Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hyde Park update

John Kelso discusses and satirizes the whole Hyde Park Baptist Church/Thanksgiving thing with more wit and restraint than I think I could manage. My favorite part:
Why did Hyde Park Baptist decide to give the mixed prayer group the old heave-ho? Simple. They don't want non-Christian stuff going on on their land. I didn't realize telling people to get lost was Christian, but you learn something every day.

"Although individuals from all faiths are welcome to worship with us at Hyde Park Baptist Church, the church cannot provide space for the practice of these non-Christian religions on church property," a statement from Hyde Park Baptist said. "Hyde Park Baptist church hopes that the AAIM and the community of faith will understand and be tolerant of our church's beliefs that have resulted in this decision." So they're pleading for tolerance while being intolerant. In these situations, people often ask the question I mentioned earlier, "What would Jesus do?" If Jesus ran the Quarries, I don't think he'd charge rent. I also don't think he'd turn anyone away. And, from what little I've read of the Bible, he'd probably provide free grub, although probably seafood.
Tolerance for another faith's intolerance. Irony truly is dead.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wait, never mind...

Seems Hyde Park Baptist Church changed its mind about letting one of its facilities be used for an "interfaith" Thanksgiving celebration:
Austin Area Interreligious Ministries, the city's largest interfaith organization, announced Thursday that its annual Thanksgiving celebration Sunday had to be moved because Hyde Park Baptist Church objected to non-Christians worshipping on its property.

The group learned Wednesday that the rental space at the church-owned Quarries property in North Austin was no longer available because Hyde Park leaders had discovered that non-Christians, Muslims in particular, would be practicing their faith there. The event, now in its 23rd year, invites Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Bahais and others to worship together.

Organizers had booked the gymnasium at the Quarries in July and made the interfaith aspect clear to Quarries staff at that time, said Simone Talma Flowers, Interreligious Ministries' interim director.

Several Muslim groups were acting as this year's hosts for the event. Kent Jennings, associate pastor of administration at Hyde Park, released a statement Thursday that said church leaders received a postcard about the service Monday and only then realized that it "was not a Christian oriented event."

The postcard also "promised space for Muslim Maghrib prayer and revealed that the event was co-hosted by the Central Texas Muslimaat, the Forum of Muslims for Unity, and the Institute of Interfaith Dialog," according to Hyde Park's statement.

"Although individuals from all faiths are welcome to worship with us at Hyde Park Baptist Church, the church cannot provide space for the practice of these non-Christian religions on church property," the statement said. "Hyde Park Baptist Church hopes that the AAIM and the community of faith will understand and be tolerant of our church's beliefs that have resulted in this decision."
Be tolerant of what, exactly? Your unwillingness to tolerate others? "Uh, sorry, but my religion says you can't come in here, and even though I already said it was okay, please be tolerant and understanding of the fact that I now have to kick you out." Put another way, "my imaginary friend who lives in this building doesn't want your imaginary friend to come in, so nyah."

Say it with me, Baptists: interfaith, meaning "shared by, involving, or derived from two or more ." Luckily for the organizers, a new location was available rather quickly. It would have been interesting to see what God might have actually done if Muslims had been allowed to pray at that facility, but I'm sure the church sank a big investment into it and don't want to see it lost to raining fire or anything.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Correcting a few misconceptions

Here's Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo, Professor Emeritus of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College and Distinguished Scholar of the City University of New York, on the role of religion in choosing political leaders:
Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao Zedung are three of the most prominent political figures who believed in atheism. None of them even gave people a choice of voting for them, but ruled as bloody dictators. An intelligent and logical observer would have understood that atheism shaped the way these leaders dealt with dissent, mistakes and political decisions. Might an atheist someday come to power and provide a model of good government? I would want to move beyond the rhetoric and examine the practice of atheism of such a hypothetical candidate and make sure it is not like the three mentioned above before voting.
Golly, where to begin...

"Believed in atheism": Huh?

"[A]theism shaped the way these leaders dealt with dissent, mistakes and political decisions." Uh, really it was more Marxism and Leninism that shaped their political views and practices. They may very well have been atheists, but they were hardly rational people--and adherence to a rational process of thought and decision-making really ought to be the standard. If one believes that the only, or even principal, reason they did what they did was because they did not believe there was a God they would answer to, uh, to me that tells me more about the core motivations of theists than anything else. But back to my original point, tyrants can use any ideology to justify their actions--if "atheism" is to be blamed for the atrocities of communism, then perhaps Orthodox Christianity is to blame for the crimes of Radovan Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic, Catholicism for the regime of Augusto Pinochet, and so forth. Don't even get me started on Hitler (yeah, I went there.)

"Might an atheist someday come to power and provide a model of good government?" Two words for you, my friend: Thomas Paine. While really more a deist than anything else, he certainly provided "a model of good government" (i.e. ours) and was more than skeptical towards the religions of his day:
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
"I would want to...examine the practice of atheism..." I'm guessing this guy doesn't know very many thoughtful atheists. There is a big difference between people who are too lazy, angry, bitter, etc. to have any religious opinions, and people who came by atheism through rational analysis, and there is a very wide and diverse gulf between what could termed these two extremes. Anyway, I'm not sure what the "practice of atheism" means, but I would imagine it to be exploration of the infinity of ideas and knowledge not contained in the Bible, Q'uran, etc. Not sure how that could be a bad thing, as long, once again, as the person in question makes rational decisions.

I am often struck by how many commenters at the "On Faith" column are critical of the theistic viewpoint, particularly some writers' simplistic view of atheism. I would like to point out one comment left by "Joe" that bucks that trend:
Atheist = not theist
Theist = belief in a god.

So theist is something, in this case a belief.

So
Theist = something

This would make atheist not something.
And if it is not something then it is nothing.
Actually, a "theist" is a person holding a belief, not a belief. I guess this is an effort to demhumanize atheists, or something. All I can think to say is that "Joe"'s educational system failed him (or at least the part where they taught logic).

Friday, September 28, 2007

"God" "speaks"

Apparently God has filed an answer in the lawsuit that was filed against Him last week in Nebraska. A lawyer in Corpus Christi has raised several defenses:
"Defendant denies that this or any court has jurisdiction ... over Him any more than the court has jurisdiction over the wind or rain, sunlight or darkness," according to Perkins' response.
Ha.

Ha.

That's about as much of an amused response as I can muster.

I can't wait to see what happens in discovery, though. For S's & G's, here's the full text of the original petition. Personal service is claimed to be effected by God's omniscience--this guy is either a nut or a comic genius.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mans sues God

Specifically, a Nebraska state senator is suing God (h/t Volokh Consp.)

