Archive for the “Religion” Category

Posts concerned specifically with religion

L. Leonard Ruben District CourthouseI can’t stress enough how counter-productive and even directly harmful metaphysics can be. Lots of people ask, “What’s the harm in metaphysical beliefs?” Most of the time the answer is, “Not much.” The problem is, that answer is, by itself, not enough. A proper answer would be, “Not much … except on occasions when it can injure or kill.” WJLA-TV in Washington DC reports on precisely one such occasion (WebCite cached article):

Police have now charged two women with murder in the deaths of two children in Germantown and say the defendants were attempting to perform an exorcism.

Saturday morning, the children’s mother, Zakieya Latrice Avery, 28, was charged then Saturday afternoon, Monifa Denise Sanford, age 21, was arrested and charged after she was released from the hospital.

On Friday, Montgomery County police officers responded to the 19000 block of Cherry Bend Drive where they discovered four children had been assaulted. Two of the children were pronounced dead on scene and the other two were transported to an area hospital.

Here’s video of the station’s report:

It’s a good thing this happened in Maryland and not Texas, because had this happened in the Lone Star State, these two women wouldn’t have been prosecuted; injuring, and presumably even killing, someone during an exorcism is perfectly legal there (cached).

If the defendants’ public defenders* are smart, they’ll reach out to the Rutherford Institute, Liberty Counsel, or the Thomas More Law Center to defend their religious-freedom rights to harm or kill in the name of their Jesus. Any or all of those groups could plug up this case in court for decades, if they work at it. And the state of Maryland will no doubt end up paying the hundreds of thousands of dollars this protracted legal process will cost.

Maybe it’s time for those who believe in various packages of metaphysics, to start reining in their co-believers. These sorts of excesses aren’t new; killing people, especially kids, for Jesus happens far more often than it ought to. How many more such cases are needed, before someone figures out there’s a problem here, that really needs to be fixed?

* I assume these women won’t be able to afford their own lawyers.

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Vatican flag (8583012024)A U.N. commission has been investigating how the Holy See handled child-abuse allegations within its ranks. This might sound as though something might actually be done about the worldwide priestly pedophilia scandal, but it won’t, because the U.N. is perhaps the single most ineffective institution on the planet. There really isn’t a whole lot the U.N. can do to the Vatican, even if it wished to, and odds are, it won’t wish to do anything. Even so, an investigation of any kind always has the potential to reveal something.

A hearing held today did just that. It shone a rather harsh and unflattering light on the Vatican’s evasiveness — which has been an ongoing problem for this U.N. commission (WebCite cached article). CNN reports on the proceedings (cached):

A senior Vatican official acknowledged Thursday there is “no excuse” for child sex abuse, as he and others were grilled by a U.N. committee about the Catholic Church’s handling of pedophile priests.

It’s the first time the Vatican has been forced to answer allegations so publicly that it enabled the sexual abuse of children by protecting such priests.

The committee questioned a handful of Vatican officials — including Monsignor Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, and Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former chief sex-crimes prosecutor — for several hours Thursday in Switzerland.

The really interesting bit came from Scicluna, who hurled the problem of Catholic clerical child abuse right back at the governments of countries in which it operates:

Scicluna said he was there to say that “the Holy See ‘gets it’ ” with regard to the issue and that no one should stand in the way of the prosecution of abusive priests.

“Let’s not say too late or not,” he said. “But there are certain things that need to be done differently. I would talk about cover-up, for example, because this is a very important concern.”

States “need to take action against citizens of the country who obstruct justice in such an egregious crime as sexual abuse of minors, whoever these people are,” Scicluna said.

Scicluna is saying the problem lies not in anything the Church did or didn’t do, including covering up abuse, but rather, insinuates that it’s “states” which were the ones engaged in cover-ups. I’d say one could call this the definition of chutzpah, especially since the Church previously has been shown to have ordered its hierarchs not to cooperate with secular investigations.

Wow. I mean, just “wow.”

Scicluna went on to deny that priest shuffling — a frequent Church practice documented as having occurred around the world — ever happened:

As for priests who have committed sexual abuse of minors, the Holy See has made clear in a letter to bishops that it is “a no-go simply to move people from one place to another, from one diocese to another” without being open about their backgrounds, Scicluna said.

