Godfrey in his siege tower at the Assault on Jerusalem, July 15, 1099. By Anonymous ([1][2]) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsI’ve just posted a static page on what I call the Great Neocrusade, a movement which comprises a large part of the Religious Right in the US and whose goal is to eradicate Islam from the country, and then the rest of the world. I first called attention to it — and gave it that name — some five years ago. Since then, this foolish and childish effort hasn’t abated one bit.

Along the way, Neocrusaders have done a lot of idiotic things, such as passing laws forbidding shari’a (or Islamic) law, even though the US Constitution already forbids imposing religious law on Americans. They’ve also done some much more harmful things, such as destroying mosques, and even threatening churches under construction merely because they appear to be mosques.

As a student of the Middle Ages, I know quite well how the original Crusades worked out. In short, they didn’t — at all! They were a sequence of expeditions that spanned two centuries, which collectively ended in dismal failure. Yes, I said a failure … in spite of the fact that the First Crusade had apparently succeeded, with the capture of Antioch in 1098, Jerusalem in 1099, and Tripoli in 1109. (The Crusaders also seized Edessa in 1098, but that had long been a Christian city under Armenian leadership, and they got it via betrayal rather than war. Woops!) Edessa had fallen by 1144, Jerusalem by 1187, Antioch in 1268, and Tripoli in 1289, and were at last driven from the Holy Land in 1303 with the fall of their last fort on the island of Arwad.

Undertaking a modern version of a Crusade … albeit not as overtly military as before … seems stunningly foolish — at least, to those who haven’t done what the Religious Right has done, which is to redefine the medieval Crusades as a glorious and morally-upright effort to save Christendom from annihilation (cached) by attacking Saracens thousands of miles away and who were no threat to them. Really, there’s no way a religion with as large a worldwide presence as Islam has could be eradicated from the United States. Not only is it unconstitutional even to try, it simply can’t work! No sane person ought to attempt any such thing.

But clearly we’re not dealing with people who are altogether “sane.” They’ve been driven mad by their rage, and they’re not capable of thinking clearly. They naïvely think that getting rid of Islam will get rid of terrorism and thus make them safe; but this reasoning ignores the uncomfortable reality that there’s terrorism within the ranks of Christianity in the US, which will continue even if the Neocrusaders somehow manage to toss all Muslims out of the country.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Ben CarsonThe laughable religiosity on display in the 2016 GOP presidential primary continues apace. Retired surgeon Ben Carson, darling of the Religious Right since he used an invitation to the National Prayer Breakfast to go after President Obama in person, is one of the candidates trying desperately to get ahead of Donald “it’s my own orange hair” Trump in the polls. Toward that end, as Politico reports, during an appearance on Meet the Press, Bennie decided to make Islam, of all things, an issue in the election (WebCite cached article):

The president of the United States should not be a Muslim, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson declared during an interview airing Sunday morning. And Islam, a faith professed by some 3 million Americans, is not constitutional, the retired neurosurgeon said.

Carson has some very high-minded reasoning for this:

Asked whether his faith or the faith of a president should matter, Carson said, “It depends on what that faith is.”

“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the constitution, no problem,” he explained, according to a transcript.

Todd then asked Carson, whose rise in the polls has been powered in large part by Christian conservatives, if he believed that “Islam is consistent with the Constitution.”

“No, I don’t, I do not,” he responded, adding, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

Bennie went on to say — quite strangely, given the broad and dire philosophy he’d just stated about Muslims and the Constitution — that it’s acceptable for Muslims to be in Congress. Whew! For a moment there, I’d wondered if Carson would demand that André Carson (cached) and Keith Ellison (cached), resign from the House because they’re Muslims who can’t or won’t follow the Constitution.

Let’s get a few things cleared up right away: First, no Muslim is going to be elected President of the United States any time in the foreseeable future. So this is not something any American of any religion (or of none) needs to be concerned with. Period.

Next, this was clearly Bennie’s appeal to the Great Neocrusade being waged by the Religious Right. As I’ve blogged for a few years now, this is an effort to eradicate Islam from the United States, and is the result of the Christian Right’s fear and hatred of Muslims, because worldwide, their faith is the chief rival of Christianity. Of course, there’s the terrorism factor, too, which Neocrusaders use to good effect — and not without reason. But what they forget is that there’s also such a thing as Christian terrorism, some of which emerged from the ranks of their own political faction, so they’re hypocritical when they condemn Islam as a terrorism-generating religion while conveniently forgetting that their own is sometimes guilty of that, also. (That their own Jesus explicitly and unambiguously forbid them ever to be hypocritical is also something they conveniently forget.)

