Archive for the “General” Category

Posts of a general nature

Pacifier for newborn, 2015-07-12Christians love to claim believing in Jesus makes them better people … considerate, compassionate, upright, helpful, moral, etc. I’m sure a lot of them think this is true — but it’s not. If it were, a country with upwards of 85% Christians ought to have virtually no crime and no destitution, but obviously that’s not the case. And if it were the case, we wouldn’t have the phenomenon of couples killing their own children (or just as bad, purposely allowing them to die) because of their faith in Jesus.

This is something I’ve blogged about a number of times, and as horrible as it is, it keeps happening. The Detroit Free Press reports on one example of it having recently happened, in Michigan (Archive.Is cached article):

A Lansing woman refused to seek medical treatment for her newborn daughter even after a midwife warned that the infant’s jaundice could lead to brain damage or death, a police detective testified last week in court.

The mother told the midwife her baby was fine, and that “God … makes no mistakes,” the detective said.

Two days later the infant was dead.

The woman, 30-year-old Rachel Joy Piland, and her husband, 36-year-old Joshua Barry Piland, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The article tells the story of how this happened. The baby was born apparently healthy, but the next day was different:

But when the midwife saw the baby on Feb. 7, her assessment changed.

Abigail appeared jaundiced, and the midwife advised Rachel Piland to take the child to a pediatrician or an emergency room, Scaccia said. “She told Piland the baby could suffer brain damage or die if not properly cared for.

“Rachel declined to seek any medical treatment for Abigail, stating God makes no mistakes,” Scaccia said. “She indicated to the midwife that the baby was fine.”

The child didn’t improve. Piland “went to listen to sermons” rather than call for the help her midwife had recommended. After the child died according to a Lansing detective:

“They then brought Abigail upstairs to pray for her. Joshua continued to massage Abigail, attempting to get her good air. Both Josh and (Rachel) reached out to friends and fellow church members to come to their home and pray for Abigail’s resurrection, but never called the police.”

This couple is involved with some kind of non-denominational Bible school called “Faith Tech Ministries,” which has had nothing to say about this incident.

This couple put their love for their Jesus above their love (if one can call it that) for their own infant daughter. We need to stop already with the claims about how wonderful faith is, and stop treating it as admirable. Obviously, in this case — and in many others — it wasn’t wonderful at all, and no one should admire faith that extreme.

Oh, and before anyone says “Not all Christians think that way,” guess again! Their own holy scripture relays the story of a profoundly righteous man — the legendarily-holy Abraham himself — who’d been willing to sacrifice his own son to his deity YHWH. Not only is this story found in the Old Testament, it’s upheld in the New Testament as proof of Abraham’s sanctity and faith:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son. (Hebrews 11:17)

And in the gospels, Jesus himself calls for parents and children to turn on one another, over him:

For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. (Matthew 10:35-36)

Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53)

For better or worse, even Christians who aren’t cruel enough to kill their kids for Jesus, cannot disavow the notion — deep within their religion — that faith in God is to come before all else, even one’s love for one’s own children. That principle lurks within their faith, whether or not they wish to admit it.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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East African witch doctor Wellcome M0002713I came across this horrific and blood-curdling story. As Religion News Service explains, witch doctors are sacrificing children in Africa (Archive.Is cached article):

In this landlocked country whose diverse landscape includes the snow-capped Ruwenzori Mountains and immense Lake Victoria, many believe sacrificial rituals can bring quick wealth and health.

Among those rituals, human sacrifice, especially of children, occurs frequently despite the government’s efforts to stop it.

Seven children and two adults were sacrificed last year, said Moses Binoga, a police officer who heads Uganda’s Anti-Human Sacrifice and Trafficking Task Force. Seven children and six adults were sacrificed in 2015.

But experts said the number could be much higher.

Something I don’t care for in this story is its attempt at a kind of apologia for this terrible practice:

Times are tough in Uganda, and people are looking to sacrifices to improve their fortunes. The worst drought in over half a century has hit parts of East Africa, leaving more than 11 million people in this landlocked nation facing food insecurity and 1.6 million on the brink of famine, according to the Ugandan government.

“There is no food due to the ongoing drought, and some believe that this has been brought by ancestral spirits,” said Joel Mugoya, a traditional healer. “So there is a high desire for people to conduct sacrifices so that they come out of this problem.”

Look, times are tough in a lot of places — including, right now, the US territory of Puerto Rico, demolished by Hurricane Maria a week ago (cached). But we don’t see child sacrifice being carried out in those places. So pardon me for not buying this line of awful tripe.

