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Gutenberg Bible, Lenox Copy, New York Public Library, 2009. Pic 01Note: There’s been a little news about this; please see below.

The people of the great Bible Belt (or should I say, Bobble Bay-elt) state of Tennessee are at it again. Because their precious Christianity is under attack or something, they’ve decided they need to act to protect it. What Tennessee needs, they think, is more God. Toward that end, as NPR reports, the TN legislature has approved a law to make the Bible the state book (WebCite cached article):

In what is believed to be a first, the Bible could be adopted as a symbol of Tennessee, after the Legislature narrowly approved a bill designating “the Holy Bible as the official state book.” The measure now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam.

“Critics called the proposal both unconstitutional and sacrilegious,” Nashville Public Radio reports [cached]. “They also pointed out there are many versions of the Bible, none of which are specified in the resolution.”

The Senate version of the legislation, HB 0615 [cached], was sponsored by state Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, who noted the importance of the Bible in Tennessee’s history — both in its role as a historic record of important family milestones and as the heart of the state’s multimillion-dollar Bible-printing industry.

I’m not aware that the presence of well-known religious publishers in Tennessee required the state government to make the Bible the state book … but what the hell could this cynical, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about anything this important? Southerland dismisses the obvious state promotion of religion angle inherent in this story:

Responding to criticisms of the bill, Southerland said the Bible is not only about religion but also about ethics, economics and other matters. He drew part of that response, he said, from a study Bible.

“What we’re doing here is recognizing it for its historical and cultural contributions to the state of Tennessee,” Southerland said.

Lots of books have made “historical and cultural contributions to” Tennessee and other states. That doesn’t mean the state should actively promote any of them. If a book has made enough of a “historical and cultural contribution,” then no recognition should be required at all!

The law doesn’t state which Bible, exactly, is the state book. Theoretically this means it avoids sectarian conflicts (since Catholics, for example, might object if a Protestant Bible version were to have been named the state book). But it would still seem to exclude Jews, as well as anyone else who doesn’t revere the Christian Bible. So it does have a sectarian effect nonetheless.

Tennessee’s governor and attorney general have both expressed reservations about this law, so it’s not clear it will be signed or implemented. A similar effort died in Lousiana. But even if it dies, the TN legislature shouldn’t have wasted its time on this religiofascist lunacy.

Update: It turns out that passing this law was a waste of time. Governor Bill Haslam vetoed it (cached).

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Help! Help! I'm being repressed! (Dennis the constitutional peasant, Monty Python & the Holy Grail)By now most of my readers will have heard about the passing of North Carolina’s “bathroom law” a couple weeks ago (WebCite cached article), and yesterday’s signing of an anti-LGBT law in Mississippi (cached). The Religious Right has marketed laws of this type — along with a similar law in Georgia that was vetoed (cached) — as providing “religious freedom” to a downtrodden minority that’s about to be wiped out by the vile forces of secularism. They erupted in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which made gay marriage available nationally. Ostensibly, these laws are intended to prevent forcing anti-gay florists, bakers, and caterers from being hired to work gay weddings. That, you see, would be a horrible form of oppression that they simply can’t tolerate. I guess. Oh, the poor little things!

These two particular laws, however, go further than just doing that … much further. The North Carolina law, for instance, is known as “the bathroom law” because it requires transgender people in government buildings to go to bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates (cached). The Mississippi law appears to have been so broadly worded that it allows any business to discriminate against gays, not just for their weddings, but any time (cached).

What makes the NC law stupid is that, even in public restrooms, it shouldn’t really matter which one someone goes into; ordinarily no one is fully exposed while they’re “doing their business.” So it’s quite possible for transgender people to go into a restroom, use it, and leave without anyone being any the wiser. In other words, then, does it really fucking matter which bathroom a transgender person uses? Also, it’s stupid because it can’t be enforced without police having access to people’s birth certificates so they can verify which facility someone must legally use. School officials might have these in the case of students, but it wouldn’t be the case for everyone who uses a restroom in a government building.

What makes the Mississippi law objectionable is that it could easily make gays into second-class citizens, barred from businesses that don’t like them. If enough of them in a community should do this, it could make gays’ lives very difficult. One can’t help but view this sort of thing as being akin to the “Jim Crow” laws used to oppress blacks, just a few decades ago.

The problem with all of this is its basic premise, which is that the Religious Right is entitled to meddle in others’ private lives, because they have metaphysical beliefs about how everyone should live. Obergefell v. Hodges, among other things, forces them to have to treat people whom they disapprove of as though they were fellow human beings — and they just can’t stand that for even one second.

