Archive for the “Christianity” Category

Christians and their religion

Nuremberg Chronicles - Devil and Woman on Horseback (CLXXXIXv) / via Wikimedia CommonsI’ve already blogged a time or two about some of the asinine things retired neurosurgeon — and militant Christianist — Dr Ben Carson has said. The guy clearly is brilliant enough to have had a remarkable medical career; no one can take that away from him. But sometimes he can be an idiot. During an address at the Republican National Convention, as CNN reports, he offered up a “proof” of sorts that Hillary Clinton is a Satan worshipper (WebCite cached article):

At Tuesday’s Republican National Convention, Carson asked attendees if they could elect Clinton given her relationship to Alinsky, who critics have long accused of harboring communist sympathies.

“Let me tell you something about Saul Alinsky,” he said. “He wrote a book called ‘Rules for Radicals.’ On the dedication page, it acknowledges Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own kingdom.”

Carson asked, “So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model someone who acknowledges Lucifer?”

So here’s Carson’s “proof”: Alinsky is a Satan-worshipper; Hillary met him once; this means she was his sworn disciple; therefore Hillary worships Satan too. If this sounds a little Glenn Beckian to you, you’re not alone. It sounds that way to me, too.

Alinsky has long been a bee in the Right’s bonnet. They’ve been incensed over the guy since before his famous book, Rules for Radicals, was published. It does contain a reference to Lucifer (aka Satan) in its acknowledgement, but that hardly constitutes any proof that he was a Satan worshipper. Mentions or portrayals of Lucifer (aka Satan) as the original rebel aren’t exactly uncommon in literature. For example, John Milton arguably did this in his famous Paradise Lost. But I don’t know anyone who’d claim Milton had been a Satan-worshipper (quite the opposite, actually).

Also, the degree to which Alinsky was Clinton’s “role model” is open to interpretation, too. Politifact reviewed Carson’s statement, including the relationship between Alinsky and Clinton (cached):

So is Alinsky a “role model” for Clinton? The most direct connection between Alinsky and Clinton is that she wrote her undergraduate thesis about Alinsky and interviewed him before he died. At the time, Clinton was Hillary Rodham and the student government president at Wellesley College.

The New York Times reviewed the 92-page thesis and summarized [cached] her views this way:

“Ms. Rodham endorsed Mr. Alinsky’s central critique of government antipoverty programs — that they tended to be too top-down and removed from the wishes of individuals.

“But the student leader split with Mr. Alinsky over a central point. He vowed to ‘rub raw the sores of discontent’ and compel action through agitation. This, she believed, ran counter to the notion of change within the system.”

It’s also true, as Politifact explains, that Alinsky offered Clinton a job, but she refused it because of her differences with him. That is, not only in words but in her actions, Clinton showed she was no lock-step sycophant of Alinsky.

The problem with Carson’s claim is that his audience (i.e. other militant Christianists) are predisposed to believe this, so the presumption that Hillary is a Satan worshipper is one of those lies that will, no doubt, stick to her (just as the very same folks are convinced President Obama isn’t an American citizen and is a secret Muslim).

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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1099 Siege of JerusalemIt’s been a disappointing week for former House speaker Newt Gingrich. He’d presumed himself to be Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump’s choice as running mate, but alas, it was not to be. That “honor” fell to Indiana’s evangelical-in-chief Mike Pence. In the wake of the recent attack in Nice, France (WebCite cached article), the Newtster decided to lash out, just when it became apparent the Trumpster had rejected him. His targets were, as one might suspect, Muslims in the US. As US News & World Report explains, Newtie demanded that Muslims in the US who like “shari’a law” be deported forthwith (cached):

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is responding to Thursday night’s truck attack in France by arguing for the expulsion from the U.S. of any Muslim who believes in Sharia law.

Gingrich is being considered as a possible running mate by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The former Georgia congressman said on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” that the U.S. “should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization.”

What’s more, he blamed this attack on none other than President Barack Obama:

Gingrich is calling the attack in Nice, France, which killed at least 80 people, “the fault of Western elites who lack the guts to do what is right, to do what is necessary, and to tell us the truth, and that starts with Barack Obama.”

Yes, Newtie. It’s certainly the case that Obama metaphorically put a gun to a sociopathic French Muslim’s head and forced the guy to go on a truck rampage through a Bastille Day crowd. Absolutely! Why, it can’t possibly have worked any other way!