That's not nearly as funny as the time someone sued Satan. It was dismissed in part for failure to plead personal jurisdiction or to include instructions for service of process.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Am I now one of the cool kids?

A recent World Net Daily article bemoans "The Rise of Atheist America."
In earlier eras, atheists were on the fringes of society, mistrusted by the mainstream. Those few who dared to publicly push their beliefs on society, like Madalyn Murray O'Hair, were widely regarded as malevolent kooks. But today, Hitchens' No. 1 New York Times bestseller, which has dominated the nonfiction charts for months, boldly condemns religion – including Christianity – as "violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children."
The article goes on to raise a number of points (I won't quite call them interesting, or apply any adjective, for that matter), but at no point does it actually refute any of the allegations references in the above quote.

I have to agree with Skepchick's idea to make this into a poster:



Seriously, all this "America is a Christian nation" stuff is getting tiresome. I am still resolute in my conviction that a religion is only as worthwhile as its worst practitioner, and most religions in existence today therefore have a lot to answer for.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On brainwashing

Bad Astronomy Blog on teaching creationism to children:
I am filled with sadness when I see things like this. I’ve been around a lot of kids. I helped at a local Boys and Girls Club when I was in NorCal, teaching them about the solar system, astronomy, and science. I’ve used my own telescope to show Saturn to countless kids. I’ve traveled to schools around the country to talk about the joy, the wonder, the awe of astronomy. When you see that spark, that glow, that moment when a child understands what they are seeing, or even just the potential in their faces as they chew over the nature of reality, of the Universe… the joy that fills your heart is impossible to describe. It’s wondrous.

Creationism and fundamentalist dogma destroy that potential. It’s wrong, and it’s evil.
He links to a polite deconstruction of the winning essay in a creationism essay contest.

It's heartbreaking, really.

Plus, I continue to suspect that somewhere in India and/or China, a classroom full of science students is laughing its collective ass off at us because of stuff like this.

Please sell crazy elsewhere

There are so many historical and geographic problems with this video, but I will just let it speak for itself (h/t to Jesus' General).

I'll just mention two glaring problems: (1) to make the map look like a "beast," they had to add land on the Egyptian coast where none actually exists; and (2) somehow the great "Islamic empire" that the creators of this video claim will rule over the Middle East and Europe does not include Saudi Arabia (and therefore Mecca and Medina). I guess issue #1 is the more intractable of the two (I think there's a pun in there somewhere...)

Anyway, the fact that people might honestly want to base U.S. foreign policy on a map featuring made-up land is both mind-boggling and terrifying to me. I hope these folks will quickly retreat to their mountain strongholds, so we won't have to worry about them.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

No good deed goes unpunished, or, how America told the Afghans to suck its blasphemous balls

The BBC reports that many Afghans are upset that footballs (soccer balls to you and me) bearing the name of Allah are being handed out by American forces. Upon reading the headline, "'Blasphemous' balls anger Afghans," my first reaction was to giggle like I was still in junior high. After I got over it, I wondered why Americans would have soccer balls with the word "Allah" emblazoned all over it. That was before I saw the picture:

Football dropped by US troops

It's actually the flag of Saudi Arabia, which apparently includes the "the shahada, one of the five pillars of Islam - the declaration of faith," which presumably includes the name of Allah. The article also notes that the Saudi government has complained before about its flag being used on soccer balls. The fun continues:
A spokeswoman for the US forces in Afghanistan said they made "significant efforts to work with local leaders, mullahs and elders to respect their culture" and distributing the footballs was an effort to give a gift the Afghan children would enjoy.

"Unfortunately," she added, "there was something on those footballs we didn't immediately understand to be offensive and we regret that as we do not want to offend."
Soccer balls bearing national flags are certainly not uncommon, so it makes me wonder whether Saudi Arabia does any other sort of marketing with its flag. Is there a particular way to handle this t-shirt? This coffee mug? I'm especially curious about this bumper sticker--what if you get rear-ended?

This actually reminds me quite a bit of the whole flag burning nonsense here in the U.S. Placing the importance of the physical expression of something over the thing itself is just silly. Whatever may be believed about the sanctity of the name of God, Allah, etc., it's still just a soccer ball. The same goes for the American flag--it's a symbol that is not as important as what it represents. And that is the freedom to wear American flag-patterned nylon pants (it's amazing what you can find on Google). Anyway, as tacky as the pants may be, we need these freedoms, because it allows us things like this:

Jessica Simpson on GQ cover in American flag bikini DBU pants and soldier dog tags

More hotties, more soccer, less war. That's what the world needs.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I am a scientific atheist!

You scored as Scientific Atheist, These guys rule. I'm not one of them myself, although I play one online. They know the rules of debate, the Laws of Thermodynamics, and can explain evolution in fifty words or less. More concerned with how things ARE than how they should be, these are the people who will bring us into the future.

Scientific Atheist

83%

Apathetic Atheist

83%

Spiritual Atheist

75%

Angry Atheist

75%

Militant Atheist

58%

Agnostic

58%

Theist

17%

What kind of atheist are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Believe me when I say that I got something for his punk-ass

Religious discrimination against adherents of Santeria. Who'd'a thunk it? (Another h/t to TFN)
Practitioners of Santeria, most notably Ernesto Pichardo, the South Florida priest who won a landmark Supreme Court decision sanctioning animal sacrifices, say the complaints -- and official reaction to those complaints -- come from a misunderstanding of his religion at best, outright bigotry at worst.
How to respectfully address this one...
Neighbors said that while they respect [Coral Gables resident Noriel] Batista's right to practice his faith, they wish he would not be so public about it.

''I just think they should do those things away from neighborhoods, where there are no kids and nobody can see those things,'' said Ricardo Celiz, a sports anchor for UnivisiĆ³n's Spanish-language broadcast network, TeleFutura. His family, including two small children, lives four houses away.

''And definitely I don't want them to see any dead animals at that house,'' he said.

The tensions are understandable as second- and third-generation adherents, most of them from Cuba and other Latin countries, move up the economic ladder and out of the old neighborhoods, said Miguel De La Torre, author of Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America.

The popularity of Santeria, also called Lukumi, among non-Latins is another factor -- notably black Americans embracing their African roots, he said.

''There is a fear that is rooted in racism,'' said De La Torre, an associate professor of ethics and director of the Justice and Peace Institute at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver. 'This religion is practiced by Latinos, or people of African descent. It's an element of `Oh, look at these primitive people sacrificing animals.' ''

Those fears echo the early days of the religion, which arose as African slaves in Cuba masked their religion from colonial masters by masking their orishas, or gods, with the faces of Catholic saints.

