Archive for April, 2015

'Help! I'm being oppressed!' / sublate, via FlickrGOP Senator, presidential candidate, and all-around wingnut crank Ted Cruz is not happy. Like most militant Religious Rightists, he thinks “Christians” (which he defines as “politically-conservative Christians who happen to agree with him on most facets of Christianity”) are under attack. As though someone or something is trying to wipe them out entirely. He keeps referring to an ongoing religious war as though it were real — even though it’s not. This weekend, The Hill reports, he took to the podium to condemn this persecution (WebCite cached article):

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Saturday said Democrats had gone to extremes in their persecution of Christians.

“Today’s Democratic Party has decided there is no room for Christians in today’s Democratic Party,” he said at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition summit in Waukee, Iowa.

“There is a liberal fascism that is going after Christian believers,” the 2016 GOP presidential candidate continued.…

“Today’s Democratic Party has become so radicalized for legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states that there is no longer any room for religious liberty,” he said.

The Texas lawmaker said this stance was against America’s traditional values. Religious liberty, Cruz claimed, was one of the nation’s founding principles.

“We were founded by men and women fleeing religious persecution,” Cruz declared.

As do many Religious Rightists, Teddy confuses “loss of ability to control people’s lives and freely harass anyone they dislike” with “persecution.” They aren’t the same thing … but they neither can nor will comprehend it.

Second, he implies Christians aren’t allowed in the Democratic Party. I hate to break it to Teddy, but that’s not true; there are Christians in the Democratic Party. I happen to know some. He may not like that fact, and he may blithely dismiss such people as “not ‘Real’ Christians™,” but they really do exist nonetheless.

As for the Faith and Freedom Coalition whom Teddy addressed, as a militant Christianist outfit, its name is a misnomer. It doesn’t actually support “freedom.” Instead, it promotes authoritarianism … specifically, Christianist authoritarianism, with them in charge, and no “freedom” granted to anyone except those who think and believe as they do.

Teddy also claims that states allowing gay marriage harms “religious liberty.” Well, that’s kind of funny, because, as it turns out, there are churches which now allow gay marriage which would be prevented from doing so, if Teddy were to get his way and it were outlawed once more. He doesn’t appear to mind taking away their “religious liberty,” even while screeching and wailing that his own is being taken away from him (the poor little thing). This, Dear Reader, is what’s known as hypocrisy — something Teddy’s own Jesus clearly and unambiguously forbid him ever to engage in, but which he seems to think is just fine.

Perhaps the one thing Teddy is right about is that religious liberty is one of the country’s founding principles. It found its way into the Bill of Rights. However, nothing about that principle, or the way in which it’s applied legally, entitles little Teddy and his fellow Rightists to outlaw things for everyone merely because their metaphysics frowns on it. Consider the implications of Teddy’s version of “religious liberty”: Should Orthodox Jews, for example, be able to outlaw pork and shellfish, merely because it’s against their faith to touch or ingest them? As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s precisely the sort of logic Teddy and his militant Christianist colleagues promote.

Finally, while Teddy may condemn what he calls “liberal fascism,” he ought to look a little closer to home before bewailing “fascism” in others. His father, Rafael Cruz, is a preacher who — as is made clear within his own recorded teachings — is a committed Dominionist/Christian Reconstructionist. If you’re not sure what those are, you’re not alone. They’re extreme religious and political philosophies which advocate the abolition of the federal government and the transformation of the states into Christian theocracies. It’s a kind of ardent Christian collective nationalism, and as such has a lot in common with fascism. So I’m not sure little Teddy is standing on any kind of moral high-ground, therefore, when he argues against what he perceives as “fascism” in others.

For those who think it’s not fair to visit “the sins of the father” (i.e. preacher Rafael) on the son (i.e. Senator Teddy), keep in mind two things: First, such assessments have a clear scriptural basis; there are a number of Old Testament verses in which YHWH proclaims he’ll punish children for their parents’ transgressions, sometimes “to the fourth generation” (see e.g. Ex 20:5, 34:7; Num 14:18; & Dt 5:9). It doesn’t seem wrong to hold the Biblical-literalist Cruzes to such standards. Second, Rafael has acted as a surrogate for his son, delivering speeches supporting him, and this appears to be ongoing (cached). If the father campaigns for the son, then the son — for better or worse! — “owns” what the father preaches. Period.

