Archive for September, 2016

The End is NearAs I’ve said many times, one feature of fundamentalist religiosity — regardless of which overall religious tradition it’s in — is immaturity. They have a very powerful sense of how things should be, but are blissfully unaware of the fact that none of that is even remotely realistic. So they’re repeatedly thwarted by what they perceive as a hostile world around them … and they can’t handle it. It makes them become angry and resentful.

This is illustrated rather clearly in a New York Times article on the status of evangelical Christians in the US (WebCite cached article):

Now, a year later, [Betty and Dick Odgaard] and other conservative evangelicals interviewed in central Iowa say they feel as if they have been abandoned. Many say that they have no genuine champion in the presidential race and that the country has turned its back on them. Americans are leaving church, same-sex marriage is the law of the land, and the country has moved on to debating transgender rights. While other Americans are anxious about the economy, jobs and terrorism, conservative Christians say they fear for the nation’s very soul. Some worry that the nation has strayed so far that God’s punishment is imminent.…

The change in America seemed to happen so quickly that it felt like whiplash, the Odgaards said. One day, they felt comfortably situated in the American majority, as Christians with shared beliefs in God, family and the Bible. They had never even imagined that two people of the same sex could marry.

Overnight, it seemed, they discovered that even in small-town Iowa they were outnumbered, isolated and unpopular. Everyone they knew seemed to have a gay relative or friend. Mr. Odgaard’s daughter from his first marriage disavowed her father’s actions on Facebook, and his gay second cousin will not speak to him. Even their own Mennonite congregation put out a statement saying that while the denomination opposes gay marriage, “not every congregation” or Mennonite does. Mrs. Odgaard, 64, the daughter of a Mennonite minister, was devastated.

“It all flipped, so fast,” said Mr. Odgaard, a patrician 70-year-old who favors khakis and boat shoes. “Suddenly, we were in the minority. That was kind of a scary feeling. It makes you wonder where the Christians went.”

The Times continues explaining how alienated American fundagelicals like the Odgaards feel. The article focuses on recent societal changes, such as the advent of gay marriage, but things like that don’t entirely explain the reality of this alienation. At the Friendly Atheist I posted the following comment, based on my own experience as a fundie Christian:

As a former fundamentalist/evangelical Christian, I must point out something: Their sense of alienation has nothing to do with gay marriage. Not. One. F-ing. Thing. That’s just a convenient scapegoat.

No, the reason fundagelicals feel alienated, is because they’re fundagelicals. No matter what may (or may not) be going on around them, their beliefs define them as a downtrodden minority in what they perceive to be an overwhelmingly “worldly” society. And for them, “worldly” means “Satanic” (because they believe their deity has handed the Devil authority over “the world,” until the Apocalypse).

Fundagelicals believe themselves to be outnumbered and outgunned, constantly oppressed by profane “worldly” forces trying to wrench them away from their deity and deprive them of their sanctity.

For them, this perspective is definitional. As they see it, it’s laid out for them in scripture; they believe it, and that’s that. Everything that ever happens to them simply fits in with this view. Bad things happen to them because “the world” is out to destroy them because of their vaunted holiness. (Anything good that happens to them, of course, is because of said vaunted holiness.) Essentially it’s a rationale for their persecution complex (which, in turn, is the product of Christianity’s underlying psychopathology, going back nearly to its origins).

Sure, things like gay marriage play into, and perhaps even increase, fundagelicals’ prevailing sense of alienation. But those external factors did not create that sense of alienation, and if they were to vanish, would not make it go away. That alienation is ever-present in fundagelical Christianity and is part and parcel of it.

To be clear, this sense of alienation is something I experienced when I was a fundie, and that was during the early 80s. That was a time when gay rights weren’t being discussed very much, gay marriage wasn’t on the horizon, and for nearly everyone the word “transgender” didn’t even exist. Yet, that alienation was very real for those in my little faith community.

So … if fundagelicals feel alienated, too bad so sad for them. All they need to do is let go of the alienation, and it will be gone — because they’re manufacturing it, themselves, out of whole cloth. It’s not based on fact, but on their persecutorial metaphysics.