I’m curious as to how the Newtster plans to carry out his “test” of American Muslims’ reverence for “shari’a law.” Imagine a scenario in which a Muslim who actually supports “shari’a law” — but who wants to stay so that he can work with the Muslim Brotherhood and President Obama to make sure it’s enforced here — would deal with it:

ICE agent: Mr Muslim, do you believe in “shari’a law”?

Shari’a-loving Muslim: (lying) No!

ICE agent: Oh, well, OK Mr Muslim, you can stay!

Shari’a-loving Muslim: Wow! Thanks, Mr ICE Agent! (goes back to plotting a takeover of the US)

I mean, seriously … what the fuck? I won’t even go into how Newtie-boy thinks the government is supposed to determine which immigrants comes from “a Muslim background.” As I’ve noted many times before, Neocrusaders like Newtie haven’t the first clue what “shari’a law” is, in the first place. As it turns out, it’s not a single iconic entity; it means different things to different Muslims, and is interpreted variously. Also, not all Muslims even want it; many who’ve come to the US have done so because they’re avoiding it!

It’s true there are murderous, savage Muslims in the world. There’s no doubt of it! It’s also true that some of them are right here in the US and have carried out horrific attacks in the name of their fierce religiofascism. But with that said, a proper response to one form of religiofascism is not to be religiofascist right back at it! Meeting sanctimonious rage with more sanctimonious rage, doesn’t cure the sanctimonious rage. A lot of the American Muslims whom the Newtster would like to deport, aren’t our enemies — and might even be our allies. All it takes is to spend some time figuring out what they’re all about, in order to know the difference. Castigating them all in one swoop, based on the bogeyman of “shari’a law,” isn’t going to cut it. It’s time for Newtie and his fellow Neocrusaders to fucking grow the hell up for once and stop acting like spoiled children. Their juvenile act is getting really old.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Robert JeffressIt’s amazing how resistant many conservative Christians are to the idea that, perhaps — just perhaps! — too many blacks (mostly men) are dying at the hands of police (often white) in confrontations that didn’t necessarily have to end that way. As a rule, conservatives tend to be very distrustful of government as a whole, so theoretically at least, one would think they’d be predisposed to question police officers’ motives and actions. But in the face of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, they’ve become sanctimoniously outraged that anyone might ever question the judgement of any police officer anywhere in the country. In their minds, all killings by police must automatically be viewed as “righteous kills,” so that means anyone who disagrees must be “anti-cop” and want all police killed. Or something.

Since their petulant refusal to accept even the remotest the possibility of error or even criminality on the part of an officer contradicts their overall anti-government philosophy, it’s fair to wonder why this is so. Well, evangelical megapastor Robert Jeffress of Dallas revealed at least one reason for this, as Raw Story explains, when he appeared earlier today on Fox & Friends (WebCite cached article):

Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, lashed out at what he called “bogus ministers” who did not preach about having “respect for the police.”

“The New Testament says in Romans 13:4 that law enforcement officers are ministers of God sent by God to punish evil doers,” he opined. “When you think about it, police officers are just as called by God to do what they do as pastors and priests are called by God. And I think we need to remind our members of that.”

Now, Jeffress cited Romans 13:4, but I’ll quote the whole passage in question (including that specific verse):

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (Romans 13:1-7)

If Jeffress — following Paul — is correct, then questioning any police officer’s actions is un-Christian, since as representatives of the state, they’ve been appointed by the Almighty as his/her/its direct agents and therefore are sacred, inviolate, and ever-perfect. This passage from the epistle to the Romans is often cited in Christian circles to back up authoritarianism and the presumption that government is always right and that total obedience to the state is a Christian virtue. Back in my fundie days, this passage and a few others were bandied about this way.

But let’s face it, these folk are selective in how they apply their principle of Biblical authoritarianism … and Jeffress himself shows exactly why, in this very same segment on Fox:

The megachurch pastor also claimed that President Barack Obama had “exacerbated the racial divide instead of healing it.”

“I’m afraid the president, just like he did with conservative Christians after the beheading by ISIS of Christians, it seemed like he wanted to blame conservative Christians in the past,” he said, “instead of putting the blame when it belongs.”

Note that Jeffress — who had just moments before pontificated on how Christians are required by Jesus to submit wholly to the government and to their rulers — just questioned his own president, accusing him of having rhetorically gone after police and “conservative Christians.” So while he advocates unquestioning acceptance of all police officers’ words and actions, he refuses to do the same for the president’s. Hmm. I see more than a little hypocrisy here, not to mention cherry-picking. I’m guessing Jeffress is unaware his own Jesus clearly and unambiguously forbid him ever to be hypocritical, at any time or for any reason.

