Posts Tagged “christians”

'... because nothing says "Christmas" like millions of Christians pitching infantile fits' / PsiCop original graphicYes indeed, folks, this may well be a busy year in the annual “war on Christmas,” seen as how we’re only a week into November and already another battle has erupted in the Religious Right’s perpetual campaign to force every American to worship Christmas however they demand. Their latest target is the ubiquitous Starbucks coffee chain. As Time magazine explains, American Christendom has gone into a meltdown over — get this! — their holiday-season cups (WebCite cached article):

Some Christians have taken to social media channels to protest the new Starbucks holiday cup, which they say is conspicuously devoid of images of both Christmas and Jesus Christ himself. The new cup, which is shades of red with the Starbucks logo, showed up in stores late last month.

“Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus,” wrote Joshua Feuerstein in a viral Facebook post with nearly 10 million views [cached]. In an accompanying video, Feuerstein encourages customers to give their name as “Merry Christmas” to force Starbucks employees to say the phrase. The movement had caught on by Sunday with the hashtag “MerryChristmasStarbucks” trending on Facebook.

Here’s the plain red cup that’s got so many Christians’ knickers in knots:Starbucks christmas cups for 2015, via JezebelI find this a strange objection, because in prior years, Starbucks had never included any religious symbols on their holiday cups:

Past Starbucks holiday cups (in an animated GIF courtesy of GIFMaker.me)

Past Starbucks holiday cups (in an animated GIF courtesy of GIFMaker.me)

The name “Jesus” has never once appeared on a Starbucks cup, as far as I’ve been able to find. Nor have crosses, or Madonnas, or anything else of the sort. So I’m surprised that, this year, a minimal red design would kick up religionistic sanctimony, when previously a lack of any overt expression of Christianity on Starbucks holiday cups had never mattered before. And I don’t get how plain red cups can rationally be called an expression of hatred for Jesus. I mean, seriously, what the fuck?

If you’re curious as to why Starbucks did this, Time explains:

Starbucks has offered special holiday cups since 1997 with designs varying from year to year. Jeffrey Fields, the company’s vice president of design and content, explained this year’s design as a “more open way to usher in the holidays.”

“Starbucks has become a place of sanctuary during the holidays,” he said in a press release. “We’re embracing the simplicity and the quietness of it.”

The Christianist outrage aside, let’s step back from the edge and take a serious look at this. Why would Starbucks — which normally sells hot beverages in white cups — use red cups near the end of the year? Obviously, it’s an homage to Christmas, since the color red is symbolic of that holiday. So what if there are no other symbols or messages on the cups? Just the fact that the cups are red is a loud and clear acknowledgement by Starbucks that Christmas — not some other holiday or occasion — is on its way.

I’m just not getting these Christianists’ objections. I think the simple red-only design is striking and attractive. Maybe that’s because I’m a cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen and such important sacred considerations are beyond me. Yeah yeah, that’s it!

Photo credit: Top/first and middle/third by PsiCop; middle/second by Jezebel.

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Mob with pitchforks / Rockford (IL) Register StarYes, folks, it’s true. There are actually Christians in the US who think freedom of religion is a terrible thing. Or more precisely … they like it, but when applied only to themselves. That is, they think everyone is free to be a Christian — but only a Christian; they’re not free to be anything else (cached), or to have no religion at all.

An example of this sort of thinking was evident late last week in Spring, TX. According to KTRK-TV in Houston, Christians there protested the opening of a “Luciferian” church (cached):

Protest and prayer filled the air outside of Spring’s newest church Friday evening: the Greater Church of Lucifer.…

Some protesters made their way onto the property, only to be escorted off by Harris County Sheriff’s Deputies.

“This is what we get when we have Freedom of Religion,” said protester Christine Weick.

This was the group’s first meeting at its first building, which is smack dab in the middle of Old Town Spring.

There’s more than a little magical thinking going on among this crowd of militant Christianist protesters:

“We are all Christians here, together against this,” [Weick] said. “We ought to be filling up the whole street here that they have to pass through us to get into that church.”

Clearly, Weick thinks that these horrific Luciferians having to run a gantlet of devout Christian protesters will magically make them take Jesus Christ as their Personal Lord & Savior® or something. That, of course, is just as insipid and idiotic as thinking Ten Commandments monuments in courthouses will magically make the whole country law-abiding.

