Miscellanea Agnostica https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma ... an agnostic view of the world ... Sat, 24 Jun 2017 02:09:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Neocrusaders Rage Around the Country Against ‘Shari’a Law’ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/06/11/neocrusaders-rage-around-the-country-against-sharia-law/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/06/11/neocrusaders-rage-around-the-country-against-sharia-law/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 00:50:59 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11232 1099 Siege of JerusalemI’ve blogged about “the Great Neocrusade” for several years. This, of course, is my name for the Religious Right movement that seeks to drive Muslims out of the US — and then eradicate Islam from the planet. These folk are enraged at the very existence of Islam, because it’s the chief rival religion of Christianity, to which the majority of them belong (although there’s a notable minority of Neocrusaders who’re Jewish).

They’ve long used the barbaric terrorism of militant Islamists, such as ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-savage-brood, to justify their demand that Islam be obliterated. Sure, there are extremists within Islam — which I’ve argued doesn’t reflect well on their religion — but many of the Neocrusaders are, themselves, religious militants; they just happen to be militant Christianists rather than militant Islamists.

Their reasoning, therefore, is nowhere near as utilitarian or “pure” as they’d have you believe. They don’t realize, or care to know, that Christian and Right-wing terror is every bit as real a problem as Islamist terror.

Neocrusaders’ blanket condemnations of Islam, of course, make them look like sanctimonious bigots — which, if truth be told, they are! But some of them have realized this, and have undertaken a different tack. What they’ve done is to declare themselves opposed not to Islam, or to Muslims, but instead, to what they call shari’a law.” This is a generalized term for “Islamic law traditions” which have legal force, of one kind or other, in some Muslim-majority countries. According to this particular wing of the Great Neocrusade, “shari’a law” is about to be imposed on the US; and once that happens, supposedly, every American will be forced to convert to Islam.

This past Saturday, as the Los Angeles Times reports, one “anti-shari’a law” group took to the streets around the country to protest the putative imposition of “shari’a law” on Americans (WebCite cached article):

Speaking out about what they believe are the ills of Islam, anti-Sharia law activists demonstrated nationwide Saturday, but were met by counter-protesters who assailed their rhetoric as insensitive and demeaning.

Members of Act for America, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, gathered in parks and plazas across the country, organizing nearly two dozen so-called March Against Sharia rallies, stoking concerns and counter-events by Muslim leaders who say the group is spewing hate.

In Atlanta, an assortment of militia men brandishing assault rifles, supporters of President Trump waving American flags and men’s rights activists wearing helmets descended on Piedmont Park, a leafy oasis in the city’s affluent, liberal Midtown neighborhood.

In New York, nearly 100 people attended a rally near lower Manhattan. They were outnumbered by counter-protesters, and the two sides hurled insults across two rows of police barricades.

The problem with this outfit is that it’s premised on a lie. There is no effort to impose “shari’a law” on any American. It’s impossible for it ever to happen, since the First Amendment prevents government from imposing a religion — or by extension, a religious law code — on Americans. “Shari’a law” can’t be imposed on the US any more than Roman Catholicism’s canon law can be. It’s a figment of their paranoid imaginations. It has not happened; it is not happening now; and it will not happen any time in the future. Period. End of story.

To be clear, if I thought for a moment that “shari’a law” was going to be imposed on me, I damned well would protest it, right alongside the members of Act for America, or anyone else who protests it. But it’s not … and the idea that it will soon be, is an outright fucking lie. It’s simply a rationale for pitching fits over the fact that Islam exists and that there are Muslims here in the US. Nothing more.

This specific form of the Neocrusade movement reminds me a bit of anti-Semites who cloak themselves behind the contention that they’re not really “anti-Jewish,” they’re really just “anti-Zionist.” Unfortunately, most of their invective is directed at Jews generally, not at Zionists specifically. It also reminds me of a subset of Holocaust deniers who don’t necessarily deny that the Third Reich went after Jews, it’s just that they dispute that around 6 million Jews died at their hands. They contend the number is smaller — often much smaller. But really, this quibbling about numbers isn’t really relevant. For instance, if the Nazis had “only” killed 600,000 Jews instead of 6,000,000, that still wouldn’t make what they did anything other than a horrible atrocity.

I note that some of the Neocrusaders who participated in these supposed anti-“shari’a law” rallies, themselves, acknowledged they had other reasons to protest Islam:

Some anti-Sharia marchers in Orlando, Fla., such as Sheryl Tumey, noted the timing of event, two days before the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, as a reason to protest. The gunman, who killed 50 people at the gay club, had been inspired by Islamic State extremists.

“We live here and that touched us — and that was a terrorist,” said Tumey, 50. “We are here and they want to bring in a religion of hate and oppression.”

These people, you see, can’t even keep their own disingenuous pretenses straight! As for who’s promoting “a religion of hate and oppression,” I acknowledge that’s what Islamists do … but it also happens to be what the Religious Right, a predominantly Christian movement right here in the US of A … also does. Fucking hypocrites! Maybe they should pay attention to their Bibles, and note that the founder of their own faith reportedly ordered them never to be hypocritical, at any time or for any reason. They’re quite simply not allowed — by their own Jesus! — to do so. Ever.

What these sanctimonious liars need to do is fucking grow the hell up, for the first time in their sniveling little lives, and accept the fact that Islam exists, that there are some Muslims here in the US, and that they can never change either of those realities, no matter how angry they get about them.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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NC Abuse-Church Trial Implodes https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/06/06/nc-abuse-church-trial-implodes/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/06/06/nc-abuse-church-trial-implodes/#respond Tue, 06 Jun 2017 23:56:50 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11224 Word of Faith Fellowship Church grounds in Rutherford County, N.C. / CBS affiliate WSPAI just blogged about the case involving North Carolina’s “abuse church,” Word of Faith Fellowship in the little town of Spindale. But only a short time later, the trial of one of the abusive pastors imploded … and as CBS News reports, it happened in remarkable fashion (WebCite cached article):

A judge held a juror in contempt and declared a mistrial Tuesday in the case of a North Carolina church minister charged in the beating a congregant who says he was attacked to expel his “homosexual demons.”

Superior Court Judge Gary Gavenus immediately sentenced the juror, Perry Shade Jr., to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Gavenus said the juror brought in three documents, including one related to North Carolina law, but it wasn’t the right law pertaining to the charges in the case.

Gavenus said he had warned the jurors not to bring in outside material.…

[Word of Faith minister Brooke] Covington was the first of five church members to face trial in the case. Each defendant will be tried separately. Covington’s trial began May 30.

And that’s not all, either:

Chad Metcalf, 35, was brought to Gavenus in handcuffs after he allegedly told the jury in a hallway to reach a verdict. Deliberations had begun Monday.

“I take this very seriously,” Gavenus told Metcalf.

The juror who was held in contempt was the same one who reported Metcalf’s comment to the judge.

Gavenus said Metcalf could face 39 months in prison and set a $100,000 bond.

This case was years in the making, given that indictments were first handed down in December 2014 (and likely had been the result of no short amount of proceedings) … so I expect it’ll take several years more for a retrial to take place — if they even have one. The fix really was in, where Word of Faith was concerned; as the Associated Press’s investigation showed, some area prosecutors were members of the church who actively helped shield them from prosecution. It also doesn’t take rocket science to understand that North Carolina is a Bible-belt Bobble Bayelt state, and I’m sure the good ol’ boys who run it aren’t any too happy about having to prosecute a fundamentalist church over its practices (in this case, literally beating the demons, devils, whatever out of people).

Photo credit: WSPA-TV, via CBS News.

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“The Religion of Peace” Is at War with the UK https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/06/04/the-religion-of-peace-is-at-war-with-the-uk/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/06/04/the-religion-of-peace-is-at-war-with-the-uk/#respond Sun, 04 Jun 2017 14:39:32 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11215 Map of London attacks on 6/3/2017, by BBC NewsBy now all my readers will have heard about the attacks in London yesterday, on London Bridge and in Borough Market (WebCite cached version):

A white van hit pedestrians on London Bridge at about 22:00 BST on Saturday, then three men got out and stabbed people in nearby Borough Market. They were shot dead by police minutes later.

There’s little doubt at this point that Islamists are behind this, and specifically, ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood:

All through the night supporters of so-called Islamic State have been celebrating the London attack, even before any claim has been made by IS.

There was never much doubt either in their minds, or in those of British counter-terrorism officials, that this was a jihadist attack inspired by IS.

It follows a widely-circulated propaganda message put out by the group on social media urging its followers to attack civilians in the West using trucks, knives or guns.

The message makes reference to the current Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Last year attacks intensified during this month with deaths resulting in Istanbul, Dhaka and Baghdad.

Some analysts see this as a last desperate bid by IS to its supporters, following multiple setbacks in the Middle East where its self-proclaimed caliphate is shrinking fast.

However, the ideology of IS is likely to survive those defeats and will continue to fuel terrorist attacks around the world.

Reports have also come in that the name of al-Lah, Islam’s deity, was invoked by at least one attacker (cached):

One eyewitness on London Bridge, told the BBC he saw three men stabbing people indiscriminately, shouting “this is for Allah”.

And, Dear Reader, what’s important to note, here, is that even if “the Islamic State” with its base in Raqqa, Syria were wiped out tomorrow, “Islamic State attacks” are sure to continue worldwide. Really, ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck is an unbeatable foe. It will be with us forever. It’s a product of the Salafi movement within Islam, and as such is nearly a century old. It has given us “Salafist jihadism” which can be found worldwide. Unfortunately, Salafism — and by extension, Salafi jihadism, is actively being spread, by wealthy Salafists and even by governments, such as that of Saudi Arabia (cached). We can talk about “carpet-bombing ISIS,” if we want — and as Sen. Ted Cruz has done (cached) — but even if we did, it won’t matter one iota. There are just too many childish, sanctimoniously-enraged Islamists out there who’ve been ifantilized by Salafi religionism in the world, and that infantilization grows daily.

Once and for all, we need to put away the fucking ridiculous canard that “Islam is a religion of peace.” It cannot logically be “a religion of peace,” if some of its followers — no matter how few — can use it to justify vicious terror attacks in many different parts of the world. This also cannot be the case, so long as financiers and governments who are part of Islam actively promote such a vicious form of the religion.

Oh, and instead of trotting out laughable bullshit like calling for imposition of a Muslim ban (cached), or promises to “carpet-bomb ISIS,” a better plan for the US to deal with it would be to block the networks which finance and promote Salafism around the world, and coerce governments (including our supposed ally, Saudi Arabia) to stop doing so themselves. But I doubt that will ever happen.

Photo credit: BBC News.

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Abuse-Church Pastor Confesses to Beating Congregant https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/06/03/abuse-church-pastor-confesses-to-beating-congregant/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/06/03/abuse-church-pastor-confesses-to-beating-congregant/#respond Sun, 04 Jun 2017 00:24:28 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11211 Word of Faith Fellowship, Spindale, NC / Alex Sanz/AP, via (NY) Daily NewsI blogged a few times about the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, NC. A trial is underway there, as I type this, and as the Associated Press reports, one of the defendants suddenly turned state’s evidence and testified against the rest (WebCite cached article):

One of five people charged with trying to beat “homosexual demons” out of a fellow church member in North Carolina testified for prosecutors on Friday, saying she threw the first slap after their minister began the attack.

Sarah Anderson took the stand despite defense objections in the trial of Word of Faith minister Brooke Covington. Anderson accused her of starting the confrontation with Matthew Fenner after a January 2013 service at the Spindale church.

She testified that Covington started pushing Fenner’s chest and screaming “Open your heart!” Anderson said she then slapped Fenner in the face, and about 30 church members then joined in, beating, screaming and choking the man for about two hours.

Not only did Anderson testify about the beating, she also testified about the subsequent attempt to obstruct justice:

Anderson testified that church leaders, including two working prosecutors at the time, met with the people who participated in the attack after Fenner pressed charges. She said then-assistant District Attorneys Frank Webster and Chris Back coached them to tell investigators that nothing violent happened that night.

The case involving Fenner’s beating predates the AP’s multi-story exposé; of the abuse, this past February. indictments were handed down back in December 2014 (cached). It took 2.5 years for the case to grind its way through the North Cackolackian justice system and reach this point. I’m actually amazed it proceeded even that quickly, given it’s a Bible Belt Bobble Bayelt state, where churches are granted deference.

Photo credit: Alex Sanz/AP, via (NY) Daily News.

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WV School System Suspends Bible Classes https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/05/29/wv-school-system-suspends-bible-classes/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/05/29/wv-school-system-suspends-bible-classes/#respond Mon, 29 May 2017 19:47:50 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11201 'One Nation, Under God: Remember, if you don't believe in God, you're not a REAL American. Keep prayer and God in school, where they belong!' / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of GeorgiaI’ve blogged a few times about Bible classes in public schools. The nation’s Christianists have long agitated against the Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in Abington School Dist. v. Schempp, which forbid the reading of Bible passages or reciting the Lord’s Prayer in public schools. Even decades later, militant Christianists throughout the country are still fighting back against that decision. They’ve consistently whined that Abington ripped the Bible out of public schools — which isn’t true — and have repeatedly pushed to get more Bible classes in more public schools throughout the country.

The reality is that lots of school systems have “Bible-as-secular-literature” courses. But many of them still run afoul of Abington. An example is the Mercer county, WV school system, which has a Bible course running through many grades, beginning in elementary school. The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed suit to end Mercer county’s Bible classes this past January (WebCite cached article). The FFRF’s complaint shows how the program’s lessons are more like Sunday-school religious lessons than “Bible-as-secular-literature.” After some wringing of hands over the last few months, as the Bluefield (WV) Daily Telegraph reports, Mercer county schools have decided to suspend the program for a year while they review its content (cached):

Mercer County’s Bible in the Schools program is being suspended for next year, providing time for a review of the optional class for elementary and middle school students.

Members of the board of education approved the suspension last night at their regular meeting.

“Since the Bible class is an elective, I would like to include community members and religious leaders along with our teachers in this process,” said Dr. Deborah Akers, superintendent of schools. “In order to conduct a thorough review, we need to allow at least a year to complete the task. Therefore, I am recommending that we suspend the elementary Bible classes until this review is completed.”

The way the schools got around the law on this is, as I see it, moderately clever. Their “Bible in the Public Schools” program is administered by the school system, but funded by private donations, with those funds paying the program’s teachers. They also say it’s an “elective,” but virtually every student takes it, which is undeniable evidence that it’s not actually an “elective” at all.

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph ran a second story to reassure readers this wasn’t necessarily the end of the program (cached). Rather pathetically, it lamented “the loss of jobs” due to the year suspension:

Although Mercer County schools administers the program, Pelts’ group raises money to pay the seven teachers, who will now be out of their jobs at least for next year.

“Right now, the loss of jobs for our teachers is heartbreaking,” said Pelts. “Our primary and immediate emphasis is to honor and show appreciation to our Bible teachers.”

The group raises almost $500,000 a year to pay for the program.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a staggering sum of money for a private fund to raise, just to pay for Bible classes in one Appalachian county. As of 2015, Mercer county’s population is a mere 60,000 or so. I can’t imagine those residents can consistently raise half a million dollars a year, just among themselves. It doesn’t seem plausible. Outside groups must be paying for this program.

If I may crib from my earlier remarks on this topic: As someone who’s studied the Bible, both as sacred and secular literature, I don’t dispute that “Bible-as-literature” classes add value to public schools. There’s no doubt whatever about that! Biblical allusions are common in other literature and art, and some of the Old Testament books serve as tremendous examples of etiology. Kids can certainly use this as a foundation for understanding other works.

The problem I have with public-school Bible classes is, I don’t trust the people — generally, devout Christians — who create curricula for, and teach, them. Many are motivated by a desire to proselytize. Even if they set out with the intention of keeping these classes completely secular, will they be able to resist the temptation to turn them into religious instruction? The ardency with which some of them have pressed to get such classes into public schools makes me question how truly committed they are to a secular approach to the Bible. I particularly find it suspicious that half a million dollars is spent annually, in little Mercer county, WV on this effort. That kind of money makes the whole thing appear very suspicious.

Photo credit: Austin Cline, Licensed to About.Com; Original Poster: University of Georgia.

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Carson Blames the Poor for Their Poverty https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/05/25/carson-blames-the-poor-for-their-poverty/ Fri, 26 May 2017 02:32:09 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11192 Better to remain silent, and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth, and remove all doubt! (proverb) / PsiCop original graphicYou just knew it wouldn’t go well, once our Groper-in-Chief named his GOP primary opponent, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, to his cabinet as the head of HUD. I mean, given some of the asinine things he’d said while he was running for president, and even after he’d bowed out, it was obvious he’d continue shoving his foot in his mouth, in very public ways.

Well, he did it again. As CNN reports, during a recent interview, he claimed the poor simply have “the wrong mindset” (WebCite cached article):

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said in an interview Wednesday that having “the wrong mindset” contributes to poverty.

“I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind,” the retired neurosurgeon said during an interview with SiriusXM Radio released on Wednesday evening. “You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there. And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you could give them everything in the world, they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom.”…

“A lot of it has to do with what we teach children,” he said. “You have to instill into that child the mindset of a winner.”

He went to say that “there’s also a poverty of spirit. You develop a certain mindset.”

This kind of thinking has simmered deep within Rightism for decades. It harkens back to the Protestant work ethic, which at its essences hold that, if one is diligent and works hard, then one will quite naturally prosper. The logical inverse of that, of course, is that if one isn’t prospering, then one isn’t working hard. This reasoning — if one can call it that — essentially blames the poor for their own poverty. They’re just “lazy” or something.

This thinking is fallacious. It is, after all, quite possible to work very hard, yet still not be wealthy. It’s a lot more common than most people are aware, as it turns out.

