Archive for the “Religion” Category

Posts concerned specifically with religion

Lake of Fire by BenRR / via DeviantArtHere’s something that’s not surprising, way down south in the Bible Belt Bobble Bayelt state of Mississippi. As the Biloxi Sun Herald explains, a judge there assigns Bible essays to youthful offenders (WebCite cached article):

Judge Albert Fountain offers youths found with alcohol an offer most don’t refuse.

In part, they must write him a 1,000-word essay in order to to keep the conviction off their records and avoid hefty costs.

They can write the entire essay about the effects of alcohol, but Fountain recommends they give him 500 words each on that and on the Book of Revelation, one of the most feared books in the Bible.

This is such an obvious violation of separation of church and state, that I can’t see why a sitting judge could even be allowed to get away with it. Then again, this is Christocratic Mississippi … where little things like the First Amendment just aren’t all that important.

The good judge claims there’s no force involved:

“I don’t force them to do it. It’s their choice.”

However, as explained in the article, there actually is force involved:

Those who accept the plea offer must hand over their driver’s license for 10 days and maintain good behavior, and are placed on 90 days of non-reporting probation. The case is then non-adjudicated and it stays off their record.

Those who don’t accept the offer are fined $500, ordered to pay a state assessment of $155.75 and lose their license for 90 days. And the conviction stands as a misdemeanor record.

So these kids have a choice: Write the essay, and skate on the charges; or not write the essay, and be punished (in not just one, but three different ways). To say there’s no coercion here is a clear lie on the judge’s part. That places him in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Why Revelation, one might ask? Because, as the judge himself admits, it’s the most terrifying book of the Bible:

“When they read Revelation, they can’t help but think about what we’re heading for in the future if we don’t do the right thing,” Fountain said.

“I’ve had them come back with tears in their eyes,” he said.

“They tell me it’s a scary book to read. I can’t force them to do it, but all I can do is plant a seed.”

Yep, that’s good old-fashioned Christian psychological terror: “Say, do, and believe what we order you to … or you’ll BURN IN HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY!!! Mwa ha ha ha ha ha!” Of course, neither Judge Fountain, nor the rest of his fellow Christofascists, see this as a problem. They’re willing to say and do anything in order to make “believers” out of others. They truly think the end justifies the means. As long as they’re saving souls for their precious Jesus, nothing else is important … even brazenly violating the Constitution, then lying about it, are acceptable for this sort of militant Christianist.

Photo credit: BenRR, via DeviantArt.

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Christian Right Propaganda Posters / This is the enemy: Godless Sodomites are Enemies of Christianity & the Bible. Photo Credit: Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: Northwestern UniversityNote: There have been a few updates on this. See below.

Indiana is poised to make discrimination against gays legal. As the Indianapolis Star reports, that state’s legislature just passed SB 101, which will do precisely that (WebCite cached article):

Controversial religious freedom legislation that could protect business owners who don’t want to provide services for same-sex couples is poised to become law in Indiana.

The Republican-controlled Indiana House approved the measure Monday on a 63-31 vote, largely along party lines. Five Republicans joined 26 Democrats in opposing the bill.

The vote likely clears a path for the hot-button legislation to become law. The Senate already approved a slightly different version of the bill last month and Senate author Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said he plans to concur with the House version, possibly later this week.

The bill will then go to Gov. Mike Pence, who said Monday he plans to sign the legislation.

Once this law is passed, it will grant relief to a large number of militant Indiana Christianists, because until now they’ve been deathly afraid of catching gay cooties or something. Now, they’re free to treat gays as non-human or even non-existent. Woo hoo! What freedom that must be!

It looks as though this law is going to cost Indiana, though. They stand to lose a couple of conventions over it: the annual gaming convention Gen Con (cached), as well as the 2017 Disciples of Christ convention (cached). I don’t expect either of these will make the Christofascists in Indianapolis change their minds, but it will cost businesses a lot of money (especially the annual Gen Con). I haven’t quite figured out why Christianists are so willing to pay this price, just to not have to deal with gays.

Update: Governor Mike Pence did sign this bill; it’s now law in Indiana (cached). His position — ridiculously enough — is that the principles in this law are already the law of the land (he said, according to federal law and the state constitution). That only leads to the obvious question of why this law was even needed in the first place. To date, neither Pence nor anyone else has summoned the courage to explain this.

