Help! Help! I'm being repressed! (Dennis the constitutional peasant, Monty Python & the Holy Grail)Now that the uproar over Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson’s interview in GQ (WebCite cached article) has died down and he’s been un-suspended by the A&E network (cached), I find that the whole thing has been illuminating and instructive. Christians have taught me quite a bit about their religion, over the course of this controversy. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:

  1. A Christian can say anything s/he wants, and no one is permitted to be offended by it. To not like anything they say is to deprive them of their First Amendment rights … or something. One must always be happy with everything they say or do. Each time, every time, and in every case. Failing to praise their every utterance and deed is “persecution” that they cannot, and will not, tolerate.
  2. Christians have a special license to be hypocrites. For instance, they can bluster and fume over the insolence of “sinful” gays by citing scripture, after having amassed a vast fortune, in direct contravention of that same scripture. Really, it’s OK for them … in spite of the fact that the founder of their faith told them they couldn’t be hypocritical.
  3. While Christians normally object to anything that’s even remotely suggestive or risqué, they have, themselves, no reservations about being potty-mouths. For instance, they can talk about vaginas and anuses all they wish — but no one else can. In fact, being a potty-mouth for Jesus is a holy endeavor that no Christian apologizes for (cached). (Yep, that would be more of the aforementioned hypocrisy.)
  4. While Christians cannot and will never tolerate one of their own being disciplined of fired for being outspoken about his/her beliefs, they have no reservations at all about disciplining or firing non-believers for expressing what they think (cached). Wait, is that more of the hypocrisy that their own Jesus forbid them to engage in? You betcha! It sure was!
  5. Christians view things as being good or bad based solely on their own subjective criteria. For instance, white Christians can declare racial segregation and Jim Crow laws in the South to have been just fine, because they, themselves, didn’t happen to see any harm in them. And after all, the blacks were happier, back then. Weren’t they? (I mean that sarcastically, of course. Even if white southern Christians don’t.)
  6. Whenever one Christian is persecuted, others leap to his/her defense — automatically. In some cases, by the tens of millions. It doesn’t matter what the Christian actually said or did. All they know is a Christian somewhere got “dissed,” that this is utterly impermissible, and they’re pissed. They also don’t care how much trouble they cause (cached) … it’s all for Jesus, you see, and that makes it OK.
  7. Contracts mean little to Christians, where their religiosity is concerned. A Christian might agree to watch his/her mouth (cached), and maybe even sign a “morals clause” that permits discipline or firing for bad behavior … but s/he is free to break such agreements — without penalty! — so long as s/he does it for Jesus.
  8. Whatever tens of millions of Christians want, they get! Facts are irrelevant. Right and wrong don’t matter. Even massive corporations knuckle under to their bullying. If there are any Christians who’re disturbed by the sanctimonious fury of their co-religionists, they never speak up. Quite the opposite: They happily let the masses of other Christians carry on in their outrage like spoiled children.
  9. Christians view actual persecution of their faith — which quite unacceptably is happening (cached) in various places around the world (cached) — as inseparable from, and identical to, phantasmal forms of it (such as mere criticism of Christianity or its followers). Christians feel as though they’re “under attack,” therefore they believe they are under attack. Emotion and reality; fact and delusion; the subjective and the objective; rational and irrational; reasonable and fantastic; these are fused and conflated in Christianity and in the minds of its followers. There’s no difference between them … and no Christian will accept anyone telling him/her there is one.

Another way of putting it is, this sad debacle merely reinforced things I already knew about Christians and their religion. It also made clear that, when the nation’s Christofascists get angry enough and react fiercely enough, they get their way. No one stands up to them. The combination of their power over others, their unyielding militancy, and their delusional thinking, makes them extremely dangerous. We should all be worried … very, very worried.

Photo credit: Based on Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

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Fist, by jnatoli, via DeviantartThis is only my second post on “the War on Christmas” during 2013, not because there’s no material to draw on; Christofascists’ campaign to force every American — Christian or otherwise — to celebrate their holiday as they demand it be celebrated continues apace, and media outlets have filed many stories on it. It’s just that, after several years of commenting on it here, I’m selecting only the most remarkable of them to blog about.

The most recent that I came across, qualifies as that. It’s an example of the metaphorical “war on Christmas” resulting in very-real violence. KNXV-TV in Phoenix, AZ reports on this scuffle (WebCite cached article):

Some might call it the December Debate — do you greet people with “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”?

A Valley woman, who’s also a bell ringer for the Salvation Army, says she was assaulted for choosing the wrong one.

Kristina Vindiola says a woman hit her outside the Wal-Mart on 91st Avenue and Thomas Road after she said “Happy Holidays.”

“The lady looked at me,” said Vindiola. “I thought she was going to put money in the kettle. She came up to me and said, ‘Do you believe in God?’ And she says, ‘You’re supposed to say Merry Christmas,’ and that’s when she hit me.”