What’s more, I’ve searched and searched, but have yet ever to find that President Obama has ever blamed ISIS’s beheadings, police killings of blacks, or the public reaction to such killings (e.g. the BLM movement) on “conservative Christians.” He never used words to that effect, that I know of. I challenge Jeffress to show that Obama explicitly stated “conservative Christians” (using those words) were behind either. Go ahead, Pastor. Prove your contention — if you dare! Citations, please, or it didn’t happen. And if it didn’t happen, that would make you a lying liar for Jesus.

Here’s video of Jeffress’s appearance, if you care to view it:

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia, PATraditionalists in the Roman Catholic Church have had a difficult time with a lot of what Pope Francis has said and done since he assumed office. They’ve complained about him, dismissed him, ignored him, and otherwise tried to act as though none of his innovations was ever offered.

An example of this, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, comes from Archbishop Charles Chaput (WebCite cached article):

Divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, as well as cohabitating unmarried couples, must “refrain from sexual intimacy” to receive Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has asserted in a new set of pastoral guidelines.

Released Friday, the guidelines instruct clergy and other archdiocesan leaders on implementing Amoris Laetitia, a major document on family that Pope Francis issued in April.

His six-page instruction, which appears on the archdiocesan website, may be the first of its kind issued by the bishop of any American diocese in response to Amoris Laetitia, Latin for “the joy of love.”

Acknowledging that it is a “hard teaching,” Chaput goes on to say that Catholics in same-sex partnerships, those remarried without a church annulment, and cohabitating persons may not serve on parish councils, instruct the faithful, serve as lectors, or dispense Communion.

Allowing persons in such “irregular” relationships, “no matter how sincere,” to hold positions of responsibility would “offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community,” according to Chaput.

I get that, as a bishop, Chaput is entitled to issue these sorts of directives, and that as a prince of the Church he can govern its affairs and enforce its doctrines as he sees fit; if gay, cohabiting, or remarried Catholics don’t like it, they can leave their Church. That’s absolutely the case. What’s harder to understand is why Chaput, or any leader within the Church, could be so determined to slam the door of the Church in the faces of some of its lay members. The R.C. Church in the US has been on the wane for years. Traditionalists like Chaput are working to push even more folks out. It’s a dysfunctional way to operate.

But hey, what could this cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such important sacred considerations?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Gustave Doré / Crusades / Crusade against the Moors of Granada / via Wikimedia CommonsIronically, on the heels of the bakery massacre in Dakha, Bangladesh, I offer two more examples of a movement I call the Great Neocrusade … a campaign by militant American Christianists against Islam and Muslims here in the ‘States. Ever since the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, this movement has gone from being more or less rhetorical, and has manifested physically in the form of retribution against Muslims (as well as non-Muslims erroneously thought to be Muslims).

The first item I have is from Buzzfeed News, which reports on an attack in front of a Brooklyn mosque (WebCite cached article):

Two teenage Muslims boys were viciously beaten outside a Brooklyn mosque early Sunday morning as their attacker called them terrorists, according to Mohamed Bahe, the director of the mosque.

The incident allegedly happened around 1:18 a.m. at the Muslim Community Center of Brooklyn in Sunset Park, after lengthy evening prayers common during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Police initially said they had no record of the incident, however photos provided to BuzzFeed News showed multiple officers and police vehicles at the scene.

The NYPD denies this was a “bias” incident, however, they already lied to Buzzfeed about having been called to the scene and had to be confronted with contrary evidence before admitting otherwise … so their claims can hardly be taken at face value.

In the next item, WKYC-TV in Cleveland reports a foreigner had been falsely arrested as a terrorist in Avon, OH (cached):

The City of Avon and the Avon Police Department issued a statement of apology to a hotel patron the Avon Police Department arrested last week after a miscommunication over ties to ISIS.…

On Wednesday, June 29, the Avon Police Department received a 911 call from the sister of a woman who was working as a desk clerk at the Fairfield Inn and Suites on Colorado Avenue.

The caller reported her sister told her there was a male in the lobby “in full head dress with multiple disposable phones pledging his allegiance to ISIS.”

Avon Police then received a second 911 call from the desk clerk’s father who also requested assistance on behalf of his daughter.…

Officers, with guns drawn, ordered the man to drop his phone and get on the ground. After the man didn’t initially respond to the commands of the officers, police continued to give commands until the man complied and laid down.

Officers arrested the man, conducted a search, and did not find any weapons.

Contact was then made with the front desk clerk and responding officers found the man never made any statements related to ISIS, and there had been a miscommunication about the situation between the desk clerk and her relatives.