But Rightists cannot — or will not — dislodge this erroneous thinking from their brains, because it’s useful to them as an excuse for assuming the poor are just lazy good-for-nothings who’re looking for handouts — and by extension, often being given undeserved government largesse — who should instead just get to fucking work already and stop groveling at the public trough.

Of course, when businesses angle for taxpayer-funded handouts, most Rightists don’t have any complaints about that. If anything, they consider it just fine. This is, of course, brazenly hypocritical … which is odd, considering most Rightists are Christians, for whom hypocrisy of any kind was explicitly forbidden by the founder of their religion.

At any rate, I can’t think of a better example of the dysfunction, if not outright insanity, of Rightism than Carson’s attribution of poverty to a somehow-deficient “state of mind.” Can you?

Lastly, I’ll end by pointing out that’s hardly the Religious Right, or the Right generally, that blames the poor for their own poverty. A lot of “New Agers,” especially those who adhere to the so-called “Law of Attraction,” would argue something very similar. This so-called “law” was made famous in 2006 by the movie The Secret. This “law” is — to put it mildly — bullshit. A steaming load heaped right out the back of the barn. It’s a big fat honking lie. Of course, there’s not much new about “the Law of Attraction” aka “the Secret.” It’s a New Age-ized rendition of The Power of Positive Thinking, minus the late Normal Vincent Peale and his generalized references to Christianity. And its logical conclusion — that people are always directly responsible for everything bad that ever happens to them, solely because they weren’t thinking correctly about stuff — remains heinous and cruel. Period.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on proverb.

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A True Mob-with-Torches Moment in VA https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/05/15/a-true-mob-with-torches-moment-in-va/ Mon, 15 May 2017 18:04:12 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11179 Allison Wrabel/The Daily Progress, via WCAV-TVSeveral times I’ve blogged about “peasants with pitchforks” or “mob with torches” moments. I usually meant that metaphorically, to describe when a bunch of yokels get all worked up about something and talk as though they’re going to go on a rampage. Well, there was exactly such a moment, a few days ago in Charlottesville, VA. AOL News reports on what happened when a bunch of militant white supremacists showed up there (WebCite cached version):

Several dozen torch-wielding protestors gathered Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., chanting Nazi rhetoric as well as “Russia is our friend.” Mayor Mike Signer has issued a statement likening the event to a KKK demonstration.

The group congregated in Lee Park by a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which is slated to be removed from the premises later this year following a February city council vote. Earlier in the day, protestors had also gathered at nearby Jackson Park, voicing their commitment to protecting what they called their “white heritage.”

Chants of “blood and soil” broke out just after 9 PM. The German-originated expression, popularized in the Nazi era, refers to an ideology of “ethnic purity” based on blood descent and territory.

The event didn’t last long. Afterward, some of those involved denied reality:

At Jackson Park, some demonstrators spoke to press. “We’re not white supremacists,” said protestor Orry Von Dize. “We are simply just white people that love our heritage, our culture, our European identity.”

To be clear, expressing fear that one’s whiteness and “European identity” is being destroyed, is — in fact — a white supremacist trope. It’s laughable that anyone would deny it. Fucking laughable!

Note that Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia, a respected school which had been founded by (among other people) presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, James Madison, and justice John Marshall. How things got so uncivil there, despite this enlightened pedigree, is staggering.

The way some Southerners venerate Confederates is, quite frankly, pathetic. It’s almost as though they aren’t aware the South lost the Civil War and they’re still fighting it … or wishing they could. It’s all very childish. The Confederacy, ultimately, was a failed attempt to break from the Union and establish a new state. Yes, folks, that’s right: It was a failure … militarily, economically, administratively, and in every other conceivable way. Continuing to worship it makes no sense at all. None! It’s all very childish, in fact.

Yes, I know all about the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy” trope, which holds that the Confederacy was a righteous, noble state defeated by insidious and unjust forces in the North. Far from being a failure, the Confederacy was right, and remains so to this day. All of that, of course, is rank bullshit … a steaming load heaped right out the back of the barn. But you can’t tell Southerners that. They’re not listening, at all, because telling them otherwise is a way of trying to demolish their “heritage” and wipe them all out. None of that is happening, of course, but they prefer to believe it is because it makes them feel better to feel downtrodden and put out. The poor little things. There there, Southerners, here’s a hanky you can cry into.

Photo credit: Allison Wrabel/The Daily Progress, via WCAV-TV.

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Pope Canonizes Two Fátima Children on Apparition’s 100th Anniversary https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/05/13/pope-canonizes-two-fatima-children-on-apparitions-100th-anniversary/ Sat, 13 May 2017 23:47:24 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11171 Our Lady of Fátima and the Children - Igreja de São Domingos - LisbonIt’s the hundredth anniversary of the Virgin Mary’s famous appearance at Fátima, Portugal. Pope Francis celebrated it by going on a pilgrimage there, and as the Jesuit America magazine reports, he canonized two of the children who saw the apparition (WebCite cached article):

History was made at the shrine of Fatima at 10:30 a.m. on May 13 when Pope Francis declared that Francisco Marto and his sister Jacinta are saints. Francisco and Jacinta are the first child saints who are not martyrs in the history of the church.

Francisco, Jacinta and their cousin Lucia are buried here side by side in the basilica. Before Mass, Francis prayed in silence at the tombs of the three shepherd children. When Jacinta’s body was exhumed before being brought here, 15 years after her death, it was found to be totally uncorrupted. Because of this, the local bishop asked Lucia, by then a contemplative nun, to write the memoirs of Jacinta and Francisco, detailing the extraordinary events that have so powerfully impacted the lives of believers ever since [cached].

The Fátima sighting, of course, was not just a single event: it was six of them. Today is the anniversary of the first of these appearances; the last was 5 months later in October of 1917. The now-famous “three secrets” were delivered during the third of the six appearances, in July.

These secrets — mainly, the third — are the subject of more than a little conspiratorial thinking. The third was withheld, and put in writing in the early 1940s by the surviving witness (at that time), Lúcia dos Santos (who had become a nun), sealed in an envelope by her. It was not to be opened until 1960, for some reason; Pope John XXIII read it at that time, but decided not to disclose it. John Paul II finally revealed the “third secret” in 2000, and the Church decided then that it had referred to the assassination attempt against him in 1981. It’s been published, and is even available on the Vatican’s Web site (cached).

The Church’s interpretation of the “third secret” is rather deficient, by any standard. Its vision of a bishop in white being killed by soldiers does not, in any way, reflect the shooting of John Paul II. This, plus the sketchy way the “third secret” was treated, fostered conspiracy theories. Many of these theories assume the Vatican’s published version of the “third secret” is either incomplete or fraudulent, and the actual “third secret” is being withheld for nefarious reasons (which they’ve spun out of thin air, having nothing else to base them on).

There’s just one problem with all of this: Sister Lúcia was alive in 2000, and published commentaries on the “secrets” as late as 2001, and died in 2005. She never contradicted the Vatican’s released version of the “third secret.” (This is why Lúcia wasn’t sainted along with her two friends today; they died long ago due to the Spanish flu pandemic and qualified for canonization already; Lúcia’s sainthood cause has yet to run its course.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The Fallacious Thinking of the Religious Mind https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/05/13/the-fallacious-thinking-of-the-religious-mind/ Sat, 13 May 2017 19:32:12 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11165 'This is America ... Founded by White Christians seeking religious liberty. ... Where people know their place. This is YOUR America. Keep it White & Christian!' / Racism & White Supremacy in American Christianity America as a Christian Nation, America as a White Nation: Racism & White Supremacy in American Christianity. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National ArchivesThe recently-elected Groper-in-Chief, having run relatively quiet for a few days in the wake of yet another debacle of his own manufacture, gave the commencement address at one of the temples of American fundamentalist Christianity, that being Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. During what was, effectively, yet another of his rally speeches, as the Washington Post reports, one of his remarks betrayed a common, but fallacious, trope of Christianist thinking (WebCite cached article):

In his first commencement address as president, Donald Trump on Saturday drew a parallel between what he faces as a political outsider in Washington and what he said the Christian graduates of Liberty University can expect to encounter in a secular world.

“Be totally unafraid to challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures,” Trump said. “Does that sound familiar, by the way?”…

Trump’s address was short on scripture but cast the president as a defender of the Christian faith — a mantle he assumed throughout the campaign.

“In America, we don’t worship government,” Trump declared at one point. “We worship God.”

The Apricot Wonder alludes, here, to the common evangelical belief that secularists, progressives, Leftists, etc. (pretty much anyone who’s not in their own camp) “worships” government, in the same way they themselves worship their own religion and deity. This belief is predicated on the assumption that all human beings somehow must “worship” something. In their minds, this means people either worship their own religion and deity — i.e. they have the “right” faith — or they believe in a false religion (whether it’s Islam, or Buddhism, or Satanism, or “statism”).

This is fallacious thinking on their part, of course, because it’s possible for a person to not worship anyone or anything at all. (Yes, really! It is.)

Many have questioned the degree to which the GiC is really a Christian, let alone an evangelical like the faculty and students of Liberty University … but as WaPo explains, he has taken up the mantle of “champion of Christian fundamentalists” and consistently tries to speak as though he’s one of them and is their standard-bearer. Thus, in his remark about worshipping God rather than government, he’s continuing to appeal to their sentiments. Not to mention, he’s appealing to the teeming masses of “Christian nationers” out there, too, all clamoring to make their militant Christianism into the national religion.

Oh, and by the way … just to be clear on this … I’m an American who absolutely, truly, and unabashedly does not worship the Apricot Wonder’s God — but I also do not worship government. If he or any of his rabid fanbois thinks that, as an American, I’m obligated to worship his deity, I invite that person to give it their best shot. Lock and load. Do your worst! Rest assured, I will never do so, no matter what.

Photo credit: Austin Cline, About.Com based on original from National Archives.

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Yoga Can’t Be Called “Yoga” at a Catholic College https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/05/12/yoga-cant-be-called-yoga-at-a-catholic-college/ Fri, 12 May 2017 20:00:55 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11157 Yoga Journal Conference 1I’ve commented before on occasional Christianist hissy-fits and condemnations of yoga as a profane “pagan”/Hindu practice. As I’ve said on those occasions, it’s true that what we now call “yoga” did originate as part of Hindu practice and ritual. However, it has changed through the millennia, and as it’s practiced in the occidental world, has long since lost any connection to the Hindu religion. American yogis and yoginis are not worshiping Hindu gods in any of their exercises.

But that hasn’t stopped Christians from getting their panties in knots over it nonetheless. The Kansas City Star, for example, reports that a Catholic college has renamed its yoga classes (WebCite cached article):

Yoga is designed to help bring peace and wellness to body and mind.

But at Benedictine College — a small and strongly Catholic liberal arts school in Atchison, Kan. — yoga classes per se will soon be yo-gone, out of apparent concern that use of the word “yoga” suggests advocacy for Hindu mysticism.

College spokesman Stephen Johnson said that starting this fall, both recreational classes and for-credit exercise classes that once taught yoga will likely still be taught the same way, but instead will be rebranded as “lifestyle fitness.”

“We’re changing the name,” Johnson said.

Note, they haven’t stopped the yoga classes. They’ll still be held. They just won’t go by the name of “yoga” any more. Why the college dislikes the name “yoga” isn’t entirely clear, or why yoga classes haven’t been banned altogether, isn’t clear based on the objections they’ve offered:

Complaints, Johnson said, began to come in from alumni, students, faculty and some administrators who argued that as a Hindu practice, yoga was not in keeping with Catholic-based education.

I note that mysticism and meditation — which yoga is a form of — is most assuredly very Christian. It’s been part of the religion since its inception, especially within its monastic movements. So really, there shouldn’t be much objection to it, even at a conservative Catholic college.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

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More of Life in Our Post-Truth World https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/05/12/more-of-life-in-our-post-truth-world/ Fri, 12 May 2017 18:14:37 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11151 'Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.' / Friedrich Schiller / PsiCop original graphicPlease pardon me, Dear Reader, for this blog post, which is mostly political, but which is relevant to a topic (i.e. veracity) I cover often.

I’ve blogged before that we now live in a post-truth age. People generally disdain veracity, these days, preferring instead to cling to whatever bullshit or lies they find emotionally comforting. Because, of course, emotions are always much more important than reality … right?

Nowhere is this more evident than in our Groper-in-Chief, a man who lies habitually, but who never will admit it and who doggedly continues spewing his lies long after they’ve been debunked — mainly because his own fanbois back him all the way.

Through his presidential campaign, and the first few months of his presidency, he and his minions have reeled off any number of rationales for why he lies so often, going so far as to demand that the public and media just ignore his lies altogether (WebCite cached article).

Well, the Apricot Wonder — compulsive Twitter aficionado that he is — recently posted an explanation for why he and his staff often misspeak/lie. As he explains, the poor little things are just too busy, you see (cached and cached):

Yes, Mr President. Obviously, that’s the answer! Don’t hold any more press briefings, which just further evince how inept and stupid you and your minions are. Why of course that’s the solution! You and your staff definitely ought to run and hide from anything resembling accountability to the public. That’ll remove any need for you or them to have to try to be accurate in what they say.

Why, it’s just horrific insolence of anyone to expect that you or your staff should actually know what the fuck you’re talking about, whenever any of you speaks. What an intolerable burden for all of you! There there, Mr President. Here, let me give you a pacifier. Then I’ll give you a drink of water and tuck you into bed. That way you can sleep peacefully, knowing all the bad people will leave you alone.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Friedrich Schiller quotation.

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The National Day of Prayer Is Un-Christian Bullshit! https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/05/03/the-national-day-of-prayer-is-un-christian-bullshit/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/05/03/the-national-day-of-prayer-is-un-christian-bullshit/#comments Thu, 04 May 2017 01:29:48 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11138 What part of 'When you pray, go into your inner room' did you not understand? (from Mt 6:6, NASB) / PsiCop original graphicAs I type this, tomorrow will be the National Day of Prayer, 2017. Around the country, politicians and all sorts of other folks will attend all kind of events, showing each other how much they like to pray. Most all of them will insist they’re doing it out of love for their deity — which, for most participants, is Jesus Christ. The problem with that is … it’s un-Christian of them to be involved in such a thing!

Yes, that’s what I said: Christians participating in the National Day of Prayer is decidedly and undeniably un-Christian.

A lot of folks will be amazed at this. “What are you talking about, you hateful, cynical, godless agnostic heathen? How dare you say that!” That people might find my statement surprising, is the real tragedy here. Any Christian who attends a National Day of Prayer event obviously hasn’t read his/her Bible and doesn’t realize that public piety — as I’ve blogged on numerous occasions — is something Jesus clearly, explicitly, and unambiguously forbid his followers ever to engage in!

Here, in case you missed it, is the most important scriptural passage which explains this:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” …

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

Jesus didn’t want his followers using their righteousness for self-aggrandizement, and with that as the goal, ordered them never to express their piety in public (whether by praying or making an issue of it in any other way). He was clear about it. There are no caveats, no exceptions, no wiggle-room at all. Just a clear order to “go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret.”

I really can’t understand why Christians are so militant about not obeying this teaching. I’ve discussed it with many of them, and they actually get very agitated when I show them that public piety is un-Christian. I can only assume that’s because, for them, one of the benefits of being a Christian in the first place is to be able to display their Christianity to others and to show they’re part of “the club.” An inability to express their piety publicly would rob them of that precious perk. I guess. I mean, what other explanation can there be for it?

At any rate, no Christian who actually wants to obey Jesus will attend any National Day of Prayer events. He made his wishes known, and they can be found in any Christian Bible. Time for Christians to open it up, read it, and just do as they’re fucking told, for once.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Mt 6:6.

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Even More Church Politicking Is on the Way https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/05/03/even-more-church-politicking-is-on-the-way/ Thu, 04 May 2017 00:53:23 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11132 US flag with cross instead of starsBrace yourselves for even more religious politicking in the US. While campaigning for president, the Groper-in-Chief had said he would “destroy the Johnson amendment” (WebCite cached article). That’s the regulation which bars non-profit entities — of which churches and religious organizations are one type — from engaging in partisan politics.

The sniveling crybabies who comprise the Religious Right have agitated against this rule for decades. That it exists hasn’t prevented them from constructing a very powerful, religiously-propelled political engine … but that hasn’t stopped them from bellyaching about it. What’s more, it hasn’t stopped some of them from endorsing candidates without being punished by the IRS (which generally is afraid of enforcing it).

The New York Times reports that tomorrow, the National Day of Prayer, the Apricot Wonder will start making good on that promise (cached):

President Trump plans to mark the National Day of Prayer on Thursday by issuing an executive order that makes it easier for churches and other religious groups to actively participate in politics without risking their tax-exempt status, several administration officials said.

Taking action as he hosts conservative religious leaders Thursday morning, Mr. Trump’s executive order would attempt to overcome a provision in the federal tax code that prohibits religious organizations like churches from directly opposing or supporting political candidates.

The move is likely to be hailed by some faith leaders, who have long complained that the law stifles their freedom of expression. But the order is expected to fall short of a more sweeping effort to protect religious liberties that has been pushed by conservative religious leaders since Mr. Trump’s election.

Churches and other religious groups have whined for years that the Johnson amendment somehow “violates” their rights and gets in the way of their “free speech.” This, however, is completely untrue. It’s a lie straight out of the pit of Hell. All a church has to do, if it wants to endorse candidates and campaign for them, is to forfeit its tax exemption. Once it’s done that, it can politick to its heart’s content! There’s nothing — other than greed — preventing them from doing so.

The United States of Jesus is on its way, folks. You read it here first!

Photo credit: CJF20, via Flickr.