Here’s their video report:

The story goes on to partially excuse the attacker:

Shoppers we spoke with understand how some people can get offended.

It then quotes several Christians who commented on “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas.” Of course, none of them came right out and said explicitly that they approve of someone being punched out over it … but just saying one “understands” the concern, is a mild, tacit approval.

Police aren’t taking action because videotape of the attack, they say, isn’t enough for an arrest. The story doesn’t explain this any better than that.

Photo credit: jnatoli, via Deviantart.

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crying babyIt’s become cliché: Every time there’s a massacre somewhere — especially in a school — Christofascists line up to blame it on people refusing to believe what they believe. The latest example of this tired act comes in the wake of the Arapahoe High School shooting, and was penned by Denver-area pastor R. Loren Sandford, for Charisma News (WebCite cached article):

Why? These things never happened a generation ago, when, whether or not we really lived it, our nation at least acknowledged God and our families for the most part remained whole. I want to scream, “America! Wake up!” I have unhappily prophesied in writing that we are witnessing the catastrophic collapse of a once-great culture and our children are paying the price. I warned in my annual prophetic word just a few weeks ago of the rising tide of hatred around us that will surface in many arenas of life. This shooting is a manifestation of that hatred which inevitably results when a nation forgets its rightful Lawgiver and turns from His principles that were given to ensure the well-being of all God’s creation.

Note that Sandford’s claim that “these things never happened a generation ago,” is a lie. School shootings have happened right through the nation’s history. In fact, one of the most infamous of them occurred before America’s independence, during the Pontiac’s Rebellion. And the single worst school massacre (a bombing, not a shooting) took place in 1927. There’s actually a long and sad tradition of such events, which took place both before and after Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), which Sandford may or may not be alluding to (although 1962-63 was a lot more than “a generation ago”).

The rest of Sandford’s screed includes more tired whines, such as that there can be no morality apart from his Jesus, which is just not the case, no matter how often Christianists like him keep repeating it. Unfortunately for them, no amount of repetition can ever make that assertion magically come true.

In any event, if Pastor Sandford is so convinced that non-belief is the culprit here — rather than sociopathy — and that the entire country is obligated to believe in his Jesus, then I invite him to begin with little old me. Track me down, Pastor, and force me to convert (back) to charismatic Christianity. Go ahead. I dare you. Give it your best shot! Given your stated thinking, you have no reason not to do so … not to mention, my explicit invitation to try … so get to it already! You won’t be able to convert me, but you can sure do your best! Why would you not, Pastor? Are you too cowardly to try?

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Ernesto JT, via Flickr.

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Between masses at Our Lady of Grace Church in Edina, Archbishop John Nienstedt spoke directly to the media for the first time in months. / Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star-Tribune.Note: There’s been an update to this story; see below.

I’ve blogged already about Archbishop John Nienstedt of St Paul & Minneapolis, who may have been behind the destruction of a computer that had belonged to a pedophile priest, before police could get their hands on it. At the moment, though, rather than protecting a cleric who’s been accused of impropriety, as the Religion News Service reports, he’s the target of such an accusation himself (WebCite cached article):

Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt, already under fire for failing to take action against priests suspected of abuse, announced Tuesday (Dec. 17) that he is stepping aside temporarily after a minor accused the outspoken archbishop of touching his buttocks during a group photo after a 2009 confirmation ceremony.

In what he called “a difficult letter for me to write,” Nienstedt says he learned of the allegation during the weekend. He said he does not know the young man and he presumes his accuser to be “sincere in believing what he claims.”

Nienstedt denies the allegation, and insists any contact during picture-taking was innocent … which may well be the case … but the fact that he stepped aside, at least temporarily, is significant.

The RNS article goes on to explain that, over the past weekend, Nienstedt had “apologized” for his weak handling of priestly pedophilia claims in his archdiocese. He claims he’d been assured things were well in hand, when he took office, so he blithely assumed they were — but in fact, they weren’t. I don’t buy that excuse, though, and neither should you: He became archbishop in 2008, some 5 years after the priestly-pedophilia scandal had blown up in the U.S., with new revelations still trickling out all over the place. Nienstedt cannot reasonably have been unaware that problems might have continued to lurk within his archdiocese. It just doesn’t make any sense for him to have assumed that, at that time.

Update: The Catholic News Service reports police have cleared Nienstedt and he’s returned to his job (cached).

Photo credit: Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

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Imagine No ReligionIn news that’s sure to ignite the rage and fury of religionists throughout the country, a Harris poll shows that religious belief is declining in the U.S. (WebCite cached article):

A new Harris Poll finds that while a strong majority (74%) of U.S. adults do believe in God, this belief is in decline when compared to previous years as just over four in five (82%) expressed a belief in God in 2005, 2007 and 2009. Also, while majorities also believe in miracles (72%, down from 79% in 2005), heaven (68%, down from 75%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (68%, down from 72%), the resurrection of Jesus Christ (65%, down from 70%), the survival of the soul after death (64%, down from 69%), the devil, hell (both at 58%, down from 62%) and the Virgin birth (57%, down from 60%), these are all down from previous Harris Polls.

