Archive for October, 2012

The Sretensky Monastery the oldest Orthodox monastery in the center of Moscow Photo: ALAMY, via TelegraphFor a country which once had — ostensibly — been fiercely atheistic, Russia has veered back toward a kind of puritanical religionism … not unlike what we’re experiencing right here in the good old US of A. Earlier this year, for example, the Russian criminal-justice system came down hard on the punk band Pussy Riot, because they’d dared hold a political protest in front of a cathedral in Moscow. Three members of the band were convicted of “hooliganism,” aka blasphemy, for having insulted the Russian Orthodox Church. Well, as the (UK) Telegraph reports, that Church appears not to be anywhere near as morally-pure as it claims to be (WebCite cached article):

Two women were arrested on suspicion of prostitution after seven rooms were found in a building close to Sretensky Monastery where sexual services were offered from 1,750 roubles (£35) per hour.

Father Tikhon, the abbot of the monastery, is said to be a religious counsellor to Mr Putin, who is a confirmed Russian Orthodox believer.

There were conflicting reports over the ownership of the brothel, found in one of a chain of mini-hotels called Podushkin.

Life News, a popular muckraking website with close ties to the police and security services, said the building where the brothel was located on Rozhdestvensky Boulevard had been rented out by the monastery.

Naturally the monks of this monastery deny that they had anything to do with this brothel. As if I’m stupid enough to believe that … !

This is not the only problem the R.O. Church has faced recently. The Telegraph points out:

Critics of the church say its moral posturing is eroded by the behaviour of senior clerics. [Head of the Church] Patriarch Kirill was pilloried in April for wearing a £20,000 Breguet watch and a priest in Moscow came under scrutiny in August after crashing a BMW Z4 roadster with Maltese license plates [cached].

This is ironic, considering Kirill acted as cheerleader for the prosecution of the Pussy Riot. Can you say “hypocrite”? Moreover, the idea that Vlad Putin — once a KGB agent and head of its post-Soviet successor agency — could have a “spiritual advisor” is astonishing, to say the least. What, exactly, does the “spiritual advisor” to a KGB agent and virtual dictator do? Lead him through prayer and meditation after he orders an assassination?

Photo credit: ALAMY, via Telegraph.

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FILE PHOTO OF TRADITIONALIST BISHOP RICHARD WILLIAMSON / CNS NEWS SERVICEI’ve blogged a number of times about the ultra-conservative Roman Catholic order known as the Society of St Pius X (or SSPX). Among other things, this crew is so whacked, that they cling to the delusion that the geocentric model of the solar system is correct. Even so, SSPX’s insane wingnuttery wasn’t enough to prevent the Vatican from reaching an accord with them and bringing them back into the Catholic fold.

But it turns out there was a wrench in the works. And that was Bishop Richard Williamson, who’s denied the Holocaust on the grounds that it turned every Jew into an “ersatz savior.” The Catholic News Service reports that Williamson has tested the patience of even the SSPX and has been tossed out (WebCite cached article):

The leadership of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X has expelled British Bishop Richard Williamson from the society, saying he distanced himself from them and refused “to show due respect and obedience to his lawful superiors.” …

Bishop Williamson had been a harsh critic of the group’s engagement in doctrinal discussions with the Vatican, which were aimed at bringing the society back into full communion with the Catholic Church. …

The Vatican knew Williamson would be trouble, right from the start of the reconciliation effort:

Even as the Vatican negotiated with the SSPX, Vatican officials said separate discussions would be required with Bishop Williamson, who not only criticized the dialogue, but has publicly denied the extent of the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews.

The bishop’s Holocaust denials were included in an interview aired by a Swedish TV network on the same day in 2009 that the Vatican announced Pope Benedict XVI had lifted the excommunication of Bishop Williamson and three other of the society’s bishops, ordained without papal permission in 1988.

Williamson’s caterwauling derailed the reconciliation, and the chaos he fostered might prevent it from coming to fruition — even in spite of his ouster:

In an early October interview with a German radio station, Archbishop Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, confirmed that the talks with the SSPX had broken down and that no further discussions had been scheduled.

I have to congratulate the Vatican and the SSPX. Their tap-dancing around the feelings of a crazed Holocaust-denier managed to ruin everything for them. Well done, fellows. Well done!

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

Photo credit: CNS News Service.

