Archive for the “General” Category

Posts of a general nature

Pope Francis leaves after officiating a mass at the wedding of 20 couples in St.Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, September 14, 2014. REUTERS/Giampiero SpositoSeveral times I’ve blogged about Pope Francis diverging from established papal traditions, even when his own officials in the Vatican disapproved. Well, he’s done it again. The Pope married 20 couples today, Reuters reports, some of whom aren’t what one would call traditional candidates for marriage in the Catholic Church (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis married 20 couples on Sunday, some of whom had already lived together and had children, in the latest sign that the Argentine pontiff wants the Catholic church to be more open and inclusive.

In the first wedding he has performed in his 18-month-old papacy, Francis took each couple through their vows in turn — including Gabriella and Guido, who already had children and thought such a marriage would be impossible, official broadcasting service Radio Vaticana said.

“The people getting married on Sunday are couples like many others,” the diocese of Rome said in a statement. “Some already live together, some already have children.”

I hadn’t realized it, but Popes marrying people is fairly rare, as Reuters explains:

The ceremony was the first of its kind in the Vatican since Pope John Paul II presided over a wedding in 2000, when he was the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.

I expect traditionalists within the Church will soon pitch fits over this. It wouldn’t be the first time, and as I said, the Pope doesn’t seem to mind such confrontations. Which is kind of a refreshing change from the past.

Photo credit: Reuters/Giampiero Sposito.

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Gustave Doré (1832-1883), The Crusaders war machinery, via Wikimedia CommonsThis is the second of two posts today on the subject of what I call the Great Neocrusade … i.e. the American Religious Right’s war on Islam, mostly within the US but in some cases not limited just to this country.

There are a lot of really angry Christianists in the US, and most of them are mortally offended by the mere existence of Islam, which they view as the world’s chief rival to their own religion. Many of them sincerely believe that there’s no such thing as “Islamic extremism”; in their minds, all Muslims everywhere are by definition “extremists,” so all Muslims must be put down before they slaughter everyone else. Or something like that.

That the US is now contending with the Islamofascist group ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-people-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood isn’t helping. That particular outfit is guilty of a level of savagery the world hasn’t seen much of in the last decade or so. Boko Haram’s kidnapping of hundreds of girls in Nigeria earlier this year, and al-Shabaab’s attack on a mall in Kenya a year ago, provide similar examples of the primitive barbarism some Muslims have been willing to stoop to in the name of their particular version of Islam.

While groups like this don’t represent the entirety of Islam — in fact, other Muslims are more frequently the targets of their savagery — these sorts of events fuel Christianists’ sanctimonious rage over Islam and push them to lash out as a result. Right Wing Watch reports on one such Christofascist whose shit-fit over Islam made him declare an “overwhelming Christian just war” on that faith (WebCite cached article):

Yesterday, anti-Islam activist Gary Cass, founder of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, posted a piece on his website [cached] in which he calls for Christians to prepare to wage holy war in an effort to utterly destroy all 1.6 billion of the world’s Muslims because Christians simply have to “face the harsh truth that Islam has no place in civilized society.”

Saying that there is no possibility of converting Muslims to Christianity and forcibly sterilizing all Muslims in order to prevent them from building an “Army of Islam” is impractical, Cass declares that the only solution is biblical violence, which is why Americans must now begin preparing to launch an “overwhelming Christian just war” by arming themselves and their children and forming “small cells” that will “crush the vicious seed of Ishmael in Jesus name”

I won’t quote any of this creature’s nasty screed. If you feel like reading it, you can do so for yourself. I will just point out that Cass’s group, the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, is just another of many Christianist groups who presume that Christianity needs to be “defended” because it’s about to be wiped off the map. There is, of course, no effort to abolish Christianity in the US even if Cass and his colleagues believe there is. Christians are the majority in the country and will remain so for the indefinite future. He and the rest of the Religious Right have been hoodwinked by the psychopathology inherent in their own religion to want to feel persecuted for their beliefs, so they simply invent that persecution.

