Archive for the “U.S. Politics” Category
Politics in the United States
For a very long time I’ve been saying that Christians’ claims of historical persecution are overblown. Many of them think the Romans routinely and pervasively persecuted their religion throughout the first three centuries of its existence. And today, they view the loss of their religion’s once-mighty influence over occidental culture as a kind of persecution. They don’t realize that their beliefs about Roman Imperial persecution are vastly overstated, even though most scholars — beginning with Edward Gibbon, author of the seminal The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — acknowledge it was exaggerated. Their belief that, during Roman times, their religion hovered at the very edge of extinction at any moment and that being associated with Christianity in any way was an automatic instant death sentence, continues to be prevalent, in spite of the fact that it’s not true at all.
This Easter morning, the CNN Belief Blog posted an article about authors who’ve examined the record of Rome’s persecution of Christianity and found it wanting (WebCite cached article):
Millions of Christians worldwide will celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on this Easter Sunday. But the story of how the church rose to prominence after Jesus’ death is being turned upside down.
According to a belief passed down through the centuries, the church grew because of Roman persecution. The blood of Christian martyrs such as Perpetua became “the seed of the church,” said third-century church leader Tertullian. It’s the Hollywood version of Christianity reflected in epic biblical films such as “Ben-Hur” and “The Robe.” Vicious Romans relentlessly targeted early Christians, so the story goes, but the faith of people like Perpetua proved so inspiring that Christianity became the official religion of Rome, and eventually the largest religion in the world.
But that script is getting a rewrite. The first Christians were never systematically persecuted by the Romans, and most martyrdom stories — with the exception of a handful such as Perpetua’s — were exaggerated and invented, several scholars and historians say. It wasn’t just how the early Christians died that inspired so many people in the ancient world; it was how they lived.
“You had much better odds of winning the lottery than you would have becoming a martyr,” says Joyce E. Salisbury, author of “The Blood of Martyrs: Unintended Consequences of Ancient Violence.”
“The odds were pretty slim. More people read about martyrs than ever saw one.”
It’s absolutely true that some Christians were persecuted in Roman times. It’s also true that there were some periods of extensive, systematic persecution. No rational person who’s seen the historical evidence can deny either of these facts. That said, the persecution that did take place was sporadic, and far less common than is now widely believed. Systematic persecutions took place only under two emperors, Decius and Diocletian. Each of these persecutions lasted at most for two years. The Christian legend that Emperor Septimus Severus also ordered a systematic persecution of Christians is not supported by any evidence.
Christians’ obsession with martyrs has historically created a lot of problems. For example, in classical times, immediately after tolerance for their religion was declared by Emperor Constantine in 313, a hyperpious reverence for martyrs led to the catastrophic fracture of the Church in northern Africa, the Donatist schism.
Even worse, modern Christians have carried this false legend into their own lives, and believe themselves to be persecuted, even now:
The debate over exactly how many Christians were persecuted and martyred may seem irrelevant centuries later. A scholarly consensus has indeed emerged that Roman persecution of Christians was sporadic, and that at least some Christian martyrdom stories are theological tall tales.
But a new book by Candida Moss, a New Testament professor at the University of Notre Dame, is bringing that message to the masses.
Moss says ancient stories of church persecution have created a contemporary cult of bogus Christian martyrs. She says too many American Christians are acting like they’re members of a persecuted minority, being thrown to the lions by people who simply disagree with them.
She cited former Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney claimed last year that President Barack Obama was waging a “war against religion,” and Santorum said the gay community “had gone out on a jihad” against him. Other Christians invoke images of persecution when someone disagrees with them on controversial issues such as abortion or birth control, says Moss, whose “The Myth of Persecution” was recently released.
Too many Christians conflate mere disagreement with persecution … despite the fact that they’re not the same thing. Not even close!
Again, I do not deny that some Christians were persecuted in the Roman Empire, nor do I deny that some Christians are being persecuted in other parts of the world. What I am saying is that Christians in the U.S. and the rest of the occidental world, are not being persecuted, and that for them to continue believing they are, is delusional thinking. It’s time for them to grow the fuck up, dial back the sniveling and the sanctimonious bellyaching, accept that their religion no longer rules the world with an iron fist, and stop accusing non-Christians of things they haven’t done.