The article describes what is done to the victims — and it’s bad enough that I won’t relay any of that here. If you want to know, you’ll have to get it from the article.

Let’s hear it for how magnificent metaphysics is and how religious belief is just so helpful — and necessary — for humanity … not! In this case, it is, quite literally, killing people, many of them children. We need to stop making excuses for it (e.g. the above-mentioned “times are tough” whine), stop pretending religion makes people “better,” and put an end to this evil once and for all.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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In this Saturday, March 29, 2014 file photo, Aziza Yousef drives a car on a highway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving. Saudi Arabia says it will allow women to drive for the first time in the ultra-conservative kingdom. The kingdom, which announced the change on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, was the only the country in the world to bar women from driving and for years had garnered negative publicity internationally for detaining women who defied the ban. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)I’ve blogged many times about Saudi Arabia’s obvious misogyny. Among the ways Saudis repress their women is by making it illegal for them to drive. The Kingdom is the only country on earth that has such a restriction.

It’s a ridiculous restriction that Saudi clerics claim is required by Islam, but no other Islamic country has anything like it, which suggests this probably isn’t the case. They say it’s about “respect” for women (?). One of those clerics, a rather high-ranking one, even claimed that driving was physically harmful for women. That, of course, is a fucking lie … but he said it, and I’ll bet a lot of Saudis believe it.

Well, times are changing, even in the incredibly-reactionary Kingdom. As the Associated Press reports via Religion News Service, the Saudi prohibition on women driving, will soon be lifted (Archive.Is cached article):

Saudi Arabia’s surprise decision to grant women the right to drive in the conservative kingdom marks a significant expansion in women’s rights, but activists said Wednesday it is also only the first step in a long list of demands for equality.

Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world to ban women from driving, and nearly three decades ago women first began agitating for the right to drive, at times facing arrest for their protests and for getting behind the wheel.

The lifting of the ban, which comes into effect next summer, is the most dramatic step yet in a campaign by the king’s son, 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to modernize the kingdom. The young royal has been promoting change as needed to boost the country’s economy and ease international criticism, but he risks a backlash from powerful clerics from the ultraconservative Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

It’s all well and good, I guess, that the monarchy is behind this rule-change, but it’s far from immediate, and it’s sure to be resisted, as the article mentions:

Almost immediately after the news broke, an Arabic hashtag on Twitter was trending that said: “The women of my house won’t drive.”

I can only hope things will continue improving for Saudi women.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Hasan Jamali.

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Haredi praying at the Western WallUltra-orthodox Jews (sometimes called Haredi or Haredim) are a strange group. They have this way, you see, of not only assuming the rest of the world is required to live as they demand, but assuming they’re allowed to impose that mandate on others, often because others willingly knuckle under to them.

I’ve blogged about their juvenile, religionistic antics on several occasions … like the time a plane was nearly kept from taking off because ultra-orthodox Jewish men on board refused to sit next to women (cooties, maybe? I have no idea). In that case, the flight crew had tolerated the disruption — even though most flight crews will never take crap from anyone for any reason.

Well, as Yeshiva World News reports, some Haredim on an airplane (unknown airline, unknown destination) covered up an in-flight movie, for unknown reasons (Archive.Is cached article). Here’s video of this incident:

Yeah, that’s mature … not!

For the record, I have no idea why they did this. I wasn’t aware they consider movies “non-kosher” or something, but perhaps they do. They didn’t explain their objection, they just went and covered it.

Now, if a group of Haredim had chartered this plane and didn’t want the movie shown, that’s fine. It’s their flight — bought and paid for entirely by them — but then, they’d have been able to order the screen turned off, and wouldn’t have had to cover it, the way they did. So I doubt that was the case.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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In this 2012 photo provided by a former member of the church, Word of Faith Fellowship leader Jane Whaley, center, holds a baby with others during a church ceremony in Spindale, N.C. From all over the world, they flocked to a tiny North Carolina town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, lured by promises of inner peace and eternal life. What many found instead: years of terror _ waged in the name of the Lord. (AP Photo)It’s been awhile since I blogged about the sorry crew which is the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, NC. In their case, it’s not quite true that “no news is good news.” Far from it! The Associated Press has continued digging into their affairs, and reports on a scheme the church’s leadership cooked up (Archive.Is cached article):

When Randy Fields’ construction company faced potential ruin because of the cratering economy, he pleaded with his pastor at Word of Faith Fellowship church to reduce the amount of money he was required to tithe every week.

