Posts Tagged “prayer”

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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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal waves with a Bible in his hand, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2015, in Baton Rouge, La. Gov. Jindal continued to court Christian conservatives for a possible presidential campaign with a headlining appearance at an all-day prayer rally hosted by the American Family Association. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman, via Washington Post)Louisiana’s Republican governor Bobby Jindal — a fierce Religious Rightist, if not an outright Christofascist — led a prayer revival yesterday at Louisiana State University. As the Washington Post explains, it’s a strong indication that he plans to run for president in 2016 (WebCite cached article):

Skipping an Iowa event that drew a number of 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls in favor of a controversial Louisiana prayer rally, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) called for a national spiritual revival and urged event attendees to proselytize on behalf of their Christian beliefs.

Jindal had insisted the day-long evangelical event hosted by the American Family Association on the campus of Louisiana State University was a religious and not political gathering. And, indeed, his 15-minute long remarks to the group consisted entirely of a highly personal testimony about how he had come to his Catholic beliefs. Jindal was raised by Hindu parents but converted to Catholicism in high school.

But Jindal’s keynote address at the event came as he has been courting Christian conservatives in advance of a possible run for president, meeting with pastors in the early battleground states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Former Texas governor Rick Perry hosted the same event, known as “The Response,” in 2011, just before announcing he was running for president.

The Bobster’s revival meeting didn’t go unnoticed by others, as the Post reports:

The event drew protests outside the basketball arena where several hundred were gathered because of accusations that the American Family Association promotes discrimination against gays and is hostile to non-Christians. Jindal briefly referred to the protests in his appearance, asking the rally’s attendees to pray for the demonstrators.

Ah. The old “I’ll pray for you” thing hurled at those who refuse to believe. I’m sure he knows this is an insulting tactic, even if it sounds all compassionate and shit. Well played, Bobby! Well played.

The Bobster even included a gratuitous little story which likely reflects how he intends to inject his fierce, dogmatic religionism into government:

Jindal recalled a girl in high school who said she wanted to grow up to be a Supreme Court justice, so she could “save innocent human lives” from abortion.

He put these words in the mouth of someone else, but this tale illustrates how he views participating in government. And that’s not to uphold the laws that are written, as they’re written, but instead to wrench and manipulate them to coincide with the Almighty’s dictates, whatever he thinks those are, and without regard for what those laws actually say.

Not that the Bobster really cares much, but here’s my response to his “response”:

Gov Jindal, if you think the country needs more God, then start with this one American: Track me down and make me turn to your God. I dare you. If it’s mandatory for all Americans to do so, then what reason would you have not to do it? Go ahead. I invite you to try your best — if you dare. Should you not do this, to me or to any other insolent non-believer, then I must presume that Americans turning to your deity can’t actually be as imperative as you said it is. That would demonstrate your cowardice, not to mention your hypocrisy — which, for supposedly-dutiful Catholics such as yourself, was explicitly forbidden to you by the founder of your own religion.

One last observation: The irony of a Roman Catholic leading a Protestant-style prayer revival — sponsored by a Protestant group — is especially precious. By leading an event of this kind, the Bobster openly admits he needs to curry the favor of devout Protestants, especially of the evangelical variety. But in the end, they’re his ecclesiastical enemies, not his friends. Just as America’s Catholic bishops have done, he’s forging what, ultimately, can only be called an unholy alliance. Should he get elected and start bending the country toward the Christocracy he wants, eventually he and his fellow Catholics will end up in evangelicals’ crosshairs. Many of them consider Jindal’s Church “the Whore of Babylon” mentioned in Revelation. A lot of those evangelicals would happily throw “Mary-worshipping papists” like Jindal into the flames of eternal perdition, if ever given the chance. Just saying.

Photo credit: AP Photo / Jonathan Bachman, via the Washington Post.

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What part of 'When you pray, go into your inner room' did you not understand? (from Mt 6:6, NASB) / PsiCop original graphicBy now most of my readers have heard of the case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, Town of Greece v. Galloway, in which arguments have been heard, and which will be decided in the middle of next year. Lots of ink has been spilled … and bits transmitted … about it. And there will, no doubt, be much more to come. Religionists rail and fume at the insolence of the plaintiffs for having dared sue in court over the town of Greece, NY opening its council meetings by leading everyone present in Christian prayers. Non-believers laugh at the insipidity of many people publicly mouthing words up at a being that may or may not even exist to hear them.