P.S. I can see it now: Cue the Christians’ fury and outrage that CNN insolently published this article “dissing” their religion, on Easter morning, of all days. Why, it’s intolerable that the evil secularists at CNN and in the mass media are trying to wipe out their poor, put-upon faith, this way, on their holiest day! If only these Christians could see how such reasoning merely provides more evidence of this religiously-propagated psychopathology … !
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: candida moss
, christian martyr complex
, christian persecution
, christian persecution complex
, joyce e salisbury
, roman empire
, roman persecution
, vibia perpetua
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The nation’s Christianists continue to confuse “religious liberty” with “the power to force everyone to believe what they believe.” The Mississippi legislature is no exception. As the AP reports via NECN, both houses of that august, religionistic body have passed measures to promote school prayer under the aegis of “religious liberty” (WebCite cached article):
Supporters say bills to guarantee religious freedom in Mississippi public schools are meant to ensure students can talk about spiritual beliefs and aren’t deprived of their rights.
But some supporters also say the measures would legalize prayer before school audiences, and that makes people who advocate for separation of church and state uneasy.
Both the state House and the state Senate have passed versions of the Schoolchildren’s Religious Liberties Act. The chambers must agree on a single bill before anything would go to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant. The Senate version represents the first time the chamber has passed such a bill, improving chances that it will become law.
The bill is ostensibly predicated on the Religious Right’s decades-long whining and bellyaching that school kids aren’t allowed to pray or talk about religion or express their beliefs. Those things are not true. In fact, a lot of praying goes on in schools all around the country, every single minute of every school day. It comes, for example, in quickly muttered prayers such as, “Please God, let me pass this algebra exam!”
Look, I get that the Christian Nationers are none too happy about Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), along with various other decisions that ended prayer in public schools. And I also get that they’re Christians, and therefore can’t help but view themselves as being oppressed for Jesus. But facts are facts, and they’re not allowed to make shit up just ’cause it makes them feel better to do so. Formby is very clearly a lying liar for Jesus.
Even so, at least some of the bills’ supporters are not lying about their motives, and admit they’re not about “liberty” at all:
But it’s clear that advocates for the measure, especially those outside the Legislature, believe it would clear the way for student-led prayer before groups.
“People ask me if this is a step toward getting prayer back in schools. I think this is THE step to get prayer back in schools,” said Paul Ott, who hosts religion-flavored radio and television programs about hunting, fishing and the outdoors.
Because, you know, nothing says “religious liberty” quite like forcing a school full of kids pray when you order them to. Right?
Photo credit: Allstarecho, via Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: christian right
, freedom of religion
, jackson MS
, liar for jesus
, liars for jesus
, lying liar for jesus
, lying liars for jesus
, mark formby
, prayer in public schools
, public school prayer
, religious freedom
, religious liberty
, religious right
, school children
, school prayer
, schoolchildren's religious liberties act
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At this point one would have thought the Republicans should have learned the lesson of the 2012 election, which is that letting the idiots within its ranks mouth off like the clowns they are, is a bad idea. And voters seem to have agreed they were idiots: Richard Mourdock, Joe Walsh, and Todd Akin — at one time all favored to win their races — ended up losing, because they opened their mouths and shoved their religionistic feet in them. Remarkable losses such as these ought to have sent a message to the country’s Religious Right politicians.
But it seems some of them either never got the message, or they got it, but have decided spewing idiocy won’t hurt them. The New York Times Caucus blog reports on one who’s gone and done just that (WebCite cached version):
The lawmaker, Representative Phil Gingrey, an obstetrician and gynecologist, told the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce that neither Mr. Akin, who lost his Senate bid to Senator Claire McCaskill, nor Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who lost to Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, had been treated fairly in the wake of their rape comments, according to The Marietta Daily News.
“I’ve delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things,” Mr. Gingrey said, according to the paper. “It is true. We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, ‘Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don’t be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate.’ So he was partially right, wasn’t he?” …
He also justified Mr. Akin’s distinction between “legitimate rape” — which Mr. Akin had said women’s reproductive systems can defend against — and other unspecified sexual acts that can lead to pregnancy.
Mr. Akin, he said, “was asked by a local news source about rape and he said, ‘Look, in a legitimate rape situation’ — and what he meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’
“That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don’t find anything so horrible about that. But then he went on and said that in a situation of rape, of a legitimate rape, a woman’s body has a way of shutting down so the pregnancy would not occur. He’s partly right on that.”
