Archive for the “Religion” Category

Posts concerned specifically with religion

Jesus weptBelieving in their supposedly omnipotent, infinite, omniscient, yet benevolent creator-deity has tied followers of the Abrahamic religious tradition in logical knots for centuries. It’s difficult to look out at a world full of needless suffering and wanton evil and decide it was all designed, built, and is currently presided over by an almighty being who also disapproves of evil.

It’s a conundrum that led to any number of theodicies, or rationales intended to reconcile this logical conflict. All of them, however, fail the test of logic — even the vaunted and oft-spoken-of “free will” theodicy. Despite the utter failure of all known theodicies, Abrahamic believers nonetheless doggedly continue trying to justify believing in the illogic of a supposedly benevolent, omnipotent deity whose creation is rife with needless suffering and tons of unnecessary evil.

I just heard about a sterling example of the laughable extremes they’ll go to in order to rationalize this brazenly illogical concept. As Mediaite reports, Houston megapastor Joel Osteen recently came up with something so ridiculous, that it defies description, and is as sadly pathetic as it is hilarious (Archive.Is cached article):

During his televised sermon today, Osteen seemed to reference the storm that devastated huge swaths of Texas and Louisiana. And the way the preacher told it, hurricanes like Harvey are just God’s way of saying you can take a great and life-altering tragedy.

Bringing up a biblical story involving Jesus and his apostles sailing across a lake during a hurricane-like storm, Osteen said that Jesus didn’t wake up during the squall because he knew they could handle it. “If they were all going to die, he would have gotten up without them having to wake him up,” he exclaimed.…

“The reason it may seem like God is not waking up is not because he’s ignoring you, not because he’s uninterested, it’s because he knows you can handle it,” he stated.

Osteen added, “Take it as a compliment.”

The people of Houston, and other places, should “take it as a compliment” that a hurricane flooded their homes and businesses, and even killed some people — the death toll is up to about 60 as I type this (cached)? Seriously!? How the fuck did Osteen even say something that ludicrous with a straight face?

The irony here is that what Osteen said makes perfect sense, given the premises posed by the Abrahamic religious tradition. It follows naturally from the position that there is a creator-deity who’s all-powerful, all-knowing, yet who chooses (for unknown reasons) to allow horrific things to happen to people. It’s an unavoidable conclusion … given all of that. If the idiocy of such a statement doesn’t wake Abrahamic believers up to the obvious absurdity of their beliefs, then I guess nothing will.

P.S. That’s the second time in just a few days that a Texan dealing with Hurricane Harvey has said something so asinine as to force me to tag a post “you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.” What in hell is wrong with the Lone Star State, anyway (aside from the tragedy of the hurricane)?

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Girl praying / StockSnap, via PixabayAll over the world, people want to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, which flooded Houston and caused lots of damage elsewhere around the Gulf of Mexico. And support is streaming in. But too often — as one would expect of the affected region, given that it’s all part of America’s Bible Belt — solutions keep veering back to religion. I already blogged about how Texas’ secretary of the state turned away help from the province of Quebec, asking for prayers instead. But as Real Clear Politics and other outlets report, our Groper-in-Chief also declared today a day of prayer for Harvey’s victims (Archive.Is cached article):

The president announced Friday that this upcoming Sunday would be a national day of prayer for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

“I just authorized and signed a proclamation for prayer,” the president said. “And we’re going to have, on Sunday, a prayer Sunday… So I think it’s going to be something to see and to witness. Will be — it’s been a long time, and our country deserves it, frankly.”

It’s time for a little truth, here. Prayers aren’t going to do a fucking thing for anyone, because they’re useless. What Harvey’s victims need — and deserve — is meaningful, tangible help. For the most part, that means they don’t need “things”; monetary donations are actually the best way to help (except if you happen to be nearby, and can either deliver needed items directly to agencies you know can take them, or physically help by providing shelter or with cleanup and rebuilding). Here are some options:

There are other options, too, so look around, and avoid obvious scams. Here are a few pages that list bona fide options:

Note that I don’t advocate donating to the American Red Cross; they have a track record of collecting a ton of money, but not spending it where donors intended, or worse, not even being certain where it’s going (cached). That history goes back a very long way, and in spite of scandals that followed from their responses to Superstorm Sandy (cached), the Haiti earthquake (cached), Hurricane Katrina (cached), and even the 9/11 attacks (cached), the Red Cross has refused to change their ways. I’m not the only one saying this about the Red Cross, either (cached).