In sum, I don’t pity these folk one bit. They’ve created their own despair, having crafted it from their own delusions. Whatever anxiety they feel, is purely theirs. No one’s forcing it on them.

Photo credit: Scott Leslie, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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'What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church ... such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.' -Martin Luther (PsiCop original graphic)I’ve blogged previously about the fake “historian” (actually, pseudohistorian) David Barton. He’s deluded himself — and most of the Religious Right — into thinking the Founding Fathers were militant fundamentalist Christians like himself. Proceeding from this delusion, he runs around telling everyone the founding documents were actually sacred Christian scripture, and vice versa. His idea, of course, is to promote his own militant Christianism as the US “state religion,” implying all Americans must be Christianists like himself. Ultimately he wants a Christocracy ruled by Christofascists who meet his standards.

All of this is a steaming load, of course, heaved right out the back of the barn. The US is not a “Christian nation,” and never had been intended as one. What’s more, the Founders literally couldn’t have been fundamentalist Christians, having lived a century prior to that form of the religion coming into existence. Everyone outside of fundie Christendom knows this — but the fundies don’t accept that reality, and get their panties in knots whenever someone tries to explain it to them.

As Right Wing Watch reports, Barton has continued his delusional and dishonest propaganda campaign. He said the text of the Constitution was lifted wholesale from the Bible (WebCite cached article):

A few years ago, right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton developed a new talking point in which he claimed that the Constitution is filled with direct, verbatim quotes straight out of the Bible.

We pointed out repeatedly that the clauses in the Constitution that Barton insisted were direct quotes from the Bible were nothing of the sort and Barton eventually stopped making this obviously false claim.

But when he appeared on the Messianic Jewish program “Jewish Voice” recently, Barton dusted it off when he once again insisted that the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution by using the “exact language” of the Bible.

Here’s the RWW article cataloging many of Barton’s specific claims of Constitutional-Biblical plagiarism (cached); read it, and see for yourself that the verbatim Biblical quotations he says are in the Constitution, very clearly and obviously are not. In other words, Barton lied. And he’s continued to lie, on “Jewish Voices.”

The problem with guys like Barton is that he has an audience which very seriously and assiduously soaks up his every word, because they view him as a real “historian,” unlike what they view as all the “fake” historians who work in academia and who therefore are insidious, insolent “secularists” who want to destroy devout, dutiful believers like themselves and wipe all trace of Christianity from the planet.

The truth is quite the opposite: It’s Barton who’s the fake historian; as I’ve mentioned previously, he has no credentials whatsoever in the field, and his only degree is a bachelor of religious education from Oral Roberts University. Barton claimed to have an earned doctorate (as opposed to an honorary one) but has produced no verifiable documentation to confirm it.

At any rate, little things like “credentials” hardly matter in fundie Christendom. Barton’s peeps are all convinced that he’s right, and the rest of the world is wrong — period, end of discussion. There is no way to get them to understand otherwise because they’re impervious to correction. Being told they’re wrong offends them and plays into the existing persecutorial psychopathology inherent in their religion. So they react by clamping their eyes and ears shut, and clinging harder than ever before to whatever they already believe, because they find those lies more emotionally satisfying than the truth. And for them, their own emotional satisfaction is far more important than anything else in the world.

I’ll finish this post by granting David Barton platinum membership in my “lying liars for Jesus” club. As a blatant liar and devout Christianist, I’m sure he’ll be happy there.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic based on Martin Luther quote.

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Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, and Jason Miller in The Exorcist (1973) / via IMDBThe Roman Catholic Church is facing a crisis. No, I’m not referring to the worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal that’s wracked the Church for over 15 years, nor the resulting problem of dioceses experiencing financial straits and even bankruptcies. The Church’s problem is a shortage … but not of priests — a problem it’s faced for the last few decades (WebCite cached article).

While those are genuine problems the Church faces, they’re not the dire crisis I’m blogging about just now. That happens to be a different kind of shortage: A shortage of exorcists. Satanism and the occult are spreading like rashes, as the (UK) Telegraph explains, but the Church has too few anti-demonic personnel to fend them off (cached):

Exorcists are in urgent demand as a result of a sharp rise in people dabbling in Satanism and the occult, experts from the Catholic Church in Italy and the US said.…

Valter Cascioli, a psychologist and scientific consultant to the International Association of Exorcists, which is endorsed by the Vatican, described as an “emergency” the lack of priests capable of fighting the forces of evil.