Look, I’m all for “religious freedom,” but granting religious believers power over the lives of others — in the name of granting them “freedom” — just isn’t going to fly. “Religious freedom” applies to believers’ churches and homes. It’s not a license to impose their metaphysics on everyone else.

I get that religious florists, bakers and caterers don’t like having to work gay weddings. But in truth, flowers, cakes, and meals don’t make weddings happen! The couple, their witnesses, and the officiant make a wedding happen. Everything else is superfluous. That there are flowers, or a cake, or a dinner makes no difference whatsoever. The couple will end up just as married without them, as with them. So gay-hating florists, bakers and caterers withholding their business, isn’t going to stop gay weddings from occurring. For believers to think they have not only that power, but the right to exert it, is arrogance of the highest order — not to mention, a delusion. Florists, bakers, and caterer are in the business of arranging flowers, baking cakes, and catering receptions. They should do so, and stop sniveling and whining about gays getting married, fercryinoutloud.

But even with all of that having been said … the aforementioned folks are only the tips of the icebergs in North Carolina and Mississippi. As I noted, both of the laws just passed do a lot more than just “protect” florists, bakers and caterers from having to work gay weddings. Additional provisions were thrown in, with the intention of making gays’ lives much worse, overall. It’s time the Religious Right grow the fuck up, admitted that they hate gays and LGBT folks simply because they’re gay or LGBT, and stop acting as though their hatred is holy. Their mischaracterization of their own motives and wishes makes them lying liars for Jesus. I wonder what he’d have to say about that? It’s possible that what he might tell them isn’t something they want to hear … !

Photo credit: Graphic based on Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

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'Ten time NCAA National Champions in Women's Basketball: UCONN' / via TrueBlueUConnPardon me, Dear Reader, for another off-topic post. As an alumnus of the University of Connecticut, things have reached the point where I just can’t help but weigh in on this topic. So here goes:

In case you didn’t know it, there’s a big basketball tournament underway. No, not the NCAA men’s tournament; I refer, instead, to the women’s NCAA tournament (WebCite cached version). Over the last few years there’s been a lot of grousing in the sports world over UConn’s dominance of this sport. They’ve won the last three national championships in a row, but even more than that, have been dominating in the games they play. Lately they’re 120-1 and have won all of those 120 by at least double digits. They haven’t just won a lot, they’ve blown people away … staggeringly. The main reason for this is that Breanna Stewart — who’s been called the best collegiate athlete in the country, male or female, in any sport — plays for them. But as someone who’s watched them since the 1980s (when they were really bad), I can tell you, it’s not just “Stewie.” The UConn women’s basketball team has a full complement of excellent players. There are no significant holes in their lineup.

At any rate, several years of consistent blowouts has led many in the sports media to wonder if the UConn women’s basketball team is “ruining” their sport. Among the latest sports media figures to do so was Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, who tweeted a week ago (cached):

Now, Shaughnessy’s sports beat is the Boston Red Sox, so expecting him to expound cogently on a women’s college basketball team is probably asking a bit much. Later on, he said he wasn’t really blaming the Huskies for what they were doing — even if the text of his tweet clearly says otherwise (i.e. “they are killing women’s game,” emphasis mine). He just objected to how lame the other teams are, I guess. UConn coach, Geno Auriemma, responded by telling Shaughnessy it’s fine if he doesn’t watch (cached). Since then, the rest of the sports world has weighed in on the matter. Some of it is ridiculous, such as these comments by Fred Toucher of WBZ-FM — on whose show Shaughnessy appeared, in an effort to rehabilitate himself after the tweet (cached):

Do you understand that you’re not allowed to have an opinion on something in your hotel room while watching something on television? It exists, so you must like it. That is what’s going on now.

“You don’t like it; you’re a hater!”

“Oh, you don’t like women’s college basketball?! You’re sexist!”

Nice to see how he was able to turn this into a childish, anti-political-correctness tirade. Well done, dude! You must be so proud!

As much as Toucher would like it to be otherwise, this isn’t about whether or not someone likes women’s basketball, and it’s not about misogyny. It’s about whether or not a Division I basketball team should be permitted to play to its full potential, against opponents who — by and large — simply don’t match up to them. You see, as this piece from Deadspin (cached) makes clear, the UConn women’s team itself pretty much doesn’t care. They’re going out to play … and that’s all there is to it. They’re not about to slow down, or worse, purposely throw a couple games, just to satisfy a bunch of whiney sports writers. Nor should they! This is the kind of professionalism that’s gotten them where they are, and it will help those on the team who get to the WNBA.

