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'... because nothing says "Christmas" like millions of Christians pitching infantile fits' / PsiCop original graphicYes indeed, folks, this may well be a busy year in the annual “war on Christmas,” seen as how we’re only a week into November and already another battle has erupted in the Religious Right’s perpetual campaign to force every American to worship Christmas however they demand. Their latest target is the ubiquitous Starbucks coffee chain. As Time magazine explains, American Christendom has gone into a meltdown over — get this! — their holiday-season cups (WebCite cached article):

Some Christians have taken to social media channels to protest the new Starbucks holiday cup, which they say is conspicuously devoid of images of both Christmas and Jesus Christ himself. The new cup, which is shades of red with the Starbucks logo, showed up in stores late last month.

“Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus,” wrote Joshua Feuerstein in a viral Facebook post with nearly 10 million views [cached]. In an accompanying video, Feuerstein encourages customers to give their name as “Merry Christmas” to force Starbucks employees to say the phrase. The movement had caught on by Sunday with the hashtag “MerryChristmasStarbucks” trending on Facebook.

Here’s the plain red cup that’s got so many Christians’ knickers in knots:Starbucks christmas cups for 2015, via JezebelI find this a strange objection, because in prior years, Starbucks had never included any religious symbols on their holiday cups:

Past Starbucks holiday cups (in an animated GIF courtesy of GIFMaker.me)

Past Starbucks holiday cups (in an animated GIF courtesy of GIFMaker.me)

The name “Jesus” has never once appeared on a Starbucks cup, as far as I’ve been able to find. Nor have crosses, or Madonnas, or anything else of the sort. So I’m surprised that, this year, a minimal red design would kick up religionistic sanctimony, when previously a lack of any overt expression of Christianity on Starbucks holiday cups had never mattered before. And I don’t get how plain red cups can rationally be called an expression of hatred for Jesus. I mean, seriously, what the fuck?

If you’re curious as to why Starbucks did this, Time explains:

Starbucks has offered special holiday cups since 1997 with designs varying from year to year. Jeffrey Fields, the company’s vice president of design and content, explained this year’s design as a “more open way to usher in the holidays.”

“Starbucks has become a place of sanctuary during the holidays,” he said in a press release. “We’re embracing the simplicity and the quietness of it.”

The Christianist outrage aside, let’s step back from the edge and take a serious look at this. Why would Starbucks — which normally sells hot beverages in white cups — use red cups near the end of the year? Obviously, it’s an homage to Christmas, since the color red is symbolic of that holiday. So what if there are no other symbols or messages on the cups? Just the fact that the cups are red is a loud and clear acknowledgement by Starbucks that Christmas — not some other holiday or occasion — is on its way.

I’m just not getting these Christianists’ objections. I think the simple red-only design is striking and attractive. Maybe that’s because I’m a cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen and such important sacred considerations are beyond me. Yeah yeah, that’s it!

Photo credit: Top/first and middle/third by PsiCop; middle/second by Jezebel.

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When the Fail is so strong, one Facepalm is not enough / Picard & Riker / based on HaHaStop.ComI’ll grant that Dr Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and current Republican candidate for president, is probably a very smart guy in many ways. Correction: Make that “he must be” a very smart guy in many ways. You can’t do the sorts of operations he’s done without being intelligent. It’s just not possible.

That said, being smart doesn’t make one impervious to stupidity on occasion. Even the smartest people are known to be stupid, once in a while (WebCite cached article). For better or worse, that’s just human nature.

And Carson is no exception. Recently, Buzzfeed reported on an ancillary remark Carson had made during a 1998 commencement speech about the Egyptian pyramids having been used for grain storage (cached):

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson told graduates during a commencement address in the late ’90s that he believed the pyramids in Egypt were built by the biblical figure Joseph to store grain, and not, as most archeologists contend, as tombs for pharaohs.

At the 1998 commencement for Andrews University, a school associated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Carson also dismissed the notion that aliens were somehow involved in the construction of the pyramids.

“My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,” Carson said. “Now all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves.”

Let me be clear before we go any further here: The Egyptian pyramids were not built as warehouses — to hold grain, or anything else. They were, instead, tombs. They had some interior chambers, as well as tunnels or shafts to access those chambers which were usually filled in once the late pharaoh was interred, but overall, they weren’t hollow. This has been known for a very long time, and — aside from occasional wild, unsupportable claims by various cranks and pseudo-archaeologists — there’s really no question about it. Yes, even though Carson explicitly dismissed everything archaeologists have to say about them.

One wonders why someone smart would come out with such a demonstrably pseudohistorical claim … but one needn’t look far for an explanation. As Carson himself said, it was the Old Testament hero Joseph, Jacob’s favored son, who built it while he’d been in Egypt and had worked his way up from slave to pharaoh’s vizier due to his magical dream-interpretation ability. Joseph’s story takes up a significant portion of the book of Genesis (chapters 37 through 46). His dream interpretations told him there’d be seven years of plenty followed by seven more of famine; pharaoh put him in charge so he could prepare and allow Egypt to get through the famine without trouble.