Oh, and as for Islam supposedly not being “consistent with the Constitution,” let’s not forget that the Religious Right is prone to treating the Constitution as fungible when it’s convenient for them to do so. Because they dislike gay marriage and say it’s against their religion, for instance, they want it outlawed for all Americans, of any religion or of none. They don’t seem to care there are religions — including some Christian churches — which accept gay marriage (cached); they simply can’t tolerate that it exists anywhere.

An illustrative parallel for the Religious Right’s approach to gay marriage would be to compare them to Orthodox Jews who want the sale and consumption of pork and shellfish outlawed for everyone, because it’s against their religion and they object to the idea that anyone might be having pork or shellfish. If Orthodox Jews were to advocate such a thing — which they haven’t, and I doubt they ever will — no one would take that effort seriously. Which is why no thinking American ought to take the R.R. seriously on this issue, either.

What’s more, a significant portion of the Religious Right — including Bennie’s rival candidate Ted Cruz, and erstwhile candidates Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann — are dominionists (cached) or Christian Reconstructionists (cached). These folk want the federal government more or less disbanded, and each of the states converted into an Old Testament-style Christian theocracy. Maybe it’s just me — cynical, godless agnostic heathen that I am — but I don’t see this sort of thinking as being even remotely “consistent with the Constitution,” either. Guess I just don’t have all the lofty spiritual insights that would allow an insolent creature like myself to comprehend all these important, sacred considerations.

I wonder if Bennie will summon the courage to call out any of his dominionist friends over their philosophy, too? Why do I not think he will?

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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US Courthouse at CovingtonI was sure Kim Davis, the anti-gay clerk of Rowan county, KY who was briefly jailed for defying a federal judge’s order to issue marriage licenses, wasn’t done trying to derail the process. And it turns out, I was right: She isn’t done! As the Associated Press reports, she may have disobeyed the judge’s orders once again (WebCite cached article):

A Kentucky county clerk may have again defied a federal judge’s order regarding gay-marriage licenses by altering license forms to remove her name, an attorney who represents one of the clerk’s employees told the judge Friday in a court filing.

In a separate filing Friday, attorneys for the gay couples who sued Davis appear to agree.…

[A]ttorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union said in a court filing that the changes on the form require [deputy clerk Brian] Mason to issue the licenses “in his capacity as a ‘notary public’ rather than a deputy clerk of the Rowan County Clerk’s Office,” changes that “do not comply” with the court’s order to not interfere with her employees who issue the licenses.

“These alterations call into question the validity of the marriage licenses issued,” the attorneys wrote in a footnote to a motion asking the judge to certify the case as a class-action lawsuit. “Plaintiffs are exploring legal options to address these material alterations.”

State law requires marriage licenses to be issued under the authority of the county clerk. Someone else, a minister or other officiant, then performs the ceremony and signs the license. The clerk then files the license with county records.

I can’t help but view Ms Davis’s behavior as that of a toddler who, when given an instruction by an adult, creatively searches for ways to manipulate or circumvent the instruction, repeatedly pushing the boundaries of what she’s allowed to do. It really is very childish.

I note, too, that the judge in this case — despite his willingness to jail Ms Davis for a few days — hasn’t been very helpful regarding the licenses themselves:

[David] Bunning, the federal judge, has said he does not know if the licenses are valid and it was up to the gay couples to take that chance.

This waffling aligns with the fact that he caved in to Religious Right pressure and released her. How nice.

This is all very typical of how the Religious Right operates. Even when they know they no longer have any legal leg to stand on, they consistently and repeatedly refuse to bend to reality. They cannot and will never cave in … not willingly, anyway. No matter what happens, they resist … and they resist some more … and they resist even more after that … and they just keep on resisting, resisting, and resisting, forever more. They’ll never stop, until they either get their way, or die off. This is one of the reasons for their success … they wear down their opponents, who eventually get tired and surrender to their demands. So one can hardly fault them for using a successful tactic. Still, that they’d continue waging fights like this one, even after they’d lost the war, shows how irrational and childish they are.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Talking Points Memo.