“The lack of exorcists is a real emergency. There is a pastoral emergency as a result of a significant increase in the number of diabolical possessions that exorcist priests are confronting,” he told La Stampa newspaper.

“The number of people who take part in occult and satanic practices, which lead to serious physical, psychological and spiritual damages, is constantly rising.”…

“It is dangerous to underestimate a phenomenon that is caused by the direct actions of the devil, but also by a decline in faith and values.”

Cascioli’s complaints about the spread of what his Church considers black magic practices and “a decline in faith and values,” reflects the bellyaching of the main character in my last blog post (a Connecticut police chief who thinks the growth of atheism is making the crime rate go up). This sort of thinking is common in Christianity, what with its persecutorial psychopathology that causes them to delude themselves into believing they’re under siege and about to be wiped out at any moment.

Really, Cascioli has nothing to be worried about. Demonic possession never happens. There are no demons or devils, no Satan leading them, and no such thing as black magic, either. Exorcisms occur only in horror movies. There’s no viable reason for the Roman Catholic Church to divert any resources to creating a demonology school (which Cascioli has demanded). It’s all metaphysical nonsense, which until just a few years ago, the Church had de-emphasized through most of the 20th century. They should resume that policy and ignore Cascioli’s absurd kvetching about Satanism and “black magic.”

Photo credit: Still from The Exorcist (1973), via IMDB.

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Residents came out to show thier [sic] supports [sic] for Bridgeport Police Officers with a community march in solidarity in Bridgeport, Conn., on Saturday Sept. 24, 2016. Dozens of residents joined members of the department and local clergy and officials at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Park Avenue and then proceeded to march to police headquarters nearby.  / Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut MediaIn the world of sanctimonious Christianist nutjobbery, atheists are only just a shade better than Lucifer himself. They’re to blame for almost everything that ever goes wrong, and even Christian-world villains like Muslims and pagans earn more respect from Christianists. An example of this sort of thinking, as reported by the Connecticut Post, came from the chief of police in Bridgeport, CT (WebCite cached article):

Teens joining gangs? Shooting incidents on the rise?

The city’s top law enforcement officer thinks irreligiosity is a major factor in the problems facing the city.

“We need God in our lives,” Bridgeport Police Chief Armando Perez said Saturday to a group of around 50 people following a police solidarity march.

Perez, who is Catholic, addressed a group of mostly church members between the police department and City Hall.

“The problems that we’re having is because people have abandoned church, people have abandoned God, and that cannot happen,” he said.…

Perez, in his remarks, advocated a lot more praying.

“Let’s bring God back in our lives, back in our church — bring our kids — in our city, in our schools — absolutely,” Perez told the crowd.

When asked to clarify his remarks, Perez said that he didn’t advocate a specific religious belief, though he stood by his statement about religion in schools.

Gee, it was nice of the Chief not to demand that everyone in Bridgeport convert to a particular sect of a particular religion; it’s OK by him, I guess, if that city’s citizens join a religion of their choice. But, he does appear to think everyone must belong to one religion or another. Non-belief isn’t an option, in his book.

He wouldn’t be alone in that regard. There’s a significant wing of American Christianism that genuinely thinks there’s no such thing as freedom from religion; that it’s possible — and legal! — to force every American to have to be a religious believer … of some sort. (Yes, they do. For real.)

Chief Perez doesn’t seem to realize that, although non-belief has been rising over the last several years, crime rates haven’t matched that curve. Despite his whining about atheism growing, the majority of Americans are religious believers (cached). And the proportion of folks in prison who’re atheists is actually lower than that of the general population (cached) … meaning that atheists are less likely than believers to have been convicted of crimes.

Crime and non-belief are not linked lock-step in the way he asserts. To be generous, the Chief is blowing smoke; to be more blunt, he’s lying through his teeth.