Christian fundamentalists like Carson (yes, I’m aware he’s a Seventh-Day Adventist, but that sect is essentially a Protestant fundamentalist one) are convinced the Bible’s contents are historical and accurate, therefore, the patriarch Joseph actually did save Egypt (and subsequently his own people) by stockpiling large amounts of food. Having made this assumption, they further conclude that this event must have left some extant impression on Egypt … which is exactly what Carson said as he continued in his comments at the time:

“But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it. And I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain.”

Yes, it’s bizarre logic. But it’s precisely what I expect of fundamentalist Christians. They can’t help themselves, because they simply can’t imagine anything else! To them, everything that exists points to their Bible’s literal veracity, without regard to whether or not it actually does. They relentlessly intone the mantra that “archaeology confirms the Bible” even though, in fact, it does not do any such thing.

One thing I’ll give Carson credit for: He did disparage other crank theories that the pyramids had been built by extraterrestrials. That’s been widely claimed by “New Agers” and other assorted nutcases, because they simply can’t imagine the ancients had been capable of building anything so big, and because they keep saying no one knows how the pyramids had been built. In fact, though, the Egyptians really did build them, and we do know precisely how they were built … from primary sources, no less!

Now, Carson might have said this back in 1998 — 17 years ago. So it wouldn’t seem very relevant now. And I wouldn’t have blogged about it. But with the passage of time, Carson hasn’t relented. Having been asked about the Buzzfeed story, CBS News reports he’s sticking by his weird Christian-literalist theory (cached):

Ben Carson stood by his long-held belief about ancient pyramids in Egypt, that they were used to store grain, rather than to inter pharaohs.

Asked about this Wednesday, Carson told CBS News, “It’s still my belief, yes.”

Yes, folks, this is a man who wants to be president. Either he genuinely believes this, in which case he’s clinging to an erroneous notion in order to back up his own irrational metaphysics, or he’s just saying it in order to appeal to Christian fundies who make up a large proportion of GOP primary voters so that they can back up their own irrational metaphysics … but either way, it’s not good.

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Mob with pitchforks / Rockford (IL) Register StarYes, folks, it’s true. There are actually Christians in the US who think freedom of religion is a terrible thing. Or more precisely … they like it, but when applied only to themselves. That is, they think everyone is free to be a Christian — but only a Christian; they’re not free to be anything else (cached), or to have no religion at all.

An example of this sort of thinking was evident late last week in Spring, TX. According to KTRK-TV in Houston, Christians there protested the opening of a “Luciferian” church (cached):

Protest and prayer filled the air outside of Spring’s newest church Friday evening: the Greater Church of Lucifer.…

Some protesters made their way onto the property, only to be escorted off by Harris County Sheriff’s Deputies.

“This is what we get when we have Freedom of Religion,” said protester Christine Weick.

This was the group’s first meeting at its first building, which is smack dab in the middle of Old Town Spring.

There’s more than a little magical thinking going on among this crowd of militant Christianist protesters:

“We are all Christians here, together against this,” [Weick] said. “We ought to be filling up the whole street here that they have to pass through us to get into that church.”

Clearly, Weick thinks that these horrific Luciferians having to run a gantlet of devout Christian protesters will magically make them take Jesus Christ as their Personal Lord & Savior® or something. That, of course, is just as insipid and idiotic as thinking Ten Commandments monuments in courthouses will magically make the whole country law-abiding.

As I always do when I see stories like this, I will issue this challenge to any and all Christianists who sincerely think “religious freedom” applies only to them and no one else: If you really think that, then track me down and force this cynical, godless agnostic heathen to convert to Christianity, whichever form of it you think I’m obliged to join. Go right ahead. Do it. I dare you! Lock and load. I won’t fight back, but I also won’t willingly convert … no matter what you do. That said, you’re free to give it your best shot. And why wouldn’t you? You already think I’m obliged, as an American living in your precious “Christian nation,” to become a Christian. What logical reason would you have not to at least try to make that happen with me?

Photo credit: Rockford Register Star.

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Police stand with the body of Faisal Arefin Deepan, a publisher of secular books. Photograph: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images, via the GuardianIslamists in Bangladesh are clearly worked up over the existence of secularists in their country. And they’ve been doing something about it. Namely they’ve been attacking and often killing them. Two more such attacks happened yesterday, as the AP reports via the New York Times, and one secularist publisher was killed (WebCite cached article):

[Faisal Arefin Deepan, a] publisher of secular books was hacked to death and three other people were wounded in two separate attacks Saturday at publishing houses in Bangladesh’s capital, police said.