So you see, even after a disaster of an election which left the Republicans still out of the White House, and with a smaller number of seats in both houses of Congress, they still cannot seem to get over their belief that calling out idiots for their idiocy is somehow “not fair” to the idiots; that not all rapes are really “rapes”; and that women who are raped are less likely to become pregnant than women who aren’t.
Oh, and the part about fueling women with wine in order to get them to “loosen up” for sex … what juvenile fucking bullshit! I think I got over that idea back when I was in high school. But what the hell do I know!?
If you unsure how the next two years in GOP politics are going to go, this seems to provide an indicator: They plan to double down on their stupidity and buffoonery, be laughed at and derided as the clowns and loons they are, and continue to intone the endless mantra that they aren’t being “treated fairly.” Apparently they think this is a winning formula, in spite of the 2012 elections whose results say something else.
Update: The folks at PolitiFact examined Gingrey’s (and by extension Akin’s) claim and found it had no scientific basis at all (cached). As the article explains, and as I hadn’t known until just recently, there’s a significant wing of the Religious Right which really, truly and seriously claims either that women cannot conceive when they’re raped, or that the likelihood of conception is greatly reduced. The reason they make this claim is so that they can justify banning all abortions and not even grant an exception for cases of rape. They are willing to lie to people in order to justify forcing the entire country to live according to their metaphysics, and they’ve been doing it for many years.
Photo credit: PsiCop original, based on proverb.
, atlanta GA
, christian right
, cobb county
, georgia 11th district
, house of representatives
, legitimate rape
, phil gingrey
, religious right
, todd akin
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Despite the fact that it’s relatively common … and mostly done in a completely non-religious way in the occidental world … there are Christians out there who can’t get over yoga. They don’t understand that, while it did originate within Hindu religious tradition, yoga can be — and almost always is — non-religious. They object to it anyway, just because they think they can.
A couple years ago I blogged about evangelical theologian R. Albert Mohler going on a tear against it, but he’s hardly alone. As the (UK) Telegraph reports, some Christians in California are suing their local school district because it plans to have yoga as part of the phys-ed curriculum (WebCite cached article):
The Encinitas Union School District plans to offer yoga instruction at all of its nine schools from January, despite a protest by parents who say they believe it will indoctrinate their children in Eastern religion.
The growing popularity of yoga is forcing US public schools to address the question of whether it is a religious practice or simply exercise.
The parents have their reasons … which are incomprehensible:
Mary Eady, a parent who has pulled her child out of yoga classes, said the pupils were learning to worship the sun and it was “inappropriate in our public schools.”
I’m not sure how or why Ms Eady thinks yoga is “sun worship.” She might be referring — perhaps — to something like Surya Namaskara, which might be called a yoga practice … however, it is, at best, a subset of yoga, and is certainly not the entirety of yoga.
It’s actually not uncommon for fundamentalist Christians to dismiss or condemn things they dislike as “sun worship.” They similarly dismiss Islam as “moon worship.” I’m not sure why, but they do.
In any event, as I blogged previously, these Christians forget that a lot of the meditative practices which are part of yoga, also happen to be traditional within Christianity … particularly in the monastic and mendicant movements. In other words, they’re condemning something that can also be found within their own religion. The meditative practices of Christian monks, friars, nuns, etc. may not be something these fundamentalist Christians are personally familiar with, but they’re no less “Christian” than any of their own rites or practices. That they’re ignorant of their own religion’s traditions, is the real problem here.
Photo credit: RelaxingMusic, via Flickr.
, encinitas CA
, encinitas union school district
, phys ed
, physical education
, public school
, public schools
, sun worship
, surya namaskara
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No sooner do I get done blogging about another in a long line of pricks for Jesus using the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to promote his fierce fundementalism, than I hear about a rather prominent Religious Rightist doing the exact same thing. This one is James Dobson, founder and former head of Focus on the Family. The Christian Post reports he thinks God allowed the shooting, because of atheists, abortions, and gay marriage (WebCite cached article):
James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, said Monday that he believes the Connecticut shooting is a result of God allowing judgment to fall on America because it has turned its back on Him.
“And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think He has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on,” Dobson told listeners of his “Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk” program.
It’s the same tired litany: atheists, abortion and gays are to blame for anything bad, and the country isn’t Christian-fundamentalist enough. They’re the reason for earthquakes, droughts, crime, hurricanes, tornados, and … just about everything.