As I always do when I see stories like this, I will issue this challenge to any and all Christianists who sincerely think “religious freedom” applies only to them and no one else: If you really think that, then track me down and force this cynical, godless agnostic heathen to convert to Christianity, whichever form of it you think I’m obliged to join. Go right ahead. Do it. I dare you! Lock and load. I won’t fight back, but I also won’t willingly convert … no matter what you do. That said, you’re free to give it your best shot. And why wouldn’t you? You already think I’m obliged, as an American living in your precious “Christian nation,” to become a Christian. What logical reason would you have not to at least try to make that happen with me?

Photo credit: Rockford Register Star.

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Better to remain silent, and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth, and remove all doubt! (proverb) / PsiCop original graphicThe endless parade of expressions of “disaster theology” used by Christianists continues apace. It’s ridiculous, and childish, and a low thing to do (i.e. exploiting bad things that happen in order to make one’s own religion look good), but they just fucking love to do it! The latest is a particularly classy example (and of course, I’m being sarcastic). As Raw Story explains, well-known evangelist Ray Comfort was almost giddy to hear about a catastrophe that took place recently in India (WebCite cached article):

A creationist pastor mocked Hindus who were killed or injured when a religious idol fell on them as they worshipped.

One man was killed and three people were injured [cached] when a statue of the elephant god Ganesh collapsed during a worship service last month in India, and a video of the tragedy was circulated and widely reported last week.

Ray Comfort — who is probably best known for arguing that bananas disproved evolution, at least until he learned that they were the products of artificial selection by humans — posted a link to an article about the tragedy and urged his followers to donate to his Living Waters ministry.

“The Bible says that those who worship dumb idols, are just like them,” Comfort posted on his Facebook page [cached]. “How India needs the gospel! But we don’t have to go there to take it to them. We have the Internet.”

Comfort’s fans quickly picked up what he was laying down and praised God’s wrathful judgment.

Yeah, I guess that’s what those “dumb” Hindus deserve, eh? To be injured or killed by their own statute?

By the way, Comfort miscomprehends the words of the Bible. The only verses I could find that mentions “dumb idols,” in any English translation, are Habakkuk 2:18 and 1 Corinthians 12:2 in the King James Version:

What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? (Hab 2:18)

Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. (1 Cor 12:2)

But most English translations, especially the better recent ones, don’t use “dumb.” For instance, the New American Standard Version has:

What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, or an image, a teacher of falsehood? For its maker trusts in his own handiwork when he fashions speechless idols. (Hab 2:18)

You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. (1 Cor 12:2)

Neither verse says that worshippers of “dumb” idols (as Comfort put it) is “dumb” (and by that, I assume, he means “stupid”) are themselves “dumb.” What’s more, the original Greek of the 1 Corinthians passage, which I happen to understand, is:

οιδτε οτι οτε εθνη ητε προς τα ειδωλα τα αφωνα ως αν ηγεσθε απαγομενοι

oidate oti ethné éte pros ta eidóla ta afóna ós an égesthe apagomenoi (1 Cor 12:2)

The word quoted by Comfort, and translated by the KJV team, as “dumb” is afóna, a form of afónos, which means “silent” (the negation prefix a- followed by the Greek word for “sound,” which came into English in words such as “telephone” and “phonograph”). Granted, the word “dumb” in English did, in the King James era and also now in an older usage, mean “speechless” (for instance, in the expression “deaf and dumb”). Comfort ought to have known better … especially since — among other things — he claims to be a Bible scholar.

At any rate, one can see what Christianists like Comfort, as well as many of those who commented on his Facebook posting, really think of non-Christians. Really nice, huh?

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on proverb.

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Stacey Wendell ties a ribbon around a telephone pole in front of the Word of Life Church, in Chadwicks, as a memorial for the two teenage Leonard brothers who were beaten at the church on Oct 12. Lucas Leonard, 19, was killed, his brother Christopher has been released from the hospital. Wendell is the organizer of the vigil being held for the two at St. Patrick's St. Anthony's Church in Chadwicks. Michael Greenlar (mgreenlar@syracuse.com) / The Post-DispatchI blogged just a few days ago about beatings and a murder that happened at a Pentecostal church in New Hartford, NY just over a week ago. The victims’ parents, jailed on manslaughter charges, reportedly claimed the two boys they beat, one to death, had molested other children. The Syracuse NY Post-Dispatch reports on their classy legal tactic (WebCite cached article):

A mother and father charged with severely beating their sons told police afterward that they did it because their sons had molested children, according to New Hartford police.

