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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Rowan County, kentucky courthouseI’ve blogged several times about militant Christianist Rowan county clerk Kim Davis, who — after the Obergefell v. Hodges decision was handed down by the US Supreme Court — refuses to issue any marriage licenses at all, because she feared catching gay cooties by granting licenses to gay couples. She managed to turn her juvenile petulance into a Religious Right crusade, mainly by getting the Christofascist legal outfit Liberty Counsel to represent her. Having refused to obey a federal judge’s order to resume issuing licenses, she was jailed for contempt of court, but then released when said judge caved in to the Religious Right protests that erupted.

Today was Ms Davis’s first day back at work. As NPR reports, she’s as petulant and whiny as ever, although she hasn’t prevented her staff from handing out licenses (WebCite cached article):

Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, is back to work today — saying she will neither authorize such licenses nor stand in the way of her deputies if they wish to do so.

And, the first couple to apply for a license at the county clerk’s office Monday — Shannon Wampler and Carmen Collins — walked out the door with one.…

Her decision was clear, she said: “Effective immediately, and until an accommodation is provided, by those with the authority to provide it, any marriage license issued by my office will not be issued or authorized by me.”…

Davis said she had “great doubts” that such licenses could be considered valid.

I noted quite some time ago that Ms Davis and her lawyers have insisted any marriage licenses issued by anyone working for Rowan county won’t be valid, because she hasn’t authorized them. I expect something to come from this … but I have no idea what that could be (because I’m not sure what legal means exist which allows Ms Davis or her lawyers to contest the licenses that have been handed out). All I can say is, I don’t believe for one moment that they plan to just let the matter drop. Those couples had better have good attorneys of their own, because Liberty Counsel will come after them, if they can contrive any way to do so.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Christianity / License to Sin / 'You can't judge me, you're a sinner too!' / PsiCop original graphicI just added a static page about the Christian slogan, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” It’s a way that many Christians grant themselves license to do anything they want without having to suffer any repercussions over it. I recall having seen and heard it quite a bit back when I was a fundamentalist Christian (and yes — full disclosure — I probably said it a time or two, myself).

Now, a lot of my Christian readers out there (yes, even this cynical, cold-hearted godless agnostic heathen blogger has some!) may deny this is a Christian slogan, or that it’s commonly used. But it’s both. And Christians like it. They like it so much, they put in on bumper stickers, t-shirts, hats, etc. For those who need proof of how common it is, here you go:

Google Image search: 'christians aren't perfect just forgiven' / Screen shot (9/13/2015)

This is something American Christianity is going to have to address, whether it wants to or not, because the reasoning exposed by this slogan underlies a lot of what Christians say and do. It’s very common for Christians faced with wrongdoing to use this sort of thinking to justify having done it and to rationalize not doing anything about it, even after their wrongdoing was revealed. It’s a license for maliciousness, and it needs to fucking stop. Check out that page to find out more about why it’s a problem going back almost to Christianity’s origins.

Photo credit: Top, PsiCop original graphic; center, Google Image search screen shot.

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White FlagOne of the Religious Right’s main tactics is a very simple and direct one: Intimidation. They relentlessly bully their opposition at every turn. They never let up, not for any reason, until they get their way. Unfortunately, this is a tactic that works, all too often, because those opposing them typically lose their nerve at some point and drop the fight. This is precisely what just happened in the case of Rowan county KY clerk Kim Davis; as the New York Times reports, she was released from jail today (WebCite cached article):

Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed last week after she defied a court’s order that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was ordered released on Tuesday.…

[Federal district] Judge [David L.] Bunning ordered that Ms. Davis “shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.” He said any such action would be regarded as “a violation” of his release order.

That this would happen was virtually a given, once the R.R. — captained by the likes of Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Mat Staver, “Flip” Benham, and an assortment of other militant Christianist characters — had made the whole affair into a fucking circus (cached and cached). It was inevitable that Judge Bunning would bend over for this Christofascist mob. Yes, he ordered her not to interfere with the distribution of marriage licenses, but she doesn’t intend to obey him; her lawyer has said she plans to stop the granting of licenses (cached). And that, you may remember, has been her goal all along. Once she does so, she’ll have scored a victory. And on top of it all, she’ll have made herself a martyr, and will be able to milk that as a career, no matter how her tenure as a county clerk turns out.