At any rate, as I’ve blogged so many times before, it’s long past time for these whining crybabies to grow the fuck up, stop pitching fits because they’re being thwarted in their wish to force everyone to live by their own metaphysics, and start acting like the grown adults they are. Little Teddy Cruz lied when he said Christians aren’t permitted in the Democratic Party. Christians like him, i.e. militant conservative Christianists, may not want to join it, but there are plenty of other types of Christians who might. This places him in my “lying liars for Jesus” club, where he’ll find himself in good company, I’m sure.

Photo credit: Sublate, via Flickr.

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Stay tuned ... for the next exciting episode of ... Jerks for Jesus! (PsiCop original graphic)There’s nothing like a good disaster to get Christians talking about their faith. They’re happy to use awful events and use them for their own mercenary purposes.

Usually they do this in the form of what I call “disaster theology” in which they announce that their deity either caused the horrible event, or allowed it to happen, because too many people are disobeying him, or because of gays, or atheists, or abortions, whatever. But other times they use the event in a different way.

Take, for example, the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday (WebCite cached article). Within hours of this cataclysm that claimed thousands of lives already, a preacher used it as fodder to express his fierce, unrelenting religionism (cached):

Yes folks, this is “the Religion of Love” in action. Yep. No doubt. Just so we’re clear as to what this creep said, here it is:

Praying 4 the lost souls in Nepal. Praying not a single destroyed pagan temple will b rebuilt & the people will repent/receive Christ.

Now, I suppose one could say it’s true that Nepal is “pagan” because it’s majority-Hindu, and at least by most Christians’ standards that’s a form of “paganism.” But a desire to have a pagan religion’s places and objects of worship destroyed kind of smacks of something the Taliban or ISIS/ISIL/IS would do. I suspect Miano wouldn’t want his wish compared to the likes of them … so one wonders why he’s thinking in a similar way? Hmm.

At any rate, I invite you, Dear Reader, to go ahead and look at Miano’s responses to those who, understandably, criticized him on Twitter. He did what any militant Christofascist would do in his place … double down and insist that he’s entitled to be an insulting boor for Jesus.

Now, one could certainly say that Miano is just one guy and that he doesn’t speak for Christianity. But that’s not entirely true; he’s a credentialed preacher, which does in fact make him something of a spokesman for his religion. But also, nothing is going to happen to him because of it. Sure, he’ll get some blowback on Twitter, and a tiny bit of it might even come from other Christians. But he won’t lose his credentials, he won’t lose his ministry, and he won’t be meaningfully disciplined in any way by the so-called “reasonable majority” of Christians. The reason for this is simple: Christians quite simply never bring each other to heel for any kind of excess. They just won’t do it. Miano will continue doing what he’s always done, untouched by any consequences for his nastiness.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Christianity’s fatal flaw.

As for Mr Miano, who appears sincerely to believe everyone on the planet is obligated to become a Christian just like him, my standard challenge is still open: Track me down and make me believe what you want me to. I mean it. Seriously! Given his beliefs, Miano has no valid reason not to do so … so I invite him to give it his best shot!

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic.

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CorpusChristiExt2It’s no secret that the Fox News network is a leading bastion of Religious Right ideology. Pretty much every big name on the network is a committed Christianist to one degree or another. Oddly enough, in spite of the fact that the Religious Right movement for which this channel works is a product of Protestant evangelical Christianity, many of the channel’s biggest names — e.g. Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity — are Roman Catholic. Of course, the rivalry between these wings of Christianity hasn’t gotten in the way of these folk marching in lock-step with their Protestant brethren and sistren. It’s surprising how few differences there are among them, even if historically Catholics and Protestants had been known to go to war with each other.

At any rate, one of Fox’s more overtly religious mouthpieces for Christofascism is Fr Jonathan Morris, a Catholic priest who — like his fellow Catholics on Fox — has made common cause with Protestants. As Raw Story explains, he recently appeared on the channel to declare that atheists are unfit to serve as president (WebCite cached article):

Catholic priest and Fox News contributor Father Jonathan Morris argued over the weekend that atheists were not suitable candidates for president because it was “hard to trust” someone who did not believe that God would punish them.…

According to Morris, anything that did not “inform” a public official’s life was not faith “because faith is a set of beliefs.”

“It’s a belief in God, it’s a belief that there are eternal consequences for your actions,” he explained. “And I think that a leader that doesn’t have that — a set of core beliefs that help him to make justice an important part of his life and his decisions because he knows that there are eternal consequences, well, it’s somebody that it’s hard to trust.”