In any event, while the country’s Christofascists are cheering on Cass’s declaration of “just war” on Islam, I’m sure the rest of the world … especially the Muslim parts of it … aren’t entirely impressed. Cass doesn’t care about them, of course. In fact, the angrier they get, the happier he gets, because their anger only fuels his own sanctimonious indignation over Muslims’ continued insolent refusal to convert en masse to Christianity. In their minds, the only way to deal with some Islamists’ jihad against the rest of the world, is to direct a Christian holy war right back at them! In the meantime, those of us who’re neither Christian nor Muslim are watching these two groups engage in a pissing contest over whose god can beat up who else’s god. It’s all very tedious and also deadly, but since both sides are deeply mired in immaturity and anger, it’s not going to get better any time soon. More’s the pity.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Gustave Doré, Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople, via Wikimedia CommonsToday I offer not just one, but two blog posts on the theme of what I’ve referred to as the Neocrusade; i.e. the American Religious Right’s effort to outlaw Islam in the US (and sometimes destroy it everywhere else).

I’ve blogged before about Christofascists declaring that the First Amendment’s freedom of religion doesn’t extend to Muslims. Usually the reason cited is because Islam — supposedly — isn’t really a “religion” per se, but rather, it’s a political philosophy. Therefore, the reasoning goes, it can Constitutionally be outlawed. Or something like that.

Of course, I’m not sure how that works, because as far as I know, the US also has things like freedom of speech and freedom of association, which together would make it impossible for government to outlaw any given political philosophy. Maybe that’s just because I’m a cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen and such important sacred notions are beyond my feeble, god-deprived mind.

But I digress.

Despite this, it’s rare for Religious Rightists to just come right out and say this. They tend to keep this notion close to their vests. Even so, once in a while one of them lets it slip. It turns out that, as Right Wing Watch reports, Tony Perkins did precisely this recently (WebCite cached article):

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who now styles himself as an Islamic scholar, said on his “Washington Watch” radio show yesterday that members of militant groups like ISIS are the real Muslims who are truly “practicing their faith.”

Islam is such a danger, Perkins explained, that Muslim-Americans should not have the same religious freedoms as other citizens.

He echoed other Christianists on the subject of why Muslims should be deprived of freedom to follow their religion:

He warned that Islam isn’t necessarily protected under the Constitution because it “tears at the fabric of our society” and undermines “ordered liberty,” adding that Islam is “not just a religion, it’s an economic system, it’s a judicial system and it’s a military system.”

As with other Christianists who’ve advocated defying the First Amendment in order to outlaw Islam in the US, Perkins claims it’s not merely a religion, but a lot more, thus depriving it of protection:

He warned that Islam isn’t necessarily protected under the Constitution because it “tears at the fabric of our society” and undermines “ordered liberty,” adding that Islam is “not just a religion, it’s an economic system, it’s a judicial system and it’s a military system.”

I find it truly odd that a Christian like Tony-boy would condemn Islam because “it’s an economic system, it’s a judicial system and it’s a military system.” After all, the Religious Right movement as it exists in the US is most certainly an economic system, a judicial system, and a military system. If we’re to deprive Muslims in the US of their religious freedom on those grounds, then by the very same reasoning, Perkins and the rest of his fellow Christofascists must also forfeit theirs.

Only a brazen hypocrite could come up with something that insipid. Perkins’s own Jesus explicitly forbid him ever to be hypocritical, of course … but Tony-boy isn’t aware of that, and not likely ever to obey that injunction even if he were to be educated about it.

To be clear, I’m no more a fan of Islam than I am of Christianity (an accusation that correspondents have leveled at me). It is, of course, absolutely correct to protect the US and American interests, and Islamic terror groups such as ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-people-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood ought to be destroyed. There also does appear to be something about Islam which allows such primitive barbarism to grow and fester in a manner not seen — at this moment — in any other religion. But even this admission doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, or even helpful, to outlaw Islam in the US or deprive Muslims here of their religious-freedom rights, merely because some anxious Christian presumes mosques here might be recruiting terrorists. Americans — all Americans, not just Christians! — have certain rights, not the least of which that they shouldn’t be presumed guilty of wanting to be terrorists until there’s reason to think they might be. This means Muslims should be left alone in their homes and mosques (which should continue to be built) until there’s information suggesting otherwise.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Baphomet.pngAlmost 4 years ago I blogged about Satanists performing their rites in Oklahoma City and about Christians there protesting. It seems they just couldn’t handle Satanists being in their midst. But the Satanists haven’t backed down; as the Christian Post reports, later this month they plan to have a black mass and Satanist exorcism there (WebCite cached article):

The Satanist group that will stage a controversial “black mass” at an Oklahoma City civic center has said that all 88 tickets for its Sept. 21 event are sold out. The co-founder of the group revealed that the ritual will go ahead despite strong Christian protests and will feature a satanic exorcism, but will be “toned down” to comply with state health laws.

