Archive for the “U.S. Politics” Category

Politics in the United States

Stop and ThinkYesterday I blogged about Indiana’s Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s claim that rape-pregnancies are “something that God intended to happen.” In the wake of the understandable shitstorm this kicked up, Mourdock claimed he hadn’t said what he clearly had said, and whined that he was being criticized. It’s true that some Christians — including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney — disavowed Mourdock’s statement, but some are actively defending the guy. For example, we have this piece from Christianity Today (WebCite cached article):

According to CBS News and a number of other outlets, last night Republican candidate for an Indiana U.S. Senate seat Richard Mourdock suggested that pregnancies resulting from rape are “something that God intended to happen.”…

Then again, it may be even more “disrespectful to the survivors of rape” to fail to tell them about the wondrous redeeming power of God, even in the most horrible circumstances.

Actually, yes, it would in fact be exceedingly “disrespectful to the survivors of rape” to tell them, “It’s OK, God is great, so everything is fine!” Or, “You were raped and are now pregnant? What a wonderful gift God gave you, you must be so thrilled!” Would it be appropriate to say anything like this? What if the situation weren’t a rape or rape-pregnancy, but something else … say, losing a child in an auto accident, getting a diagnosis of terminal cancer, or having one’s home wiped out in a wildfire? Do Christians really think it helps anyone dealing with any of these situations to tell them that whatever happened to them is OK because God is still around? Is it in any way “respectful” to them?

Of course it’s not. What’s more, Christians know it! Any Christian who says it would be appropriate, is lying.

Of course this is not the first time a Christianist’s idiotic or reprehensible statement is defended by other Christianists. Back when Marion “Pat” Robertson declared that the Haiti earthquake had happened because Haiti had been cursed, he had no small number of fellow Christians defending him.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Christianist tribalism … where nothing any Christian says is ever out of bounds, and where everything a Christian says is rationalized and justified, no matter how horrid or untrue it is. These people just can’t help themselves. The idea that a fellow Christian could have done something wrong, is an admission they cannot and will not ever make. Theirs is a harsh black-&-white world, one in which it’s them against everyone else, where “the Enemy” will revel in their every misstep, thus they defend their fellow Christians at all costs, because they can’t abide the idea that “the Enemy” might get an occasional “win” now and then. It’s all very irrational and even childish … but hey, what can you expect?

What this really shows us, is that these people have no integrity or character. They can blather on all they want about their morality and ethics and how their belief in God makes them great people — but they have no reservations about defending the indefensible whenever they need to in order to protect one of their own. If they did have any integrity, they’d have been willing to say, “Mr Mourdock was out of line. His words are unacceptable and I will not defend them, or him. Until he atones for what he’s said and offers a contrite, sincere apology, we will have nothing more to do with him.” It can’t damage them to say something like this, even though they think it will kill them. That’s because fierce religionists don’t have any integrity, nor do they have the courage to admit one of their own might have been wrong. They just have their primitive, reflexive tribal instinct.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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And Jesus WeptThe number of Religious Rightist candidates making idiotic, Puritanical declarations that expose them as hateful misogynists just keeps growing. First we had Todd Akin of Missouri, then Joe Walsh of Illinois. Now, as NBC News reports, it’s a candidate from Indiana, Richard Mourdock, who’s running for U.S. Senate, likewise exposing the R.R.’s irrational hatred of women (WebCite cached article):

Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, said in a debate on Tuesday that “even when life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.” …

“The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother,” Mourdock said. “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something God intended to happen.”

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney tried to deflect Mourdock’s spew:

Romney, who on Monday launched statewide ads endorsing Mourdock, distanced himself on Tuesday from the remark by his fellow Republican. “Governor Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock’s comments, and they do not reflect his views,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.

But really, how far can the guy go to get away from this? Mourdock wouldn’t have made this kind of statement if he didn’t think lots of Republican voters — whom Romney also represents — also believed it.

Mourdock isn’t apologizing for his comment, even though Romney dealt him that mild, implied slap:

Mourdock issued a statement after the debate that said: “God creates life, and that was my point. God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that He does. Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick.”

No, Mr Mourdock. Your critics are not “absurd and sick.” You — and the sanctimoniously-enraged Religious Right whom you appeal to — are the ones who are “absurd and sick.” You cannot simultaneously declare that rape “is something God intended to happen,” then later claim it’s “a horrible thing.” According to your own Abrahamic tradition, your God is benevolent and only capable of doing good. This means that, if he has willed something to happen, then by this definition it cannot be “a horrible thing.” Moreover, when you state that rape-pregnancy “is something God intended to happen” then you absofuckinglutely are stating that God truly does “want rape.” The logic of your statement doesn’t work any other way. So Mr Mourdock … give your fucking juvenile indignation a rest already, and take responsibility for your own fucking words. No one shoved them down your throat and forced you to say them. You came up with them all by yourself. Bellyaching that people have criticized you for having said them, is childish. Man up, grow up, and stop with your crybaby whining.

