury, N.C., proclaimed by the mayor as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Day.
“He was just waving his arms and has a Bible in one hand, up and down, and screaming at the top of his lungs, ‘sodomites’ and ‘you’re going to hell,’” Parker said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “I thought he needed a hug. So I gave him a hug…”
Rory Collins, police chief in the town located about 45 miles northeast of Charlotte, said Belcher wanted to press charges, which he hadn’t expected. Belcher contends police would have charged him if he had touched a 74-year-old woman and that he didn’t personally pursue charges…
Belcher contends the kiss “was just one of many attempts to silence the preaching to those in need of salvation who practice a death style that they call a lifestyle.”
For further information, please apply here.
The end of the world has been predicted for tomorrow, and the best jokes have already been made. (I, for one, immediately clicked “Like” when I got the Facebook invite to Post-Rapture Looting.) I’m not terribly worried about the impending Armageddon. I’m more worried about Sunday morning, when the Faithful awaken to find themselves still here and the heavy drinking starts. Sorry, folks — if you want oblivion, you’re going to have to provide it for yourselves.
Of course, in the unlikely event that the Rapture does happen I will be profoundly upset. Not because I will be among those left behind to suffer Tribulation. But because it would mean that God is as big a doofus as the fundies claim He is. I don’t know why some people find the notion of a Cosmic Psychopath subject to capricious whims and temper tantrums so very comforting, but they do. They seem to like that quality in their presidents, senators and governors as well...
…I was working my way contentedly through this report from Miller-McCune, prejudices being reinforced one by one, until I got to the last paragraph and realized that the whole thesis was utter nonsense:
The research team, led by Amy Owen of Duke University, notes that the human brain shrinks with age, and the region known as the hippocampus, which has been linked to learning and memory, typically atrophies at an accelerated rate late in life. This shrinkage has been linked to depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Intrigued by previous research that linked smaller hippocampus volume with hyper-religiosity in some epileptics — as well as research on the effect of meditation on the hippocampus — the researchers decided to conduct a wider study of religious belief and brain shrinkage. The participants were 268 residents of the American Southeast, all of whom were at least 58 years old when the project got underway. All were involved on an ongoing basis for two to eight years.
MRI scans of their brains were performed every two years; data on their spiritual life and psychological state (including levels of stress and depression) was collected annually. Religion-oriented questions included their specific affiliation (or lack thereof); how often they worship publicly and pray privately; and whether they consider themselves “born again,” or have had any other religious experience that changed their life.
“Significantly greater hippocampal atrophy was observed from baseline to final assessment among born-again Protestants, Catholics, and those with no religious affiliation, compared with Protestants not identifying as born-again,” the researchers report.
I don’t often finding myself writing these words, but here goes: read Thomas L. Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times. He doesn’t mention Israel because he’s Friedman and it’s the New York Times. Being neither I will point out, as I have once or twice before, that those three countries are the greatest actual threats to America’s actual national security.
“…Like the hijackers of 9/11, who were also Saudi-Wahhabi ideological exports ... Saudi Arabia’s reserve army of potential terrorists remains, because the Wahhabi factory of fanatical ideas remains intact. So the real battle has not been with Bin Laden, but with that Saudi state-supported ideology factory.”
Ditto Pakistan. The Pakistani ruling bargain is set by the Pakistani Army and says: “We let you civilians pretend to rule, but we will actually call all the key shots, we will consume nearly 25 percent of the state budget and we will justify all of this as necessary for Pakistan to confront its real security challenge: India and its occupation of Kashmir. Looking for Bin Laden became a side-business for Pakistan’s military to generate U.S. aid.
This just in from Arabnews.com. Looking on the bright side, though, at least our favorite oil patch allies aren’t burning Bibles. They’re only seeing to it that faith healing remains in local hands.
JEDDAH: A total of 30 officials of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) have been trained on how to deal with cases of black magic…
The commission has achieved remarkable successes in combating black magic in various parts of the country. It has set up nine specialized centers in the main cities to deal with black magicians. The majority of people arrested for practicing black magic in the Kingdom are Africans and Indonesians.
According to a report received by Arab News, a single specialized center had dealt with 586 cases involving black magic, showing the enormity of the problem…
The Riyadh governorate last year launched a campaign against black magicians and those who illegally treat people by reading from the Qur’an. Only qualified Saudis are allowed to practice Qur’anic treatment methods. Expatriates practicing such treatments would be caught and deported.
The Miami New Times brings us up to date on Miss Exxxotica’s spiritual awakening:
After her parents divorced in 2003, modeling became an obsession for Schwitzky, who attended Hialeah-Miami Lakes High but was never very interested in studies. At age 16, she began donning bikinis for department store ads without her mother’s permission.
Such a path can lead to only one place: a porn convention. At age 18, Schwitzky made a pilgrimage to New York City and entered the 2008 Exxxotica Expo’s pageant. The contest is relatively staid considering the setting: The girls wear G-strings and tiny bikini tops. Though slowly bending over with one’s rump to the audience is encouraged, there is no nudity.
Schwitzky vanquished her opponents and took home the $2,000 prize before returning home to gingerly explain the victory to her mother. The next year, Schwitzky won another sash: that of Miss March Hardbody, bequeathed by 305HipHop.com, an honor for which her bare chest was painted with the website’s logo.
Schwitzky regrets the dubious pageantry — sort of. “I made mistakes when I was young. So what? We’re in Miami, for God’s sake.”
Worried about her daughter’s future, Elizabeth Schwitzky began dragging Caroline to the Baptist Potential Church in Fort Lauderdale, where Pastor Troy Gramling wears jeans, sermonizes with an accompanying rock band, and sends out holy tweets.
Every Sunday, Mom says, Caroline was so moved that she would sob and run from the church. In July 2010, Pastor Gramling baptized Caroline in a hot tub. “[The Lord] wiped me clean as snow,” Schwitzky explains, “and told me that all your sins and all your mistakes are done…”
This tale of young love reminds me of a huge, bulbous, slovenly kid I saw in a fast food joint in Folkston, Georgia, a few years back, his torso barely contained by an XXL tee shirt that said, “True Love Waits.” When the kid’s huge, bulbous, slovenly girl friend came out of the ladies room I could see his point.
True Love Waits is a contract that you have with, like, “God” and the community or something. It is a vow that you will not have sex until you’re married. The church-going kids would bring the contracts to school and teachers would pass them out during class, encouraging us to sign. Afterward, the names of kids who signed would run in the town’s newspaper. Which also printed the names of everyone who’d been arrested that day and for what…
This is excerpted from Claude G. Bowers’ 1925 study, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Struggle for Democracy in America. I would like Christine O’Donnell to read it and take it to heart. I would also like pigs to fly.
Just as the landed aristocracy of Virginia pursued him [ed. note: Thomas Jefferson, a Famous Founding Father] with increasing venom because of his land reforms, the clergy hated him for forcing the separation of Church and State. When he made the fight for this reform, it was a crime not to baptize a child into the Episcopal Church; a crime to bring a Quaker into the colony; and, according to the law, a heretic could be burned. If the latter law was not observed, that compelling all to pay tithes regardless of their religious affiliations and opinions was rigidly enforced.
This outraged Jefferson’s love of liberty. The Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists, who were making inroads on the membership of the Established Church, were prosecuted, and their ministers were declared disturbers of the peace, and thrown into jail like common felons. Patrick Henry and his followers fought Jefferson’s plan for a disestablishment — but he won. The ‘atheist’ law, which was never forgiven by the ministers of Virginia and Connecticut, was simple and brief:No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burdened in his mind or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
The Vatican just can’t seem to help being silly:
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) — The Vatican kept up its attack on the Nobel committee on Tuesday for giving the medicine prize to in-vitro fertilization pioneer Robert Edwards, saying he had led to a culture where embryos are seen as commodities.
For the second straight day, it gave the thumbs down to the choice of Edwards, whose success in fertilizing a human egg outside of the womb led to “test tube babies” and innovations such as embryonic stem cell research and surrogate motherhood…
Why am I not surprised by this:
Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life…
Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences…
That finding might surprise some, but not Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, an advocacy group for nonbelievers that was founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
“I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people,” Mr. Silverman said. “Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”
New Left Media, may Allah smile on all its works, went to the Glenn Beck pray-in so you wouldn’t have to. Take a look at the result, in case you suffer from American exceptionalism. Something is certainly exceptional about us, and certainly Jesus hasn’t been able to cure it. Maybe we need more mosques. More libraries. Less TV. Who knows? Just help us for God’s sake, any God at all, because we’re on the point of drowning here. Already we’re up to the lower lip in stupidity.
From the Times coverage of the Reverend Glenn Beck’s revival meeting:
Becky Benson, 56, traveled from Orlando, Florida, because, she said, “we believe in Jesus Christ,” and Jesus, she said, would not have agreed with the economic stimulus package, bank bailouts and welfare. “You cannot sit and expect someone to hand out to you,” she said. “You don’t spend your way out of debt.”
People in the crowd echoed Mr. Beck’s ideas that “progressives” were moving the United States toward socialism and that entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid must be ended.
From the New York Times:
According to data released last year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a quarter of Americans now believe in reincarnation. (Women are more likely to believe than men; Democrats more likely than Republicans.) Julia Roberts recently told Elle magazine that though she was raised Christian, she had become “very Hindu.” Ms. Roberts believes that in her past life she was a “peasant revolutionary,” and said that when her daughter sits in a certain way she knows “there’s someone there I didn’t get the benefit of knowing ... It’s an honor for me to continue to shepherd that.”
From the Dallas Star-Telegram:
BEDFORD — Olivia Harrison’s pink Hello Kitty backpack and matching lunchbox were ready for her first day at St. Vincent’s School. And all summer, when her family drove past the campus, the 4-year-old was told that she would be starting pre-kindergarten there in August.
But on Monday, Olivia was not among the youngsters starting school at the campus. Administrators at the private Christian school denied her admission because her parents are lesbians…
“The only responsible thing was to say this is not a good fit,” Foster said. “We were trying to protect Olivia, protect the other children from being exposed to the culture wars and stand up for our theological position…”
Although the sign outside St. Vincent's School identifies itself as Episcopal, the clergy left the national Episcopal Church in 2007 and is now affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America, Foster said. The church was among several that left the Episcopal Church over issues including the ordination of women and support for same-sex unions.
From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
FORT WORTH — Each of more than 450 crosses outside New Mount Calvary Baptist Church represents a person who was killed by a shock from a Taser, according to a sign announcing the National Taser Memorial…
The memorial was established in January at the church in the 5800 block of Oak Grove Road in far south Fort Worth. A large cross bears the name of Michael Jacobs Jr., a mentally challenged man who died in April 2009 after a Fort Worth police officer used a Taser on him for nearly a minute…
“There are almost 500 people who have been tortured to death by Taser devices, not counting the ones who have been wounded,” Franklin said. “This is our way of showing our respect for those families and showing that someone really cares.”
As opposed to the church’s neighbors, who care, all right, but not in that weird Jesus-y way.
Soon to be Doctor Doctor Robert Paul Wolff [note to self: didn’t they name a song after him after he gets that second Doctor title?] proposes that we attempt to educate the populace by requiring that they be required to sign a statement when they enter the hospital, thereby denying themselves any treatment that conflicts with their belief system. And I think his sense of Justice makes eminent sense: Doesn’t everyone?
A Fundamentalist Christian is brought into the hospital suffering from life-threatening colon cancer. On the forms he fills out at Patient Intake, he says he is a Born-Again Evangelical Christian who believes that the world is ten thousand years old. The doctors then tell him that his best chance of conquering the cancer is radiation therapy. However, they explain, radiation therapy rests on the theory of radioactive decay, and that in turn depends on the fact that the half lives of the relevant elements are millions of years long, etc etc. So, before they violate his most deeply held convictions by beginning the radiation therapy, they just want him to sign a release acknowledging that he no longer believes that the earth is ten thousand years old.
I mean, these are the people who pass laws requiring doctors to show pictures of aborted fetuses to women who want abortions, right? What do you suppose would have happened if someone had put my proposed requirement into the omnibus health care reform bill?
We could save a ton of money nationally if all the Fundamentalist Creationists would forswear treatment that conflicts with their religious beliefs, and just die. Of course, we would have to require them to permit their children to be treated, but since we are talking about maybe one hundred million adults, you have to think that's a lot of expensive high tech treatment that wouldn’t have to be delivered.
Maureen Dowd shoves it to the Pontiff:
“The future pope, it is now clear, was also part of a culture of nonresponsibility, denial, legalistic foot-dragging and outright obstruction. More than any top Vatican official other than John Paul, it was Cardinal Ratzinger who might have taken decisive action in the 1990s to prevent the scandal from metastasizing in country after country, growing to such proportions that it now threatens to consume his own papacy.”
If Roman Polanski were a priest, he’d still be working here.
Young delivered his sermon, but he couldn’t hear or see his congregation respond: He wasn’t physically there.
Young’s parishioners were instead looking at a high-def video image of their pastor beamed into their sanctuary from a “mother” church in Grapevine, Texas.
Young is part of a new generation of pastors who can be in two places at one time. They are using technology — high-def videos, and even holograms — to beam their Sunday morning sermons to remote “satellite” churches that belong to their congregation…
Esposito is a member of Fellowship Church, where he has listened to Young preach for the last five years.