New Hartford police and State Police officials said they found no evidence that any children were molested.

That claim by the parents was an attempt to “cover their tracks”, New Hartford police spokesman Lt. Tim O’Neill said today. The parents made the claim early in the investigation, he said.

“There is absolutely no indication of any sex abuse to any of the children,” he said.

You’ve just got to love these devout adherents of “the Religion of Love” who brutalized their two sons … one to death, the other hospitalized … and then piled onto that crime by trying to set them up for one of their own. It’s a good thing the police didn’t fall for this scheme. That’s not to say that a fatal and a near-fatal beating would have been appropriate, had either actually been guilty of child molestation. Had that been the case, the proper response would have been to pick up the phone and call police, not spend hours interrogating and beating them in a church.

But precisely this reasoning is fully in line with what another member of the same church had claimed earlier, that the two beaten boys were involved in the occult and had practiced witchcraft.

The good news is that the local community has had it with the Pentecostal church where this occurred. As the Post-Distpatch explains, they’ve started a campaign to shut it down (cached):

Hundreds of mourners gathered behind the Word of Life Christian Church on Tuesday night to remember Lucas Leonard, pray for Christopher Leonard and call for the closure of a church that event organizers said put the town “on the map” for all the wrong reasons.…

“We want them gone,” organizer Stacey Mendell told the crowd to cheers. “We want peace back in our community. We want justice for our boys.”

Mendell is organizing a fundraiser for Christopher and is trying to organize support to get the church shut down. Another organizer, Ami Loomis, said the community needs to step up for Christopher.

This sort of thing is actually not common at all. If it were more common, it very well could be an effective way of getting churches and their officials to behave. Who knows how — for example — the Roman Catholic Church might have dealt with the “priestly pedophilia” problem if all their churches had been the focus of efforts to shut them down? Maybe they’d have had some incentive to actually deal with the scandal, and with child-abusers within their ranks, more meaningfully.

Michael Greenlar / The Post-Dispatch.

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Jesus playing football / tackyjulie, via FlickrIt’s well known that Christianists don’t care much for the principle of “separation of church and state.” They dislike anyone placing limits on what they can do to push their dour metaphysics on others. They view such limits as an impermissible suppression of their “freedom of religion” and a form of persecution. The idea that they have license to force their beliefs on everyone by definition necessitates rejecting the idea that anyone else can have “freedom of religion” or — in their minds, worse — “freedom from religion.” As they see it, only they have any “freedom”; all non-Christians must surrender to them, since they have no rights.

This presumption is a special problem in the case of public employees who’re Christianists, because the law prevents them from using their governmental positions to impose their religion on others. A lot of them bristle at such restrictions, even if their basis is in the Constitution and Bill of Rights and can’t just be dismissed because they dislike them. The quick and easy solution for public-employee Christianists, of course, is to resign their governmental positions and take jobs in the private sector that don’t restrict their religiosity. As a rule, though, they refuse to this — largely because they deem themselves to have a “right” to those jobs, even though they won’t carry out their duties lawfully.

The latest example of a militant Christianist who thinks this way is Bremerton (WA) High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy. As KSTU-TV in Salt Lake reports, even after being told to stop leading his student athletes in prayer, Kennedy has continued his practice (WebCite cached article):

As Joe Kennedy knelt to pray at the 50-yard-line Friday night he felt a presence around him.

And it grew.

The assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington state was being joined by some of his opponents and fans — some of whom had come to the game to pray with him.

After the Knights’ homecoming loss to the Centralia Tigers, Kennedy walked to the middle of the football field, hoping to say his usual thanks to God by himself.

He had been told not to do it. The Bremerton School District had said if he prayed while on duty as a coach he would be violating federal law.

Kennedy, as he has done after most games for seven years, prayed anyway, defying the order. He opened his eyes to find a huge crowd of supporters around him.

Yes, folks … not only did Kennedy break the law and defy his superiors’ orders, he had the support of a Christianist community that showed up to “protect” him. The KSTU report is larded up with sentimentality and emotion, for instance explaining that Kennedy “cried as he spoke to reporters.” It also includes mention of an agnostic student who participates in prayers with him. That, of course, defies logic, and suggests this presumed agnostic isn’t any such thing. As if that grants him any particular right to violate the law or disobey his own school district.

