Archive for the “General” Category

Posts of a general nature

What part of 'When you pray, go into your inner room' did you not understand? (from Mt 6:6, NASB) / PsiCop original graphicAs I type this, tomorrow will be the National Day of Prayer, 2017. Around the country, politicians and all sorts of other folks will attend all kind of events, showing each other how much they like to pray. Most all of them will insist they’re doing it out of love for their deity — which, for most participants, is Jesus Christ. The problem with that is … it’s un-Christian of them to be involved in such a thing!

Yes, that’s what I said: Christians participating in the National Day of Prayer is decidedly and undeniably un-Christian.

A lot of folks will be amazed at this. “What are you talking about, you hateful, cynical, godless agnostic heathen? How dare you say that!” That people might find my statement surprising, is the real tragedy here. Any Christian who attends a National Day of Prayer event obviously hasn’t read his/her Bible and doesn’t realize that public piety — as I’ve blogged on numerous occasions — is something Jesus clearly, explicitly, and unambiguously forbid his followers ever to engage in!

Here, in case you missed it, is the most important scriptural passage which explains this:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” …

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

Jesus didn’t want his followers using their righteousness for self-aggrandizement, and with that as the goal, ordered them never to express their piety in public (whether by praying or making an issue of it in any other way). He was clear about it. There are no caveats, no exceptions, no wiggle-room at all. Just a clear order to “go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret.”

I really can’t understand why Christians are so militant about not obeying this teaching. I’ve discussed it with many of them, and they actually get very agitated when I show them that public piety is un-Christian. I can only assume that’s because, for them, one of the benefits of being a Christian in the first place is to be able to display their Christianity to others and to show they’re part of “the club.” An inability to express their piety publicly would rob them of that precious perk. I guess. I mean, what other explanation can there be for it?

At any rate, no Christian who actually wants to obey Jesus will attend any National Day of Prayer events. He made his wishes known, and they can be found in any Christian Bible. Time for Christians to open it up, read it, and just do as they’re fucking told, for once.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Mt 6:6.

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US flag with cross instead of starsBrace yourselves for even more religious politicking in the US. While campaigning for president, the Groper-in-Chief had said he would “destroy the Johnson amendment” (WebCite cached article). That’s the regulation which bars non-profit entities — of which churches and religious organizations are one type — from engaging in partisan politics.

The sniveling crybabies who comprise the Religious Right have agitated against this rule for decades. That it exists hasn’t prevented them from constructing a very powerful, religiously-propelled political engine … but that hasn’t stopped them from bellyaching about it. What’s more, it hasn’t stopped some of them from endorsing candidates without being punished by the IRS (which generally is afraid of enforcing it).

The New York Times reports that tomorrow, the National Day of Prayer, the Apricot Wonder will start making good on that promise (cached):

President Trump plans to mark the National Day of Prayer on Thursday by issuing an executive order that makes it easier for churches and other religious groups to actively participate in politics without risking their tax-exempt status, several administration officials said.

Taking action as he hosts conservative religious leaders Thursday morning, Mr. Trump’s executive order would attempt to overcome a provision in the federal tax code that prohibits religious organizations like churches from directly opposing or supporting political candidates.

The move is likely to be hailed by some faith leaders, who have long complained that the law stifles their freedom of expression. But the order is expected to fall short of a more sweeping effort to protect religious liberties that has been pushed by conservative religious leaders since Mr. Trump’s election.

Churches and other religious groups have whined for years that the Johnson amendment somehow “violates” their rights and gets in the way of their “free speech.” This, however, is completely untrue. It’s a lie straight out of the pit of Hell. All a church has to do, if it wants to endorse candidates and campaign for them, is to forfeit its tax exemption. Once it’s done that, it can politick to its heart’s content! There’s nothing — other than greed — preventing them from doing so.

The United States of Jesus is on its way, folks. You read it here first!

Photo credit: CJF20, via Flickr.

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LGBT flag map of ConnecticutI assume my readers know about the vile practice known as “conversion therapy” (aka “reparative therapy,” and some other innocuous-sounding circumlocutions). Its proponents say it’s a way to help gays become straight, and they’ve been pushing it on the country for a couple decades now (WebCite cached article).

