Archive for the “U.S. Politics” Category

Politics in the United States

Bible-openThe nation’s Christofascists continue relentlessly using government to promote their dour religionism. It’s a tired refrain, but it’s a campaign these people simply will not let go of, no matter what happens and no matter how illegal it may be. The latest example comes from the Bible Belt (er, Bobble Bay-elt) state of Louisiana. As the Associated Press reports via WWL-TV in New Orleans, a bill naming the Bible Louisiana’s state book is moving through the legislature’s machinery (WebCite cached article):

Lawmakers are moving ahead with a proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana’s official state book, despite concerns the bill would land the Legislature in court.

A House municipal committee advanced the bill Thursday with an 8-5 vote, sending it to the full House for debate.

Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, said he sponsored the proposal after a constituent made the request. But Carmody insisted the bill wasn’t designed to be a state-endorsement of Christianity or a specific religion.

“It’s not to the exclusion of anyone else’s sacred literature,” he told the House committee. Again, later he said, “This is not about establishing an official religion of the state of Louisiana.”

The illogic of Carmody’s claim is hilariously laughable. He actually thinks people are going to believe him when he says that making the Bible Louisiana’s state book can’t possibly be construed as an “exclusion” of other holy works. To the contrary … of course it’s exclusionary! Of course it promotes Christianity over other religions! What else can possibly be the result of such a pronouncement?

Deciding that “the Bible” is Louisiana’s “state book” leads inevitably to the question, “Which Bible?” There are many Bibles to choose from. The original bill specified that the official “state book” was to have been a particular copy of the Bible in the Louisiana State Museum, one which happens to be a King James translation (cached). But that specification was removed from the bill, I assume because it would have opened up a sectarian can of worms. After all, the King James Version was first written for the Anglican Church in order to help sever it from Catholicism. So selecting that particular Bible as Louisiana’s “state book” could have been offensive to Catholics, not to mention Orthodox or other kinds of non-Protestant Christians. Gee, how nice of Carmody to have been that accommodating, no?

Given that Louisiana is a religionist state with a fiercely religionist governor, I expect this bill will pass and become law. There are lots of Bible-worshippers there who’re desperate to use their state government to promote more Bible worship.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Torches and pitchforks (from 1931 Frankenstein) / Courtesy of Word Spy / original URL: http://www.wordspy.com/words/torch-and-pitchfork.aspThere’s a running pattern among militant Christianists talking about rebellion and revolution in order to force their dour religionism on the entire country. Of course, they’re not admitting that’s their goal. Oh no. What they really want — they say — is “religious liberty.” That makes it sound as though they simply want to worship as they want, in their homes and churches. If that were all they actually wanted, I wouldn’t have any problem with it, nor would any other non-believers I know. But it isn’t. Rather, they follow the reasoning:

  1. I have certain beliefs.
  2. One of them is that everyone must follow my religion
  3. Therefore, if I have “religious freedom” …
  4. I must be permitted to force everyone to live by my doctrines.

That’s the religiofascist’s syllogism.

That these people have been forced to deal with things they personally dislike and view as contradicting their beliefs … such as gay marriage … is something they can’t and won’t tolerate. Since they haven’t been able to use the courts to roll some of these things back, they’ve increasingly decided they’re entitled to get their way via extralegal means.

So naturally, Christofascists have been chattering lately about revolt. I’ve blogged about this in the past. But as Right Wing Watch reports, another sanctimoniously-outraged religious activist, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, implied he and his fellow Christofascists may be forced to rebel (WebCite cached article):

Mat Staver recently appeared on the “Light of the Southwest” Christian television program on God’s Learning Channel where he warned, yet again, that America is headed toward a second American Revolution led by conservative Christians over the issues of gay marriage, abortion, and religious liberty.

“We’re seeing the beginning groundswell of a potential new American Revolution,” Staver said, asserting that if the government continues to trample on religious liberty, the nation will soon “run into that decision point of persecution and/or revolution.”

