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Lake of Fire by BenRR / via DeviantArtHere’s something that’s not surprising, way down south in the Bible Belt Bobble Bayelt state of Mississippi. As the Biloxi Sun Herald explains, a judge there assigns Bible essays to youthful offenders (WebCite cached article):

Judge Albert Fountain offers youths found with alcohol an offer most don’t refuse.

In part, they must write him a 1,000-word essay in order to to keep the conviction off their records and avoid hefty costs.

They can write the entire essay about the effects of alcohol, but Fountain recommends they give him 500 words each on that and on the Book of Revelation, one of the most feared books in the Bible.

This is such an obvious violation of separation of church and state, that I can’t see why a sitting judge could even be allowed to get away with it. Then again, this is Christocratic Mississippi … where little things like the First Amendment just aren’t all that important.

The good judge claims there’s no force involved:

“I don’t force them to do it. It’s their choice.”

However, as explained in the article, there actually is force involved:

Those who accept the plea offer must hand over their driver’s license for 10 days and maintain good behavior, and are placed on 90 days of non-reporting probation. The case is then non-adjudicated and it stays off their record.

Those who don’t accept the offer are fined $500, ordered to pay a state assessment of $155.75 and lose their license for 90 days. And the conviction stands as a misdemeanor record.

So these kids have a choice: Write the essay, and skate on the charges; or not write the essay, and be punished (in not just one, but three different ways). To say there’s no coercion here is a clear lie on the judge’s part. That places him in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Why Revelation, one might ask? Because, as the judge himself admits, it’s the most terrifying book of the Bible:

“When they read Revelation, they can’t help but think about what we’re heading for in the future if we don’t do the right thing,” Fountain said.

“I’ve had them come back with tears in their eyes,” he said.

“They tell me it’s a scary book to read. I can’t force them to do it, but all I can do is plant a seed.”

Yep, that’s good old-fashioned Christian psychological terror: “Say, do, and believe what we order you to … or you’ll BURN IN HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY!!! Mwa ha ha ha ha ha!” Of course, neither Judge Fountain, nor the rest of his fellow Christofascists, see this as a problem. They’re willing to say and do anything in order to make “believers” out of others. They truly think the end justifies the means. As long as they’re saving souls for their precious Jesus, nothing else is important … even brazenly violating the Constitution, then lying about it, are acceptable for this sort of militant Christianist.

Photo credit: BenRR, via DeviantArt.

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Christian Right Propaganda Posters / This is the enemy: Godless Sodomites are Enemies of Christianity & the Bible. Photo Credit: Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: Northwestern UniversityNote: There have been a few updates on this. See below.

Indiana is poised to make discrimination against gays legal. As the Indianapolis Star reports, that state’s legislature just passed SB 101, which will do precisely that (WebCite cached article):

Controversial religious freedom legislation that could protect business owners who don’t want to provide services for same-sex couples is poised to become law in Indiana.

The Republican-controlled Indiana House approved the measure Monday on a 63-31 vote, largely along party lines. Five Republicans joined 26 Democrats in opposing the bill.

The vote likely clears a path for the hot-button legislation to become law. The Senate already approved a slightly different version of the bill last month and Senate author Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said he plans to concur with the House version, possibly later this week.

The bill will then go to Gov. Mike Pence, who said Monday he plans to sign the legislation.

Once this law is passed, it will grant relief to a large number of militant Indiana Christianists, because until now they’ve been deathly afraid of catching gay cooties or something. Now, they’re free to treat gays as non-human or even non-existent. Woo hoo! What freedom that must be!

It looks as though this law is going to cost Indiana, though. They stand to lose a couple of conventions over it: the annual gaming convention Gen Con (cached), as well as the 2017 Disciples of Christ convention (cached). I don’t expect either of these will make the Christofascists in Indianapolis change their minds, but it will cost businesses a lot of money (especially the annual Gen Con). I haven’t quite figured out why Christianists are so willing to pay this price, just to not have to deal with gays.

Update: Governor Mike Pence did sign this bill; it’s now law in Indiana (cached). His position — ridiculously enough — is that the principles in this law are already the law of the land (he said, according to federal law and the state constitution). That only leads to the obvious question of why this law was even needed in the first place. To date, neither Pence nor anyone else has summoned the courage to explain this.