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Connecticut On Its Way to Banning “Conversion Therapy” https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/05/02/connecticut-on-its-way-to-banning-conversion-therapy/ Wed, 03 May 2017 00:36:02 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11127 LGBT flag map of ConnecticutI assume my readers know about the vile practice known as “conversion therapy” (aka “reparative therapy,” and some other innocuous-sounding circumlocutions). Its proponents say it’s a way to help gays become straight, and they’ve been pushing it on the country for a couple decades now (WebCite cached article).

In the 1970s, the psychiatric profession stopped treating homosexuality as a mental illness, but shortly afterward, Christianists took up the cause, and cooked up “ministries” intended to “deliver” gays from their “sin.” Among the most famous of those was Exodus International, which more or less shut down just a few years ago (cached).

By the early 90s the “convert the gays” movement was almost entirely fueled by evangelical Christianity, even though a few psychologists like Joseph Nicolosi tried to give their weird pray-the-gay-away “treatments” a clinical veneer, having signed on as consultants to their ministries (cached). The bottom line is that “conversion therapy” is not only ineffective, it’s harmful to many who participate (cached). It’s pseudoscientific, and frequently barbaric (in the case of the “aversion techniques” they use). It also provides a pretext for the mistreatment of gays.

While my home state of Connecticut is as deep-blue Democratic/Liberal as one can get — and was among the first states to permit gay marriage (in 2008) — it’s taken a while to address “conversion therapy” here. As CT Mirror reports, though, the state House of Representatives approved a law to ban it in the Nutmeg State (cached):

The House of Representatives voted 141 to 8 Tuesday to pass and send to the Senate a bill that would make Connecticut one of a half-dozen states barring conversion therapy, the discredited practice of trying to change the sexual orientation of young homosexuals.

“This practice and treatment is not science, it’s science fiction,” the bill’s chief House sponsor, Rep. Jeffrey Currey, D-East Hartford, told his colleagues.

The bill would enshrine in state law the conclusions of the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and other national associations of health professionals: Homosexuality is not a disease, and forcing conversion therapy on a minor can be harmful.

Only 8 legislators voted against it … all Republicans (no surprise there!). One of them offered this boneheaded excuse for her “nay” vote:

[Ann] Dauphinais [of Killingly] said passage put Connecticut on a slippery slope of further interfering with parental rights.

“I believe this is a violation of the rights of parents to make choices they see as in the best interest of children,” Dauphinais said.

I guess she’d approve of parents treating their kids’ maladies with bloodletting, then … right? That is, after all, the natural consequence of her stated wish that parents have absolute, unfettered freedom to do as they wish to their kids. No?

What a fucking moron!

If the bill passed 141-8 in the House, I expect it will get through the state Senate, too, although probably with a little tighter margin.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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No, This Wasn’t a Miracle! https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/04/30/no-this-wasnt-a-miracle/ Mon, 01 May 2017 00:03:34 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11118 'Miracles: It's all smoke and mirrors' / Motifake.ComReligious believers have an odd way of wringing “miracles” out of what are actually disasters. Take, for example, some tornados that tore through eastern Texas yesterday (WebCite cached article). Amid the mayhem and destruction that these tornadoes wrought, though — as CNN reports — Christians in Texas managed to track down “a miracle” (cached):

Parishioners say it’s a miracle that no one was harmed when a deadly tornado hit a Texas church on Saturday night.

About 45 people had gathered to honor high school graduates at the parish hall of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Emory, a town outside of Dallas, Texas.

If you’re like me, by this point in the story, you had in mind a vision of a church full of worshippers who, in the middle of their service, found their church vacuumed up neatly from around them by the tornado. They were magically shielded from injury by the awesome metaphysical power of the Almighty.

But if you thought this, you’d be wrong. Instead of divine intervention, it turns out there was — instead! — merely human intervention, as the story immediately relates:

They received a warning to take cover because a tornado was approaching, and decided to take refuge in a hallway between the parish hall and the main part of the church, said Peyton Low, director of public affairs for the Diocese of Tyler.

So, instead of the Almighty magically saving these people, what happened was that mere-human meteorologists warned them about the tornado; their warning was conveyed to them by a disaster-warning system built and staffed by mere humans; and the mere humans in the church figured out where to go that would keep them safe.

No divine intervention was needed … at all. Human beings, themselves, managed to prevent injury in this particular case. Yes, that’s “human beings.” Not “God.” S/he/it had nothing to do with it.

The Christians of Emory will, no doubt, not care one iota about this. No doubt they much prefer giving their deity credit for what the human beings managed to do, here, and call it a “miracle” rather than pat themselves on the back for having handled this disaster correctly. For some reason, they’ll be emotionally comforted by this effort to rob humanity of credit for what it has accomplished. I have no idea what that reason is, but they’ll do it.

In the meantime, they’ll conveniently forget all the people who weren’t magically saved by divine intervention (cached):

Five people were killed and at least 50 people were taken to hospitals after a tornado hit a small city in East Texas on Saturday.

Officials confirmed late Saturday night a total of five people had died, CBS Dallas / Fort Worth reports [cached]. None of the victims had been formally identified as of Saturday night.

These tornadoes weren’t a “miracle” for the 5 people who died or the 50 hospitalized. It was anything but a miracle for them. Rather, for them it was a fucking disaster. A catastrophe.

This is just another example of religious believers engaging in their time-honored tradition of cherry picking, selecting just the tiny little bits of things that grant them emotional comfort, while brazenly ignoring everything else which happens to contradict their irrational beliefs. What’s troubling is that the parts of this story Christians are purposely ignoring, are injuries and deaths. Is life really so cheap, in their eyes, that they can be so casual about it?

Photo credit: Motifake.Com.

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Bible Classes Coming to Kentucky Public Schools https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/04/28/bible-classes-coming-to-kentucky-public-schools/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/04/28/bible-classes-coming-to-kentucky-public-schools/#comments Sat, 29 Apr 2017 02:31:50 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11108 Unsplash, via PixabayThe Commonwealth of Kentucky has an awful lot of problems … or so I thought. I mean, last I knew, it’s home to some of the most impoverished counties in the entire US (WebCite cached article). It’s taken decades for Kentucky to devolve into its current dismal status. Yes, it’s been hurt by the loss of coal production, but no, this wasn’t caused by the coal-hating Barack HUSSEIN Obama; coal jobs have diminished steadily since the 1980s, under presidents of both parties.

But it seems the Bluegrass State has solved all of its problems, including the deep poverty of its eastern reaches, because Frankfort has moved on to dealing with problems it doesn’t have: Namely, not enough Bible-thumping. As the Christian Post reports, Kentucky’s governor bravely signed a bill that establishes a foundation for Bible classes in the commonwealth’s public schools (cached):

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin recently signed a bill into law that authorizes public school boards to allow schools to offer elective Bible literacy courses and provides state guidance to help establish such classes, local news outlets have reported [cached].

According to the Ohio County Monitor, Bevin, a Republican, has signed House Bill 128 into law, which provides guidance to schools as they begin offering students the ability to sign up to take Bible courses.

The bill, which was introduced by Rep. DJ Johnson, passed overwhelmingly in the state’s senate 34 to 4 late last month.

The CP article includes obligatory references to the historic nature of the Bible and how important it is to civilization and yada yada yada. It even included this claim:

“Additionally, studies show that students that have a higher level of Bible literacy also tend to have higher GPAs,” [Republican representative DJ] Johnson continued.

No citations to these “studies” are provided, and I’m willing to bet either that no such thing exists, or they were commissioned by religious groups, in which case their results are suspect at best.

The article also points out the classes designed as a result of this law are to be “electives” only. The problem is that large swaths of Kentucky are packed with militant Christianists, so in many schools these “elective” classes won’t really be “electives”; nearly all kids will take them as a matter of course, and the few who dare not do so will be harassed and bullied. Yes, it will happen, no matter how vehemently the people promoting these classes insist they won’t permit it.

As someone who’s studied the Bible both from a religious and secular perspective, I don’t deny that secular Bible-literacy courses can have value for kids. The problem is, will the folks who teach these classes be willing to limit themselves to a secular approach? Will they have the restraint not to use them as an opportunity to proselytize? I’m not sure all of them will be able to resist the temptation to do so.

Really, what’s going on here is a kind of Bible-worship, or treating the Bible as though it were an idol. The people behind this law think that exposing kids to it will magically make them Christianists just like themselves. They really need to stick crowbars into the Bibles they long ago slammed shut, though, and actually read them for once … because it contains admonitions against idolatry and other forms of magical thinking.

At any rate, allow me to congratulate the Commonwealth on its achievement. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with Kentucky any more, and all that’s left is the passage of laws to promote Bible-reading. Well done, Kentuckyites! You must be so proud!

Photo credit: Unsplash, via Pixabay.

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More of Life in the Groper-in-Chief’s America https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/04/11/more-of-life-in-the-groper-in-chiefs-america/ Tue, 11 Apr 2017 23:41:28 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11092 Better to remain silent, and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth, and remove all doubt! (proverb) / PsiCop original graphicThe compound train-wreck which is the Apricot Wonder’s presidential administration just keeps piling up more wreckage. White House press secretary Sean Spicer — who already faces a monumental credibility gap, having begun his tenure by angrily (not to mention brazenly) lying about the size of the Groper-in-Chief’s inauguration crowd (WebCite cached article), just outdid himself in asinine stupidity. At today’s press conference, as the New York Times explains, he not only went off the rails, he polevaulted over them and sailed half a mile beyond (cached):

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, set off an intense backlash on Tuesday when he suggested that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was worse than Hitler and said incorrectly that Hitler had not used chemical weapons during World War II or against his own people.

Mr. Spicer was attempting to lend gravity to the actions of Mr. Assad, who United States officials believe used sarin gas, a lethal chemical weapon, in an attack on a rebel-held area of Idlib Province last week that killed dozens.

Hitler oversaw a network of extermination camps where gas chambers were used to kill millions of Jews and others deemed to be harmful to the German state.

“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Mr. Spicer said.…

Asked to clarify his remarks, Mr. Spicer acknowledged that Hitler used chemical agents, but maintained that there was a difference.

CNN offers video of Spicer’s cringeworthy debacle:

I can’t even describe the inanity and idiocy of comparing al-Assad to Hitler. There are just no words. I mean … seriously!? … what the fuck is wrong with Spicer? As a rule, Hitler comparisons are always a bad idea. This one is many times worse, because as it turns out, the Nazis definitely gassed Jews and others in concentration camps — in horrifically large numbers, at that. Spicer’s comparison is pure lunacy! It’s indefensible … period, end of story, full stop.

I expect, though, that Spicer and the rest of the Groper’s minions will continue — in spite of the obvious absurdity of doing so — defending this insane comparison. Moreover, their fanbois will join in the defense, and rail against any members of the media who lambaste Spicer over his buffoonish comparison. They’ll do so largely because of their allegiance to the Groper-in-Chief, whom they think can do no wrong, and because some of the Democrats they so vehemently despise have demanded Spicer’s resignation over the matter (cached). Democrats’ vilification of Spicer means — in the eyes of militant Rightists — that he must be correct.

This is a lesson in my principle (described above) that Third Reich comparisons are usually a bad idea, just by their very nature. I blogged about this, not only because of how tremendously crazy Spicer’s comparison is, but because as a rule, Hitler comparisons are altogether too common. The Right flung them at Barack Obama and the Democrats for the last 8 years, and they’re now being heaved at the Right from the opposite direction. It needs to fucking stop already. Time for everyone to grow up, fercryinoutloud, and put the Nazi comparisons away.

Photo credit: PsiCop original, based on proverb.

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Another Religious Rightist Thinks Rape Is “the Will of God” https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/23/another-religious-rightist-thinks-rape-is-the-will-of-god/ Fri, 24 Mar 2017 02:08:26 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11075 And Jesus WeptThe list of Religious Rightists who feel compelled to yammer about rape continues to grow. They do it, even though they ought to have learned, by now, to just shut the fuck up about it already. Their absurd spew about it just makes them look ridiculous, and it’s sunk a few of their candidacies, too. So one would think they’d want to avoid the subject entirely. But too many of them refuse to do so. They’re too worked up about it, and too sanctimonious, to hold back. In other words, they just can’t help themselves.

The latest example of this kind of asinine behavior comes from the Oklahoma legislature. There, as KFOR-TV reports, Rep. George Faught agreed with the idea that rape is “the will of God” (WebCite cached article):

A controversial anti-abortion bill passed the House Tuesday, but not before a heated debate over the Bible, rape, and incest.

HB1549 punishes doctors who perform abortions if the mother is seeking one because of a genetic disorder.…

“Representative, is rape the will of God?” Rep. Cory Williams asked [the bill’s author, Rep. George] Faught.

“Well, you know, if you read the Bible, there are a couple circumstances where that happened, and the Lord uses all circumstances,” Faught replied.

“Is incest the will of God?” Williams asked.

“Same answer,” Faught said.

Here’s video of Faught’s bone-chilling pronouncement, via Youtube:This sounds horrific to anyone who’s not deeply immersed in evangelical Christianity. What person with a brain would want to worship a deity who “uses” terrible incidents like rape like some kind of cosmic tool? And it sounds horrible to the ear of this cynical, godless agnostic heathen.

But with that said … there is a reason Faught trotted this out: This chilling theology does, in fact, have sound roots in Christian thought.

First, it’s not uncommon for Christians to view horrific events, such as violent crimes, or larger catastrophes such as plagues, earthquakes, etc. as warnings issued by the Almighty. This is, in fact, what I call “disaster theology,” and I’ve blogged about many examples of this sort of thinking. It’s a very old and tired trope within Christianity.

Second, it’s a natural consequence of believing that God is the omnipotent and omniscient creator of the universe. God’s limitless power and knowledge of all that has ever happened, is happening, and ever will happen, is an absolute quality, and that has a number of logical ramifications. One of them is that nothing can ever happen that God does not permit to happen … because if God didn’t wish something to occur, then it couldn’t occur. His/her/its wishes are, after all, absolute! What’s more, since God knew everything that would ever happen, even long before s/he/it ever created the universe, that means the very act of creating the universe caused it all to happen. Thus, God bears final and total accountability for everything … and I do mean absolutely everything!

This last point is one that most theists don’t accept, even if it’s completely logical. The bottom line is that God is, according to much of what Abrahmic-tradition followers say about him/her/it, a monster who uses events like rape as tools to achieve his goals. It’s an unavoidable conclusion. So any Abrahamic believer who says they don’t agree with vicious cretins like Faught, are going to have to think long and hard about what, exactly, they believe in and what kind of God they worship. Most of them, for better or worse, have never really thought out what it means to believe in a deity who has all the qualities they say their God has. It’s just never occurred to them to lay it all out — all of it — and figure out exactly what it means. They simply like thinking their deity is all-powerful. The emotional comfort this provides, is all they know and all they care about. They ignore the other ramifications of this belief.

Photo credit: Terry Alexander, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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More Fallout from Word of Faith Fellowship Abuse Exposé https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/21/more-fallout-from-word-of-faith-fellowship-abuse-expos/ Wed, 22 Mar 2017 00:28:37 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11072 Word of Faith Fellowship Church grounds in Rutherford County, N.C. / CBS affiliate WSPAI’ve already blogged about the Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale, NC which was the subject of a series of Associated Press stories.

In addition to some North Carolina prosecutors (who were also members of the church, and one a relative of its leaders) being reviewed for having helped prevent Word of Faith from being fully investigated through the years, there’s been a little more fallout. As the Associated Press reports, a county social worker — also a member of the church who may have helped shield them from accountability — has resigned from her job (WebCite cached article):

A veteran social worker accused of coaching congregants and their children on what to say during a 2015 child abuse investigation of her secretive religious sect has resigned, an attorney for a child welfare agency said Friday.

Andrea Leslie-Fite said Lori Cornelius left her position at the Cleveland County Department of Social Services.…

[North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation] spokesman Patty McQuillan said Friday the agency isn’t currently investigating Cornelius or the Rutherford County Division of Social Services. But she said that could change.…

In its ongoing investigation, the AP has reported that the 2015 social services investigation included complaints that students at the church-run K-12 school were encouraged to beat classmates to cast out devils. Former members also said Cornelius coached children on what to tell investigators with the help of assistant prosecutors Frank Webster and Chris Back. Back is the son-in-law of sect leader Jane Whaley.

That DSS probe ended with no charges.

The abuse this church inflicted on people was all about devils:

Victims of the violence included pre-teens and toddlers — even crying babies — who were vigorously shaken, screamed at and sometimes smacked to banish demons, according to on-the-record interviews with 43 former members. Those interviewed said congregants also were subjected to a practice called “blasting” — an ear-piercing verbal onslaught often conducted in hours-long sessions meant to cast out devils.

Yes, let’s torture people in order to drive out devils (or demons or ghosts or poltergeists or whatever-the-fuck)! Why, of course it makes total sense that incorporeal beings can be harmed that way. Obviously!

Photo credit: WSPA-TV, via CBS News.

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Bathroom-Bill Promoter Accused of Child Prostitution https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/21/bathroom-bill-promoter-accused-of-child-prostitution/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/21/bathroom-bill-promoter-accused-of-child-prostitution/#comments Tue, 21 Mar 2017 18:44:47 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11058 In this Feb. 22, 2017 file photo, Oklahoma state Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, speaks during a Senate committee meeting in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Senate has voted to punish Shortey, who police say was found with a teenage boy in a motel room. Police officials in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore are still investigating the circumstances surrounding an incident last week involving Sen. Shortey and a teenager. No charges have been filed. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)Note: There’s been an update to this story since I first posted it. See below.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A loud, sanctimonious Religious Rightist prick — who runs around demanding others comply with his wishes, decrying society’s moral decline, and claiming moral superiority over everyone — turns out to be a brazen fucking hypocrite who’s actually guilty of some of the very immoral crap he accuses his opponents of. Yep, it’s a familiar story, all right! The Oklahoman reports it happened in the case of a state senator in the Sooner State (WebCite cached article):

A conservative state senator who once wanted to be a missionary was accused Thursday in a child prostitution case of offering to pay a 17-year-old boy for sex.

Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, was charged with three felony counts, one week after police found him with the teenager in a Moore hotel room.…

The evidence against Shortey includes a graphic online conversation where the two discuss having sex and smoking marijuana, police reported in a court affidavit. The conversation was found on the teenager’s Kindle tablet.

Shortey, using the online name “Jamie Tilley,” at one point during the discussion about sex called the teenager “baby boy,” according to the affidavit.

I think that’s enough detail to explain the accusation here. What’s important to know about Shortey is that, a year ago, he’d tried to advance a “bathroom bill” through the Oklahoma legislature, which would have prevented transgender people from using appropriate public bathrooms (cached). Advocates of these kinds of “bathroom bills” they’re necessary in order to prevent women from being assaulted in restrooms — as though assault isn’t already illegal (and it is).

Shortey’s lawyer has said he plans to resign, but hasn’t done so yet, as far as I know. Not sure what he’s waiting for — he’s probably negotiating some kind of deal, such as continuing to get benefits, or something like that.

Update: It turns out the wait for Shortey to quit lasted only a day. The Oklahoman reports he has resigned from the OK state senate (cached).

Photo credit: AP Photo, Sue Ogrocki.

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The Psychopathology of Never Admitting Error or Fault https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/17/the-psychopathology-of-never-admitting-error-or-fault/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/17/the-psychopathology-of-never-admitting-error-or-fault/#comments Sat, 18 Mar 2017 00:20:47 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11060 Secret of my success: I'm going to succeed because I'm crazy enough to think I can …. / Motifake.ComI’ve lived some 5 decades, but have yet to see anything quite like the clusterfuck that is Washington, DC right now. The White House is desperately wrenching itself all over the place in an effort both to back away from, and simultaneously justify, the Groper-in-Chief’s claim that his predecessor had ordered him wiretapped prior to the election.

Yesterday, the GiC’s press secretary went off on reporters at his daily press briefing, still defending his boss’s indefensible — and deceptive — claim that Trump Tower had been wiretapped (cached). In the course of this exercise in derangement, he cited a Fox News pundit’s claim that the previous president used GHCQ, the UK’s equivalent of the NSA, to bug Trump. As one would expect, this (naturally) incensed the Brits, who as one would expect, denied any such thing happened. As the (UK) Telegraph reports, White House functionaries had to apologize for this (cached):

Intelligence sources told The Telegraph that both Mr Spicer and General McMaster, the US National Security Adviser, have apologised over the claims. “The apology came direct from them,” a source said.

General McMaster contacted Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the Prime Minister’s National Security adviser, to apologise for the comments. Mr Spicer conveyed his apology through Sir Kim Darroch, Britain’s US ambassador.

Normally that would have been the end of the matter. At least, during previous administrations, it would have. But not this one! Oh no. Instead of being tamped down, as CNN explains, the insanity of this minor debacle was actually amplified, instead (cached):

White House press secretary Sean Spicer flatly denied Friday that the White House apologized to the British government after citing an uncorroborated Fox News report to allege that a UK intelligence agency spied on President Donald Trump at the behest of former President Barack Obama.

Far from conceding he’d done anything wrong by reading a false report during his press briefing, Spicer actually defended what he’d done:

“I don’t think we regret anything,” Spicer told reporters at a gaggle Friday afternoon. Asked by CNN’s Jim Acosta if there was an apology by the administration to the British government over the matter, Spicer replied, “No, we were just passing on news reports.”

Spicer thinks that he can stand behind the White House podium and read unsupported conjectures by former judge Andrew Napolitano that the previous US president colluded with another country’s intelligence service in order to break the law and bug his opposing party’s presidential nominee, and not be called to account for having done so. Yes, Napolitano’s spew about GCHQ is, by admission of his employer, unsupported conjecture (cached).

There is, of course, no evidence — not a whiff of a hint of a speck of it! — that Obama ordered the Groper-in-Chief’s campaign offices in Trump Tower tapped, which is what the GiC has said occurred. Yesterday, Spicer’s meltdown consisted of him trying to make that claim appear true, using conservative blogs and opinion pieces that don’t actually have anything to do with the specifics of that claim. At best, it appears the FBI had sought FISA warrants … and after an initial rejection, finally got one … to monitor two Russian banks. That was all. It wasn’t (so far as we know) a “wiretap,” but an electronic-records search. Even if this search turned up information about the Apricot Wonder’s minions (which, let’s face it, is quite possible, given their dealings with Russia), this does not in any way support the idea that President Obama had personally ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower. Yet, in the view of the Groper and his minion Spicer, that settles it entirely, and no disagreement is permitted.

Look, let’s cut away all the rest of the bullshit here and lay out the truth of this matter: The Groper-in-Chief and his minions cannot, and will never, admit error or fault. They can’t do it, even in instances where they might wish to. It’s not in their nature. They’re incapable of it.

Normally, such irrational intransigence is psychopathological in nature. In other words, people have to be crazy to go to such lengths. And the Apricot Wonder wouldn’t be the first person to operate that way. Many celebrities, politicians, etc. all proceed in that way. There’s often a rational reason for it, however: Not alienating one’s voters and/or fanbase. You see, public figures accumulate followers who come to identify with them. For the public figure to admit fault or error might offend those followers, because those followers might question why they looked up to the person in the first place and (ironically) become upset with that figure.

It’s possible the Groper-in-Chief thinks he and his people can get by with their petulant defiance on this matter. He and they have done it before. He routinely says false things and never really is meaningfully challenged either to support what he says or concede he was wrong. It just never happens. He gets away with it because he disparages anything contrary as “fake news” and his followers just soak it up and absorb it. They often perpetuate the falsehood for him, even if he drops the matter, himself.

In this case, though, the Apricot Wonder and his staff are risking an international incident. Accusing one of their intelligence agencies of helping his predecessor break the law is not something the UK is likely to sit still for. And tossing it away as “well, I was just reading someone else’s report” isn’t going to cut it. Standing before the national media and using that statement as evidence of a claim, is not simply reading someone else’s material. No, rather, it means one believes that material; it’s an implied assertion the report is true! Not that I think the UK would go to war over something like this, but taking things as far as they have, suggests the Groper and his people are psychopathological liars rather than just unwilling to offend the electorate that put them into the White House.

Photo credit: Motifake.

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Yes, Weathermen Do Purposely Screw With Their Forecasts! https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/17/yes-weathermen-do-purposely-screw-with-their-forecasts/ Fri, 17 Mar 2017 17:31:26 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11052 Radar loop of WS StellaLast Tuesday’s winter storm (named “Stella” by the Weather Channel, but “Eugene” by WFSB-TV here in Connecticut) turned out to be a bust, in the mid-Atlantic and New York City regions. And there’s been a lot of grumbling about how it was forecast. Those places all ended up getting much less snow than had been predicted.

Lots of people wonder how meteorologists could have been as wrong as they were. Well, it turns out, they actually knew — as the storm approached — the storm wouldn’t live up to their stated projections. Yet, as the New York Post reports, they chose not to change their forecasts to match what they knew would fall (cached):

On the eve of Tuesday’s Winter Storm Stella, the National Weather Service got reports that its dire prediction of up to 2 feet of snow for New York City may have been exaggerated — but decided not to change its forecast.

Fears of a massive blizzard led officials to close city public schools and for above-ground train service to be stopped — but in the end, only about 7 inches fell in Central Park.

After announcing that snow could reach record levels in the city, NWS meteorologists in New York and other Northeast cities held a conference call Monday afternoon about computer models that dramatically cut predicted totals.

But they decided to continue forecasting deep snow, claiming that they didn’t change their forecast for fear people would mistakenly think the storm was no longer dangerous.

Their excuse? They wanted to make sure people were still “cautious”:

[Chief of forecast operations at the Weather Prediction Center in Maryland, Greg] Carbin said a last-minute change downgrading snowfall totals might have caused people to let their guard down because ice was still a potential danger for cities such as New York and Washington.

Full disclosure: It may have seemed to New Yorkers that this storm was a dud, but that’s not quite true. Where I live, in northwestern Connecticut, we’d been told we could get between 16 and 24 inches of snow, and that turned out to be accurate. So not all the predictions failed to pan out … just some of them.

In the northeast, and especially here in the Nutmeg State, folks often joke that our weathermen punch up their forecasts to make them seem more dire than they ought to be, in order to glue the public to their TV sets, radios, whatever. Perhaps this is just a perception error, as well as a function of the basic uncertainty of weather forecasting. Or, maybe it really is the play for ratings it seems to be. But in this case — and in the case of the January 2015 blizzard — it’s clear this actually happened, and that meteorologists do exaggerate; and moreover that they feel entitled to do so whenever they see it as necessary.

We’re used to politicians lying to us, and have come to expect it. And maybe we kid around about weathermen grubbing for ratings by predicting cataclysm when none is on its way. But clearly, they lie. And they know they lie. And they admit they lie!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Militant Christianist Bus Driver Targeted a Child https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/16/militant-christianist-bus-driver-targeted-a-child/ Thu, 16 Mar 2017 16:51:18 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11044 Side of Polk cty (FL) school bus, via the (Lakeland, FL) LedgerWe all know that militant Christianists are a sanctimonious and hateful bunch. They think nothing of going after whoever they want, whenever their overpowering sense of moral superiority overcomes them. (Which happens quite often.) Their problem is, they’re infantile, so when they get caught up in whatever made them sanctimoniously angry, they can’t — and more importantly, won’t — control themselves.

A great example of this took place in Florida. A Polk county bus driver, as the (Lakeland, FL) Ledger reports, told the child of two mothers that his entire family is hell-bound (WebCite cached article):

The Polk County School District has placed a bus driver on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation into accusations that she told a second-grade boy he and his moms are going to hell because of his parents’ same-sex relationship.

Bus driver Violeta Jacobo didn’t face disciplinary action after an initial review of the incident, causing community members to speak out in support of the boy’s mom, Nathaly Encarnacion, and their family.

Initially, the school district had “investigated” and determined nothing untoward had happened. Jacobo’s paid administrative leave, and the promise of a second investigation, only came about due to an online petition. Some courage the Polk county school district has … they had to be pushed into doing the right thing!

First, and most obviously, I have to ask what this “paid administrative leave” bullshit is? How is this any kind of meaningful punishment? It’s actually a free vacation.

Second, what ethical person goes after a child when it’s his/her parents that s/he has a beef with? Seriously!? How is this behavior acceptable, even in dour Christianist terms? What is the point in doing such a thing? I think it’s all about cowardice; Jacobo didn’t have the courage to speak with the two mothers, so instead she felt free to demean a second-grader.

Photo credit: The (Lakeland, FL) Ledger.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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The Twice-Annual Fraud Returns Once More https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/10/the-twice-annual-fraud-returns-once-more/ Fri, 10 Mar 2017 20:08:42 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11039 Trento-Mercatino dei Gaudenti-alarm clocksDaylight Saving Time starts in the US this coming weekend. Once more I bring up the fact that it is a blatant fraud. A lie. A massive con-job. I’ve made the case many times as to how this is so, but Bloomberg just published an article explaining that it’s rank bullshit (WebCite cached article):

If you hate daylight saving time and all the confusion and sleep deprivation it brings, you now have solid data on your side. A wave of new research is bolstering arguments against changing our clocks twice a year.

The case for daylight saving time has been shaky for a while. The biannual time change was originally implemented to save energy. Yet dozens of studies around the world have found that changing the clocks has either minuscule or non-existent effects on energy use. After Indiana finally implemented daylight saving, something that didn’t happen until 2006, residents actually used more electricity.

Daylight saving time isn’t just a benign relic of the 1970s energy crisis. The latest research suggests the time change can be harmful to our health and cost us money. The effects are most disruptive in the spring and fall, right after the time changes occur. Clocks in the U.S. will spring forward this year on Sunday, March 12. Most of Europe moves to daylight saving time two weeks later.

That DST is fraudulent has been known for a while, but has been acknowledged as such more often. It was implemented as a war-time measure (first during World War I, then again in World War II) and it might actually have helped in that regard. Beyond that, it’s just a ridiculous excuse to make everyone fiddle with their clocks, ovens, microwaves, etc. twice a year.

Bloomberg explains who the last remaining holdouts are, trying to keep DST foisted on us, and it turns out, they’re wrong:

Some of the last defenders of daylight saving time have been a cluster of business groups who assume the change helps stimulate consumer spending. That’s not true either, according to recent analysis of 380 million bank and credit-card transactions by the JPMorgan Chase Institute.

The bottom line is, DST is a damned lie that needs to just fucking go away. What should happen is that we go on Daylight Saving Time this coming weekend, then stay there forever. Unfortunately, that would take an act of Congress. But given the clusterfuck that Washington has become (not just in the last month and a half, but over the last decade), that’s not going to happen. More’s the pity.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Word of Faith Corruption May Be Investigated https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/10/word-of-faith-corruption-may-be-investigated/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/10/word-of-faith-corruption-may-be-investigated/#comments Fri, 10 Mar 2017 05:27:17 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11027 Rutherford Cty (NC) Court House / via North Carolina Court System Web siteIt seems officials in North Carolina finally awakened to the idea that maybe … just maybe! … there’s been a little corruption going on, surrounding abuses at the Word of Faith Fellowship Church in the town of Spindale. The Associated Press’s coverage of this story continues, with a report that there might be a corruption investigation (WebCite cached article):

A district attorney has asked the state to investigate two assistant prosecutors after an Associated Press story that quoted former congregants of a North Carolina church as saying the men derailed criminal probes into allegations of abuse by sect leaders.

David Learner said Wednesday that he wants the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the accusations against his employees, who are members of the evangelical Word of Faith Fellowship church.

The AP story, released Monday, cited nine former Word of Faith members who said Frank Webster and Chris Back provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member.

The ex-congregants also said that Back and Webster, who is sect leader Jane Whaley’s son-in-law, helped derail a social services investigation into child abuse in 2015 and attended meetings where Whaley warned congregants to lie to investigators about abuse incidents.

As the AP reported and I’ve blogged, Word of Faith believes in beatings and other kinds of abuse as a way of exorcising demons and devils. Or at least, that’s their rationale for the abuse.

It’s nice, I suppose, that there might be a probe into Webster and Back, but really, I’m not confident it will go far. This is, after all, a Bible Belt (er, Bobble Bay-elt) state, where churches are sovereign, and no one questions them much. So this might die on the vine, just as past investigations into Word of Faith’s affairs did.

Photo credit: North Carolina Court System.

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ISIS Leader Runs Away Like a Coward https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/09/isis-leader-runs-away-like-a-coward/ Fri, 10 Mar 2017 02:26:31 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11032 'Brave Sir Robin / Nearly fought the fierce dragon of Agnor, almost stood up to the vicious Chicken of Bristol, wet himself at the Battle for Badon Hill' from Monty Python & the Holy Grail / Lewis Pitt, via PinterestOne of the realities behind the folks who run terrorist outfits is that, despite their bluster and braggadocio, they’re almost always sniveling cowards. That’s why terrorism — i.e. going after innocents and the defenseless — is their modus operandi. They only attack when they know they’ll win and when there won’t be much of a fight. This is as true of ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-savage-brood as it is of any other.

Oh sure, they’re proud to announce they’re doing al-Lah’s will, and they’re holy warriors waging a sacred jihad and all of that self-righteous crap … but really, they’re all cowards. They chose to strike in a time and place that they knew would be easy, and never ventured into places like Turkey or Iran who’d be sure to fight back … and fight back hard. They enslaved and raped Yazidi women, for example — as though that campaign could have imperiled them.

Well, now that the Iraqi military decided to grow a pair and take them on, ISIS has been hemmed in, and losing key territory. And as Reuters reports, it’s reached the point where their leader has flown the coop (WebCite cached article):

U.S. and Iraqi officials believe the leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has left operational commanders behind with diehard followers to fight the battle of Mosul, and is now hiding out in the desert, focusing mainly on his own survival.

It is impossible to confirm the whereabouts of the Islamic State “caliph”, who declared himself the ruler of all Muslims from Mosul’s Great Mosque after his forces swept through northern Iraq in 2014.

But U.S. and Iraqi intelligence sources say an absence of official communication from the group’s leadership and the loss of territory in Mosul suggest he has abandoned the city, by far the largest population center his group has ever held.

It turns out that cowardly tactics has been the way al-Baghdadi has lived for a while:

From their efforts to track him, they believe he hides mostly among sympathetic civilians in familiar desert villages, rather than with fighters in their barracks in urban areas where combat has been under way, the sources say.

Even if al-Baghdadi’s so-called “state” is completely destroyed, that’s not to say he and his outfit won’t continue to be dangerous:

Although the loss of Mosul would effectively end Islamic State’s territorial rule in Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi officials are preparing for the group to go underground and fight an insurgency like the one that followed the U.S.-led invasion.

Even so, it’s nice to see this monster finally show the world his true colors … which is ISIS black, but with a nice, wide yellow stripe down the back.Bye-bye, little Abu Bakr. Bye-bye!

Photo credit: Top, from Monty Python & the Holy Grail / Lewis Pitt, via Pinterest; middle, from Elf, via Giphy.

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Ancient Greek Polytheism in 21st Century America https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/07/ancient-greek-polytheism-in-21st-century-america/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/07/ancient-greek-polytheism-in-21st-century-america/#comments Wed, 08 Mar 2017 01:17:50 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11018 The Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes Spring Equinox ritual at an ancient temple of Goddess Artemis in Peloponnese, Greece, in March 2016. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons / via Religion News ServiceI saw this article on the Religion News Service and thought it interesting. There are people trying to revive the ancient Greek polytheistic religion, as RNS explains, right here in the US (WebCite cached article):

[Article subject Dean] Cameron’s group has 15 members who regularly attend events and prayers, but the Facebook group it maintains has almost 160 members.

