Archive for April, 2010

Salvation CrossYes, it’s true. And there is no other explanation for their ruling. The United States Supreme Court has declared that the federal government can erect monuments to specific religions on federal property and refuse to build them for other religions. The effect is that they’re allowing the federal government to proselytize for Christianity. The New York Times reports on the decision they handed down (WebCite cached article):

A badly fractured Supreme Court, with six justices writing opinions, reopened the possibility on Wednesday that a large cross serving as a war memorial in a remote part of the Mojave Desert may be permitted to remain there.

The Court ranged far afield — both literally and metaphorically — in order to arrive at this conclusion:

“A Latin cross is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in a plurality opinion joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. “It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies would be compounded if the fallen are forgotten.”

I’m not quite sure how all those fallen Christian soldiers would have to end up “forgotten,” if the Mojave Cross were moved to private land instead of federal property, but that’s Justice Kennedy’s reasoning. Apparently he thinks that if that particular cross were taken down, all those soldiers would be “forgotten.” They will only be remembered, if the Mojave Cross is left standing on federal property. According to him.

No, I can’t explain it, I’m merely quoting it for you. Just goes to show that being appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court doesn’t mean you’re always rational.

Unfortunately the Times doesn’t provide the context of this lawsuit, but thankfully, ABC News does (cached version):

The cross stood peacefully for years until the Park Service was asked if a Buddhist Shrine could also be built near the cross.

When the Park Service declined the request, Frank Buono, a retired National Park Service employee, expressed his dismay that the government was showing favoritism of one religious symbol over another. He later filed suit in federal district court.

[On page 2, cached] While Buono, a Roman Catholic, did not find the cross itself objectionable, he was disturbed that it stood on government property when the government would not allow individuals to erect other permanent displays celebrating their religions.

Thus, what the Supreme Court has done, is to decide that, 1) the federal government can build monuments to single specific religions (the cross is a symbol of Christianity only — not of Islam, or Judaism, or Sikhism, or Wicca, or Hinduism, or any other religion); and 2) it can simultaneously refuse to build monuments to any other religion. Together those two sure look like “government pushing Christianity on people” to me.

Yes, I know, the cross was built by the VFW, not the federal government … but federal approval is required nonetheless, meaning the matter is completely up to them as to whether or not it’s built. And since they forbid a private party to build a Buddhist monument, that means the government has chosen sides and is favoring Christianity. Period.

Who said the separation of church and state was alive and well in the United States? It isn’t … not with the Supreme Court packed with theocratic religionists!

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi forums.

Photo credit: watch4u.

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Franklin Graham Speaking at Park Street ChurchA little less than two months after it said something astoundingly asinine, the ferocious religionist wingnuts known as the American Family Association have managed to top that. According to them, the United States military is run by Muslims and gays (WebCite cached article):

Bottom line: you want to know who’s now running the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy and the Marines and calling the shots where it counts? Fundamentalist Muslims and homosexual activists.

The AFA reached this conclusion because the Pentagon disinvited Franklin Graham, evangelical preacher son of evangelical preacher Billy Graham — and noted critic of Islam — from their National Day of Prayer event. You see, according to the AFA, Billy Graham is right about Islam and therefore should be worshipped rather than dissed. Of course, if anyone dares be a critic of Christianity, the AFA is usually first in line to go to war over it. (Another example of the hypocrisy that saturates fundamentalist Christianity in spite of Jesus’ own clear orders to his followers never to be hypocritical.)

Photo credit: Rachel J.

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Noahs Ark 12The long tradition of people claiming to have discovered the ship in which Noah, his family, and 2 of each animal on the planet supposedly rode out the Great Flood continues. The (UK) Sun announces the earth-shattering news (locally cached version):

The remains of Noah’s Ark have been discovered 13,000 ft up a Turkish mountain, it has been claimed.

A group of Chinese and Turkish evangelical explorers say they have found wooden remains on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey.

They claim carbon dating proves the relics are 4,800 years old — around the same time the ark was said to be afloat.

I remain skeptical of this report that the fabled Noah’s Ark has been found, and for a very good reason: Every other such report has been revealed to be a hoax. Every last one.