''For some people, moving up the economic or social ladder means assimilation, putting away the old religion,'' he said. 'But then you have a generation that says, `I will live in an upscale neighborhood, but I will also have my santos, thank you very much.' '
Say, don't Catholics publicly drink blood and eat flesh every Sunday? Maybe I'm making a fallacious comparison, but maybe it's just that santeros are more direct about the sacrifices they make.

And I just couldn't help it with the song lyrics. Sorry.

The headline says it all.

Pastor asks followers to pray for his critics to die (h/t to TFN)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Speaking to God

Faith Central has compiled 50 religious insights from George Bush. My personal favorite, for its unintentional irony:
Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research. ...Human life is a gift from our Creator -- and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale. 2006 State of the Union Address, Jan. 31, 2006
Here's another view of things:
“Why is it that when we talk to God we’re said to be praying, but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic?”

– Lily Tomlin

One, two, Freddie [Phelps] is coming for you...

I was just reading about a Dallas-area megachurch that is refusing to bury a gay man (and Gulf War veteran) now that they know he was gay:
"We did decline to host the service - not based on hatred, not based on discrimination, but based on principle," [the church's pastor, the Rev. Gary] Simons told The Associated Press. "Had we known it on the day they first spoke about it - yes, we would have declined then. It's not that we didn't love the family."
What, you might ask, does this have to do with the shame of Topeka, Kansas? I am coming to believe that, to an outside observer, any ideology is only as good as its worst practitioner. By that I mean that the merits of a religion, political theory, or other worldview or ideology must be judged by its worst possible application. Marxism might have sounded okay at one time on paper, but then it yielded Lenin, and, well, pretty much every communist shithead to come after him. To use a contemporary, local example, American-style Democracy (at least the way it is described by the Bush administration) may be dipping in global popularity, probably due to widespread cognitive dissonance brought on by the administration's words and actions. We, as Americans, may have a pretty good view of democracy, at least as compared to life in North Korea, since we have lived with it, and generally haven't been waterboarded, for all of our lives. Much of the rest of the world is under no obligation to ignore what America is actually doing in the world and to drink the democracy Kool-Aid Bush/Cheney is serving.

Getting back to my original point (since I at least take it as axiomatic that Bush/Cheney is an undemocratic thug), a common refrain among many Christians is that homosexuality is a sin that should be discouraged as much as possible. Really, the logical application of this belief is to discourage it at every turn--God's retribution would be quite widespread, wouldn't it?. By the same token, of course, all other sins should be equally discouraged, but then there would hardly be any time to find food and shelter. The Dallas megachurch is really just a tamer example of Rev. Freddie's hobby. Rev. Freddie seems to have concluded that the whole world is going to hell and it is his job to constantly remind us of that, and he is doing it in the name of God, Christ, and all Christians, whether they realize/like it or not.

Speaking as a Non-Practicing Atheist and Recovering Christian, I'm hardly in an ideal position to respond to Rev. Freddie, but I will say this: his actions soil the image of Christianity and Christians everywhere, much as Islam is sullied by terror and Hinduism is tarnished by naitonalism in India (don't even get me started on Israel and anti-Semitism). Christians everywhere need to put up or shut up--you support Rev. Freddie, you oppose him, or there is a more--gasp--nuanced view of this whole issue.

I do have something to say directly to Rev. Freddie, though, because I think the bulk of his power comes from the simple fact that he gets so damn much attention (I admit guilt to this as well, obviously):
I know you too well now, Freddie...It's too late...I know the secret now -- this is just a dream, too -- you're not alive -- the whole thing is a dream -- so fuck off! I want my mother and friends again. I take back every bit of energy I ever gave you. You're nothing. You're shit.
Okay, so that's from the speech Nancy gives to Freddie Krueger at the end of Nightmare on Elm Street, but I think the principle is the same.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The true legacy of eastern religion?

There has been much ado about the whole Hindu prayer in Congress thing of late. Perhaps they do not fear the faith itself, but rather this:



I know that this has not added anything meaningful to the dialogue. I do not care.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A shallow quiz to determine your religion!

As I suspected, according to the Belief-O-Matic quiz, I am 100% Unitarian-Universalist, 96% Secular Humanist, 85% Liberal Quaker (?), and 79% Neo-Pagan (and I don't even own any cloaks!). Going all the way down the list, I am 13% Jehovah's Witness. I think these percentages refers to the number of beliefs I share with these particular schools of thought. I try to take the quiz every so often, to see if my total score changes over time. At some point a few years ago I scored higher as a Neo-Pagan than a UU, but I've been consistently UU most of the time. I'm only 66% "Nontheist"--not sure what that means. I'm not changing the name of the blog.

We are very very very very small...

Some more food for thought from this guy's report from YearlyKos:
[P]hysicist Sean Carroll of Caltech and Cosmic Variance addressed a vastly different subject that, nevertheless, led him back to a similar theme. Sean's talk was about, well, the nature of the universe. Mystery solved: It turns out that it's roughly 5% stuff like us, 25% "dark matter," and 70% "dark energy." Or as Sean joked: "The good news is that we understand a lot about the universe. The bad news is that it makes no sense."

But even as Sean gave us a complete and highly entertaining tour of reality, he hit on a much broader theme. The latest research in cosmology suggests that the universe is friggin weird. Indeed, there's probably no bigger blow to the human ego than the fact that because it is of an incomprehensible "dark" nature, "most of the universe can't even be bothered to interact with you," as Sean put it. Nevertheless, he concluded that there's something deeply uplifting about a way of thinking that allowed us to not only uncover but embrace this jaw-dropper of an inconvenient truth -- something that we would never have expected to find, but that becomes inescapable once you survey all the evidence. And by the same token, Sean pointed out that there's something rather shallow and small about an outlook that can't be bothered to confront facts of this unsettling nature.
One problem I always had with my religious upbringing and much of religious thought nowadays (and I know this does not apply to everyone) is the way it encourages complacency--God/Jesus/Etc. loves you, and that is all you need to know. If there is a God(s), He has been incredibly busy, and there is much more of his creation to be admired than we could possibly imagine. It at least puts sporting events into their much broader persepctive.

Interesting...

This made me go hmmmm:
We use “God” all the time to refer the workings of Nature, without meaning anything religious by it. Or at least, we used to; the nefarious encroachment of Intelligent Design and the religious right on our national discourse has given some of us pause. In the past I could have given a talk and said “Either you need a dynamical origin for the primordial cosmological perturbations, or you just have to accept that this is how God made the universe,” without any worry whatsoever that the physicists in the audience would have been confused. They would have known perfectly well that I was just using a colorful metaphor for “that’s just how the universe is,” in a purely cold-hearted and materialistic fashion. Nowadays I find myself avoiding such language, or substituting “Stephen Hawking” for “God” in a desperate attempt to preserve some of the humor.