Also, the pushback against Indiana has begun: The well-known could-computing company Salesforce will terminate its activities in Indiana (cached). Actor George Takei has called for a general boycott of the state, as well (cached). Obviously, neither of these is going to help much. The militant Christianists who enacted this law are not going to be influenced by vile “Left Coast” CEOs or gay actors. If anything, this sort of pushback is likely only to further convince them they’re right, because — in their minds — these are merely agents of the very same Forces of Darkness who’ve been persecuting them relentlessly for centuries. They can’t break free from their “Christian martyr complex” because it’s embedded within the psychopathology of their religion. The bottom line is, they think their Jesus outlawed homosexuality (which he absolutely did not do; homosexuality is not mentioned even once in any of the gospels); they think treating gays as sub-human is a way for them to worship their deity; and they’re not going to stop hating teh gayz — not for any reason.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

Photo credit: Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: Northwestern University.

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Air Force Academy Oath of OfficeThe kinds of “persecution” many Christians believe they’re afflicted with, are rather bizarre and difficult to figure out. Take, for example, the fact that — as of a year and a half ago — the US Air Force Academy made the “so help me God” at the end of cadets’ oaths optional (WebCite cached article). Apparently this was part of a campaign by the military to suppress religion in the Air Force. Or something.

I haven’t quite figured out how making a profession of belief optional — yes, optional! — harms believers. But then, I’m just a cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen, and am not gifted with the lofty spiritual insights required to discern that.

One Texas Congressman is so incensed about that decision, Raw Story reports he’s proposed legislation to unravel that, and force all cadets to beg for God’s help (cached):

A Republican congressman has introduced legislation that would force cadets at the Air Force’s Academy to say “so help me God” during their oaths every school year. He said the legislation is necessary because Americans don’t have “freedom from religion.”

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) said the bill, called the Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015 [cached], would protect the religious freedom of American troops.

“Our Constitution’s very First Amendment protects every individual’s freedom of religion. But our servicemen and women who protect our county [sic] with their lives are seeing that freedom under fire,” he said in a statement.

Again, the late 2013 policy change does not forbid cadets from saying “so help me God,” as Rep. Johnson seems to think. As I said, it merely makes it optional. I’m not sure why Johnson is misrepresenting Air Force policy — but he clearly is.

Johnson also trots out an old canard among the Religious Right:

“Let me be clear: Americans have the freedom of religion — but not freedom from religion.

Unfortunately this is not the first time one of these Christian Nation types has openly said that non-believers have no right to refuse to believe in a religion. And I don’t expect it’ll be the last. But it’s true that they rarely come out and say it quite as openly and candidly as this.

At any rate, if the Congressman is convinced that I, as a non-believing American, have no right to remain a non-believer, then I heartily invite him to do something about it. He can track me down, if he dares, and force me to believe in a religion (I assume, his own). Based on the premises he subscribes to, there’s no reason he wouldn’t wish to. So he can just go right ahead. I dare him.

I won’t even get into the fact that he’s suborning perjury by forcing non-believing cadets to profess a belief they don’t hold onto. But that might be the point of what Johnson is doing … non-believing officers in the armed forces would end up having that violation hanging over them, their entire careers. It’s a tool that could be used to control them in any number of ways. Pretty clever, actually.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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In Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday, Afghans chanted anti-American slogans during a demonstration to condemn the burning of a copy of the Muslim holy book by an American pastor. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters, via the New York Times)By now it should be clear that Muslims — and in particular, Afghans — aren’t keen on Qur’an-burning. They’ve demonstrated an aptitude for rioting, looting and even killing when they hear about Qur’ans being burned. They’ve done so even when Qur’ans haven’t been burned yet.

Last week there was yet another example of this horrific phenomenon. As the (UK) Guardian reports, it involves someone who turns out to have been innocent (WebCite cached article):

A woman killed by an angry mob in front of police in the Afghan capital last week for allegedly burning a copy of Islam’s holy book was wrongly accused, Afghanistan’s top criminal investigator has said.

Mobile phone footage circulating on social media shows police at the scene did not save the 27-year-old woman, Farkhunda, who was beaten with sticks and set on fire by a crowd of men in central Kabul on Thursday.…

The killing was condemned by the Afghan president and other officials, but also drew praise from some quarters, including from a prominent cleric who asserted the men had a right to defend their Muslim beliefs at all costs.

Yes, I’m sure a condemnation by Afghanistan’s new president Ashraf Ghani is certain to bring this practice to an end. No doubt!

And if you believe that, I have some beachfront property in Arizona to sell you.

The really horrifying element of this incident is the large number of people who participated in beating and burning Farkhunda to death. This wasn’t carried out by just a small number of violent radicals or career criminals; rather, she was killed by a very large mob, mostly “average citizens” of a large city (i.e. Kabul) who certainly aren’t backward hovel-dwellers in some distant province that time forgot. It was also explicitly supported by no less than Kabul’s chief of police (cached). Good luck to president Ghani in his putative effort to set this right.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Omar Sobhani/Reuters, via the New York Times.