In the 1970s, the psychiatric profession stopped treating homosexuality as a mental illness, but shortly afterward, Christianists took up the cause, and cooked up “ministries” intended to “deliver” gays from their “sin.” Among the most famous of those was Exodus International, which more or less shut down just a few years ago (cached).

By the early 90s the “convert the gays” movement was almost entirely fueled by evangelical Christianity, even though a few psychologists like Joseph Nicolosi tried to give their weird pray-the-gay-away “treatments” a clinical veneer, having signed on as consultants to their ministries (cached). The bottom line is that “conversion therapy” is not only ineffective, it’s harmful to many who participate (cached). It’s pseudoscientific, and frequently barbaric (in the case of the “aversion techniques” they use). It also provides a pretext for the mistreatment of gays.

While my home state of Connecticut is as deep-blue Democratic/Liberal as one can get — and was among the first states to permit gay marriage (in 2008) — it’s taken a while to address “conversion therapy” here. As CT Mirror reports, though, the state House of Representatives approved a law to ban it in the Nutmeg State (cached):

The House of Representatives voted 141 to 8 Tuesday to pass and send to the Senate a bill that would make Connecticut one of a half-dozen states barring conversion therapy, the discredited practice of trying to change the sexual orientation of young homosexuals.

“This practice and treatment is not science, it’s science fiction,” the bill’s chief House sponsor, Rep. Jeffrey Currey, D-East Hartford, told his colleagues.

The bill would enshrine in state law the conclusions of the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and other national associations of health professionals: Homosexuality is not a disease, and forcing conversion therapy on a minor can be harmful.

Only 8 legislators voted against it … all Republicans (no surprise there!). One of them offered this boneheaded excuse for her “nay” vote:

[Ann] Dauphinais [of Killingly] said passage put Connecticut on a slippery slope of further interfering with parental rights.

“I believe this is a violation of the rights of parents to make choices they see as in the best interest of children,” Dauphinais said.

I guess she’d approve of parents treating their kids’ maladies with bloodletting, then … right? That is, after all, the natural consequence of her stated wish that parents have absolute, unfettered freedom to do as they wish to their kids. No?

What a fucking moron!

If the bill passed 141-8 in the House, I expect it will get through the state Senate, too, although probably with a little tighter margin.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Unsplash, via PixabayThe Commonwealth of Kentucky has an awful lot of problems … or so I thought. I mean, last I knew, it’s home to some of the most impoverished counties in the entire US (WebCite cached article). It’s taken decades for Kentucky to devolve into its current dismal status. Yes, it’s been hurt by the loss of coal production, but no, this wasn’t caused by the coal-hating Barack HUSSEIN Obama; coal jobs have diminished steadily since the 1980s, under presidents of both parties.

But it seems the Bluegrass State has solved all of its problems, including the deep poverty of its eastern reaches, because Frankfort has moved on to dealing with problems it doesn’t have: Namely, not enough Bible-thumping. As the Christian Post reports, Kentucky’s governor bravely signed a bill that establishes a foundation for Bible classes in the commonwealth’s public schools (cached):

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin recently signed a bill into law that authorizes public school boards to allow schools to offer elective Bible literacy courses and provides state guidance to help establish such classes, local news outlets have reported [cached].

According to the Ohio County Monitor, Bevin, a Republican, has signed House Bill 128 into law, which provides guidance to schools as they begin offering students the ability to sign up to take Bible courses.

The bill, which was introduced by Rep. DJ Johnson, passed overwhelmingly in the state’s senate 34 to 4 late last month.

The CP article includes obligatory references to the historic nature of the Bible and how important it is to civilization and yada yada yada. It even included this claim:

“Additionally, studies show that students that have a higher level of Bible literacy also tend to have higher GPAs,” [Republican representative DJ] Johnson continued.

No citations to these “studies” are provided, and I’m willing to bet either that no such thing exists, or they were commissioned by religious groups, in which case their results are suspect at best.

The article also points out the classes designed as a result of this law are to be “electives” only. The problem is that large swaths of Kentucky are packed with militant Christianists, so in many schools these “elective” classes won’t really be “electives”; nearly all kids will take them as a matter of course, and the few who dare not do so will be harassed and bullied. Yes, it will happen, no matter how vehemently the people promoting these classes insist they won’t permit it.