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Bible-openI’ve just posted a new static page on my blog, describing a number of Bible verses that Christians generally don’t obey. I’m not quite sure why this would be the case, since some of them are widely quoted and are featured in Jesus’ two most famous sermons, the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain. Nevertheless, few Christians these days live by them. And Christians have been refusing to live by them, almost since the founding of their religion. So ignoring these verses is a very long and very deep Christian tradition, that will be difficult to root out.

The reason why these verses are ignored is because — to be perfectly honest — they’re inconvenient to practice. Poverty as a spiritual ideal is not all that attractive; and pacifism to the point of not defending oneself is none too appealing either.

Nevertheless, these things — and more — are all explicitly mandated by Christianity’s most sacred texts, which means Christians must go along with them … or cease being Christians. It really is that simple. My guess is that most of the disobedient Christians who refuse to follow these instructions, are nevertheless going to continue refusing to follow them, and continue calling themselves Christians, even though their disobedience means they’re not.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

P.S. In case you were wondering, here’s a list of the verses covered in that page, in Biblical order:

Psalm 14:3
Psalm 37:11
Proverbs 11:2
Proverbs 29:23
Ecclesiastes 7:20
Matthew 5:3, 5
Matthew 5:9
Matthew 5:17-19
Matthew 5:38-42
Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18
Matthew 6:19-21, 24
Matthew 7:1-5
Matthew 7:21-23
Matthew 10:9-10
Matthew 19:21-25
Matthew 22:19-21
Matthew 24:36, 42
Matthew 26:52
Mark 10:21-26
Mark 12:16-17
Mark 12:41-44
Mark 13:31-33
Luke 6:20
Luke 6:24
Luke 6:27-29
Luke 6:37
Luke 6:46
Luke 9:3
Luke 12:33-34
Luke 14:7-14
Luke 16:13
Luke 16:17
Luke 18:10-14
Luke 18:22-26
Luke 20:24-25
John 8:3-7
Acts 2:44-45
Acts 4:32-35
Romans 3:22-23
Romans 3:9-12
Romans 11:32
James 1:22
James 4:10
1 John 1:8-10
Revelation 3:14, 17-18

If you want to know more about these verses, you’ll just have to find out for yourself!

Update 1: I’ve gotten some comments, and a lot of personal correspondence, about that page. I responded to that a couple days ago in another blog post.

Update 2: I’ve added a section on humility and its Biblical virtues. I’ve inserted the verses cited into the list above.

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KLTV-TV / Freedom From Religious Foundation banner, in Henderson county TexasIt looks like the annual “war on Christmas” is starting up. That’s the periodic bout of sanctimonious Christofascist weeping and wailing about a supposed effort underway to abolish the celebration of Christmas in the US. Their problem is, no such effort exists. No one in the country is seriously trying to prevent Christians from celebrating Christmas, or any other holiday. What has been happening — and what Christianists object to — is an effort to prevent them from using government to promote Christmas as though it’s a requirement that everyone, Christian or not, celebrate it along with them.

The good Christian folk of the good Christian county of Henderson in the good Christian state of Texas have decided to take a stand in this annual (non-existent) “war on Christmas.” KLTV-TV reports they’ve decided not to allow an atheist banner on the county courthouse lawn (locally-cached article):

An East Texas county is denying an atheist organization’s request to display an anti-religious banner on the courthouse lawn this Christmas.

There’s a backstory here, which is as follows:

In fall 2011, the Henderson County Courthouse Nativity scene gained national attention when the Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded the county take the display down or let them put their own display up.

Last December, a banner paid for by the Freedom From Religion Foundation was placed on the courthouse lawn. It read “there are no Gods” and that “religion is but myth.”

Just minutes later, Henderson County deputies took the banner down. Soon after, the Freedom From Religion Foundation started fighting to put it back up. A formal request to display the banner was submitted to the county earlier this year. This week, that request was officially denied.

“We did not feel that the banner was consistent with the theme of Christmas and our decorations that we have enjoyed for many years,” says Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders.

What the good Christian folk of the good Christian county of the good Christian state of Texas have decided to place on their courthouse lawn, this year, is the very same good Christian nativity scene from last year:

In a matter of weeks, the Nativity scene display will sit on the courthouse lawn where pumpkins and hay bales are now. The other three corners of the courthouse lawn will adorn secular decor, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation says Henderson County is still violating the constitution.

They justify it with the following laughable idiocy:

The county remains firm that their variety of decorations keep them in compliance with federal law.