All of which is to say: religion is impoverishing our language. I want God back, dammit.

Okay, whose is bigger? Let's settle this once and for all...

From the Department of Remarkable Political Time-Wasters, I fully expect Gov. Huckabee and Sen. Brownback, at least in time for the August 11 straw poll, to whip 'em out to see whose Jesus is bigger:
[O]n the ground in Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest, a pitched battle has broken out involving two lesser-known candidates who are trading accusations of religious bigotry and hypocrisy. The battle has become the most heated and personal rivalry in the Republican field.

The fight is for second place in the Aug. 11 Iowa Straw poll, a traditional bellwhether that signals the strength of Republican campaigns, and it pits Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, against Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. And it could mean life or death to either of their candidacies.

The current tensions stem from an e-mail message sent to two Brownback supporters by Rev. Tim Rude, the pastor of an evangelical church in Walnut Creek, Iowa. In the message, Mr. Rude, a Huckabee volunteer, compared the religious backgrounds of Mr. Huckabee, a Baptist pastor, and Mr. Brownback, who is Roman Catholic.

“I know Senator Brownback converted to Roman Catholicism in 2002,” Mr. Rude wrote. “Frankly, as a recovering Catholic myself, that is all I need to know about his discernment when compared to the Governor’s.”

Grasping at straw poll
The message struck some as an attempt to highlight Mr. Brownback’s Catholicism in a state with a large Protestant electorate. After the message found its way into several blogs last week, Mr. Huckabee issued a statement on Wednesday saying that his campaign neither disseminated nor condoned the message. He called Mr. Brownback a “Christian brother” and added, “As believers, we don’t have time to fight each other.”

But the matter did not end there. After the Brownback campaign cried foul, Mr. Huckabee’s campaign manager, Chip Saltsman, a Catholic, said, “It’s time for Sam Brownback to stop whining and start showing some of the Christian character he seems to always find lacking in others.”

He continued, “If Brownback is going to fall to pieces every time a supporter of the Governor says something he doesn’t like, he clearly isn’t tough enough to be President.”
I love a good catfight. I say we settle this by taking the hottest intern from each campaign staff and making them Jello Wrestle for Jesus.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Lest we forget...

I would like to take a moment to thank Texas State Rep. Debbie Riddle, for her role in putting God back into the Texas pledge of allegiance (via LVB and the Houston Chronicle):
State Rep. Debbie Riddle, who sponsored the bill, said it had always bothered her that God was omitted in the state’s pledge.

“Personally, I felt like the Texas pledge had a big old hole in it, and it occurred to me, ‘You know what? We need to fix that,’ ” said Riddle, R-Tomball. “Our Texas pledge is perfectly OK like it is with the exception of acknowledging that just as we are one nation under God, we are one state under God as well.”
Whew! I'm glad we got that cleared up. I suppose now all the children can just pray for school funding, and the Legislature can take a break.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Irony? Is thy name Target?

Check out this post and tell me if the placement of the book and the sticker can be considered an example of irony. I'm not sure.

The impossibility of argument regarding "faith"

It is hard to distill this article I just read into anything resembling bite-sized chunks, so I will just link to it and say this: Christopher Brookmyre offers an intriguing and thought-provoking view of the dangers of faith in certain religious dogmas, and how an unquestioning faith often leads to destructive outcomes. The commenters seem to have no sense of proportion, perspective, or irony in discussing the role of "faith" in daily life. It should be axiomatic, really, that "faith" in a god who will bestow specific rewards for specific actions (e.g. suicide bombers or snake handlers, or more mundane and less harmful tasks) is inherently irrational (i.e. not based on rational observation and deduction of the natural world), and that this is a far different proposition than the sorts of "faith" most people have every day: e.g. that the sun will rise, that cars will stop when we enter the crosswalk on a green light, that quantum fluctuations will not cause my coffee to suddenly fly out of the mug and into my face. This second type of "faith" is actually based on experience--we have all seen daily sunrises (or the aftermaths, if you sleep late), we have all crossed streets and lived to tell the tale, and we have all drank coffee without incident. It is certainly possible that the earth will stop spinning or that I will step out in front of a deranged lunatic in a Hummer eager to squash an unfamiliar bald man on the street, but I trust prior experience and I look both ways before crossing the street (can't do much about the earth-spinning thing, or the quantum fluctuation thing, but I can live with that.) Faith in the basic decency of one's fellow motorists, or in the generally-accepted laws of physics, is very, very different from the faith that would motivate someone to die and/or kill, or do any of the other quite frankly nutty things that religious fanatics so often do.

Until the varying degrees of faith can be recognized and accepted by most people, an honest dialogue between theists and non-theists is probably impossible. There is no inconsistency in rejecting the first type of faith, and tossing out a great deal of religious beliefs with it, while still holding on to the second kind of faith. At most, seeing an inconsistency there demonstrates the inadequacy of language to express certain concepts. I will gladly give up my own atheistic beliefs under the right circumstances, but even mentioning that I do not believe in God/god provokes some remarkably defensive reactions from many people. If faith and/or religion helps a person get through the day, more power to them. If faith and/or religion helps a person find the one great truth that must be imposed on all others, then there is a problem. In other words, some faith is good, and some is bad, and we as a species desperately need the wisdom to understand the difference.

As a tangentially-related side note, I do not feel that the burden of proof is on me to prove that God/god doesn't exist.

One quick note about communists and Nazis--these were not atrocities principally motivated by a lack of belief in God/god. It is by no means clear that Nazism was an atheistic ideology anyway, but that is beside the point. These ideologies had many things in common with fanatical religious doctrines--followers acted out of a fervent belief that was not supported by empirical evidence, or had as its support evidence that had been distorted beyond recognition by ideologues. Furthermore, these systems involved personality cults that might be indistinguishable from religions to outside observers. Therefore, to say that atheism naturally leads to the atrocities of Hitler or Stalin is wrong. My beef is with any ideology or system that places dogma above evidence and reason.

I'm sure this would work perfectly...

Sen. Tom Tancredo's idea for a deterrent to terrorists set on detonating a nuke in America?...Threaten to bomb Mecca and Medina. That should fix the problem of Muslim extremists hating America...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pharmacists sue to avoid having to do their jobs

From the Department of Why'd You Become a Pharmacist Anyway? comes this story (actually the NYT via TFN):
SEATTLE (AP) -- Pharmacists have sued Washington state over a new regulation that requires them to sell emergency contraception, also known as the "morning-after pill."

In a lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday, a pharmacy owner and two pharmacists say the rule that took effect Thursday violates their civil rights by forcing them into choosing between "their livelihoods and their deeply held religious and moral beliefs."