To his shock, Fields said church founder Jane Whaley proposed a divine plan that would allow him to continue contributing at least 10 percent of his income to the secretive evangelical church while helping his company survive: He would file fraudulent unemployment claims on behalf of his employees. She called it, he said, “God’s plan.”

The scheme went like this: Companies owned by Whaley’s parishioners would pretend to lay off employees, allowing them to file for unemployment, but they would continue working at those companies. The business would have workers, but no payroll. For them, it must have been an amazing boon.

But if you’re smart, like me, you immediately knew the gaping hole in this plan … at least, for the employees:

The former congregants said that not only were they coerced into continuing to work while collecting unemployment, the money fell short of what they needed to pay their bills.

“The unemployment checks never equaled what you were making,” said [Rick] Cooper, who worked for Diverse Corporate Tech Inc., a manufacturing company owned by church leader Kent Covington.

“I was making about $700 a week, but I only collected $235 a week in unemployment,” Cooper said. “So I’m working the same hours — many times, much longer hours — for less. It was devastating for my family.”

Church members were expected to keep tithing regardless of their financial situations and Whaley kept close tabs on “who was giving what,” Cooper said.

The AP reports beatings were doled out for anyone who didn’t cooperate, along with separating people from other parishioners and even family members. Yeah, nice, huh?

All in order to keep tithes coming in from business owners who were having financial problems. Tithes, to a church which is part of the religion founded by a man who supposedly taught the virtues of poverty, and specifically — and explicitly — taught his followers not to amass money and never concern themselves with it:

  • “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)
  • “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: … ‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.'” (Revelation 3:14a, 17-18)

(If those aforementioned Bible verses sound familiar, that’s because I cribbed them from a much-longer article I wrote, discussing many Biblical teachings that most Christians have refused to obey.)

Some participants in this scheme cooperated with the state’s investigation, even though risk being prosecuted for unemployment fraud themselves. I wonder what else the AP is going to uncover about these people?

Photo credit: Associated Press.

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TBIT, via PixabayI’ve blogged a few times about “Biblical prophet” David Meade, who wrote a book and made the rounds touting September 23, 2017 as the start of “the End of the World.” Well, obviously, 9/23/2017 came and went, yet no such thing happened. As I expected, though — and as past failed “prophets” usually did — Meade refused to admit he’d been wrong. Oh no! As Newsweek reports, he just moved the goalposts (Archive.Is cached article):

The conspiracy theorist who supposedly predicted the world would end on September 23 has clarified his doomsday prophecy, saying the rapture is, in fact, coming in October.

David Meade, a self-proclaimed “researcher” and Catholic who hit global headlines last week, believes the end of the world as we know it, as foretold in the biblical Book of Revelation, will take place next month and the 23rd was simply a sign of the oncoming of the oncoming disaster.

Writing on his website, Meade clarified his belief that the 23rd is the date of a “historical event” in the skies that would signal the oncoming rapture. Doomsday itself, he says, will begin on October 15.

Frequent use of the word “clarify” here makes it seem Meade somehow hadn’t been clear enough about what he’d predicted. But that’s just not the case. His predicted scenario was pretty clear, and 9/23/2017 was to be an eventful day leading up to an Armageddon. “Clarification” is not needed. He was, very simply, wrong.

I love how these people just can’t — and won’t — admit failure. It’s as though they live in their own little worlds, detached from reality, and can just say whatever they want when their “predictions” turn out not to come true. It’s pathetic, really.

The real problem here is that too many other Christians fall for this shit, creating a market for books like the one Meade self-published. They like hearing that “the End” will come soon. They like believing their Jesus will come back for them — as though there can be any viable reason why a supposedly-omnipotent deity had do to return because s/he/it somehow couldn’t manage to do everything s/he/it had planned to do, the first time s/he/it was on Earth.

This happens because those Christians don’t understand that all Biblical prophecy is bullshit. Pure, unadulterated, unfiltered, grade-A bovine manure heaved right out the back of the barn. All “Biblical prophets” are liars because the premise on which they operate … i.e. that the Bible makes reliable predictions about the future … is false and unsupportable. As I’ve noted a few times already — and will repeat here, for your edification — Christians’ Bible contains at least one specific, explicit prediction of the future, which absolutely failed to come true. It’s found in all three synoptic gospels (emphasis mine):

“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Mt 16:28)

And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” (Mk 9:1)

“But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:27)

Almost two millennia have passed since Jesus supposedly said that, and all those people to whom he said it have been dead almost as long; yet “the kingdom of God” has not come (“with power” or without). The door on any chance of this prediction ever coming true was closed long ago.