At some point, people need to figure out how to “gird up their loins” (to use a Biblical phrase) and stand up to the R.R. consistently, without caving in all the time. Unfortunately, cowardice is far too deeply ingrained in human nature to allow that to happen. More’s the pity.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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General Audience with Pope FrancisA month ago, Pope Francis told his Church to be more welcoming toward divorced-&-remarried Catholics. The Church’s doctrines are an incentive to bar them; Catholics who remarry without having first getting an official annulment aren’t allowed to receive Communion, among other things. Annulments can be difficult to get, though, to the point where some divorced Catholics don’t even bother trying to get them.

Pope Francis is taking steps to change this. As the AP reports via ABC News, he’s making changes so that annulments are much easier to get (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis radically reformed the Catholic Church’s process for annulling marriages Tuesday, allowing for fast-track decisions and removing automatic appeals in a bid to speed up and simplify the procedure.

Francis issued a new law regulating how bishops around the world determine when a fundamental flaw has made a marriage invalid. Catholics must get this church annulment if they want to remarry in the church.

But the process has long been criticized for being complicated, costly and out of reach for many Catholics, especially in poor countries where dioceses don’t have marriage tribunals.

In the document, Francis insisted that marriage remains an indissoluble union and that the new regulations aren’t meant to help to end them. Rather, he said, the reform is aimed at speeding up and simplifying the process so that the faithful can find justice.

The overall aim of the reform, he said, “is the salvation of souls.”

The upshot of the changes are that uncontested annulments can be “fast tracked” and handled entirely by the local diocese, without “automatic appeals” being invoked unnecessarily. It seems an obvious move for Francis to make, in order to keep divorced Catholics in the fold.

On this issue, I must admit being impressed. As I noted a month ago, the Church’s treatment of divorced-&-remarried Catholics has, historically, amounted to slamming the door in their faces. Its policies have effectively driven people right out of the Church. Telling the Church to be more welcoming of such folks — which the Pope did a month ago — is one thing, but actually greasing the ecclesiastical skids to make it easier to do, could make a material difference.

Of course, these changes can’t alter the attitudes of conservative Catholics, many of whom comprise the Church’s hierarchy. It’s possible they could still throw impediments in the path of divorced Catholics, and it certainly won’t immediately reduce their prejudices against them. Still, this is a tangible change that could have a positive effect.

Photo credit: Catholic Church England & Wales, via Flickr.

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Refugee children from Syria at a clinic in Ramtha, northern Jordan (9613477263)Europe is in the throes of a migrant crisis — due to refugees fleeing the intractable morass of Syria’s long civil war — which doesn’t show any signs of letting up. I blogged a couple weeks ago about Slovakia refusing to accept any migrants who aren’t Christian (and updated that post today to note Hungary’s position is the same). But leave it to Pope Francis to lead in the opposite direction. As the New York Times reports, he instructed all the Catholics of Europe to take in the migrants (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis on Sunday called on every parish, religious community, monastery and sanctuary in Europe to shelter refugees fleeing “death from war and hunger,” adding that the Vatican’s two parishes would lead the way by taking in two families.

In a speech to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square, the pope said it was not enough to say “have courage, hang in there” to those marching toward what he described as “life’s hope.”

Note that the Pope didn’t just give a blanket instruction to Catholics to embrace the migrants; he said that “every parish, religious community, monastery and sanctuary” should do so. That’s remarkably specific … and remarkably clear. The various arms of the Catholic Church collectively have a tremendous presence in Europe and, I’m sure, could do a lot to assist the migrants. This is a great opportunity for it to put those resources to good use.

Slovakia — as I noted previously — is a majority-Catholic country. I wonder what they’ll make of their own Pope’s orders? Will they follow them? I have no idea.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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