It’s long past time for religious believers to grow the fuck up for once and get over the fact that atheists (and other sorts of non-believers) exist. They need to stop getting their panties in bunches over the insolence of those of us who refuse to believe in their absurd metaphysics. They erroneously think they’re personally harmed by the presence of non-belief in their communities; that’s just fucking absurd. They object to atheists (and other sorts of non-believers) for only one reason: They’re insecure in their beliefs, and knowing there are people who don’t believe as they do, only serves to heighten those insecurities. Since they’re not mature enough to handle those insecurities, they lash out against them, like infants. “Waaah! Mommy, the bad people are <sniff> atheists! Wah waah! <sniff> Mommy, make the bad atheists go away! <sniff>” What a damned joke.

Photo credit: Christian Abraham/Hearst Connecticut Media, via Connecticut Post.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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BlasphemyUnbelievably, it’s a crime in many countries to “dis” a religion or any aspect of one. Of course, this makes no sense at all … since offending a religion causes no harm to anyone or anything. The religion will remain what it is, and its followers will continue to follow it, in spite of that disrespect. Nothing changes, just because someone “blasphemes.” Not. One. Fucking. Thing.

Despite the fact that many places have such laws on the books, very often this is still not enough for some truly sanctimonious folk. They feel a compulsion to take that blasphemy law into their own hands. An example of this, as the Associated Press reports, just happened in Jordan (WebCite cached article):

A prominent and outspoken Jordanian writer on Sunday was shot dead in front of the courthouse where he had been on trial for posting a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam on social media.

A Jordanian security official said the shooter was a former imam, or prayer leader, at a local mosque, and said the man had been motivated by his anger over the cartoon posted to Facebook by writer Nahed Hattar. The shooting was the latest in a string of deadly security lapses in Jordan.…

Jordanian media, citing anonymous officials, identified the shooter as Riad Abdullah, 49, a former imam in northern Hashmi, a poor neighborhood in Amman. The reports said Abdullah had recently returned from a trip abroad, but gave no further details.…

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the suspect said he was motivated by the cartoon, which depicted a bearded man, smoking and in bed with two women, asking God to bring him wine and cashews. All physical depictions of God or the Prophet Muhammad, even respectful ones, are forbidden under mainstream Islamic tradition.

While the government of Jordan condemned this vigilante killing, Hattar’s supporters contend the government actually had put him in jeopardy, by having charged him with “blasphemy” in the first place. And lots of Jordanians are happy that Hattar had been gunned down:

But on Sunday, social media accounts of prominent Islamists in Jordan and elsewhere were celebrating Hattar’s death, saying he deserved it for blasphemy.

I expect the killer in this case to be showered with praise, as happened to a Pakistani who assassinated the governor of Punjab in the name of protecting that country’s blasphemy law.

Killing people over “blasphemy” is the height of foolishness … because as I pointed out at the start of this post, mocking, criticizing, or disrespecting a religion quite literally cannot harm it or any of its followers. A religion is a collection of ideas, and as such, can’t be damaged by disparagement. Its followers will continue to believe in it, and it will endure irreverence. The only reason to act out violently over “blasphemy” is immaturity. It’s long past time for the world’s religious believers to grow the fuck up, get over themselves, and accept that not everyone loves their faith (whichever one it may be).

Photo credit: Silly Deity, via Flickr.

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Wall Clocks, Time, Clock, Timing / via PixabayIn a little over a month, Daylight Saving Time will end, here in the US. Over the years I’ve blogged a number of times about the scam which is Daylight Saving Time. Yes, that’s what I called it: A scam. A lie! Fraudulent in every possible way. As I noted six and half years ago, it’s perhaps the cleverest fraud ever perpetrated on the country (although the presidential campaign of Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump certainly gives it a run for its money in that regard).

It’s long past time for twice-annual time changes to end. It’d be fantastic if we moved our clocks ahead in March, then left them there forever. In other words, what I’d like is for DST to be made perpetual.

(That might seem strange, coming from a guy who’s railed against DST for years, but what I object to is the twice-annual time changes. Leaving the clock alone is my goal.)

The problem with fixing the debacle which is DST, is that the propaganda campaign which brought DST into effect has done too good a job. People believe a lot of things about it which aren’t true, but it’s nearly impossible to get them to understand the lies they’ve been told.