I can’t really say any of this surprises me. Although the Vatican has said that it “gets” the scandal, its officials’ words just keep reflecting the perpetually evasive tactics the hierarchs have always used in the past. Very little has changed, except for the fact that guys like Scicluna and Tomasi have been directly confronted and dressed down in a manner that’s never happened before. That much, at least, is quite welcome.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Jesus playing football, via The Biblical WorldNote: This post has been updated to mention comments made by UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma.

My alma mater‘s train-wreck of a football team just got its second total shake-up in 3 years, when Bob Diaco was hired as the new head coach (WebCite cached article), and the rest of the coaching staff was replaced. Among Diaco’s new staff is running backs coach Ernest Jones, who in a Hartford Courant profile on Sunday, explained that he’ll make Jesus the team’s focus (cached):

Many of the players on the team have a spiritual base.

“Just because you come to the University of Connecticut doesn’t mean you won’t have the opportunity to pursue your faith,” Jones said. “No, you’re going to be able to come here and love the God that you love. So we provide opportunities for them to grow spiritually in our community. So I’ll get out and meet some people in the community so when this young man, for example, says, ‘I’m a Seventh Day Adventist or I’m a Catholic or I’m a Baptist or I’m a Jehovah’s Witness,’ well, OK, here you go. And we’re going to do things in our building, fellowship, non-denominational type things, players, coaches. We’re going to make sure they understand that Jesus Christ should be in the center of our huddle, that that’s something that is important. If you want to be successful and you want to win, get championships then you better understand that this didn’t happen because of you. This happened because of our Lord and Savior. That’s going to be something said by Bob Diaco. That’s something that’s going to be said by Ernest Jones. That’s who we are.”

I really love how this guy concedes that members of his team can be Catholic, Baptist, or Jehovah’s Witnesses … any kind of Christian who acknowledges Jesus as “our Lord and Savior.” This pretty much leaves out Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. and non-believers too. Those guys, I guess, can’t sign up for UConn football — not with Jones on the coaching staff, anyway.

This caused a little bit of an uproar, I guess, because today, the Courant published a blog post “clarifying” what Jones said (locally-cached article):

In the end Jones just wants the players on the team to have a good sense of morals in addition to being solid football players.

We need to be clear on this though and here’s a clarification, what Jones meant: if a player has a need to be in touch spiritually, whichever direction that is, the player will be able to reach out to Jones and he will be able to point him — or them — in the right direction; that you don’t have to disconnect from your faith — if you’re faith-based — because you’re away from home.

That sounds all well and good, I suppose … except for three tiny little problems: First, this “clarification” doesn’t mesh with Jones’s original words. As reported, he specifically and explicitly mentioned that Jesus Christ, not some other deity, was required to “be in the center of [UConn's] huddle.” He didn’t say “Jesus Christ, or whoever or whatever the players worship, should be in the center of our huddle.” Second, Jones’s statement wasn’t predicated on whether or not a player has a wish for spirituality; he clearly said that the entire team had to focus on Jesus. That obviously means every player, not just those who are Christian, or even just those with a spiritual inclination. Third, this clarification didn’t come from Jones himself; beat writer Desmond Conner wrote it for him. The clarification is Conner’s, not Jones’s, so we have no idea whether or not Jones actually thought better of what he’d said during the interview, or for that matter whether or not Jones is even aware of the controversy he kicked up. It’s possible Jones has taken the cowardly route, hiding behind Conner, unwilling to go on the record as admitting he said anything inappropriate, and hoping a reporter can make this go away for him.

I note that the Courant also released UConn president Susan Herbst’s comments — this time, quoting her directly rather than writing for her (locally-cached):

But it should go without saying that our employees cannot appear to endorse or advocate for a particular religion or spiritual philosophy as part of their work at the university, or in their interactions with our students. This applies to work-related activity anywhere on or off campus, including on the football field. Our Athletic Director and Coach Diaco agree wholeheartedly with me, and have made this clear to their staff.

What a mess. It’s been made even more of a mess than it needed to be, by virtue of the total silence of Jones himself. Where has the Christianist weasel been, the last couple days? No one, aside maybe from Desmond Conner, knows.

Photo credit: The Biblical World.

P.S. The typos in some of the Courant articles linked above, such as an extraneous semicolon in one headline, are as published. Editing is given short shrift at the nation’s oldest continuously-published newspaper.

