UntitledIt never fails. The phenomenon I call massacre theology always follows any given mass shooting in the US. There’s always some outraged, wingnutty Christianist (or two, or three, or several) who announces that his/her deity either caused the massacre — or permitted it to happen — due to said deity’s outrage about something that’s going on. (Conveniently for the Christianist, his/her deity always just happens to be outraged about something the Christianist him/herself also is outraged about. Hmm.)

Most of my readers will have heard, by now, about the shooting in Las Vegas this past Sunday night (Archive.Is cached article). Well, some of the bodies were still warm, when (according to Right Wing Watch) the militant Christianist Marion “Pat” Robertson announced to the world what caused it (cached):

On “The 700 Club” today, televangelist Pat Robertson linked last night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas to a disrespect for President Trump, the national anthem and God.

“Violence in the streets, ladies and gentlemen. Why is it happening?” he asked. “The fact that we have disrespect for authority; there is profound disrespect for our president, all across this nation they say terrible things about him. It’s in the news, it’s in other places. There is disrespect now for our national anthem, disrespect for our veterans, disrespect for the institutions of our government, disrespect for the court system. All the way up and down the line, disrespect.”

“Until there is biblical authority,” Robertson continued, “there has to be some controlling authority in our society and there is none. And when there is no vision of God, the people run amok … and we have taken from the American people the vision of God, the whole idea of reward and punishment, an ultimate judge of all our actions, we’ve taken that away. When there is no vision of God, the people run amok.”

Yes, Patty. Obviously the entire country is “run amok.” Every city and town is mired in rioting. No American can walk out of his/her door without being shot by crazed gunmen or stabbed by armed lunatics. And it’s all because of “disrespect” for the government, courts, and your deity.

Yes, obviously, Patty. We can all see the mayhem, destruction, and death with our own eyes. It’s all around us. Each American has mere minutes left to live.

And the only solution, Patty, is for Americans to submit to “biblical authority” — as you, personally, happen to define it. Am I right?

Here’s video of his viciously religionistic comments:

I love how Patty misrepresents what happened in Vegas and makes it seem common, even universal, rather than abhorrent and unique. Second, I love how he links respect for government as well as for his deity, along with this supposed need for “biblical authority.” He certainly wasn’t singing that kind of tune back when Barack Obama was president. That linkage only came about when his Groper-in-Chief was elected. Before that, as Patty saw it, it was sacred to oppose government rather than comply with it unthinkingly.

As for the need to submit to “biblical authority,” I invite Patty to start enforcing that on Americans — and to begin with me! That’s right, I challenge Patty (and any other Christianist who thinks as he does) to track me down and force me to comply with “biblical authority.” Go ahead. Do whatever you think you need to, in order to make it happen. Lock and load! I dare you. Get off your ass and do it already!

Or, just admit you haven’t the guts for anything like that, and thus reveal yourself to be the whiney, sniveling chicken hawks you actually are. You Christofascists happily shoot off your mouths about how necessary it is for every American to make unthinking obeisance to your deity, and even to demand government force them to do so, on your behalf … but you won’t enforce that demand, yourselves, in person. Fucking cowards.

Photo credit: Daniel Oines, via Flickr.

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The Caneel Bay resort on St. John was heavily damaged. Credit: Hilary Swift for The New York TimesNote: There’s a little more news, since I posted this, about how the president feels about Puerto Rico; see below.

I apologize for another off-topic post, but something really fucking needs to be done. The Groper-in-Chief administration’s latest petulant and childish whine about how the media cover their response to Hurricane Maria’s demolition of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands is just too fucking much (Archive.Is cached article).

First of all, let’s be clear about this. Contrary to what nearly half of Americans think, Puerto Rico is part of the United States (cached). It, and some of the Virgin Islands (St Croix, St John, St Thomas, and some smaller islands and islets) are US territories, and their residents are US citizens … every bit as much as those who live in the 50 states. That the land they live on isn’t in a “state” does not make them any less American. That’s just how it is.

Second, El Morro Castle, Puerto RicoPuerto Rico was particularly hard-hit by Hurricane Maria (cached), and so too were the Virgin Islands to the east, with St John having been whacked by Hurricane Irma previously (cached). They’ve been devastated.

