'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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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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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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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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'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 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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'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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