BlasphemyUnbelievably, it’s a crime in many countries to “dis” a religion or any aspect of one. Of course, this makes no sense at all … since offending a religion causes no harm to anyone or anything. The religion will remain what it is, and its followers will continue to follow it, in spite of that disrespect. Nothing changes, just because someone “blasphemes.” Not. One. Fucking. Thing.

Despite the fact that many places have such laws on the books, very often this is still not enough for some truly sanctimonious folk. They feel a compulsion to take that blasphemy law into their own hands. An example of this, as the Associated Press reports, just happened in Jordan (WebCite cached article):

A prominent and outspoken Jordanian writer on Sunday was shot dead in front of the courthouse where he had been on trial for posting a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam on social media.

A Jordanian security official said the shooter was a former imam, or prayer leader, at a local mosque, and said the man had been motivated by his anger over the cartoon posted to Facebook by writer Nahed Hattar. The shooting was the latest in a string of deadly security lapses in Jordan.…

Jordanian media, citing anonymous officials, identified the shooter as Riad Abdullah, 49, a former imam in northern Hashmi, a poor neighborhood in Amman. The reports said Abdullah had recently returned from a trip abroad, but gave no further details.…

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the suspect said he was motivated by the cartoon, which depicted a bearded man, smoking and in bed with two women, asking God to bring him wine and cashews. All physical depictions of God or the Prophet Muhammad, even respectful ones, are forbidden under mainstream Islamic tradition.

While the government of Jordan condemned this vigilante killing, Hattar’s supporters contend the government actually had put him in jeopardy, by having charged him with “blasphemy” in the first place. And lots of Jordanians are happy that Hattar had been gunned down:

But on Sunday, social media accounts of prominent Islamists in Jordan and elsewhere were celebrating Hattar’s death, saying he deserved it for blasphemy.

I expect the killer in this case to be showered with praise, as happened to a Pakistani who assassinated the governor of Punjab in the name of protecting that country’s blasphemy law.

Killing people over “blasphemy” is the height of foolishness … because as I pointed out at the start of this post, mocking, criticizing, or disrespecting a religion quite literally cannot harm it or any of its followers. A religion is a collection of ideas, and as such, can’t be damaged by disparagement. Its followers will continue to believe in it, and it will endure irreverence. The only reason to act out violently over “blasphemy” is immaturity. It’s long past time for the world’s religious believers to grow the fuck up, get over themselves, and accept that not everyone loves their faith (whichever one it may be).

Photo credit: Silly Deity, via Flickr.

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Wall Clocks, Time, Clock, Timing / via PixabayIn a little over a month, Daylight Saving Time will end, here in the US. Over the years I’ve blogged a number of times about the scam which is Daylight Saving Time. Yes, that’s what I called it: A scam. A lie! Fraudulent in every possible way. As I noted six and half years ago, it’s perhaps the cleverest fraud ever perpetrated on the country (although the presidential campaign of Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump certainly gives it a run for its money in that regard).

It’s long past time for twice-annual time changes to end. It’d be fantastic if we moved our clocks ahead in March, then left them there forever. In other words, what I’d like is for DST to be made perpetual.

(That might seem strange, coming from a guy who’s railed against DST for years, but what I object to is the twice-annual time changes. Leaving the clock alone is my goal.)

The problem with fixing the debacle which is DST, is that the propaganda campaign which brought DST into effect has done too good a job. People believe a lot of things about it which aren’t true, but it’s nearly impossible to get them to understand the lies they’ve been told.

Among the DST myths which is most persistent is that DST helped farmers and was implemented for them. Well, that’s not true — at all! Quite the opposite, farmers are among those most harmed by DST, since it means they spend more mornings in the dark milking cows and preparing for their work day. In reality, farmers lobbied against it, and their agitation against it was the reason DST rolled back at the end of World War I. I’ve had arguments with people over this … people who are otherwise reasonable and can be swayed; but on this myth, they will not bend one millimeter. It’s a lie they’ve been told far too often and it’s embedded in their brains. They literally cannot dislodge it; no amount of debunking it will work.

Another widely-disseminated and -believed lie about DST is that it saves energy. In truth, it very likely doesn’t do anything of the sort (cached). It also has negative effects on public health; for instance, it’s associated with an increase in heart attacks (cached).

At the moment the real instigators of DST are — believe it or not — retailers (cached). DST essentially helps keep stores open a little later than they would otherwise, for 8 months out of the year, and they don’t want to give that up. Note: This motivation means they ought to support my suggestion that DST be made perpetual. I’m surprised it hasn’t been mentioned more often.