Also, the pushback against Indiana has begun: The well-known could-computing company Salesforce will terminate its activities in Indiana (cached). Actor George Takei has called for a general boycott of the state, as well (cached). Obviously, neither of these is going to help much. The militant Christianists who enacted this law are not going to be influenced by vile “Left Coast” CEOs or gay actors. If anything, this sort of pushback is likely only to further convince them they’re right, because — in their minds — these are merely agents of the very same Forces of Darkness who’ve been persecuting them relentlessly for centuries. They can’t break free from their “Christian martyr complex” because it’s embedded within the psychopathology of their religion. The bottom line is, they think their Jesus outlawed homosexuality (which he absolutely did not do; homosexuality is not mentioned even once in any of the gospels); they think treating gays as sub-human is a way for them to worship their deity; and they’re not going to stop hating teh gayz — not for any reason.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

Photo credit: Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: Northwestern University.

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In Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday, Afghans chanted anti-American slogans during a demonstration to condemn the burning of a copy of the Muslim holy book by an American pastor. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters, via the New York Times)By now it should be clear that Muslims — and in particular, Afghans — aren’t keen on Qur’an-burning. They’ve demonstrated an aptitude for rioting, looting and even killing when they hear about Qur’ans being burned. They’ve done so even when Qur’ans haven’t been burned yet.

Last week there was yet another example of this horrific phenomenon. As the (UK) Guardian reports, it involves someone who turns out to have been innocent (WebCite cached article):

A woman killed by an angry mob in front of police in the Afghan capital last week for allegedly burning a copy of Islam’s holy book was wrongly accused, Afghanistan’s top criminal investigator has said.

Mobile phone footage circulating on social media shows police at the scene did not save the 27-year-old woman, Farkhunda, who was beaten with sticks and set on fire by a crowd of men in central Kabul on Thursday.…

The killing was condemned by the Afghan president and other officials, but also drew praise from some quarters, including from a prominent cleric who asserted the men had a right to defend their Muslim beliefs at all costs.

Yes, I’m sure a condemnation by Afghanistan’s new president Ashraf Ghani is certain to bring this practice to an end. No doubt!

And if you believe that, I have some beachfront property in Arizona to sell you.

The really horrifying element of this incident is the large number of people who participated in beating and burning Farkhunda to death. This wasn’t carried out by just a small number of violent radicals or career criminals; rather, she was killed by a very large mob, mostly “average citizens” of a large city (i.e. Kabul) who certainly aren’t backward hovel-dwellers in some distant province that time forgot. It was also explicitly supported by no less than Kabul’s chief of police (cached). Good luck to president Ghani in his putative effort to set this right.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Omar Sobhani/Reuters, via the New York Times.

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Christian Right Propaganda Posters / Gay Agenda vs. Civil Liberty: Radical Homosexual Lobby is a Threat to Religious, Civil Liberty in America. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National ArchivesChristians in the US continue to believe themselves a persecuted minority, in spite of the fact that they’re anything but. The relentless expansion of gay marriage has done more than almost anything else to unsettle them and exacerbate the paranoia which is inherent in the psychopathology of their religion. They seem not to comprehend, though, that gays being allowed to marry doesn’t actually harm them in any way. After all, no one is forcing them to marry same-sex partners against their will.

Enter a church in Knoxville, TN, which — according to WBIR-TV in that city — found a bizarre way to express its displeasure at the notion of “equal rights” (WebCite cached article):

A marquee message posted outside an East Knoxville church has sparked controversy. The church’s pastor says people have misunderstood the communication.

The Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle sign read, “Remember Satan was the first to demand equal rights.”

Here’s what the sign looked like:

A Knoxville church's message has drawn criticism from some in the community. Submitted to WBIR-TV.

A Knoxville church’s message has drawn criticism from some in the community. Submitted to WBIR-TV.

I have no idea what’s the basis of the claim made here. There’s no mention of Satan demanding “equal rights” in the Bible. In spite of there being no scriptural grounds for this statement, and its dismissal of the notion of “equal rights,” the church’s pastor said no offense was intended:

Pastor Tony Greene says he meant no offense. He said the church was not targeting a certain group.

He thinks people misunderstood his message.

“Be careful when you demand your equal rights that you don’t hurt others around you. You’ve got to consider everyone around you,” he said.

Greene said it was also a test to see if people were reading the sign. He said he’s received a lot of feedback.

The church changed the sign Monday to read, “Didn’t mean to offend. We all need Christ.”

Greene errs when he suggests that granting “equal rights” to some, can harm others. It doesn’t work that way. “Equal rights” always enrich everyone, because — by definition — they’re given to everyone. Period.

Oh, and the idea that Greene had merely been “testing” people to see if they’d read his sign? That really doesn’t excuse the idiocy of what he put on it. He could have opted for a much less incendiary, not to mention contra-factual, message to use as a “test,” if that’s really what he’d intended to do.