Local U.S. Hellenic chapters do not report to any national or international body. Worship is based on word-of-mouth traditions and classic ancient literature, said Cameron.

The Hellenes of Dodecatheon, a loose organizational group, reports around 2,000 followers in the U.S., but 100,000 believers use the traditions as a baseline for their religious practices.

Hellenism is a mainly domestic religion in which prayers and offerings are given in the home. There are designated holidays for different gods, but much of the worship is a guessing game based on scholarly interpretations of ancient text.

“As you can imagine, it’s really hard to find a Hellenic calendar,” Cameron said.

The neopagan movement stems from ancient Greek mythology that centers on religion, philosophy and tradition.

The article explains that this movement began in Greece, the religion’s native country, but due to the influence and power of the Greek Orthodox Church, it’s illegal there.

I’m glad those involved are willing to admit this revival of Greek polytheism is a “guessing game,” because it is. The forms of worship from pre-Christian Greece have — in spite of a wealth of literature, especially mythology, left behind — been lost. It’s interesting, too, that the focus of this revival is domestic. Ancient European polytheism was multi-layered; there were immediate-family rites, extended-family rites, tribal rites, community rites, state rites. These were done in homes, in the wild, in small private sanctuaries, and in magnificent temples. All these approaches could vary considerably. On top of these, and the fact that each state had its own form of religion, there were also the “mystery religions” to which some (in some locales and times, many!) belonged. Those, themselves, sometimes were subsumed as parts of the tribal, community, or state religions. I just don’t see all of that complexity in what these people are doing … but I suppose it could come in time, as more people become part of this movement.

This isn’t the only example of an attempt to resurrect a pre-Christian religion. For example, Asatru is a modern version of the old Norse religion. And there folks who call themselves Druids and want to recreate the old Celtic religion. There are, in fact, lots of kinds of Neopaganism, as well as other things like Wicca, which pretends to be a long-lost pagan religion, but which actually is a modern invention.

What many of these reconstructed/rebuilt/restored/reacquired religions miss, is the underlying approach of the religion. Modern people are looking for spiritual experiences and insights, because they’ve been raised under the influence of a soteriological religious tradition (i.e. of Christianity, and in turn to Abrahamic beliefs). But ancient polytheism was predicated on something very different. It was, in its essence, propitiatory. That is, its rites and customs were intended to curry the deities’ favor and mollify them so they wouldn’t afflict harm on people or even wipe them out. Granted, in classical times, ancient polytheism began to veer toward a deeper “spiritual” approach. This is especially true of the “mystery religions.” But even then, most of these “mystics” still practiced propitiatory rites nonetheless. Any reconstructed religion that doesn’t take this into account, isn’t really a reconstruction … it’s a new invention, but cloaked behind the trappings of an older religion.

I do, however, wish these folk luck in their effort to recreate an ancient religious tradition. I hope they’ll probe deeper into the tradition they want to restore, and move in a direction that’s not anachronistic.

One final pedantic note: I must point out, it’s not entirely anachronistic for people to “invent” new forms of polytheism! This actually happened in the ancient world, probably many times. We know, for example, that the cult of Serapis was, more or less, an invention of the regime of Ptolemy Soter, one of Alexander’s generals, as he took control of Egypt. It was a hybrid cult, joining native Egyptian religious practice with Hellenic traditions. (A deity called Serapis mights have predated Ptolemy’s rule, but he and his dynasty actually built the Serapis cult — and the Serapeum — and made it prominent.)

Photo credit: Religion News Service.

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It’s Time for a Moratorium! https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/06/its-time-for-a-moratorium/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/06/its-time-for-a-moratorium/#comments Tue, 07 Mar 2017 04:27:48 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11008 Stop Sign, via FreeFotoPlease pardon this slight departure from the usual topics of this blog.

I’m sure most of my readers know by now about the Groper-in-Chief’s Twitter tantrum, this past Saturday, over his predecessor having supposedly wiretapped his campaign offices in Trump Tower (WebCite cached article). He hasn’t offered the slightest evidence for this accusation — which is quite serious. He’s had a few days to come up with something … anything! … even remotely supporting his claim, but has refused to do so. In fact, the Apricot Wonder has asked Congress to investigate and find the evidence supporting it (cached).

That’s right, folks. Not only does the GiC have no basis for what he spewed, he knows he doesn’t, and now demands other people somehow find that evidence for him.

Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute offered a breakdown of how the alt right’s Dear Leader came to make this ridiculous accusation (cached). Among the conclusions of his analysis:

It’s worth noting here that, contra Trump’s claim on Twitter, none of the articles in question claim that phones were tapped. Indeed, it’s not even entirely clear that the order the FISC finally issued in October was a full-blown electronic surveillance warrant requiring a probable cause showing. If the FBI was primarily interested in obtaining financial transaction records, corporate documents, and (depending on both the facts and the FISC’s interpretation of the FISA statute) perhaps even some stored e-mail communications, that information might well have been obtainable pursuant to a §215 “business records” order, which imposes only the much weaker requirement that the records sought be “relevant to an authorized investigation.”

In sum, there’s very little there, and what is there, does not, in fact, support the GiC’s contention. He’s lying, plain and simple. And as I said, he has to know he’s lying.

But take note what happened here. The Apricot Wonder used Twitter as the platform for a big fat honking lie … and as a result, we’re now saddled with a Congressional investigation into wrongdoing which — at the moment — we have no reason to believe ever took place. All because of a Twitter fit that the mass media duly reported.

And that brings me to my idea: A mass media moratorium on reporting the Groper-in-Chief’s tweets. That’s right. What we need for the media to stop fucking reporting on every bit of lying drivel that comes out of the Groper’s Android phone. The country would be spared a lot of trouble, if they’d just do that.

But they won’t. “The president’s tweets are news!” reporters and editors will say. But, while that seems true, it’s not. Presidents say and do a lot of things in the course of a day which aren’t actually newsworthy. The Apricot Wonder’s tweets should be treated that way. If his infantile spew weren’t reported on, a lot of this shit wouldn’t happen. And he wouldn’t be able to misdirect us.

One might also say that the media should report on the Groper’s lying tweets, then debunk them. However, that won’t accomplish anything of substance, and it certainly won’t discourage the Apricot Wonder from lying even more. In fact, this approach actually fuels him, and he’s counting on the media to at least try to debunk him. This is because — amazingly enough — he wants the media to debunk his lies! You see, he’s playing up to his fanbois, and in their eyes, being debunked actually reinforces whatever outrageous thing he says. This is because of a well-documented psychological phenomenon known as the backfire effect. Ultimately, the Groper is counting on the media to report his lies, then make clear they’re lies, because this only deepens his relationship with the people he’s speaking to. Reporters who relay his lying tweets then show they’re lies, are just doing the GiC’s work for him. They might as well be on his payroll!

It’d be a good idea if, generally, the media treated the Groper like the infantile, paranoid, thin-skinned, whiny cretin he is. The media are showing him a degree of respect he hasn’t actually earned. If they did that, the attention whore who infests the Oval Office would have no choice but to grow up and begin acting his age. Cutting off his ability to build on his raging, immature “base” would benefit everyone.

Photo credit: FreeFoto.

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Corrupt Local Officials Protected Abusive NC Church https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/06/corrupt-local-officials-protected-abusive-nc-church/ Tue, 07 Mar 2017 02:55:47 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=11004 Photo from Word of Faith FellowshipThe Associated Press continues to report on the vile shenanigans that have gone on at the Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale, NC, which I blogged about just a few days ago. I wondered, when I first posted on the subject, how and why this church was able to continue doing what it’s been doing for decades, unaffected by the North Carolina legal system. Well, this latest AP report explains why. The fix, it seems, was in (WebCite cached article):

At least a half-dozen times over two decades, authorities investigated reports that members of a secretive evangelical church were being beaten. And every time, according to former congregants, the orders came down from church leaders: They must lie to protect the sect.

Among the members of the Word of Faith Fellowship who coached congregants and their children on what to say to investigators were two assistant district attorneys and a veteran social worker, the ex-followers told The Associated Press.

Frank Webster and Chris Back — church ministers who handle criminal cases as assistant DAs for three nearby counties — provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member, according to former congregants interviewed as part of an AP investigation of Word of Faith.

Back and Webster, who is sect leader Jane Whaley’s son-in-law and lives in her house, also helped derail a social services investigation into child abuse in 2015 and attended meetings where Whaley warned congregants to lie to investigators about abuse incidents, according to nine former members.

Yeah, that’s right. This church employed all its legal connections to derail prosecutions, for example:

According to nine former members interviewed by the AP, at least five other congregants who are lawyers participated in or were present during coaching sessions designed to circumvent investigators.

Back and Webster also helped sabotage a Rutherford County Department of Social Services investigation in 2015, according to Jeffrey Cooper’s brother, Chad Cooper, an attorney who said he attended a church meeting convened to undermine that probe.

Chad Cooper, who left the church last year, said also participating in the meeting was Word of Faith member Lori Cornelius, a longtime social services worker assigned to a nearby county.

Cooper said social services personnel were investigating complaints that students were beating classmates at the church-run K-12 school to cast out devils, and that teachers, including Whaley, encouraged the violence.

There’s more — a lot more! — to this story, which is much longer and more substantial than the AP’s earlier piece (cached). I urge you to read it … all of it. It shows how, as with the Roman Catholic Church and its “priestly pedophilia” scandal, this church used its status as a religion, and its deep connections to the region and the legal system, to ensure it was, effectively, above the law. But the interference went beyond just church members who were attorneys and social workers (which, by itself, is quite bad enough). Brad Greenway, for a time District Attorney of Rutherford County — and who is not a member of this church — was quick with excuses for why he couldn’t prosecute at least one case:

Asked why he didn’t do more — especially since he said he believed people were being beaten — Greenway said, “I don’t know what you’re expected to find if you went there. You’d find a building. … Are you going to find shackles? Handcuffs?”

Greenway said outsiders don’t understand what it’s like to try to make a case against the church.

Here’s my paraphrase of Greenway’s whine: “Boo hoo hoo! It’s just too hard to develop a case! There was nothing <sniff> I could do! It was all <snuffle> just so hopeless! We had no choice <sniff> but to let a church we knew was abusing people <sniff> continue doing so! Boo hoo hoo!” Any DA who can’t make a case when s/he knows there’s one, should just fucking resign and let his/her betters take over the job. (Which may be why he’s no longer in that position.)

But actually, it appears Greenway was much more sympathetic to Word of Faith Fellowship than just unable and unwilling to make a case. As the AP explains, he actually tipped them off to key developments:

One of the former congregants interviewed by AP, attorney Jeffrey Cooper, also said that … Greenway … leaked information to him and other church lawyers about a 2012-2013 grand jury investigation he was conducting into the church.

Greenway told the AP that he talked to Cooper and other church attorneys about the investigation, but couldn’t recall specifics of the conversations. But he denied supplying the church with “inside information.”

He acknowledged, however, that when asked by Cooper and church attorney Josh Farmer “something about ‘What are you going to do? What do you think is going to happen’…I might have said, ‘We’re going to the grand jury.'”

Look, I get it. This is the Bible Belt (er, the Bobble Bay-elt) where churches are sovereign … just as R.C. hierarchs were (and often still are) sovereigns. No one messes with a church, even when that church is messing up people really badly. They’re all godly outfits, you see, so it must be just fine. Right?

Photo credit: Word of Faith Fellowship Web site.

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Pope Francis Encourages Catholics to Read the Bible https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/05/pope-francis-encourages-catholics-to-read-the-bible/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/05/pope-francis-encourages-catholics-to-read-the-bible/#comments Mon, 06 Mar 2017 02:42:14 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10998 Bible-706658Way back in the day, when I was a college-going Christian fundamentalist, I frequently heard how the Catholic Church discouraged its adherents from reading the Bible. Since I was studying medieval history, I was well aware that the medieval Church didn’t want the Bible in the hands of non-clergy, and forbid translating it into languages the common folk might understand (i.e. anything other than the Latin of the Vulgate). The Church backed up this prohibition with force, which sometimes proved fatal, as for example to William Tyndale, who’d translated the Bible into the English vernacular.

Having been raised Catholic, though, I knew that the R.C. Church had ended this policy. In fact, the Church has translated the Bible into many languages, including the New American Bible released in 1970, a copy of which we had in our house. And after Vatican II had called for Mass to be said in the vernacular, Bibles were being read openly to parishioners in their own languages, in Catholic churches around the world.

Yet, many of the Protestant fundamentalists I spent time with persisted with the notion that the R.C. Church still didn’t want lay Catholics to read the Bible. Nothing I said about it could dissuade them. They weren’t buying it … at all.

I’ve long since left that particular crowd behind, but I still hear Protestants (especially of the fundie variety) saying pretty much the same thing. It’s a fable that just keeps being passed around among them, even though it’s no longer true. I imagine they’re all going to be disappointed by something Pope Francis just said, as reported by Vatican Radio (WebCite cached article):

Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square following his weekly Angelus blessing, the Pope urged those present to give the Bible the same place in daily life as cellphones and asked: “What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the message of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones?”

The Bible, he explained, contains the Word of God, the most effective tool in fighting evil and keeping us close to God.…

“That’s why, he said, it is necessary to become familiar with the Bible: read it often, reflect upon it, assimilate it. The Bible contains the Word of God which is always topical and effective” he said.

Inviting the faithful to carry a pocket-sized Gospel all the time, the Pope concluded with the words: “don’t forget what would happen if we treated the Bible as we treat our cellphone, always with us, always close to us!”

It’s not true, of course, that the Christian Bible “is always topical.” It’s actually the collective product of its times, with its various constituent books having been written between the middle of the last millennium BCE and the middle of the 2nd century CE. Those documents are all much more relevant and timely to those who wrote, and first read, them than they are to modern people. Even so, I’m amused that Pope Francis just skewered a common anti-Catholic fundamentalist canard that’s been thrown around for ages. Make no mistake … the lie that the R.C. Church doesn’t want lay Catholics reading the Bible, is exactly that: A lie the fundies’ use to disparage Catholicism.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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It’s No Longer Safe for Non-Whites in the US https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/05/its-no-longer-safe-for-non-whites-in-the-us/ Mon, 06 Mar 2017 01:55:55 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10993 Angry mob photo, via CrackedLife has certainly become dangerous for some folks here in the US. Specifically, people of foreign origin or who have any kind of “alien” appearance. In the last couple weeks there have been two incidents in which people were shot, and one killed, merely because they’re not of northern European descent. The first such killing, as the Kansas City Star reports, took place in Olathe, KS late last month (WebCite cached article):

An Olathe man who reportedly told two strangers — Garmin engineers originally from India — to “get out of my country” before he shot them in an Olathe bar was charged Thursday with first-degree murder in the death of one of the victims.

Adam W. Purinton, 51, allegedly shot Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32; Alok Madasani, 32, of Overland Park, and another bar patron, 24-year-old Ian Grillot of Grandview.

Kuchibhotla died at a hospital after the 7:15 p.m. shooting in Austins Bar & Grill near 151st Street and Mur-Len Road.

In another similar incident, reported by the Seattle Times, a Sikh in Washington state was shot by another enraged foreigner-hater (cached):

Kent police are looking for a gunman who allegedly walked onto a man’s driveway and shot him, saying “Go back to your own country.”

The victim, a 39-year-old Sikh man, was working on his vehicle in his driveway in Kent’s East Hill neighborhood about 8 p.m. Friday when he was approached by an unknown man, Kent police said, after talking with the victim.

An altercation followed, with the victim saying the suspect made statements to the effect of “Go back to your own country.” The victim was shot in the arm.

I particularly love the irony of how someone who’s so courageously pro-American that he’s willing to shoot foreigners, somehow was so cowardly about it that he found it necessary to wear a mask when he did so. Yeah, that’s the reality of folk like this: Deep down — and in spite of all their sanctimonious bluster — they’re really just sniveling, infantile cowards. Of course, they’re still immensely dangerous … but cowardly and infantile nonetheless.

Yes, folks, dawn truly has broken on the Groper-in-Chief’s America. All hail the victorious Alt Right! Too bad for them, they’re actually the “All Wrong.” The idea that law and order can be restored by driving all the supposedly-violent foreigners out of the country, is just fucking ridiculous.

Photo credit: Cracked.

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New York Archdiocese Starved for Money to Pay Abuse Victims https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/02/new-york-archdiocese-starved-for-money-to-pay-abuse-victims/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/02/new-york-archdiocese-starved-for-money-to-pay-abuse-victims/#comments Thu, 02 Mar 2017 13:18:12 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10991 Saint Patricks Cathedral in New York - NYC - USA - panoramioFallout from the worldwide Catholic clerical abuse scandal continues raining down all over the place. The latest example comes from New York City, whose archdiocese wants to borrow money to improve their cashflow, as Reuters reports, which has been choked due to payouts to abuse victims (WebCite cached article):

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York is seeking permission for a $100 million mortgage on some of its valuable Manhattan property to fund its compensation program for people sexually abused by its priests, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The archdiocese said last October it would compensate people who had accused priests of abusing them as children, including those prevented by statutes of limitations from filing civil lawsuits. It said at the time it would seek loans to fund the payouts, which are being decided by two independent arbitrators.

On Monday, the archdiocese filed a petition in New York state court in Manhattan seeking approval for a one-year mortgage from JPMorgan Chase on land it owns behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral; the Lotte New York Palace hotel is located on the site. The petition was necessary under a New York law governing the use of church property, Joseph Zwilling, an archdiocese spokesman, said in a telephone interview.

“Because we have begun the process of paying out the compensation to victims, the archdiocese has taken this short-term loan to cover the payments,” Zwilling said.