Given the inanity which is DST, some New England states — for instance, Massachusetts — have begun looking into whether or not they should shift to Atlantic Standard Time, without any DST (cached). Since Atlantic Standard Time without DST is the same as Eastern Daylight Time, this means our clocks would be the same as they are now for eight months of the year, and one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time during the winter months. AST is already observed in the Canadian maritime provinces as well as the US territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. If one looks at a map, one can see the New England states are much closer to the Canadian maritimes than to the western edge of the EST region (say, Indiana). My home state of Connecticut is almost longitudinally in line with the Dominican Republic (which also is on AST), so geographically, it makes a lot of sense.

The long and short of it is that our twice-annual ritual of changing clocks one hour back and forth is patently absurd, and it just fucking needs to stop already. It might have been helpful during wartime (when it allowed factories another hour of daylight production time) but otherwise it has no useful purpose, and is only detrimental. Let’s jettison it as the fraud it is. Yes, it’ll take some courage to do away with a tradition many Americans have grown up with and are accustomed to — but we should be mature enough to face the fact that it’s a damn joke, one that’s no longer funny.

Photo credit: Pixabay.

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King Arthur II concept art 4Most of my readers have never been part of fundamentalist Christianity. As such, they’re unaware of fundies’ very strange — and supernaturally-saturated — worldview. As a former fundie myself, I’m familiar with it, but unless you’ve been part of it, it can be difficult to comprehend. This worldview is predicated on the presumed reality of the supernatural and preternatural, with powerful and infernal forces at work in the world, actively trying to destroy the godly and saintly.

Yes, I realize this is actually a very primitive mindset, one that made sense in ancient times, when nature wasn’t very well understood. Indeed, it probably did — way back when, in prehistory — seem as though invisible metaphysical agents were at work in the world. It’s a philosophy that seems downright bizarre now that we have a much better idea of how the world works. Yet, fundies cling to it — fiercely, and even angrily. And it explains a lot of what they say and do.

Take, for example, retired Army officer Robert Maginnis, who made this pronouncement on disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker’s show (WebCite cached article):

He even said that he had “personally met” with witches [cached] who told him that they are advising high-ranking government officials in Washington, D.C. “I know that there’s demonic forces in that city,” he said. “I have personally met people that refer to themselves as witches, people that say they advise the senior leadership of the country.”

Yeah, as though any of these people Maginnis says he “met personally” actually walked up to a Christofascist like him and said, “Hey, Bob, just want you to know, I’m a witch!” I’m sorry to have to say it, but this guy is clearly spewing bullshit.

And that, my friends, is the problem with this sort of thinking. It’s easy to make up all sorts of tall tales about witches and demons and devils and all that assorted horse-hockey, because it’s all metaphysical and non-demonstrable anyway. As long as Maginnis never provides the names of any of these supposed “witches” who’re working with “demonic forces,” there’s no way anyone can even begin to confirm any of his B.S.

To be clear, however, there’s no such thing as a witch, nor are there any demons or devils. Satan exists solely as a literary character, in works such as the book of Job and Paradise Lost.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Afghan protests against the burning of a Quran in Florida. (AP photo, via Politico)Yeah! Let’s hear it for “the Religion of Peace” (as people like then-president George W. Bush like to call it)! This weekend we were treated to a sampling of that faith’s approach to life in the form of several terror attacks.

One of these took place in St Cloud, MN, for which ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-savage-brood claimed responsibility (WebCite cached article). That one ended with the terrorist being killed.

Then there was a series of bombings and attempted bombings in Seaside Park & Elizabeth, NJ and in New York City. The suspected terrorist in those cases was caught and wounded in a gun battle (cached).

Despite the obvious terrorist angle to all of these stories, officials spent the weekend tap-dancing around the issue of whether or not these were terrorist attacks. For instance, in this New York Times story, we read (cached):

Officials said they did not know of any motive — political or social — for any of the attacks.

Really!? I’m no expert on terrorism or crime, but it was pretty fucking obvious to me that a bomb placed in a trash can near the finish line of a race is almost certain to have been a terror attack (cached). Feigning befuddlement over motive in cases like this is — in a word — inexcusable. It’s fucking absurd!

I grant that America’s Neocrusaders will jump for joy, again, over these attacks and attempted attacks. In their minds it will “prove” how horrific Islam is, and that it must be outlawed and all Muslims banished. They’ll also see it as “proving” their own religion, Christianity, is virtuous and perfect.