Note, this is not the first time I’ve heard from believers that rape, or rape-pregnancy, are “God’s will.” Military chaplains have made this claim, too.

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Pay no attention to headlines ... they lie! (PsiCop original)It’s not news that the numbers of “Nones,” or the religiously-unaffiliated, are growing in the US. It’s been documented for several years now, particularly after Trinity College’s ARIS 2008 project generated a report in 2009 about what they called “the Nones,” or the religiously-unaffiliated. This week, the Pew Forum released the results of their own survey on the matter. They find that “the Nones” are growing in number (WebCite cached version):

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public — and a third of adults under 30 — are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).

This part of the report has generated any number of mass-media stories trumpeting the growth of “atheists”; for example, this one from Canada’s National Post, whose headline reads as follows (cached):

Rise of the atheists: U.S. Protestants lose majority status as church attendance falls

The NP article itself fails to mention atheists or atheism very much, only noting that they’re merely a subset of the “religiously unaffiliated.” So where does this headline come from?

The truth is that this survey doesn’t really tell us a whole lot about atheists or atheism specifically. The folks at Pew are, themselves, quite clear on this:

This large and growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives.

However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, finds that many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day.

The fact is, the majority of the religiously unaffiliated as identified in polls such as Pew’s and the earlier ARIS survey, are believers. They simply don’t belong to any religious organization and don’t attend services regularly. But they remain religious people.

The Pew data itself shows that those designated as “Atheist” has grown only 0.8% since 2007, and “Agnostic” has grown only 1.2% in that time. These results can hardly justify any of the media headlines (such as the above) declaring that “Atheism” is growing astronomically. It isn’t. Non-believers are assuredly a minority in the US, and they’re likely to remain so, for quite some time to come. Only paranoid religionists would fear they’re going to be outnumbered and have their beliefs outlawed.

P.S. The full report is available on Pew’s Web site (cached).

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Paul Broun Congressional PortraitI’ve blogged before about Religious Rightist Congressman Paul Broun from Georgia. He’s about as militant a Christianist as you could ask for. That’s bad enough all by itself. But he happens also to be a physician, and he uses this as an indication of expertise in science, making all sorts of ridiculous proclamations which his followers then treat as more authoritative than they are, because — after all — he’s a “doctor” and he must be right! *

As it turns out, in the course of one particular speech, as reported by Talking Points Memo, Broun managed to reveal both the absurdity of his religionism, and his total lack of anything resembling knowledge of science (WebCite cached article):

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) tore into scientists as tools of the devil in a speech at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet last month.

“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” Broun said. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

According to Broun, the scientific plot was primarily concerned with hiding the true age of the Earth. …

“You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth,” he said. “I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”

If you need proof that a grown man in the 21st century United States actually said something this backward, asinine and ignorant, see it for yourself in this Youtube video of Broun’s remarks:

According to Broun, virtually all of modern science is a Satanic plot to lead people away from “the Truth” (as he sees it).

Let’s be clear about this: The consensus among astrophysicists is that the Big Bang happened … if they disagree, it’s on the precise manner in which it played out, or on its implications. Also, evolution is both a fact and a theory; there is no valid biological science that refutes it. For Broun to say either the Big Bang or evolution are untrue, are fucking lies. Period. End of discussion!

I have to wonder when, exactly, Broun’s own Jesus told him to lie in order to promote his religionism? I’m not aware the gospels contain any such instruction. If someone out there could provide chapter and verse from one of the gospels to this effect, I’d greatly appreciate it.

In any event, I just love it when Religious Rightists yammer too much and expose themselves as ignorant and disingenuous. It makes my job so much easier.

* Note the similarity here with the followers of Ron Paul, whom they always refer to as “‘Dr’ Paul.” They likewise believe — erroneously — that Paul’s status as a physician makes him an unassailable expert on every conceivable topic, even ones he has absolutely no credentials in (such as economics).

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Crying… you end up facing a situation that very well might cost millions of lives, and for no discernible, rational reason. The trifecta of Israel, Iran and the Right within the United States is rapidly reaching this point. It would have been hilariously funny, if not for the fact that it might lead to a latter-day holocaust.