As Reuters explains, the archdiocese is also soliciting claims by abusers who haven’t come forward yet, which may well add to their liabilities. That’s laudable, as such, but really, it’s the least they could do at this point. As with almost every other diocese on the planet, they spent years, and maybe decades, covering for abusive clergy and effectively enabling the abuse by continuing to grant abusers access to children, even in cases when they were known abusers.

It’s widely assumed that Catholic dioceses are wealthy … and nearly all of them are. But in many cases, their wealth is tied up in real estate, and while it has value, it’s not cash in the bank that they can write checks against. Hence, tactics like this, borrowing against their real estate. But I can’t say I’m sympathetic. As I said, this scandal was decades in the making and was fuelled by depraved and amoral hierarchs who put the reputation of their precious Church above everything else — even the welfare of children in its care. Disgusting.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Abuse Victim Resigns from Vatican Panel https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/01/abuse-victim-resigns-from-vatican-panel/ Thu, 02 Mar 2017 02:43:34 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10988 Crepuscular Rays at Noon in Saint Peters Basilica, Vatican City (5939069865)I can’t really say this story surprises me. Pope Francis’s “abuse commission” was doomed from the moment he announced its creation, several years ago. There is no way any such group was ever going to be able to investigate “priestly pedophilia” or bring about any changes that could prevent child abuse in the future. It quite simply was not going to happen. As the Religion News Service reports, an Irish abuse survivor who’d been invited on the panel, has given up and quit (WebCite cached article):

Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins has accused the Vatican bureaucracy of “shameful” resistance to fighting clerical sex abuse in the Catholic Church as she quit a key panel set up by Pope Francis.

In a major setback for the pope, Collins on Wednesday (March 1) announced that she had resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors established by the pontiff in 2013 to counter abuse in the church.

She said the pope’s decision to create the commission was a “sincere move” but there had been “constant setbacks” from officials within the Vatican.

“There are people in the Vatican who do not want to change or understand the need to change,” Collins said in a telephone interview from Dublin.

Collins is not the only abuse survivor on the panel to have had trouble with it. A year ago, Peter Saunders was sidelined by the commission, and he condemned it — although, as RNS explains, he hasn’t resigned.

Look, any veteran watcher of the R.C. Church could have predicted this outcome. The Vatican is the most change-averse organization on the planet. They resist change at all costs, all the time. There’s a kind of defiant psychopathology that sets in with all the hierarchs once they become princes of the Church. They can get petulant and even angry about having to change, and about being faced with their own wrongdoing, as with New York’s Cardinal Egan back in 2012, retracting his namby-pamby pseudo-apology for what happened while he’d been bishop of Bridgeport, CT. Really, they’re all very childish … which should be no surprise, since immaturity and the religious mind go hand-in-hand.

At any rate, I am disappointed for Ms Collins. It appears she had thought the Pope’s commission might accomplish some good, back when it started, and she still says the Pope himself sincerely meant it to work out. But it didn’t, and it won’t, because it can’t. That’s just how the Vatican, and its black-robed denizens, are.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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AP Runs Exposé on Abusive Church in NC https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/03/01/ap-runs-expos-on-abusive-church-in-nc/ Thu, 02 Mar 2017 02:14:20 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10983 Word of Faith Fellowship Church grounds in Rutherford County, N.C. / CBS affiliate WSPAThe American South isn’t called “the Bible Belt” for nothing. Churches pervade the area, and range in size from megachurches with tens of thousands of congregants, to tiny little backyard shacks that host services for just a couple families. Some of those churches, especially those that call themselves “non-denominational,” can get pretty weird. And I’m not just referring to charismatic or “holy roller” churches … those are weird, too, to be sure, but in Bible Belt terms they’re almost mainstream. No, by “weird” I mean downright cult-like, in ways that most Southern churches aren’t.

One of those cult-like outfits is the Word of Faith Fellowship in rural Spindale, NC. The Associated Press spoke with former members and published a story outlining outrageous abuse that had been meted out to some congregants (WebCite cached article):

From all over the world, they flocked to this tiny town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, lured by promises of inner peace and eternal life. What many found instead: years of terror — waged in the name of the Lord.

Congregants of the Word of Faith Fellowship were regularly punched, smacked, choked, slammed to the floor or thrown through walls in a violent form of deliverance meant to “purify” sinners by beating out devils, 43 former members told The Associated Press in separate, exclusive interviews.

Victims of the violence included pre-teens and toddlers — even crying babies, who were vigorously shaken, screamed at and sometimes smacked to banish demons.

As part of its investigation, the AP reviewed hundreds of pages of law enforcement, court and child welfare documents, along with hours of conversations with Jane Whaley, the evangelical church’s controlling leader, secretly recorded by followers.

The AP also spent more than a year tracking down dozens of former disciples who scattered after leaving the church.

Several former followers said some congregants were sexually abused, including minors.

This cultish church, of course, denies all of this:

But hours after the AP’s stories were released, the church posted a statement on its website calling the allegations false and contending they were made by “certain former members” out to target the church.

The problem with this is, the abuse was substantiated by sources independent of what people simply claimed had happened. They were backed up by recordings, law enforcement reports, etc. So it’s not just some people’s word against theirs.

A lot of these abusive practices appear to be predicated on the notion that people’s problems are caused by demons and/or devils, which can be driven out by the abuse. This is, of course, medieval thinking … but sadly, it’s still all too common in 21st century America.

Rather shamefully, though, as the Friendly Atheist points out, this isn’t the first time Word of Faith has been caught abusing its congregants. Its vile tactics were reported on as long ago as 1995. And in 2014, some Word of Faith operatives were charged with beating a man in an effort to drive the gayness out of him (cached). So none of this is really news. What I expect will happen, now, is what happened all those other times … i.e. Word of Faith will go back to being the abusive cult it’s always been, and local authorities in North Carolina will look the other way. After all, dey gotsta drive dem dere demons out!

Photo credit: WSPA-TV, via CBS News.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Christianist Racism Is Alive and Well https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/02/23/christianist-racism-is-alive-and-well/ Fri, 24 Feb 2017 04:09:32 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10962 N_2009_1_2There’s a lot of talk about racism in the American Right, and especially in the Religious (or Christian) Right movement. Rightists themselves deny any racism on their part, and the more religious among them point to two things: First, that the Abolition movement of the 19th century was primarily a Christian movement; and second, that the Republican Party, to which nearly all Religious Rightists belong, was founded as Abolitionist. What’s more, they say, the Democratic Party had done more to block the advancement of civil rights, during the 50s and 60s.

All of those things are true, particularly that many Abolitionists were devout Christians and many strongly motivated by their faith. But that doesn’t mean that it’s Leftists and Democrats who’re now (according to the Right) the chief promoters of racism. The reality of the Religious Right movement is that it was founded on opposition to desegregation (in other words, it was predicated on racism). Also, those conservative southern Democrats who once tried to stonewall civil rights reforms, have since then moved over to the GOP.

Put bluntly, “the Party of Lincoln” has become something very different from what it was in Lincoln’s time.

If anyone needs an example of how religiously-inspired racism still lurks deep within 21st century American Christendom, here’s an example to consider. As WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge, LA reports, a shitstorm was kicked up over a Catholic school student’s essay (WebCite cached version):

Parents and students of a Catholic high school received a letter, apologizing after a student’s essay that chastised African Americans circulated on the internet.

The essay, assigned to a class at St. Michael the Archangel in Baton Rouge, was about Black History Month. Instead of writing about events in February in support of equality for all races, a white student wrote she was “unpleased” with having to write such a paper and continued not everyone is created equal.…

The student referenced what she thought were passages from the bible, supporting a claim that the only race on the earth during biblical times were Caucasians.

The school has disavowed the essay, and I have no reason to assume the student who wrote it learned her racist theology there. But, she learned it from somewhere. She didn’t come up with the idea that Jesus’ apostles were all white and there were no “different ethics” [sic] in Jesus’ time on her own. Someone — and an adult someone, at that! — had to have taught her this bullshit. To be clear, there were most assuredly different ethnic groups in Jesus’ time. There were even different ethnic groups coexisting in the Levant, back then. They spoke different languages and followed different religions, and they didn’t always get along … but they were definitely there.

It’s easy to dismiss this sort of thing as a kind of “one-off,” a unique expression of Christianist racism that doesn’t reflect what others think. But I’m not sure it can be dismissed that easily. Along with the B.S. about there being no “different ethnics” in Jesus’ time, the author complained about blacks wearing ill-fitting pants, and more. Tropes like this have been going around for a long time. This student absorbed them, and will — along with other kids her age — carry them forward into the next generation.

What I’m getting at is that this story is an indicator of a larger phenomenon, one that has a very old pedigree and which doesn’t seem to be going away.

Photo credit: State Archives of North Carolina, via Flickr.

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Life in the Groper-in-Chief’s America https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/02/04/life-in-the-groper-in-chiefs-america/ Sat, 04 Feb 2017 19:24:20 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10953 Alternative Facts / Mike Licht, via FlickrOne wouldn’t think that much changes, simply due to an election — even a presidential election. Yes, offices change hands, with prior officials leaving and new ones coming in … and yes, some weep and wail that their side lost and the other won, and generally carry on as though the world were about to end. But no apocalypse ever comes! The outgoing and incoming officials all work within the same underlying milieux, and American life generally doesn’t change much.

But that was before the unprecedented 2016 election.

As I’ve noted already, we’ve entered a new world, one in which not only the national governmental milieux, but reality itself, is changing … unraveling, even. In their effort to rationalize their specious actions and policies, the Groper-in-Chief’s retinue freely rewrites history and alters reality as though it’s theirs to change, as they see fit. Case in point: Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway cited a “massacre” that never even happened, as reported by the Washington Post, as the reason to ban entry from seven different countries, even for those already awarded green cards (WebCite cached article):

Kellyanne Conway has taken “alternative facts” to a new level [cached].

During a Thursday interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, the counselor to the president defended President Trump’s travel ban related to seven majority-Muslim countries. At one point, Conway made a reference to two Iraqi refugees whom she described as the masterminds behind “the Bowling Green massacre.”

“Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered,” Conway said.

The Bowling Green massacre didn’t get covered because it didn’t happen. There has never been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Ky., carried out by Iraqi refugees or anyone else.

No, what actually happened in Bowling Green, KY was that a couple of terror supporters were arrested there, and have since been convicted and given long prison sentences. There hadn’t been any “massacre” there. At all. What’s more, Conway lied when she said the incident hadn’t been reported, as WaPo explains:

The arrests in Bowling Green were indeed covered, contrary to what Conway initially said. A Lexis search of major papers turned up about 90 news stories. That’s not counting TV coverage, as in the ABC news story she attached to her tweet.

Conway has since defended herself by saying she’d misspoken, and should have talked about the “Bowling Green arrests” instead. But in the process, she doubled down on her contention that, in the wake of those arrests in 2011, Barack Obama had blocked all immigration from Iraq. That also, as WaPo relates, is not true:

Obama administration officials told The Post that there was never a point when Iraqi resettlement was stopped or banned. In the aftermath of the arrests of the two Iraqis living in Kentucky, the Obama administration imposed more extensive background checks on Iraqi refugees, and the new screening procedures created a dramatic slowdown in visa approvals.

So there had been a slowdown, but no ban, on entry from Iraq under Obama.

Conway and the rest of the Apricot Wonder’s crew has been doing this consistently, and not just since he announced his candidacy in the summer of 2015. No, the Groper-in-Chief has been living in a weird alternate universe for years. One could argue it goes back at least to when the Apricot Wonder was the world’s most vocal and best-known “birther” (cached). He lied outrageously about that issue — and expressed implicit support for birtherism — for years afterward (cached). He even claimed to have received a phoned-in tip that Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent (cached). That was in August 2012 — a full four and a half years ago, in which time he has never once produced any evidence of this supposed “fraud.”

Of course, the GiC at last publicly disavowed his birtherism, but could summon the courage and maturity to do so only at the height of the general-election campaign (cached).

At any rate, we’ve reached the point where “alternative facts” now rule the day, and media outlets that dare report that the Apricot Wonder or his people have lied about something, are derided for promoting “fake news.” Their own statements, of course, aren’t “fake news” … supposedly.

Clearly the US has become a land where the ability to think is no longer desired, and dependency on veracity is unwelcome. That, apparently, is how all the angry white men in flyover country want this nation to be, because they’re the ones who elected the Groper-in-Chief (cached), and clearly they approve of his weird alternate universe full of distortions and lies. They disdain facts and care only about whatever makes them feel better about themselves. (How the scion of an upper-upper-class east-coast family, educated at the elite Wharton School, with homes in New York City and Palm Beach, FL can possibly ever do this, is beyond my ability to comprehend. I guess I just don’t understand the psychology of angry white men in flyover country — but if this is how they are, I never want to!)

So by all means, please count this cynical, insolent, godless agnostic heathen among those who plan to resist the takeover of “alternative facts” — to the death, if need be. No one will ever be able to convince me that veracity and true facts don’t matter.

Photo credit: Mike Licht, via Flickr.

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Decalogue Idolater Turns Out to Be Corrupt https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/01/30/decalogue-idolater-turns-out-to-be-corrupt/ Mon, 30 Jan 2017 20:30:22 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10942 PsiCop animated modification of original photo of Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold, via WBTV / Original URL: http://www.wbtv.com/story/22057943/ten-commandments-on-display-at-sheriffs-office-causing-controversyThere are a lot of Christians who think the Ten Commandments are the pinnacle of human morality. They view them not only as the rules everyone should live by, but they think of them as having a kind of magical power to make everyone better and more moral. Or something. I guess. That’s why many of them want to post the Ten Commandments everywhere. Supposedly, being constantly confronted by the Decalogue will turn every American in to an upstanding, law-abiding citizen.

Only, all too often, it turns out this isn’t actually the case. As the Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro, TN reports, one particular Decalogue champion turns out to have been anything but law-abiding (WebCite cached article):

Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold pleaded guilty Wednesday to three of 14 counts stemming from a two-year criminal investigation into illegally profiting from inmates through a company selling electronic cigarettes.

Arnold pleaded guilty to wire fraud, honest services fraud and extortion. Each count carries up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, supervised release of not more than three years and a $52,500 restitution payment from electronic cigarettes revenues from the JailCigs business to the county.

Now, the DNJ article doesn’t mention it, but as the Friendly Atheist points out, former Sheriff Arnold just happens to have been a major proponent of spreading the gospel of the Ten Commandments, just a few years ago (cached). At that time, he’d openly defied an earlier court order, on the pretense that he is required to do so because “In God we trust” is printed on our currency, and because “[the Ten Commandments] were the founding principles of this country.” Or something. I guess.

As I always do in cases like this, I like to point out that, for Christians, putting up Decalogue monuments (or plaques, or signs, or whatever) is incredibly problematic. First, it’s an expression of public piety, which Jesus explicitly forbid his followers ever to engage in. Second, one of the Ten Commandments is, itself, a prohibition against idolatry; depending on one’s sect, it’s either part of the First Commandment, or it’s the Second. But, given that Christians are generally unwilling to follow the words of their own scripture, I guess it’s just too hard for them to stop posting the Ten Commandments all over the place. The poor little things, they just can’t help themselves … right?

I expect Arnold and his supporters will, no doubt, consider his corruption — which he admitted in court — a kind of insignificant aberration. After all, I’m sure they’d tell me, “he’s not perfect, just forgiven.” So hey, it doesn’t really matter if he fails to live up to the faith he supposedly follows. Right? Once he’s out of jail, Arnold might even go on the Christian lecture circuit, propounding his past “sin” of corruption to his co-religionists and touting his “fallen” status as a kind of perverse credential of piety. Such is how Christianity works … as freakish as it seems.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: PsiCop animated modification of original, via WBTV.

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Antivaxxer Being Given Control of Vaccine Safety https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2017/01/11/antivaxxer-being-given-control-of-vaccine-safety/ Thu, 12 Jan 2017 02:55:46 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10936 Angel-Facepalm: Even imaginary beings know how dumb that was!The idea that vaccines are toxic — particularly those given routinely to children, such as the MMR vaccine, which supposedly causes autism — is a big, fat, fucking lie that just won’t die, even though it’s been proven fraudulent. Yes, that’s right. It’s a massive con job, originally cooked up by a British “physician” who’d hoped to make his fortune selling autism remedies.

That’s right, folks. The movement that rails and blusters and fumes against “Big Pharma” and its supposedly malevolent profit motive, was founded on the work of a man who’d planned to profit from a lie he’d carefully constructed (WebCite cached article). I can smell the stench of the contradiction and hypocrisy from here … !

As I said, the antivax movement just won’t go away. This is very likely a product of the backfire effect, but it’s been further fueled by charlatans and cranks who milk it for their own aggrandizement … such as the Groper-in-Chief, who declared his antivax credentials during the 2016 presidential primary. As he prepares to enter the Oval Office, as the Washington Post reports, the Apricot Wonder has decided another antivaxxer should be put in charge of vaccine safety (cached):

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a proponent of a widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism, said Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump asked him to chair a new commission on vaccines.

Hours later, however, a spokeswoman for Trump’s transition said that while Trump would like to create a commission on autism, no final decision had been made.

If Trump follows through, the stunning move would push up against established science, medicine and the government’s position on the issue. It comes after Trump — who has long been critical of vaccines — met at Trump Tower with Kennedy, who has spearheaded efforts to roll back child vaccination laws.

This is, of course, all about the children, you see:

“The President-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas,” Trump transition spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement. “The President-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a commission on autism, which affects so many families; however no decisions have been made at this time.

“The President-elect looks forward to continuing the discussion about all aspects of autism with many groups and individuals,” she added.