Here’s video of him making these comments, via Youtube:

Note that Staver isn’t precisely calling for a revolution right now (as some of his fellow Christofascists have). No, he’s predicting that, if the persecution of Christians “continues,” a revolution is going to happen. That said, there is no such persecution going on. It’s a figment of his and his fellow Christianists’ imaginations. They think that not getting their way is “persecution,” when — of course — it’s nothing of the kind. That he compares himself to Martin Luther King, Jr is particularly ridiculous … but I’m sure Staver neither can nor will see it that way.

P.S. You’ve just gotta love the irony of Staver’s group’s name: “Liberty” Counsel. You’d think this meant they want to promote freedom. But in fact, they don’t. What they want is to reduce freedom, by forcing everyone in the country — Christian and non-Christian alike — to have to live according to their own evangelical/fundamentalist version of Christianity. That’s not “liberty”; it’s Christocracy.

Photo credit: Word Spy.

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Moscow Kremlin from Kamenny bridgeLook, I get that the Religious Right doesn’t care much for President Obama. They despise the man (often calling him “Barack HUSSEIN Obama” as though his middle name is the most important thing about him), and they hate pretty much everything he says and does. He could comment innocuously on the weather sometime and the R.R. would cook up some rationale to condemn him for it and try to make it out to be some kind of constitutional crisis. All of that is par for the course, and expected.

But once in a while, one or another of the generals that leads the army of the R.R. goes off the rails in order to express his/her hatred for Obama. As the Religion News Service reports, the Christofascist Franklin Graham, son of the famous Billy Graham, recently did just that (WebCite cached article):

Evangelist Franklin Graham is praising Russian President Vladimir Putin for his aggressive crackdown on homosexuality, saying his record on protecting children from gay “propaganda” is better than President Obama’s “shameful” embrace of gay rights.

Graham, who now heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association started by his famous father, praises Putin in the March issue of the group’s Decision magazine [cached] for signing a bill that imposes fines for adults who promote “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.”

“In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues,” Graham writes. “Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.”

“Our president and his attorney general have turned their backs on God and His standards, and many in the Congress are following the administration’s lead. This is shameful.”

So, because Putin hates gays and has orchestrated the passage of laws limiting their civil rights and freedoms, Graham thinks he’s better than Obama.

Graham knew how his words might be construed, and tried proactively to swerve around that:

With the caveat that “I am not endorsing President Putin,” Graham nonetheless praised Russia’s get-tough approach toward gay rights.

Graham can say all he wants that he’s “not endorsing President Putin,” but when he goes out of his way to praise the guy in this way, that is precisely what he has done. He cannot disown it, even if he’d like to.

In any event, Graham’s praise for Putin ostensibly centers around how the Russian president is protecting children from being exposed to homosexuality, as though this is legal in the United States. In fact, it’s not. Adults engaging in sexual activity of any kind with children, is very much illegal in every jurisdiction in the country. And I suspect it was illegal in Russia, prior to the passage of the anti-gay law there. So the law Putin rammed through his country, in all likelihood had absofuckinglutlely nothing to do with protecting children, since chances are, they were already protected.

So the Christofascist factually lied on two counts: First, that he wasn’t “endorsing” Putin when in truth he was; and that a Putin-style law is needed to protect children here in the U.S. when in truth it is not. I’ve remarked before on what a buffoon Franklin Graham is, but this makes him a double-lying buffoon who praises brutal tyrants in order to condemn an American president he personally dislikes. Fucking weasel.

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Ten Commandments, BaldockThe Religious Right has long waged a fierce, active campaign to get Ten Commandments idols in or around courthouses, public schools, town halls, public parks, etc. They’re obsessed with it, for some reason, viewing Decalogue monuments has having some kind of magical power to make their communities better places. About the only power they have is to provide emotional reassurance in the face of the personal insecurity inherent in clinging to a package of metaphysical beliefs that have no demonstrable basis. Beyond that, Decalogue idols accomplish nothing whatsoever … aside maybe from making it clear to any and all non-Abrahamic believers that they’re neither wanted nor welcome.