“One of the dictates of the church is not only to educate the members but to educate the public, and to debunk the Hollywood-projected image of our beliefs,” Dakhma of Angra Mainyu’s Adam Daniels told ABC News [cached].

He added that the group will comply with state health laws and substitute vinegar for actions involving urine as part of the satanic ceremony.

Daniels said that the ceremony will also feature Dakhma of Angra Mainyu deacons and priest who will stomp, spit on and use explicit language on an unconsecrated host, a wafer presented as a form of the resurrected Jesus Christ.

Christians are upset about this and plan to protest it, because — you see — this is just too insulting for the poor little things to take:

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, Catholic Archbishop Paul Coakley, and over 80,000 people who have signed an online petition have all condemned the upcoming event.

Fallin called the black mass a “disgusting mockery of the Catholic faith,” saying that it should be “equally repellent to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.”

“It may be protected by the First Amendment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t condemn it in the strongest terms possible for the moral outrage which it is.

If we’re going to talk about “repellent” behavior that — supposedly — just can’t be tolerated, Governor & Archbishop, then by all means, let’s do so! I mean it. Let’s talk about all of the following “repellent” things said by your own co-religionists:

If we move away from the insensitivity, insults, and viciousness of Catholics and include other Christians, we have the following:

I could post hundreds more examples of similarly “repellent” words and behaviors by Christians, both Catholic and not. Why is it such an intolerable outrage when some Satanists poke fun at Christianity (and yes, that’s all they’re doing), given the horrible words and behaviors of Christians themselves — which other Christians never seem able or willing to correct?

Here’s a thought for Gov. Fallin, Abp. Coakley, and any other Oklahoman Christians who’re pissed off at these insolent, outsider Satanists daring come int their midst to lampoon their religion: Get your own fucking house in order before you go bellyaching about what other people are doing. Grow up, toughen up, and deal with your own, and only then will you have the moral standing to complain about what you find “repellent.” OK? It really is that simple.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Crying babyOne of Connecticut’s two most famous convicted massacrers, Steven Hayes, is having a hard time of it lately. Life on death row, it seems, it just too fucking tough on the poor guy. He can’t stand it there. In an effort to protest being on death row for the rest of his life (because, let’s face it, the state of Connecticut is just not going to execute him in spite of his death sentence), he and his attorneys have come up with a novel way to throw a tantrum at the legal system.

They’re using religion, of all things, as their shield. Yes, religion! The New Haven Register reports on their latest laughable court maneuvers (WebCite cached article):

One of the men convicted in the 2007 Cheshire home invasion and triple homicide is suing state Department of Correction officials, claiming his rights are being violated because he isn’t being given a kosher diet in prison.

Steven Hayes, 51, who is on death row at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, filed the hand-written civil rights complaint in U.S. District Court against the Rev. Anthony Bruno, director of religious services; wardens Edward Maldonado and Angel Quiros, and members of the Religious Review Committee.

In his complaint, Hayes describes himself as an orthodox practicing Jew, and claims he has been denied a kosher diet, which he has been requesting since May 2013. The complaint seeks to ensure that all Jewish prisoners have access to kosher food.

“This continuous denial of a kosher diet is a clear violation of my First Amendment right to freely practice my religion of choice, Judaism,” Hayes wrote.

Being the hateful, cold-hearted cynic that I am, I suspect Hayes isn’t sincere about wanting to be an orthodox Jew. You’d be smart, too, not to believe his claim; the guy, after all, is a vicious career sociopath who probably has never told the truth about anything in his life. He also is extremely unhappy about being in prison; since his arrest in July 2007 after massacring the Petit family in Cheshire, CT this monster has pulled a number of stunts, such as faking suicide attempts more than once (cached), and sending suicide notes to the Hartford Courant (cached).

It would seem, then, that this lawsuit over kosher food is just another of his publicity stunts … or rather — and this is much more likely — yet another of his attorneys’ publicity stunts.

However, even in spite of Hayes’s demonstrated track record of ridiculous histrionics and general bitchy drama-queen act, as with all matters religious, it’s impossible to know for certain whether or not his claim of being an orthodox Jew is genuine. As I said, I suspect it’s not, and that it’s just a scheme he and his lawyers cooked up in order to give him more publicity, in an irrational attempt to get more sympathy for himself, because the poor little thing just can’t handle being in prison. It’s not a religion’s credit that it can be used by sociopaths as a means to grandstand. It’s also not the first time one of the Cheshire home-invasion defendants has used religion to defend the indefensible. (Defense attorneys tend to be absurdly shameless — even in cases, such as this one, where the guilt of their clients is not in question and there is absolutely no chance an innocent person was convicted.)*

Ordinarily I’d expect orthodox Jews to wish to disavow this vicious, murderous cretin and remove him from their number … but I suspect they won’t do very much along those lines. They’ll just say he doesn’t represent them, yada yada yada. As though that actually means anything.