It’s time for Christians who know better — such as those who tried to evade Meade’s “prophecy” last week, acting as though it had no connection with their religion — to do something about their religion’s apocalypticism and their co-religionists who love it. Don’t just sit back, let the “Biblical prophets” propound their dooms, then say, “That’s crazy and it’s not Christianity” and walk away. That simply is not good enough any longer. Christians who know better have to get up off their lazy asses, stop the “prophets,” correct and/or discipline them, and explain to the “prophets'” followers that the Bible contains no “prophecy.” Curiously, though, the religion has been around for some 2 millennia, with “prophets” like that popping up all through that time — yet it’s rare in the extreme for them to be confronted or their followers to be corrected. (It pretty much never happens.)

Photo credit: TBIT, via Pixabay.

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U.S. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) speaking at the 2015 Reagan Dinner for the Dallas County Republican PartyThe number of sanctimonious Religious Rightists using disasters like hurricanes to promote their dour messages — and framing them as messages from the Almighty — continues to grow. The latest example isn’t exactly the sort of disaster theology I’ve often blogged about, but as the (UK) Independent explains, it’s very, very close to that (Archive.Is cached article):

A Republican congressman has suggested that flooding in certain areas – exacerbated by two massive storms that recently hit the US – is God telling homeowners to move.

“We have these repetitive loss properties,” Representative Jeb Hensarling said. “For example, we have one property outside of Baton Rouge [Louisiana] that has a modest home worth about $60,000 that’s flooded over 40 times. The taxpayers have paid almost half a million dollars for it.”

He added: “At some point, God is telling you to move.”

While Hensarling is from Texas, which was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, he represents its 5th district, which includes a snippet of Dallas and a chunk of the area to its east and southeast. I’m not sure it had many Harvey-related problems. So he’s spewing standard Right-wing “all-government-spending-is-horrific-and-can’t-be-tolerated” rhetoric. Later, though, Hensarling (through a spokesman) tried to swerve out from under the foolishness of what he’d said:

A spokesperson for the House Financial Services Committee, of which Mr Hensarling is a member, told The Independent that the Congressman was not talking about hurricane victims – although he mentioned victims of Texas floods several times.

“The interview was about the committee’s efforts to reform the National Flood Insurance Program,” spokesman Jeff Emerson said. “…He’s discussing the need to reform the NFIP. He was not discussing disaster assistance.”…

Mr Hensarling’s proposed solution is to privatise flood insurance markets, and even buy out homes in flood-prone areas. Offering federal flood insurance, he said, “is encouraging people to live in harm’s way.”

I’m not sure what God supposedly telling people not to live somewhere has to do with the NFIP … unless it’s a roundabout way of rationalizing terminating the program altogether. (Which I’m sure a lot of Rightists would just love to do.)

As for privatizing flood insurance, that’s already been tried — and it failed. Once upon a time, ordinary property insurance covered flooding. In the 50s and 60s, though, due to the high cost of claims, insurance companies carved it out, making it separate, and then were unable to charge premiums ample enough to reimburse policy owners for flooding events. They started exiting the business altogether. The federal government essentially nationalized flood insurance in 1968, as a consequence. Private-sector insurance is not — contrary to what Hensarling and his fellow Rightists would like — going to re-enter that business. No fucking way. They’ve been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, and went home. It’s just not going to happen. Ending the NFIP is not an option. Perhaps making it mandatory for more people than are currently required to have it (i.e. mortgage-holders in certain flood zones), is one solution. But ending it? No.

As for getting everyone currently in a flood zone to move, that makes no sense economically. Let’s say the government forbids people living in certain zones. Their current properties — which for many are the bulk of their assets — would instantly cease to have any value. They’d be forced to rent or buy elsewhere, in places which are flood-proof, whose rent or purchase values will naturally shoot up. What’s more, they’d lose their jobs, and businesses in those zones would also be forced to close. They’d be left with no resources to pay for relocation; homeowners would have to scramble for new jobs, and businesses would have to find markets in new places. Anyone who thinks this is a good idea, is a brazen, fucking moron.

Put as simply as possible: Hensarling is a religionist, idiotic douchebag who has no idea what he’s talking about.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: PMeldrum at World Politics forum on Delphi Forums.

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