This might seem a reasonable conclusion to Christofascists like Morris and the rest of the insane crew he works with at Fox. But if one thinks about it, it doesn’t really work. I’d much rather have as president someone who can figure out right and wrong on his/her own, and who has both the ability and willingness to do the right thing of his/her own accord, without having to be frightened into it by threat of punishment imposed by some wild-eyed cosmic sky-tyrant. An upstanding, effective leader should not need metaphysical beliefs to drill morals and ethics into him/her.

But then, I’m just a cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen, so what the hell could I possibly know about such important things?

One thing I’d like to point out about Fr Jonathan, however, is that he’s part of the Legion of Christ, a clerical order that’s been mired in scandal for a number of years. I’ve blogged about this order and its attendant scandal several times. A Vatican investigation — which, typically, took far longer than it needed to have — ended up substantiating accusations against the order’s founder, Fr Marcial Maciel (cached). The order remains under Vatican oversight, and a number of Maciel’s underlings and other officials of the order are being investigated.

Now, my mention of Morris’s order’s sordid past might seem inappropriate … as though I’m smearing him for the misdeeds of others. Perhaps I am. To be clear, I’m not saying Morris must have been involved in any shenanigans. But I’d like to point out that, for several years, he was on the staff of the order’s seminary in Rome. He very likely had direct access to the order’s leadership, some of whom the Vatican has investigated. What does that mean for Fr Jonathan? I have no idea … but that’s the problem. The Legion of Christ remains under a cloud of suspicion — a cloud that the R.C. Church itself created, on its own.

Oh, and I’m not even going to go into the part of the US Constitution which says there can never be any religious test for any official in the country, including the presidency. (That part, by the way, is Article VI paragraph 3. Just in case you wondered. Not that religiofascists give a shit that it’s there.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pediatric Vaccination / DENVER, CO. - February 03, 2015: A single dose of MMR for, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella, at Kaiser Permanente East Medical offices in Denver. February 03, 2015 Denver, CO (Photo By Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)Not that the sanctimonious mommies who make up the rank and file of the antivax movement will give a shit about this, but yet another study has been done on the putative connection between vaccines and autism. And, as CNN reports, once again, the evidence shows there is no connection at all (WebCite cached article):

The vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella doesn’t bring an increased risk of autism, according to a new study of more than 95,000 children.

The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association [cached], is the latest piece of research to debunk the myth associating the MMR vaccine with autism.…

“We found that there was no harmful association between the receipt of the MMR vaccine and the development of an autism spectrum disorder,” said Anjali Jain, a pediatrician at the Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm in Virginia, who worked on the study.

As I said, previously-committed antivaxers won’t accept a word of this. They’ll just whine and wail about how “Big Pharma” did this study because they make billions of dollars forcing dangerous vaccines on tiny children. For the record, “Big Pharma” wasn’t behind this study — the federal government funded it — but I suppose that won’t make a difference for those who already believe there’s an insidious government/corporate conspiracy afoot to make American kids autistic. For committed antivaxxers, there really is no amount of contrary evidence that will dislodge that idea from their heads. That’s because of something known as the backfire effect, a psychological phenomenon in which people actually latch harder onto ideas, once they’ve been shown those ideas are wrong.

It’s unfortunate that all this study will do is simply add to an already-tall pile of evidence that vaccines don’t cause autism. It just means those who lie about vaccines being dangerous, are even worse liars than they were previously. Despite this, we’re likely to have more, not less, outbreaks of measles and other easily-preventable childhood illnesses like the one we had earlier this year (cached). Yes, folks … ignorance, stupidity, and immaturity can, indeed, harm and even kill people needlessly. Sigh.

Hat tip: Skeptic’s Dictionary.

Photo credit: Joe Amon/The Denver Post, via Getty Images via Time.

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“Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7:23, New American Bible)I’ve blogged before about Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, who some 2½ years ago had been convicted of failing to report the abuse of a minor (WebCite cached article). In the real world most of us live in, being convicted of criminal wrongdoing while on the job usually results in an automatic firing from that job.

But in the strange, surreal, alternate universe of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, that doesn’t hold true. The bishops don’t generally like to have to pay too much attention to insignificant little things like criminal courts. They’re above all that, you see. So Finn was able to keep his post.

Until today. As Religion News Service reports, at long last — 2½ years after his conviction — the Vatican deigned to allow Finn, finally, to resign (cached):

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of an American bishop who was found guilty of failing to tell police about a suspected pedophile priest.

The Vatican on Tuesday (April 21) said the pope accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn, who led the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri.

The resignation was offered under the code of canon law that allows a bishop “who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause” to resign.