“Overall it is a secular display. We have everything from lights to Christmas wreaths to garland… a Santa house to Santa Clause, deer, elves and gnomes,” says [Henderson County Attorney Clint] Davis.

A display that contains a nativity scene — including the baby Jesus, the supposed founder of the Christian religion — cannot and will never be “overall secular.” No fucking way! To make such a claim is ridiculous on its face. Whoever says such a thing can’t fail to be aware that s/he is lying. This places attorney Davis, and the other good Christian folk of the good Christian county of Henderson in the good Christian state of Texas, squarely in my lying liars for Jesus club.

That an attorney would lie about this display, in order to rationalize breaking the law of the land, is unacceptable under any circumstance. That a judge would orchestrate the breaking of the law of the land, is even worse. Will these Christofascists stop at nothing in order to push their dour, fierce religionism on everyone else?

I close with a reminder to all the good Christians out there who love to make a big fucking deal of how they celebrate Christmas, that your own Jesus himself clearly and specifically ordered you never to engage in public displays of piety like this. It’s unbiblical of you to do it (see Mt 6:1-6 among other passages inside your own Bible). So just fucking cut the shit already, OK?

Photo credit: KLTV-TV.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Stop and ThinkYesterday I blogged about Indiana’s Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s claim that rape-pregnancies are “something that God intended to happen.” In the wake of the understandable shitstorm this kicked up, Mourdock claimed he hadn’t said what he clearly had said, and whined that he was being criticized. It’s true that some Christians — including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney — disavowed Mourdock’s statement, but some are actively defending the guy. For example, we have this piece from Christianity Today (WebCite cached article):

According to CBS News and a number of other outlets, last night Republican candidate for an Indiana U.S. Senate seat Richard Mourdock suggested that pregnancies resulting from rape are “something that God intended to happen.”…

Then again, it may be even more “disrespectful to the survivors of rape” to fail to tell them about the wondrous redeeming power of God, even in the most horrible circumstances.

Actually, yes, it would in fact be exceedingly “disrespectful to the survivors of rape” to tell them, “It’s OK, God is great, so everything is fine!” Or, “You were raped and are now pregnant? What a wonderful gift God gave you, you must be so thrilled!” Would it be appropriate to say anything like this? What if the situation weren’t a rape or rape-pregnancy, but something else … say, losing a child in an auto accident, getting a diagnosis of terminal cancer, or having one’s home wiped out in a wildfire? Do Christians really think it helps anyone dealing with any of these situations to tell them that whatever happened to them is OK because God is still around? Is it in any way “respectful” to them?

Of course it’s not. What’s more, Christians know it! Any Christian who says it would be appropriate, is lying.

Of course this is not the first time a Christianist’s idiotic or reprehensible statement is defended by other Christianists. Back when Marion “Pat” Robertson declared that the Haiti earthquake had happened because Haiti had been cursed, he had no small number of fellow Christians defending him.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Christianist tribalism … where nothing any Christian says is ever out of bounds, and where everything a Christian says is rationalized and justified, no matter how horrid or untrue it is. These people just can’t help themselves. The idea that a fellow Christian could have done something wrong, is an admission they cannot and will not ever make. Theirs is a harsh black-&-white world, one in which it’s them against everyone else, where “the Enemy” will revel in their every misstep, thus they defend their fellow Christians at all costs, because they can’t abide the idea that “the Enemy” might get an occasional “win” now and then. It’s all very irrational and even childish … but hey, what can you expect?

What this really shows us, is that these people have no integrity or character. They can blather on all they want about their morality and ethics and how their belief in God makes them great people — but they have no reservations about defending the indefensible whenever they need to in order to protect one of their own. If they did have any integrity, they’d have been willing to say, “Mr Mourdock was out of line. His words are unacceptable and I will not defend them, or him. Until he atones for what he’s said and offers a contrite, sincere apology, we will have nothing more to do with him.” It can’t damage them to say something like this, even though they think it will kill them. That’s because fierce religionists don’t have any integrity, nor do they have the courage to admit one of their own might have been wrong. They just have their primitive, reflexive tribal instinct.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: mikmikko, via Flickr.

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And Jesus WeptThe number of Religious Rightist candidates making idiotic, Puritanical declarations that expose them as hateful misogynists just keeps growing. First we had Todd Akin of Missouri, then Joe Walsh of Illinois. Now, as NBC News reports, it’s a candidate from Indiana, Richard Mourdock, who’s running for U.S. Senate, likewise exposing the R.R.’s irrational hatred of women (WebCite cached article):

Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, said in a debate on Tuesday that “even when life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.” …

“The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother,” Mourdock said. “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something God intended to happen.”