Well, too fucking bad, Dobbie. You don’t run the country. You aren’t getting your way any more. And the country is growing increasingly secular, so it’s not very likely you’ll be able to get your way any time soon. Wah wah wah, you fucking crybaby. Grow the hell up, fercryinoutloud.
Photo credit: Louisiana College, via the Christian Post.
, dr james dobson
, focus on the family
, james dobson
, newtown CT
, newtown massacre
, newtown shooting
, sandy hook elementary school
, sandy hook elementary school shooting
, school shooting
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The massacre that happened here in my home state of Connecticut — nearly the worst school shooting in the country’s history — occurred only 10 hours ago as I type this (WebCite cached version). Police and medical examiners are still on the scene, and not all the bodies have even been removed from the building. Yet the wing-nut Christofascist Bryan Fischer, one of the gauleiters of the militant Christianist American Family Association, saw fit to declare why 28 people (at the latest count), including 20 small children, had to die. Would you believe, it’s because Newtown’s public schools don’t begin their days with prayer?
Yes folks, that’s right. God allowed 28 people to be slaughtered in one school, because its denizens don’t pray to him every morning. I’m sure you don’t believe me, but it’s true. Right Wing Watch reports — based on primary source material — what Fischer said (cached):
Bryan Fischer spent the first hour of his radio program today discussing this morning’s truly horrific shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut, which he, of course, blamed on the fact that prayer, the Bible, and the Ten Commandments are not taught in public schools.
Fischer said that God could have protected the victims of this massacre, but didn’t because “God is not going to go where he is not wanted” and so if school administrators really want to protect students, they will start every school day with prayer
I’m not asking you to believe either Right Wing Watch, or me. Go ahead and see it for yourself, the Youtube video is available right here:
I won’t bother waiting for the movement of “good” Christians outraged enough by Fischer’s vile, putrid stench to rise up and drive him off the air and force him into obscurity. There aren’t enough “good” Christians in the US with the fortitude to take him on. What few of them remain, will take the cowards’ way out, and whine, “Well, he doesn’t speak for me,” as though that settles it.
But it doesn’t.
Christians, your religion belongs to you. And Bryan Fischer claims to speak for it. If you object to vicious, hateful pricks like him claiming to be your religion’s spokesmen, then it’s up to you to do something about it. If you won’t respect your own religion enough to police it and shut down asshats like Fischer, then you can’t expect outside observers such as myself to respect it, or you for believing in it. It just won’t work.
My guess is, none of you will do anything about him. And sadly, that’s all I need to know.
Update 1: Fischer isn’t the only Christofascist who won’t even wait until the bodies are cold, to use this horrific event as a bludgeon to pound their fierce, unrelenting religionism into people. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports, Mike Huckabee spewed the same bile on Fox News (cached):
Americans should blame their schools, and removal of God from the classroom, for Friday’s murders of schoolchildren in Connecticut, according to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 Republican presidential candidate who is now a pundit and host on Fox News. …
“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be surprised that schools would become places of carnage?” …
“We’ve made it (school) a place where we don’t talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not going to have to be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know holy God in judgment,” said Huckabee.
Expect more, not less, of this kind of ridiculous chatter in the days to come.
Update 2: It turns out I was right, when in my last update on this, I said we should expect more of this kind of crap. Eric Hovind, the Creationism-spewing son of militant Creationist Kent Hovind, posted this little gem on Twitter yesterday (cached):
Are you happy now that the shooter grew up in a school without God?
We can add Hovind to the list of “Jerks for Jesus” using this event to promote their Christofascism.
Photo credit: Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of Georgia
Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.
, american family association
, bryan fischer
, focal point
, newtown CT
, newtown massacre
, public school prayer
, sandy hook elementary school
, school prayer
, school shooting
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Bill O’Reilly is commander-in-chief in the so-called “war on Christmas.” His crying and bellyaching about the poor, put-upon Christians who’re insidiously being thwarted in their efforts to force all Americans — of whatever religion, or of none — to worship their Christ and his putative birth, is by now an annual feature of his Fox News show. He’s launched a salvo at Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, who insolently calls the foliage in his state capitol a “holiday tree” rather than a “Christmas tree” (WebCite cached article):
Anyway, there is obviously more Christmas chaos in Rhode Island and Governor Chafee is again behind it. Apparently he believes that Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island in 1636, would not want to call a Christmas tree “a Christmas tree” or something.