So, two liars called 911 to report a Muslim “pledging his allegiance to ISIS” and cops stupidly fall for it. Nice.

Look, as I’ve blogged so many times before: I get it. Really. I do. Honest! I understand the sanctimonious furor here. I get that Muslims around the world, and even here in the ‘States, have lanched terror attacks. I also really get that the Islamists who launch these attacks are enraged religionists who can’t and won’t tolerate anything that doesn’t jibe with their own beliefs, hence their terrorism. Yes, I get all that. Really!

What I don’t understand is the assumption that each and every Muslim in the world must be a terrorist, too, and that all Muslims are required to kill as many “infidels” as they can. The number of Islamist terrorists in the world is actually very small. If all Muslims everywhere were terrorists, then terror attacks would be going on in pretty much every city in the world, each and every day. With over 3 million Muslims in the US, the carnage would have to be truly staggering. There’d have to be dozens of Islamist terror attacks, and hundreds of deaths, each day in American alone.

Seems to me the way to deal with one bunch of violently-intolerant religiofascists isn’t to be violently intolerant right back at them. But hey, what could this cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such things?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Time and again, as I’ve blogged so many times over the last few years, Pope Francis has done things and made comments that one would never have expected from any of his predecessors. Well, he did it again, this time aboard his plane returning from a trip to Armenia. As the Catholic News Agency reports, his remarks were wide-ranging, and — I expect — will touch off more than one controversy (WebCite cached article):

Catholics and other Christians not only must apologize to the gay community, they must ask forgiveness of God for ways they have discriminated against homosexual persons or fostered hostility toward them, Pope Francis said.

“I think the church not only must say it is sorry to the gay person it has offended, but also to the poor, to exploited women” and anyone whom the church did not defend when it could, he told reporters June 26.…

At the mention of the massacre in early June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Pope Francis closed his eyes as if in pain and shook his head in dismay.

“The church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times, many times — when I say the ‘church,’ I mean we Christians because the church is holy; we are the sinners,” the pope said. “We Christians must say we are sorry.”

Changing what he had said in the past to the plural “we,” Pope Francis said that a gay person, “who has good will and is seeking God, who are we to judge him?”

Surely someone out there will say the Pope was “blaming” the Pulse nightclub massacre on Catholics or Christians; if one actually pays attention to what he said, though, that’s not it. He’s pointing out only that Christianity has contributed to an atmosphere of hatred for gays. That’s a long way — a very long way! — from saying that Christendom collectively conspired to massacre gays in Orlando FL. The two are, quite simply, not even close to the same thing.

I note, too, that the Pope explicitly said that all Christians, not just Catholics, should apologize to gays for marginalizing them. This is a departure from other similar comments in which a pope or other Catholic leader spoke only on behalf of his own Church and what it or its followers had done. On this occasion, Francis said, the apology must come from other sects than just Catholicism. I’m not sure many Christians from other sects — even those who otherwise profess respect for Pope Francis — will appreciate him having said this.

The Pope also veered away from potentially ordaining women as deacons:

As he did at the meeting with the superiors, Pope Francis told the reporters that his understanding was that women deacons in the early church assisted bishops with the baptism and anointing of women, but did not have a role like Catholic deacons do today.

In addition, while he’d been in Armenia, Francis had doubled down on his prior use of the word “genocide” to describe Turkey’s atrocities against ethnic Armenians during World War I. He explained this, too, during his return flight:

He used the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-18 because that was the word commonly used in his native Argentina and he had already used it publicly a year ago. Although he said he knew Turkey objects to use of the term, “it would have sounded strange” not to use it in Armenia.

The Turkish government reacted as childishly as one would expect. As Reuters reports via the Religion News Service, they shot back by accusing the Pope of being a crusader (cached):

A Turkish deputy prime minister said on Saturday (June 25) that it was “unfortunate” that Pope Francis had labeled the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide, and that it reflected the papacy’s “Crusader mentality.”

References to “crusading” are among the worst pejoratives found in the Islamic world, even if it is juvenile name-calling. As I’ve blogged previously, it’s long past time for Turks and the Turkish government to fucking grow the hell up already and stop throwing tantrums every time someone calls the Armenian Genocide a “genocide.” That’s what it was … and the Turks should act like adults and just deal with it, fercryinoutloud.

Photo credit: Paul Haring/CNS.

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'If you KNOW about it, but will not CORRECT it, then you CONDONE it!' / PsiCop original graphicThis morning on his satellite-radio show, Michael Smerconish brought up the case of Wendy Bell, a local television anchor in Pittsburgh who’d been fired because she put something racially insensitive on Facebook (WebCite cached article). He mentioned it because she’d just initiated a lawsuit against the station over her firing (cached).