Among the DST myths which is most persistent is that DST helped farmers and was implemented for them. Well, that’s not true — at all! Quite the opposite, farmers are among those most harmed by DST, since it means they spend more mornings in the dark milking cows and preparing for their work day. In reality, farmers lobbied against it, and their agitation against it was the reason DST rolled back at the end of World War I. I’ve had arguments with people over this … people who are otherwise reasonable and can be swayed; but on this myth, they will not bend one millimeter. It’s a lie they’ve been told far too often and it’s embedded in their brains. They literally cannot dislodge it; no amount of debunking it will work.

Another widely-disseminated and -believed lie about DST is that it saves energy. In truth, it very likely doesn’t do anything of the sort (cached). It also has negative effects on public health; for instance, it’s associated with an increase in heart attacks (cached).

At the moment the real instigators of DST are — believe it or not — retailers (cached). DST essentially helps keep stores open a little later than they would otherwise, for 8 months out of the year, and they don’t want to give that up. Note: This motivation means they ought to support my suggestion that DST be made perpetual. I’m surprised it hasn’t been mentioned more often.

Given the inanity which is DST, some New England states — for instance, Massachusetts — have begun looking into whether or not they should shift to Atlantic Standard Time, without any DST (cached). Since Atlantic Standard Time without DST is the same as Eastern Daylight Time, this means our clocks would be the same as they are now for eight months of the year, and one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time during the winter months. AST is already observed in the Canadian maritime provinces as well as the US territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. If one looks at a map, one can see the New England states are much closer to the Canadian maritimes than to the western edge of the EST region (say, Indiana). My home state of Connecticut is almost longitudinally in line with the Dominican Republic (which also is on AST), so geographically, it makes a lot of sense.

The long and short of it is that our twice-annual ritual of changing clocks one hour back and forth is patently absurd, and it just fucking needs to stop already. It might have been helpful during wartime (when it allowed factories another hour of daylight production time) but otherwise it has no useful purpose, and is only detrimental. Let’s jettison it as the fraud it is. Yes, it’ll take some courage to do away with a tradition many Americans have grown up with and are accustomed to — but we should be mature enough to face the fact that it’s a damn joke, one that’s no longer funny.

Photo credit: Pixabay.

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King Arthur II concept art 4Most of my readers have never been part of fundamentalist Christianity. As such, they’re unaware of fundies’ very strange — and supernaturally-saturated — worldview. As a former fundie myself, I’m familiar with it, but unless you’ve been part of it, it can be difficult to comprehend. This worldview is predicated on the presumed reality of the supernatural and preternatural, with powerful and infernal forces at work in the world, actively trying to destroy the godly and saintly.

Yes, I realize this is actually a very primitive mindset, one that made sense in ancient times, when nature wasn’t very well understood. Indeed, it probably did — way back when, in prehistory — seem as though invisible metaphysical agents were at work in the world. It’s a philosophy that seems downright bizarre now that we have a much better idea of how the world works. Yet, fundies cling to it — fiercely, and even angrily. And it explains a lot of what they say and do.

Take, for example, retired Army officer Robert Maginnis, who made this pronouncement on disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker’s show (WebCite cached article):

He even said that he had “personally met” with witches [cached] who told him that they are advising high-ranking government officials in Washington, D.C. “I know that there’s demonic forces in that city,” he said. “I have personally met people that refer to themselves as witches, people that say they advise the senior leadership of the country.”

Yeah, as though any of these people Maginnis says he “met personally” actually walked up to a Christofascist like him and said, “Hey, Bob, just want you to know, I’m a witch!” I’m sorry to have to say it, but this guy is clearly spewing bullshit.

And that, my friends, is the problem with this sort of thinking. It’s easy to make up all sorts of tall tales about witches and demons and devils and all that assorted horse-hockey, because it’s all metaphysical and non-demonstrable anyway. As long as Maginnis never provides the names of any of these supposed “witches” who’re working with “demonic forces,” there’s no way anyone can even begin to confirm any of his B.S.

To be clear, however, there’s no such thing as a witch, nor are there any demons or devils. Satan exists solely as a literary character, in works such as the book of Job and Paradise Lost.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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