O’Reilly has some problems with semantics. Since “Christmas” is a “holiday,” then it is always correct to call a “‘Christmas’ tree” a “‘holiday’ tree.” There’s nothing wrong with doing so.
Also, the Billster conveniently forgets who Roger Williams was. He’s notable for having been the first major advocate of religious freedom in the American colonies. He was a Baptist preacher who was run out of the Massachusetts Bay colony by furious Calvinist Puritans who’d objected to his presence there, who took refuge among the Narragansett to the south, and then founded the colony (now state) of Rhode Island. Roger Williams understood sectarian persecution far better than Billy-boy ever will. He lived it! He even penned a work whose words have become part of the canon of the United States, an exhaustive treatise called The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience. This work — not Thomas Jefferson’s now-famous letter to the Baptists of Danbury, CT — is the true origin of the phrase “separation of church and state.”
(Yes, folks. That’s right. The Founding Fathers’ effort to prevent the state from encroaching on religion, and vice versa, was not even their own invention; a century before them, a man had been agitating for that exact same policy. They were, to put it bluntly, Williams’s students. For Billyo to dismiss Roger Williams’ work as blithely as he does, is not only an affront to his memory, it’s also an insult to theirs. So much for the Religious Right’s vaunted worship of the Founding Fathers!)
I concede that it’s fair to ask if Roger Williams would have objected to calling a “‘Christmas’ tree” a “‘holiday’ tree” … but as far as I can tell, it’s also fair to conclude he would likely not have cared. Most people in the colonies in his time didn’t really celebrate Christmas at all, much less put up Christmas trees. (You can thank those angry Puritans for that.) This complaint is a strictly modern concept, manufactured from whole cloth by Religious Rightists like Billy-boy and his ilk. It’s not a controversy that Williams would have even known existed, nor would he have understood it, had he been aware of it.
Having spewed such a laughable anachronism, though, Billy-baby doesn’t stop there. He charges happily on to even greater heights of ridiculousness:
Now, this is insane, of course. There is no reason to mess around with the word “Christmas”. As we reported, President Grant signed a law in 1870 making Christmas a federal holiday. So there really isn’t any controversy unless Congress revokes the holiday.
You see, in Billy-boy’s mind, the fact that President Grant — whose presidential administration was, shall we say, somewhat underwhelming — made a proclamation about Christmas, appears to do all of the following:
- Requires all Americans, of whatever faith or of none at all, to worship Christmas along with all other Christians
- Mandates that nativities be planted on every town hall lawn, in front of every courthouse, etc., all around the country, every December
- Forces every American to say “Merry Christmas!” at each and every meeting — without fail, and without substitution or alteration of any kind
- Prevents Americans from ever referring to Christmas as a “holiday,” even if by every English dictionary definition, it is one
- It removes all of the sacredness from the holy day known as Christmas and makes it purely secular
- And on top of all that … Grant’s proclamation carries every bit as much authority now, as it did 142 years ago when he first signed it. The passage of time has only made it more compelling than it had been in the late 19th century.
I don’t know about you, but I find that quite a lot to ask of one simple presidential decree. Billy-boy must think Grant was a whole helluva lot more powerful — and everlasting — than he actually was.
Here’s my challenge to the Billster: If you really think that I, as an American, am obligated to celebrate Christmas alongside you; am obligated never, ever under any circumstances to refer to it as a “holiday” (even if it is one); and am obligated to wish “a Merry Christmas” to everyone I see, whenever I see him/her; then you just go right ahead and make me. I dare you. Please. I invite you to do everything in your power to compel me to obey your wishes. You deliver your copy of President Grant’s decree to me, slam it down, force me to read it, and then coerce me into celebrating Christmas. Go right ahead. If you’re truly convinced it’s my obligation as an American to do so, then why would you not do it?
Unless you’re willing to track me down and force me to do what you want me to, then you’re just another whiny coward who’s capable only of complaining, unwilling to put his own words into action.
Boo fucking hoo, Billy, you sniveling crybaby. Boo fucking hoo.
Photo credit: Christmas Stock Images.
, bill o'reilly
, christian right
, christmas tree
, fox news
, holiday tree
, lincoln chafee
, president grant
, providence RI
, religious right
, rhode island
, roger williams
, ulysses grant
, ulysses s grant
, war on christmas
, war on christmas 2012
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