“I feel closer to the sermon than I would if I ever attended in person,” Esposito said. “The screen is so big; it’s almost lifelike. I would rather see Ed [Young] on the big screen than somewhere live…”
Walt Whitman, via Rick Hertzberg. For Rick’s whole post, go here.
We consider bibles and religions divine — I do not say they are not divine, I say they have all grown out of you, and may grow out of you still, It is not they who give the life — it is you who give the life, Leaves are not more shed from the trees, or trees from the earth, than they are shed out of you.
Steve Benen writes:
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) spoke to about 300 constituents earlier this week at Dixie State University. His remarks included some advice for conservatives.
He said the Republicans need to organize and pull together just as unions, environmentalists, personal injury lawyers and gay rights activists do for Democrat candidates. “Gays and lesbians don’t pay tithing, their religion is politics,” said Hatch.
I’d love to know what that means, exactly. Gay people can’t be religious? The LGBT community necessarily cares more politics than the rest of the country?
Here’s what it means, Steve: “My religion is politics.” It’s a pure case of Freudian projection. Look at the millions of dollars that Mormons — mostly Hatch constituents in Utah — poured into California to support Proposition 8.
Having learned their lesson from the pedophile priest sex abuse scandal, Catholic leaders are taking prompt action to head off another moral scourge: children with lesbian parents. For the second time in 3 months, a Catholic School in Massachusetts has rejected an elementary school-aged child because his parents are gay…
In a world that has elevated hypocrisy to an art-form, an unprepossessing, virtual unknown emerged this week as the solid frontrunner for the 2010 Superheroes of Hypocrisy Title. By day, George Rekers is a 61-year-old father of three; a Baptist minister; co-founder, with James Dobson, of the Family Research Council – the lobbying arm of US Christianity; a professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina; a sex therapist specializing in teenage gender identity “issues”; an officer of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH); and a prolific author with a bad back. That’s enough to keep two men busy. But, lo and behold, when Daddy gets his ticket punched and slips out of his mild-mannered “Professor George” persona he’s a wild man worth every inch of that Superheroes title.
Professor George’s “closet” is bigger than a walk-in and needs to be, because that’s where he likes to spend his quality time with rent boys younger than his own kids. Not for Professor George, the quick grope in a public restroom or sexting with Congressional aides — no, Professor George is a stylish man of means who knows how to do things right. Professor George took his rent boy on a ten-day tour of Europe, a sublime getaway for man and boy, that might have been a totally fabulous performance except that the good Prof didn’t quite “stick the landing.” George Rekers (gotta love that name) was “caught on camera” coming down the stretch on his triumphal return to Miami International Airport with his rent boy — er, travel assistant — still in tow.
Rekers is an old hand at his chosen lifestyle, though, and immediately flew into damage control mode … which makes for entertaining reading because Rekers is no ordinary closet-case; this Extreme Gay Makeover has constructed his entire life around secretly embracing and publicly denying his gender identity. Every waking minute of Rekers day is spent on some aspect of homosexuality. He has two websites dedicated to counseling teenagers who are troubled by gender identity issues — one is called “Professor George” (gimme a break) and the other is called TeenSexToday.com that promises that readers who submit questions can “count on me to be logical, ethical, and scientific in my answers.” Right. This is Rekers’ favorite subject and favorite age group — color me cynical but this is just a front for a cyber-peeping Tom.
Rekers was recently paid a handsome $87,000 to serve as an “expert” witness in a case to determine whether the state of Florida’s ban on gay adoptions was legal (the judge ultimately ruled against the state). Reker’s testified that gay couples should not be permitted to adopt for the usual fact-free homophobic pseudoscience reasons. For whatever reason, while he had the microphone, Rekers also decided to throw Native Americans under the “no adoptions” bus. At the end of that trial, Judge Cindy Lederman singled out Rekers’ testimony for Dishonorable Mention thus:
“Dr. Rekers’ testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers’ beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court can not consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.”
The usual suspects have dealt quite expertly with the more salacious details of Rekers’ “Roman holiday” which leave little room for doubt about the true nature of Rekers’ tryst — in other words, I, happily, do not need to go into detail over what did and did not occur. For me, and other Hypocrisy Epicures, the juiciest tidbits lie in how the cornered hypocrite chooses to extricate him/herself from a world of trouble.
At 61, Professor George has set himself up pretty well, none of his lucrative gigs — ministry, expert witnessing, screed publishing, teen sex therapy etc. require any “heavy lifting.” The only thing that could put a dent in his little homo cottage industry would be exposure as a cynical, hypocritical charlatan making money giving advice to others from a thoroughly self-delusional background. That could mess up everything …
So it is that the good professor has decided to go the absolute denial route — and, as he thinks of even better excuses, he piles them on as he goes. He started, of course, with the lame story that his hunk-y “rent boy” was selected for his baggage handling skills. Professor George isn’t getting any younger and his doctor warned him to do no heavy lifting. Since the Prof was interested in “renting a boy” to lug his bags all over Europe, rentboy.com was the logical place to look, right? Now, I defy anyone reading this article to spend just a few minutes trolling through the rentboy.com site and come back and tell me (with a straight face) that you never would have guessed that those boys were gay male prostitutes. Our “expert witness” claims that he was fooled, indeed he claims it wasn’t until halfway through the trip that he guessed that his travel assistant was a male prostitute.
How unreasonable is it to expect that a man who has dedicated his life to counseling teenagers on gender identity and offering therapy to “cure” unhappy gays, would immediately recognize rentboy.com for exactly what it is?
After the media responded with a collective snort of derision, Reker amended his position on his Facebook page (which is predictably MIA, at the moment) in this way:
“If you talk with my travel assistant you will find I spent a great deal of time sharing scientific information on the desirability of abandoning homosexual intercourse, and I shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him in great detail.”
“My hero is Jesus Christ who loves even the culturally despised people, including sexual sinners and prostitutes. Like Jesus Christ, I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them.”
From having Jesus as his hero, Rekers made the leap to litigant declaring that he would be suing the Miami reporters who wrote the original Rekers story for defamation. Which just goes to show that Rekers is living in his own nasty little world where being gay is grist for the “defamation” mill. The juridical trend, these days, is that calling someone “gay” is not defamatory. Such rulings have been made in many states; although I wouldn’t recommend testing it, yet, in states like Texas, Arizona or Arkansas.
As usual in such cases, former associates “vote with their feet” lest they get some of this doody on them. The CEO of Family Research Council was quick to point out that he never heard of Rekers and that when he did a little digging he found that it had been decades since Reker played an active role in FRC.
NARTH, for its part, weighed in with this:
“While NARTH is focused on the science of homosexual attraction, personal controversies often deepen the existing cultural divide on this issue. Such is the case in the recent news stories concerning one of our members, Dr. George Rekers.”
“NARTH takes seriously the accusations that have been made, and we are currently attempting to understand the details behind these press reports. We are always saddened when this type of controversy impacts the lives of individuals, and we urge all parties to allow a respectful and thorough investigation to take place.”
“NARTH continues to support scientific research, and to value client autonomy, client self-determination and client diversity.”
In closing, I’ll say that I honestly feel bad for George Rekers. Not because he appears to be gay – I’m gay and surrounded and supported by a mixed gay and straight community of gifted and loving friends; and, despite Professor George’s dire warning about gays’ parenting abilities, I raised a son who is brilliant, successful, heterosexual and who has presented me with an equally marvelous granddaughter. My life is rich and full and ultimately very satisfying. The reason that I feel bad for George Reker is because I seriously doubt that the life that he has built to “fix” his gender identity crisis and live a lie is cold comfort to him today.
In a new study drawing on nearly a half century of data, a team of researchers report that religious adherents in the United States — especially fundamentalist Christians — are more inclined than agnostics to harbor racist attitudes toward blacks and other minorities.
This “religion-racism paradox,” as University of Southern California social psychologist Wendy Wood explains it, is deeply embedded in organized religion which, by its very nature, encourages people to accept one fundamental belief system as superior to all others. The required value judgment creates a kind of us-versus-them conflict, in which members of a religious group develop ethnocentric attitudes toward anyone perceived as different…
Compounding the effect, the study’s authors explain, are similarities in the moral makeup of people drawn to religion and of people who exhibit racist attitudes and behavior. Previous studies have shown that religious adherents are more likely than agnostics and atheists to rate conservative “life values” as the most important principles underlying their belief systems.
Those specific values — social conformity and respect for tradition — also most closely correlate with racism. In short, people are attracted to organized religion for the same reason some people are inclined toward racist thinking: a belief in the sanctity of established divisions in society.
Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazim Sadeghi on CNN:
— Women who dress provocatively and tempt people into promiscuity are to blame for earthquakes, a leading Iranian hard-line cleric has apparently said.
The prayer leader, Hojatoleslam Kazim Sadeghi, says women and girls who “don’t dress appropriately” spread “promiscuity in society.”
“When promiscuity spreads, earthquakes increase,” he says in a video posted Monday on YouTube, apparently of him leading Friday prayers in Tehran, Iran, last week.
— The newspaper carried the story in our local area, that was not carried nationally, that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it would was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other gay pride parades.
So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the Day of Judgment, and I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.
As cognition goes, this specimen is really, really dissonant. Better than the reigning champ, telling the government to take its stinking paws off my Medicare? You be the judge.
And as the therapists continue to discover, no therapeutic technique can heal a church of all its pathology. “And I treated half a dozen priests who fathered children,” Dr. Lothstein said. “I treated priests who had two children. I treated priests who got women pregnant and got them abortions.
“I said to one of them, ‘Why didn’t you just use a condom?’ And he said, ‘Because birth control is against the law of the church.’ ”
Despite what you’ve been reading, the Vatican is moving closer to Christ’s teachings all the time — although perhaps more slowly than some might prefer. Consider this 1455 Papal Bull from Pope Nicholas V, granting certain rights to the king of Portugal:
But since, as we are informed, although the king and infante aforesaid (who with so many and so great dangers, labors, and expenses, and also with loss of so many natives of their said kingdoms, very many of whom have perished in those expeditions, depending only upon the aid of those natives, have caused those provinces to be explored and have acquired and possessed such harbors, islands, and seas, as aforesaid, as the true lords of them), fearing lest strangers induced by covetousness should sail to those parts, and desiring to usurp to themselves the perfection, fruit, and praise of this work, or at least to hinder it, should therefore, either for the sake of gain or through malice, carry or transmit iron, arms, wood used for construction, and other things and goods prohibited to be carried to infidels or should teach those infidels the art of navigation, whereby they would become more powerful and obstinate enemies to the king and infante, and the prosecution of this enterprise would either be hindered, or would perhaps entirely fail, not without great offense to God and great reproach to all Christianity, to prevent this and to conserve their right and possession, [the said king and infante] under certain most severe penalties then expressed, have prohibited and in general have ordained that none, unless with their sailors and ships and on payment of a certain tribute and with an express license previously obtained from the said king or infante, should presume to sail to the said provinces or to trade in their ports or to fish in the sea, [although the king and infante have taken this action, yet in time it might happen that persons of other kingdoms or nations, led by envy, malice, or covetousness, might presume, contrary to the prohibition aforesaid, without license and payment of such tribute, to go to the said provinces, and in the provinces, harbors, islands, and sea, so acquired, to sail, trade, and fish; and thereupon between King Alfonso and the infante, who would by no means suffer themselves to be so trifled with in these things, and the presumptuous persons aforesaid, very many hatreds, rancors, dissensions, wars, and scandals, to the highest offense of God and danger of souls, probably might and would ensue — We [therefore] weighing all and singular the premises with due meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso — to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit.
From the Associated Press:
Vatican Radio, presenting listeners with some of the most vehement counterattacks yet, depicted the church as a victim.
“There are those who fear the media campaign of anti-Catholic hatred can degenerate,” Vatican Radio said.
It noted anti-Catholic graffiti on walls of a church outside Viterbo, a town near Rome, and reminded listeners that a bishop was attacked by a man during Easter Mass in Muenster, Germany. The bishop fought back with an incense bowl.
…or did you already know that? From today’s New York Times:
Lawyers for the father of a Marine who died in Iraq say a court has ordered him to pay legal costs for the anti-gay protesters who picketed his son’s funeral. The protesters are led by Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. The father, Albert Snyder of York, Pa., had won a $5 million verdict against Mr. Phelps, but it was thrown out on appeal. On Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Maryland, ordered Mr. Snyder to pay the costs of Mr. Phelps’s appeal.
The United States Supreme Court agreed earlier this month to consider whether the protesters’ provocative messages, which include phrases like “Thank God for dead soldiers,” are protected by the First Amendment. Members of the church maintain that God hates homosexuality and that the death of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is God’s way of punishing the United States for its tolerance of it.
More disgusting news from the Vatican. Read the whole thing, but the excerpts below particuarly struck me. It seems the Vatican knew it had a problem with priests using confessional booths as pick-up joints at least by 1962 — decades before the pedophilia scandals exploded in America. Maybe those earlier problems involved only women, but I do not find that encouraging. Nor probable.
Church and Vatican documents obtained by two lawyers who have filed lawsuits alleging the Archdiocese of Milwaukee didn't take sufficient action against Murphy show that as many as 200 deaf students had accused him of molesting them, including in the confessional, while he ran the school.