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Christian Right Propaganda Posters / Gay Agenda vs. Civil Liberty: Radical Homosexual Lobby is a Threat to Religious, Civil Liberty in America. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National ArchivesChristians in the US continue to believe themselves a persecuted minority, in spite of the fact that they’re anything but. The relentless expansion of gay marriage has done more than almost anything else to unsettle them and exacerbate the paranoia which is inherent in the psychopathology of their religion. They seem not to comprehend, though, that gays being allowed to marry doesn’t actually harm them in any way. After all, no one is forcing them to marry same-sex partners against their will.

Enter a church in Knoxville, TN, which — according to WBIR-TV in that city — found a bizarre way to express its displeasure at the notion of “equal rights” (WebCite cached article):

A marquee message posted outside an East Knoxville church has sparked controversy. The church’s pastor says people have misunderstood the communication.

The Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle sign read, “Remember Satan was the first to demand equal rights.”

Here’s what the sign looked like:

A Knoxville church's message has drawn criticism from some in the community. Submitted to WBIR-TV.

A Knoxville church’s message has drawn criticism from some in the community. Submitted to WBIR-TV.

I have no idea what’s the basis of the claim made here. There’s no mention of Satan demanding “equal rights” in the Bible. In spite of there being no scriptural grounds for this statement, and its dismissal of the notion of “equal rights,” the church’s pastor said no offense was intended:

Pastor Tony Greene says he meant no offense. He said the church was not targeting a certain group.

He thinks people misunderstood his message.

“Be careful when you demand your equal rights that you don’t hurt others around you. You’ve got to consider everyone around you,” he said.

Greene said it was also a test to see if people were reading the sign. He said he’s received a lot of feedback.

The church changed the sign Monday to read, “Didn’t mean to offend. We all need Christ.”

Greene errs when he suggests that granting “equal rights” to some, can harm others. It doesn’t work that way. “Equal rights” always enrich everyone, because — by definition — they’re given to everyone. Period.

Oh, and the idea that Greene had merely been “testing” people to see if they’d read his sign? That really doesn’t excuse the idiocy of what he put on it. He could have opted for a much less incendiary, not to mention contra-factual, message to use as a “test,” if that’s really what he’d intended to do.

The cold fact is that all Americans have “equal rights” under the Constitution and its amendments (particularly the 14th). Satan had nothing to do with that, and objecting to “equal rights” on religious grounds won’t change it. It’s long past time for Christianists like Greene and his childish flock to stop throwing infantile shit-fits over things they personally dislike but which do not, in fact, harm them in the slightest. They ought to act like grown-ups, fercryingoutloud.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: About.Com.

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Mike Huckabee at Thomas Road Baptist ChurchI’ve blogged a few times about former pastor, Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He’s said some pretty wild and fiercely Christianist things over the years. Until recently his pulpit had been a show of his own on Fox News, but he quit that lucrative job that in order to run for president again.

I guess the guy must now be really hard up for money. As the New York Times reports, this has caused him to remake himself into a snake-oil salesman (WebCite cached article):

In a wood-paneled study lined with books and framed family photos, the prospective presidential candidate looks into the camera. “I’m Mike Huckabee,” he says with all the folksy charm that propelled a career as a preacher, politician and broadcaster.

But this is no campaign ad. It is an Internet infomercial for a dubious diabetes treatment, in which Mr. Huckabee, who is contemplating a run for the Republican nomination in 2016, tells viewers to ignore “Big Pharma” and instead points them to a “weird spice, kitchen-cabinet cure,” consisting of dietary supplements.

“Let me tell you, diabetes can be reversed,” Mr. Huckabee says. “I should know because I did it. Today you can, too.”

The American Diabetes Association and the Canadian Diabetes Association caution against treatments like the one peddled by the company Mr. Huckabee represents.

Most medicos — as well as those with the illness — understand that diabetes is almost always a perpetual illness. If you have it, then you have it; for the most part it can’t be gotten rid of, only controlled. So Shucksabee is promising something that ostensibly he can’t deliver. As the Times explains, his putative remedy for diabetes is a combination of cinnamon (of all things) and chromium picolinate:

In his diabetes video, Mr. Huckabee promotes the “Diabetes Solution Kit,” a $19.95 booklet with advice on eating, exercise and dietary supplements. “Just sit tight,” he says in the two-minute, 40-second pitch, “because in a moment, a free presentation is coming up.” He promises it will reveal “all the natural secrets that are backed by real science that really work.”