The attacks in Dhaka come amid fears about the rise of radical Islam in Bangladesh. At least four atheist bloggers have been murdered in the impoverished country this year.

Both of the publishers involved in Saturday’s attacks had published works of Bangladeshi-American blogger and writer Avijit Roy, who was hacked to death on the Dhaka University campus while walking with his wife in February.

This type of violence is not new in the country that the late George Harrison had done so much to help. Sigh.

It’s clear this is something that’s not going to stop happening, especially when there are Bangladeshi officials willing to blame secularists there for being attacked and slaughtered, and protesters have routinely accused their government of not doing more about the problem (cached).

Given this clear pattern of violence against secularists in Bangladesh, I’m reminded of how the Religious Right here in the US constantly bewails Christian persecution abroad, and specifically what they’ve determined to be President Obama’s unwillingness to do anything about it (cached, cached, & cached). Some have even gone so far as to accuse him of underwriting a campaign to wipe out Christianity around the world. Should atheists and other non-believers now take up the same reasoning, but about themselves? That Obama is allowing secularists to be massacred around the globe, as part of his effort to destroy non-belief around the world? Yes, of course that would be insane. Which should help illustrate how insane the R.R.’s thinking on the subject is.

Photo credit: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images, via the (UK) Guardian.

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Wall clocks / camera4u, via PixabayFor several years I’ve blogged about the scam which is Daylight Saving Time. It’s a ridiculous, twice-annual exercise in stupidity which provides no benefits and only burdens people (some of them fatally).

Over the years since I’ve started calling DST out as the fraud it is, I’ve seen a small amount of media attention which also debunks it; for instance, this CNN story, released today, with DST ending this coming Sunday (WebCite cached version). Sadly, there’s just not enough of this to make any real difference. That, however, may change, now that there’ve been more serious studies of DST and its effects.

An example of this, as the Washington Post reports, is a soon-to-be-issued study which suggests making DST permanent may reduce crime (cached):

Making daylight saving time permanent — by never “falling back” again — could save the country billions a year in social costs by reducing rapes and robberies that take place in the evening hours, according to a forthcoming paper [cached] by researchers at the Brookings Institution and Cornell University.…

The mechanism that might cause this drop is fairly simple: “Most street crime occurs in the evening around common commuting hours of 5 to 8 PM,” the authors write, “and more ambient light during typical high-crime hours makes it easier for victims and passers-by to see potential threats and later identify wrongdoers.”

Moreover, according to the paper, the drop in crime during evening hours wasn’t accompanied by a rise in crime during the morning hours. Criminals aren’t morning people, as it turns out. In addition to the decrease in robbery rates, the researchers found “suggestive evidence” of a decrease in the incidence of rape during the evening hours, as well.

Permanent DST appears, then, to be a very reasonable solution. Hopefully the powers-that-be will begin discussing it. Let’s get on it!

Photo credit: camera4u, via Pixabay.

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Better to remain silent, and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth, and remove all doubt! (proverb) / PsiCop original graphicThe endless parade of expressions of “disaster theology” used by Christianists continues apace. It’s ridiculous, and childish, and a low thing to do (i.e. exploiting bad things that happen in order to make one’s own religion look good), but they just fucking love to do it! The latest is a particularly classy example (and of course, I’m being sarcastic). As Raw Story explains, well-known evangelist Ray Comfort was almost giddy to hear about a catastrophe that took place recently in India (WebCite cached article):

A creationist pastor mocked Hindus who were killed or injured when a religious idol fell on them as they worshipped.

One man was killed and three people were injured [cached] when a statue of the elephant god Ganesh collapsed during a worship service last month in India, and a video of the tragedy was circulated and widely reported last week.

Ray Comfort — who is probably best known for arguing that bananas disproved evolution, at least until he learned that they were the products of artificial selection by humans — posted a link to an article about the tragedy and urged his followers to donate to his Living Waters ministry.

“The Bible says that those who worship dumb idols, are just like them,” Comfort posted on his Facebook page [cached]. “How India needs the gospel! But we don’t have to go there to take it to them. We have the Internet.”

Comfort’s fans quickly picked up what he was laying down and praised God’s wrathful judgment.

Yeah, I guess that’s what those “dumb” Hindus deserve, eh? To be injured or killed by their own statute?