While the documents — letters between diocese and Rome, notes taken during meetings, and summaries of meetings — are remarkable in the repeated desire to keep the case secret, they do suggest an increasingly determined effort by bishops to heed the despair of the deaf community in bringing a canonical trial against Murphy…
Just a few weeks later, Bertone — now the Vatican's secretary of state — told the Wisconsin bishops to begin secret disciplinary proceedings against Murphy according to 1962 norms concerning soliciting sex in the confessional, according to the documents.
Meet Texas congressman Randy Neugebauer, the ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee's Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Subcommittee. He’s opposed to killing babies, too!
From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON — Catholic nuns are urging Congress to pass President Barack Obama’s health care plan, in an unusual public break with bishops who say it would subsidize abortion.
Some 60 leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 Catholic nuns Wednesday sent lawmakers a letter urging them to pass the Senate health care bill. It contains restrictions on abortion funding that the bishops say don’t go far enough.
The letter says that “despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions.” The letter says the legislation also will help support pregnant women and “this is the real pro-life stance.”
From the Associated Press:
A Rome high school has decided to install vending machines selling condoms for its students, sparking angry reaction from the Catholic Church which claims the move will only encourage youths to have sex…
L’Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, said Thursday that sex was being reduced to ‘‘mere physical exercise.’’ The paper lamented that young people these days have no spiritual guidance when it comes to sexuality, and that educators are more concerned with ‘‘the health and hygiene consequences of sex’’ than the moral implications.
We wouldn’t be seeing all this nonsense if choirboys could get pregnant.
In a note read on Vatican Radio, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, cautioned against limiting the concerns over child sexual abuse to Roman Catholic institutions, noting that the problem also affected the broader society.
Hear this, from the American Family Association:
Chalk another death up to animal rights insanity and to the ongoing failure of the West to take counsel on practical matters from the Scripture…
What about the term “killer whale” do SeaWorld officials not understand?
If the counsel of the Judeo-Christian tradition had been followed, Tillikum would have been put out of everyone’s misery back in 1991 and would not have had the opportunity to claim two more human lives.
Says the ancient civil code of Israel, “When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable.” (Exodus 21:28)
So, your animal kills somebody, your moral responsibility is to put that animal to death. You have no moral culpability in the death, because you didn’t know the animal was going to go postal on somebody.
But, the Scripture soberly warns, if one of your animals kills a second time because you didn’t kill it after it claimed its first human victim, this time you die right along with your animal. To use the example from Exodus, if your ox kills a second time, “the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:29)
Pursuant to our recent interest in agnosticism and atheism, I pass along a specimen of Bertrand Russell’s apostasy, written 60 years ago but as fresh as yesterday’s earthquakes in Haiti:
Throughout the last 400 years, during which the growth of science has gradually shown men how to acquire knowledge of the ways of nature and mastery over natural forces, the clergy have fought a losing battle against science, in astronomy and geology, in anatomy and physiology, in biology and psychology and sociology. Ousted from one position, they have taken up another.
After being worsted in astronomy, they did their best to prevent the rise of geology; they fought against Darwin in biology, and at the present time they fight against theories of psychology and education. At each stage they try to make the public forget their earlier obscurantism, in order that their present obscurantism may not be recognized for what it is. Let us note a few instances of irrationality among the clergy since the rise of science, and then enquire whether the rest of mankind are any better.
When Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning-rod the clergy, both in England and America, with the enthusiastic support of George III, condemned it as an impious attempt to defeat the will of God. For, as all right-thinking people are aware, lightning is sent by God to punish impiety or some other grave sin — the virtuous are never struck by lightning.
Therefore if God wants to strike anyone, Benjamin Franklin ought not to defeat His design; indeed to do so is helping criminals to escape. But God was equal to the occasion, if we are to believe the eminent Dr. Price, one of the leading divines of Boston.
Lightning having been rendered ineffectual by the “iron points invented by the sagacious Dr. Franklin,” Massachusetts was shaken by earthquakes, which Dr. Price perceived to be due to God’s wrath at the “iron points.” In a sermon on the subject he said, “In Boston are more erected than elsewhere in New England, and Boston seems to be more dreadfully shaken. O! there is no getting out of the mighty hand of God.”
Apparently, however, Providence gave up all hope of curing Boston of its wickedness, for, though lightning-rods became more and more common, earthquakes in Massachusetts have remained rare. Nevertheless, Dr. Price’s point of view, or something very like it, was still held by one of the most influential men of recent times. When, at one time, there were several bad earthquakes in India, Mahatma Gandhi solemnly warned his compatriots that the disasters had beeen sent as a punishment for their sins.
What are we to make of this?
The studies show there’s significantly less racism among people who don’t have strong religious beliefs, while highly devout religious communities exhibit more prejudice against people of other races (with seminaries showing the highest degree of racism). The researchers found barely any difference between the amount of racism among religious fundamentalists and more moderate Christians. “Only religious agnostics were racially tolerant,” they write in their paper.
The purpose of life is living. Men and women should get the most they can out of their lives. The smallest, tiniest intellect may be quite as valuable to society as the largest. It may be still more valuable to itself: it may have all the capacity for enjoyment that the wisest has. The purpose of man is like the purpose of the pollywog — to wriggle along as far as he can without dying; or to hang on until death takes him.
Quoted in Infidels and Heretics: An Agnostic’s Anthology, edited by Clarence Darrow and Wallace Rice.
UPDATE from the same source: “I have suffered from being misunderstood, but I would have suffered a hell of a lot more if I had been understood.”
Here’s the Word of the Lord from John Hart, who is communications director for famed Christian Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma:
Coburn’s opposition to government programs, Hart said, stemmed from his concern for the poor. “His faith informs everything he does,” Hart said. He went on to say that, in the New Testament, Jesus mentions the poor some 300 times. “He doesn’t view the Bible as a think-tank document.,” Hart said. So, Coburn, before he contemplates a policy, Hart said, first asks himself, “How will it impact the people least able to fend for themselves?”
“He has come to the conclusion that large government enterprises harm poor more than help them,” Hart said, offering Medicaid as an example. He conceded that the government health-care program does help some poor people, but he contends that it hurts others, because “40 percent of doctors refuse to accept Medicaid.” (Coburn is an MD himself.)
Hart said that the expansion of Medicaid beyond the ranks of the “truly poor” will only hurt more people.
And, in a not unrelated story, we learn that, “Only one in four Oklahoma public high school students can name the first President of the United States, according to a survey released today.”
From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON – A Senate committee voted Tuesday night to restore $50 million a year in federal funding for abstinence-only education that President Barack Obama has pushed to eliminate.
The 12-11 vote by the Senate Finance Committee came over objections from its chairman, Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana.
Two Democrats — Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas — joined all 10 committee Republicans in voting “yes” on the measure by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.
Thank God I’ve found another repressed minority to belong to (I was already a male WASP, although the P has dwindled to showing up at an occasional funeral).
Even in a city like Atlanta, some people feel religious pressure. Ed Buckner, president of American Atheists, said the Atlanta Freethought Association has members who “never saw any need [to gather with others] until they came to Atlanta – and people behind you in line in the grocery store say ‘Do you know Jesus?’
It seems to me that the only possible answer to that question would be “None of your damned business,” although as a Freethoughter I’m of course open to other suggestions.
…have been surprised by such religious recrudescences as Operation Rescue and the recent murder of Dr. George Tiller. Patriots and Peoples, a blog whose existence I discovered about five minutes ago, quotes the Founding Father:
The Presbyterian clergy are loudest, the most intolerant of all sects, the most tyrannical and ambitious; ready at the word of a lawgiver, if such a word could be now obtained, to put the torch to the pile, and to rekindle in this virgin hemisphere, the flames in which their oracle Calvin consumed the poor Servetus.
You’ve been hearing about the C Street house where Sanford and Ensign and Wamp and many another sinner of the GOP lived and loved and laughed together.
But it’s all a whole lot creepier that you even think, unless you happen to remember Jeff Sharlet’s 2003 piece in Harper’s called “Jesus plus nothing: Undercover among America’s secret theocrats.”
The book which grew out of it, The Family, is just out in trade paperback, and I urge you to buy it. And you will, once you read the 2003 piece. Excerpt:
It is April 2002, and I have lived with these men for weeks now, not as a Christian — a term they deride as too narrow for the world they are building in Christ’s honor — but as a “believer.” I have shared the brothers’ meals and their work and their games. I have been numbered among them and have been given a part in their ministry. I have wrestled with them and showered with them and listened to their stories: I know which man resents his father’s fortune and which man succumbed to the flesh of a woman not once but twice and which man dances so well he is afraid of being taken for a fag. I know what it means to be a “brother,” which is to say that I know what it means to be a soldier in the army of God…
Religious notes from the New York Times:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Some of those seated in the pews of New Bethel Church here Saturday night, their firearms tucked to their sides, saw themselves as modern-day pioneers…
Likewise, Tommy Hillerich, 68, a retired truck driver, and Maya, 58, his wife, a former auto upholstery worker, did not bring their firearms inside but firmly believe in their right to do so.
“I don’t see a thing wrong with having a loaded gun in there,” Mr. Hillerich said. “If the pastor’s in there and he’s got a concealed weapon and somebody comes in and starts shooting people, he can take him out. That’s his right.”
Here’s an old item from the dawn of Bad Attitudes that I just came across. Sadly, it’s still relevant.
The Reverend Michael Bray of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Bowie, Maryland, runs an annual benefit banquet for imprisoned murderers, bombers, arsonists and other criminals in the anti-abortion movement:
“For example, he said, Paul Hill, convicted for the 1994 killings of a doctor who performed abortions and his escort in Florida, sent along a letter listing the ten commandments. Mr. Malvasi’s contributions to the charity auction, Mr. Bray said, included the watch he used as a timing device in a bombing attempt in the 1980s.
“‘You can understand the level of levity here,’ Mr. Bray said. He added that the items sold for amounts up to $100.” (New York Times, March 31, 2001)
From Edward O. Wilson’s great 1978 book, On Human Nature:
The one form of altruism that religions seldom display is tolerance of other religions. Their hostility intensifies when societies clash, because religion is superbly serviceable to the purposes of warfare and economic exploitation. The conqueror’s religion becomes a sword, that of the conquered a shield.
From the story in today’s New York Times about the Catholic Church’s network of children’s schools in Ireland for the “poor, the vulnerable and the unwanted,” run in Christ’s name by sadists and sexual abusers. I happen to know a woman who was raised in one of these houses of mercy; she confirms what the church had managed to keep hidden until the 1990s.
The devil, as usual, is in the details:
Some of the schools operated essentially as workhouses. In one school, Goldenbridge, girls as young as seven spent hours a day making rosaries by stringing beads onto lengths of wire. They were given quotas: 600 beads on weekdays and 900 on Sundays.
Riding freights around the country many years ago, I ran across a man who told me, “If you’re ever hungry, boy, ask a poor man.” Good advice, and still good today:
America’s poor donate more, in percentage terms, than higher-income groups do, surveys of charitable giving show. What’s more, their generosity declines less in hard times than the generosity of richer givers does…
Indeed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest survey of consumer expenditure found that the poorest fifth of America’s households contributed an average of 4.3 percent of their incomes to charitable organizations in 2007. The richest fifth gave at less than half that rate, 2.1 percent…
Pastor Coletta Jones, who ministers to a largely low-income tithing congregation in southeast Washington, The Rock Christian Church, thinks that poor people give more because they ask for less for themselves.
“When you have just a little, you’re thankful for what you have,” Jones said, “but with every step you take up the ladder of success, the money clouds your mind and gets you into a state of never being satisfied.”
French First Lady Carla Bruni today launched an astonishing attack on the Pope — accusing the Catholic Church of ‘damaging’ countries like Africa with its birth control proclamations.
The Italian-born former supermodel said she was so dissatisfied with the Pontiff that she no longer practised the religion she was born into.
Her outburst, made at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, caused outrage — not only among France’s millions of Catholics, but also among those who do not believe it is the job of an unelected First Lady to criticise a world figure, least of all the Pope.
Miss Bruni said: ‘I was born Catholic, I was baptised, but in my life I feel profoundly secular.
‘I find that the controversy coming from the Pope’s message – albeit distorted by the media — is very damaging.
‘In Africa it’s often Church people who look after sick people. It’s astonishing to see the difference between the theory and the reality.’
Seriously. Doesn’t the Supreme Court of the United States of America have anything better than this to do?
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday ordered a federal appeals court to re-examine its ruling in favor of CBS Corp. in a legal fight over entertainer Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.
The high court on Monday directed the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to consider reinstating the $550,000 fine that the Federal Communications Commission imposed on CBS over Jackson's breast-baring performance at the 2004 Super Bowl.
Rather than make some biting comment about Christianity and hypocrisy, I'll just report, and let you decide.
More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed, according the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified — more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.
Fom the Wall Street Journal (paid link):
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Benedict XVI said on his way to Africa Tuesday that condoms weren’t the answer in the continent’s fight against HIV, his first explicit statement on an issue that has divided even clergy working with AIDS patients…
“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane headed to Yaounde, Cameroon, where he will begin a seven-day pilgrimage on the continent. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”
As your immigrant great-grandpa used to say: “He no play-a da game, he no make-a da rules.”
This from Bristol Palin, for whom I hope all goes well.
(CNN) — In her first interview since giving birth, the teenage daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said having a child is not “glamorous,” and that telling young people to be abstinent is “not realistic at all.”