Their local governments, obviously, have been wrecked along with homes and businesses, leaving them unable to render much aid to their own citizens. The federal government has responded, but in lackluster fashion. They’ve blamed damage to ports and airports for their inability to assist, and those certainly haven’t helped, but it’s taken a long time just to begin moving ships into place to render assistance from offshore (via helicopters and small craft). The USNS Comfort can help take the load off island hospitals, but it was only given orders to leave on Tuesday and it will take several more days to reach the islands and begin its relief operation. The GiC himself has been much more concerned with NFL players and being angry that his chosen candidate in the Alabama Senate primary lost, than he has about the hurricane response.

Full disclosure: USVI St. Thomas Charlotte Amalie Fort ChristianI’ve been to Puerto Rico several times, and the Virgin Islands a couple as well. I’ve enjoyed them all. They’re incredible places to go. They deserve much better — and much more — assistance than they’ve gotten so far. I urge you to help out in any way you can, and as much as you can. As I did with Hurricane Harvey 3 weeks ago, I’m providing a list of charities, followed by articles making further suggestions:

Many other viable options can be found at the following:

The Apricot Wonder and his minions might not think much of Americans in the Caribbean, but they do need our help. Let’s all provide it.

Update: This morning (9/30/2017) the Groper-in-Chief unleashed yet another of his infantile Twitter rants about how terrible the Puerto Ricans are, especially San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz (cached). She’s criticizing him, you see, not because his minions have failed her island, but because Democrats forced her to. And Puerto Ricans are nothing more than lazy good-for-nothings, lounging around waiting for a federal handout instead of fixing their own island. He apparently is not aware that Puerto Rico was wrecked by Hurricane Maria and its infrastructure demolished. There are very good reasons they need outside intervention. Now, for the love of all that’s holy, can we please impose a media moratorium on the Apricot Wonder’s tweet-tantrums?

Photo credit: Top, Hilary Swift/New York Times; middle, Wikimedia Commons; bottom, also Wikimedia Commons.

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Pacifier for newborn, 2015-07-12Christians love to claim believing in Jesus makes them better people … considerate, compassionate, upright, helpful, moral, etc. I’m sure a lot of them think this is true — but it’s not. If it were, a country with upwards of 85% Christians ought to have virtually no crime and no destitution, but obviously that’s not the case. And if it were the case, we wouldn’t have the phenomenon of couples killing their own children (or just as bad, purposely allowing them to die) because of their faith in Jesus.

This is something I’ve blogged about a number of times, and as horrible as it is, it keeps happening. The Detroit Free Press reports on one example of it having recently happened, in Michigan (Archive.Is cached article):

A Lansing woman refused to seek medical treatment for her newborn daughter even after a midwife warned that the infant’s jaundice could lead to brain damage or death, a police detective testified last week in court.

The mother told the midwife her baby was fine, and that “God … makes no mistakes,” the detective said.

Two days later the infant was dead.

The woman, 30-year-old Rachel Joy Piland, and her husband, 36-year-old Joshua Barry Piland, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The article tells the story of how this happened. The baby was born apparently healthy, but the next day was different:

But when the midwife saw the baby on Feb. 7, her assessment changed.

Abigail appeared jaundiced, and the midwife advised Rachel Piland to take the child to a pediatrician or an emergency room, Scaccia said. “She told Piland the baby could suffer brain damage or die if not properly cared for.

“Rachel declined to seek any medical treatment for Abigail, stating God makes no mistakes,” Scaccia said. “She indicated to the midwife that the baby was fine.”

The child didn’t improve. Piland “went to listen to sermons” rather than call for the help her midwife had recommended. After the child died according to a Lansing detective:

“They then brought Abigail upstairs to pray for her. Joshua continued to massage Abigail, attempting to get her good air. Both Josh and (Rachel) reached out to friends and fellow church members to come to their home and pray for Abigail’s resurrection, but never called the police.”

This couple is involved with some kind of non-denominational Bible school called “Faith Tech Ministries,” which has had nothing to say about this incident.

This couple put their love for their Jesus above their love (if one can call it that) for their own infant daughter. We need to stop already with the claims about how wonderful faith is, and stop treating it as admirable. Obviously, in this case — and in many others — it wasn’t wonderful at all, and no one should admire faith that extreme.

