Archive for the “U.S. Politics” Category

Politics in the United States

Rand Paul speakingAmerican Christians’ martyr complex is wearying. They continually and repeatedly whine and complain that their religion is on the verge of being stamped out … even when it’s not. I understand why this is; a desire to be persecuted for Jesus is embedded deep within their religion’s psychopathology, and they really can’t help themselves. Still, it’s one thing to believe one is being persecuted, but quite another to fabricate forms of persecution that don’t exist, or to make claims about Christian persecution that aren’t true.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, as the Washington Post reports, is the most recent figure to be guilty of these kinds of lies (WebCite cached article):

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday continued his outreach to Christian conservatives, telling a gathering of them that the United States is effectively funding wars on Christianity by sending money to nations like Egypt and Syria.

“It’s clear that American taxpayer dollars are being used in a war against Christianity,” Paul said at a luncheon hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition to kick off the three-day Faith and Freedom Conference.

Paul said the U.S. war in Iraq led Christians to flee a secular country that had otherwise been “a relatively safe place for Christians,” and that Christians are now being hunted in nearby nations.

First, let me say it’s absolutely true that Christians have been, and are, persecuted in a lot of places in the world. I don’t dispute that at all. I also don’t dispute that it’s wrong for anyone to be persecuted for it. What I dispute is Paul’s claim that the U.S. government is consciously and methodically financing a global campaign to wipe Christianity out.

Let’s be honest: The societies of countries like Iraq and Egypt certainly harbor animosity toward Christians; I’ve blogged about a long tradition of religious strife in Egypt, for instance. There’s nothing new about this. That doesn’t make it right … it just means it’s not new at all.

So what does American financial aid have to do with it? Nothing. Christians there would be harassed, with or without American assistance. Christians in those places were harassed, before they got any U.S. assistance, and they likely would continue to be harassed if we stopped supplying it. In fact, it might be argued that our assistance gives us a degree of input into those countries’ affairs that we wouldn’t have otherwise, meaning it’s a potential way for us to limit the harassment. The dance of diplomacy and international relations is a complex one, that cannot be boiled down to “sound bites” as Paul likes to do.

Paul also brings up a point which is a particularly sore one for the Religious Right in the US:

“Should we be sending F-16s and tanks to Egypt when (President Mohammed) Morsi says Jews are descendants of apes and pigs?”

Granted, Morsi is an anti-Semite, as are many of the leaders of countries in and around the Middle East. But what can we do? Make our assistance conditional on whether or not those countries have anti-Semitic rulers? Is it even possible for us to have that much influence over them? What makes Paul think we do?

Something Paul doesn’t admit, is that this has been going on for as long as America has been sending out foreign aid. That aid frequently ends up in the hands of repugnant dictators, is spent in countries where the U.S. is vehemently hated, and helps societies that propagate any number of injustices, sometimes against their own people. Unfortunately there’s not much we can do about that, other than stop the aid, which would have stiff ramifications … such as the loss of diplomatic relations. Again, the game of diplomacy isn’t as clear-cut or simple as the Senator says it is.

Paul also makes a comment which is factually incorrect:

“We’re borrowing money from China to send it to Pakistan.”

Lots of folks, including many on the Right and particularly libertarians like Rand Paul and his father Ron, love to assert that America’s debt is entirely held by China, therefore any borrowing we do comes directly from Beijing. But that’s not true. As FactCheck explained a couple years ago, China finances only about 7.9% of new debt

The bottom line is that Rand Paul was clearly trying to convince his audience that the Obama administration is financing a global jihad against Christianity. That isn’t the case; but if it were, then because Obama is continuing a long-standing policy of foreign aid, then G.W. Bush, Clinton, G.H.W. Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, etc. had also financed a global jihad against Christianity. Does he seriously think it’s been going on for decades? If so, why hasn’t Christianity already been wiped out in those places?

As I said, what Rand Paul is doing is appealing to the Religious Right’s martyr complex. It’s insidious, and it needs to stop … but we all know it never will. Because it works too well. The R.R. continually gives into it … happily, with smiles on their faces, and with open checkbooks, ready to finance anyone who campaigns against that foreign-born “secret Muslim” in the Oval Office.