Update: The incredibly successful — not to mention sometimes-brutally-frank — Geno Auriemma, UConn’s women’s basketball coach, had a little to say about this controversy (cached):

“I don’t give a [expletive] about religion when it comes to sports,” Auriemma said. “In fact, I think it’s stupid [to involve it]. I get a kick out of those who go on national television and thank God [for giving them the strength to perform]. Like God gives a [expletive] that you made 18 jumpers. I have always had a problem with that [thinking]. I don’t think people should show their religious belief in public. I have a real problem with it. And I don’t care what religion it is.

The Courant provides video of his comments, which for some reason I can’t embed here (even though the site offers embed code … WTF?).

Auriemma makes an excellent point about whether God cares if “you made 18 jumpers.” Think about this for a moment: Why would the Almighty give a shit about a basketball game, or football game … or any other kind of athletic contest? Why would s/he/it care if a player scored 8 points, or 10, or 12? What could that possibly mean to an omnipotent, omniscient, eternal and infinite being? Wouldn’t s/he/it have better things with which to concern him/her/itself?

If you ask me, if Geno Auriemma — who’s arguably the most successful coach currently working in American college sports — doesn’t think religion should be linked to athletics and doesn’t care about his players’ religion(s), that ought to be tell you something. It might not prove anything all by itself, but it is a meaningful perspective by someone who truly knows the issue.

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Father & ChildThe litany of excuses that religionists come up with in order to be able to dismiss anything a non-believer says, is legion. “You must have had a bed experience with religion!” is among the most common (it’s closely related to, “Some believer must have hurt you very badly”). They will say or do almost anything to avoid admitting that any non-believer might actually have a valid point, and no rationale is too ridiculous for them to use. One religionist who wrote a book about one of these rationales, as Religion News Service reports via Hartford FAVS, has recently re-issued his work (WebCite cached article):

A once-popular book that links atheism with shoddy fathering is getting a second life with a new publisher, thanks, in part, to the rise of nonbelief in the United States.

“Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism” by Catholic psychologist Paul C. Vitz posits that “intense atheists” throughout history — Nietzsche, Voltaire and Madalyn Murray O’Hair — had absent or rotten fathers. This, he argues, damaged their ability to form a relationship with a heavenly father.

It’s common to confuse correlation with causation, but a whole helluva lot harder to demonstrate with meaningful evidence. Logicians have a name for this particular fallacy: post hoc ergo propter hoc or “after this, therefore because of this.” I have to thank Dr Vitz for providing such a marvelous example of this fallacy. To be clear, demonstrating a direct causal connection between absent fathers and atheists, requires more than just a short list of some fatherless atheists.

The reason this book is being re-issued is, apparently, as a response to the rise of the “New Atheists” whom religionists despise:

So why revise the book?

A lot has changed since 1999. For one, the first decade of the 21st century saw the rise of the so-called “New Atheists” — outspoken critics of religion such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, whom many contemporary atheists credit for swelling the ranks of nonbelievers.

This article includes a snide, gratuitous “dig” at said “New Atheists”:

“The rise of militant, evangelical, fundamentalist atheism in our time adds to the pertinence of this book,” said Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press, the Catholic publishing house that has reissued the book.

Boo fucking hoo, you little sniveling crybabies. So what if some “New Atheists” have come along and were insolent enough to dare critique your precious religion? Too fucking bad. My heart bleeds for you poor little things. It must be so hard to be critiqued. How dare they do that to you!?

For the record, there is no such thing as “atheist fundamentalists.” There can’t be! Atheists have no “fundamentals” to revere (as fundamentalist Christians, for example, have their Bibles coupled with Biblical literalism).

Religionists would be much better off if they simply grew the fuck up for once in their lives, and stopped looking for reasons to dismiss whatever their critics say. If their religion had any veracity, it would easily withstand scrutiny. Nothing the “New Atheists” … or anyone else … said about it, could possibly have any effect on it. That religionists view the “New Atheists” as evil — and as trying to destroy them — merely because they’re outspoken, reveals how insecure and childish they are.

Photo credit: momento mori, via Flickr.

P.S. I guess I fly in the face of Vitz’s hypothesis about non-belief being caused by absent fathers. My own father passed away only after I’d reached adulthood, and I’d crossed into non-belief before then.

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89 - Cry Baby!The nation’s Christianists have been whining and fuming for the last 5 years about Barack Obama’s election as president. They’ve made numerous accusations about him … such as that he’s a Kenyan citizen and not American, he’s a Marxist, a “secret Muslim,” a minion of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that he’s the Antichrist.