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney tried to deflect Mourdock’s spew:

Romney, who on Monday launched statewide ads endorsing Mourdock, distanced himself on Tuesday from the remark by his fellow Republican. “Governor Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock’s comments, and they do not reflect his views,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.

But really, how far can the guy go to get away from this? Mourdock wouldn’t have made this kind of statement if he didn’t think lots of Republican voters — whom Romney also represents — also believed it.

Mourdock isn’t apologizing for his comment, even though Romney dealt him that mild, implied slap:

Mourdock issued a statement after the debate that said: “God creates life, and that was my point. God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that He does. Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick.”

No, Mr Mourdock. Your critics are not “absurd and sick.” You — and the sanctimoniously-enraged Religious Right whom you appeal to — are the ones who are “absurd and sick.” You cannot simultaneously declare that rape “is something God intended to happen,” then later claim it’s “a horrible thing.” According to your own Abrahamic tradition, your God is benevolent and only capable of doing good. This means that, if he has willed something to happen, then by this definition it cannot be “a horrible thing.” Moreover, when you state that rape-pregnancy “is something God intended to happen” then you absofuckinglutely are stating that God truly does “want rape.” The logic of your statement doesn’t work any other way. So Mr Mourdock … give your fucking juvenile indignation a rest already, and take responsibility for your own fucking words. No one shoved them down your throat and forced you to say them. You came up with them all by yourself. Bellyaching that people have criticized you for having said them, is childish. Man up, grow up, and stop with your crybaby whining.

Note, this is not the first time I’ve heard from believers that rape, or rape-pregnancy, are “God’s will.” Military chaplains have made this claim, too.

Photo credit: Termin8er, via Flickr.

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Better to remain silent, and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth, and remove all doubt! (proverb)On a few occasions I’ve mentioned that the Religious Right tries to make their irrational, reflexive opposition to abortion appear to have a reasonable, even scientific veneer. Their problem is that it’s a lie; their real motivation is their religionistic hatred of women and a desire to control them. Rep Todd Akin, for example, revealed the disingenuity of this effort back in August, when he claimed that a woman cannot be impregnated during rape. Late last week, as the Los Angeles Times reports, Illinois Rep Joe Walsh stepped into the same trap himself (WebCite cached article):

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), who is facing a tough race to retain his seat in Congress, told reporters Thursday that he was opposed to abortion under any circumstances — and that thanks to medical progress, “you can’t find one instance” when it might be necessary to perform an abortion to protect a woman’s health.

“There’s no such exception as life of the mother,” Walsh said, according to this report from Bloomberg News. “And as far as health of the mother, same thing, with advances in science and technology. Health of the mother has become a tool for abortions any time, under any reason.”

Walsh, you see, is among the most fiercely Puritanical of the anti-abortionists, who refuse to provide any exceptions in their anti-abortion legislation. His problem — aside from the fact that he has no medical training whatsoever and hasn’t the expertise to make this claim — is that this is simply not true:

Within hours, women’s heath advocates — and physicians — attacked his remarks.

“Joe Walsh’s ignorance about women’s health is alarming,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood, in a statement.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) fired its own salvo, calling the congressman’s comments “inaccurate” in a widely distributed response.

“Abortions are necessary in a number of circumstances to save the life of a woman or to preserve her health,” the doctors’ organization said. The group reported that more than 600 women die every year from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes and that “many more would die each year if they did not have access to abortion.”

There are, in fact, any number of problems that might come along, which require an abortion to save a woman’s life. Walsh cannot simply declare they don’t exist. For him to do so, is fucking ridiculous.

I have news for Rep Walsh and others of his ilk: That you have certain metaphysics beliefs — e.g. that abortion is impermissible — does not entitle you to lie in support of that belief. You can’t just make scientific or medical claims that aren’t true, in order to make your beliefs apear valid. That he’d do this, places Rep Walsh in my “lying liars for Jesus” club, where he’s sure to enjoy the company.

Finally, that Rep Walsh thinks women must be allowed to die, merely because of a problem during their pregnancies, is a downright evil proposition. Even so, he’s not the only one who espouses this very philosophy; The Roman Catholic Church teaches it, too.

Photo credit: PsiCop original, based on proverb.

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