As I said, this isn’t about the UConn women’s team. What they’re doing is what they’ve been doing for over 20 years now, which is to go on the court and play their hearts out. And that’s precisely what they should do. No, the problem is the rest of women’s college basketball. Aside from a very small number of other teams which are really good (e.g. Notre Dame, Stanford, Baylor, South Carolina), women’s college basketball teams are really afterthoughts in the minds of athletic departments. Very few resources are assigned to them. It’s a program they’re obligated to provide by virtue of Title IX, but it’s not something they’re invested in.

Now, one factor here is marketing and television revenue. Few schools have contracts covering their women’s basketball games, aside from a handful each year that ESPN might pick up via conference contracts. UConn has a contract of its own with New York sports network SNY, which picks up all the women’s games not served by the American Athletic Conference contract with ESPN. Prior to that, this contract had been with CPTV, Connecticut’s public television outlet. It’s a luxury many schools don’t have … but it’s not something they can’t exploit, if they wanted to.

Another consideration here is that, back in the 1980s when Auriemma was hired, UConn women’s basketball was lousy. Auriemma and the rest of the athletic department built it up over the course of years. A tipping point came with the recruiting of Kerry Bascom (cached). UConn began its consistent run of NCAA tournament appearances once she was on board, and it hasn’t let up since. But before that, there was nothing to speak of. If little UConn, out in the wilderness of eastern Connecticut, can build a relentless women’s basketball powerhouse from literally nothing, there’s no reason other schools can’t do the same. Their athletic departments just have to work at it. Nothing can stop them, if they wish to. Some schools are doing this: South Carolina is the most recent example I can think of. There’s talent out there to be had — UConn can’t take on every McDonald’s All American every year. Schools just need to hire good coaches, then go get the athletes.

The bottom line is, it’s time for people like Shaughnessy and his friend Toucher to stop bellyaching that women’s college basketball isn’t interesting because UConn wins too often. That they win a lot isn’t the problem. That other schools don’t try as hard to compete, is. They need to get off their asses and work at it … just as UConn has done since 1985 when Geno Auriemma was hired.

I won’t even get into the fact that dominance of any given sport by a team is something the sports media usually likes. For example, they’ve largely praised the Golden State Warriors, who are nearing the end of a possibly record-breaking season (cached). Each year there’s talk about which college football teams have been unbeaten. And on and on it goes. But they just can’t seem to view UConn the same way. Is it because it’s a women’s sport we’re talking about? Maybe. There are a lot of people who think all women’s sports are, by definition, lame. Is it because of geography? A lot of Americans can’t place Connecticut on a map. For some reason, New England sports teams get little or no respect in other parts of the country (I can’t travel outside the region with Red Sox, Bruins, or Patriots garb, without putting up with some nasty comment or other). I seriously wonder if that has something to do with it, as well.

But really, it shouldn’t matter. People who work in the sports media ought to be above their own petty subjective tastes. The problem is not with the sport of women’s college basketball, it’s how schools run their programs. And it needs to change — the sooner, the better.

Update: The UConn women’s basketball team defeated Syracuse, by a score of 82-51, last night to end the tournament (cached). It’s their 11th national championship, their 4th in a row, and it capped their 6th perfect season. Seniors Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck have played to 4 championships, something no other college athletes have done before.

Photo credit: TrueBlueUConn.

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Noah's Ark toys / ariesa66, via PixabayFor ages, Christianists committed to a literal reading of the Genesis creation legend have worked diligently to force others to believe in it the way they do. It’s never enough for them that they believe in it; they require everyone else’s agreement, too. Anything less is directly harmful to them … somehow. I have no idea how, but they’re convinced of it, and they act accordingly.

Toward that end they’ve been trying to ram their Creationism down school kids’ throats, for decades. That teaching religion in public school is unconstitutional hasn’t really been enough to stop them. Many Christianists go so far as to deny the unconstitutionality of it, even if they’d scream and holler like banshees if a public-school teacher taught — say — the Slavic creation myth rather than the Genesis Creation story. Even so, courts haven’t seen things this way, so Creationists have had to devise other tactics to get their religion into schools … such as by calling it “Creation Science” (which it’s not, because there’s no “science” in it), or “intelligent design,” which also doesn’t work.