Oh, and before anyone says “Not all Christians think that way,” guess again! Their own holy scripture relays the story of a profoundly righteous man — the legendarily-holy Abraham himself — who’d been willing to sacrifice his own son to his deity YHWH. Not only is this story found in the Old Testament, it’s upheld in the New Testament as proof of Abraham’s sanctity and faith:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son. (Hebrews 11:17)

And in the gospels, Jesus himself calls for parents and children to turn on one another, over him:

For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. (Matthew 10:35-36)

Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53)

For better or worse, even Christians who aren’t cruel enough to kill their kids for Jesus, cannot disavow the notion — deep within their religion — that faith in God is to come before all else, even one’s love for one’s own children. That principle lurks within their faith, whether or not they wish to admit it.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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East African witch doctor Wellcome M0002713I came across this horrific and blood-curdling story. As Religion News Service explains, witch doctors are sacrificing children in Africa (Archive.Is cached article):

In this landlocked country whose diverse landscape includes the snow-capped Ruwenzori Mountains and immense Lake Victoria, many believe sacrificial rituals can bring quick wealth and health.

Among those rituals, human sacrifice, especially of children, occurs frequently despite the government’s efforts to stop it.

Seven children and two adults were sacrificed last year, said Moses Binoga, a police officer who heads Uganda’s Anti-Human Sacrifice and Trafficking Task Force. Seven children and six adults were sacrificed in 2015.

But experts said the number could be much higher.

Something I don’t care for in this story is its attempt at a kind of apologia for this terrible practice:

Times are tough in Uganda, and people are looking to sacrifices to improve their fortunes. The worst drought in over half a century has hit parts of East Africa, leaving more than 11 million people in this landlocked nation facing food insecurity and 1.6 million on the brink of famine, according to the Ugandan government.

“There is no food due to the ongoing drought, and some believe that this has been brought by ancestral spirits,” said Joel Mugoya, a traditional healer. “So there is a high desire for people to conduct sacrifices so that they come out of this problem.”

Look, times are tough in a lot of places — including, right now, the US territory of Puerto Rico, demolished by Hurricane Maria a week ago (cached). But we don’t see child sacrifice being carried out in those places. So pardon me for not buying this line of awful tripe.

The article describes what is done to the victims — and it’s bad enough that I won’t relay any of that here. If you want to know, you’ll have to get it from the article.

Let’s hear it for how magnificent metaphysics is and how religious belief is just so helpful — and necessary — for humanity … not! In this case, it is, quite literally, killing people, many of them children. We need to stop making excuses for it (e.g. the above-mentioned “times are tough” whine), stop pretending religion makes people “better,” and put an end to this evil once and for all.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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In this Saturday, March 29, 2014 file photo, Aziza Yousef drives a car on a highway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving. Saudi Arabia says it will allow women to drive for the first time in the ultra-conservative kingdom. The kingdom, which announced the change on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, was the only the country in the world to bar women from driving and for years had garnered negative publicity internationally for detaining women who defied the ban. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)I’ve blogged many times about Saudi Arabia’s obvious misogyny. Among the ways Saudis repress their women is by making it illegal for them to drive. The Kingdom is the only country on earth that has such a restriction.

It’s a ridiculous restriction that Saudi clerics claim is required by Islam, but no other Islamic country has anything like it, which suggests this probably isn’t the case. They say it’s about “respect” for women (?). One of those clerics, a rather high-ranking one, even claimed that driving was physically harmful for women. That, of course, is a fucking lie … but he said it, and I’ll bet a lot of Saudis believe it.

Well, times are changing, even in the incredibly-reactionary Kingdom. As the Associated Press reports via Religion News Service, the Saudi prohibition on women driving, will soon be lifted (Archive.Is cached article):

Saudi Arabia’s surprise decision to grant women the right to drive in the conservative kingdom marks a significant expansion in women’s rights, but activists said Wednesday it is also only the first step in a long list of demands for equality.

Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world to ban women from driving, and nearly three decades ago women first began agitating for the right to drive, at times facing arrest for their protests and for getting behind the wheel.

The lifting of the ban, which comes into effect next summer, is the most dramatic step yet in a campaign by the king’s son, 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to modernize the kingdom. The young royal has been promoting change as needed to boost the country’s economy and ease international criticism, but he risks a backlash from powerful clerics from the ultraconservative Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

It’s all well and good, I guess, that the monarchy is behind this rule-change, but it’s far from immediate, and it’s sure to be resisted, as the article mentions:

Almost immediately after the news broke, an Arabic hashtag on Twitter was trending that said: “The women of my house won’t drive.”