You can be sure the Groper-in-Chief doesn’t give a flying fuck about autism or the welfare of children. If he did, he’d pursue another angle than “vaccine safety” to address it … because vaccines don’t have one damned, fucking thing to do with autism. Period. End of story.

I’ve blogged already about Kennedy’s antivaxxism. As the WaPo article makes clear, he hasn’t let go of it, despite his movement having been thoroughly debunked many times over. Then again, we have entered the post-truth era, and pesky little things like “fact” and “confirmed science” no longer matter any more. The Groper-in-Chief’s ignorant flyover-country voters have seen to that. If you needed any more proof that this country is fucked, well, now you have it.

Photo credit: shane_d_k, via Flickr.

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The “Religion of Peace” Continues to Impress https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2016/12/20/the-religion-of-peace-continues-to-impress/ Tue, 20 Dec 2016 12:57:57 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10928 Christmas market near Kaiser Wilhelm Church, BerlinYes, folks, it’s time again for us to see yet another sterling example of the “Religion of Peace” in action. Yesterday, as CNN reports, it appears a Muslim refugee drove a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany (WebCite cached article):

The man suspected of deliberately ramming a large truck into a Christmas market in Berlin is a refugee from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, two German intelligence officials and a police official told CNN.

The sources said the suspect in Monday evening’s attack, which killed 12 people and injured dozens more, arrived in Passau, a city on Germany’s border with Austria, on December 31, 2015, after traveling through the Balkans.

This attack could have political repercussions in Germany:

“I know that it would be especially hard to bear for us if it was to be confirmed that a person (who) committed this act … was given protection and asylum in Germany,” [German Chancellor Angela Merkel] said.

Monday’s attack could cause further political upheaval for Merkel, who has come under criticism over her government’s generous acceptance of refugees. Germany has taken in more than 890,000 asylum seekers in the past year, a marked difference to other European nations.

Note, too, this attack was a virtual copy of the Bastile Day attack earlier this year, in Nice, France (cached). Islamist groups have pushed for adherents to use vehicles as weapons against soft targets, so we can probably expect more such attacks in the future.

Photo credit: Sergey Galyonkin, via Flickr.

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War on Christmas 2016, Part 7 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2016/12/16/war-on-christmas-2016-part-7/ Fri, 16 Dec 2016 17:12:44 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10922 Acocks Green Village after dark - Christmas lights - Jeffries Hardware - Merry Christmas / Elliott Brown, via FlickrOr should I have titled this post, “War on Christmas Finally Ended!”? I don’t know for sure, but that’s what Bill O’Reilly — effectively, the field marshal of this annual phantasmal conflict — has said. It sounds amazing that he’d make such a concession, but he did. It’s right there, for all to see, on his own Web site (WebCite cached article):

You may remember, about 10 years ago, The Factor began spotlighting companies that refused to say the words “Merry Christmas.”

In fact, some of those businesses actually ordered their employees not to say it.

Well that culture war issue ignited, and we won. Most companies stopped the nonsense and Merry Christmas became a common greeting once again.

The only problem is, it’s all a big, fat, lie. A steaming load heaved right out the back of the barn. So what if a company doesn’t want its employees saying “Merry Christmas”? As private companies, isn’t it within their rights to have such a rule? In reality, though, it’s never been common, and in fact many employees said “Merry Christmas” in spite of it. So really, it never was a problem to begin with. It was just made-up bullshit that O’Reilly and the rest of the Religious Right have used to force everyone in the country, Christian or not, to celebrate Christmas too.

In his declaration that his own fictional “war” has concluded, Billy said:

And because it is a federal holiday, there is no reason to diminish Christmas or insult those who believe in it.

This is an allusion to Billy’s longstanding position that, since president Ulysses S. Grant declared Christmas a federal holiday, all Americans are required to celebrate it. Or something. I haven’t really figured out how that works, to be honest with you. I wasn’t aware that federal holiday declarations had that much power over people’s personal lives. But Billy has been saying this for years, so I guess it must be true. Somehow. Some way. Maybe someday he’ll disclose the exact mechanism by which this works … but I don’t plan to hold my breath waiting for him to cough it up.

Note too that O’Reilly alluded to the election of the Groper-in-Chief as the reason the “war on Christmas” has been won by Christofascists like himself. This comports with the Groper-in-Chief’s minion, Corey Lewandowski, who earlier had declared it – finally! — legal for Americans to say “Merry Christmas” again, as of November 8 of this year.

Now, although Billy has declared the “war on Christmas” concluded, I don’t expect that the Religious Right will let go of it. It remains a great way for them to indulge their Christian martyr complex and convince themselves they’re being persecuted for their Jesus, even though they aren’t.

Photo credit: Elliott Brown, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Christian Post.

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War on Christmas 2016, Part 6, Part 2 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2016/12/16/war-on-christmas-2016-part-6-part-2/ Fri, 16 Dec 2016 16:15:42 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10914 A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree / Mark K., via FlickrThe “peasants with pitchforks” moment in Killeen, TX I already blogged about, just ratcheted up a notch. The Christofascist attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, sued the Killeen school district over its order to remove a Christian poster from a public school. As the Houston Chronicle reports, a Texas judge ordered it be put back up (WebCite cached article):

A state district judge on Thursday ordered a “Charlie Brown Christmas’ display at a Killeen school restored after it was ordered taken down over a biblical message that educators said could be offensive.

After an hour-long hearing, Judge Jack Jones ruled that the door display featuring the Peanut character Linus, and his explanation of why Christmas matters, should be put back up with an added line: “Ms. Shannon’s Christmas message.”

Note the supposedly clever, legalistic workaround which (the judge thinks) will allow Ms Shannon to skate out from under the longstanding principle that government entities in the US can’t promote religion. And that is, by calling it merely “Ms. Shannon’s Christmas message” — as though it’s just a personal message from her to individuals. Unfortunately that doesn’t actually work, since this is still a government facility, and any poster within it constitutes government promoting something (in this case, Christianity). It’s a transparent maneuver.

The Chron article includes a standard Christianist whine:

“Religious discrimination towards Christians has become a holiday tradition of sorts among certain groups,” Paxton said in a statement after the judge’s decision.

Boo hoo hoo! Listen up, Kennie, and the rest of you militant Christofascists: No one is “discriminating” against you in cases like this, where overt Christian messages are removed from government property. No one — I repeat, no fucking one! — is preventing you from worshipping your Jesus any way you see fit, nor is anyone keeping you from celebrating Christmas in your homes, businesses, or churches.

Christmas has never been outlawed, anywhere in the country. It. Just. Hasn’t. Fucking. Happened. (Since colonial times, anyway.) So stop your fucking whining and crying that it has.

It’s time for you, Kennie, and the rest of your bellicose, whiney, paranoid Christianist pals, to fucking grow the hell up for the first time in your lives and stop claiming persecution that doesn’t exist. I get that you want to be persecuted for your Jesus. Really, I understand it. I was once a fundie like you, and I get it. Honest! I really am aware that this desire is deeply embedded in the psychopathology of your religion. But you have to stop fucking deluding yourselves over it and lying about it to others.

Oh, and about this whole business of celebrating Christmas in as public a manner as possible … were you aware, your own Jesus clearly and unambiguously ordered you never to express your piety in public? By all rights, were Ms Shannon truly following the teachings of her Jesus, she would never want to put up a Christmas display at all! It’s unChristian! Just saying.

Oh, and yes … in all likelihood, I do know more about your own religion than you. So I am in a position to explain to you what it teaches, and to point out when you’re brazenly defying those teachings.

Photo credit: Mark K., via Flickr.

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War on Christmas 2016, Part 6 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2016/12/14/war-on-christmas-2016-part-6/ https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2016/12/14/war-on-christmas-2016-part-6/#comments Wed, 14 Dec 2016 18:20:54 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10912 Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Shopping / Kit Cowan, via FlickrOn the heels of my post about an unusual variation on the annual “war on Christmas” in Texas, comes another story on that trope from the Lone Star State. The local school system in Killeen, TX ordered the removal of a hand-drawn poster, based on A Charlie Brown Christmas, from a classroom door. The Killeen (TX) Daily Herald reports on the resulting “peasants with pitchforks” moment (WebCite cached article):

Nearly 100 people and four news outlets — including Austin’s Fox News affiliate — crammed into Killeen Independent School District’s board room Tuesday to weigh in on the fate of a religious Christmas poster.

After more than an hour of discussion, the board decided, in a 6 to 1 vote, to uphold the district’s decision to remove the “Charlie Brown Christmas” decorations Dedra Shannon put up on her door at Patterson Middle School in Killeen.…

The door decoration in question was inspired by a scene in the Peanuts classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” in which Linus van Pelt stands on a stage and recites a biblical passage describing the Christmas story: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior which is Christ the Lord. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

The people’s revolt over this was inevitable, in a state which is — in many ways — the buckle of the Bible Belt (er, the Bobble Bayelt). These people are fucking pissed! Their reactions included vague threats:

The removal of the decoration sparked nearly 500 comments on the Killeen Daily Herald’s Facebook page and became state and national news over the past five days leading up to Tuesday’s meeting.

Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, who is now Dedra Shannon’s legal representative, had much to say about his displeasure with the board’s ruling.…

Prior to the board’s decision, Saenz warned the board of his intentions if they did not allow the poster back up on campus.

“Allow the Charlie Brown poster to go up. If not, we will be forced to take other action,” he said.

Wow. I mean, just “wow.” The article goes on to quote people who vomited any number of childish and irrational objections. Among the complaints was that the poster doesn’t coerce anyone to be a Christian; and that soon, merely saying the word “Christmas” will be outlawed. Both are untrue! Putting Christian scripture on the door of a public school classroom does constitute an endorsement of Christianity by a government entity, and implicitly marginalizes those who aren’t Christian. Also, removing this poster from a public school classroom door cannot and will never lead to the saying of “Christmas” being banned. That’s just an infantile whine.

To be clear: No, celebration of Christmas is not being outlawed anywhere in the US. No, removing this one poster from a public school classroom door cannot and will never prevent any Christian from celebrating Christmas however s/he wants in his/her own home, business, or church. It just won’t!

It’s time for the good Christian folk of Killeen to fucking grow the hell up, for the first time in their sniveling little lives, and quit their childish beefing. For that matter, it’s time for all American Christianists to just fucking stop already with the incessant, persecutorial Christmas whining. Take your Christian martyr complex and shove it!

Photo credit: Kit Cowan, via Flickr, based on A Charlie Brown Christmas.

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War on Christmas 2016, Part 5 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2016/12/13/war-on-christmas-2016-part-5/ Tue, 13 Dec 2016 17:17:52 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10909 MerryOldSanta / By Thomas Nast [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsThis one is a bit of departure from my usual posts about the fictitious “war on Christmas” (a struggle in which, the Religious Right contends, “secular progressives” are trying to outlaw the celebration of Christmas as a first step in their ruthless campaign to wipe out Christianity entirely). In this case, as the Friendly Atheist reports, it’s a Christian who took aim at the celebration of Christmas (WebCite cached article):

David Grisham Jr. is a self-described Christian “pastor” who once ran the fringe group Repent Amarillo. How fringe? In 2010, he posted a video of a firing squad executing Santa — because it distracted people from Jesus.

His latest stunt, done on behalf of his new group Last Frontier Evangelism, is just a step away from that. He strolled into a Texas mall, found a bunch of kids and parents waiting in line to take a picture with Santa, and yelled out that Santa wasn’t real… because Jesus was the true reason for the season.

As one might imagine, this didn’t go over well with those around him, and they reacted accordingly. And as befitting the adherent of a martyrs’ religion, Grisham dutifully whined he’d been attacked:

On Facebook, Grisham posted the video with the description that he was “ASSAULTED by parent at Amarillo Texas Mall” for talking about Jesus. There’s no evidence of that in the video other than a man coming close to him and asking him to stop yelling.

I’d considered embedding the video here, but won’t. Note how Grisham spelled “assaulted” with ALL CAPS in order (he thinks!) to provoke maximum outrage from his readers, as part of his Christian persecutorial complex. Imagine that … people don’t actually like being screampreached! Whodathunkit!?

I’ve blogged in the past about Grisham’s outfit, so these antics don’t surprise me.

As for Christians who think Santa Claus is unChristian, that’s actually old news. Back in my own fundie days, we were discouraged from having anything to do with Christmas symbols that weren’t directly tied to Jesus and Christian theology. For instance, snowflake, reindeer, and snowman decorations were frowned upon, as opposed to candles, stars, or bells (because Jesus was “the light of the world”; due to the “star of Bethlehem”; and connections to the ancient Hebrew priesthood, respectively) as well as, more obviously, creches.

In fact, there have been Christian movements which objected to Christmas outright. It has too many pagan overtones for their taste, you see. The Puritans, for example, outlawed it when they ruled England and some of the Colonies.

At any rate, the only thing I find surprising about this, is that — given the prevalence of Christian fundamentalism in many parts of the country, as well as the militancy with which it’s often followed — moments such as this aren’t more common than they are. I wonder if most of the Christians who object to Christmas entirely or to certain aspects of it, are just keeping their mouths shut for reasons of their own. Perhaps they fear that any apparent infighting over Christmas might make their religion look bad, or something. I have no idea. What I do know is that it’s not just “secular progressives” who’ve criticized certain aspects of Christmas (e.g. nativity scenes on town-hall lawns) … sometimes other Christians have beefs with Christmas.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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War on Christmas 2016, Part 4 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2016/12/07/war-on-christmas-2016-part-4/ Thu, 08 Dec 2016 02:58:22 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10897 Merry Christmas Lights / Eric Kilby, via FlickrIf one of the minions of the Groper-in-Chief-elect is correct, I may no longer have to post about the Religious Right’s annual — and delusional — “war on Christmas.” According to Corey Lewandowski, erstwhile campaign manager for the next president, then CNN talking head, the phantasmal campaign against Christianity’s winter solstice holiday is over! The Hill reports on his appearance on Fox News, in which he made this declaration (WebCite cached article):

Corey Lewandowski claimed Tuesday evening that people are now allowed to say “Merry Christmas” again because of Donald Trump’s election victory.

“You can say again Merry Christmas because Donald Trump is now the president. You can say it again. It’s OK to say,” Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, said on Fox News’ “Hannity.”

“It’s not a pejorative word anymore.”

Whew! Boy, am I glad that’s over! I mean, it’s been ages since I’ve been allowed to say, “Merry Christmas.” Until the Groper-in-Chief’s election, I wasn’t able to utter it. I’d have been arrested, or executed, or something … I’m sure. But now, I can say “Merry Christmas” all I want, without worry. Solely because of the Groper-in-Chief! Hooray!

Wait … what … ? You mean, none of that was true? I could have been saying “Merry Christmas” all this time, if I’d wanted? Really!?

</sarcasm>

To be clear: It has never been illegal to say “Merry Christmas.” No such law or ordinance has ever been proposed, much less passed and enacted, anywhere in the US. Not at the federal, state, county, or municipal levels. It has never happened. Period. And the Groper-in-Chief’s didn’t suddenly and magically dispense with any such laws or ordinances. That, also, has never happened. Period.

It’s long past time for Christianists to grow the fuck up already and stop inventing forms of persecution just because they like thinking they’re being martyred for Jesus. Unfortunately, this compulsion is very strong with them … being inherent in the psychopathology of their faith. Still, that’s no excuse for kvetching and moaning that they’re being prevented from celebrating Christmas, when in reality, they’re not.

Oh, and it’s hilarious that Lewandowski would try to sell the public on his boss’s incredible magical powers, by trumpeting that he made it possible, at last, for Americans to say a phrase they’ve always been able to say. Yeah, that makes a whole fucking lot of sense!

Photo credit: Eric Kilby, via Flickr.

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The Enduring, and Frightening, Power of Lies https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2016/12/07/the-enduring-and-frightening-power-of-lies/ Wed, 07 Dec 2016 19:38:55 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10895 Veracicat has checked your facts and is not impressed with your lies. (PsiCop, based on original from quitor.com: http://www.quitor.com/cat-with-glasses.html)As I blogged a little while ago, we now live in a post-truth world. Facts no longer matter, and no one gives a flying fuck about veracity. Worse than merely dismissing the need for reliance on fact, many people now openly express contempt for veracity. Wild speculation and antic sanctimony are what rules them, and anything contrary is viewed as an existential threat to their persons.

This view of veracity not being merely unimportant, but antithetical to one’s own existence, can lead to some very real dangers. I have two examples of this extreme for your consideration.

The first is “pizzagate,” the utterly absurd Right-wing political trope that got so far out of control that a man showed up at a Washington pizzeria and fired a gun there, supposedly in an effort to “investigate” the controversy. The Washington Post has a story on how this asinine foolishness started, how it escalated to gunplay, and — worst of all — how it will never go away — in spite of the fact that there’s not one stitch of evidence to support any of its contentions (WebCite cached article).

The whole “pizzagate” ridiculousness is only a month old … but my other example today has been brewing for years, and doesn’t appear to be letting up. That involves the so-called “Sandy Hook hoax.” The “hoax” here, of course, is that the Sandy Hook shootings are — sadly — not a “hoax” at all. The “hoax” comes from those who keep calling it a “hoax.” This is something we’ve dealt with, here in my home state of Connecticut, since those shootings occurred 4 years ago. USA Today reports on just the latest example of the dangers that keep spinning out of the “Sandy Hook truther” movement (cached):

A Florida woman who believes the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting was a hoax was arrested Monday on charges she threatened the parent of a child killed in the 2012 school shooting.

Lucy Richards, 57, of Tampa, Fla., was indicted on four counts of transmitting threats, according to a statement from the United States Attorney Southern District of Florida.…

According to authorities, Richards made a series of death threats against the parent of a child who was killed in the shooting.

Death threats aren’t new to survivors of the Sandy Hook shooting, unfortunately. Truthers have gone after them repeatedly, and no doubt will continue to do so … forever.