“It’s just, like, I’m not living for myself anymore. It’s, like, for another person, so it’s different,” Bristol Palin told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “And just you’re up all night. And it’s not glamorous at all,” she said. “Like, your whole priorities change after having a baby…”
The best option is abstinence, the teen said, but added that she didn’t think that was “realistic.”
More heartwarming news from our BFF in the Middle East:
A Saudi judge has ordered a woman should be jailed for a year and receive 100 lashes after she was gang-raped, it was claimed last night.
The 23-year-old woman, who became pregnant after her ordeal, was reportedly assaulted after accepting a lift from a man.
He took her to a house to the east of the city of Jeddah where she was attacked by him and four of his friends throughout the night…
According to the Saudi Gazette, she eventually ‘confessed’ to having ‘forced intercourse’ with her attackers and was brought before a judge at the District Court in Jeddah.
He ruled she had committed adultery — despite not even being married — and handed down a year’s prison sentence, which she will serve in a prison just outside the city.
She is still pregnant and will be flogged once she has had the child.
From the International Herald Tribune:
ROME — Responding to an extraordinary burst of global outrage, especially in Pope Benedict XVI's native Germany, the Vatican for the first time on Wednesday called on a recently rehabilitated bishop to take back his statements denying the Holocaust.
Late last month, the pope revoked the excommunications of four schismatic bishops from the ultraconservative Society of St. Pius X, including Bishop Richard Williamson, a Briton, who in an interview broadcast last month denied the existence of the Nazi gas chambers.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the Vatican Secretariat of State said that Bishop Williamson "must absolutely, unequivocally and publicly distance himself from his positions on the Shoah," or Holocaust, or else he would not be allowed to serve as a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church.
However the question that must be troubling Catholic clergy, church scholars, schismatics of various flavors, theologians, and just plain laymen with any common sense at all, is whether the bishop will have his fingers crossed. Certainly the Pope will.
Pope Benedict just named one Fr Gerhard Maria Wagner as assistant bishop of the Austrian city of Linz.
Fr Wagner is notorious for his extreme views — he has accused the popular Harry Potter novels of spreading Satanism, and described Hurricane Katrina as God’s punishment for the sinners of New Orleans.
He wrote in a parish newsletter that the death and destruction caused by the hurricane in New Orleans was divine retribution for the city’s tolerance of homosexuals and permissive sexual attitudes.
The future bishop said he was glad that Katrina destroyed not only nightclubs and brothels in New Orleans, but also five of the city’s abortion clinics.
Televangelist John Hagee:
I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are —were recipients of the judgment of God for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade on the Monday that the Katrina came, and the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing.
The late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi :
[Al Qaeda’s then-leader in Iraq] issued a statement on the Internet calling Katrina divine retribution. “God’s great wrath has hit the head of the oppressors,” the statement read…
In the recording, al-Zarqawi said, “I believe the devastating hurricane that hit the United States occurred because people in Iraq or Afghanistan — maybe a mother who had lost her son or a son whose parents were killed or a woman who was raped — were praying for God and God accepted their prayers.”
And, from the third of the great Semitic monotheisms, here’s Ovadia Yosef…
… a former chief rabbi of Israel and the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas movement, said Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for President Bush 's support for Israel's Gaza pullout.
“Bush was behind the (expulsion of) Gush Katif,” he said. “He encouraged Sharon to expel Gush Katif…we had 15,000 people expelled here, and there 150,000 (were expelled from New Orleans — ed. note)
Everybody else is giving advice to Obama, why not Francis Bacon? And so, from his essay “On Seditions and Troubles”:
A smaller number that spend more and earn less do wear out an estate sooner than a greater number that live lower and gather more. Therefore the multiplying of nobility and other degrees of quality in an over proportion to the common people doth speedily bring a state to necessity; and so doth likewise an overgrown clergy; for they bring nothing to the stock; and in like manner, when more are bred scholars than preferments can take off…
Above all things, good policy is to be used that the treasure and moneys in a state be not gathered into few hands. For otherwise a state may have a great stock, and yet starve. And money is like muck, not good except it be spread. This is done chiefly by suppressing or at least keeping a strait hand upon the devouring trades of usury, ingrossing great pasturages, and the like.
Bad news for Seinfeld freaks and all you freaks at the Westboro Baptist Church:
Washington state officials placed a moratorium late Friday on permitting any more holiday displays inside the Capitol this year.
An atheists’ sign placed near a Nativity scene sparked a controversy after commentators on Fox News drew attention to it. Afterward, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office was flooded with nearly 15,000 phone calls from people nationwide who opposed the sign.
The moratorium in effect denies space to several requests, including one for a sign that says “Santa Claus will take you to Hell” and a “Festivus” pole. Festivus is a mock holiday popularized by the “Seinfeld” sitcom in the 1990s.
Merry Christmas from the Westboro Baptist Church!
“You’d better watch out, get ready to cry/ You’d better go hide, I’m telling you why/
’cuz Santa Claus will take you to hell.
“He is your favorite idol, you worship at his feet,/ but when you stand before your God He won’t help you take the heat.
“So get this fact straight: you’re feeling God’s hate,/ Santa’s to blame for the economy’s fate,
“Santa Claus will take you to hell.”
From the Associated Press, a Prince of the Church making his priorities clear:
SANTIAGO, Chile – Madonna is causing “crazy enthusiasm” and “impure thoughts” on her first concert visit to Chile, a prominent retired cardinal complained on Wednesday, as he paused in a tribute to a late dictator to denounce the pop star.
Roman Catholic Cardinal Jorge Medina criticized the flamboyant singer during his homily at a Mass in honor of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet, who oversaw the deaths of some 3,200 dissidents during his 1973-1990 rule…
Medina said that some of those who claim to seek justice for violations of human rights under the dictator are actually seeking revenge.
I would prefer to describe myself as a libertarian agnostic when describing my beliefs on religion rather than an atheist. I am not a libertarian in the strict sense in terms of my personal political philosphies by any stretch of the imagination, but would describe myself in those terms in regards to the one subject of religion. Personally I care little about another person’s religious beliefs unless I sense their religious beliefs as endangering my own freedom to believe as I wish. I hope and wish that no one (except perhaps my wonderful wife) cares about my religious beliefs. However, I am happy to report that I am not living in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 although I question whether that may again be part of nation’s future if we continue on the path of the last eight years.
The song posted below is described as an “atheist spiritual” on YouTube although I tend to think the former definition fits the song better. However, I made up the term libertarian agnostic and have no idea whether it is in common use or not. My beliefs on the subject of religion seem best described by some of the writings and letters of Einstein, although I am not he by any stretch of the imagination.
I don’t believe that another’s religion is anyone’s business unless they use religion as a force or club to infringe on the lives of others who choose a different path, as we often see happening in America today. Nevertheless, I like the song and I like the style of Chris Wood, the singer of this song, and thought I would share it with others who may find it to be helpful at this time in the life of our nation, whatever you chose to call the song. If religious songs, or libertarian religious folk songs are not your cup of tea, I’ll probably be serving whiskey on some upcoming post, so feel free to remain on the wagon for this one.
The name of this song is Come Down Jehovah, and it was written by Chris Wood. It is on somebody’s list of “top ten atheist songs”, but I'm not sure why. The song seems to have more of an agnostic than an atheist flavor to it in my opinion. I don’t see how an atheist song could possibly have a spiritual component to it, and yet we find the songwriter asking Jehovah to come down and the devil to come up and make themselves known to all their cohorts here on Earth. I find it to be a cup of tea and not a shot of whiskey, but then I regard folk music as a form of poetry more than a form of musical entertainment much of the time, so interpretations can often differ in this type of creative work.
[update: The link to Chris Wood above has a playable folk song called The Cottager’s Reply, which is or was a commentary about the huge rise in rural home prices in the English countryside in recent years and one cottage owners reasons for his refusal to sell. Worth a listen.]
I haven’t paid as much attention to the Tom Cruise-Scientology nexus as I should have. This video brought me up to speed, and I hope it will do the same for you. There are only two words to describe the effect it had on me: “holy” and “shit.”
Once the initial bemusement passed, though, I began to wonder how a Martian would react to a video of a not-too-bright Christian or Jew or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist babbling on about his own One True Faith.
…and so I won’t even try. These are excerpts from Women Against Sarah Palin, the wonderful website to which my sister Pat alerted me, and about which I blogged earlier this week.
Sarah Palin is the classic example of a woman being used by those in power to remove power from women.
I want to love a mother, governor and VP candidate, but Palin horrifies me, she seems to epitomize the American inability to be introspective, to polarize and see everything in terms of black and white, good or evil, right or wrong. This intolerance and inability to get out of a narrow perspective and see the divine spark in all is at the core of the danger America is creating for itself, and feeds the dissension in America. She has a sharp, but not a deep mind fast with the comebacks, but more interested in bullying an argument than in understanding the truth.
Even in this very red state of Alabama, we know the difference between a show horse, a hobby horse, and a work horse. You do not represent working class women, farm wives or single mothers — ALL of whom turned to Hillary Clinton with great hopes. You charged women for their own rape kits when you were mayor in Wasilla. You use housekeepers and nannies to care for your kids. You don’t want sex education in schools, but you let your daughter get pregnant! You do not now, nor will you ever speak for us!
I can hardly begin to express the depth of my anger at hearing Ms. Palin denigrate the many community organizers I worked with and proudly call my friends. Community Organizers make the world a better place, doing God’s work day in and day out, night after night. To hear that convention audience laugh in response to her snide remarks really pissed me off. I didn’t realize just how steamed I was until a dear friend (another longtime community activist) sent me an e-mail with this message: Jesus was a Community Organizer. Pontius Pilate was a Governor.
Sarah Palin represents the slap of the dinosaur’s tail — a deadly, horned swipe of a breed going extinct; quite likely, in her throes of excited thrashing, to kill off many individuals, many careers, many dearly held gains, won since 1963, for which many of us fought with our brains, our convictions, our blood, our time, our eloquence, and our money…
Are we ready to stand idly by while an old, ill man, watches Sarah’s shapely behind, while fingering his wedding ring? Are we ready to give up our time to choose, our right to decide and let this mockery of a modern woman, this poorly educated bigot tramples our civil rights? Are we ready to die if our life is endangered by an unhealthy pregnancy? Are we willing to let Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and the other megalomaniacs at the helm of the Republican party decide the course of our lives, our daughters’ and granddaughters’ lives?
Even the power she gained as the mayor of a town of a mere 5000, immediately corrupted her; her wide swipes through the administration she inherited were so disruptive to that small government entity that an immediate remedy was set in place — an administrator had to be hired to do the job of running the town while she was mayor. And still, the surplus she inherited turned into a deficit — IMAGINE the damage she could orchestrate on a national level.
The Alaskan legislature took to wearing buttons that said, “Where’s Sarah?” because she spent so little time in Juneau. Once again, the GOP is deceiving the American people in a most callous and calculating way — just because they put a skirt on this time doesn’t change a damned thing!
Women in particular should project hope and love and caring for others, and Ms. Palin does none of this, choosing instead to be mean-spirited and accusatory in every single speech and action. I can only hope that with time, people will recognize this and realize that we need someone quite different from her to take us down the road to respect and REAL morality.
But she is not the problem — our problem is the white old men that insist on running this country with their need to control, their archaic laws and ideas. Their lives are based on fear and ridiculous needs to dominate our pocketbook, our bodies and to shoot before thinking and talking. They also have a great need to distort the truth — in other words LYING. This young woman from Alaska is being fooled with — she is their decoy — but she might be elected and then she could be a heartbeat away from being in charge of our lives.
The American people have become distracted. Palin, participating in this election as a trojan horse, has come with phrases that involve animals and lipsticks, bridges to nowhere, and eBay, leading americans in to an abyss of distractions pulling away from the very sobering facts that who she represents and the policies she supports are a complete replica of the current Bush administration, on paper, and without personality mud-slings, the Palin/MCCain ticket represent four more years of the same policies the world has come to hate.
Here we have the ideal ticket for anyone who supports women’s rights — Obama and Biden — versus two people who think women are brainless fools. The fact that Palin wears a skirt doesn’t mean she has respect for women. On the contrary. It just means that she uses her sex to stop any questions about her competence by accusing the questioner of sex-discrimination. Frankly, I didn’t buy that argument when Hillary made it and I’m certainly not buying it from Palin.
This classic bait and switch move has the electorate once again focusing on the culture wars instead of the real ones, on pseudo-feminism instead of tolerance and equality.
Her extreme beliefs regarding abstinence-only education did not work even for her own daughter! and yet she wants to force it on our daughters! We will not have it. We can do better, there are stronger, more thoughtful and fair minded women in this country who are fit to run it.
Is Ms.Palin really the best the Republican party has to offer in terms of a female? I guess there are slim pickings for a woman who will support an antiquated and sexist Republican agenda.
The cruel irony of Senator Clinton blooding herself on that glass ceiling only to have a puppet escorted through on the arm of a warrior…
These people are two loose cannons on a rolling deck and I genuinely fear for the future of our great country. If John McCain is unable to see his term through, Sarah Palin is next in line as leader of the Free World.
“To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.” Really? Because the parents of children with disabilities in Alaska don’t have much of a friend or advocate right now. Even in years of great surplus, she actually cut state funding for special education services and Medicaid — the program that children and adults with disabilities rely on for health care.
