Archive for May, 2008

This one is pretty good. I almost can’t believe it. In fact, I suspect this may well be a hoax; but just for fun, and in case it’s not, here goes: There’s a Ford dealership in southern California which is telling non-Christians to “shut up”:

Kieffe and Sons, a California Ford dealership, decided for some reason to launch a radio ad attacking non-Christians and people who believe that prayer shouldn’t be in public schools. … The ad reads:

Did you know that there are people in this country who want prayer out of schools, “Under God” out of the Pledge, and “In God We Trust” to be taken off our money?

But did you know that 86% of Americans say they believe in God? Now, since we all know that 86 out of every 100 of us are Christians who believe in God, we at Kieffe & Sons Ford wonder why we don’t just tell the other 14% to sit down and shut up. I guess maybe I just offended 14% of the people who are listening to this message. Well, if that is the case, then I say that’s tough, this is America folks, it’s called free speech. And none of us at Kieffe & Sons Ford are afraid to speak up. Kieffe & Sons Ford on Sierra Highway in Mojave and Rosamond: if we don’t see you today, by the grace of God, we’ll be here tomorrow.

Obviously these folk have already decided not to listen to any contrary points, so in response, I will exercise my “free speech” rights and say:

OK, Kieffe & Sons, if you’re not afraid, then I dare you to “shut me up.” Go ahead. Shut down my blog. Come to my house and force me to “shut up.” If you have no fear, then you have absolutely no reason not to do so. Come on. Find me and beat me into believing in your God. Until then, I will remain a committed agnostic, and there is not one damned thing you or your primitive Semitic tribal war-totem – turned – martyred flower-child wannabe can do to stop me.

There, you see? I can respond to a childish rant with just as much immaturity as any fundamentalist. (You did know, of course, that that’s exactly what fundamentalism — in any form, in any religion or ideology — really is … mere immaturity? Didn’t you? Well, in case you didn’t, now you do!)

Tags: , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Wonderful Car Dealership

I blogged earlier about John McCain’s pastor problems. Today he finally rejected endorsements by two prominent evangelical preachers, John Hagee and Rod Parsley. Hagee had built a career on anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic comments; Parlsey has been an outspoken critic of Islam, going so far as to claim that the U.S. had been founded (by God, I guess) for the express purpose of destroying Islam.

The names of Hagee and Parsley are not familiar to most Americans, but they are extremely well-known in fundamentalist Christian circles and highly influential Protestant preachers. Here are references for each, in case you want to know more about them:

Can we now please get past clerical endorsements of presidential candidates? Is it not clear, finally, that the time has come to terminate this practice forever?

Tags: , , ,

Comments Comments Off on McCain Shows Clergy The Door

Let’s hear it for the United Churches of Christ (UCC) which managed the feat of providing a platform for a political candidate during its convention in Hartford CT last year, without violating IRS regulations about religious groups not engaging in politics.

Yes, you heard that right. A church group, which is not supposed to be political, gave a candidate a speaking venue to sell himself, but somehow didn’t actually do so, according to the IRS:

The Internal Revenue Service says the United Church of Christ did not violate rules when it hosted Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama at its convention in Hartford last year.

The IRS says Obama’s appearance at the UCC’s national meeting in June 2007 did not violate federal rules governing the appearance of politicians at religious events.

Earlier this year, the IRS had said there were questions that the speech violated restrictions on political activity for tax-exempt organizations. The denomination has denied any wrongdoing.

However, in a letter to the national church the tax agency says it found the UCC had taken the necessary steps to avoid any appearance that Obama’s appearance was of a political nature.

Let’s all give the UCC a round of applause for successfully skirting the law in the cause of Jesus! Hallelujah!

If this sounds familiar, you’re not seeing things or experiencing deja vu; there really has been a recent spate of news stories in which religious folks are being allowed to violate laws in the name of their religions (see this blog entry and this one). Hopefully this trend unnerves you as much as it does me.

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Skirting The Law For Jesus!

Back when the story of the FLDS compound in Texas that was raided because young girls had been subjected to sexual abuse, I was worried this might happen … given that Texas is the buckle of the Bible Belt where religious extremism is generally viewed positively. Well, it happened:

The state of Texas should not have removed children from a polygamist sect’s ranch because it didn’t prove that they were in “imminent danger,” an appeals court ruled Thursday. …

In its ruling, the Texas 3rd District Court of Appeals decided in favor of 38 women who had challenged the removals and appealed a decision last month by a district judge that the children remain in state custody.

“The existence of the FLDS belief system as described by the department’s witnesses, by itself, does not put children of FLDS parents in physical danger,” the three-judge panel said.

Hmm. I’d be interested in knowing exactly how a theology that says that girls must be married and become pregnant as soon as possible in life, can possibly be considered “safe” for them … I mean, really! How could such thinking result in anything other than the abuse of said girls, and the wanton violation of consent laws?