At any rate, Rand Paul’s lie about a U.S.-financed global war on Christianity, places him into my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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'It's Not Really Fascism When Christians Do It': Christian Fascism in America: If Fascism Comes to America, It Will Come Wrapped in the Flag & Carrying the Cross / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National ArchivesThe militant Christianist governor of Texas, Rick Perry, isn’t waiting for summer to be over, before firing the first salvo in this year’s edition of the annual “War on Christmas.” Hell, summer hasn’t even begun yet, and Rickie is trying to ram Christmas down the throats of public schoolchildren in his state. The Houston Chronicle reports on a bill he signed which is predicated on lies (WebCite cached article):

It was the Governor’s Public Reception Room, for a ceremony in which Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill into law that he said would allow people of all faiths can exchange holiday greetings and display religious scenes and symbols “even on school property.”…

House Bill 308 by Bohac and Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville — dubbed the “Merry Christmas bill” by some backers — specifies that a school district may allow students and staff to offer “traditional greetings” associated with winter celebrations, specifying they include “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah” and “happy holidays.”

Among the lies upon which this law is predicated, is that it was somehow made illegal for anyone to say “Merry Christmas” in a public school. That’s just not true. What can’t be done in a public school is for the school to force Christmas — a holiday which only has meaning for one religion, Christianity, and excludes those who belong to any other, or to no religion — on kids. Those kids certainly can wish each other “Merry Christmas,” if they want.

What’s worse than the lies implicit in this law, however, is that Perry makes his religiofascism explicit and unmistakable:

“It’s a shame that a bill like this one I’m signing today is even required, but I’m proud that we’re standing up for religious freedom in this state,” Perry said. “Religious freedom does not mean freedom from religion.”

Did you catch that? Rickie-boy states very clearly that, in his view, there is no such thing as “freedom from religion.” That means non-belief, in his view, can be made illegal. Since there’s no such thing as “freedom from religion,” it’s possible for government to prevent me from being the godless agnostic heathen that I am!

All right, Rickie-boy. Here’s my open invitation to you: You just track me down and impose your religion on me, because, as you claim, I have no “freedom from religion.” I don’t live in Texas, Governor, but even so, I dare you to put your words into action. Go ahead. You have no reason not to, since you’ve already stated that there is no “freedom from religion” in this country. What’s stopping you, governor? Just come here and make me adopt your religion!

Photo credit: Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives

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Donate Life / donatelife.netThe phenomenon of devout believers robbing people of credit for their hard work, and giving it to God instead, is all too common. That it’s a tacit insult to those who actually got something done, seems to go right over their heads. Only God matters to them, not other people. The latest example of this comes from the mother of Sarah Murnaghan, a 10-year-old whose extended wait for a lung transplant become national news, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (WebCite cached article):

Sarah Murnaghan, the 10-year-old Newtown Square girl dying of cystic fibrosis, survived six hours of surgery Wednesday to receive lungs from an adult donor — a transplant made possible by her family’s fight to change lung-allocation rules.…

Shortly before 11 a.m., Janet Murnaghan shared the news, writing on her Facebook page: “God is great! He moved the mountain! Sarah got THE CALL. She will be taken back to the OR in 30 minutes. Please pray for Sarah’s donor, her hero, who has given her the gift of life.”

You can see her Facebook posting here (cached).

One can see what Mrs Murnaghan has done here; she says “God” moved the metaphorical mountain. Not anyone else. She gives no credit to her lawyer who filed suit over organ-transplant policy, nor the judge who signed the order moving Sarah up the waiting list. No. Apparently neither of them had anything to do with it. It was, instead, “God” who did all the work.

Let’s be clear about this: “God” had nothing to do with Sarah Murnaghan getting her lung transplant. Not. One. Fucking. Thing.

I will note that, while it’s great for Sarah that she got new lungs, sadly this means an adult on the waiting list didn’t get them. In other words, in the bigger picture, there really are no winners here. The problem is that there aren’t enough donated lungs — and other organs — to meet the need. The real solution, then, is to get more organs into the donation stream, as it were. Americans need to be more willing to be organ donors, and perhaps more importantly, more willing, as next-of-kin, to allow their loved ones’ organs be donated. Making organ donation an “opt out” affair rather than “opt-in,” as folks like talk-radio host Michael Smerconish have suggested (cached), would certainly help a great deal.

I end this blog post by reminding everyone that organ donation is the official “cause” of this blog. I urge you, Dear Reader, to make sure your organs are donated after your death. In the US, go to Organdonor.gov or Donate Life America, to find out how.

P.S. I’m serious about this. I provide this blog for free. I don’t charge for access; I don’t ask for donations; I don’t even force you to view ads on this site. I’m not saying my blog is great literature, but if you like what you read here and want to give something back to me, do it by making arrangements to ensure your organs are donated. That’s all I ask. You don’t even have to tell me about it … just go do it already!

Photo credit: Donate Life America.