Perhaps the most famous was the so-called Jammal Ark Hoax in 1993; in that year, the CBS television network aired a documentary called The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark by a group called Sun International Pictures. It featured a man named George Jammal who claimed to know where the Ark was and to have had lumber from it. It turns out, however, that Jammal had faked the “ark lumber” (cached) — the whole thing was a hoax from beginning to end! Sun International and CBS both claimed ignorance of the hoax and blamed Jammal. While it’s possible the venerable network had been hoodwinked, the documentarians’ innocence is more questionable. They were a great deal closer to whatever Jammal was doing, and therefore reasonably have less of an excuse for being unaware of his shenanigans.

This Skeptic magazine article goes into greater length concerning the nature of this hoax and the duplicity behind it (WebCite cached version).

With a history of 100% disingenuity behind them, all claims to have found Noah’s Ark must be viewed as false … unless and until truly compelling objective evidence — and the analysis of disinterested experts — proves them correct.

Photo credit: mharrsch.

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Photo of Dianetics, by L. Ron HubbardThe Church of Scientology has found the going tough, the last few months. A court defeat in France, exposées based on accounts by ex-Scientologists, published in more than one venue, have plagued the so-called “religion” of a deceased sci-fi pulp author, once championed by Hollywood stars. Its latest setback is a bit of a drastic one; Scientology has been banned in Russia. That’s right … the whole country! The Moscow Times relates the story (locally cached version):

Works by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard will be added to the country’s list of extremist literature for “undermining the traditional spiritual values of the citizens of the Russian Federation,” the Prosecutor General’s Office said Wednesday.

The ruling — initiated by transport prosecutors in the Siberian city of Surgut and Khanty-Mansiisk customs officers — is the latest use of the hotly debated law on extremism to target systems of belief that are not traditional in Russia.

The government review of Scientology was triggered in Surgut, Siberia:

Prosecutors said they intercepted 28 individual titles, including books, audio and video recordings by Hubbard that were sent to residents in Surgut from the United States. The materials were sent for study to “psychiatrists, psychologists and sociologists,” who determined that they should not be distributed in Russia, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement [Russian-language link].

The Russian government’s concerns are at least partly ideological in nature:

According to the research requested by prosecutors, the seized works contained “ideas justifying violence in general and in particular any means of opposing critics of Scientology,” the statement said. “The works have clear as well as hidden calls for social and religious hatred” and call for hindering the work of the state.

These particular objections don’t make a lot of sense to me, but then, this is Russia after all, where everything the government does is cloaked behind language of this sort … I don’t presume this is an accurate explanation of what they truly think about Scientology.

Hat tip: Skeptic’s Dictionary.

Photo credit: puck-man.

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TX state rep. Leo BermanState representative Leo Berman, who hails from — where else? — Texas, has declared that President Barack Obama is a “punishment” that God has chosen to inflict on the country. The remarks were part of a massive Texas confab of blathering mindless religionists, as the Tyler (TX) Morning Telegraph reports (locally cached version):

Berman told the crowd, “I believe that Barack Obama is God’s punishment on us today, but in 2012, we are going to make Obama a one-term president.”

I guess this places Obama in the company of such other notable “scourges of God” as Attila the Hun (of whom this phrase, in its Latin form of Flagellum Dei, was originally used) and Timur “the Lame” (in his famous two-part play about him, Christopher Marlowe had Timur assign himself this appellation).

The rest of the Telegraph story is about these insipid Religious Rightists worshipping at the altar of Glenn Beck. Yes, in spite of scriptural admonitions against idolatry. (After all, Christians could hardly be bothered actually to obey the words of God himself?)

Update: A participant at my Skeptics & Heretics Forum made an excellent observation about this:

I mean, if Obama is punishment from God and they were the ones running the country BEFORE he got elected, what should that tell them about the way they were running the country?

Zing! The Religious Right … which owned the White House at the time Obama was elected … must have been the targets of God’s wrath!

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Huffington Post.