Ms. Palin is also well documented as a local bully who tries to fire anyone who disagrees with her. After eight years of an unqualified President who has done everything in his power to position America as a global bully, this characteristic is the last quality we need in the White House for four more years.
Sarah Palin sees the hand of God in a $30 billion Alaskan national gas pipeline. “I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that,” she has stated.
Ms. Palin and I clearly worship very different gods. I see the hand of God not in the wallets of the oil companies, but in the pristine Alaska coastline, its majestic polar bears, whales, and glaciers — all of which Big Oil will despoil. Perhaps Ms. Palin has made the mistake that afflicts a frightening number of our citizens: confusing God with money.
Avedon Carol at The Sideshow has recently posted a very timely and newsworthy item about Sarah Palin that should be read and distributed in both the right and left wing parts of the political blogosphere. Particularly to those who work in faith based organizations.
A worker at a faith based community organization and a community organizer for that group is frightened at what Palin really meant when she attacked community organizers at the Republican Convention. She starts out detailing what her thoughts were when she heard about Palin’s attack on Community organizers. A portion of the post is printed below.
The quote from Dickens, A Christmas Carol, comes to mind: “Are there no workhouses; are there no prisons?” This was Scrooge’s response to “community organizers” seeking donation for the poor.
Last night community organizers were equated with irresponsibility and radicalism by Gov. Palin in her speech.
Working for a faith-based nonprofit that offers (and people really know they can count on us to give them support with dignity) support and aid to individuals and families who are in tough ongoing or temporary financial situations, I consider myself to be a part of what was dismissed by Gov. Palin last night as irresponsible and radical. I worry that our sources of donations will fall not just because of having less disposable income to donate, but because of the truly irresponsible words that Gov. Palin used last night about the work that people like me do.
Let’s see you argue with this, from Eye of the Storm:
i’m going to say this one time, and then i’m going to shut up. re: bristol palin. the american liberal is, — seriously, literally — pro-abortion and anti-choice, believes essentially in mandatory abortion. what does the average liberal mom do when her 16-year-old daughter shows up pregnant? drags her immediately to the abortion clinic, whatever the daughter’s (or the babydad’s, of course) misgivings.
the american left thinks that bristol palin having her baby is, actually, morally wrong. and more to the point, it shows something terrible about her mom, who had a moral obligation to make her daughter have an abortion. and one reason for this is that if you have a baby when you’re 16, you will likely slip out of our class. you’ll go live with joey, the kid who wants to be a mechanic. you’ll take classes at the community college instead of heading off to a decent school. you’ll end up in a housecoat with a houseful of wailing babies, listening to faith hill.
what haunts the imagination of the american liberal: my family, in the next generation, will be white trash. maybe it would be more interesting to look at these sorts of motivations than to try to figure out “when human life begins.”
What’s needed here is a vaccine for stupidity. From Reuters:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Parents refusing to have their children vaccinated against measles have helped drive cases of the illness to their worst levels in a dozen years in the United States, health officials reported on Thursday…
“Of the 95 patients eligible for vaccination, 63 were unvaccinated because of their or their parents’ philosophical or religious beliefs,” the CDC said…
Outbreaks of measles are being reported now in Israel, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Britain among people who are declining the vaccine.
British health officials said in June that measles had again become endemic for the first time since the mid-1990s due to parents declining to get their children vaccinated.
Very much like the rewarding relationship that working class evangelicals have with the Republican Party:
ASSOCIATED PRESS — Australian media say a lost humpback whale calf has bonded with a yacht it seems to think is its mother.
The 1- to 2-month-old calf was first sighted Sunday in waters off north Sydney, and on Monday tried to suckle from a yacht, which it would not leave.
It may be that somewhere, sometime, a hate-crazed liberal once shot up a right-wing fundamentalist church, but no such occasion comes to mind.
And as for “acting alone,” where do you suppose the vicious simpleton below got the idea that things like desegregation, a living wage, women’s rights and gay rights were the cause of all his troubles?
Anything come to mind this time? Limbaugh? O’Reilly? Hagee? Falwell? Coulter? Parsley? Robertson? Savage? And on. And on. And on…
From the BBC:
A man accused of shooting dead two people in a Tennessee church was motivated by hatred of liberals and anger at being jobless, US police say…[And — surprise, surprise — here’s a later postscript, from the Knoxville News Sentinel.]
“It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that, and his stated hatred for the liberal movement,” Chief Owen said…
The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church describes itself on its website as working for social change since the 1950s, including desegregation, racial harmony, fair wages, women’s rights and gay rights.
Police say it appears Mr. Adkisson was acting alone.
Inside the house, officers found “Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder” by radio talk show host Michael Savage, “Let Freedom Ring” by talk show host Sean Hannity, and “The O’Reilly Factor,” by television talk show host Bill O’Reilly…
Today’s text is taken from the spoken word of Clarence Jordan, one of the finest and bravest Christian gentlemen the South ever produced.
Jordan, a wealthy lawyer who gave up the law to found Koinonia Farm, would walk into a rich man’s house and say, “Nice piece of plunder you’ve got here.”
This just in from medieval Rome:
…The Kansas State High School Activities Association said referees reported that Michelle Campbell was preparing to officiate at St. Mary’s Academy near Topeka on Feb. 2 when a school official insisted that Campbell could not call the game.
The reason given, according to the referees: Campbell, as a woman, could not be put in a position of authority over boys because of the academy’s beliefs…
I'm kind of partial to this little ditty by Iris DeMent. Let it be.
Our friend Neddie over at BNJ put up another fine post last week, “An Atheist at Christmas”. Acknowledging and bewailing the manifold sins and wickednesses of the mass emailing lists of friends, he finds particular excess in a recent one.
In sum, the item forwarded to me was simple intellectual pollution, more goddamned dumbness that cloaks itself as folksy wisdom and makes its forwarder feel virtuous for having passed it on.
Besides the slanders and the untruths, and the profoundly irritating conflation of the concepts of "secular" and "atheist," what was most off-putting about the thing was its general aggrieved tone, as though its author were part of some put-upon minority, an underclass of the righteous who loathe the idea that many people don’t take their religion quite as seriously as the righteous think they ought.
If you’ve been reading John Dean recently, you might have encountered the work of Bob Altemeyer, a research psychologist at the University of Manitoba who studies authoritarian personality types. He’s got decades’ worth of survey information and results; other researchers have both added data and extended the ideas.
Authoritarians include followers as well as the power-hungry. Altemeyer defines authoritarianism as the covariation of three attitudes: conventionality, authoritarian submission, and authoritarian aggression. Conventionality involves conforming to social conventions and believing that others ought to do the same. Authoritarian submission means believing in leaders and authority as the best means of keeping society prosperous. Authoritarian aggression indicates the subset of aggressive tendencies that is disinhibited when it’s perceived to be sanctioned by authority, or would help authority maintain its position.
Altemeyer’s Enemies of Freedom is not as famous as it should be. Admittedly it includes a lot of statistical detail, but the detail builds an argument that covers a lot of ground, makes a lot of sense, and seems to provide useful frameworks for understanding some behavior patterns that often occur among fundamentalists and social conservatives in particular.
Dean’s recent Conservatives Without Conscience brought new attention to Altemeyer’s work, and several surprising facts emerge. He’s managed to get this research done without grants, by using his own money and getting a lot of data from his own students, their parents, and their friends. He has a writing style that has you laughing in the preface, and throughout, despite the density of the numbers. Plus, you quickly begin to trust him, because he tells you so much about his thinking and experimentation: what he surveyed for, how he munged the data, how he interprets the results, where ambiguities continue to exist, and on to the next step.
Thus it’s perhaps not surprising that Enemies of Freedom isn’t so easy to find. In fact there were none at Powell’s or eBay, and I was forced to resort to Amazon. Where I discovered two used copies, one $138, the other $154.
Fortunately, as Professor Altemeyer kindly pointed out in an email, he has an updated version of the content, minus the vast majority of the statistical detail, and thus both shorter and easier to read. I’m half-way through it and I highly recommend it. Oh, and The Authoritarians is free.
Among the most interesting issues Altemeyer examines is the question of why people remain in the relatively closed world that authoritarians must inhabit if they wish to maintain their viewpoint. Many, perhaps most, tend to modify at least some of their views and behavior when they encounter new information. But they generally grow up in a heavily circumscribed world that keeps them safe and gives their lives shape and structure, so they have no reason to leave it, or to disbelieve its tenets.
Of course many people grow up in such situations and rebel, or suffer inner dichotomies, or simply lose the ability to reconcile everything and give up. Those whom Altemeyer’s scale labels High Right-Wing Authoritarians, however, feel comfortable there. (By the way, there could also be left-wing authoritarians, who instead of submitting to established authority would submit to revolutionary authority. But there aren’t nearly as many of them as there are RWAs, nor does Altemeyer’s scale directly look for them.)
After looking at several possible explanations, Altemeyer’s data led him to conclude that two factors dominate in the backgrounds of authoritarians. First, they see the world as a very dangerous place, with possibilities for disaster looming around every corner. Second, they see themselves as upholding the Good and the Right as opposed to all those folks who don’t hue to the same high standards they perceive themselves to follow.
Thus they have reason to be frightened, plus aggressive impulses against those who appear to deserve censure, which are inhibited by their strong need to conform to social convention. They need reinforcement to tell them that they’re still in the group; they get a thrill from thumbing their noses at those they figure will in some sense get Left Behind; and they’re often insufferably hypocritical.
Perhaps the most hopeful thing Altemeyer discovered, though, was how frequently such people modified their views with experience, which turned out to be the strongest factor in determining attitudes, stronger than parents and upbringing or religion. For instance, many students entering college are emerging from their parents’ world for the first time, and bring with them the attitudes that worked in that world, and predicted what would happen. They may have been taught that sex is bad, or that homosexual folks are scuzzy and evil; then they have sex, or they meet someone who’s homosexual, and discover that what they’ve been taught isn’t true.
People do change. As Bishop Tutu says, every situation is capable of transfiguration.
Religious news from Iowa:
“I’m concerned a lot of Christians are thinking about the values issues and forgetting about the creator behind the values issues,” Ms. Gherkey said. “I guess I feel like this country and this world needs a president who would be able to pray to the God of the Bible and he would be able to hear his prayers.”
She wondered, Would Mr. Romney’s prayers “even get through?”
I musta been out of the room, or maybe I missed Sunday school that week. But I don’t remember anything in the New Testament promoting hate. In fact, I thought the only real advance Christianity made, the only feature of import not taken directly from Egyptian myth or Buddhist practice from centuries or millennia earlier, was the command to love your enemy.
So how dumb must a preacher be to believe that “God Hates Fags”?
By protesting at the funeral of a 20-year-old Marine killed in Iraq, the morons from Westboro Baptist Church (how could it be any other denomination?) have managed to run up a $10.9 million fine, and in my opinion ten times that much would have been acceptable as well.
Fred W. Phelps Sr., Westboro’s founder, vowed to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va.
“It’s going to be reversed in five minutes,” he said. This case, he added, “will elevate me to something important,” as it draws more publicity to his cause.
Likely true. Alan Dershowitz will probably show up, in between pro-torture speeches and articles, to defend Phelps’s right to be obnoxious, and money will pour in from morons around the country, now bereft of some of their favorite anti-gay ministers, for various reasons we needn’t go into at this moment.
These people are such idiots that they can stand on a street corner and sing “God hates America” to the obvious tune, and see no incompatibility with the message of the Prince of Peace. They’re not protesting war, or murder. They’re protesting sex. War is fine, as long as it’s purely heterosexual. Hey, anyone who’s seen Starship Troopers or Battlestar Galactica knows sex and war go together. Perhaps it’s only near the field of battle that Christianists can find a way to enjoy themselves. Oh, that’s right, enjoying things is a sin, I forgot. I’m supposed to be unhappy my whole life.
After the verdict, Phelps and his two daughters named in Snyder’s lawsuit said they believed that it was really their religious beliefs that were on trial.
“The goofy jury threw a fit at God,” Phelps said.
Sit on it, Westboro Baptist Church.
For full details of this dispatch from the reality-based world, simply click here:
The results of the study, a collaboration between scientists from the World Health Organization in Geneva and the Guttmacher Institute in New York, a reproductive rights group, are being published Friday in the journal Lancet.
The wealth of information that comes out of the study provides some striking lessons, the researchers said. In Uganda, where abortion is illegal and sex education programs focus only on abstinence, the estimated abortion rate was 54 per 1,000 women in 2003, more than twice the rate in the United States, 21 per 1,000 in that year. The lowest rate, 12 per 1,000, was in Western Europe, with legal abortion and widely available contraception.
The Bush administration’s multibillion-dollar campaign against H.I.V./AIDS in Africa has directed money to programs that promote abstinence before marriage, and to condoms only as a last resort. It has prohibited the use of American money to support overseas family planning groups that provide abortions or promote abortion as a method of family planning.
Go read The Theology of American Empire at The Smirking Chimp. It’s by Ira Chernus, a professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. We should all listen to him, but we won’t. Sample:
The bipartisan consensus on U.S. foreign policy calls for us to be powerful enough to dominate them. But every step we take to dominate only antagonizes more people and makes some of them really want to harm us. As long as we keep on this self-defeating road, we are not a national security state. We are a national insecurity state.