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DryvaxAmong the ridiculous bullshit spewed during last night’s Republican primary debate on CNN … in addition to the bullshit Rick Santorum spewed that I already blogged about … another dealt with vaccines. As the Daily Beast reports, Donald “it’s my own orange hair” Trump once again repeated his asinine, pseudoscientific antivax position (WebCite cached article):

At the CNN debate Wednesday night, the GOP frontrunner broadcasted [sic] anti-science vaccine conspiracy nonsense—unchallenged by moderators or fellow contenders—to an audience of millions.

“We’ve had so many instances…a child went to have the vaccine, got very, very sick, and now is autistic,” he blathered. “Autism has become an epidemic. It has gotten totally out of control.”

Trump has long peddled goofy, debunked theories about a causal link between vaccination and autism. As far back as 2012, he suggested the practice of giving numerous vaccines to healthy babies is “monstrous.”

One of the physicians onstage, Ben Carson, was asked about Trump’s claims. Unfortunately, he punted:

“We have extremely well documented proof that there’s no autism associated with vaccinations,” Carson said. “But it is true that we’re giving way too many in too short a period of time. And a lot of pediatricians now recognize that, and they’re cutting down on the number and the proximity.”

It’s nice, I suppose, that Carson did acknowledge there being no link between vaccines and autism. But his little bit about there being too many and too frequent vaccinations is a lie, as a report the Daily Beast linked to makes clear (cached). The other physician onstage, Rand Paul, idiotically echoed Carson:

“I’m all for vaccines, but I’m also for freedom,” the curly-haired ophthalmologist said. “I’m also more concerned about how they’re bunched up. My kids had all their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching ’em up is a problem, I might have the right to spread my vaccines out at the very least.”

His whole thing about “freedom” is a fucking joke. No parent in his/her right mind should use “freedom” to justify risking his/her kids coming down with preventable childhood diseases — which can, in some cases, be deadly (even if a lot of antivaxxers irrationally dismiss that danger). So I find Paul’s “freedom” objection to be, essentially, a non sequitur.

Look, I get why all these guys hate vaccines. It’s because they’re largely government-mandated (in most places kids can’t get into school without them), ‘n’ y’all knows how horrbull dat dere gummint is! Dem vaccine thangs jus’ cain’t be good fer da chilluns! Dat secret Muslim Barack HUSSEIN Obama is prolly usin’ ’em fer mind control!

Of course, hating vaccines for political reasons isn’t appreciably worse than hating them because of a fraudulent study by a con-artist doctor who’d imagined a scheme to sell bogus autism treatments.

The reality is — as Ben Carson conceded during the debate — that medicine has determined there is no connection between vaccines and autism. None. Period. End of discussion.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Help! Help! I'm being repressed! (Dennis the constitutional peasant, Monty Python & the Holy Grail)Militant Christianists have fallen all over each other rushing to praise Rowan county KY clerk Kim Davis for what they think is her “brave” resistance to gay marriage. They’ve called her a modern-day Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, and even Abraham Lincoln. During last night’s GOP presidential primary debate, Rick Santorum did that one better … he compared Ms Davis to a presumed Christian martyr. Raw Story reports on what this raging Christofascist said (WebCite cached article):

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum argued on Wednesday that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ persecution for being a Christian was similar to shooting victims of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

“Sixteen years ago this country was tremendously inspired by a young woman who faced a gunman in Columbine and was challenged about her faith and she refused to deny God,” Santorum explained during the CNN presidential debate. “We saw her as a hero.”

Rickie-boy was referring to the story of Cassie Bernall. Christians have often repeated the story that, during the massacre, one of the Columbine slaughterers asked her if she was a Christian, she proudly said “Yes,” then she was shot and killed. This story fits neatly in with Christians’ age-old tendency to view themselves as “persecuted” and it makes them feel all warm inside to think some girl voluntarily decided to accept certain death for Jesus.

There’s just one problem with this story: It never happened!

That’s right, folks, this tale of a Christian martyrdom — despite being oft-repeated within Christian circles — is a big fat fucking lie. It was actually debunked long ago, as CNN reported back in 2009, but Christians like Rickie-boy don’t appear to have gotten the memo (cached):

For example, many in the media initially reported that 17-year-old Cassie Bernall, a Christian, answered “yes” when asked if she believed in God before she was shot to death. She became a poster child for the Evangelical movement after her death. But investigators and student witnesses later told Cullen that it was another student, Valeen Schnurr, who avowed her belief in God as she was shot. Schnurr survived.