Courts have generally seen through these charades, too. But that hasn’t stopped Christianists from keeping up the effort to force their beliefs on school children. Oh no. They just keep at it, relentlessly. As the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports, a Democratic state senator in Louisiana recently took up this cause (WebCite cached article):

State Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, made the case for teaching creationism in schools Tuesday night (March 29).

“Scientific research and developments and advances in the last 100 years — particularly the last 15, 20, 10 years — have validated the biblical story of creation,” the freshman state senator said.

Milkovich, who is the vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said archeologists and scientists have verified the origin story of the Christian Bible. He said archeologists had found the remnants of Noah’s ark recently. A study of rocks had verified that the earth was created in a week, Milkovich said.

This is a bold-faced, brazen, out-&-out lie. Science has not, in fact, “validated the biblical story of creation.” Not at all, and not even in the slightest way. Noah’s Ark has not been found. The recent “discovery” Milkovich mentions is — as it turns out — a big fucking hoax promoted by a pro-Flood crank (cached). And that’s not the only Noah’s Ark discovery hoax that’s been perpetrated over the last few decades (cached).

Lies, lies, lies, lies, lies! All lies!

I have to add Milkovich to my “lying liars for Jesus” club. He’ll be in good company there, even if most of his fellow politicians in that assembly are Republicans rather than Democrats like himself.

I’m continually amazed at the shamelessness of militant Christianists like Milkovich. They lie, and lie some more, and lie even more, on and on and on, and they do so openly and with the approval of a large segment of the public. They literally cannot be shamed into stopping, because they have none. They’re doing “the Lord’s work,” you see, so that makes their lies OK. Or something. I guess. I mean, they must think their Jesus wants them to lie for him. No?

Photo credit: ariesa66, via Pixabay.

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Glenn Beck speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. / Gage Skidmore, via FlickrIn the continuing freak show that is the 2016 election, yet another weird metaphysical moment has cropped up. The paranoid Christofascist Glenn Beck, who’s a Mormon, has been promoting the candidacy of Sen. Ted Cruz, an evangelical Protestant, for quite some time now. That in itself isn’t news, even if it is an example of the “strange bedfellows” effect — I say that because evangelical Protestants aren’t fond of Mormonism, considering it non-Christian (WebCite cached article).

No, their relationship has gone a little deeper. As the Salt Lake Tribune reports, Glennie suggested Cruz may be a Mormon savior (cached):

Beck said that he, like many Mormons, believes in a prophecy that the Constitution will hang by a thread in the last days. He said he believes that now is that time, and people like Lee and Cruz will save it.

He also said the Book of Mormon was created as a guide on how to protect freedom in our day. At the Provo rally, many responded yelling, “I believe.”

I’m not aware the Book of Mormon had anything to say about freedom, but I guess the Beckster is entitled to inject his Christocratic impulses into it if he wants to. The prophecy he’s referring to is called “the White Horse Prophecy.” While it’s not official LDS doctrine, a lot of Mormons believe in this “prophecy” which posits some Constitutional crisis will occur, which will be resolved by the institution of a mainly-Mormon Christocracy. How the Constitution could possibly be “saved” by the institution of a decidedly-unconstitutional theocracy, is beyond my comprehension. It sure sounds like a contradiction in terms to me — but then, what could I, cynical, insolent, godless agnostic heathen that I am, possibly know about such important sacred things? It’s also strange that Beckie-boy woudl portray an evangelical Protestant as the guy who will, someday, establish a Mormon theocracy. That also makes no sense.

For me, the much more important consideration is that Beckie-boy has aligned himself with a guy whose sect of Christianity is rather plainly hostile to his own (cached). Yeah, I get that both Glennie and Teddie are Christofacists, but ultimately their goals are divergent. If either gets the kind of government he wants, sectarian conflict will erupt which could destroy the other. It’s as bad as Catholic bishops making nice with the evangelical Protestants within the Religious Right movement; they, too, might one day rue that alliance.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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Yoga woman / via PixabayFor the last few years there’s been a backlash among American Christians against the practice of yoga. Back in 2010, Al Mohler (of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) declared it un-Christian, citing its Hindu roots, and claiming that blanking one’s mind is something Christians can never do. (Yes. For some reason.) There have also been lawsuits over yoga in schools. Yoga’s origins as a Hindu philosophy are undisputed, but as its practiced in the US, it has very little to do with that religion.