So, we need to redefine national security in a way that meets people’s need for a second value that so many of us share: moral certainty. This involves a faith in some rock-bottom kind of goodness in the world, which many Americans believe has a special home here in the United States.
There is a special kind of goodness, rooted in a special kind of theology, that does have an old and honored home here — the goodness of nonviolence. There have always been Christians who were certain that the only moral way to treat others, even enemies, is with love, not violence. They knew it because Jesus said it, right there in the Bible. In 19th-century America, the abolitionists and Thoreau turned the theology of nonviolence into a homegrown strategy for political change.
Martin Luther King, Jr. took this strategy a crucial step further. He preached that it’s the government’s role to help bring all people together in what he called “the beloved community” (something very much like what the Social Gospel called the Kingdom of God). Every government policy should promote “the mutually cooperative and voluntary venture of man to assume a semblance of responsibility for his brother [and sister]” — the responsibility to help every person fulfill their God-given potential.
Are progressives the new evangelicals?
They’re being used and lied to in the same fashion, by people almost as dishonest, and equally unconcerned for the country.
In fact a case can be made that the people using the progressives, who are often called Democrats (with as much justification as Bush as being called a uniter), are even more cynical and far less concerned for the country than those they claim to oppose, commonly called Republicans.
Naturally labels do not encompass all individuals. Senator Patrick “GFY” Leahy and Representatives Conyers and Waxman head the pack that springs to mind as believers in the only really admirable part of the United States: the ideals set down in the founding documents by a bunch of rich white male landowners, who ignored many of those ideals in their own lives, setting a standard for hypocrisy that their descendants have worked overtime to maintain to the present day.
So it’s not like we didn’t see this coming. But we figured the season would end, someone would ask for too much money, and the network would have to re-jigger the lineup before next season. And, worst case, we can always switch channels.
A little research on David Kuo, and you’re confused.
The author of Tempting Faith, and the talk of the Beltway when it came out, he has a diverse and suggestive background. For instance, he spent a year as a CIA intelligence officer, wrote speeches for Bob Dole, worked for Bill Bennett’s “think tank”, may have co-authored a book with Ralph Reed (Reed doesn’t credit him but the Heritage Foundation does; who ya gonna believe?), and came to Reed after a stint as John Ashcroft’s policy director. He also worked for two Kennedys, Joe in 1986, when Kuo was in college, and Ted in 1989, plus Gary Hart.
All this would tend to put Kuo in a position of great interest and usefulness to his former intelligence-community employer. Which is not to say he is CIA, or even that he thinks of himself as helping the agency. A close relative of mine was once sent on a CIA mission that was obvious to everyone around him, Americans and Nicaraguans, at the time. To this day he doesn’t understand why people thought that, since the agency never contacted him. I believe the technical term is “useful idiot”.
Of course it’s possible that Kuo is really a CIA or Illuminati plant, but I doubt it.
For one thing, judging by various TV interviews, he’s either got the classic simplistic Christian view of the psyche, or he’s the best actor since Johnny Depp. You kinda have to like him for the same reasons that make you shake your head in wonder. How can a decently intelligent person be so silly, so naïve?
So maybe he is a plant. Although he seemed quite sincere about his concern for the poor in interviews,
NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling reported that it was Kuo, when he worked at Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition as a “top adviser to the coalition’s main political strategist”, who in 1995 “helped draft the coalition’s manifesto, the ‘Contract with the American Family’ [that] argues that the nation should ‘abolish all major federal welfare programs’ and turn them over to ‘private and religious organizations.’”
Still, maybe it’s possible to argue for all help to the poor coming from churches and still be an honest, intelligent person. I can’t immediately reconcile that opposition; but for someone who can believe the Christian stories are actual history, while the Isis and Osiris story is myth, it might not be as much of a stretch.
I was fascinated to discover Kuo’s backstory, in part because his television appearances gave the impression of someone shallow but sincere. Obviously there’s more here than meets the eye, though precisely what it is remains unclear.
One can postulate, though, a person who really believes that Christianity is God’s gift to man, a cornucopia of blessings that would provide for all our needs, as if we were lilies arrayed more grandly than Solomon, would we but submit, believe, obey, and follow the rule that is absolute. Certainly a lot of humanity is looking for that rule.
Perhaps Kuo is a true believer, in other words, who is trying to manipulate the system to assist in what he perceives to be the divine plan. Such people do exist, and their simplicity and honesty make them credible enough to be often dangerous and occasionally effective.
The message of his book is apparently that the White House, and in particular the political wing, used the bait of money and influence, a sort of modern Temporal Power, to keep the evangelicals on board long enough to get their votes for the war, cutting taxes for the ultra-rich, and destroying what remained of the real economy. Thus, admittedly, creating the type of situation in which appeals to the (increasingly numerous) weak and desperate fall on eager ears, and the proposition that this life is not the one that matters is attractive.
So, it seems to me, either Kuo is actually angry at being used and abused, or he is pursuing a strategy too sophisticated for my simple understanding to grasp.
My question is, How long will it be until some equivalent true believer on the left recounts the details of the Democratic scam currently being run on progressives?
Because we’re clearly being used in the same way for the same reasons.
When Clinton describes herself as an agent of change, and skips the DLC meeting but attends YearlyKos, why don’t we laugh? Because we’re so desperate to be taken seriously that we look to the scummiest, low-downest politicos who’ve recently reversed their positions and claimed opposition to what we hate, gratefully accepting the invitation to a sure-to-be-ignored focus group. Oooh, we’re players now.
When Obama claims the superpower of removing conflict from politics, why doesn’t anyone ask him what’s left of politics afterwards? Without conflict politics would be an excresence, a waste of time for anyone who doesn’t like to fight, a mental World Wrestling Federation.
When Pelosi and Reid claim inability to affect events, despite holding both houses of Congress, they get grief from the Republicans for their inability to act. Democrats, apparently of the opinion that to beat a Nazi party you must become a Nazi party, encourage a lockstep march to the drum beat by the most hypocritical member of Congress in either party, which is saying something. “We can’t do anything unless Uncle Joe lets us” is obviously false, as all the candidates who aren’t currently squirming to avoid responsibility (in other words, those not currently in Congress) constantly emphasize.
Yes, I know the Republicans are filibustering everything that hits the Senate floor. How does that affect the House? Why don’t the Democrats in the House pass a withdraw-from-Iraq bill and let the Republican Senators filibuster it? Make them do it on the floor, as opposed to the current system: “Oh, you plan to filibuster? Okay, since we can’t pass anything, there’s no reason to show up at work. Let us know if you change your mind.” Make them do it on national TV, show their silly speeches and specious reasoning. Sure, the networks will refuse to cover anything that might end the war sooner, but CSPAN and YouTube will take care of that.
We don’t need a third party in this country, we need a second one. One that doesn’t promote war because its donors demand it.
What we seem to have is a Democratic party unable to break through the filibuster barrier, and unwilling to use its one incontrovertible method of ending the war now, namely removing the funding. The House can do that. Not even a unanimous Senate could prevent it. But the Democrats calculate that they are more likely to win the White House in 2008, and more likely to increase their Senate margin, if the war is still going.
The Speaker of the House, in particular, would rather hold onto her job with bloody hands than solve the war and risk losing the political game; and the Majority Leader’s got her back.
We need to let these people know we will not support this strategy. The problem is, I expect in the end that most wimpy liberals will, as usual, compromise away their beliefs and vote for the people whose strategy they do not support. That’s what’s killing Iraqis today: the liberals, not the conservatives.
This is from the late, great Kurt Vonnegut:
For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. “Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!
Since there’s no date on the sites linked above I called one of the lawyers in the case to make sure that it’s still current. It is, and just today Doctors Opposing Circumcision received permission to file an amicus brief before the Washington Supreme Court.
It’s no news that the law is an ass, but this case is a beaut even for America’s legal system. Suppose the boy’s father wanted his son’s ears surgically pinned back or his nose bobbed, against the boy’s will. Would the judge have slapped that father silly, or what?
Or suppose the mother were a Baptist from Tennessee and the father a Moroccan Muslim, just to pick a circumcising faith at total random. Young Mohammed’s foreskin wouldn’t be any safer in Fort Knox than it would be in the courts of Washingon State.
It’s always seemed to me that jailing hardcore lawandorder Republicans served more of a social purpose than prison usually does, since it tends to turn control freaks into advocates for prison reform. Charles Colson comes to mind.
But I may have to rethink the whole matter. I’ve just been reading The Woman Who Wouldn’t Talk by Susan McDougal, perhaps the only person to come out of the attempted lynching called Whitewater with her honor intact:
The atmosphere at Carswell [Medical Prison] was completely different than at Faulkner County Detention Center, and I found it very hard to integrate. Part of this was because of the floor I was on, and part of it was because the long-termers were so hardened. And part of it came from a very unexpected source: the evangelical Christian movement in the prison.
Started by ex-Watergate felon Charles Colson, the ‘born again’ movement had metamorphosed from a very worthy project to a kind of gang — the Christian Crips of prison. Led by a few strong, outspoken women, the Christian converts habitually told other prisoners when they could eat, when they should pray, and with whom they should socialize.
They were unabashedly intolerant of anyone who disagreed even slightly with their view, and they seem to reserve special contempt for the Jewish women on the floor. Routinely harassed, the Jewish women tended to keep their mouths shut and kept themselves separate from everyone else.
Having been raised a Christian, I was angered by this perversion of Christian principles. I never could stand the hypocrisy of those who claimed to be religious yet acted in profoundly unGodly ways. It was one of the things that I had grown to despise about Kenneth Starr.
Once again, the leaders of Christianity’s antediluvian wing phone heaven to find out which burning issues of the day Jesus deems most important. Jesus, bored, blows them off by telling them what they want to hear: take another stupid pill and call Me in the morning:
Leaders of several conservative Christian groups have sent a letter urging the National Association of Evangelicals to force its policy director in Washington to stop speaking out on global warming.
The conservative leaders say they are not convinced that global warming is human-induced or that human intervention can prevent it. And they accuse the director, the Rev. Richard Cizik, the association’s vice president for government affairs, of diverting the evangelical movement from what they deem more important issues, like abortion and homosexuality.
I just discovered Blog of the Gods, which I instantly added to our blogroll and from which I stole this:
Moments after being called to the stage to pick up the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, Dreamgirls co-star Jennifer Hudson corrected the Academy’s mistake, placing credit squarely where it’s deserved: with Me! Almost the first words out of her mouth were, “Look what God can do.”
I’m sure that’s what the nominees who lost were thinking, too.
Later in her speech, Hudson repeated her thanks, “I thank the Academy… Definitely have to thank God, I guess, again.”
You guess? I suppose I’ll let that slide, since most of the other winners entirely forgot to cede credit to Me. In fact, that’s why you won. I don’t love any of the other supporting actresses at all. They suck, especially the little girl from Little Miss Sunshine …
I know we’ll all want to watch Ted Haggard, the latest televangelist to be forced out of one closet or another, as he jokes with his flock about being blackmailed by a gay man. This is beyond creepy.
Recently, while visiting my mother down in the rural South, I was surprised to see symbols typically seen at military events at her United Methodist Church — a huge mural of an Eagle set in the background of an American Flag. For a few years after the Vietnam War, it was not uncommon to see an old Gospel favorite favorite performed at white Southern Churches — “Down By the Riverside,” the powerful refrain in the lyrics remind us to follow the teachings of Christ:
I was able to find on YouTube this old favorite being performed by a white choral group, judging from the clothing, from the early 1970’s. However, this video was not available to be viewed on YouTube as it contained the following excoriation: “This video may contain content that is inappropriate for some users, as flagged by YouTube’s user community”. Only by registering with the site is it possible for anyone to even know that white Christians once performed this old favorite. Perhaps except for some remote locations in places like rural Georgia, where I am told Sunday School teachers of a certain stature remind their students that “We Study the Prince of Peace and not the Prince of Preemptive War”, I have come to the conclusion that these days white Christianity in America is composed of a largely warmongering crowd. Perhaps too many of its members work for the Military Industrial Complex. Fortunately, YouTube does offer up some excellent versions of this old favorite performed by true Ambassadors of Peace. Here to bring you a message of Peace is Sister Rosetta Tharpe and chorus, praising him with stringed instruments. Hallelujah!
Sooner or later it gets to be too much and people start weighing in. Just hope it isn’t too little too late.
The religious right, which helped re-elect President Bush in 2004 by rallying opposition to abortion and gay marriage, is now facing a pushback from the religious left.
With a faith-based agenda of their own, liberal and progressive clergy from various denominations are lobbying lawmakers, holding rallies and publicizing their positions. They want to end the Iraq war, ease global warming, combat poverty, raise the minimum wage, revamp immigration laws, and prevent “immoral” cuts in federal social programs.
“I join the ranks of those who are angry because I have watched as the faith I love has been taken over by fundamentalists who claim to speak for Jesus but whose actions are anything but Christian,” declared Meyers, who has written a new book, “Why the Christian Right is Wrong.”
In 1880 Charles Darwin wrote:
Though I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science.
Unfortunately advocates of fettered thought have not returned the favor, and insist upon slaying, wherever it rears its head, the serpent of knowledge. It is poorly understood that the snake in the Garden of Eden was the good guy.
I would normally let my esteemed conservative colleague Jon Swift or Jesus General handle this, but this one I’ve got to do myself. With less than two weeks before the most important holiday in the Christian tradition, not one person at any store I visited today said Happy Easter, or even Merry Easter to me. In fact, they didn’t even say Happy Holidays. I’m one of those who thinks Good Friday counts as a Holy Day, or Christian holiday, or whatever.