The cold fact is that all Americans have “equal rights” under the Constitution and its amendments (particularly the 14th). Satan had nothing to do with that, and objecting to “equal rights” on religious grounds won’t change it. It’s long past time for Christianists like Greene and his childish flock to stop throwing infantile shit-fits over things they personally dislike but which do not, in fact, harm them in the slightest. They ought to act like grown-ups, fercryingoutloud.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: About.Com.

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'Christian Greed: The Lord died so they could be insanely wealthy' / PsiCop graphic, made at Despair, Inc & based on Jan Van Eyck diptychI guess the aptly-named megapastor Creflo Dollar is too good to fly commercial. At least, that’s a conclusion one might reach, on hearing that he expects his sheep to donate $60 million to him so he can buy himself an airplane. (To replace one he’s already had for over 15 years.) CNN reports on his ridiculously greedy demand (WebCite cached article):

Creflo Dollar is hoping a few folks will see fit to bless him.

The minister, known for being a prosperity preacher at his Atlanta-area World Changers Church International, is seeking “200,000 people committed to sow $300 or more (to) help achieve our goal to purchase the G650 airplane.”

The figures are presented in a nearly six-minute video on the Creflo Dollar Ministries website [cached] and total more than $60 million needed to buy the Gulfstream G650, which goes for a reported $65 million. The project isn’t limited to member donations, as the site states that “we are asking members, partners and supporters of this ministry to assist us in acquiring a Gulfstream G650.”

The request goes on to detail that the luxury jet will transport Pastors Creflo and Taffi Dollar and member of the Dollars’ church around the globe to help them spread the gospel.

I guess it’s not possible to “spread the gospel” when traveling by airline. Who knows, maybe I just don’t understand such important, sacred considerations, given I’m a cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen who hasn’t had the benefit of holy insights.

Note that the page on the ministry Web site that CNN linked to, above, is now returning an HTTP 404, or “page not found” error. Hmm. I wonder what might have happened to it?* Fortunately for me, the Internet never forgets, as they say. The Wayback Machine at Archive.Org happens to have preserved the page, which you can see here, and which I’ve doubly preserved at WebCite.

CNN points out that Dollar preaches the “prosperity gospel,” which claims that Jesus came to make his followers wealthy and didn’t want them to be poor. Yeah, I know, maybe my cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen nature is getting in the way of understanding Jesus’ teachings — but the last time I looked, he taught the virtue of poverty:

“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)

Since being impoverished can be a major inconvenience, it’s little wonder that Christians devised this “theology” in the first place, and that there are so many of them eager to flock to hear that Jesus wants them to be wealthy, not poor.

My own guess … knowing as I do a number of Christians who subscribe to this “theology” … I suspect Dollar will get his many-million-dollar airplane. The followers of “prosperity” preachers rarely fail to live up to the demands made of them.

Update: It’s not just me who noticed the Dollar Ministries plea for airplane money has been pulled from their Web site; here’s a story by WXIA-TV in Atlanta on the matter (cached).

Photo credit: PsiCop graphic, made at Despair.Com & based on Jan van Eyck via Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Francis Photo 1Pope Francis has been making headlines continually since his election nearly two years ago. And I’ve blogged about a lot of them. Some of his remarks have been reasonable — remarkably so, given the institution he heads — but others border on, or are, irrational and weird. An example of the latter, as the (UK) Guardian reports, is a statement he made just a few days ago (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis has chided couples who choose not to have children, saying the decision is a “selfish” act. The statement, made in his general audience in St Peter’s Square, will be seen as especially controversial in Italy, which has recorded a steady drop in its birth rate for decades.

“A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society,” the pope said. “The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”

As is usual for religious figures, the Pope seems to think his own subjective notions apply to everyone on the planet. He compounds this by making subjective judgements about people who don’t do what he thinks they should. The premise that everyone on the planet is obligated to live in the way he personally prescribes, is of course laughable and absurd. Couples do not, in fact, have to have children. They’re free to decide to do so, or not, whatever they wish. Yes, even Catholic couples. And contrary to what Francis said, there are many reasons couples might choose not to have children; they might, for example, not wish to pass on some genetic problem; they might not think they have the economic wherewithal to raise a family; and, of course, they simply may not wish to have any children. Those choices aren’t necessarily predicated on the childless couple being “selfish” or part of “a greedy generation.” So the Pope has no reason to assume so.

What’s also remarkable about this statement is that it appears to contradict something he’d said a few weeks ago, as the National Catholic Reporter explained at the time (cached):

The pontiff has also made what appears to be an unprecedented statement that Catholics may have a moral responsibility to limit the number of their children, while reaffirming Pope Paul VI’s ban on artificial means of birth control.…

… Francis made a statement that seems without precedent for a pope, suggesting that parents may have a responsibility to limit the number of their children, saying: “This does not signify that the Christian must make children in series.”