The story also explains he has the backing of Liberty Counsel, headed by the Christofascist Mat Staver, who also represents Kim Davis, the now-famous gay-hating clerk of Rowan county KY. Clearly Staver and his cadre of fierce religionists are at war with separation of church and state.

Well, I have news for Kennedy, Staver, and the rest of their supporters at Bremerton High School and everywhere else: What you’re doing is something your own Jesus explicitly forbid you ever to do! That’s right, the founder of your own religion ordered you never to express your piety in public! His clear injunction is found in the gospels:

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Mt 6:5-6)

It’s not only a violation of the law for a public high school coach to lead his team in prayers in the middle of the field, it’s a violation of the teachings of his own religion to do so! All Christians everywhere ought to reject what this guy is doing … not because it’s against the law (which it is) or because he defied his own superiors (which he did), but because it’s brazenly un-Christian to pray in such a public venue. He shouldn’t want to do that, and his fellow Christians should want him to stop. That assumes, of course, that any of them actually give a fuck about what Jesus taught. For the most part, though, strangely enough, they’ve refused to actually obey his teachings.

Photo credit: tackyjulie, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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Group of men and women being taken to a slave market Wellcome V0050647Former Arkansas governor and current GOP presidential candidate is another of those gifts that just keeps on giving for agnostic bloggers like myself. The man just keeps on saying insane religionistic things. The latest, as the International Business Times reports, is Huckabee’s endorsement of slavery, of all things (WebCite cached article):

Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee waded into the criminal justice reform waters Wednesday with a novel statement for improving America’s system of prisons: Just sell poor convicts into slavery. Huckabee agreed with Jan Mickelson, the host of a right-wing radio show based in Des Moines, Iowa, after an extended rant in which Mickelson described biblical passages that suggest thieves should be sold into slavery.

The radio host said that the “criminal justice system has been taken over by progressives,” and continued, referencing the biblical Book of Exodus. “It says, if a person steals, they have to pay it back twofold, fourfold. If they don’t have anything, we’re supposed to take them down and sell them,” he said, according to Think Progress [cached].

While I have little sympathy for thieves, whether they’re rich or poor or in-between, I just don’t see enslavement as a justifiable punishment. Prison seems a fitting punishment, as does ordering restitution. But slavery? How fucking barbaric.

One wonders why 21st century Americans like Shucksabee and Mickelson talk as though slavery is a good thing. After all, it’s been outlawed here for 150 years. And it’s outlawed over virtually all of the rest of the planet, too. Humanity has rejected slavery. So why do these guys want it so badly?

The answer is simple. Shucksabee and Mickelson are Biblical literalists, and slavery is in the Bible. Therefore, in their minds, it can’t possibly be a bad thing. As the IBT notes, this is not the first time Mickelson suggested slavery could solve a problem that vexes him — such as illegal immigration (cached).

It’s long past time for more moderate Christians to understand the horrific lengths their more extreme co-religionists will go to in order to follow their dour metaphysics. Irrational notions like Biblical literalism have ramifications, and support for things like slavery is one of them. How much more evident could that be?

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The Word of Life church occupies a former schoolhouse in New Hartford, N.Y., about 100 miles west of Albany. / Nathaniel Brooks for The New York TimesBy now frequent readers of my blog will have heard the story of one teen killed and his brother seriously injured, beaten by their parents and a number of others at Word of Life Christian Church in New Hartford, NY. I’d held off blogging about this until more information was available. At first, very little information was released, but with additional revelations and reporting a meaningful story of fierce, predatory religionism — so powerful that it ripped parent-child bonds apart — can be told.

Word of Life is a small, independent Pentecostal church. This isn’t at all strange, there are hundreds, perhaps into the thousands, of such churches around the country. The South is riddled with them, but they can be found almost anywhere in the country. There might very well be one in your town!

Biblical literalism and fanatical fundamentalism are features of this particular form of Christianity. “Speaking in tongues” is among their most notable practices; their church services, Bible studies, and pretty much any other gathering is liable to break out in someone “prophesying” incomprehensibly, often followed by someone else breaking out in a “translation.” It’s not unusual for Pentecostals to keep to themselves, becoming almost reclusive, because they fear “the World” and wish to remain as far from it as they can. Most Pentecostals reject all forms of pop culture, and will listen only to Christian music and watch or listen only to religious broadcasts. A lot of Pentecostal families even home-school their children, dreading the “worldly” indoctrination of public schools — or even parochial schools run by other kinds of Christians. Many Pentecostals shun medicine in favor of supernatural powers, especially “laying on hands,” and many things that go wrong — from physical ailments to emotional distress to car breakdowns — are often blamed on demons or devils, and ad hoc “exorcisms” aren’t uncommon.