By the way, Comfort miscomprehends the words of the Bible. The only verses I could find that mentions “dumb idols,” in any English translation, are Habakkuk 2:18 and 1 Corinthians 12:2 in the King James Version:

What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? (Hab 2:18)

Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. (1 Cor 12:2)

But most English translations, especially the better recent ones, don’t use “dumb.” For instance, the New American Standard Version has:

What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, or an image, a teacher of falsehood? For its maker trusts in his own handiwork when he fashions speechless idols. (Hab 2:18)

You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. (1 Cor 12:2)

Neither verse says that worshippers of “dumb” idols (as Comfort put it) is “dumb” (and by that, I assume, he means “stupid”) are themselves “dumb.” What’s more, the original Greek of the 1 Corinthians passage, which I happen to understand, is:

οιδτε οτι οτε εθνη ητε προς τα ειδωλα τα αφωνα ως αν ηγεσθε απαγομενοι

oidate oti ethné éte pros ta eidóla ta afóna ós an égesthe apagomenoi (1 Cor 12:2)

The word quoted by Comfort, and translated by the KJV team, as “dumb” is afóna, a form of afónos, which means “silent” (the negation prefix a- followed by the Greek word for “sound,” which came into English in words such as “telephone” and “phonograph”). Granted, the word “dumb” in English did, in the King James era and also now in an older usage, mean “speechless” (for instance, in the expression “deaf and dumb”). Comfort ought to have known better … especially since — among other things — he claims to be a Bible scholar.

At any rate, one can see what Christianists like Comfort, as well as many of those who commented on his Facebook posting, really think of non-Christians. Really nice, huh?

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on proverb.

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Berlin Holocaust Memorial in snowFor years now, the “appeal to Hitler” (or reductio ad Hitlerum) (aka “appeal to Nazis,” reductio ad regnum tertium, etc.) has been a rhetorical weapon people have used to disparage pretty much anyone they hate. Since his election, the Right has hurled ad Hitlerums at President Obama pretty much non-stop, but prior to that, the Left often threw them at President G.W. Bush and V.P. Cheney. It’s an old habit, then, among American ideologues.

I’ve cataloged many instances of politicians, clergy and pundits using this vile propaganda technique, right here in this blog. It’s almost always invalid, because the people accused of being Nazis usually haven’t come even remotely close to doing anything like what the real Nazis really did during the 1930s and ’40s. Essentially, whenever I hear someone throwing around ad Hitlerums, I dismiss him/her as a childish whining crybaby who has nothing worthwhile to say.

In his own ongoing propaganda war against the Palestinians, as Haaretz reports, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just let loose with his own clever twist on the old ad Hitlerum (WebCite cached article):

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparked public uproar when on Wednesday he claimed that the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was the one who planted the idea of the extermination of European Jewry in Adolf Hitler’s mind. The Nazi ruler, Netanyahu said, had no intention of killing the Jews, but only to expel them.

In a speech before the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu described a meeting between Husseini and Hitler in November, 1941: “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jew. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here (to Palestine).’ According to Netanyahu, Hitler then asked: “What should I do with them?” and the mufti replied: “Burn them.”

Netanyahu’s remarks were quick to spark a social media storm, though Netanyahu made a similar claim during a Knesset speech in 2012, where he described the Husseini as “one of the leading architects” of the final solution.

Haaretz doesn’t elaborate much on what makes Bibi’s claim counterfactual, but a (UK) Guardian story on his remarks does (cached):

Yad Vashem’s chief historian, Prof Dina Porat, told the Israeli news website Ynet that Netanyahu’s claims were incorrect. “You cannot say that it was the mufti who gave Hitler the idea to kill or burn Jews. It’s not true. Their meeting occurred after a series of events that point to this.”…

n reality, the mass killings of Jews by SS mobile killing units – Einsatzgruppen – were already under way when the two men met face to face. The first was in Lithuania in July 1941, described by Yad Vashem as the “beginning” of the Final Solution.

In September 1941, again before Husseini’s meeting with Hitler, Einsatzgruppe C, commanded by Otto Rasch, killed more than 33,000 Jews over two days in the Babi Yar ravine on the outskirts of Kiev, an act of mass murder ordered by the new Nazi military governor of Kiev, Maj Gen Kurt Eberhard.

Look, I get that Israel and the Palestinians have a long, violent history. (Neither side has clean hands in that conflict … but at the moment, that’s beside the point.) I get that a new “stabbing intifada” has erupted, for purely irrational reasons (cached), and Bibi has to deal with it.

I also concede that Grand Mufti al-Husseini was, in fact, a ready student of Nazi propaganda and a raging anti-Semite. In many ways the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is perhaps the last extant relic of the Third Reich. But there’s just no way one can say he was the architect of the Holocaust. Simple chronology rules out any possibility of it.

Really, I get why Bibi would want to disparage Palestinians. I do. Honest! But … to lay the entirety of the Holocaust at their feet? When the facts don’t even come close to justifying it? Sorry, but that’s just wrong.

It’s time for everyone in the occidental world to just stop talking about Hitler and the Nazis already. Just. Fucking. Stop. If anyone feels the impulse to mention the Third Reich, s/he should stifle it and move on to something else. Or better yet, just shut up and stop talking altogether. (As the old proverb goes, it’s better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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