Archive for March, 2012

Rick Santorum speaks in Eastlake, OhioI’ve blogged about GOP presidential candidate and militant Christofascist Rick Santorum a number of times already. As his candidacy has slumped, I’d hoped I’d be able to avoid blogging any more about this walking train-wreck. But alas, Santorum has — once again — posed as a theologian. This time, he’s declared that Christianity — as he sees it, anyway — is the source of freedom in the US. ABC News’ The Note blog reports on his ludicrous Religious Rightist pontification, earlier in March (WebCite cached article):

Talking about American exceptionalism, Santorum said the concept of equality came from Christianity, not Islam.

“I love it because the left says equality, equality. Where does that concept come from? Does it come from Islam? Does it come from other cultures around the world? Are men and women treated equally? Are adults and children treated equally? No,” Santorum said. “It comes it comes from our culture and tradition, from the Judeo-Christian ethic. That’s where this comes from-the sense of equality.”

I’ve read this several times and cannot figure out where or how Islam comes into play in this. It doesn’t seem to be of any relevance to the subject at hand. I can only assume it was his attempt to somehow work some derision of Islam into his speech, and thus appeal to any Neocrusaders in the crowd.

As for whether or not Christianity, as a religion, supports or opposes the concept of equality, the record on that is slightly mixed. Christianity appeared in the Greco-Roman world, initially in its eastern portion, and as such was a product of that culture. Greco-Roman society was quite stratified, along many dimensions. There were a number of social classes, with the aristocracy at the top, and several layers underneath, ranging down to unskilled laborers and slaves at the bottom. The genders were divided. Ethnic groups tended to be segregated, in large cities often living in enclaves apart from others. Religions tended, too, to separate people, e.g. with Jews living in their own quarters of cities. The Greco-Roman world was one in which people were born into any number of stratifications, and with few exceptions, they stayed within them their entire lives.

The earliest extant Christian documents, the seven “genuine” Pauline epistles*, which date to the 50s CE, exhibit something of a departure from this, at least doctrinally. For example, Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). (Note, Col 3:11 says something almost identical, however, that epistle is not genuine, it was written long after Paul). Paul elsewhere refers to a blending of classes and genders within the church in his day. Only in the epistle to Philemon does Paul concede that there’s any validity to any class division, and that lies in his apparent support of slavery as it was practiced then.

Later on, however, we find the early church turning away from egalitarianism. In the gospels — written in the last quarter of the first century CE — we see references to people mainly by some sort of identifier (whether it’s ethnic, professional, or social class). In his parables and comments, Jesus uses stereotypes of these identifiers, sometimes ironically (e.g. the Good Samaritan). His reported interactions in the gospels are often with groups (e.g. he dressed down “the Pharisees”). Jesus also preached to the lower classes as though their plight had virtue in itself. In general, the gospels are written assuming that people fall into various fixed classifications, that this is how things were supposed to be, and that none other than Jesus Christ himself acted as though this was the case. In only one regard is Jesus said to have resisted the prevailing class-wisdom of his time, and this was by attracting “sinners” as followers.

Subsequent Christianity either stated explicitly, or implied, that social classifications, ethnicity, etc. were all God-ordained and that everyone was required to live within the strictures of his/her position in society. That remained the case until the Enlightenment. Even then, the notion of complete equality took a long time to develop. For instance, initially the United States gave voting privileges only to white landowning males. Suffrage was expanded only incrementally over the last 200 years. Also, slavery was legal in the early U.S. and was abolished only after the Civil War. Christianity’s teachings had little to do with this, at least for the first 16 centuries or so of its existence.

It’s true that equality movements like Abolition were comprised of many Christians who believed that Christianity taught to open freedom to others, but this was not universal in Christianity. The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, was founded by southern slave-owning Baptists who opposed the Abolitionist turn their denomination was taking in the 19th century. They, and other Christians, insisted that the Biblical “Curse of Ham” meant that God had rendered black Africans less-than-human.

It is correct to say that the concept of equality can, historically speaking, be viewed as anti-Christian (and anti-Judeo-Christian). Once again, by claiming otherwise, Santorum reveals his ignorance of both history and Christian theology. Well done, Rickie … well done!

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

Photo credit: PBS NewsHour.

* The seven epistles in question are: 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philemon, Philippians, Romans, and 1 Thessalonians.