Look, I understand why Christians like to tell martyrdom stories. Theirs is a religion founded by a martyr (i.e. Jesus). Since the earliest days of the faith, they’ve viewed martyrdom as an ideal that all Christians should aspire to. A desire to be persecuted for Jesus is, therefore, embedded deep within the psychopathology of their religion. It’s an impulse they find irresistible.

Still, that can’t excuse their tendency to lie in order to support their martyrdom narrative. They shouldn’t fabricate examples of “persecution for Jesus” solely in order to tell each other they’re being persecuted for Jesus. Because in the 21st century US, no such thing is happening! In this case, Kim Davis isn’t really the Christian martyr she and her champions, like Santorum, want us to think she is. Really, she’s nothing more than a raging, sanctimonious, Puritanical bigot. That’s all.

Photo credit: PsiCop graphic, based on Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

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Gustave dore crusades richard and saladin at the battle of arsufA high school kid — who happens to be an aspiring engineer — crafted his own digital clock, and brought it to school to show off his accomplishment. You’d think that would be a good thing. But if you thought that, you’re obviously not in the Neocrusading town of Irving, TX. There, only certain students (read: devout Christian students who happen to be white) could do such a thing without causing trouble.

You see, if you’re a Muslim student who does that … well, obviously your digital clock must be a bomb! As the Dallas Morning News reports, a Muslim student in that Neocrusading town was arrested for having done precisely that (WebCite cached article):

Irving’s police chief announced Wednesday that charges won’t be filed against Ahmed Mohamed, the MacArthur High School freshman arrested Monday after he brought what school officials and police described as a “hoax bomb” on campus.

At a joint press conference with Irving ISD, Chief Larry Boyd said the device — confiscated by an English teacher despite the teen’s insistence that it was a clock — was “certainly suspicious in nature.”

School officers questioned Ahmed about the device and why Ahmed had brought it to school. Boyd said Ahmed was then handcuffed “for his safety and for the safety of the officers” and taken to a juvenile detention center. He was later released to his parents, Boyd said.

The whole thing about leaping to conclusions and taking draconian actions in the name of “security” is, as I’ve blogged before, fucking ridiculous. Officials need to keep their heads on their shoulders and not leap to asinine conclusions without good reason.

Here’s a thought, people: A kid who actually crafted a bomb isn’t going to waltz into school with said bomb, then proudly show it off to people! Fuck no! He’s going to hide it somewhere and hope it goes unnoticed until it explodes and hurts as many people as possible. Just the fact that he showed it to people is — all by itself! — evidence that it’s probably harmless, no matter how malicious the thing it might otherwise appear to be. Granted, the cops let this kid go … after an unstated amount of time. But there was no need for this shit in the first place. None.

Note that, while Mohamed won’t be prosecuted for his “bomb,” the school has suspended him. And the clock police confiscated hasn’t been returned to him. So officials have actively punished him for something he never even did!

Even though Irving police demonstrated themselves to be idiotic Neocrusaders, the town’s mayor Beth Van Duyne (for reasons I’ll get to in a moment) continues to insist they did nothing wrong (cached). Yes, in spite of the fact that they were, very clearly, wrong in their assumptions.

Now … there’s a reason I called Irving, TX a Neocrusading town. Earlier this year, its mayor and a bunch of its people went fucking berserk because they thought “shari’a law” was being imposed on them (cached). (That, you see, explains Van Duyne’s unwillingness to admit her police department could have been wrong to arrest Mohamed over a clock they had no valid reason to suspect was a bomb.) In truth, there had been no effort to impose shari’a law in Irving … but that didn’t do much to prevent the freak-out. No place in the United States has been made subject to Islamic law. Nor is any such thing being contemplated anywhere in the country. But that hasn’t stopped sanctimoniously-enraged Christianists from believing it’s happened and enacting measures to prevent it (even though they’re completely unnecessary).

The problem is that Christians in the US view Islam as their chief rival religion, and they’re incensed that there Muslims actually exist. It infuriates them to have to see Muslims or any evidence of Islam’s existence within the borders of their precious “Christian nation.” They can’t understand why Muslims don’t simply abandon their religion immediately and convert en masse to Christianity. They view Muslims’ refusal to do so as a direct attack upon their persons — and they fly into a towering rage over Muslims’ insolence. It’s childish, of course, but you can’t tell them that. They think they have a special religious license to remain infantile.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Operation Upshot-Knothole - Badger 001There’s something about blood moons that seems to get people’s panties in knots. Blood moons aren’t common, but they’re also not that rare. So I have no idea why people would go all nuts over them, but they do.