What’s wrong with these people that call themselves Christians? Surely they’d be up on their high horses about this obscene slander of Christianity by the business world. Target, Wal-Mart, Jiffy Lube, Burger King, McDonalds, I went to them all. From nary a one of them have I heard Happy Easter. I’m also sure that I would have heard about it if Jerry Falwell or Oral Roberts or Benny Hinn had made a fuss about how everywhere you go in this nation these days, no one bothers to tell you Happy Easter when you shop. It’s a national disgrace I tell you. I’m beginning to wonder if all these people who call themselves Christians are nothing but a bunch of fakers. Well, anyway, the Easter Bunny isn’t coming to our house this year anyway, because our sweet Mabel already did him in.
You know, they’ve gotten so whacked-out, and they create so much disgust at themselves in venues you’d think would lean toward homophobes ( an antigay church, soldiers’ funerals), that I’m beginning to suspect that Westboro Baptist is an underground branch of ACT UP.
Here is the Word of God as lately revealed to His children through Pat Robertson, who is not only the Lord’s mouthpiece but can also leg-press 2,000 pounds and is a graduate as well of Yale Law School, which must be mighty proud.
NORFOLK, Va. — Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke was divine punishment for “dividing God’s land.”
“God considers this land to be his,” Robertson said on his TV program The 700 Club. “You read the Bible and he says `This is my land,’ and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, `No, this is mine.’”
…In discussing what he said was God’s insistence that Israel not be divided, Robertson also referred to the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who had sought to achieve peace by giving land to the Palestinians. “It was a terrible thing that happened, but nevertheless he was dead,” he said.
What will happen on that black day when He must perforce kill off Pat Robertson? And who will tell us why?
So you remember the furor about the Episcopal diocese that elected the first openly gay bishop? Well, he’s the Right Reverend Gene Robinson, and he’s got a speech posted at Alternet.
There are two kinds of giving, but I like to think of it as downstream giving and upstream giving. It’s not enough to pull the drowning victims out of the river, you need to walk back upstream and find out who’s throwing them in. So there’s both downstream-giving that actually takes care of victims of oppression. And then there’s upstream-giving — walking back upstream to do justice and to promote systemic change to find the underlying causes that are causing all this.
The religious right is upstream, throwing people in the river and it’s time we named it for what it is. It’s time we took the Bible back. It’s time we took our faith back and stopped having to apologize for being Christian or Jewish or Muslim without having to explain, “No, we’re not that kind of a Jew, we’re not that kind of a Christian.”
I think right now for gay and lesbian people it’s easier to come out to someone as gay than it is to come out as Christian. We have allowed ourselves to be hijacked. Part of what I’m trying to do in my ministry is use my skills and my office to say that there are Christians in this world who feel differently about these issues. It takes religious people to fight back against religious people.
Simbaud rightly criticizes— perhaps jestly — my recent tirade, but leaving the sandbox for the boxing ring, I’d like to comment on Simbaud’s recent post, which contains Joe Bageant’s latest essay. Joe makes some good points about the “Left Behind” series, but perhaps his dislike for Christian fundamentalism blinds him to the truly evil aspects of the “Left Behind” series of books.
I think Joe misses the point of the books entirely in his essay, or perhaps, like Moses, just hasn’t taken us to the promised land yet. The “Left Behind” series (which I admit I haven’t read, but I think I understand the hidden darker message that they represent and I, like Joe, know a few of the finer points of the Book of Revelation) is part of a darker new meme that has been lifting its head lately.
Another example of this meme in literature is a book that my sister was recently mindlessly blathering with gushing praise over — Who Moved My Cheese. I suppose I could name a dozen others like it, but that one sufficiently makes the point.
The dark evil business forces, represented best by the Republican party but also strongly influencing the Democratic party, are destroying all of the longheld protections for average ordinary Americans. Unions, pensions, company loyalty to workers, health care, etc., ad nauseum are all under attack and have either been destroyed or are heading in that direction.
The truth is, most folks are getting left behind economically. The “Left Behind” series just makes people feel that they aren’t, and that’s what is so insidiously evil about them. I would take issue with Joe that the series is about religion. Religion is just something to make the folks who really are getting left behind feel better about it.
I think Joe emphasizes the religious aspect too much and should just cut to the chase, like Woody Guthrie did when he wrote “I Ain’t Got No Home”:
On his visits to the migrant camps that autumn , Woody found that one of the more popular songs was a bouncy, jolly Baptist hymn called “This World Is Not My Home,” which had been made popular by the Carter Family…
There was something about the song that bothered Woody. It was a mild annoyance at first, but it developed into a grating, pulsing anger as the weeks passed and he couldn’t wipe either the tune or the idea from his mind. He was hearing the words in a different way than he’d ever heard them before. He was beginning to understand that the effect of this song was to tell the migrants to wait, and be meek, and be rewarded in the next life. It was telling them to accept the hovels and the hunger and the disease. It was telling them not to strike, and not to fight back. He was outraged by the idea that such an innocent-sounding song could be so insidious. An alternative set of words exploded out of him, and stood the song on its head…
Not only was “I Ain’t Got No Home’ a clever parody of the fundamentalist sensibility and a fine song in its own right, it also represented a clear turning point in Woody’s life. It was a rejection of the passive Eastern spiritualism that had fascinated him since Pampa (and also a rebuke to his old idols, the Carter Family). It was, in a way, a call to arms — at the very least, an attack on inaction.
I’m looking forward to the next essay.
In one example Wednesday, several congressional Democrats stood before the Capitol Christmas tree as they urged raising the minimum wage. They called it key to the “true meaning of Christmas — hope, generosity and goodwill toward others.” In another, they protested Republican budget cuts for the poor as an affront to Christian values.
UPDATE: Link to more, courtesy of JA in the comments.
The December 5 New Yorker has a fine piece by Margaret Talbot (unfortunately not on line) about the latter-day Scopes trial unfolding in Dover, Pennsylvania. Talbot shows us that even creationists evolve:
Over the past century, creationists have adapted to new environmental conditions. Thwarted in the effort to pass statutes that ban the teaching of evolution altogether, they tried statutes that called for “balance.” Stymied again, they’ve tried to introduce the proviso that evolution is “just a theory.”
The idea that there is a design to nature has a long lineage — going back to Paley, at least, or arguably to Aristotle. Tellingly, its newest incarnation emerged in close tandem with the defeat of creationism in the courts. Barbara Forrest, a historian of the intelligent-design movement, testified at the trial that the first Of Pandas and People manuscripts contained the word “creationism”’ precisely where the words “intelligent design” appear now.
Far be it from me to claim that the American people are intelligent.
But it’s a cliché that Americans tend toward the middle of the spectrum on nearly every issue. Such a tendency of democracy was noted at least as long ago as Tocqueville. This, I submit, supports my claim that there is a middle ground between intelligence and idiocy, where most Americans can be found. If they’re not too heavily propagandized.
For instance, consider the non-controversy surrounding the teaching of Intelligent Design, a phrase in which I use initial capitals because it’s a trademark rather than a scientific theory. If it were a theory, it would have produced some science, but as we know, it hasn’t.
Sure, I’m aware of the Kansas board of education’s retreat into the eighteenth century. But against that I weigh the eviction from the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board of eight members who voted to teach ID in public-school science classes.
I’m also aware that, according to a recent CBS poll,
51 percent of Americans say God created humans in their present form, and another three in 10 say that while humans evolved, God guided the process. Just 15 percent say humans evolved, and that God was not involved.
But 67% of those polled say that it’s possible to believe in both God and evolution. Sure, 48% of those who believe God created humans in their present form disagree, but that group tends to be less educated and more church-oriented; in other words, these people have less knowledge to work with, coupled with a built-in bias. They aren’t examining the evidence, they’re deciding what they want to believe. Which is every American’s right, as it is every American’s right to ridicule such an approach.
This is exactly the sort of thinking that Gibbon found to be the destructive legacy of the Roman version of Christianity. When you believe in miracles, you no longer consider evidence to be important.
Laurie Goodstein in today’s New York Times provides some examples of the moderating influence of intelligence in America today.
The [ID] movement was intended to be a “big tent” that would attract everyone from biblical creationists who regard the Book of Genesis as literal truth to academics who believe that secular universities are hostile to faith. The slogan, “Teach the controversy,” has simple appeal in a democracy.
The problem for the ID folks is, of course, that there is no controversy to teach. This is simply a slogan. Propaganda, in other words.
The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research.
“They never came in,” said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, who said that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned.
“From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don’t come out very well in our world of scientific review,” he said.
Interesting, but not unexpected. More surprising is that the big tent is having trouble covering even those religious folks who don’t balk at the idea of understanding something of nature.
Derek Davis, director of the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor, said: “I teach at the largest Baptist university in the world. I’m a religious person. And my basic perspective is intelligent design doesn’t belong in science class.”
Mr. Davis noted that the advocates of intelligent design claim they are not talking about God or religion. “But they are, and everybody knows they are,” Mr. Davis said. “I just think we ought to quit playing games. It’s a religious worldview that’s being advanced.”
Of course, the Times and the times being what they are, we’ve gotta have some he-says-she-says:
John G. West, a political scientist and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, the main organization supporting intelligent design, said the skepticism and outright antagonism are evidence that the scientific “fundamentalists” are threatened by its arguments.
“This is natural anytime you have a new controversial idea,” Mr. West said. “The first stage is people ignore you. Then, when they can’t ignore you, comes the hysteria. Then the idea that was so radical becomes accepted. I’d say we’re in the hysteria phase.”
Note that the proponent of what everyone knows is creationism, inherently a fundamentalist approach, uses the word fundamentalist pejoratively. He recognizes that even in the US, a country as friendly to fundamentalism as any in the world, in which a large percentage of the population believes in a literal devil, “fundamentalist” is a label that makes many people uncomfortable.
It’s also interesting how sophisticated the ID people have become with respect to marketing. ID is not a controversial idea. It’s bullshit, and they know it. They know they can’t argue on the merits, so they act like they’ve got something and assume that beer-guzzling TV watchers will not bother to check out the facts.
Clearly the Discovery Institute people think they’re going to lose the Dover lawsuit, so they are trying to dissociate themselves from it:
Now, with a decision due in four or five weeks, design proponents like Mr. West of Discovery said the Dover trial was a “sideshow” — one that will have little bearing on the controversy.
“The future of intelligent design, as far as I’m concerned, has very little to do with the outcome of the Dover case,” Mr. West said. “The future of intelligent design is tied up with academic endeavors. It rises or falls on the science.”
In which case, Mr. West will have to find other employment.
These guys are such losers that it’s almost unfair to pick on them, except for the fact that they’ve designed their entire campaign around what they know to be dishonest statements.
Harold Bloom, the eminent scholar at Yale, in a distillation of his long and admirable life of study and consideration of early Christian and Judaic writings, declares that the original Jewish Yahweh is no god of mercy and compassion, as is commonly supposed. But then again, says Bloom, neither is the original Jesus Christ.
From Professors Patrick Geddes and J. Arthur Thomson’s Evolution, published in 1911 by Henry Holt & Co., here are two thoughts for the talibangelists of our devolved day:
Darwin has, in fact, brought us more nearly back to the Noah’s ark of our childhood than we commonly realize; for do not all these stories of thrushes, lizards and what not quaintly recall the origins of human races from the dispersion of Shem, Ham and Japheth?
Most briefly stated, the view of evolution thus reached is that of definite variation: its branchings essentially dichotomous rather than indefinite, with progress essentially through the subordination of individual struggle and development to species-maintaining ends. The ideal of evolution is thus no gladiator’s show, but an Eden; and though competition can never be wholly eliminated — the line of progress is thus no straight line but at most an asymptote — it is much for our pure natural history to see no longer struggle, but love as “creation’s final law.”
Since tomorrow is supposed to be the biggest shopping day of the year, all bad attitudeans might find it helpful to take time to stop for a moment of quiet reflection with Reverend Billy, Pastor of the Church of Stop Shopping. If anyone chooses to convert, we offer up one of Reverend Billy’s action plans of intervention for quiet resistance against the evils the church exposes. If you’ve got the bandwith [dial up needn’t apply], watch Reverend Billy preach against Starbucks’s evil corporate culture. Friends, feel that power!
A seminal Action in our resistance against consumerism. Enter the Wal Mart or big box store singly or in small groups, grab a shopping cart and you are ready. You don’t announce this Action, although sometimes whirlers wear official “Whirl Mart” shirts.
Don’t put anything, nothing, into your cart. Push it into the aisles of the store, not gesturing or talking, just look straight ahead. Eventually join in a line of your fellow empty carts, but don’t say hi to anyone. Keep your zen-like non-shopping concentration. If someone cuts your line by coming from a side aisle (mothers with kids get right-of-way) then the line breaks and reforms like the proverbial worm. Lines can become independent for a time, but they usually join up again somewhere down the line. There is scripted goal. The arrival is the journey.
Daniel L. Hartl is the Higgins professor of biology at Harvard, and he speaks as follows:
More seriously, I find it paradoxical that a minimum of 15 percent, and perhaps as many as 50 percent, of fertilized eggs in humans, many of which have major chromosomal abnormalities, undergo spontaneous abortion. A reproductive system whose failure rate would be regarded by any respectable engineer as catastrophic hardly seems the work of intelligent design, unless the Intelligent Designer has a very high tolerance for abortion.