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ScarletLetterIt almost goes without saying that there’s a strong antipathy toward non-believers in this country. Examples of it are fairly common. But just in case you needed one more, I can offer one. Consumerist reports that Capital One refuses to let an atheist “A” on any of its credit cards (WebCite cached article):

Consumerist reader Mike has a Capital One credit card. He’d hoped to get one of the bank’s customizable “Image Cards” printed with a big red “A” for atheism. His initial upload was rejected by Capital One, which sent him a long list of possible reasons. And when he called to appeal, things just more bizarre. …

“I spoke to someone after the second rejection that someone there said that there was a note in my file regarding the fact that they do not allow religious or anti-religious images,” Mike tells Consumerist.

However, this policy doesn’t actually exist, as Mike discovered:

But why, Mike asks, does the card-making interface on Capital One’s own website have 34 photos in a category it labels “Spiritual” and which includes several options to put Christian and Jewish imagery on your card?

Look, there’s no mystery here. Capital One just doesn’t want to allow an atheism symbol on its cards, but they don’t want to just come right out and admit it. Instead of just being honest about it, they become evasive, sniveling cowards, and invent fictitious excuses for it.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Glad Tidings Assembly of God, Middletown, PANote: There’s additional news about this story.

Over the years I’ve mentioned, many times, the tendency of devout Christians to obsess about “persecution.” They just can’t help but consider themselves “persecuted” — going as far as to invent persecution where it doesn’t exist (as in most of the occidental world, where Christianity is the majority religion). That there is some persecution of Christians in some parts of the world fuels their obsession, and knowing that it can’t happen here doesn’t seem to have any effect on that.

Almost unbelievably, a church in Middletown, PA has gone as far to stage fake kidnappings of kids in its own congregation — essentially “creating” persecution that’s not actually happening — and, as the Washington Post On Faith blog reports, they’re using that true persecution abroad in order to justify these outrageous exercises (WebCite cached article):

The men burst into the church classroom and ordered the 15 teens in the youth group to the floor.

They covered the teens’ heads with pillowcases and bound their hands. One man waved an unloaded gun, and another yelled, his face daubed with camouflage paint. …

It sounds terrifying, but there’s a catch: The raid was fake, staged to show the teens the perils faced by Christian missionaries in the world’s trouble spots, [the Rev. John] Lanza said.

Yet it traumatized one 14-year-old girl so badly that her mother filed a report with the police, claiming her daughter suffered a busted lip and bruised knees.

They did this without even getting parental permission:

Neither she nor the other teens in the group knew the raid was coming, Lanza said. He said church officials didn’t notify their parents, either.

As I said, the excuse given for this is the fact that Christians are being persecuted elsewhere, and in response to a particular incident of persecution:

“This is to give students a sense of the constant threat brought against missionaries everywhere,” [Lanza] said.

The mock raid came on the heels of the terrorist slaying in Yemen of a Lancaster County man, Joel Shrum, who was killed by two gunmen on a motorcycle in the city of Taiz on March 18.

Shrum was learning Arabic and teaching English, according to his family. A group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for his murder, saying Shrum was proselytizing.

Lanza said Shrum’s slaying is just one example of why it’s important for students to know the dangers of mission work.

Amazingly for a representative of “the Religion of Love” who ought to be showing compassion for others, Lanza is unrepentant, doesn’t see the harm in what his church is doing, and thinks it was all just good fun:

“I’m pretty sure she [i.e. the injured teen] was laughing at some point and having fun with the other students,” Jordan told the TV station. “I can’t confirm that, but that’s what I’ve heard from friends of hers that were there.”

Oh yeah, Reverend, I’m sure her injuries were just a lot of rollicking hilarity. No doubt about that.

What’s really happening here is not giving these kids an “education” in how Christians are being persecuted. That can be done rather easily, without staging fake kidnappings. No, the real plan here is to expose them to the sensation of actually being persecuted; in other words, to sensitize them to it. They’ll relive this trauma — which to an extent was very “real” at the time they were experiencing it in spite of it being fake — whenever they hear about persecution of Christians. It’s really very clever on Lanza’s part … not to mention diabolical.

Yes, I get that there is persecution of Christians in some places. Yes, I get that Mr Shrum was killed in Yemen. Yes, that persecution is wrong, and the killing of Mr Shrum was horrible. But terrorizing kids in Pennsylvania is horrible, too … and the former horror does not justify the latter. (To believe so is “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and is fallacious.)

Isn’t it long past time for Christians to grow up to the point where they don’t have to pull shit like this any more, because they no longer feel the need to “be persecuted” for Jesus?

Update: It took a few months, but charges have been filed in this case. Those responsible still refuse to admit any wrongdoing, but they’re delusional, so that’s to be expected.