I get that Hayes isn’t enjoying his prison life, and his attorneys consider him a saint who was railroaded by the courts, but let’s be honest: Hayes is on death row because he and his friend Josh consciously chose to go there (cached). My suggestion is that neither the courts nor the orthodox Jewish community indulge this savage creature any more; that his lawyers stop pitching fits because (in their minds) the state of Connecticut insolently dared convict their client and sentence him to death; and that Hayes himself finally fucking grow the hell up and accept the punishment he, himself, earned … and stop being such a fucking little crybaby. It shouldn’t be possible to use a truly divinely-crafted religion (which Judaism claims to be) as an attention-getting tool for immature subhuman monsters … but it is. More’s the pity.

Update: The Hartford Courant‘s Jon Lender just shone a brilliant light on how incredibly profitable it can be for attorneys to represent the creatures who inhabit death row (cached). All I can say is, wow! What a racket! I have to wonder how much Hayes’s attorneys earned cooking up this religious rationale for suing the state, and how much they’ll earn pushing it through the court.

Photo credit: Olga / Олга, via Flickr.

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Baby yellingIt’s still August, but the annual “war on Christmas” trope has seen its first salvo. Actor, director and militant Christofascist Kirk Cameron announced the limited release of his latest movie, Saving Christmas. His fellow Christofascist Glenn Beck’s house organ, the Blaze, advertises for tells the story of his crusade to defend his holy day from total eradication by those vile secularist types (WebCite cached article):

Actor Kirk Cameron is taking political correctness to task this fall with a new movie that aims to deflate arguments regularly made against Christmas, while simultaneously pushing back against atheist activists’ annual attacks on the holiday.

In “Saving Christmas,” Cameron plans to tackle some of the most controversial and disputed issues surrounding the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birthday — claims that he says have had a profound impact on the way believers and nonbelievers alike view the Christian celebration.

Still acting the part of the boy he once played on a sitcom, his motvation is a juvenile effort to get a dig in at the atheists he despises:

And while he has no idea exactly how atheists will respond to the feature film, which is slated to open November 14 in theaters across America, he predicts they likely won’t be too elated with its storyline.

“I assume they’re going to get frustrated to see some of their best arguments deflated by this movie, because we take on some of the most commonly parroted myths about the origins of Christmas,” Cameron exclusively told TheBlaze Tuesday.

Some of those “commonly parroted myths,” the Blaze and Cameron tell us, are:

Cameron said some of the claims that will be addressed in the film include: the notion that Christmas is really a church co-opting of winter solstice celebrations, that Jesus was not born on December 25, that Christmas trees are pagan and that consumerism is overshadowing the true reason for the season.

A few years ago I addressed a lot of Christians’ beliefs about Christmas, and the effort to outlaw it that their paranoid minds have have deluded them into thinking exists, in a static page on this blog. So I sympathize with Cameron’s fact-checking effort. I also agree that the jury is out as to whether setting Christmas on December 25 was part of a conscious, methodical effort to stamp out other pagan celebrations around the same time I rather think they did it for the same reason there had been so many celebrations at that point in the calendar, before then — simply because it was a convenient time to have a holiday. The culture they lived in had already adapted to having a holiday around that time, so it just made sense to peg their own to that spot on the calendar. I also do not view Christmas trees as a clearly “pagan” practice that Christians saw pagans doing and then decided to take it up for themselves. Christmas trees didn’t come into vogue until the Reformation, and by that time Europe had been Christianized — with no pagans around — for centuries.

That said, I’d love to hear Kirkie’s evidence that Jesus was born on December 25; a lot of Christians acknowledge it was extremely unlikely he was born on that day, and suppose rather that he’d been born sometime in the spring. There’s nothing in scripture or in any other 1st-century Christian document that suggests he was born on December 25. So Cameron must have latched onto some astounding discovery, if he can demonstrate December 25 definitely was Jesus’ birthday.