What’s remarkable about this is not that it took so long for the Vatican to act, or for Finn to quit. The Church had long resisted admitting Finn had done anything wrong in the first place — even after his conviction. But what’s remarkable is that he was let go after 2½ years. That amount of time strongly suggests there had originally been no intention of having him leave. Something changed — maybe 1½ to 2 years later — that made this happen … but what was it? I have no idea.

The other thing I’ve noticed, in reporting on this, is that media outlets (including the RNS article I cited, plus many others) make little or no mention of the 2½ year delay between Finn’s conviction and his resignation. I can’t imagine why that’s the case. This delay is certainly noteworthy, and anyone reporting on it ought to have mentioned it … even if only to concede there’s no known reason for it. Religion reporters appear to have taken a pass on that part of the story. It’s hard to imagine why, but they have. For this reason, I’m marking this as an example of a “journalism FAIL.” The delay should have been reported, if not thoroughly investigated — but it wasn’t.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Mt 7:23, NAB.

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Loch Ness Serpent Dragon, via PixabayThe folks over at Google have a remarkable sense of humor. One of the ways they express it is through their “Google Doodles,” or graphics/animations/minigames they show, just for one day, on their main home page.

Today’s Doodle is a rather amusing choice — given its circumstances. It involves the Loch Ness Monster … and more specifically, the so-called “Surgeon’s Photograph” which made Nessie the most famous nonexistent creature on the planet:

Google Doodle for 4/12/2015 — Loch Ness Monster

Google Doodle for 4/12/2015 — Loch Ness Monster

Google further adds to the amusement by allowing folks to use its “Street View” feature to roam Lake Ness itself to search for “Nessie.”

Here’s the “Surgeon’s Photo” itself, in case you don’t recall it:

'Surgeon's Photo' of Loch Ness Monster / by Robert Kenneth Wilson, published in Daily Mail (UK) on 4/21/1934 / via Buzzfeed (URL: http://www.buzzfeed.com/brendanklinkenberg/explore-loch-ness-with-google-street-view#.fkQNdV7zq)

‘Surgeon’s Photo’ of Loch Ness Monster / by Robert Kenneth Wilson, published in Daily Mail (UK) on 4/21/1934 / via Buzzfeed

The most endearing part of all of this is that the photo this Doodle commemorates — which for many constitutes unassailable “proof” there’s a monster in the Scottish lake — is actually a hoax, as Time magazine explains (WebCite cached article). Yes, I’m sorry to break it to all of you who actually think it’s a real photo of an actual lake monster, but it truly is not. It is, instead, a small serpent’s head that had been attached to a toy submarine.

The cold fact is that every search that has ever been done for “Nessie” — and there have been a number of them, including some using technology that was state-of-the-art in their times, the most recent in 2008 — has utterly failed to find anything like the fabled lake monster. That’s right … there is absolutely no foundation to the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Bupkis. No amount of insisting it “must” be there, because it’s been reported to be there, can ever make this so.

Photo credit: Pixabay.

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Dr. Oz at ServiceNation 2008I’ve blogged a couple times about the woo and nonsense spewed by the famous “Friend of Oprah” Dr Mehmet Oz. The insipid nonsense he reels off has been questioned both by journalists and by US Senators. But he’s been able to keep his TV show and his jobs at Columbia University … feathers in his cap which grant him more apparent credibility than he deserves (WebCite cached article). The Associated Press reports a number of physicians have petitioned Columbia to remove him due to his pseudomedical advice (cached):

Columbia University has not removed TV celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz from his faculty position as a group of top doctors has demanded, citing his “egregious lack of integrity” for promoting what they call “quack treatments.”

“Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine,” said a letter the 10 physicians sent to a Columbia dean earlier this week. They say he’s pushing “miracle” weight-loss supplements with no scientific proof that they work.…

The doctors wrote that Oz, for years a world-class Columbia cardiothoracic surgeon, “has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.” They said he has “misled and endangered” the public.

But Columbia clearly has no problem with one of its faculty peddling pseudoscience and gibberish, and refuse to heed this petition:

The New York Ivy League school responded Thursday, issuing a statement to The Associated Press saying only that the school “is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members’ freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion.”

Yes, Columbia University thinks “academic freedom” is a license to dole out lies and misinformation. I don’t see those in any definition of the phrase that I’ve been able to find, but they’re the ones who run an ivory tower, so I have to assume they know more about it than I — or the doctors who signed the petition — do.

Let’s face it, the man makes a shitload of money and has a daily nationally-syndicated TV show; he probably attracts a lot of attention for the college. That must be a lot more important than valid science.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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