Photo credit: Glad Tidings Assembly of God Web site.

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Lauren Lancaster / Time / Greenwell Baptist Pastor Tony Perkins, right, and Pastor Dennis Terry, left, pray for Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum's campaign at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in Greenwell Springs, Louisiana, March 18, 2012.Readers of this blog are likely to know about the fire-&-brimstone preacher, Pastor Dennis Terry, who introduced presidential candidate (and vehement Christofascist) Rick Santorum this week, with a speech in which he ordered non-Christians to “get out” of this country. The Daily Beast reports on his thunderous declaration, with Santorum standing by (WebCite cached article):

At a Baton Rouge revival yesterday, the Republican presidential candidate was introduced and blessed by the fire-breathing pastor Dennis Terry. To a cheering crowd, Terry shouted that ours is a “Christian nation,” that “we don’t worship Buddha, we don’t worship Mohammad, we don’t worship Allah,” and that anyone who doesn’t like “the way we do things” should “get out.”

Of course, the gist of this article is Santorum’s reaction — or more accurately, his non-reaction:

Santorum said nothing. And when the time came to receive a blessing from Terry—right hand over Santorum’s shoulder, left hand on his back—Santorum accepted it, nodding in reverence.

Rightist defenders of this incendiary rhetoric are, of course, comparing it to the fiery speeches of Barack Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and the controversy they engendered while Obama was campaigning in 2008. This superficial appearance aside, the relationship between pastor and candidate is somewhat different … and far more explicit: Terry and Santorum were at the same event and on the same platform together. At the same time. With the pastor’s comments made clearly right in front of the candidate, who — very visibly — did not object in any way. The same cannot be said of Obama and Wright’s incendiary rhetoric. Video of Pastor Terry’s tirade is available, courtesy of Right Wing Watch, via Youtube:

Beyond the political implications of this — which are obviously legion — I have something else to ask, here. If Pastor Terry is convinced that everyone in the US who’s not an evangelical Christian like himself needs to “get out,” then I invite him to begin making that happen, starting with me. Pastor, please, throw me out of your country. Locate me, come here, and toss me out on my cynical, skeptical, godless agnostic heathen ass.

Forget that it might be considered assault and you’d likely be arrested for it. I won’t report you for trying it, but even if I did, why should that matter to you? Isn’t your God more powerful than the state of Connecticut (where I live)? Aren’t the wishes of the Almighty more important to you than criminal laws?

If you’re truly and sincerely convinced beyond any doubt that your Jesus has decided it’s absolutely necessary for non-Christians like myself to “get out,” then why on earth would you not do everything in your power to make that happen? If it’s so clear-cut, why haven’t you already started throwing people out?

I reiterate: Pastor, I challenge you to throw me out of your “Christian-only” country. Please, do whatever you think you must, in order to make it happen. Go ahead. I sincerely, seriously, and eagerly await your attempt.

If you do what I expect you will do — which is to be a sniveling little coward and refuse to throw me or any other hideous non-believer out of your precious, believers-only country — that will be evidence you are not sincere in this belief, and that you espouse a philosophy you don’t actually hold. That of course would make you a hypocrite; and I remind you, your own Jesus explicitly forbid you ever to be hypocritical, for any reason, at any time.

P.S. It goes without saying that evangelical Protestants don’t consider Catholics — like Santorum — to be “‘real’ Christians.” They are, after all, just a bunch of Mary-worshipping papists. If the pastor had his way, then, Santorum himself would eventually have to “get out” of this “Christian-only” country.

Photo credit: Lauren Lancaster / Time magazine.

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VeghellambertuskerkJust when you thought the R.C. Church couldn’t have reached a new low in depravity — for instance, they stole newborns from “wayward” mothers in Australia, and in Spain, and probably lots of other places — the (UK) Telegraph reveals the Church managed, back in the 50s, to have had boys mutilated because they were “homosexual” (WebCite cached article):

Evidence of the castrations has emerged amid controversy that it was not included in the findings of an official investigation into sexual abuse within the church last year.

The NRC Handelsblad newspaper identified Henk Heithuis who was castrated in 1956, while a minor, after reporting priests to the police for abusing him in a Catholic boarding home.

This particular form of abuse was apparently not included in an abuse report released a few months ago. The claim is that there was no way to trace the allegations, however, the real reason is that the report’s writers were trying to cover up government participation:

Evidence emerged on Monday that government inspectors were aware that minors were being castrated while in Catholic-run psychiatric institutions.