As someone who’s studied the Bible both from a religious and secular perspective, I don’t deny that secular Bible-literacy courses can have value for kids. The problem is, will the folks who teach these classes be willing to limit themselves to a secular approach? Will they have the restraint not to use them as an opportunity to proselytize? I’m not sure all of them will be able to resist the temptation to do so.

Really, what’s going on here is a kind of Bible-worship, or treating the Bible as though it were an idol. The people behind this law think that exposing kids to it will magically make them Christianists just like themselves. They really need to stick crowbars into the Bibles they long ago slammed shut, though, and actually read them for once … because it contains admonitions against idolatry and other forms of magical thinking.

At any rate, allow me to congratulate the Commonwealth on its achievement. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with Kentucky any more, and all that’s left is the passage of laws to promote Bible-reading. Well done, Kentuckyites! You must be so proud!

Photo credit: Unsplash, 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 compound train-wreck which is the Apricot Wonder’s presidential administration just keeps piling up more wreckage. White House press secretary Sean Spicer — who already faces a monumental credibility gap, having begun his tenure by angrily (not to mention brazenly) lying about the size of the Groper-in-Chief’s inauguration crowd (WebCite cached article), just outdid himself in asinine stupidity. At today’s press conference, as the New York Times explains, he not only went off the rails, he polevaulted over them and sailed half a mile beyond (cached):

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, set off an intense backlash on Tuesday when he suggested that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was worse than Hitler and said incorrectly that Hitler had not used chemical weapons during World War II or against his own people.

Mr. Spicer was attempting to lend gravity to the actions of Mr. Assad, who United States officials believe used sarin gas, a lethal chemical weapon, in an attack on a rebel-held area of Idlib Province last week that killed dozens.

Hitler oversaw a network of extermination camps where gas chambers were used to kill millions of Jews and others deemed to be harmful to the German state.

“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Mr. Spicer said.…

Asked to clarify his remarks, Mr. Spicer acknowledged that Hitler used chemical agents, but maintained that there was a difference.

CNN offers video of Spicer’s cringeworthy debacle:

I can’t even describe the inanity and idiocy of comparing al-Assad to Hitler. There are just no words. I mean … seriously!? … what the fuck is wrong with Spicer? As a rule, Hitler comparisons are always a bad idea. This one is many times worse, because as it turns out, the Nazis definitely gassed Jews and others in concentration camps — in horrifically large numbers, at that. Spicer’s comparison is pure lunacy! It’s indefensible … period, end of story, full stop.

I expect, though, that Spicer and the rest of the Groper’s minions will continue — in spite of the obvious absurdity of doing so — defending this insane comparison. Moreover, their fanbois will join in the defense, and rail against any members of the media who lambaste Spicer over his buffoonish comparison. They’ll do so largely because of their allegiance to the Groper-in-Chief, whom they think can do no wrong, and because some of the Democrats they so vehemently despise have demanded Spicer’s resignation over the matter (cached). Democrats’ vilification of Spicer means — in the eyes of militant Rightists — that he must be correct.

This is a lesson in my principle (described above) that Third Reich comparisons are usually a bad idea, just by their very nature. I blogged about this, not only because of how tremendously crazy Spicer’s comparison is, but because as a rule, Hitler comparisons are altogether too common. The Right flung them at Barack Obama and the Democrats for the last 8 years, and they’re now being heaved at the Right from the opposite direction. It needs to fucking stop already. Time for everyone to grow up, fercryinoutloud, and put the Nazi comparisons away.

Photo credit: PsiCop original, based on proverb.

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And Jesus WeptThe list of Religious Rightists who feel compelled to yammer about rape continues to grow. They do it, even though they ought to have learned, by now, to just shut the fuck up about it already. Their absurd spew about it just makes them look ridiculous, and it’s sunk a few of their candidacies, too. So one would think they’d want to avoid the subject entirely. But too many of them refuse to do so. They’re too worked up about it, and too sanctimonious, to hold back. In other words, they just can’t help themselves.

The latest example of this kind of asinine behavior comes from the Oklahoma legislature. There, as KFOR-TV reports, Rep. George Faught agreed with the idea that rape is “the will of God” (WebCite cached article):

A controversial anti-abortion bill passed the House Tuesday, but not before a heated debate over the Bible, rape, and incest.

HB1549 punishes doctors who perform abortions if the mother is seeking one because of a genetic disorder.…

“Representative, is rape the will of God?” Rep. Cory Williams asked [the bill’s author, Rep. George] Faught.