As for “consumerism is overshadowing the true reason for the season,” if that’s happening, it’s something Christians have largely done themselves, and it must be very old. For instance, the reason Thanksgiving in the U.S. has its current date is because retailers agitated for a longer Christmas shopping season. It would make no sense for them to have done so — and to have been reliant on Christmas shoppers — if consumerism hadn’t already been rooted in Christmas by the 1930s, which predates “political correctness” by decades.

At any rate, another Blaze quote confirms Cameron’s paranoia:

Cameron continued, “It’s obvious that there is a deliberate attempt to snuff out the holy root that has produced all this wonderful Christmas-time fruit. I think it’s about time someone spoke out and made a movie about this.”

None of this is “obvious” at all! For the record, Kirkie, I know of no “atheist” who wants to deprive you of “the holy root” of your precious holiday. Nor could they do so, even if they wished to, which they don’t. I know of no “atheist” who’s offended if you celebrate Christmas. Again, they could hardly stop you. I know of no “atheist” who cares whether you approve of Christmas commercialism. What concerns many of them is when Christians like yourselves use government authority to promote Christmas and intimate that all Americans are required to celebrate it — whether they wish to or not. What concerns me, particularly (and I’m no atheist), are all the outright lies you and your fellow Christians tell in the name of pushing Christmas, just so you can feel all nice and persecuted for your Jesus (because the psychopathology of your religion tricks you into doing so.) Just stop already with the delusions and lies. Go celebrate Christmas in your homes and churches. Leave the rest of us out of it, fercryinoutloud. Is that such a difficult thing to do?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Kelly McBride / The Community Press, via the Cincinnati EnquirerBy now I assume most of my readers have heard of “the Ice Bucket Challenge” which has become a wildly successful fund-raiser for the ALS Association. Well, it turns out that the R.C. archdiocese of Cincinnati doesn’t approve. As the Cincinnati Enquirer reports, they’ve declared the challenge and its associated charity persona non grata (WebCite cached article):

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has asked the principals at its Catholic schools not to encourage students to raise money for the ALS Association as the ice-bucket challenge becomes an internet sensation.

The challenge itself is fine, said Dan Andriacco, spokesman for the Archdiocese.

The Archdiocese just doesn’t want fundraising to be sent to the association, which funds at least one study using embryonic stem cells, Andriacco said.

“(Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a terrible disease,” Andriacco said, a day after an email was sent to principals from Superintendent Jim Rigg.

“We appreciate the compassion that has caused so many people to engage in this,” Andriacco said. “But it’s a well established moral principle that a good end is not enough. The means to that ends must be morally licit.”

An embryo must be destroyed to harvest its stem cells, Andriacco said. Many Catholics relate that to abortion.

Gosh, I’m so glad the archdiocese managed to acknowledge how horrific ALS (aka “Lou Gehrig’s disease”) is. They just don’t approve of the science being done to fight it. The archdiocese demands Catholics give the Church all their charity money:

The Archdiocese asks that any money raised is sent instead to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa, where the research is only conducted using adult stem cells.

Gee, how convenient of the Church to decide that it should retain custody of all that money. Hmm. I wonder who’s profiting off that? Anyone care to guess?

By the way, the idea that adult stem cells are equivalent to embryonic stem cells, is a Roman Catholic lie. They are not, in fact, the same. There are things embryonic stem cells can do, which adult stem cells cannot — which the Church pretends is not the case. It is, of course, true that adult stem cells have their virtues as well; the bottom line is that both types of stem cell research are necessary for ALS research. Limiting oneself to just one type is foolhardy.

In any event, the R.C. Church doesn’t have the standing to declare whether or not any given medical-research charity is morally acceptable. As I’ve blogged so many times before, the Church tore up and burned its “moral arbiter” card long ago, when as a matter of long-standing worldwide policy its hierarchs purposely allowed its own clergy to abuse children in its care and actively protected the abusers from being caught and punished. (On top of all that, they’ve had the gall, over the past several years, to blame their own policies and behavior on other people and things, including Jews, gays, the Devil, the mass media, and even the child victims themselves.) They’ve got the morals of the Mafia and the scruples of used-car dealers. I no longer fucking care what any given R.C. hierarch thinks about the morality of anything — nor should anyone else. They no longer have a vote.

As a token of my disrespect for the Cincinnati archdiocese’s announcement, I’ve just donated to the ALS Association. And I urge all my readers to do the same. Please give as generously as you can. Thank you!

Photo credit: Kelly McBride/The Community Press, via the Cincinnati Enquirer.

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