I guess the Texas courts are angling, now, in the direction of a religious exemption to laws on child abuse and consent laws. Good luck, Texas; you’ll need it!

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Religious Exemption To Child Abuse Laws?

It’s gotten to be an old story … teachers pushing religion, in the form of creationism & “intelligent design,” on kids in public school science classrooms. This is in spite of court rulings specifically forbidding the practice. Here’s a report from MSNBC:

One in eight U.S. high school biology teachers presents creationism or intelligent design in a positive light in the classroom, a new survey shows, despite a federal court’s recent ban against it.And a quarter of the nation’s high school biology teachers say they devoted at least one or two classroom hours to the topics, with about half presenting it favorably and half presenting it as an invalid alternative. …

The research, funded by the National Science Foundation, also revealed that between 12 percent and 16 percent of the nation’s biology teachers are creationists, and about one in six of them have a “young Earth” orientation, which means they believe that human beings were created by God in their present form within the past 10,000 years.

Scientists, on the other hand, agree that humans evolved from a common primate ancestor in a process that stretches back tens of millions of years. The theory of evolution on which this is based is one of the most well-supported theories in science.

The highly publicized Dover ruling in 2005 banned the teaching of intelligent design in Pennsylvania public school science classes, and there have been many other legal victories at the state and local level for the teaching of evolution.

What we have here, folks, are believers who are all too eager to break the law in order to edjumicate dem dere chilluns on da Lorduh ’cause we dun gots ta save dere precious souls. Our preachermen dun tol’ us so!

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Breaking The Law For Jesus!

On the heels of the recent California Supreme Court ruling I blogged about earlier, it’s time to set the record straight on the matter of marriage in Judeo-Christian tradition. There are a great many misconceptions about it, which are frequently stated but are erroneous, and many flaws in the traditional views of it.

First, most people who are of the Judeo-Christian tradition consider marriage to be sacred and to be only between one man and one woman. There is scriptural support for this, in Genesis 2:24:

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

This verse is alluded to or quoted by Jesus in the gospels and in other books of the New Testament, so it can safely be said that this basic idea was presumed valid by those later authors. But the Bible is not consistent on the matter. A number of important figures in the Bible had multiple wives and even concubines in addition:

Abraham: Married Sarah (Gen 16:1), then took as additional wives Hagar (Gen 16:3) and later Keturah (Gen 25:1).

Jacob: Married Leah (Gen 29:23), then Rachel (Gen 29:28), then Bilhah (Gen 30:4), then Zilpah (Gen 30:9).

Moses: Married Zipporah (Ex 2:21), then an unnamed Ethiopian woman (Num 12:1).

David: His named wives were Michal (1 Sam 18:27), Abigail (1 Sam 25:39), Ahinoam (1 Sam 25:43), Eglah, Abital, Haggith, & Maacah (2 Sam 3:3-5); and Bathsheba (2 Sam 12:24); there were an unknown number of other wives as well (2 Sam 5:13).

Solomon: Had 700 wives plus 300 concubines (1 Kg 11:3)

There are many other Biblical figures with multiple wives and concubines, including Esau and several kings of Israel such as Ahab; but the above should suffice to demonstrate that multiple wives and concubines litter the pages of the Old Testament.

Lest anyone think that God allowed these patriarchs and kings to have multiple marriages but did not approve of the practice, note that Solomon, David’s heir, was the son of Bathsheba, who was not David’s first wife. God obviously didn’t mind polygamy that much if one of its offspring could have become God’s favorite and a later standard for divine wisdom.

In the wider Greco-Roman world of the 1st century CE, marriage was mostly monogamous, however, in the Near East — especially in places at the fringe of the Empire such as Persia and Egypt — polygamy and concubinage sometimes appeared, and the Romans generally tolerated it. Thus, in the pastoral epistles, there is an injunction on deacons in the early church:

Deacons must be husbands of only one wife (1 Tim 3:12)

as is the case for overseers or bishops (1 Tim 3:2). That the author of the epistle found it necessary to make this distinction implies that polygamy occurred, even if it may not have been the usual practice. If the words of this epistle are viewed through a strict legalistic interpretation, they mean that a Christian man could have more than one wife; he was merely disqualified to be a deacon or bishop. Let me repeat: These passages in 1 Timothy indicate that its author considered it possible for a good Christian man to have more than one wife! The only restriction on a Christian man with more than one wife, is that he cannot be a deacon or bishop.

Marriage did not become a Christian sacrament in practice until the Middle Ages. But even then this was merely an informal understanding; during the Reformation, the sacramental nature of marriage was still up in the air, so it was not officially declared a sacrament by the Roman Catholic Church until the Council of Trent in the 16th century, and it took some time to work its way into the official doctrines of other Christian sects.