Although some Religious Right figures are willing to make statements of this sort openly, a lot have been more circumspect about it. They prefer to wink in the direction of such ideas rather than espouse them explicitly. It’s a kind of triangulation that maintains their appeal among angry, militant Rightists who genuinely believe in one of those insane Obama hypotheses, without appearing nutty, themselves, to the rest of us.

One Religious Rightist who recently decided to engage in this sort of triangulation, as the Religion News Service reports, is famed Texas megapastor Robert Jeffress (WebCite cached article):

Already no stranger to controversy, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor, is coming out with a book that claims President Barack Obama is clearing the way for the Antichrist.

Jeffress, head of the 11,000-member First Baptist Church of Dallas, writes in his book “Perfect Ending” that he does not believe Obama is the Antichrist, yet he links Obama’s support of gay marriage to the coming of the Antichrist. Many Christians believe Jesus’ Second Coming will feature a confrontation with an enemy called the Antichrist, based on interpretation of passages 1 John and 2 John.…

“While I am not suggesting that President Obama is the Antichrist, the fact that he was able to propose such a sweeping change in God’s law and still win reelection by a comfortable margin illustrates how a future world leader will be able to oppose God’s laws without any repercussions.”…

Jeffress wasn’t claiming that Obama is the Antichrist, and said he was not questioning the president’s faith. “But what I am saying is this: the course he is choosing to lead our nation is paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist.”

Jeffress’s crybaby gripes center around the two current bogeymen of the R.R.: gay marriage and the contraception mandate. While it’s true he explicitly said he doesn’t think Obama is the Antichrist, that he connected Obama with this terrifying figure out of Christian legend can only be a potential appeal to other hateful Christianists who view the president as being in league with Satan.

The RNS article mentions the word “antichrist” was coined by the author of the Johannine epistles (specifically, it’s found in 1 Jn 2:18, 22; 1 Jn 4:3; and 2 Jn 1:7). But it’s not clear it refers to a single person or spirit. 1 Jn 2:18 reads:

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.

Clearly the Johannine author is saying there are many “antichrists”; but all the other mentions of “antichrist” are in the singular, and appear to refer only to a singular being. So which is it? Your guess is as good as mine. Although most fundamentalist Christians view “the Antichrist” as some future person, and connect him/her with “the Beast” of Revelation, the Bible itself makes no such connection, and 1 Jn 2:18 certainly contradicts that (since it mentions more than one Antichrist, contemporaneous with its author to boot).

The RNS story also mentions another stupid thing Jeffress said:

In his book, Jeffress makes his case that Christians should study prophecy more closely. “Evangelist Billy Graham once observed that ‘the most neglected teaching in the church today is the second coming of Jesus Christ,’” he said.

This is idiotic on two counts: First, because all Biblical prophecy — every last stinking bit of it — is pure, unfiltered, 100% grade-A bullshit. Simple as that. Second, that Biblical prophecy is somehow “neglected” is a flat-out lie. For the last few decades there’s been endless “End Times” talk streaming out of Christian fundamentalism. The success of the Left Behind publishing empire all by itself thoroughly disproves Jeffress’s (and by extension, Graham’s) contention that Christian prophecy is being ignored.

Photo credit: eyeliam, via Flickr.

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Crying newborn, via Wikimedia CommonsI already blogged about one sanctimoniosly-enraged religiofascist going on a hunger strike over gay marriage in Utah. But there’s a lot more going on in that mostly-Mormon state. As KSTU-TV in Salt Lake City reports, there was a rally for a revolt against that state’s government (WebCite cached article):

Billed as a call for an uprising, opponents of same-sex marriage gathered for a meeting in Highland on Saturday.

Former Graham County, Ariz., Sheriff Richard Mack spoke about issues concerning the U.S. Constitution, including same-sex marriage.

Mack says that since it appears that Herbert and other elected leaders have failed at their jobs, it’s up to law enforcement and everyday citizens to deny same-sex marriage.

“The people of Utah have rights, too, not just the homosexuals. The homosexuals are shoving their agenda down our throats,” Mack said.

Cherilyn Eager, who helped organize the event, says that it’s time for the citizens of Utah to speak up for their rights.

“We need people to stand up and speak out. We need to get noisy. We need some outrage,” Eager said. ”It is about the sheriffs now coming out to protect the people.”