But rather than science, the second, lengthier video peddles a diabetes “cure” consisting of cinnamon and chromium picolinate. Both the American Diabetes Association and the Canadian Diabetes Association warn that dietary and herbal supplements are ineffective for treating diabetes, which is an epidemic in the United States and is tied to obesity.

Yeah, I know what the quacks and their apologists will say: That the ADA is shilling for “Big Pharma” and is conspiring with greedy multinational corporations to make people sick in order to make a profit. Shucksabee is something of a medical-informational “freedom fighter” letting people they don’t have to be reeled in by pharmaceutical fraud and disclosing the “secret” to ending their diabetes. (Remarkably, these people screech and rail against “Big Pharma’s” profit motive, yet they happily and eagerly turn a blind eye to sale of these booklets at $19.95 each, not to mention the cinnamon and chromium supplements, which I’m sure are not dispensed for free, either.)

Among the most remarkable revelations in the Times article, is that Shucksabee himself never used the remedy he’s promoting:

Asked this month at an appearance in Iowa if he had used cinnamon and chromium picolinate to reverse his diabetes, he said he had not. “No, I reversed it by taking better care of my health,” he said.

Talk about “things that make you go, ‘hmmmmm’!”

Huckabee’s people claim his contract to peddle pseudomedicine has already concluded, but it’s curious that he was still contracted to do so at the very same time he’d started exploring another presidential run. Why would someone aspiring for such a high office stoop to selling snake-oil booklets? Why would he not have severed that contract at the same time he quit Fox News? It’s positively mind-blowing that he only just got around to ending his snake-oil gig.

In any case, Shucksabee hit the trifecta for suspicious characters: First, he’s a former pastor; second, he’s a former and possibly future politician; third, he’s selling snake-oil. About the only thing that could make this any better worse would be if he were to start selling used cars.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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'Christian Greed: The Lord died so they could be insanely wealthy' / PsiCop graphic, made at Despair, Inc & based on Jan Van Eyck diptychI guess the aptly-named megapastor Creflo Dollar is too good to fly commercial. At least, that’s a conclusion one might reach, on hearing that he expects his sheep to donate $60 million to him so he can buy himself an airplane. (To replace one he’s already had for over 15 years.) CNN reports on his ridiculously greedy demand (WebCite cached article):

Creflo Dollar is hoping a few folks will see fit to bless him.

The minister, known for being a prosperity preacher at his Atlanta-area World Changers Church International, is seeking “200,000 people committed to sow $300 or more (to) help achieve our goal to purchase the G650 airplane.”

The figures are presented in a nearly six-minute video on the Creflo Dollar Ministries website [cached] and total more than $60 million needed to buy the Gulfstream G650, which goes for a reported $65 million. The project isn’t limited to member donations, as the site states that “we are asking members, partners and supporters of this ministry to assist us in acquiring a Gulfstream G650.”

The request goes on to detail that the luxury jet will transport Pastors Creflo and Taffi Dollar and member of the Dollars’ church around the globe to help them spread the gospel.

I guess it’s not possible to “spread the gospel” when traveling by airline. Who knows, maybe I just don’t understand such important, sacred considerations, given I’m a cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen who hasn’t had the benefit of holy insights.

Note that the page on the ministry Web site that CNN linked to, above, is now returning an HTTP 404, or “page not found” error. Hmm. I wonder what might have happened to it?* Fortunately for me, the Internet never forgets, as they say. The Wayback Machine at Archive.Org happens to have preserved the page, which you can see here, and which I’ve doubly preserved at WebCite.

CNN points out that Dollar preaches the “prosperity gospel,” which claims that Jesus came to make his followers wealthy and didn’t want them to be poor. Yeah, I know, maybe my cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen nature is getting in the way of understanding Jesus’ teachings — but the last time I looked, he taught the virtue of poverty:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. … No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:19-21, 24)

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” (Matthew 19:21-25)

Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” (Mark 10:21-26)

And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)

And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)

“But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.” (Luke 6:24)

“Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:33-34)

“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Luke 16:13)

When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” (Luke 18:22-26)

Since being impoverished can be a major inconvenience, it’s little wonder that Christians devised this “theology” in the first place, and that there are so many of them eager to flock to hear that Jesus wants them to be wealthy, not poor.

My own guess … knowing as I do a number of Christians who subscribe to this “theology” … I suspect Dollar will get his many-million-dollar airplane. The followers of “prosperity” preachers rarely fail to live up to the demands made of them.

Update: It’s not just me who noticed the Dollar Ministries plea for airplane money has been pulled from their Web site; here’s a story by WXIA-TV in Atlanta on the matter (cached).

Photo credit: PsiCop graphic, made at Despair.Com & based on Jan van Eyck via Wikimedia Commons.

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