But even if giving to the Red Cross doesn’t trouble you, please know they’ve already set donation records and have all the money they can use. The charities I’ve listed above aren’t so donation-rich, meaning your donations there will have a much greater effect on their operations.

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Auguste Rodin-The Hand of God-Metropolitan Museum of ArtI still haven’t been able to figure why a man who’s been married three times, was a well-known womanizer, and who happily bragged about habitually sexually assaulting women (cached), managed to become the champion of America’s Religious Right … you know, the exact same crowd who tried to run Bill Clinton out of office because he’d had an affair. I mean, assuming they’re sincere about their love for “family values,” one would think they ought to have condemned the Groper-in-Chief instead of electing him.

But I guess it’s too much to ask that they be consistent with their dour moralizing. Maybe their reverence for the Apricot Wonder is another of those things this cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen isn’t permitted to understand.

Even so, “reverence” is a good word to describe their feelings for the GiC. Case in point: As AOL News reports, his spiritual adviser, evangelical preacher Paula White, propounded his sanctity (cached):

Paula White, a televangelist and spiritual adviser to Donald Trump, appeared on television Tuesday to defend the president amid recent controversy using an unlikely Biblical comparison.

While speaking on a panel on “The Jim Bakker Show,” White said that Trump’s presidential victory was similar to a story from the Hebrew Bible where a woman named Esther was chosen to be queen, since both parties were unlikely to be selected for their roles.…

On Tuesday, White compared Trump to Queen Esther, saying that he, too, was selected by God to carry out a divine plan.

“They say about our president, ‘Well, he is not presidential.’ Thank goodness. Thank goodness. Thank goodness,” White said. “And I mean that with all due respect. Because, in other words, he is not a polished politician. In other words, he is authentically, whether people like it or not, has been raised up by God.”

So according to White, the Groper-in-Chief is, by definition, “presidential” specifically because he’s not “presidential” at all, and an example of a good Christian specifically because he’s a lousy example of a good Christian.

Or something like that. I think. I mean, that must be another of those impenetrable notions that this cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen can never figure out.

Even more than this ridiculous crap, however, White went so far as to equate the Groper with the Almighty himself:

“God says that he raises up and places all people in places of authority,” she continued. “It is God who raises up a king. It is God that sets one down. When you fight against the plan of God, you are fighting against the hand of God.”

She’s saying anyone who opposes the GiC, by definition opposes her deity.

Wow. I mean, just “wow.”

I recall just a few years ago the Religious Right had a very different attitude toward the previous president. Rather than viewing him as an appointed agent of their God, many of them went so far as to pray for their deity to kill him, citing Psalm 109:8. As I said before, consistency isn’t their strongest suit.

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Flag-of-QuebecHurricane Harvey has devastated the coast of Texas, and particularly the city and environs of Houston, which was flooded. People around the country, and the world, have provided all kinds of assistance. One would think the government of Texas welcomes such aid from anyone willing to provide it.

But, incredibly, they don’t.

As CBC News reports, Texas refused aid from the province of Quebec, and wants only their prayers instead (Archive.Is cached article):

Quebec is offering to help Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and is at the ready for when officials there say they need it, says Minister of International Relations Christine St-Pierre.

St-Pierre says she spoke with Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos Tuesday early afternoon, offering to send equipment and crews to help restore power and to provide blankets, beds, pillows and hygienic products.…

Pablos declined the aid for now, instead asking for “prayers from the people of Quebec,” the minister said. “He was very touched by the fact we called him.”

Now, I get that Texans are proud, viewing themselves as independent and resilient … but in the face of a disaster like this, help is help, and (I would think) they wouldn’t turn their noses up at it. When we in New England and the northeast were assailed by Hurricane Irene, the Snowtoberocapalypse, and Superstorm Sandy, utility crews from Hydro-Québec helped us rebuild … and we appreciated it. Pablos should have swallowed his Texan pride, said, “Thanks, send what you can!” and left it at that.

But no. Instead of tangible assistance, he wants prayers instead. Yes, prayers … that won’t accomplish a single fucking thing. I’m going to have to tag this one you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.