What they will forget is that Christianity is far from perfect. There is such a thing as Christian terror, as I’ve blogged previously, and that has maimed and killed Americans too … even if not many people wish to admit it.

It’s long past time for believers — in all religions — to own up to the extremism that lurks deep inside religions generally. It’s true that not all Muslims are terrorists like the cretins in Minnesota and New Jersey. It’s also true that not all Christians are clinic bombers and doctor killers. In fact, the majority of Muslims and Christians are the opposite. Nevertheless, their religions have produced those terrorists. People who followed those faiths, having read their sacred texts and having followed their teachings, became violent militants.

That doesn’t happen by accident. It also needs to be fixed. And only believers can do that.

Unfortunately, too many of them don’t wish to do so. They’re too busy waving off events like this, saying “Those terrorists aren’t ‘Real’ Muslims” or “‘Real’ Christians” or whatever. They don’t want to deal with the problem of religious militancy because they’re too infatuated with the presumed virtue of their religion to do so.

More’s the pity. Because as I’ve said many times: If the followers of a religion don’t respect it well enough to police it and control the militants within it, then they can’t reasonably expect outside observers, like myself, to respect it, or them for following it.

Photo credit: Associated Press, via Politico.

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Husité - Jenský kodexI’ve noted some time ago that the Christianist trope I call the Neocrusade has gone from a mere propaganda campaign to get Islam abolished in the US, to a violent movement that’s victimizing Muslims all around the country. It hasn’t abated; if anything, it’s gotten much worse, as all these recent stories make evident:

  • According to WNBC-TV in New York City (WebCite cached article): A Muslim woman was set on fire by a stranger on a midtown street, according to the NYPD, prompting an investigation into whether it was a hate crime.…

    The 35-year-old woman, a tourist from Scotland, was window-shopping on Fifth Avenue near East 54th Street Saturday night when she suddenly felt heat on her arm and noticed her blouse was on fire, police said.

    She noticed a man standing next to her with a lighter in his hand, according to police. He ran away eastbound on East 54th Street, not saying a word.

  • According to CNN (cached): A woman yelling anti-Muslim sentiment allegedly attacked two Muslim women as they pushed their children in strollers in New York, authorities said.

    Emirjeta Xhelili, 32, allegedly tried to rip the hijab from the women’s heads during the attack in Brooklyn on Thursday.

    She struck the women in the face and body, and repeatedly shouted, “this is the United States of America, you’re not supposed to be different from us,” court documents allege.

    Xhelili allegedly told the women, “get the (expletive) out of America (expletive), you don’t belong here.”

  • According to WPEC-TV in West Palm Beach, FL (cached): A fire overnight heavily-damaged the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, a mosque once-attended by the Pulse nightclub killer and another American terrorist.

    The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said later the fire is the work of an arsonist.

    Investigators say the person involved is shown on surveillance video.

    The video shows a man riding up to the mosque on a motorcycle, possibly a Harley-Davidson.

As I’ve also said many times, I get what the problem here is. I get that Muslim terrorists attacked Americans in Boston, in San Bernardino, at Ft Hood, and on September 11, 2001, among other times. I get that there are barbaric Islamist terror groups at large in the world, including al-Qaeda, ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever, Boko Haram, the al-Nusra Front, al-Shabaab, the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and many more. They’re all around the globe, and they maim and kill almost at will. These groups have even managed to “inspire” attacks by Muslims who don’t even belong to them. Islamist militancy is dangerous.

But what the Neocrusaders don’t comprehend is that none of this means every Muslim is a terrorist. What’s more, even if Islam were eradicated from the US, there would still be shooting sprees and other sorts of horrific violence. Some of it would even be Christian-generated (even if Americans tend to ignore Christian terrorism). And they don’t seem to notice the obvious irony of victimizing innocents in the name of — presumably — preventing innocents from being victimized.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Missionaries of Charity Mother HouseThe canonization of Mother Teresa has been brewing since her death in the late 1990s. The Pope at the time, John Paul II, had been a serious fan of hers, and greased the skids so as to speed up her sainthood — something that usually takes decades, if not centuries. He arranged for her beatification (the first step in the process) in 2003, and many in the Vatican have worked hard since then to get her sainted. As the Religion News Service reports, she is now “Saint Teresa of Calcutta” (WebCite cached article):

Mother Teresa, the tiny nun who devoted her life to the poor, was declared a saint by Pope Francis at the Vatican as he celebrated her “daring and courage” and described her as a role model for all in his year of mercy.