(As an aside, I know quite a lot about this … during my own “fundie” days, I was a Pentecostalist myself. So my knowledge of this faction of Christianity comes from the perspective of an insider. For a while I was a “lay exorcist,” with the “gift of discernment of spirits” and a reputation as a healer.)

At any rate, two boys were severely beaten by members of their own church, including their parents, and one succumbed to his injuries (WebCite cached article). As I said, most of that bas been in the news for days now. It was a “spiritual counseling session” gone bad. Supposedly. CNN reports on what may have been the reason this “counseling session” had been called (cached):

The fatal beating of Lucas Leonard in the sanctuary of Word of Life Christian Church came after the teenager had “expressed a desire to leave” the secretive upstate New York church, New Hartford Police Chief Michael Inserra said Friday.

That wish, according to Inserra, apparently prompted a counseling session on the spiritual state of Lucas and his younger brother, Christopher. During the sessions, the teens were beaten with a cord and Lucas Leonard suffered injuries so severe that emergency room doctors thought he had been shot, Inserra said.…

A witness at a probable cause hearing told a judge the counseling session lasted 14 hours, beginning Sunday night and ending Monday morning. Daniel Irwin, who lives in the church, said the session ended when people thought Lucas had died.

It’s actually easy for me to understand how the folks in Word of Life wouldn’t have been any too happy about one of its youngsters wanting to leave. They’d surely assume him to be “lost” to “the World” and to Satan, whom they believe is currently its ruler. As for why two parents would want to beat two of their sons senseless, and one of them to death, there are clear Biblical directives to that effect:

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; and they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. (Dt 21:18-21)

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Mt 10:35-37)

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Lk 14:26)

In short, this church was just doing what its teachings and scripture demanded of them. Lots of media stories about the Word of Life Christian Church, such as this one by the New York Times, convey the impression that it was something of a one-off oddball “cult” (cached). I’m not sure I can go with that, though. The folks at Word of Life might have been a little stranger than some other independent Pentecostal churches, but what I see in the descriptions fits very neatly into how a lot of such churches operate. The philosophies described are truly not at all unusual. This church simply can’t be as novel as the media suggest.

As for the Word of Life congregants who’ve been charged, they’ve cooked up what is a very typically Pentecostal rationale for what they did. As another New York Times article explains, Lucas Leonard admitted he’d been practicing witchcraft (cached):

On Sunday night, toward the end of a daylong church service, Tiffanie Irwin, the pastor at Word of Life Christian Church here, turned to her congregation and made a stunning accusation.

Someone among them, she said, was practicing witchcraft.

Lucas Leonard, a 19-year-old whose family was immersed in Word of Life’s secretive practices, said that he was the one, that he wanted church elders to die and that he had considered making a voodoo doll of a church leader.

Those revelations were some of what one member of the church, Daniel Irwin, told investigators after Mr. Leonard was beaten to death by a group of fellow congregants — including Mr. Leonard’s parents and half sister — during a so-called counseling session that began on Sunday night and stretched into Monday morning.

You’ve just gotta love how these people make victims into perpetrators and vice versa, don’t you? To be honest, I have no idea if Lucas had really been practicing witchcraft, although I truly doubt it. Irwin’s testimony may very well have been an outright lie. It’s less likely to have been his interpretation of what Lucas said.

The vile, pathetic and desperate accusation that Lucas Leonard had been a “witch,” as the Syracuse, NY Post-Dispatch reports, is something police are downplaying (cached). They insist the “counseling session,” aka beating, was triggered by Lucas saying he wanted to leave and that neither witchcraft nor voodoo had anything to do with it.

The really sad part of all this is that the members of Word of Life Christian Church very likely don’t comprehend what they did wrong here. Chances are they see Bruce and Deborah Leonard, and all the other accused churchgoers, as martyrs … persecuted by Satan and “the World” for merely having followed the Word of God and the teachings of Jesus Christ. That’s how true Pentecostals think.

Photo credit: Nathaniel Brooks for the New York Times.

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