But what no one is saying — at least, not that I’ve yet heard — is that this case should, by all rights, never have even seen a courtroom, because public prayers of the sort being proclaimed in Greece, NY are thoroughly, demonstrably, and undeniably un-Christian.

You read that right: they’re un-Christian.

As I’ve blogged many times before, and described in my page cataloging Bible verses that nearly all Christians staunchly refuse to obey, Jesus unambiguously condemned any and all forms of public piety. His words on the subject, as recorded in the gospels, are clear and explicit. There are no caveats, and no wriggle-room. Read for yourself what Jesus said about public piety:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 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.” (Matthew 6:1-6)

On another occasion, Jesus condemned public piety using this brief story as an example:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

The scriptural evidence is in, and it’s clear: Jesus didn’t want his followers trying to impress others with their righteousness. This has many implications, some of which Christians will find inconvenient. Among them, is that they shouldn’t be praying in public. Now, I fully understand … having been a Christian myself … why they feel compelled to do it. What good is it, after all, to be a Christian, but not let others know it? Since Christianity is the majority faith in Greece, NY and nearly all of the U.S., what better way to make it known you “belong,” than to be seen praying to the same Christian God that most everyone else prays to?

I honestly get it. Really, I do. The emotional satisfaction — and personal pride — that come from publicly expressing one’s piety is seductive and compelling. It’s a natural manifestation of human nature. Even so … Jesus did expressly forbid this kind of behavior. No matter how normal it may be for Christians to engage in expressions of public piety, it contradicts Christ’s own teachings. Christians shouldn’t be in the position of defending public piety — not before the Supreme Court, and not anywhere else. Instead, they should just not be doing it. At all.

I’m left asking myself, “What part of ‘go into your inner room’ do Christians not understand?”

Photo credit: PsiCop original, based on Mt 6:6.

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Depression-loss of loved oneFor some reason, any discussion of mental illness tends to get caught up with religion. This was inevitable, I suppose, when Pastor Rick Warren — founder of the “Purpose-Driven” publishing empire — and his wife were interviewed a few days ago by Piers Morgan on CNN about their son’s suicide earlier this year (WebCite cached article). But the idea that religion is an effective remedy for mental illness, has been around for ages. The Christian Post reports that a majority of Christians in the US believe that their religion can cure it, and brags about this (cached):

Nearly 50 percent of American Christians believe that prayer and Bible study alone can cure mental illness, according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research.

Dr. Tim Clinton, president of the American Association of Christian Counselors, credited this response to Christians’ faith in God.

“I applaud those out there who really believe in the power of God,” Clinton told Moody Radio show host Chris Fabry on Thursday. “It’s an encouraging time. People continually look for out for God spiritually for hope, for help.”

Clinton and the CP might be proud of American Christians’ refusal to let medicine get in the way of their hyperreligiosity, but those of us who are capable of actually thinking about the problem of mental illness, know better. Any given mental illness is precisely that — an illness — which requires valid, effective, clinically-supported treatment. Praying and reading the Bible are not valid, effective, or clinically-supported — no matter how vehemently anyone may insist they are.

Despite his ardent belief in the primacy of prayer and Bible-reading as treatments for mental illness, Clinton says he’s not completely averse to medication:

One of the first steps the church must take is to avoid stigmatizing Christians taking medication for their mental illnesses, said Clinton.

At the end of the article, the CP tosses in an obligatory link to recent massacres, no doubt in order to scare up interest:

Nationally, mental illness has dominated discussions about the possible motives of the gunmen in last year’s mass shootings in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, as well as a first-grade class in Sandy Hook, Conn., and also more recently in this week’s mass shooting in the Washington D.C. navy yard.

Unfortunately for the CP, they are wrong about the Sandy Hook killings. The shooter there was never, so far as anyone knows, diagnosed with any mental illness, and there were absolutely no drugs in his system … no illicit drugs, no alcohol, no prescription drugs (cached). So he was not on any medications. It’s true that the Sandy Hook massacre has brought up talk about mental illness, but until we find out differently (cached), it’s not reasonable to believe mental illness played any role in it.