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'It's a lie! Not being held here!' / PsiCop crop/modification of CHD Web site, original URL: http://www.citizenhearing.org/index.htmlFor decades, UFOnauts have been clamoring and whining for Congressional hearings into supposed extraterrestrial visitations and all sorts of presumed government cover-ups of them. They think this will, somehow, lend credence to the various wingnut scenarios and conspiracies they allege have been going on since the 1940s, and they also hope to expose “the Truth” of things like the 1947 Roswell, NM “flying saucer” crash. This week, “Congressional” hearings are being held … but Congress doesn’t actually have anything to do with it. As MSN News reports, the whole thing was carefully staged so as to appear Congressional, when it’s not (WebCite cached article):

Are UFOs real? Have aliens been trying to contact the human race? And if so, has the U.S. government conspired to cover up decades of such encounters?

Those questions are the subject of a “congressional” hearing in Washington this week.

The event has all the trappings of a high-profile D.C. policy event. It’s being held at the National Press Club, with dozens of experts testifying to a panel of officials seated on a dais.

But, to be clear, the officials are former members of Congress and were each paid $20,000, plus travel expenses, to participate.

The event is being put on by the organization Citizen Hearing on Disclosure, whose motto is: “If Congress won’t do it, the people will.”

I find it exceedingly interesting that this group actually paid people to show up and participate. Not unlike the paid actors who — supposedly, according to the “Sandy Hook Truth” conspiracists — had been hired by the Obama administration to stage a massacre in Newtown, CT. Hmm. Whodathunkit?

This outfit’s Web site is a shining example of propaganda at its most transparent. You see, its top banner features a picture of the US Capitol, in spite of the fact that these so-called hearings are not even being held in that building! (Here’s a captured copy of their Web page.) It’s true the group admits (in its name, even) that these are mere “citizen” hearings, but slapping a picture of the Capitol on their Web site is an obvious disingenuous tactic designed to grant it an dignity and authority it doesn’t deserve. It can’t reasonably be called anything other than dishonest.

I’m amazed at the rugged persistence of America’s UFOnauts. If they can’t get themselves onto the stage of a Congressional hearing to pontificate on their insane conspiracies concerning government silence about extraterrestrial visitations, they just stage one anyway, including hiring actors former Congressmen to show up and make it seem official. Well done, guys!

Photo credit: PsiCop crop/modification of CHD Web site.

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'How are you not do as I say!' (I Can Haz Cheezburger Builder)The Religious Right in the US sincerely believes Christianity is “under attack.” There’s a war against their religion, they claim. Now, most of us know there’s no such thing going on. Churches aren’t being shuttered or bulldozed; Bibles and crucifixes aren’t being confiscated or destroyed; devout Christians aren’t being put on trial for believing in Jesus. Put as simply as possible: There’s no persecution of Christianity going on in this country. It’s. Just. Not. Fucking. Happening.

You may have heard that the great Biblical state of Kentucky passed a law protecting Christians’ freedom of religion (even though, with First Amendment protections already in place, no such law is needed — in Kentucky or in any other state). One of its proponents is outraged that there’s been criticism of this law, and penned a letter to the editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader to explain why it was needed (WebCite cached article):

Could it be a war on Christianity? Now I know your response will be that there is no attack on religious freedoms. Indeed, you will deny the very existence of such a war. Yet, tell that to the owners of Hands On Originals or Chik-fil-A, who were vehemently attacked by government officials and agencies for expressing their personal religious beliefs. Tell that to the high school coach who gets sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for offering a prayer of protection before a ballgame. Tell that to the teacher who gets sued for saying, “Happy Thanksgiving,” “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Easter.” Tell that to the valedictorian who gets enjoined from mentioning God in her graduation speech. Tell that to the county judge-executive who gets sued for posting the Ten Commandments. Tell that to the student who tries to pray or read her Bible during school. Tell that to the citizens whose governor decided the State Capitol needed a “holiday tree” as opposed to a Christmas Tree.

Rep. Stan Lee’s complaint is basically a “dump” of childish whines. There’s no cohesion to it, and Lee generously salts his bellyaching with mythology, marginal claims, and outright lies.

First of all, no business owner has been “attacked” by any officials. An “attack” is a punch in the face or being held up at gunpoint; criticism is not, and never will be, an “attack.” Second, no American — not even the owners of Chick-fil-A or Hands On Originals — is ever entitled never to be criticized. Third, using their position as bosses to coerce their employees to live their private, non-workplace lives according to the fierce, rigid strictures of their own dour metaphysics, is not merely “expressing their personal religious beliefs.” It’s quite something else.