***

Under the new state rule, pharmacists with personal objections to a drug can opt out by getting a co-worker to fill an order. But that applies only if the patient is able to get the prescription in the same pharmacy visit.

Sold as Plan B, emergency contraception is a high dose of the drug found in many regular birth-control pills. It can lower the risk of pregnancy by as much as 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.
I'll just ask a few questions that flow from logical extensions of what I presume to be the pharmacists' reasoning. First question: can a pharmacist who is also a Christian Scientist refuse to dispense any medication, preferring prayer instead? Or how about this: If a pharmacist refuses to dispense Plan B to a woman who had been raped, and she ends up having to carry the child to term, can the pharmacist be held responsible for child support payments? I ask this because (1) presumably the child's biological father would be in prison and therefore unable to make money for child support, and (2) most state laws put a child's best interests over the interests of the parents or other responsible parties and someone has to support the child.

Or is it just that life begins at conception and ends at birth for these pharmacists?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Red tape for Jesus!!!

Religious strife in San Antonio? Who'd'a thunk it?
Evangelical Christians point to 1963 as the year God was kicked out of school.

That's when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Madalyn Murray O'Hair's argument and abolished the practice of students reciting prayers and Bible passages in public schools.

***

This year, the Texas Legislature added more fuel to the decades-old debate by passing a law that could leave the spiritual conscience of a school up to the captain of the football team.

Lawmakers approved that law and two others that could ease the way for more religion in public schools. The changes will take effect when students return to classrooms in August.

***

The third new law, dubbed the Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, has superintendents nervous as they figure out how to implement it in the coming weeks.

It requires public school districts to adopt policies specifically allowing spontaneous religious expression by students. A so-called model policy included in the law states that upperclassmen who are student leaders — such as student council officers, class officers or the captain of the football team — should be designated as speakers.

The law does not address concerns that such a selection process could wind up leaving out minority faiths.

"This mandate is going to create a collision of ideas that should really take place outside of the school," Superintendent Richard Middleton of North East Independent School District said. "Our lawyer fees are going to go up because of this."

The new law creates a "limited open forum" that gives students the opportunity to speak about religious issues. It states that if a student speaker at a sports event, a school assembly or a graduation ceremony elects to express a religious viewpoint while addressing an otherwise permissible topic, school officials must treat the religious content the same as they would the secular content.
First of all, how puny is God in these evangelicals' conception, that a bunch of pansy-assed liberals could force Him out of schools? Doesn't sound like any sort of all-powerful deity to me, if He can't even stand up to the pencilnecks in the ACLU.

All mockery aside, though, does the Legislature have any idea what kind of hornet's nest they have created? Who am I kidding...of course they do. I can't say for sure what is going to happen, but I will be waiting for the first Wiccan, Neo-Pagan, or Pastafarian demanding equal time with the Southern Baptists. The battle is gonna be downright Biblical, I tell ya!

And that's really how our public school administrators should be spending their time. I have this feeling that somewhere over in India or China, there is a classroom full of young science students laughing their asses off at us.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Freedom of belief, as long as you believe, motherf****r

I had no idea that this was in the Bill of Rights of the Texas Constitution:
Article 1 - BILL OF RIGHTS
Section 4 - RELIGIOUS TESTS

No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being. (Emphasis added)
Other states do this, too, although these clauses tend to not stand up to court challenges.

Still, why risk it? Should I ever run for office, I shall declare my faith in the Invisible Pink Unicorn:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hindus 1, Christianists 0

The story about the Hindu offering a prayer in the Senate has probably been talked to death by now, but I feel that it is appropriate to note that Washington is not in flames one day after the prayer was offered. The prayer did not occur without incident, of course:
WASHINGTON -- A Hindu clergyman made history Thursday by offering the Senate's morning prayer, but only after police officers removed three shouting protesters from the visitors' gallery.

Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple in Reno, Nev., gave the brief prayer that opens each day's Senate session. As he stood at the chamber's podium in a bright orange and burgundy robe, two women and a man began shouting "this is an abomination" and other complaints from the gallery.

Police officers quickly arrested them and charged them disrupting Congress, a misdemeanor. The male protester told an AP reporter, "we are Christians and patriots" before police handcuffed them and led them away.

For several days, the Mississippi-based American Family Association has urged its members to object to the prayer because Zed would be "seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god."
Now that these three self-styled "Christians and patriots" have utterly embarrassed themselves, their religion, and anyone claiming the title "patriot," I have a few questions for them.

1. Is your objection to the prayer based specifically on the fact that it is Hindu in nature, or is it a more general objection to its "non-monotheistic" nature?
2. If your objection is to the "non-monotheism" of the prayer, what is/are your primary concern(s) about it? E.g., are you concerned about angering the one true God, or are you concerned that, as a result of "non-monotheistic" prayer, God will get confused?
3. Would any monotheistic prayer be acceptable? Christian? Jewish? Muslim? Sikh? Pastafarian?

I await your reply.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Catholic-on-Protestant Smackdown soon to follow

From CNN:
The Vatican on Tuesday said Christian denominations outside the Roman Catholic Church were not full churches of Jesus Christ.

A 16-page document, prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Pope Benedict used to head, described Christian Orthodox churches as true churches, but suffering from a "wound" since they do not recognize the primacy of the Pope.

But the document said the "wound is still more profound" in the Protestant denominations -- a view likely to further complicate relations with Protestants.

"Despite the fact that this teaching has created no little distress ... it is nevertheless difficult to see how the title of 'Church' could possibly be attributed to them," it said.

The Vatican text, which restates the controversial document "Dominus Iesus" issued by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2000, said the Church wanted to stress this point because some Catholic theologians continued to misunderstand it.
Okay, we get it. You're infallible & stuff. I accede to your infallible bad-assedness.

Seriously, would someone in Rome please pay more attention to this guy? Maybe he just needs some friends. It must be lonely being pope.

Hindus in the House!!! (Senate, actually)

Time for a rant. In the realm of news-that-matters-not-a-bit-but-cannot-go-without-my-mockery, plans to have a Hindu open a Senate session with a Hindu prayer have ocked...well, somebody's world. Via Texas Freedom Network News Clips:
Date: July 10, 2007
From: American Family Association
By: Donald E. Wildmon, Founder and Chairman

Hindu to open Senate with prayer

Send an email to your senator now, expressing your disappointment in the Senate decision to invite a Hindu to open the session with prayer.

Dear ******,

Please read this news report from OneNewsNow.com.

On Thursday, a Hindu chaplain from Reno, Nevada, by the name of Rajan Zed is scheduled to deliver the opening prayer in the U.S. Senate. Zed tells the Las Vegas Sun that in his prayer he will likely include references to ancient Hindu scriptures, including Rig Veda, Upanishards, and Bhagavard-Gita. Historians believe it will be the first Hindu prayer ever read at the Senate since it was formed in 1789.