I bring this up not in order to discuss Ms Bell’s case specifically — it’s part of a larger story that began in early March with the massacre of a family in a Pittsburgh suburb (cached) — nor do I have any way to know how her lawsuit will turn out. What I can say, is that, without regard to whether or not the TV station that employed her should have done so, they’d fired her over what she’d put on Facebook. And they did it for the simple reason that it made them look bad.

This contrasts mightily from what happens when other kinds of folks, particularly preachers and pundits, say things that are often far worse than what Ms Bell said. All too often, they suffer no consequences — at all. On the contrary, extremists and lunatics are allowed to rant and rave any way they want, without being punished and without having to endure any negative repercussions.

We had a few examples of this recently in the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando FL. Multiple religionists said some horrible things, including expressing the hope that some of those wounded would soon die of their injuries. The only consequence any of those folks have suffered is that the church run by one of them has been told its lease will run out early next year (cached). Otherwise, none of them has been punished. (And I’m not sure how much of a hardship losing a lease will turn out to be. So that’s not much of a consequence.)

Still, it’s not just these creatures I’m talking about. Christianists have a very long history of saying horrific things but never being punished for them. For example, Jerry Fallwell — with Marion “Pat” Robertson’s assent — said that the September 11, 2001 attacks were caused by “pagans,” “abortionists,” “feminists,” “the ACLU,” “People for the American Way,” and so on (cached). Yet, Falwell was never reprimanded, disciplined, or punished at all. He kept his ministry and his university. Robertson still has his television network, and still appears on his own show.

If you need another example, here’s one: Virginia legislator Robert G. Marshall announced, 6 years ago, that children are born with handicaps due to abortions. As horrible as that claim was, he remains in his office in the Richmond capitol. So his constituents clearly didn’t disapprove of his hateful spew.

Another example: A North Carolina pastor, during a sermon four years ago, called for all gays to be rounded up, then penned up somewhere and allowed to die off. He still has his position; in fact, his own congregants have defended him.

Oh, and another example: An African-American pastor in Texas claimed that African-Americans had been better off as slaves than if they’d been free. Yes, he said it … and he still has his job, too.

It shouldn’t be necessary at this point, but here’s yet another example: Ray Comfort, a well-known Christian evangelist once made fun of Hindus who’d been killed or injured when a statue of their god Ganesh fell. He was actually happy about it and considered it a justified example of “God’s wrathful judgment.” In spite of his giddiness over someone’s death, Comfort too still has his job and his ministry. Like the others I’ve mentioned, he’s paid no price for his words or actions. None.

I could go on, but won’t. There have been all sorts of nasty, offensive words that have tumbled off the lips of religious leaders throughout the US … but they’re left alone. The cold fact is that lots of sanctimonious Christianists say and do a lot of outrageous things, that — if they’d been said or done outside of a religious context — simply would never be permitted. They’re the sort of thing that tend not only to get people fired — as happened with Ms Bell — but can even end people’s careers entirely.

Granted, a lot of other Christians protest that cretins like Falwell and Robertson don’t speak for them … but those are only words, and they mean nothing. Not. A. Single. God. Damned. Fucking. Thing.

The stark reality here is that, what you refuse to correct, you condone. If you let monsters like Falwell blame 9/11 on the ACLU, then you’re telling others who think like him that they’re free to say the same thing, or something related, if not even worse. Remember that extremists are speaking in the name of your religion, and in the name of its founder, Jesus Christ. If you refuse to prevent them from doing so, then you’ve chosen to allow them to make your religion look bad to the rest of us who aren’t part of it and only know its meaning from the words and actions of those who claim to belong to it.

If you’re a Christian who disagrees with any of the militant Christianist creatures who’ve said horrific things in the name of your religion, then don’t just say you disagree and leave it at that. Get off your ass and do something about it. Correct them, discipline them, punish them. Measures can range from getting them removed from their offices or pulpits, to having their clerical credentials (if they have them) revoked, to … well, pretty much anything, as long as it’s legal and it affects them in a meaningful way. You can do it … but only if you want to.

Of course, you could just throw up your hands, and continue to let the extremists keep saying and doing vile things in the name of your religion, its founder and your deity. Leave your religion up to the hatemongers! Let the extremists control it. Yeah, that’s always an option. How important is the integrity of your religion? Do you think well enough of it to police it? It’s really up to you to decide.

Hat tip: Michael Smerconish, via Twitter.

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