Here’s the station’s video report:

In the course of supporting his call for revolution, Mack claimed that federal law doesn’t supersede state law … which is absolutely not true. There’s this little thing in the Constitution (Article VI, section 2 to be exact) known as the supremacy clause, which explicitly states this. So Mack is lying when he, ironically, says federal supremacy is a lie. That, in turn, makes him a lying liar for Jesus.

These people have a lot of trouble with the concept of granting others (for instance, gays) certain freedoms (for instance, the ability to marry). They appear to think this somehow affects them. But it doesn’t! Allowing gays to marry doesn’t prevent heterosexual couples from marrying and it doesn’t force people into gay marriages against their will. If a couple of gays somewhere get married, it doesn’t affect them in any way. They really need to grow up and get over themselves already, and move on with their lives … which are not changed in the slightest by Kitchen v. Herbert.

What’s more, calling for a revolt against the governor and state government which is doing its best to appeal the ruling, makes no sense to me. But then, what could this cynical, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about anything this important?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Bundesarchiv Bild 102-04062A, Nürnberg, Reichsparteitag, SA- und SS-AppellThe sad reality of life is that things happen to people. Sometimes, very bad things. Terrible things. Things like injuries or medical reactions that lead to incapacitation or even death. An example of this is the case of Jahi McMath, a 13-year-old who ended up brain-dead as a result of something that happened during a tonsillectomy (WebCite cached article).

The details of this case — especially regarding what, exactly, went wrong during the tonsillectomy — aren’t all in yet. But doctors who’ve examined her — including independent neurologists — have declared her brain-dead … meaning she is, unfortunately, gone. As one would expect, her family isn’t going along with this, and they’re in denial. They don’t want to admit Jahi is dead, although in fact, she is.

As they did with the Terri Schiavo case nearly a decade ago, the Religious Right is going to bat for her family, propping up their state of denial, and going hard after the medical industry. They’ve re-armed themselves with every rhetorical tool they used back then. Among these is the old reductio ad Hitlerum, which the Raw Story reports was wielded by none other than Fox News’s Mike Huckabee (cached):

Fox News host Mike Huckabee on Saturday warned that a California girl who was declared brain dead after tonsil surgery last month could lead to situations like Nazi death camps and forced abortions in China if the hospital took her off life support.

The former Arkansas governor and ordained pastor began his Fox News show by admitting that he did not have the medical experience necessary to understand 13-year-old Jahi McMath’s condition but he encouraged her family to fight against any attempts to remove her from life support even though doctors said she technically “died several weeks ago.”

“Every life has value and worth,” Huckabee told his viewers on Saturday. “There is no such person who is disposable, one whose life has been deemed by others to be less than others and therefore expendable, I can’t share that.”

In his effort to paint the Children’s Hospital of Oakland as latter-day agents of the Third Reich, he pulled in another of the R.R.’s hang-ups, that being abortion:

He continued: “The road that starts that way in deciding that some lives have less value and are unworthy of protection, that leads to a culture that tolerates the undeserved killing of over 55 million unborn children in this country. It leads to China’s birth policy that limits the number of children for a family and enforces forced abortion if they deviate from the state-determined ideal.”

The McMath family is trying to get Jahi moved to another facility so they can keep her alive — a virtual zombie — desperately hoping for some sort of miracle that will resurrect her. Until she’s moved, the poor girl’s body is currently in the care of Children’s Hospital. I can’t see how Huckabee calling them Nazis is going to accomplish anything good … for her, or them. But hey, what can this cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such important things?

If the R.R. really wanted to help the McMath family in any meaningful way, they’d pay for sound counseling to help them with their grief, so they can put Jahi to rest, and then live the rest of their lives. And possibly investigate what happened during the surgery, so that if there had been any malpractice, they can be compensated for it. But the R.R. doesn’t truly want to help the McMaths. They’d much rather use this tragedy to pitch fits about how the country isn’t being run the way they demand it be run. They’d rather devise ways to throw this case in the faces of their enemies, without regard to its relevance, so they can feel as though they’re getting control of the country back. They’d rather use it as fuel for their sanctimonious rage over the fact that they no longer run the show.

It’s all very childish, of course, but then, religionism itself is a form of immaturity, so what can one expect?

P.S. Contrary to what Huckabee said, declaring people brain-dead has nothing to do with deciding that someone is “disposable.” Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals don’t generally go into that business because they think some people are “disposable.” Brain-death is declared when someone’s condition warrants it … not because of any perceived “disposability.” By making this claim, Huckabee insulted the entire medical profession … and he should fucking apologize for it.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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