At any rate, mental illness poses a particular problem, in that a lot of the valid medical treatments for it are, unfortunately, not all that effective. Psychotherapy and antidepressants for depression, for example, work only about 60-65% of the time. This is enough to show that they’re effective for a majority of people, but it means there’s a significant number of folks who aren’t helped, sadly, and are often left twisting in the breeze of psychiatry. This means there are people whose needs aren’t being met by valid medicine, who become prey to proselytizers, who gladly use this as a “hook” to rope them into their religion. In the realm of addiction, this is precisely how many substance-abuse treatments work, as I’ve blogged already. That it’s unethical at best to use a vulnerability like this in order to gain converts, doesn’t seem to matter to these believers. They just go ahead and do it anyway.

The solution is for psychiatry to step up to the plate and really work on new, more effective, treatments for common mental illnesses like depression. Treatments are needed which are over 80% effective, if not over 90%. Leaving things as they are — which is what’s been done for decades — is just not working. It’s time psychiatry admitted it. In the meantime, prayer and Bible-reading is just bullshit and will do nothing for these folks. If you have a mental illness, run — do not walk! — away from anyone who suggests that his/her God is all you need to get over your ailment. It’s a scam, and you need to avoid being taken in.

This is the United States, and it’s the 21st century, for fuck’s sake. It’s time to get the hell out of the “Dark Ages” already. Gimme a fucking break.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Susan Silverman, center, a reform rabbi, sits on the ground and prays with her daughter, left, after being asked by Israeli police to remove their prayer shawls at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City February 11, 2013. (STRINGER, REUTERS / February 11, 2013)I’ve blogged a number of times about ultra-conservative Jews in Israel targeting women as sub-human. They appear to believe — as do a lot of conservative Muslims, and Christians — that women are to be neither seen nor heard, and are not to be treated as human beings.

What’s remarkable is that ultra-conservatives have commandeered the government of Israel to do their bidding in order to keep “the Weaker Sex” in its place. The Hartford Courant reports on some arrests of women who insolently dared to thwart ultra-conservative sensibilities (WebCite cached article):

Israeli police detained 10 women, including a rabbi from Bloomfield, at one of Judaism’s most sacred sites on Monday for wearing prayer shawls, which Orthodox tradition sees as solely for men, a spokesman said.

The incident at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City highlighted the divisions between the more liberal streams of Judaism and politically powerful Orthodox groups that traditionally limit the role of women in prayer.

The Western Wall is administered under strict Orthodox ritual law, which bars women from wearing prayer shawls or publicly reading from the holy scriptures.

Among those held was Debra Cantor, rabbi of B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom in Bloomfield, and Susan Silverman, a reform rabbi who is a sister of American comedian Sarah Silverman.

I’m curious as to precisely what awful thing the ultra-conservative Jews think will befall their country, if some people with two “X” chromosomes stand before the Western Wall. I really don’t get it. It’d be nice if someone could explain it to me — but somehow I doubt it will ever happen. Seriously, what is the problem with women wearing prayer shawls, and praying, on that spot? Anyone?

This just goes to show that it’s not just Christians or Muslims who think poorly of women and want to repress them. Most religions, in fact, don’t seem to want women around — in spite of the fact that they’re 50% of the population.

Photo credit: Reuters, via the Hartford Courant.

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Crush the Godless Liberals: All of America's Problems are Due to Godlessness and Godless Liberals / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National ArchivesThe number of Christians using the Newtown massacre (which happened only two days ago) to promote their fierce, dour religionism, is growing by leaps and bounds. I’ve chronicled a few examples of this already, but there are more. And I expect they will continue to come in. Here’s a selection:

  • Charisma News (cached):
    Rather than waiting until the aftermath of a Columbine, Virginia Tech or Newtown school shooting to pray, can we please put prayer back into schools on Monday morning?

  • Theologian John Piper (cached):
    Which means that the murders of Newtown are a warning to me — and you. Not a warning to see our schools as defenseless, but to see our souls as depraved. To see our need for a Savior. To humble ourselves in repentance for the God-diminishing bitterness of our hearts. To turn to Christ in desperate need, and to treasure his forgiveness, his transforming, and his friendship.