I can only hope things will continue improving for Saudi women.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Hasan Jamali.

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Haredi praying at the Western WallUltra-orthodox Jews (sometimes called Haredi or Haredim) are a strange group. They have this way, you see, of not only assuming the rest of the world is required to live as they demand, but assuming they’re allowed to impose that mandate on others, often because others willingly knuckle under to them.

I’ve blogged about their juvenile, religionistic antics on several occasions … like the time a plane was nearly kept from taking off because ultra-orthodox Jewish men on board refused to sit next to women (cooties, maybe? I have no idea). In that case, the flight crew had tolerated the disruption — even though most flight crews will never take crap from anyone for any reason.

Well, as Yeshiva World News reports, some Haredim on an airplane (unknown airline, unknown destination) covered up an in-flight movie, for unknown reasons (Archive.Is cached article). Here’s video of this incident:

Yeah, that’s mature … not!

For the record, I have no idea why they did this. I wasn’t aware they consider movies “non-kosher” or something, but perhaps they do. They didn’t explain their objection, they just went and covered it.

Now, if a group of Haredim had chartered this plane and didn’t want the movie shown, that’s fine. It’s their flight — bought and paid for entirely by them — but then, they’d have been able to order the screen turned off, and wouldn’t have had to cover it, the way they did. So I doubt that was the case.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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In this 2012 photo provided by a former member of the church, Word of Faith Fellowship leader Jane Whaley, center, holds a baby with others during a church ceremony in Spindale, N.C. From all over the world, they flocked to a tiny North Carolina town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, lured by promises of inner peace and eternal life. What many found instead: years of terror _ waged in the name of the Lord. (AP Photo)It’s been awhile since I blogged about the sorry crew which is the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, NC. In their case, it’s not quite true that “no news is good news.” Far from it! The Associated Press has continued digging into their affairs, and reports on a scheme the church’s leadership cooked up (Archive.Is cached article):

When Randy Fields’ construction company faced potential ruin because of the cratering economy, he pleaded with his pastor at Word of Faith Fellowship church to reduce the amount of money he was required to tithe every week.

To his shock, Fields said church founder Jane Whaley proposed a divine plan that would allow him to continue contributing at least 10 percent of his income to the secretive evangelical church while helping his company survive: He would file fraudulent unemployment claims on behalf of his employees. She called it, he said, “God’s plan.”

The scheme went like this: Companies owned by Whaley’s parishioners would pretend to lay off employees, allowing them to file for unemployment, but they would continue working at those companies. The business would have workers, but no payroll. For them, it must have been an amazing boon.

But if you’re smart, like me, you immediately knew the gaping hole in this plan … at least, for the employees:

The former congregants said that not only were they coerced into continuing to work while collecting unemployment, the money fell short of what they needed to pay their bills.

“The unemployment checks never equaled what you were making,” said [Rick] Cooper, who worked for Diverse Corporate Tech Inc., a manufacturing company owned by church leader Kent Covington.

“I was making about $700 a week, but I only collected $235 a week in unemployment,” Cooper said. “So I’m working the same hours — many times, much longer hours — for less. It was devastating for my family.”

Church members were expected to keep tithing regardless of their financial situations and Whaley kept close tabs on “who was giving what,” Cooper said.

The AP reports beatings were doled out for anyone who didn’t cooperate, along with separating people from other parishioners and even family members. Yeah, nice, huh?

All in order to keep tithes coming in from business owners who were having financial problems. Tithes, to a church which is part of the religion founded by a man who supposedly taught the virtues of poverty, and specifically — and explicitly — taught his followers not to amass money and never concern themselves with it:

  • “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. … No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:19-21, 24)
  • Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” (Matthew 19:21-25)
  • Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” (Mark 10:21-26)
  • And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)
  • And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)
  • “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.” (Luke 6:24)
  • “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:33-34)
  • “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Luke 16:13)
  • When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” (Luke 18:22-26)
  • “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: … ‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.'” (Revelation 3:14a, 17-18)

(If those aforementioned Bible verses sound familiar, that’s because I cribbed them from a much-longer article I wrote, discussing many Biblical teachings that most Christians have refused to obey.)

Some participants in this scheme cooperated with the state’s investigation, even though risk being prosecuted for unemployment fraud themselves. I wonder what else the AP is going to uncover about these people?

Photo credit: Associated Press.

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