The latest battle in militant Christianists’ ongoing war to get Decalogue monuments put up everywhere comes from the home state of Judge Roy “Ten Commandments” Moore, as reported by the Montgomery Advertiser (WebCite cached article):

The House Judiciary Committee passed a constitutional amendment without discussion or debate that would allow the Ten Commandments to be posted in public buildings and schools.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Duwayne Bridges, R-Valley, stipulates that the commandments could be displayed unabridged or unrestrained on public property as long as it’s in compliance with constitutional requirements.

Text of HB 45 can be obtained here (cached).

The ACLU doesn’t understand the need for this law, but that doesn’t faze R.R. activists, who insist it’s necessary as a proactive measure against imagined persecutory “judicial activism”:

Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, said the reason for the bill is that courts, over and over again, are ruling that you can’t display the Ten Commandments. He said they’re the foundation to the laws of our nation and society and should be allowed to be on display.

There are lots of problems with this Christofascist movement to put up as many Decalogue monuments in as many government facilities as possible. Because this is ongoing Religious Right campaign, I created a static page on this blog that describes the many different problems with it. In brief, it’s unconstitutional; all such displays are by nature sectarian; they’re clear violations of the Abrahamic religions’ injunctions against idolatry (included within the Ten Commandments themselves); they’re also forms of public piety which Jesus clearly forbid to all his followers; and because Christians building them violates the very religion they claim to believe in, doing so is a kind of hypocrisy, which Jesus also explicitly forbid them ever to engage in. As such, this is actually an un-Christian effort.

Note, too, that Christians demanding that Decalogue idols be put up all over the place, is itself a kind of activism, whereas they intend this law to block judicial activism they disapprove of. In other words, they’re happy to engage in their own form of activism but condemn all other forms of activism. Hypocrisy, thy name is “Christianist”!

Photo credit: TheRevSteve, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Apocalypse vasnetsovThe Religious Right loves to use disaster theology to bludgeon other people into obeying their own dour metaphysics. They do it because they believe their God is a terrifying cosmic tyrant who will, in fact, happily use disasters in order to terrorize humanity … and because of their own fear of him, they view fear as something that will motivate others to believe as they do, also. They either don’t understand — or worse, they refuse to want to admit — that disasters happen from time to time, regardless of any outside factors, and it’s impossible to verifiably ascribe them to an almighty cosmic entity who’s trying to coerce humanity into doing his bidding.

The latest example of a Religious Rightist using disaster theology to make others cower into doing as she demands, is Congressional candidate in Illinois’s 9th district, Susanne Atanus. The Arlington Heights, IL Daily Herald reports on what she said on the subject (WebCite cached article):

“I am a conservative Republican and I believe in God first,” Atanus said. She said she believes God controls the weather and has put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth as in response to gay rights and legalized abortions.

“God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions,” she said. “Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.”

Yes, of course, Ms Atanus. Everything bad that ever happened in this world, was caused solely by vile, insolent, God-hating mortals who dared reject your deity and his ways. Why, of course! How could it possibly have been otherwise?

</sarcasm>

What you see here is the childishness typical of the fervent religionist. They dislike something, so they claim their God also hates it, and they cast about looking for things they can cite which, as they see it anyway, demonstrate his displeasure. What they haven’t done, and can never do, is to actually show this relationship using objective, verifiable evidence.

They also can’t or won’t explain how it makes sense for an almighty cosmic deity to try to send a message to humanity in such a way. Consider: if he really wanted to make clear that he despises gays and abortion, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to be more explicit and direct about it? Putting such a message in the sky, in enormous letters that don’t move with the wind, would certainly do the trick. Making some kids autistic and some of the elderly senile, and dispatching tornadoes to flatten some towns, don’t constitute a clear message.

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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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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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