  • Theologian R. Albert Mohler (cached):
    The sinfulness of sin is never more clearly revealed than when we look into the heart of a crime like this and see the hatred toward God that precedes the murderous hatred he poured out on his little victims.

    The twentieth century forced us to see the ovens of the Nazi death camps, the killing fields of Cambodia, the inhumanity of the Soviet gulags, and the failure of the world to stop such atrocities before they happened. We cannot talk of our times without reference to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, Pol Pot and Charles Manson, Idi Amin and Ted Bundy.

  • CBN’s David Brody (cached):
    Guess what folks? Huckabee and Fischer are not alone. There are millions of evangelicals who believe the same thing. This is not heartless. It’s based on the biblical principle of reaping and sowing. Not that these little children sowed anything but are our schools left unprotected because of the past actions of our nation when it comes to removing God from our public schools?

I particularly love how Mohler found it necessary to throw in references to Hitler, Stalin, Manson and Pol Pot. What a lovely, compassionate touch!

Photo credit: Austin Cline, Licensed to About.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist (re: Piper & Mohler); Religion Dispatches (Re: Brody).

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'One Nation, Under God: Remember, if you don't believe in God, you're not a REAL American. Keep prayer and God in school, where they belong!' / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of GeorgiaThe massacre that happened here in my home state of Connecticut — nearly the worst school shooting in the country’s history — occurred only 10 hours ago as I type this (WebCite cached version). Police and medical examiners are still on the scene, and not all the bodies have even been removed from the building. Yet the wing-nut Christofascist Bryan Fischer, one of the gauleiters of the militant Christianist American Family Association, saw fit to declare why 28 people (at the latest count), including 20 small children, had to die. Would you believe, it’s because Newtown’s public schools don’t begin their days with prayer?

Yes folks, that’s right. God allowed 28 people to be slaughtered in one school, because its denizens don’t pray to him every morning. I’m sure you don’t believe me, but it’s true. Right Wing Watch reports — based on primary source material — what Fischer said (cached):

Bryan Fischer spent the first hour of his radio program today discussing this morning’s truly horrific shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut, which he, of course, blamed on the fact that prayer, the Bible, and the Ten Commandments are not taught in public schools.

Fischer said that God could have protected the victims of this massacre, but didn’t because “God is not going to go where he is not wanted” and so if school administrators really want to protect students, they will start every school day with prayer

I’m not asking you to believe either Right Wing Watch, or me. Go ahead and see it for yourself, the Youtube video is available right here:

I won’t bother waiting for the movement of “good” Christians outraged enough by Fischer’s vile, putrid stench to rise up and drive him off the air and force him into obscurity. There aren’t enough “good” Christians in the US with the fortitude to take him on. What few of them remain, will take the cowards’ way out, and whine, “Well, he doesn’t speak for me,” as though that settles it.

But it doesn’t.

Christians, your religion belongs to you. And Bryan Fischer claims to speak for it. If you object to vicious, hateful pricks like him claiming to be your religion’s spokesmen, then it’s up to you to do something about it. If you won’t respect your own religion enough to police it and shut down asshats like Fischer, then you can’t expect outside observers such as myself to respect it, or you for believing in it. It just won’t work.

My guess is, none of you will do anything about him. And sadly, that’s all I need to know.

Update 1: Fischer isn’t the only Christofascist who won’t even wait until the bodies are cold, to use this horrific event as a bludgeon to pound their fierce, unrelenting religionism into people. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports, Mike Huckabee spewed the same bile on Fox News (cached):

Americans should blame their schools, and removal of God from the classroom, for Friday’s murders of schoolchildren in Connecticut, according to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 Republican presidential candidate who is now a pundit and host on Fox News. …

“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be surprised that schools would become places of carnage?” …

“We’ve made it (school) a place where we don’t talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not going to have to be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know holy God in judgment,” said Huckabee.

Expect more, not less, of this kind of ridiculous chatter in the days to come.

Update 2: It turns out I was right, when in my last update on this, I said we should expect more of this kind of crap. Eric Hovind, the Creationism-spewing son of militant Creationist Kent Hovind, posted this little gem on Twitter yesterday (cached):

Are you happy now that the shooter grew up in a school without God?

We can add Hovind to the list of “Jerks for Jesus” using this event to promote their Christofascism.

Photo credit: Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of Georgia

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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