Minutes of meetings held in the 1950s show that inspectors were present when castrations were discussed. The documents also reveal that the Catholic staff did not think parents needed to be involved.

There are also allegations that Vic Marijnen, a former Dutch Prime Minister, who died in 1975, was linked to the case.

In 1956, Mr Marijnen was the chairman of the Gelderland children’s home where Mr Heithuis and other children were abused. He intervened to have prison sentences dropped against several priests convicted of abusing children.

The involvement of former prime minister Marijnen — even though he’s long since deceased — certainly might cast a shadow on the Dutch government, so it’s natural the report may have avoided this matter.

It’s amazing how the R.C. Church continues to lament its lack of influence on occidental society, and even pitches fits when it feels it’s being disrespected … but clearly the Church tore up and burned its “respect” card long ago. It no longer deserves anyone’s deference or respect. The sooner society understands this, the better off we’ll all be.

Oh, and once again, I have to ask all the lay Catholics out there who may read this (and since I’ve heard from some of you, I know you’re out there): When the hell do you plan to get the fuck off your sorry, lazy little asses and do something about the horrific monstrosity that is your own Church? Only you can change it. Either you have the courage to force it to change, or you don’t. But since you refuse to try, I can only assume you approve of this abusive behavior.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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Crys-extThe drama surrounding the slow demise of the palatial “Crystal Cathedral” in Garden Grove, California continues to play out. The local Roman Catholic diocese purchased the “Cathedral” in a bankruptcy sale only a few months, ago, and I’d have thought things might have been resolved with creditors being paid off … but alas, it was not to be. The Los Angeles Times reports that founding pastor and televangelist Robert H. Schuller resigned from its rump board over money he thinks he’s owed (WebCite cached article):

Robert H. Schuller and his wife cited the “negative” environment at the church he founded when announcing their resignation from the Crystal Cathedral board.

“We cannot continue to serve on the board in what has become an adversarial and negative atmosphere especially since it now seems that it will not be ending any time soon,” Arvella Schuller said in a statement Saturday. …

The resignations are a result of a breakdown in negotiations over financial claims against the church that the Schullers filed in Bankruptcy Court.

Schuller; his wife, Arvella; their daughter Carol Schuller Milner; and her husband, Timothy Milner, allege that the church owes them money for copyright infringement, intellectual property violations and unpaid contracts.

Sorting through competing financial claims has delayed $12.5 million in payments to some church creditors and could threaten the church’s ability to continue its ministries, including the “Hour of Power” broadcasts.

That’s right folks. With tens of millions of dollars of debt owed to a large number of creditors — some of whom are small businesses who’ve gone unpaid for years already — the Schuller family is hovering over their church’s sad remains, fending them off and demanding to be paid first. That there isn’t any money left — and that the Schullers themselves caused their church’s pathetic financial condition in the first place — appears not to matter to them. They just want their money, and are willing to get in the way of everyone else’s interests, and storm out of the room, in order to get it.

What a wonderful brood, eh?

I still can’t figure what this kind of greed has to do with the man who founded Christianity and taught the virtue of humility and poverty … but hey, what could a cold-hearted, skeptical, godless agnostic heathen like myself possibly know about such things? If there are any Christians out there who can explain this to me, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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10 Commandments House near Supreme CourtIt looks as though the people of the Bible-thumping state of Alabama are poised to return to office someone who’d been run out, when he chose to defy a federal court order. CNN’s Belief Blog reports that Roy Moore won the GOP primary for Chief Justice in that state (WebCite cached article):

Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice made famous by a Ten Commandments monument, is one step closer to getting his old job back. Moore won 50.14% of the vote on Tuesday in the Republican primary for the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. …

Moore held the job of Chief Justice from 2001 to 2003 but was forced out when he defied a federal order to remove a 2.6 ton stone monument of the Ten Commandments he had placed at the courthouse.

As one would expect of a ferocious Christofascist, Moore hasn’t changed his mind about what he did:

Today, Moore maintains the monument’s placement was constitutionally appropriate. “There’s nothing in the first amendment that prohibits the display of religious objects,” he said.

Even so, Moore doesn’t plan to return his Decalogue idol to Alabama’s Supreme Court:

“I don’t have any intention of bringing the monument because that will confuse the issue,” he said. At issue for him is the acknowledgement of God and he added, “I will continue to acknowledge the sovereignty of God.”

If Moore does get back into office, expect more Decalogue idolatry to crop up around the country, as fervent evangelical Christians everywhere will feel empowered to defy the Constitution and federal law on the matter.

Photo credit: dcdailyphotos, via Flickr.

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