WallBuilders president David Barton is questioning why the U.S. government is seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god. Barton points out that since Hindus worship multiple gods, the prayer will be completely outside the American paradigm, flying in the face of the American motto "One Nation Under God."

"In Hindu, you have not one God, but many, many, many, many, many gods," the Christian historian explains. "And certainly that was never in the minds of those who did the Constitution, did the Declaration [of Independence] when they talked about Creator -- that's not one that fits here because we don't know which creator we're talking about within the Hindu religion."

Barton says given the fact that Hindus are a tiny constituency of the American public, he questions the motivation of Senate leaders. "This is not a religion that has produced great things in the world," he observes. "You look at India, you look at Nepal -- there's persecution going in both of those countries that is gendered by the religious belief that is present there, and Hindu dominates in both of those countries."

And while Barton acknowledges there is not constitutional problem with a Hindu prayer in the Senate, he wonders about the political side of it. "One definitely wonders about the pragmatic side of it," he says. "What is the message, and why is the message needed? And will it actually communicate anything other than engender with folks like me a lot of questions?"

Barton says he knows of at least seven cases where Christians have lost their bid to express their own faith in a public prayer.

Zed is reportedly the first Hindu to deliver opening prayers in an American state legislature, having done so in both the Nevada State Assembly and Nevada State Senate earlier this year. He has stated that Thursday's prayer will be "universal in approach," despite being drawn from Hindu religious texts.
I never could quite figure out that whole Trinity thing, but I'll take these guys at their word that Hinduism has more gods than Christianism.

Where to start with this, though? I find it amusing that there is concern as to the fact that "we don't know which creator we're talking about within the Hindu religion." Also, the mention of the "American motto" is a little disingenuous--not to mention somewhat belittling of the supposedly-vaunted Pledge of Allegiance. "One Nation Under God" is a pretty recent addition, relatively speaking.

What is most striking (and least surprising) about this whole letter, though, is the almost total lack of any actual information or rhetoric. There is speculation as to what was "in the minds of those who did the Constitution, did the Declaration [of Independence] when they talked about Creator." And there is the obligatory "wondering" as to the political motivations of those who arranged for this prayer. Apparently, in today's America, "wondering" as to someone's motives, even with no evidence, argument, or follow-up discussion, is enough to impugn said motives. At least, I assume that is what this letter intends to do, since it's stated purpose is to express "disappointment." If not, I cannot begin to speculate as to what it is intended for.

Finally, worthy of both ridicule and the most abject scorn is the observation about what Hinduism has done for us lately: "'This is not a religion that has produced great things in the world,' he observes. 'You look at India, you look at Nepal -- there's persecution going in both of those countries that is gendered by the religious belief that is present there, and Hindu dominates in both of those countries.'" I'm not exactly sure what he's talking about--is the strife in South Asia the fault of Hinduism? Maybe they should formally become a Christian nation--look how well it worked for Zambia!!!

They do note that the Hindu gentleman offered prayers in both houses of the Nevada Legislature. If Nevada goes the way of Nepal anytime soon, I guess I'll have to concede a few points.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

How far can people go to avoid their professional duties on religious grounds?

From Overlawyered:
Stephen Dunne, 30, flunked the Massachusetts bar exam and now says it was because he refused on principle to answer an exam question concerning the rights of two married lesbians, their children and property. He claims the hypothetical, which concludes with the question "What are the rights of Mary and Jane?", violated his First Amendment rights and served as a "screening device" to exclude persons like himself who disapprove on religious grounds of the state's gay marriage law.
Let's be clear about this: he left an answer on a bar exam completely blank. No he is suing a group of lawyers for offending his tender sensibilities. Speaking as a lawyer (albeit one who has neither taken the Massachusetts bar exam nor practiced law there, although I have been to Amherst and thought it was nice), this guy would have made a terrible lawyer anyway. There is really no way, if you want to be any good at what you do, to avoid opining on issues that you may find repellent. The law is what it is, and if you don't like it, a lawyer can (a) look for a sneaky way around it or (b) become a lobbyist and try to change it. The simple fact that this guy refused to even consider the question, IMHO, suggests that he does not understand the nature of being a lawyer at all.

I previously discussed doctors and pharmacists who don't want to do their jobs on religious grounds. What gets me about this case is that the guy didn't even try to answer the question. If he had at least written something that would pass as a bar exam essay, I'm not sure there'd be grounds for a lawsuit, but at least there could be a coherent discussion:
Dunne, who describes himself as a Christian and a Democrat, is seeking $9.75 million in damages and wants a jury to prohibit the Board of Bar Examiners from considering the question in his passage of the exam and to order it removed from all future exams.

“There’s a different forum for that contemporary issue to be discussed, and it’s inappropriate to be on a professional licensing examination,” Dunne told the Herald. “You don’t see questions about partial-birth abortion or abortion on there.”

Dunne scored a 268.866 on the bar exam, just missing a passing grade of 270. The exam question at issue concerns two married lesbian attorneys and their rights regarding a house and two children when one decides to end the marriage.
This question has nothing to do with the propriety, morality, validity, etc., of the "marriage" in question--it addresses a situation that is quite likely to occur in the real world (something that rarely happens in law school, trust me.) This guy chooses to skip an entire bar exam question, barely fails, and now blames someone else for offending him. Calling it a "contemporary issue" is one of the most creative non-sequiturs I've heard in some time. The practice of law is pretty dang contemporary, as in it deals with current issues like marriage and divorce--which is legal for homosexuals in Massachusetts, at least at the moment. If you don't think a lawyer should have to address that issue, you don't deserve to be a lawyer. And you make a pretty strange case for your religious beliefs, as well.

One final quote from the article, for my own amusement:
Dunne claims the question was used as a “screening device” to identify and penalize him for “refusing to subscribe to a liberal ideology based on ‘secular humanism,’ ”according to his lawsuit.

“Homosexual conduct is inconsistent with (Dunne’s) Christian practices, beliefs and values, which are protected by the First Amendment,” the lawsuit states.

“I respect people with alternative lifestyles, and we must do that in a civil society,” Dunne said. “I just have a different opinion that millions of people share with me, and I believe that my opinion should be respected just as much as (pro-gay) opinions. I have no intent in spreading hatred or discrimination.”

How to solve the rain problem

I think I have this figured out--i.e. the mind of God and how He chooses where to send rain. I chuckled at first when I read about how Church of England bishops were calling the torrential rains in England a form of God's judgment:
One diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless.