The Religious Studies Department is offering a course next semester titled “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and Other Religious Mythologies.”
“The KU faculty has had enough,” said Paul Mirecki, chairman of the department. “Creationism is mythology … Intelligent design is mythology. It’s not science.”
As proof that extreme right-wing politicians and science can never coexist peacefully, this article from MSNBC serves it to us on a platter:
Florida’s citrus crop contributes billions of dollars to the state’s economy, so when that industry is threatened, anything that might help is considered. Back in 2001, when citrus canker was blighting the crop and threatening to reduce that vital source of revenue, an interesting — if not quite scientific — alternative was considered.
Katherine Harris, then Florida's secretary of state — and now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives — ordered a study in which, according to an article by Jim Stratton in the Orlando Sentinel, “researchers worked with a rabbi and a cardiologist to test ‘Celestial Drops,’ promoted as a canker inhibitor because of its ‘improved fractal design,’ ‘infinite levels of order,’ and ‘high energy and low entropy.’”
The study determined that the product tested was, basically, water that had apparently been blessed according to the principles of Kabbalic mysticism, “chang[ing] its molecular structure and imbu[ing] it with supernatural healing powers.”
How to weaken and divide the country, Part 232: push the government between Americans and their doctors by meddling with the FDA’s drug-approval process for the morning-after pill for political reasons. As always, there is honor in the anti-choice position at the individual level, but no one has the right to impose even valid personal choices on another family:
According to the Government Accountability Office, top officials — some of them political appointees of President Bush — took “unusual” steps to impede the approval process.Big government conservatism at its worst.
Coupla quotes from the Dalai Lama’s op-ed in the New York Times:
If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.
This openness to change sets the Dalai Lama, and the philosophical tradition he represents, apart from most Western thought. For example, I’ve often argued politics with a friend from the East Bay who was schooled in Roman Catholicism. As a result, he clings to his beliefs regardless of the facts, and is therefore without understanding of the world. When I send him articles from the Washington Post about the American use of Russian gulag prisons, and the torture of Iraqis by Americans, he refuses to believe it, claiming that it hasn’t been proven in court and is therefore no more than the “rantings” of members of MoveOn.org.
This attitude, so typical of certain philosophical positions that are held in the West, is what brought on the Dark Ages. As Gibbon intimates, the ability to believe in miracles means the inability to recognize reality and react to facts. Such people will never be able to manipulate the world around them, because they’ll never understand it. They prefer the certainty of the philosophies they’re locked into, despite the evident falsehood of those philosophies.
As Bertrand Russell put it:
Uncertainty, in the presence of vivid hopes and fears, is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales. It is not good either to forget the questions that philosophy asks, or to persuade ourselves that we have found indubitable answers to them.
The Dalai Lama does not have this problem. He’s ready to accept new ideas and change his views when it becomes clear that it would help him achieve his goals.
At Princeton University, Dr. Jonathan Cohen, a neuroscientist, is studying the effects of meditation on attention. At the University of California Medical School at San Francisco, Dr. Margaret Kemeny has been studying how meditation helps develop empathy in school teachers.
Whatever the results of this work, I am encouraged that it is taking place. You see, many people still consider science and religion to be in opposition. While I agree that certain religious concepts conflict with scientific facts and principles, I also feel that people from both worlds can have an intelligent discussion, one that has the power ultimately to generate a deeper understanding of challenges we face together in our interconnected world.
I believe that we must find a way to bring ethical considerations to bear upon the direction of scientific development, especially in the life sciences. By invoking fundamental ethical principles, I am not advocating a fusion of religious ethics and scientific inquiry.
Rather, I am speaking of what I call “secular ethics,” which embrace the principles we share as human beings: compassion, tolerance, consideration of others, the responsible use of knowledge and power. These principles transcend the barriers between religious believers and non-believers; they belong not to one faith, but to all faiths.
Eyes on the prize: what are we going for?
A deeper dialogue between neuroscience and society — indeed between all scientific fields and society — could help deepen our understanding of what it means to be human and our responsibilities for the natural world we share with other sentient beings.
Just as the world of business has been paying renewed attention to ethics, the world of science would benefit from more deeply considering the implications of its own work. Scientists should be more than merely technically adept; they should be mindful of their own motivation and the larger goal of what they do: the betterment of humanity.
You can’t make this kinda stuff up.
Pat Robertson is pissed at the residents of Dover, PA. These worthy folk, you’ll remember, decided they didn’t want their school board to consist of idiots who believe that the universe is too complicated for them to understand.
“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God. You just rejected him from your city,” Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “700 Club.”
And you know it must be true, because Pat has a direct line to God. He doesn’t even have to go through the Pope.
“God is tolerant and loving, but we can’t keep sticking our finger in his eye forever,” Robertson said. “If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them.”
Right. This is a God of forgiveness, but not infinite forgiveness. He gets pissed, just like the Reverend Pat.
In October 2003, he suggested that the State Department be blown up with a nuclear device. He has also said that feminism encourages women to “kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
Which, realistically, are all the same thing anyway.
I subscribed to the Sojourners newsletter — well worth the weekly links I might add. It tells me that lawyer Gaillard T. Hunt has filed a motion in federal court; you might find it as interesting as I did. I don’t have a link to the quote below because it was in the newsletter, but read what lawyer Hunt has to say; he represents one of those unfortunate souls down in Cuba. To put all this in proper context, Sojourners also provided this link.
Incidentally, the court motion also mentions some Shakespeare works too — I’ll refrain from commenting on the significance of minor titles in this dispute.
Hunt writes, “Now they won’t let my guy at Guantanamo have a Bible. This is true. He asked for one, I sent one down, and a Staff Judge Advocate went out of his way to dress me down for doing so, and told me definitely that the prisoner could not have a Bible. ‘We’re trying to run a prison here,’ he said, or words to that effect… Where’s Chuck Colson when you need him?”
Okay, I admit to being a great fan of the Dalai Lama, who is considered by Tibetan Buddhists “to be the 74th manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the enlightened Buddha of compassion”; and it’s not only because of my attraction to Zen Buddhism. (After all, there are very significant differences between Zen and Tibetan Buddhism.)
Anyone who’s seen him in action knows what I mean. I once saw him interviewed by John McLaughlin — the shouting talk-show host, not the guitar player (that would be an interesting interview) — who, as it happens, is a former Jesuit priest. McLaughlin spent most of the thirty minutes trying to wring a condemnation of the Chinese government out of the Dalai Lama. To his increasing frustration, he never came close. Despite all the horrible things the Chinese government has done to the Tibetan Buddhists, the Buddha of compassion never budged.
Another source of amusement has been the movement, obviously inspired by doctrinaire Chinese, to keep the Dalai Lama from speaking at the annual convention of the Society for Neuroscience.
A petition drive, begun primarily by Chinese American researchers, seeks to have the Dalai Lama’s appearance canceled. The protesters, who argue that a religious leader should not be given such a prominent role at an important scientific conference, say they have gathered at least 600 signatures. There have also been competing letters and an editorial in the journal Nature.
“The presentation of a religious symbol with a controversial political agenda may cause unnecessary controversies, unwanted press, and significant divisions among SFN members from multiple geographic locations, and with conflicting religious beliefs and political leanings,” reads the petition, which was signed by several hundred non-Chinese researchers and academics as well.
The Dalai Lama’s speech is part of a series called “Dialogues Between Neuroscience and Society”. Next year’s speaker is scheduled to be architect Frank Gehry. So what’s the big deal? Neuroscience is not allowed to interface with meditators?
His recent book, The Universe in an Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality, tries to make the case that modern science and Buddhist thought have surprisingly similar aims, methods and sometimes conclusions — though he resists efforts to see the world in purely material terms. (Some of his thoughts about limits to the theory of evolution when it comes to how life and consciousness began earned him a rather harsh book review in the New York Times, including a suggestion that he was proposing a Buddhist version of intelligent design.)
The similarities between Eastern religions and modern physics have produced some fascinating writing. The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav had a tremendous affect on my view of the world — it convinced me that there is no such thing as an objective reality (a view I think many physicists would disagree with). Another book along the same lines is Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics.
During yesterday’s session, some of those parallels between Buddhist thought and cutting-edge science were on display.
Wolf Singer, director of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, explained how his research has found that neuronal coordination within the brain is key to human understanding and performance — a conclusion that Buddhist thought intuited long ago.
While politics and religion are always important to the Dalai Lama, aides say, his involvement with science is especially significant to him. Given the frequent hostility between religious and scientific thought in the United States, many find the Dalai Lama’s explorations into such subjects as quantum physics, or the neuroscience of consciousness, or evolution and the physical nature of emotions to be remarkable.
And he has been known to back that up: He often says — and affirmed again in front of yesterday’s audience — that when science proves that Buddhist scriptures are incorrect, then the scriptures should be rejected.
Brian Brown: Just another macho, undeniably heterosexual protestor against gay marriage and civil unions.
Some of you know the drill. The preacher gets fired up, and reaches out to all the parishioners to come forward, confess all their sins and get saved. Night after night he relentlessly preaches on. There are so many damned sinners out there that soon enough, the tent can’t hold the crowd and the preacher has to go out and get a new tent to hold the overflow crowd.
Hallelujah, Glory be to God, the Revival has come to town!
Now that we’ve gone over that, Steve Clemons over at the Washington Note alerts us to news that the tent has arrived! Get your bottle of whiskey and we’ll all go down and watch the spectacle.
Well, news has just reached TWN that Patrick Fitzgerald is expanding not only into a new website — but also into more office space.
Fitzgerald’s office is at 1400 New York Avenue, NW, 9th Floor in Washington.
What I have learned is that the Office of the Special Counsel has signed a lease this week for expanded office space across the street at 1401 New York Avenue, NW.
[Update: Steve Clemons is now reprting that reports of the arrival of the tent addition are erroneous. Looks like we’ll have to pack ourselves in tight, but hold on, the beginning of the end may very well be nigh.]
At that awful hour of the Passion, when the Savior of the world felt deserted in His agony, when — “The sympathizing sun his light withdrew, And wonder’d how the stars their dying Lord could view” — when earth, shaking with horror, rung the passing bell for Deity, and universal nature groaned, then from the loftiest tree to the lowliest flower all felt a sudden thrill, and trembling, bowed their heads all save the proud and obdurate aspen, which said, “Why should we weep and tremble? We trees, and plants, and flowers are pure and never sinned!” Ere it ceased to speak, an involuntary trembling seized its very leaf, and the word went forth that it should never rest, but tremble on until the day of judgment.
The Christian Coalition has long maintained that it champions family values. A cornucopia of evidence exists that suggests nothing could be further from the truth. For a close up view of the antics of this rogue outfit, I would suggest that you read this article in the Virginia Pilot for a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable view of this declining institution. Let’s hope these example of pestilence within the organization are a sure sign portending that the Christian Coalition will soon be left behind. A short teaser appears below, but please go read the whole thing — this kind of article warms the cockles of my heart — hopefully it will do the same for yours.
Based in Chesapeake through the 1990s, the coalition moved to an office on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2000. Its Chesapeake landlord sued the group in 2001 for $76,546 in back rent, in a case that is still open in Chesapeake Circuit Court.
Within months of the move to Washington, 10 black employees filed a racial discrimination lawsuit alleging that they were forced to enter the office by the back door and eat in a segregated area. The coalition settled the suit in December 2001 for about $300,000, according to several published reports.
Down in Florida, that other Bush fellow is prevaricating.
Some wonder whether there’s a contradiction in Bush’s push to spend hundreds of millions of tax money on the high-tech Scripps Research Institute for science while also funding religious schools that question one of biology’s basic tenets.
When asked about this, Bush was again uncharacteristically evasive.
“That is so loaded. That’s like, you’ve already written the article, why do you want me in it? It’s not fair,” Bush told a reporter when asked.
So that’s a “no” then?
“No, that’s nothing,” Bush said. “That’s no comment. The governor refused to comment. That’s what it is in the article: The governor refused to comment.”
When will he?
Evidence of intelligent design reaches us from Great Britain:
The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible …
Some Christians want a literal interpretation of the story of creation, as told in Genesis, taught alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution in schools, believing “intelligent design” to be an equally plausible theory of how the world began.
But the first 11 chapters of Genesis, in which two different and at times conflicting stories of creation are told, are among those that this country’s Catholic bishops insist cannot be “historical”. At most, they say, they may contain “historical traces”.
They go on to condemn fundamentalism for its “intransigent intolerance” and to warn of “significant dangers” involved in a fundamentalist approach.
“Such an approach is dangerous, for example, when people of one nation or group see in the Bible a mandate for their own superiority, and even consider themselves permitted by the Bible to use violence against others.”
Mrs. Batard sends along this helpful information (perhaps suggesting something but I don’t care to go there). The bottom line — beware of getting any kind of help in Texas. I shudder to think what the evacuees are having to put up with in Texas. I’ve posted a short message below from one of the faith based psychiatry programs for shrinks in Texas. Hearing voices from God is apparently considered completely sane in Texas, especially for shrinks. Please go read the rest.
The teaching that is presented is so completely Biblical and Christ-centered it leaves no room for anyone to doubt that they have just heard from God.