First, we have Iran, which is led by a furiously religionistic cast-eyed freak known as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who can’t seem to get over the fact that a Jewish state exists, several hundred miles from his own borders. As the New York Times reports, he’s come to the Big Apple this week to spew yet more of his juvenile anti-Semitic rants (WebCite cached article):

Defying a warning by the United Nations secretary general against inflammatory remarks, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran said Monday that Israelis had no historical roots in the Middle East and that the existence of Israel was just a passing phase in the region’s long history. …

At the breakfast meeting, he said that the Israelis had been around the region for only 60 or 70 years, in contrast to the Iranians, whose civilization has existed for thousands of years.

“They have no roots there in history,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said of the Israelis, according to Reuters.

This is, of course, a lie. DNA studies have shown that modern Jews do, in fact, have Middle Eastern roots. I’m sure Iran’s cast-eyed freak — and pretty much every other anti-Semite on the planet — would dismiss these DNA studies as products of the pervasive and evil “Jewish cabal” that controls the planet … but paranoiac thinking like that is par for the course, for this childish crew, so one can hardly expect otherwise.

So this is hardly the first time he’s unleashed this kind of tantrum and it certainly won’t he the last. However, this little childish antic has been compounded by another episode of juvenile religionism, and that is, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s desire to nuke Iran because it appears they may have a slim chance of someday creating a workable nuclear weapon, as NPR reports (cached):

During a joint press conference in Jerusalem with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Netanyahu expressed his frustration with how world powers are handling Iran and its nuclear program.

“The world tells Israel ‘wait, there’s still time’. And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” Netanyahu said.

It doesn’t matter to Bibi, I guess, that Iran’s nuclear program is, in a word, delicate … so delicate that cyberattacks like Stuxnet and Flame have been able to derail it. Oh no. The fact that Iran’s cast-eyed freak has been rattling his saber for the last few years, is all Bibi needs to tell him that his country is only 10 seconds away from nuclear extinction at Iran’s hands. That Bibi is motivated to nuke Iran, by militant religionists within his own country, is something he’d never admit to … even though it’s true.

Now, added to all of this tension — which all by itself is sufficient to ignite a war that no rational person should wish be fought — we have a third party intruding on it, scrapping for a fight at all costs. That would be America’s Right, which is absolutely enraged that President Barack Obama insolently chose not to meet with Bibi, presumably in order to get his blessing for Israel’s nuking of Iran (cached). (Memo to the Religious Right: No, Obama does not have to meet with Bibi just ’cause Bibi asked to meet with him. The leader of the free world gets to choose who he meets with, and when. He is at no one’s beck and call … not even the Israeli Prime Minister’s.)

Because of the R.R.’s sanctimonious outrage over this, Mitt Romney, GOP presidential candidate and current commander-in-chief of the Religious Right’s political arm, is also aching to start a war in the Middle East, as CNN reports (cached):

“Tonight on 60 Minutes, President Obama called Israel’s legitimate concern about the impact of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons ‘noise’ and referred to Israel as merely ‘one of our closest allies in the region,’” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.

Saul continued in the statement: “This is just the latest evidence of his chronic disregard for the security of our closest ally in the Middle East. Governor Romney’s views stand in sharp contrast to the President’s. Governor Romney strongly believes that Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East and that support for Israel is essential to extending freedom, peace and democracy throughout the region. As president, Governor Romney will restore and protect the close alliance between our nation and the state of Israel.”

It’s not true that a war between Israel and Iran could ever be in the best interest of the U.S., and there’s no valid reason Americans should ever want one, so long as there are alternatives available (cached). But in order to appeal to the evangelical Christians here … who’ve been itching to ignite Armageddon and usher in the return of their precious Jesus … Romney is forced to agitate for a war he knows would be bad for the U.S.

What a fucking joke this all is. And it’s all useless and pointless. It’s only come about because of the militant religionism that comes from the Abrahamic faiths. There’s no rational reason for any of this tension.

Isn’t it time for the world’s leaders to just fucking grow the hell up already and get over their militant religionism? I’ve had enough of your goddamn infantile tantrums, fercryinoutloud.

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Foursquare / St Raphael Catholic Church, El Paso, TXIRS regulations are clear that all non-profit entities — of any and every possible sort — are not allowed to engage in politicking. This includes campaigning on behalf of a candidate, endorsing them, telling members whom to vote for, and so on. Among the types of non-profit entities that fall under this injunction, are religious groups — ranging from large denominational organizations, to multi-church councils, to religious universities and schools, to religious orders, to congregations, and even down to single-pastor ministries. These rules are simple and clear; there are no exceptions; there isn’t a lot of mystery about them; and anyone who applies for tax-exempt status damned well knows them.