Belief in Darwin’s theory of evolution, however, while well below levels recorded for belief in God, miracles and heaven, is up in comparison to 2005 findings (47%, up from 42%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,250 adults surveyed online between November 13 and 18, 2013 by Harris Interactive.

I can hear Christianists’ bellicose, sanctimonious whining now: People are worshipping Darwin instead of our Gawd! they’ll shriek. I know I’ll be chuckling when I see/hear it!

The news isn’t entirely good, however. An awful lot of Americans cling to a wide range of other nutty metaphysical and/or irrational notions:

The survey also finds that 42% of Americans believe in ghosts, 36% each believe in creationism and UFOs, 29% believe in astrology, 26% believe in witches and 24% believe in reincarnation — that they were once another person.

42% believing in ghosts? That’s almost half the country believing in something that doesn’t exist!

I note that the Harris Poll story refers to “belief in UFOs” … but what they really mean is “belief in extraterrestrial visitors to earth,” because no one questions that “UFOs” (i.e. “unidentified flying objects”) exist. People do occasionally see flying things they can’t readily identify. What they don’t see, are extraterrestrial craft breezing through the atmosphere.

I note that Harris admits these results were drawn solely from online respondents. As such, they may well reflect the beliefs of Internet-connected Americans; but it can’t be safely assumed they reflect the beliefs of the entire population. So everyone — myself included! — must take this report with more than a grain of salt.

Photo credit: JasonTomm, via Flickr.

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Urban Outfitters' Ganesh Sock / screen shot via HuffPoNormally, if I blog about some religious group outraged over something a corporation did, you’d think the outrage would have come from Christians … as happened, for example, over Super Bowl ads or saying “Merry Christmas” in stores. It’s so common as to be cliché. And at this point, hardly noteworthy.

But the latest example of religious folks being infuriated by a company, has nothing to do with Christians or Christianity. Instead, it’s Hindus who’ve got their knickers in knots. Huff reports that Urban Outfitters is being targeted, over socks it sold bearing a Hindu deity’s image (WebCite cached article):

[Urban Outfitters] is in hot water over $8 socks featuring the Hindu deity Ganesh. The “UO Exclusive” has prompted President of the Universal Society of Hinduism Rajan Zed to release a statement decrying the use of the religious symbol and asking Urban Outfitters to remove the socks from its site.

“Lord Ganesh was highly revered in Hinduism and was meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be wrapped around one’s foot,” the statement reads.

The article was updated to note the company’s response, which was to apologize and pull the product from their shelves and Web site.

Here, then, is an example of people expecting those who don’t adhere to their religion, to adhere to its strictures. And for once, it comes from outside the Abrahamic religious tradition. Even so, how reasonable an expectation is that? Do they really think marketing personnel at Urban Outfitters … who, odds are, aren’t Hindus … should know what Hindu beliefs are about putting their deities’ images on socks, and then proactively decide to obey them?

It would help if people would just lighten up, fercryinoutloud, and get over themselves already. This isn’t the first time UO has run into this sort of outrage, and given how sanctimonious people can be, I’m sure it won’t be the last.

For the record, as an Irish-American, I find the shirts they sold a year and a half ago around St Patrick’s Day, that said “Irish I Were Drunk,” hilarious and have no objection to them at all (cached). So yes, I can and do practice what I preach … !

Photo credit: Huffington Post.

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Pope Francis greets crowds during a papal mass marking the closing of the Year of Faith. Francesco Zizola—NOOR for TIME.Just a few months into his new job, Pope Francis has managed to piss off a lot of folks. A couple weeks ago, he touched off a shitstorm over his exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (locally-saved PDF). Plutocratic Rightists like little Rushie Limbaugh rather famously went berserk over the “pure Marxism” contained within it (cached).

Well, all of that was just compounded by Time naming Francis 2013′s Person of the Year (cached).

As I type this, the Religious Right in the U.S. is still pitching apoplectic fits over Time‘s decision. They will, no doubt, be totally uninterested in the reasoning behind Time‘s decision, explained by managing editor Nancy Gibbs (cached). They already have a ready explanation — “media bias” — and will petulantly refuse to listen to anything else.

Among the bellicose whines I’ve already caught wind of, is this one from Glenn Beck (cached). Ah yes, Glennie. That’s the way. Hurl that “fascist” label at anyone who says anything you dislike … without regard for the fact that you are, yourself, a fascist (a Christofascist, to be exact).

I’m not sure yet what to make of Pope Francis. And I’m not sure if he truly merits the award Time gave him (like a lot of others, I lean in the direction of Edward Snowden). But I definitely find the R.R.’s meltdowns over the things he’s said and done since taking office, quite entertaining.

Photo credit: Francesco Zizola—NOOR for TIME.

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