The obnoxious Christian Zionist troll Pastor John Hagee penned a book about them, for instance (WebCite cached article). As he tells it, they have something to do with Biblical prophecy — but as I explain at length in a static page here on this blog, all Biblical prophecy is bullshit. Every last fucking word of it!

Hagee isn’t the only one who’s constructed a “prophecy” around blood moons. A Mormon named Julie Rowe has cooked up her own weird scenario. Even though the LDS Church has disavowed her nuttiness, as the Salt Lake Tribune reports, it seems a lot of Mormons are buying into it … and buying survival supplies (cached):

Mixing a brew of biblical prophecies, the Hebrew calendar, a volatile economy, world politics, a reported near-death experience and astronomical occurrences, hordes of Utahns have become convinced that calamitous events are imminent — maybe by month’s end — and are taking every precaution.

They are called “preppers” and are buying up food-storage kits, flashlights, blankets and tents. Some are even bracing to leave their homes — if need be.

At American Fork’s Thrive Life, which sells mostly freeze-dried food, sales have shot up by “500 percent or more in the past couple of months,” says customer- service representative Ricardo Aranda. “There is a sense of urgency, like something is up. A lot of people are mentioning things about September, like a financial collapse.”…

Here’s how the doomsday scenario plays out: History, some preppers believe, is divided into seven-year periods — like the Hebrew notion of “shemitah” or Sabbath. In 2008, seven years after 9/11, the stock market crashed, a harbinger of a devastating recession. It’s been seven years since then, and Wall Street has fluctuated wildly in recent weeks in the wake of China devaluing its currency.

Thus, they believe, starting Sept. 13, the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, there will be another, even larger financial crisis, based on the United States’ “wickedness.” That would launch the “days of tribulation” — as described in the Bible.They say Sept. 28 will see a full, red or “blood moon” and a major earthquake in or near Utah. Some anticipate an invasion by U.N. troops, technological disruptions and decline, chaos and hysteria.

The part about UN troops, of course, plays into fierce Rightist paranoid conspiracies about how Barack HUSSEIN Obama and his minions in the Muslim Brotherhood, who’ve infiltrated the federal government, plan to bring in UN “peacekeeping” troops to arrest all their enemies (i.e. Christians, conservatives, gun owners, whatever) and imprison them in the hundreds of FEMA concentration camps that Homeland Security has secretly scattered around the country.

In any event, it’s no surprise that the religion that launched the paranoid Christofascist career of Glenn Beck should yield something like this. I mean, as absurd as it is, it’s the sort of thing that appeals to people like that. I guess. I mean, it must, because they aren’t strangers to being told to stock up on food (cached) and survival supplies, as well as speculating in gold (cached). Obviously there has to be something about all this panicky chatter that gets them all worked up.

At any rate, it goes without saying that none of the thousands of “end of the world” predictions that have been made through history have even remotely come close to coming true. This one will fail, also. I have no doubt about that. Just as the late Harold Camping’s predictions failed, and so too did the New Agers’ putative Maya apocalypse.

But I have no doubt of several things: First, Ms Rowe will not concede she’d been wrong about anything; she might try to weasel out of her failed prediction by saying that her apocalypse did in fact happen, but we just can’t see it. (I’ll set aside that the word itself means “unveiling,” “revelation,” or “uncovering,” leading to a contradiction, so it’s semantically impossible to have an “unveiling” that remains invisible.) Second, she will probably move her date for the end of the world up to some future time, which she may or may not reveal (having learned the hard way not to make predictions that can be verifiably falsified). Third, she won’t apologize to anyone for having been wrong; she won’t take responsibility for having frightened people for no good reason. No doomsayer has ever done so, so why should she be the first? Third, no one will learn the lesson of her failed prediction … people will continue calling doom down on humanity even though they have no evidence to support it, and even though all prior predictions of cataclysm have failed. Each doomsayer will — arrogantly — think s/he’s the very first one who’s ever been right.

P.S. I reiterate, the LDS Church itself has not gone in for Ms Rowe’s apocalypse. This is not official Mormon teaching. Nonetheless, a lot of Mormons appear to believe it … so make of that what you will.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Flunking Sainthood at Religion News Service.

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