Still, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, that hasn’t stopped some devout Christian parents in Georgia from objecting to it in one of their schools (WebCite cached article):

A group of parents at a Cobb County elementary are upset over the school’s use of yoga and other mindfulness practices for students because they believe it endorses a non-Christian belief system.

School leaders at Bullard Elementary held a meeting recently with parents to address the “many misconceptions” over the issue that “created a distraction in our school and community,” according to an email to parents from Bullard principal Patrice Moore.…

As a result, the school is making changes. When yoga moves are used in classrooms, students will not say the word “namaste” nor put their hands by their hearts, according to the email. The term and gesture are often used as a greeting derived from Hindu custom.

When coloring during classroom teaching breaks, students will not be allowed to color mandalas, spiritual symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Granted, there’s a lot of BS out there about the word “namaste.” I’ve heard New Agers translate it as “the divine in me bows to the divine in you.” So yeah, for some folks, it has religious connotations. But with that said … all of that is excess baggage. “Namaste” comes down from Sanskrit, and is just a simple greeting, the equivalent of “hello” (its exact translation, if you must know, is “I bow to you”).

As the AJC article explains, yoga programs have popped up in schools around the country. I’m not sure how helpful it is, but unless there’s a lot more overt religiosity involved than what’s been described here, I just don’t see how it could be viewed as promoting Hinduism or undermining Christianity. It’s just a form of meditation.

Also, as the article mentions, one of the Christianist parents’ bogeymen here is their whine that — supposedly — Christian prayers aren’t allowed in public schools. They forget that prayers (from any religion) are definitely allowed … it’s just that school personnel can’t lead them. And they forget that yoga isn’t prayer (at least, not as it’s being done). Really, this is just another manifestation of their phony persecution complex.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: Pixabay.

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Aftermath of Brussels airport bombing / (UK) IndependentThis morning, we Americans woke to some terrible — but not entirely surprising — news. The “religion of peace” has struck again. As numerous outlets, including CNN, report just now, three blasts rocked the city of Brussels, Belgium (WebCite cached article):

Three explosions that ripped through the Belgian capital of Brussels on Tuesday killed at least 28 people, according to Belgian media, and raised the reality of terror once again in the heart of Europe.

“We were fearing terrorist attacks, and that has now happened,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters.

Belgian federal Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said it was too soon to know exactly how many people died in the bombings. Yet the Brussels Metro Authority reported that 15 died and 55 were wounded in the subway station blast. And public broadcaster VRT said at least 13 more were killed, and about 35 were injured, in the two blasts in the Brussels airport departure hall.

Of the two explosions at the airport, at least one was a suicide bombing, Van Leeuw said. A blast happened there outside the security checkpoints for ticketed passengers and near the airline check-in counters, an airline official briefed on the situation said.

It’s not yet clear which exact Islamist-terror organization was behind these attacks; there’ve been no claims of responsibility and officials are only just gathering information.[Update 1] At this point there doesn’t appear to be much to say that hasn’t already been said many times already. So I will close with what I said after the Paris attacks last November:

Clearly, the “Religion of Peace” has shown its true colors … again! … even if, by now, no sane person actually needs such an illustration. Predictably, Muslim leaders and organizations around the world have condemned the attacks on Paris, but let’s be honest: Those condemnations will accomplish nothing whatsoever. ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck and all its ilk will continue their barbaric terror campaigns, and they’ll keep attracting Muslim recruits from around the world. It’s not going to stop just because some scholars of Islam mouth recriminations against Islamist terror. The Islamists already don’t give a flying fuck what anyone else thinks, and they’re not going to, ever. Mere words don’t matter, and have no discernible effect on them.

The sooner the world’s Muslims begin actively (rather than just verbally) dealing with the festering sore deep within their religion, which these violent barbarians believe grants divine sanction to their savage terror campaign, the sooner something can actually be done about it. But sadly, I just don’t see that happening. Not enough of them have the courage to do so.

Nothing will change, I’m sure … just as nothing was done in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks. It never does. I’m reminded of this classic Bible verse:

That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done.
So there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

P.S. Christianists had best not use this to get on their high horses and start bellowing out their usual sanctimonious Neocrusading crap. Right-wing (and yes, Christian!) terror exists, and is a greater danger to Americans than Islamists’.

Update 1: Reuters reports that ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever has, in fact, claimed responsibility for the Brussels attacks (cached).

Photo credit: (UK) Independent.

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