“Well, you know, if you read the Bible, there are a couple circumstances where that happened, and the Lord uses all circumstances,” Faught replied.

“Is incest the will of God?” Williams asked.

“Same answer,” Faught said.

Here’s video of Faught’s bone-chilling pronouncement, via Youtube:This sounds horrific to anyone who’s not deeply immersed in evangelical Christianity. What person with a brain would want to worship a deity who “uses” terrible incidents like rape like some kind of cosmic tool? And it sounds horrible to the ear of this cynical, godless agnostic heathen.

But with that said … there is a reason Faught trotted this out: This chilling theology does, in fact, have sound roots in Christian thought.

First, it’s not uncommon for Christians to view horrific events, such as violent crimes, or larger catastrophes such as plagues, earthquakes, etc. as warnings issued by the Almighty. This is, in fact, what I call “disaster theology,” and I’ve blogged about many examples of this sort of thinking. It’s a very old and tired trope within Christianity.

Second, it’s a natural consequence of believing that God is the omnipotent and omniscient creator of the universe. God’s limitless power and knowledge of all that has ever happened, is happening, and ever will happen, is an absolute quality, and that has a number of logical ramifications. One of them is that nothing can ever happen that God does not permit to happen … because if God didn’t wish something to occur, then it couldn’t occur. His/her/its wishes are, after all, absolute! What’s more, since God knew everything that would ever happen, even long before s/he/it ever created the universe, that means the very act of creating the universe caused it all to happen. Thus, God bears final and total accountability for everything … and I do mean absolutely everything!

This last point is one that most theists don’t accept, even if it’s completely logical. The bottom line is that God is, according to much of what Abrahmic-tradition followers say about him/her/it, a monster who uses events like rape as tools to achieve his goals. It’s an unavoidable conclusion. So any Abrahamic believer who says they don’t agree with vicious cretins like Faught, are going to have to think long and hard about what, exactly, they believe in and what kind of God they worship. Most of them, for better or worse, have never really thought out what it means to believe in a deity who has all the qualities they say their God has. It’s just never occurred to them to lay it all out — all of it — and figure out exactly what it means. They simply like thinking their deity is all-powerful. The emotional comfort this provides, is all they know and all they care about. They ignore the other ramifications of this belief.

Photo credit: Terry Alexander, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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Word of Faith Fellowship Church grounds in Rutherford County, N.C. / CBS affiliate WSPAI’ve already blogged about the Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale, NC which was the subject of a series of Associated Press stories.

In addition to some North Carolina prosecutors (who were also members of the church, and one a relative of its leaders) being reviewed for having helped prevent Word of Faith from being fully investigated through the years, there’s been a little more fallout. As the Associated Press reports, a county social worker — also a member of the church who may have helped shield them from accountability — has resigned from her job (WebCite cached article):

A veteran social worker accused of coaching congregants and their children on what to say during a 2015 child abuse investigation of her secretive religious sect has resigned, an attorney for a child welfare agency said Friday.

Andrea Leslie-Fite said Lori Cornelius left her position at the Cleveland County Department of Social Services.…

[North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation] spokesman Patty McQuillan said Friday the agency isn’t currently investigating Cornelius or the Rutherford County Division of Social Services. But she said that could change.…

In its ongoing investigation, the AP has reported that the 2015 social services investigation included complaints that students at the church-run K-12 school were encouraged to beat classmates to cast out devils. Former members also said Cornelius coached children on what to tell investigators with the help of assistant prosecutors Frank Webster and Chris Back. Back is the son-in-law of sect leader Jane Whaley.

That DSS probe ended with no charges.

The abuse this church inflicted on people was all about devils:

Victims of the violence included pre-teens and toddlers — even crying babies — who were vigorously shaken, screamed at and sometimes smacked to banish demons, according to on-the-record interviews with 43 former members. Those interviewed said congregants also were subjected to a practice called “blasting” — an ear-piercing verbal onslaught often conducted in hours-long sessions meant to cast out devils.

Yes, let’s torture people in order to drive out devils (or demons or ghosts or poltergeists or whatever-the-fuck)! Why, of course it makes total sense that incorporeal beings can be harmed that way. Obviously!

Photo credit: WSPA-TV, via CBS News.

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