While those who have been affected by the storms are innocent victims, the bishops argue controversially that the flooding is a result of Western civilisation's decision to ignore biblical teaching.
At first I didn't see how one necessarily follows the other. Then my proud region of Texas began to experience the worst flooding in five decades:
As rain continued to soak much of Texas on Thursday, emergency officials said the state is experiencing its most extensive flooding since 1957, when floods ended a statewide drought.
Hold on, I wondered, what did we do to anger God in such a way??? I presonally have not had too much trouble with the rain, except for dealing with a wet dog several times a day. Then I saw the news today about the gay Catholics in Austin:
Lesbian activist Honour Maddock said the Roman Catholic Church's stance on homosexuality no longer bothers her...The 51-year-old from Long Island, N.Y., came to Austin this week with her partner, Kathleen Kane, to attend the 19th biennial convention of DignityUSA, an organization that offers support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics.

Although gay Catholics are still frustrated by the increasingly conservative leanings of the church leadership, some say they are finding more acceptance in their local parishes.

About 225 members of Dignity's chapters across the country convened in Austin to continue spreading the message that "our sexuality is not in conflict with our Catholicism," said Jeff Stone, a national spokesman for Dignity.
Hello??? Was no one paying attention to the donwpours of the past three weeks??? How could this be anything but God warning us against teh gays??? Wait, you say it's "been caused primarily by a low-pressure area trapped between two high-pressure areas"??? No, I think it's teh gays...that seems like the more logical explanation. Anyway, back to my point--I have also noticed that the plethora of rain in Texas and England has occurred during a dearth of rain in Alabama (thank you, Thesaurus!), leading the governor to ask for official Days of Prayer for Rain:
With parts of Alabama suffering an exceptional drought, Governor Bob Riley is turning to God for help and asking other Alabamians to join him in praying for rain.

Riley has issued a proclamation declaring June 30th through July 7th as "Days of Prayer for Rain" and asked citizens to pray individually and in their houses of worship.
How about if the gay Catholics march on Montgomery for a change??? We've got more rain than we need here, thank you much.

And yes, I am aware that many, if not most, Christians will say that the above-quoted bishop does not speak for them and their faith. If that is the case, why don't more people who do not share his opinions yet call their faith by the same name not speak out against him and people who think like him? All of the decent, moral, and kind people I have ever known who followed the teachings of Jesus called their faith by the exact same name as this guy, this guy, and this guy. They are the most extreme examples I could think of on the spot. That's the point.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Defending the brain

Here's a nice thought from Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite in Newsweek:
Questions are a life-long conversation with God.

In the Protestant liberal tradition, faith is understood as a journey. Questions are indispensable to the journey of faith because they help you illumine the path. A distinguishing characteristic of liberal Protestantism is its strong affirmation of the human reach toward the world, toward one another and toward God through the use of reason in the search for understanding.

It is my belief, as a liberal Protestant, that only when people are truly free to question religious authorities, received traditions, sacred texts and even God that they can truly find faith. A coerced faith is an oxymoron. No one can force you to faith—it is found freely and embraced without duress or it is not found at all. I suspect that many who post so angrily to these On Faith columns were force-fed a rigid, doctrine driven faith and their God-given desire to question was harshly stifled. They are angry and resentful of that kind of faith and frankly I don’t blame them.
Where it gets fascinating to me is where the journey leads for different people.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Devil made me do it

Hey, if God can tell the president to go to war, is it that far-fetched that Satan ordered this guy to microwave his baby?
Devil to blame for burns, mom says

A woman blames the devil and not her husband for the severe burning of their infant daughter, who police say was put in a microwave, a Houston television station reported.

Eva Marie Mauldin said Satan compelled her 19-year-old husband, Joshua Royce Mauldin of Warren, Ark., to microwave their 2-month-old daughter May 10 in a Galveston motel because the devil disapproved of Joshua's efforts to become a preacher.

"My husband is a wonderful father," Eva Mauldin, 20, told KHOU-TV. "Satan was working through his weaknesses."

She has set up a MySpace page, "Joshua Mauldin is not a Monster," to defend her husband.

A Galveston County grand jury indicted Joshua Mauldin last week on child injury charges.

The infant, Ana Marie, remains hospitalized with burns.

Texas Child Protective Services is trying to sever Eva and Joshua Mauldin's parental rights. A custody hearing is scheduled this week in state district court in Galveston.
Horrifying story, idiotic excuse.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Let's just get the dang Apocalypse over with, already!

Will Bunch at Attytood has posted about the #2-selling book at Amazon.com:
It's called: "The Final Move Beyond Iraq: The Final Solution While the World Sleeps," by Michael D. Evans. The "O" in "MOVE" has a very un-Christian set of crosshairs in the middle.
I blinked several times, then went and got some more coffee, then came back to my computer and the words "Final Solution" were still there. I have not read this book, nor do I know much about its author, but words are important, and those words especially carry some weight. These ideas, to the extent that they are widely shared, certainly merit discussion and a big ol' rhetorical smackdown.

Reviews of the book seem to be mostly negative:
I'm currently serving in the United States Army deployed in Iraq with the 25ID. Think for yourself. The fact that this book is on the best-seller list makes me want to vomit. The author is intent on seeing democracy controlled by religion, knowing that through these beliefs he can control the people. Think for yourself. Trust God and not the author who mangles and manipulates His words for the sake of power.
Then again, there was also this one:
Everyone should read this book but especially Americans. All indications are that the public has let 9-11 fade into the past. This book will wake you up. It's well documented, a very real fast read (unless, like me, you tend to highlight pertinent passages to pass on to those who have fallen asleep). I recommend this book to anyone who values the United States of America and our "remaining" freedoms.
I actually agree with everything this guy says, except that (a) he is actually making a case for the war in Afghanistan by invoking 9/11 and (b) he seems immune to the irony of mentioning our "'remaining' freedoms," ignoring who is principally responsible for the freddoms not "remaining."

What troubles me is the eagerness for further war in the Middle East as fulfillment of Biblical prophecy possibly bringing about a tribulation period or something. This did not start with Newt Gingrich's oddly eager invocation of "World War III" to describe the brief Israel-Hezbollah war of 2006 (whose outcome was hardly certain, anyway). This has been going on for some time, but the Iraq War seems to have resulted in increased rhetoric. What I don't understand is the idea (and this may seem somewhat straw-man, but the people making these arguments are notoriously slippery) that humans, by forcing the events described in the Bible to happen in the right sequence, can hasten the Second Coming, apocalypse, etc. Does God (and yes, I know I don't technically believe in Him, but go with me for a second) have a checklist of events that he is waiting on before sending Jesus back? Isn't it just a tad arrogant for people like Newt or John Hagee to think they can hasten the end times by encouraging war in the Middle East? My biggest beef with organized religion is the idea that any one man (or woman) can speak definitively for God, let alone be the catalyst for Armageddon. If the Bible is any guide (and most if not all Christians say it is), God is gonna do what God is gonna do, so everybody chill. Instead of the constant obsessing over the afterlife, take some time to appreciate all the great stuff He's created in this one.