So we are not talking, here, of millennia of Church control over marriage; the truth is far different.

There are two other common objections that Judeo-Christian traditionalists make against gay marriage, both of which are also just as invalid as their belief that monogamous marriage is scriptural. These are:

1. Letting gays marry will open the door to polygamists, communal or plural marriages, etc. This is an example of the slippery-slope fallacy. Doing one thing does not automatically require doing another, no matter how they appear. Polygamy and plural marriages are quite different from gay marriages — mainly because marriages are actually contracts between two parties. How can multiple people simultaneously enter into the same contract? Furthermore, how would inheritance, control over one’s affairs, etc. be adjudicated in a plural marriage? The answer: It can’t, at least not easily. Allowing plural marriages would require many adaptations and changes in the legal system. Going from man/woman marriage to two-person gay marriages, is not much of a leap; but enabling plural marriage introduces many potential complications. So slippery-slope thinking just does not apply here.

2. Marriage is intended for procreation only. Most people who spout this canard have never once considered the ramifications of this statement. If one follows this logic, it leads to the conclusion that infertile people cannot be allowed to marry (since they will never have children); it also means that couples cannot be left childless. I cannot even begin to imagine policing the “marriage-is-only-for-procreation” policy if it were to be made law; I suppose one could arrest and punish childless couples, and force infertile people to divorce, but really … it’s simply absurd. The idea that marriage is solely for procreation, cannot become the basis for matrimonial policy.

The bottom line, folks, is that gay marriage is here, and it will stay. I suppose opponents could fend it off for a generation or two by amending constitutions (state and/or federal), but eventually it will happen. Offhand I’d say the better thing to do is to grow up, accept it, and stop meddling in other people’s lives for no good reason.

Tags: , ,

Comments 4 Comments »

A lot of people who know that occidental religions, with their emphasis on “faith,” can be detrimental, see eastern religions as being superior and not vulnerable to the same abuses. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Hinduism, the dharmic religion that dominates India, has a caste system, which until the middle of the 20th century was strongly observed (and still is, in most places). Indian society is made up of a number of castes, the bottom two of which, known together as the Dalit or untouchables, were once so reviled that they could be punished merely for allowing their shadow to fall on someone of a higher caste. Over the last three millennia or more of Hindu dominance over India, the dalit have been subjected to harassed, ostracized, beaten, and even killed. Given India’s high population and the long history of caste-based abuse, it’s quite likely that much more human misery has been inflicted on humanity via this, than by all the abuses of occidental religion (e.g. the Inquisitions, the Crusades, etc.) combined.

The reason for the emergence of a caste system in India — and the reason that many cling to it still, in spite of civil-rights laws which have been in place since India’s independence — is that Hinduism has reincarnation at its core. People are born into social strata, and thus assigned their lifetime’s dharma, according to their past actions or karma. This actually leads some Hindus (though certainly not all!) to believe that the Dalit actually deserve to be treated like animals (or worse than animals) … because of the fact that they were born Dalit! Had their karma been better they would not have been born so low on the social ladder. What’s more, it is actually necessary to treat them poorly, since if they are not, their dharma will not be fulfilled and they will not ascend higher in their next lifetimes.

Reforms in India meant to improve the lot of Dalit have been met with resistance by large swaths of Indian society; despite their civil rights, the Dalit are still widely harassed.

A recent honor killing brings this point home (WebCite cached article):

Five armed men burst into the small room and courtyard at dawn, just as 21-year-old, 22-week pregnant, Sunita was drying her face on a towel.They punched and kicked her stomach as she called out for her sleeping boyfriend “Jassa,” 22-year-old Jasbir Singh, witnesses said. When he woke, both were dragged into waiting cars, driven away and strangled.

Their bodies, half-stripped, were laid out on the dirt outside Sunita’s father’s house for all to see, a sign that the family’s “honor” had been restored by her cold-blooded murder.

A week later, the village of Balla, just a couple of hours drive from India’s capital New Delhi, stands united behind the act, proud, defiant almost to a man.

Among the Jat caste of the conservative northern state of Haryana, it is taboo for a man and woman of the same village to marry. Although the couple were not related, they were seen in this deeply traditional society as brother and sister.

“From society’s point of view, this is a very good thing,” said 62-year-old farmer Balwan Arya, sitting smoking a hookah in the shade of a tree in a square with other elders from the village council or panchayat. “We have removed the blot.”

If that doesn’t make your blood run cold, I don’t know what will!

Those of us in the western world should not operate under the illusion that the evils of religion and its attendant intolerance are limited only to extreme Christianity or Islam. There is brutal intolerance elsewhere, too, even in the eastern religions that so many in the western world think of as peaceful. Yes, India was the home of famously non-violent Mahatma Gandhi, but he is the exception it seems, not the rule.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 3 Comments »