Lee doesn’t provide any evidence of these teachers he says have been “sued for saying, ‘Happy Thanksgiving,’ ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Easter.'” It sounds like urban legend to me. There’s nothing specific, just wild claims without a stitch of support.

Valedictorians in public schools being told not to talk up God is part of an effort to keep church and state separate. Let’s face it, lots of public schools use children as proxies to force religion into them, and that’s forbidden.

Oh, and public-school students most certainly can both pray and read Bibles in school. It happens all the time. To say it can’t, is a flat-out lie, and Lee knows it.

Public-school coaches leading students in prayer, and judges putting up immense Decalogue idols in courts, are both examples of Christians using the power of government to promote their religion. And it’s illegal.

And calling a Christmas tree a “holiday tree,” harms no one! Since Christmas is a holiday, semantically speaking, this means all Christmas trees truly are “holiday trees.” To say otherwise is also a lie.

Like the rest of the Religious Right, Rep. Lee is confused. He thinks Christians being criticized for wanting to control everyone’s lives, is an “attack” on his religion. He thinks separation of church and state abridges Christians’ freedom of religion. He thinks Christians are entitled to get their way, all the time, every time, and when they don’t, it’s unacceptable.

As I’ve blogged many times already, I understand where Christians are coming from. A desire to be persecuted for Jesus is part and parcel of their religion, and it has been almost since its inception. This persecutorial delusion is embedded deep in the psychopathology of Christianity. Rep. Lee and the rest of the Religious Right really, truly want to think they’re being attacked for their beliefs. In many ways, they literally can’t help themselves.

But that’s really no excuse for remaining attached to this paranoid delusion. It’s one thing to fantasize about being a martyr, because one’s religion is founded on a martyr. It’s quite another to invent persecution that’s not even happening, and accuse others of doing things they haven’t done. The delusions don’t serve any good purpose, and really need to fucking stop already.

I have to add Rep. Lee to my “lying liars for Jesus” club. Not that he’s alone there. Lying for Jesus is a common pastime among Christians. That’s because … to paraphrase Isaac Asimov … lying is the last refuge of the insecure.

Photo credit: I Can Haz Cheezburger Builder.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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North Carolina State Capitol, RaleighChristofascists are a really angry bunch. They’re downright incensed that things like the First Amendment have gotten in the way of them forcing their dour religionism on the American people.

I’ve been saying for years now that … if they had their way … they’d make everyone worship as they do. Well, it turns out some Republican Christofascist legislators in the great Bible Belt (aka Bobble Bay-elt) state of North Carolina, have declared their religionistic militancy openly. As NBC News reports, they’ve proposed legislation that would establish a North Carolinian state religion (WebCite cached article):

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have introduced a bill declaring that the state has the power to establish an official religion — a direct challenge to the First Amendment.…

The bill [cached] says that federal courts do not have the power to decide what is constitutional, and says the state does not recognize federal court rulings that prohibit North Carolina and its schools from favoring a religion.

The bill was introduced Monday by two Republican representatives from Rowan County, north of Charlotte, and sponsored by seven other Republicans. The party controls both chambers of the North Carolina Legislature.

The two lawmakers who filed the bill, state Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford, did not immediately return calls Wednesday from NBC News.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued last month to stop the Rowan County Commission from opening meetings with Christian prayers. One of those prayers declared that “there is only one way to salvation, and that is Jesus Christ,” the ACLU said.

This proposed law is quite obviously unconstitutional. The law itself explicitly dismisses the incorporation doctrine, even though it’s been upheld through many court decisions and isn’t going anywhere.

Assuming these fierce Christofascists are able to pass this bill, get it signed, and have it become the law of the land in North Carolina, it’s nevertheless fraught with peril, even for the most devout Christians there. That’s because of the sectarian conflict which would have to follow. Would the North Carolina state religion be a Protestant sect? If so, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians would be disenfranchised. If Catholicism is made the state religion, then Protestants and the Orthodox would be disenfranchised. That’s not even considering that non-Christians and non-believers would be disenfranchised, no matter which Christian sect is made the state’s religion.

The bottom line is that Harry Warren and Carl Ford are childishly furious that the First Amendment has gotten in the way of them imposing their religiosity on everyone. But I’m less worried about them, than I am about the (large) number of North Carolinian Religious Rightists who will, no doubt, immediately and happily flock to their cause and support this bill, in spite of the fact that it’s unconstitutional. Neither Warren nor Ford will suffer any serious consequences from having raised this bill; if anything, they’re assured of long careers in North Carolinian politics.

Be afraid, folks. Be very, very afraid. These people are serious, and they aren’t taking any more shit from anyone.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The Christian Martyrs Last PrayerFor 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.

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