In the name of Jesus - UPDATED

I know this person most likely does not represent the mainstream of Christian thought in America today, but it is important to show what is being said in Jesus' name:



This is posted here (NSFW, really), and I don't know what newspaper it is from or if it is even real. On the off chance that someone actually wrote this (I hope it's fake), it is chilling. Aside from some factually-questionable assertions, the idea that the First Amendment somehow mandates religious belief of some sort is, well, baffling. That's really all I think needs to be said here.

Like I said, I hope this thing is fake.

UPDATE - Thanks to Google and a little more free time, I confirmed that the clipping is for real, originally published in the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska Clarion (it has made its way around as a scanned clipping because the newspaper's website requires registration. I took one for the team and did so.) Comments can be found here, here, and here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thoughts on a man I didn't like from a man I don't like

From Eat the Press:
We will say this: No matter how frustrating, sexist and occasionally incoherent [Christopher Hitchens] can be, when he is on he's on. This appearance was a tour de force. A sample:

COOPER: Christopher, I'm not sure if you believe in heaven, but, if you do, do you think Jerry Falwell is in it?

HITCHENS: No. And I think it's a pity there isn't a hell for him to go to.

COOPER: What is it about him that brings up such vitriol?

HITCHENS: The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing, that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called reverend. Who would, even at your network, have invited on such a little toad to tell us that the attacks of September the 11th were the result of our sinfulness and were God's punishment if they hadn't got some kind of clerical qualification?

People like that should be out in the street, shouting and hollering with a cardboard sign and selling pencils from a cup. The whole consideration of this -- of this horrible little person is offensive to very, very many of us who have some regard for truth and for morality, and who think that ethics do not require that lies be told to children by evil old men, that we're -- we're not told that people who believe like Falwell will be snatched up into heaven, where I'm glad to see he skipped the rapture, just found on the floor of his office, while the rest of us go to hell.

How dare they talk to children like this? How dare they raise money from credulous people on their huckster-like Elmer Gantry radio stations, and fly around in private jets, as he did, giggling and sniggering all the time at what he was getting away with?

Do you get an idea now of what I mean to say?

COOPER: Yes, no, I think — I think you're making yourself very clear.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Why We Fight

This makes me want to fucking puke. Click the link and watch the video. Don't try to say this is an isolated incident. Don't tell me about cultural norms. A 17 year-old girl was stoned to death for having the wrong boyfriend. Since I'm sure all the perpetrators believe in hell, I hope it's extra hot for them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

This is the problem, folks

From an interview with Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich on ESPN.com:
In a transcript of his interview with Brig. Gen. Gary Jones during a November 2004 investigation, Kauzlarich said he'd learned Kevin Tillman, Pat's brother and fellow Army Ranger who was a part of the battle the night Pat Tillman died, objected to the presence of a chaplain and the saying of prayers during a repatriation ceremony in Germany before his brother's body was returned to the United States.

Kauzlarich, now a battalion commanding officer at Fort Riley in Kansas, further suggested the Tillman family's unhappiness with the findings of past investigations might be because of the absence of a Christian faith in their lives.

In an interview with ESPN.com, Kauzlarich said: "When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more — that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don't know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough."

Asked by ESPN.com whether the Tillmans' religious beliefs are a factor in the ongoing investigation, Kauzlarich said, "I think so. There is not a whole lot of trust in the system or faith in the system [by the Tillmans]. So that is my personal opinion, knowing what I know."
Hey asshole, maybe they are upset because you, and the rest of the military, have lied to them for the past two years! Not that it matters, but who ever said anything about the Tillmans being atheist? "Not Christian" and atheist are different concepts, but I doubt this guy can comprehend that. Would you honestly be perfectly hunky-dory fine with losing a member of your family this way just because you believe he/she is now in heaven? The fact that Spc. Tillman died is just as tragic as the deaths of the other 3,000-something American men and women and the countless Iraqis and Afghans (please note that it was a group of self-styled Christians who started the tragedy in Iraq in the first place). The fact that a b.s. story has been spun about it all this time is criminal, and, based on everything I have ever been taught in my life, pretty fricking un-Christian.

Friday, April 20, 2007

United in disbelief, or something

Making fun of Dinesh D'Souza is about as easy as shooting fish that are duct-taped to the barrel of a gun, but I just can't help myself. I once observed how he made a convincing case that debauchery and vice is every American's patriotic duty, and now he sort of makes a case for the inherent kindness and decency of atheists (other good comments here and here). His point seems to be that atheists never show up to make statements/pronouncements/whatever when something tragic happens. As evidence, he notes that Richard Dawkins has not been invited to speak at VA Tech. To my knowledge, Dawkins has never been named the Atheist Pope, so I'm not sure why this matters. D'Souza also offers no particular answers to his own question ("Where Is Atheism When Bad Things Happen?") other than a few paraphrasings of Dawkins' writings that make me wonder if he actuallyt read any of them. All I can get from this (and I acknowledge a possible bias on my part towards rational thought and looking for the good in all people) is the following:

1. Atheists by and large do not congregate in large groups and therefore do not have spokespeople.
2. As a derivative of item 1, they also do not advertise or make public statements on behalf of anyone but themselves.
3. All he does is beg the question of where God was during the shooting, since he's asking about atheists afterwards.

My faith in humanity is restored by the utter beatdown he gets in his own comments section.

I suppose he is expecting Richard Dawkins to show up in Virginia, approach the family of a victim, and tell them in his haughty British accent that the souls of their loved ones do not really exist and that they did not go anywhere after death. D'Souza may be surprised to find that he is dealing with a rather polite and considerate segment of society. Dickishness in the face of tragedy is more the idiom of the religiously-oriented.

How low can they go?

That was a bad pun, as you will see. The Catholic Church has retired the concept of "limbo," apparently:
The Roman Catholic Church has effectively buried the concept of limbo, the place where centuries of tradition and teaching held that babies who die without baptism went.

In a long-awaited document, the Church's International Theological Commission said limbo reflected an "unduly restrictive view of salvation."
Having never been Catholic (and having not been an especially good Episcopalian), I am trying to understand the practical effect of this. Do all of the babies that have spent all this time in limbo now get to go somewhere else? Have they not actually been in limbo all this time? Doesn't that say something about papal infallibility? As in, the Church was for limbo before they were against it. Is it an Orwellian redefinition of reality? As in, unbaptized babies do not go to limbo--they have never gone to limbo...

Just wondering.