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German Crusader KnightThe Family Research Council — an arm of the militant Religious Right in the United States — has, essentially, declared war on the US. Specifically, they’ve declared a theocratic war on the secular government of this country. Their effort includes the launch of a special Web site called Replace Repeal Restore! (WebCite cached version). The preamble to their declaration of theocratic war is as follows:

We, the people, have the responsibility to determine the future of our nation. I pledge to do my part by standing and speaking boldly for conservative principles, for liberty, and for the Constitution. I will help REPLACE liberal politicians; I will help REPEAL the government takeover of health care; I will help RESTORE the founding principles in our nation. Enough is enough — it’s time for Congress and the White House to listen to the people.

They think that the passage of healthcare reform constitutes the federal government somehow “not listening” to the people. The truth is that they did listen to “the people.” They just didn’t happen to DO what you, the members of the FRC, wanted them to do.

Boo fucking hoo.

Memo to FRC: “Listening” is not the same as “obedience.” It’s possible to “listen to” someone, but to decide, even after truly “listening,” not to do what they say. Got it?

The truth of the matter is that the United States is not a Christian theocracy, was never intended to be a theocracy, and arguably, it’s not even “a Christian nation,” as the FRC and Sarah Palin believe. One of the “founding principles” of the nation is something known as “freedom.” That necessarily includes the freedom not to be a Christian … believe it or not.

My response to the FRC is the same as it was to Mrs Palin: If you guys want me — an American — to be a Christian, as you demand I become, then you’re just going to have to make me one.

Go ahead. I invite to you try. Let it all out and give it to me straight. Don’t hold anything back, and don’t relent.

You guys want the US to become a theocracy? That’s great. You can start by making me a Christian — my own wishes notwithstanding.

Hat tip: Religion Dispatches.

Photo credit: About.Com Atheism/Agnosticism.

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10-apr-06Let me state up-front that I don’t watch the show South Park. What I know about it wouldn’t fill a teaspoon. The only South Park episode I’ve seen in its entirety is “Over Logging.” However, even that little bit tells me the show — and really, its creators (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) — are willing to take on anything. They’ve ridiculed Scientology, any number of celebrities, and even politically-incorrect targets like the handicapped. But when they dared take on Islam, they found themselves the target of a fatwa. And the network that carries their show had to deal with that. Here’s the Los Angeles Times report on some Muslims’ tantrum over it (WebCite cached article):

In its 200 shows, the irreverent animated program “South Park” has mercilessly satirized Christianity, Buddhism, Scientology, the blind and disabled, gay people, Hollywood celebrities and politicians of all persuasions, weathering the resulting protests and threats of boycotts.

But this week, after an ominous threat from a radical Muslim website, the network that airs the program bleeped out all references to the prophet Muhammad in the second of two episodes set to feature the holy figure dressed in a bear costume. The incident provides the latest example that media conglomerates are still struggling to balance free speech with safety concerns and religious sensitivities, six years after Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was slain for making a film critical of Islamic society. …

The network may have thought it had no choice after, the website of a fringe group, delivered a grim warning about last week’s episode, which depicted Muhammad dressed as a bear.

“We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show,” the posting said. A photo of Van Gogh’s body lying in the street was included with the original posting, which has been unavailable to some Web users since news of the item broke earlier this week. “This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.”

I won’t say anything about the illogic of making a threat against people, then saying it’s “not a threat”; a threat is a threat is a threat, and it doesn’t cease being a threat merely because you later say it’s “not a threat.”

'Bombhead' cartoon by K. WestergaardThis wouldn’t be the first time Muslims have threatened people over things like this … a while ago I blogged on the controversy over the film Fatwa by a Dutch parliamentarian. The reference to Theo van Gogh is an ominous one; he’s another Dutch movie maker whose short film, Submission, triggered his murder back in 2004. Then there’s the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoon controversy which I’ve also blogged about, and which continues to spark violence, even years later.

These people are deadly fucking serious about not dissing their Prophet. I’m not sure on what rational grounds they think everything in the universe can be lampooned and satirized by South Park, but not Islam … but they think so nonetheless. It’s all very juvenile.

By way of support for South Park’s creators, I’m putting one of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons here. It’s time the world’s Muslims finally all grew up and started acting like mature adults.

Lede photo credit: sashafatcat.

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