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Harvey Geostationary VIS-IR 2017You’ve got to hand it to Christianists. They sure as hell are consistent. They can always be counted on to use natural disasters to propound their dour metaphysics and bludgeon everyone else with them. Once Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, you just knew they’d declare that Harvey was God’s retribution for some outrage. Right Wing Watch reports on three such incidents so far.

The first militant Christianist on this list, is activist “Coach” Dave Daubenmire (Archive.Is cached article):

While Religious Right leaders have been oddly reticent about declaring that Hurricane Harvey is God’s judgment for America’s sin, far-right activist Dave Daubenmire is not shy about proclaiming just that, asserting on his “Pass The Salt Live” webcast yesterday that the storm is divine punishment on Houston for abortion and for recently having a lesbian mayor.

“Houston, we got a problem here,” Daubenmire said. “Could some of the problems be the result of the judgment of God coming your way because of the slaughter of unborn children? You had a lesbian mayor who wanted to look at the prayers of pastors in their churches. It’s debaucherous.”

Militant Christianist broadcaster Rick Wiles soon concurred with “the Coach” (cached):

End Times radio host Rick Wiles used his “TruNews” broadcast yesterday to declare that the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey is God’s punishment for Houston’s “affinity for the sexual perversion movement.”

“This is a proud city that, in recent years, has boasted of its allegiance, its dedication, its devotion to the homosexual/lesbian agenda,” he said.

Wiles asserted that Houston is under God’s judgment because it formerly had a mayor who is a lesbian, currently has “a pro-homosexual mayor,” has persecuted Christian pastors in the city and is among “the top-tier, most gay-friendly cities in America.”

And they were followed by yet another Christianist pastor (cached):

Extremist anti-LGBTQ pastor Kevin Swanson is joining other radical Religious Right activists in declaring that Hurricane Harvey is God’s judgment on Houston and other cities that refuse to repent for their embrace of “sexual perversion.”

“Jesus sends the message home, unless Americans repent, unless Houston repents, unless New Orleans repents, they will all likewise perish,” Swanson said on his radio program today. “That is the message that the Lord Jesus Christ is sending home right now to America.”

Yes, these three are true spokesmen for “the Religion of Love,” are they not? I can’t think of more stellar examples of what Christianism stands for. Can you?

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'One Nation, Under God: Remember, if you don't believe in God, you're not a REAL American. Keep prayer and God in school, where they belong!' / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of GeorgiaIn case you haven’t heard, militant Christianism is alive and well in the US of A. Yes, even in the 21st century, a strangely medieval form of Christofascism is doing just fine, thank you — even though its sanctimoniously-enraged adherents insist, repeatedly (despite the facts), that Christianity is being wiped out and all Christians in the US are in dire peril of being slaughtered at any moment.

Or something like that. I think. Yeah, I know it sounds extreme, but they certainly believe all that. And they believe it fervently … so how could it possibly not be true?

Naturally, these folk focus on the future. Yes, they focus on the future they sincerely — but delusionally — fear (and lie about), the one in which Christianity no longer exists, because of vicious, evil “secular progressives” in concert with their (supposed) friends the radical Islamists; and they focus on the future they earnestly desire, one in which Christianity is alive and well, and their form of it is worshipped uniformly by everyone in the world (after first being made into the national religion of the US).

In order to bring about the latter future, the one they would love to bring about, they work hard at getting their Christianism into schools, assuring (they think) that the next generation will worship their Jesus the way they demand he be worshipped by everyone. It’s a game they’ve played for decades, and have persisted with, in spite of setbacks like Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington S.D. v. Schempp (1963). Little things like the rule of law don’t matter to American Christianists; they work for Jesus, you see, so they need not worry about such petty concerns.

This explains why the good Christianist folk of the good Christianist state of Arkansas passed a good Christianist law ensuring the good Christianist public-school students all see a good Christianist slogan* constantly. KARK-TV in Little Rock explains their good Christianist impulse (Archive.Is cached article):

The official motto of the U.S. written across our money and monuments could soon appear on the walls of Arkansas public schools.

A new law [cached] states elementary and secondary schools shall display a framed picture or poster of “In God We Trust” above an American flag in their libraries and classrooms.

The article includes a quote by a good Arkansas Christianist affirming the good Christianists’ desperate need for this law:

“It should be there,” said Sharon Sumpter from Mulberry. “We need to turn more back to our religion, our roots and why our country was founded.”