Telling the story of a woman he met in a parish in Rome several months ago who had given birth to seven children via Cesarean section and was pregnant with an eighth, Francis asked: “Does she want to leave the seven orphans?”

“This is to tempt God,” he said, adding later: “That is an irresponsibility.” Catholics, the pope said, should speak of “responsible parenthood.”

One wonders, then, exactly what it is that Pope Francis thinks about couples having children? Maybe he thinks each couple must have one or two kids each, but no more. I can’t really say, but that sort of thing seems to be what he was veering toward, taking both statements together.

I suppose this weird shuffle is a natural product of the fact that Roman Catholicism encourages couples to have children — due to its doctrinal presumption that sex is solely for procreation and its prohibition on contraception — in light of the fact that children are an economic and societal burden, so that having too many can create a lot of problems (both within families and societies at large). The result of this is that Catholic leaders like the Pope can’t help but swerve back and forth on the topic, because there’s no logical way to resolve the paradox (which, I note, they have constructed for themselves).

I won’t even touch the inherent ridiculousness of a celibate man doling out life-instructions to normal couples. It goes without saying that — by definition as well as by choice — they haven’t a fucking clue what they’re talking about … and that’s all one needs to say about it.

Hat tip: RationalWiki.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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This is the image by Lars Vilks published in Nerikes Allehanda along with the editorial. With permission by the Artist. Via Wikipedia.Notice: There’s been additional news from Copenhagen through the day; please see below for updates.

Today there was another eruption of violence over cartoons that, supposedly, “insult” Islam and its prophet, and in the minds of many Muslims, are utterly forbidden to all (not just Muslims). CNN reports on this morning’s shooting in Copenhagen (WebCite cached article):

Gunmen in Copenhagen, Denmark, stormed a building where controversial cartoonist Lars Vilks and his supporters had gathered Saturday, killing one man and wounding three police officers before driving away from the scene, police and witnesses said.…

The attackers fled the scene in a dark Volkswagen Polo, according to Copenhagen police.

Copenhagen Mayor Frank Jensen tweeted that he was “dismayed and deeply concerned by the shooting,” which French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called a “terror attack.”

Lars Vilks has been targeted by Islamists since 2007 when he produced cartoons portraying Islam’s prophet Muhammad as a dog. There have been several attempts on his life, and in 2010, Islamists tried to set his house on fire (cached). This time they got a lot closer to him, and someone died because of it.

One thing 'Bombhead' by Kurt Westergaard / Jyllands-Posten's Muhammad Cartoons, 2 / Jyllands-Posten, via About.Comthat really needs to stop is for scholars, pundits, and media outlets to trumpet repeatedly that the Qur’an doesn’t forbid depictions of its prophet. Maybe it does; maybe it doesn’t. But even if it doesn’t, that makes no difference: Clearly there are Muslims in the world who think it does, and who’re willing to murder people over it. Nothing else is relevant here.

That said, Lars Vilks Muhammad cartoon, via GawkerI fail to see why a religion’s imperatives must be obeyed by everyone, even those who don’t belong to that religion. It seems irrational for Muslims to assume non-Muslims would adhere to the strictures of their faith and behave as though they’re Muslims. I really don’t get why someone could think that.

I can only assume this sort of killing is the result of infantilization. Unfortunately, religious infantilization is hard to defeat; it takes courage and effort to take on one’s own co-religionists, discipline them, and force them to grow the fuck up. Most human beings don’t have enough courage, and don’t want to put forth that kind of effort. So they just stand back and let the infantilization — and its attendant rage and fury, and occasional riots and killings — keep right on going. It’s much easier that way.

As I always do in cases like this, I’ve added some gratuitous Muhammad cartoons to this blog post. Maybe it will sanctimoniously enrage some more violent Islamists. Go ahead, little crybabies — rage and fume all you like. The more you do, though, the more you reveal yourselves as the overgrown infants you actually are. Wah wah wah.

Update 1: When I wrote this earlier today there had only been the one attack that I mentioned. But a second took place later on, near a synagogue. The CNN story reflects this news, but my quotation above does not (to see what it looked like when I first wrote this post, see the cached page; to see what it looks like as I added this update, see this cached copy). So, unsurprisingly, the Islamist tantrums over cartoons continue.

Update 2: I awoke this morning to discover, as reported by the (UK) Guardian and others, the suspect in these shootings has been killed (cached).

Update 3: Authorities named the deceased suspect as one Omar el-Hussein, as the (UK) Telegraph and other outlets report; he’s Danish-born and had a history of violence, including a crime for which he’d been released from prison only weeks ago (cached).

Photo credits: Top, Nerikes Allehanda via Wikipedia; middle, Jyllands-Posten via About.Com; bottom, Nerikes Allehanda via Gawker.

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