At least 120,000 people crowded a sun-drenched St. Peter’s Square for the canonization of the acclaimed nun who may have worked in the slums of Kolkata but was a force to be reckoned with by political and religious leaders around the world.

Mother Teresa’s reputation for charity goes beyond just the Catholic Church, largely thanks to her having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. But the reality of her work doesn’t support this reputation. She’s been accused of not having actually helped all the ailing in her “hospital,” due to her devotion to the idea that it’s actually good for people to suffer (good for them, and for humanity as a whole).

Among her critics was the late British journalist Christopher Hitchens, who hosted a documentary and wrote a book explaining that her charitable reputation was undeserved. You can watch that documentary, Hell’s Angel, right here:

But for many fans of Mother Teresa, particularly devout Catholics, wouldn’t accept anything Hitchens had to say about her; after all, he was one of those horrific “New Atheists” and isn’t to be listened to. But she had other critics, including Dr Aroup Chatterjee, who’d worked for her clinic for a time (cached), and a team of Canadian academics, whose review of her work concluded she was “anything but a saint” (cached). None of those folks has any anti-Catholic or anti-religious axe to grind. So their criticisms should get some attention … even if they weren’t enough to prevent her canonization.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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White House and the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., Dec. 16, 2009The non-existent “war on Christmas” has been raging (solely in the vacuous minds of militant Christianists) for nearly 15 years now. This ridiculous trope is a complete fiction, as I’ve blogged so many times now, cooked up solely in order to stoke the fires of sanctimonious Christofascist outrage over the putative destruction of their religion.

That there is no effort to abolish Christmas, or to ban Christmas trees or outlaw the saying of “Merry Christmas,” doesn’t matter to these folk. They believe it’s happening anyway, because the psychopathology of their religion encourages them to think they’re “under attack”. This means they like feeling persecuted for their Jesus, and have no qualms about inventing persecution, even if there’s none going on.

Earlier this year, GOP presidential nominee Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump declared himself a Christmas warrior. His son Eric, in an interview with televangelist James Robison, recently doubled down on that. This interview is in two parts (WebCite cached versions here and here), but it’s the second which contains the relevant tidbit:

[Eric’s father, little Donnie] opens up the paper each morning and sees our nation’s leaders giving a hundred billion dollars to Iran, or he opens the paper and some new school district has just eliminated the ability for its students to say the pledge of allegiance, or some fire department in some town is ordered by the mayor to no longer fly the American flag on the back of a fire truck. Or, he sees the tree on the White House lawn has been renamed “Holiday tree” instead of “Christmas tree.” I could go on and on for hours. Those are the very things that made my father run, and those are the very things he cares about.

So there you have it … among the reasons little Donnie ran for president was because “the [Christmas] tree on the White House lawn has been renamed ‘Holiday tree’.” Thus, Eric hoped to endear the would-be Dear Leader to Religious Rightists who love their whole “war on Christmas” bullshit.

There’s just this one, teeny little problem with that: It never happened! The national Christmas tree is still called “the National Christmas Tree.” It even has its own Web page (cached), which shows its official name as such:

Cropped screen shot of National Christmas Tree Web page at National Park Service (URL: https://www.nps.gov/whho/planyourvisit/national-christmas-tree.htm)

Cropped screen shot of National Christmas Tree Web page at National Park Service (URL: https://www.nps.gov/whho/planyourvisit/national-christmas-tree.htm)

Snopes has a page on this particular lie, which dates back to 2009. I don’t doubt that little Donnie’s campaign will not issue any correction of Eric’s claim, even if confronted with unassailable evidence (such as the National Christmas Tree’s official Web page, above) that it’s not true. They’ll probably just stammer about “crooked Hillary,” and — perhaps — mention the “holiday tree” in Rhode Island (which wouldn’t make Eric right, since he specifically complained that the tree on “the White House lawn” had been renamed a “holiday tree”). That will be about it.

Trumpie’s campaign being caught lying is nothing new. The Trumpster has raised lying to an art form since starting up his campaign of endless fury last summer. He and his staffers lie far more often than other presidential candidates … by a very wide margin. And to date, neither he nor they have ever taken anything back. That policy — of ignoring reality in favor of whatever bullshit they spew — will surely continue, even past this election.

Photo credits: Top, Wikimedia Commons; middle, PsiCop screen grab from NPS.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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