Despite this, from time to time, some religionist with a bee in his/her political bonnet will decide to break this rule and tell his/her followers whom to vote for. The El Paso Times reports on a Catholic parish that appears to have done just that (WebCite cached article):

A local Catholic church appears to have violated IRS rules — and Catholic doctrine — by endorsing a presidential candidate in a church bulletin.

St. Raphael Catholic Church on the city’s East Side might have violated an Internal Revenue Service rule that prohibits tax-exempt churches from taking sides when it comes to candidates seeking political office in its Aug. 5 bulletin.

“I am asking all of you to go to the polls and be united in replacing our present president with a president that will respect the Catholic Church in this country,” the end of the entry in the bulletin says. “Please pass this on to all of your Catholic friends.”

The parish’s pastor has evaded questions, but his diocese has not, and agreed this is problematic, not only because it’s against IRS rules, it also Catholic doctrine itself:

But the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, which oversees St. Raphael, acknowledged in an email that the entry in the bulletin was inappropriate.

“Churches and other nonprofits are strictly prohibited from engaging in political campaigning/endorsement of a particular candidate,” said Deacon Carlos Rubio, vice chancellor of the diocese. “The Diocese of El Paso is aware of this requirement from the IRS and mindful that it does not violate such norms.” …

The primary U.S. church document on the Catholic Church’s role in politics is called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It says the role of bishops, priests and deacons is to teach fundamental moral principals that provide the framework for decisions such as how to vote.

“In fulfilling these responsibilities, the Church’s leaders are to avoid endorsing or opposing candidates or telling people how to vote,” the document says.

The article goes on to show the bulletin’s language is linked with the U.S. Catholic bishops’ struggle with the Obama administration:

The passage in the bulletin lists the number of employees of Catholic schools and hospitals in the United States, and it appears to be in response to Obama’s mandate that health plans offered by those employers cover birth-control medication for women who want it. Catholic doctrine opposes artificial means of birth control.

So while the diocese may have conceded that St Raphael in El Paso did something it shouldn’t have, I don’t see how it can possibly have been surprised by such a thing. The Christofascist bishops have gone to war with President Obama and are very clearly opposed to him. They’ve used various means — including lawsuits — to express their fury over his refusal to let them run the country and control people’s lives. Somehow, they think this deprives them of their religious liberty. (Yes, they really, actually do think that everyone — Catholic or not — is required to defer to them. Always, everywhere, and without question. They cannot and will never permit anyone to disobey them … and they’re happy to pitch fits then they think someone is doing so.)

Even though this bulletin clearly violated IRS rules, I don’t expect that agency to do anything about it. Generally they’re lax about policing that particular rule, and rarely come down on religious groups that violate it. Revoking a religious group’s non-profit status is a once-in-a-decade event for them. Yes, the IRS will “investigate” — whatever that might entail — but eventually the agency will decide nothing really happened, and that they won’t take any action.

Photo credit: Foursquare.

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KENS-TV / 'Pray for Obama' sign stirs controversy over Biblical verseI blogged almost 3 years ago about Christians using a scriptural curse against President Obama. Their use of “imprecatory prayer” against the President died down a little, after that, but with the 2012 election heating up, it was bound to be used again. And it has been, this time in Victoria, TX, and as KENS-TV reports, the Secret Service is taking an interest in it (WebCite cached article):

The Secret Service is looking into a sign posted in Victoria, Texas.

The sign says “Pray for Obama”, but it’s the scripture quoted below those words that is raising eyebrows: Psalms 109:8.

Psalms 109:8 reads, “Let his days be few, and let another take his office.”

Milton Neitsch Jr., who has lived in Victoria since 1961, says he didn’t intend for people to pick up on the hateful wishes of death and pain surrounding the tiny verse.

I’m not sure how or why Neitsch didn’t think anyone would pick up on his hateful wishes. They’re right there, as plain as day, for anyone to see. Here’s the station’s video report:

As I did the last time this came up, I’ll provide the context of verse 109:8 so the reader can see how vicious this entire passage is:

Let his days be few;
Let another take his office.
Let his children be fatherless
And his wife a widow.
Let his children wander about and beg;
And let them seek sustenance far from their ruined homes.
Let the creditor seize all that he has,
And let strangers plunder the product of his labor.
Let there be none to extend lovingkindness to him,
Nor any to be gracious to his fatherless children
Let his posterity be cut off;
In a following generation let their name be blotted out.
(Psalm 109:8-13)

Aren’t Christians wonderful? They’re just so loving and everything … no?

I close this by predicting that, in the end, the Secret Service will take no action. Unless they find that Neitsch was a direct, imminent threat to the President, they’ll chalk this up as just another disgruntled Christian hick bellyaching about a president he doesn’t happen to like, and leave it at that.

Photo credit: KENS-TV.

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