Lies such as “pizzagate” and the Sandy hook “truther” movement have power, because those who hold onto them resist correction. No amount of debunking will work. If you ask them, this is because (as they see it) the mass media are debunking it, and the media are not to be trusted. The media lie, you see. All the time. Every time! Without letup. And they can even point to things that — they think — support that view, such as the fact that no chemical weapons were found after the US invaded Iraq on the pretense that chemical weapons were there. (This very example was mentioned in the WaPo article I cited above.)

So in their minds, they’re free to cling desperately, and sanctimoniously, to any laughable, counter-factual trope they want to.

There are many problems with this view. First, just because the media have sometimes been wrong, doesn’t make them “always-wrong.” It just doesn’t work that way. Second, the example of Iraq and chemical weapons is a false one, since it wasn’t the mass media themselves who claimed chemical weapons were there; it was the G.W. Bush administration, and the media simply reported that claim. (And contrary to popular belief, many outlets were skeptical … but without any ability to dig around freely in Iraq themselves, the media’s ability to verify this was limited.) Third, the notion that the mass media are arrayed “against” the folk who cling to their lies is a known psychological phenomenon, the hostile media effect. It is this, coupled with another psychological phenomenon known as the backfire effect, which prevents people from giving up the lies they love.

But really, I’m no longer interested in anyone’s excuses for clinging to lies. I really don’t fucking care that distrust of the Clintons and their minions is what ultimately led to “pizzagate.” I mean, I don’t trust them myself … but that doesn’t mean I’m going to buy into that phony trope. I also don’t fucking care that it’s mainly gun fanatics who’re convinced Sandy Hook was a hoax, and they’re concerned someone might take their firearms away. None of that matters to me. All I care about are facts and veracity. I will continue to care about them for as long as I live. If that makes me some kind of hateful, intellectual, elitist ogre, then I guess that’s what I am.

Photo credit: PsiCop, based on original from quitor.com.

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CT’s Comptroller Takes On Christofascist Outfit https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2016/12/07/cts-comptroller-takes-on-christofascist-outfit/ Wed, 07 Dec 2016 13:19:45 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10890 CT Comptroller Kevin Lembo / CT News Junkie file photoAt the outset, I have to concede this is something of a tempest in a teapot. We aren’t talking about very much money here, and the stakes aren’t very high, on either side of this conflict. Still, it is an example of someone daring to take on a well-known and vocal Religious Right group, which is actually rare, since they’ve been so successful at intimidating others and bullying them into acquiescence.

Now then, on to the story … !

The state of Connecticut has a program by which its employees can have money deducted from their paychecks and sent directly to a number of charitable organizations. To be included in this program, charities must sign up and agree to abide by certain standards. But in the case of the American Family Association, that proved to be a problem. CT’s comptroller, Kevin Lembo, whose office administers the program, wants to find out if the AFA is actually living up to that agreement; but as CT News Junkie reports, the AFA is none too happy about that (WebCite cached article):

After asking a Christian organization that’s against LGBTQ rights for more information about how it conforms with Connecticut’s nondiscrimination clause to qualify for state employee payroll deductions, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo became the group’s newest target.

The American Family Association, a Mississippi-based group that is known for its anti-gay and anti-transgender boycotts of businesses, is flooding Lembo’s office with calls and emails. As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, Lembo said his office had received 4,455 emails from people associated with AFA.…

Last week, Lembo, who is the Connecticut’s first openly gay constitutional officer, announced that his office was investigating [cached] whether the group conforms with the anti-discrimination policy for the Connecticut State Employee Campaign for Charitable Giving program. Lembo said the group signed the anti-discrimination clause, but their website seems to offer a different story.

As one would expect, the AFA went ballistic over Lembo’s investigation. It probably didn’t help that Lembo is openly gay. They claim his move is an “attack” on their religious freedom, and Lembo’s way of trying to wipe out devout, dutiful Christians like themselves … but it’s not. At stake here is just one very small question: Whether or not the AFA is allowed to remain in CT’s payroll-deduction program for state employees. That’s all. Nothing more. Whether they’re in this program or not, will not change their lives in the slightest. It won’t force them to give up their beliefs. It won’t close any of their churches, it won’t rip Bibles out of their homes or hands. It won’t do anything of the sort, even if they claim it would. What’s more, as CTNJ explains, we’re talking about a small amount of money:

Between 2011 and 2016, AFA has receive $202 from three state employees. Since the group is part of a larger group of 13 charities within the account, it’s unknown exactly how much it received in undesignated funds. The group of 13 charities under the Neighbor to Nation heading received a little more than $4,000 a year between 2011 and 2014.

That kind of money isn’t going to make or break the AFA. It just won’t, no matter how sanctimoniously enraged they may be at this insolent, profane gay man who dared take them on, even in a small way such as this.

Really, the problem here is with the AFA. They reached an agreement with the state of CT in order to be included in this program, and that agreement included anti-discrimination terms, which they haven’t abided by, and which they even insist they’re obliged to ignore by dint of their religious beliefs. In other words … they signed an agreement whose terms they damned well knew, from the very start, that they never intended to live by. They weren’t coerced into signing up for that program or signing that agreement; no one put a gun to their heads and forced them to do so. They did that of their own volition. It now appears they did so dishonestly. I salute the Comptroller for pointing out their duplicity and for taking them on … even if the end result won’t accomplish very much (at best, the AFA will be deprived of a few hundred dollars a year in contributions, should they be removed from the program).

Really, for me — as I stated at the beginning of this post — what’s significant here is that Lembo was even willing at all to try to take on the AFA. Most of the time, public officials won’t contend with Christofascists. Rather, they tend overwhelmingly to bend over for them and give in to their bullying tactics. This is how they’ve succeeded as much as they have over the last three or four decades. They always seem to resort to their claim of sincere belief and “religious freedom,” as though this means all of humanity is required to knuckle under to all their demands, all the time, and that they’re never to be questioned, ever, for any reason. The world doesn’t work that way, and there’s no reason officials should act as though it does.

Photo credit: CT News Junkie.

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War on Christmas 2016, Part 3 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2016/12/06/war-on-christmas-2016-part-3/ Tue, 06 Dec 2016 22:48:26 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10885 Shellie Sylvestri, via KNOE-TVThis year’s annual edition of “the War on Christmas” rages on. This is something I’ve blogged about ad nauseam; it’s a propaganda trope in which American Christianists pretend that their religion is being wiped out, initially via an insidious campaign to outlaw the celebration of Christmas.

This is delusional, of course; Christianity is in no danger in the US, and people are still free to celebrate Christmas. That won’t change … but you can’t tell Christianists that. They refuse to accept it, and claim their religion is standing at the precipice of total destruction and that they’re just a moment away from being killed off.

The latest skirmish in this annual juvenile exercise comes from the fine Bible Belt Bobble Bayelt state of Louisiana. KNOE-TV in Monroe, LA reports on a battle that erupted over — of all things — atheist billboards (WebCite cached article):

The Atheist Americans holiday campaign debuted in Monroe yesterday with two digital billboards near Hwy 165 and Pecanland Mall.

“It’s definitely a strong Christian community and a lot of strong believers in this area,” says Kyle Klitzke of Monroe.…

The billboards lasted less than two hours in Monroe before the billboard company, Outfront Media, suggested the organization take it down.

Nick Fish, program director for American Atheists, took the words right out of my mouth:

“They need to get over themselves and realize this is a country with a lot of viewpoints, and they’re not the only ones with a view on this,” Fish says.

He’s absolutely correct that Louisiana’s Christianists “need to get over themselves” and understand that they’re not the only ones … but they never will do so. They view the fact that they’re not alone in the country as an intolerable burden that they simply cannot withstand, and will never tolerate — not even for a second.

As I often do when remarking on “the War on Christmas,” I remind American Christendom that many of its beliefs about Christmas are false. Absolutely, totally, 100% wrong. Not that most of them care very much about facts … but I do, and I plan to throw as many of them as I can in their faces. No matter how much they dislike it, or how vehemently they deny those facts.

Photo credit: Shellie Sylvestri, via KNOE-TV.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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Yet Another Rampage in the Name of “the Religion of Peace” https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2016/11/29/yet-another-rampage-in-the-name-of-the-religion-of-peace/ Wed, 30 Nov 2016 03:53:23 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10879 Police cover the body of a suspect outside Watts Hall on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, following an attack on campus that left several people injured on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. The man, identified as Abdul Razak Ali Artan, plowed his car into a group of pedestrians and began stabbing people with a butcher knife Monday before he was shot to death by a police officer. (Photo: Adam Cairns, AP / via USA Today)By now my readers will have heard of the strange car-&-knife assault on the campus of Ohio State University*. It turns out the attacker was a Muslim — a Somali refugee no less — who, as USA Today reports, somehow thought that attacking people on a college campus would protect his fellow Muslims elsewhere in the world (WebCite cached article):

An Ohio State University student has been identified as the suspect behind the gruesome attack Monday on the school’s campus.…

[The attacker] was born in Somalia and living in the United States as a legal permanent resident. Investigators discovered a message he posted on a Facebook page before the attack in which he expressed anger about the treatment of Muslims around the world, according to reports from multiple news outlets, citing unidentified law enforcement officials.

Maybe it’s because I have an overly rational brain, but I’m not quite clear on the connection between the people this fucker drove into, and then stabbed, and attacks on Muslims around the world. I’m aware of no direct connection.

But then, I’m just an insolent, god-hating agnostic heathen, and can’t possibly expect to comprehend such high and holy things, now, can I?

I can only conclude the attacker objected solely to Americans killing Muslims, and thought a terror attack would prevent that … but that he didn’t object to Muslims killing other Muslims — because after all, there’s a fucking helluva lot more of that going on in the world than there is of violence against Muslims by any other kind of person. No?

Oh wait. As usual, I’m insolently attempting to make rational sense of a high, sacred mission, and that’s simply not allowed. Isn’t it? I mean, how horrific of me to dare try to logically evaluate this kind of holy pursuit!

Note, there’s a large Somali community in the Columbus, OH area, and this isn’t the first time a Somali Muslim there has gone on a terrorist rampage. Back in February, a sanctimoniously-enraged Somali Muslim stormed into an Israeli restaurant there, brandishing a machete, also apparently in defense of the world’s wickedly oppressed Muslims (cached). Or something.

So go ahead, Muslims. Please. By all means, pin the blame for everything bad that’s ever happened to one of you on the US. And in turn use that blame to justify attacking Americans wherever you go. Because obviously, they deserve to die. Right? Go ahead and continue to ignore all the Muslim-on-Muslim violence that goes on, including the long history of conflict between your religion’s two major sects … which predates the existence of the US by more than a millennium. Yeah, obviously, all of that means nothing whatsoever … but when the US reacts to Islamist terror, well, that just can’t be fucking tolerated for one second, now, can it!?

Maybe it’s time for Muslims to get a grip on themselves, and each other, and start taking responsibility for their own religion, fercryinoutloud. Stop blaming others for one’s own misfortunes, and stop letting extremism slide.

Note, I’ve consistently asked the same of Christians, and Jews, and people of every other religion, too. Whatever religion one happens to belong to, is one’s religion. One owns it. It belongs to those who follow it, and they must take responsibility for it. If they don’t respect it enough to police it and stamp out extremism within it, they can’t rationally expect outsiders, such as myself, to respect it, either … or to respect them for belonging to it.

*I absofuckinglutely refuse to call it “‘THE’ Ohio State University.” What an asinine and juvenile fucking marketing gimmick that is.

Photo credit: Adam Cairns / AP, via USA Today.

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Dawn Breaks on the Groper-in-Chief’s America, Part 2 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2016/11/27/dawn-breaks-on-the-groper-in-chiefs-america-part-2/ Sun, 27 Nov 2016 15:55:23 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10870 Letter sent to CA mosques: 'To the Children of Satan,|You muslims are a vile and filthy people. Your mothers are whores and your fathers are dogs. You are evil. You worship the devil. But, your day of reckoning has arrived.|There is a new Sheriff in town -- President Donald Trump. He's going to cleanse America and make it shine again. And he's going to start with you muslims. He's going to do to you want Hitler did to the jews. You muslims would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge.|This is a great time for Patriotic Americans. Love live President Trump and God bless the USA!|Americans for a Better Way' / via Washington PostIn addition to fueling the rise of the “alt-right” and white nationalism, the election of Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump has brought out the bigotry and hate that’s been simmering out there for decades. The incoming president ran on a platform of barring all Muslims entry to the US (WebCite cached article), so naturally that’s breathed new life into the movement I call “the Great Neocrusade” — i.e. a Religious Right effort to abolish Islam from the US and drive out all Muslims.

(Granted, many doubt the Groper-in-Chief will be able to carry out this promise … but that’s not relevant here. He made the promise, and many Americans expect he’ll carry it out. The reality of actually implementing it is something neither the Groper-in-Chief nor any of his fanbois are interested in.)

The result of this is that hateful Neocrusaders have been emboldened, and are becoming more overt and confrontational. For example, as the Washington Post reports, three California mosques got threatening letters (cached):

Letters threatening that President-elect Donald Trump will do to Muslims what Adolf Hitler “did to the Jews” were sent to three California mosques last week, according to the Council on Islamic-American Relations, or CAIR.

The handwritten letter, which referred to Muslims as “children of Satan,” were mailed to Islamic centers in San Jose in Northern California and Long Beach and Pomona in Southern California. It called Trump the “new sherriff [sic] in town” who will “cleanse America and make it shine again” by eradicating the country’s Muslim population.

“You Muslims are a vile and filthy people. Your mothers are whores and your fathers are dogs,” the letter states. “You are evil. You worship the devil. But, your day of reckoning has arrived.”

The letter went on to say that Muslims “would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge.”

There have been widespread reports of many other incidents of hate, in the wake of the Groper-in_-Chief’s election. Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear whether there has been an actual uptick in such incidents (cached).

Even so, it’s clear someone out there has chosen the arrival of “a new sheriff in town” as a signal that s/he should send letters to mosques threatening a Muslim Holocaust. And s/he did it not just once, but three times.

Yes, these are the sorts of things the Groper-in-Chief’s fanbois are willing to do, in the name of “making America great again.” Not that threatening a Muslim Holocaust will ever make America great — but clearly they think it will.

Photo credit: Washington Post.

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Dawn Breaks on the Groper-in-Chief’s America, Part 1 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2016/11/22/dawn-breaks-on-the-groper-in-chiefs-america/ Tue, 22 Nov 2016 19:42:56 +0000 https://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/?p=10858 The Atlantic / 'Hail Trump!': White Nationalists Salute the President ElectNote: I’ve put up a second blog post on what’s become of the US in the wake of the Groper-in-Chief’s election, so I’ve renamed this post accordingly. Now then … on with the original post:

It’s no secret that, among supporters of the Groper-in-Chief-elect, there are a lot of unsavory types — “unsavory” being the most generous adjective I can apply to such folks. I say this at the risk of sounding a little like Hillary Clinton and her “basket of deplorables” (cached) … which is more correct than many wish is the case, even if her assertion that fully “half” of the Groper-in-Chief-elect’s supporters meet that description is too high a proportion.

At any rate, it’s well known that the amorphous movement known as the “alt-right,” as well as even more reprehensible sorts of people, like Klansman David Duke (cached) have supported the Groper-in-Chief-elect and helped him win the White House.

While not quite as bad as the proverbial cross-burning Klan member or brawling neo-nazi skinhead, members of the alt-right definitely harbor a lot of vile notions, most of them predicated on white nationalism. Thrown in alongside that is a lot of paranoia and conspiratorialism, as well as misogyny and anti-semitism.

The Groper-in-Chief-elect’s connections with the alt-right are well-known. Perhaps the most important is that Steve Bannon, the chairman of his campaign and now his chief adviser, once ran the Web site Breitbart, which Bannon himself stated was “the platform of the alt-right” (cached). Really, it doesn’t get any clearer, or more definitive, than that.

But the unsavory nature of much of the the Groper-in-Chief-elect’s support goes beyond just a few “big names” (e.g. Duke or Bannon) who’ve either endorsed or worked for him. Perhaps no more worrisome exemplar of this can be found in video (courtesy of The Atlantic) from an alt-right conference in Washington (cached):

“Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”

That’s how Richard B. Spencer saluted more than 200 attendees on Saturday, gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., for the annual conference of the National Policy Institute, which describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.”

Spencer has popularized the term “alt-right” to describe the movement he leads. Spencer has said his dream [cached] is “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans,” and has called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”

For most of the day, a parade of speakers discussed their ideology in relatively anodyne terms, putting a presentable face on their agenda. But after dinner, when most journalists had already departed, Spencer rose and delivered a speech to his followers dripping with anti-Semitism, and leaving no doubt as to what he actually seeks. He referred to the mainstream media as “Lügenpresse,” a term he said he was borrowing from “the original German”; the Nazis used the word [cached] to attack their critics in the press.

“America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Spencer said. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

The Atlantic provides video of Spencer’s remarks, via Youtube:

Nothing I’ve read about Spencer suggests he’s stupid or clueless (cached), so I can only assume he was consciously appealing to Nazism while he spoke. As for his audience “hailing” the Groper-in-Chief-elect with Nazi salutes … all I can say is, that’s chilling.

Late addition: As the New York Times reports via Bloomberg, the Groper-in-Chief-elect has said he “disavows” this conference (cached), and he also supposedly disavows the alt-right. Not that it matters much to those present who gave him a Hitler salute. After all, one of their standard-bearers, Steve Bannon, will soon have his own office in the White House. Again, due to Bannon’s own admission of having run “the platform of the alt-right”, the nascent White House cannot logically claim no alliance with the alt-right. It just can’t. Period.

Photo credit: The Atlantic.

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