“If you take ‘In God We Trust’ out, I mean that’s basically telling them God’s dead, you know?,” said Doug Wilburn from North Little Rock.

This insane piece of drivel practically screams “illogic.” To be clear, Ms Sumpter: No, not seeing “In God We Trust” constantly does not — in fact — tell us that your God is dead. It just fucking doesn’t — and that you think it does, constitutes proof of your religionistic derangement.

The article goes on to explain the mechanism by which the good Christianists who wrote and passed this good Christianist law hope to make it legal:

Taxpayers won’t be fronting the bill for the new displays.

Act 911 states they either have to be donated from a private organization or purchased with funds made available through voluntary contributions to the local school boards or the Building Authority Division of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Oh, and it’s not only schools that must display “In God We Trust” all over the place:

The law also requires the motto to appear in any public building that’s maintained or operated by state funds.

Whew! That was close! I was afraid, for a moment there, that only public-school kids in the good Christianist state of Arkansas would constantly be confronted by that good Christianist slogan*; I can be comforted knowing that any good Christianist in Arkansas who spends time in any state-funded building will be comforted by the constant sight of a good Christianist slogan*.

I sure am glad I don’t live in Arkansas. But if I did, it wouldn’t matter. I do not trust in the Christianists’ God — or any other, for that matter — nor will I ever do so, no matter how many times I’m told I must. I just won’t. And there’s absolutely nothing that American Christianists can do about it.

Nor can they change the fact that there are non-Christianists in the world … yes, even in their own precious and holy “Christian nation.” Waaah wah waah, little babies. Waah wah!

* I say “In God We Trust” is a “Christianist” slogan, because — well! — that’s exactly what it is! It was first put on US coins during the Civil War due to a religious impulse. It was later added to paper currency as the Cold War heated up, at the instigation of the Knights of Columbus.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Austin Cline/About.Com, aka ThoughtCo; Original: University of Georgia.

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Law enforcement officials investigate an explosion at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. Bloomington police Chief Jeff Potts said Saturday that investigators are trying to determine the cause of the blast. Authorities say the explosion damaged one room but it didn't hurt anyone. (David Joles, Star Tribune)The movement I’ve called “the Great Neocrusade” — made up of Religious Rightists who object to the existence of Islam, and want it abolished in the US and then eradicated from the planet — became violent quite some time ago, and it continues apace. As the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, a Bloomington MN mosque was bombed early Saturday morning (Archive.Is cached article):

A blast caused by what the FBI called “an improvised explosive device” rocked a Bloomington Islamic center before dawn Saturday, just as a small group of Muslim worshipers had gathered for the day’s first round of prayers.

The blast was reported at 5:05 a.m. as about a dozen people gathered in a room nearby for morning prayers and jolted awake many residents of the neighborhood. Congregants and neighbors expressed relief that there were no injuries, but also reacted with shock and dismay.

As I’ve said many times in the past, I understand the motivation behind the Neocrusade. Really, I do. I get it. I know all about the September 11, 2001 attacks; the Fort Hood shooting; the Boston Marathon bombing; the shootings in San Bernardino and in an Orlando night club; not to mention the attacks in Paris; and many other terror attacks around the world. I know them. I do. Honest! Really, I get it. I know Islamist terror exists and that it has caused much mayhem and killed many. I definitely am not unaware of the danger posed by Islamofascism.

What I don’t see, is how bombing mosques in the US is a valid or useful response to Islamist terror. Truthfully, Americans are in much greater danger from mundane things like automobile accidents, drug overdoses, and violence at the hands of ordinary, everyday sociopaths and criminals, than they are from violent Islamist terrorists. Responding to the irrational, sanctimonious violence of some Muslims with yet more irrational, sanctimonious violence against all Muslims, simply will not help. If anything, it will make the situation worse.

Besides, most Neocrusaders are Christians, who’ve been explicitly ordered by the founder of their religion never to be violent:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42)

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.” (Luke 6:27-29)

Christians are, quite simply, not allowed to be violent. And that includes in self-defense! I admit this kind of pacifism is a counterproductive and potentially perilous philosophy, but those are the words early Christians included in the scriptures they wrote, and which Christians today claim to venerate; making sense of them, and following them, are not my problem. Christians chose their religion, and should just fucking follow it, fercryinoutloud, instead of conjuring rationales for evading the clear instructions they’re supposed to obey.

Photo credit: David Joles, Star Tribune.

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