Posts Tagged “prayer”
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.
, deborah cantor
, prayer shawl
, prayer shawls
, sarah silverman
, western wall
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The 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).
, david brody
, illinois family institute
, john piper
, militant christian
, militant christianity
, militant christians
, newtown CT
, newtown massacre
, newtown shooting
, public school prayer
, sandy hook elementary school
, school prayer
, school shooting
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The 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.
, american family association
, bryan fischer
, focal point
, newtown CT
, newtown massacre
, public school prayer
, sandy hook elementary school
, school prayer
, school shooting
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Religionists love to look for easy targets to indoctrinate and/or convert. One group of people they’ve traditionally gone after, is your basic captive audience: School children. Toward that end, a bipartisan cadre of religionist lawmakers in Florida have cooked up yet another bill that — if it became law — would put prayer into public schools in Florida, and end up forcing public school kids to pray, whether or not they or their parents wish it. The Miami Herald reports on this militant Christianist effort (WebCite cached article):
A bill that would allow voluntary, student-led prayer in secondary schools sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday – but not before meeting resistance from Anti-Defamation League officials, who called the bill “unnecessary, divisive and unconstitutional.”
Said sponsor Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando: “All I’m trying to do is allow those School Boards and those students who want to partake in this type of activity [the opportunity] to do that.”
Siplin and the bill’s other sponsors have fallen for the myth that it’s currently impossible for anyone to pray in public schools. At the moment, anyone — students, faculty, employees, visitors, etc. — in any public school in the country can, in fact, pray any time s/he wants to. It is not illegal to do so, and there’s no need for any law to be passed to enable it. I expect a lot of praying goes on in schools all over the country … especially around exam time.
What’s not permitted is when school staff lead students in prayer. This was established by the US Supreme Court in a number of decisions, most especially Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington School Dist. v. Schempp (1963), among others. This means that FL Senate Bill 98 and House Bill 317 would be unconstitutional, even if they were to become law. The Herald even points this out by citing a related precedent:
Passing the legislation may not be that easy. In 2009, a federal court struck down school prayer in Santa Rosa County in northwest Florida.
The law seems to have been written with a wink and a nod in the direction of trying to skirt Constitutional limitations:
Student volunteers would have to lead the prayers or benedictions, and school personnel would not be permitted to partake.
This is transparent, however; if the principal were to stick a child in front of an assembly or a microphone, s/he would effectively be directing the prayer. Using the child as an agent would, moreover, be cowardly in the extreme.
Also, the maneuver of merely “enabling” school boards to lead students in prayer, rather than directing them to do so, is likewise transparent. If you think for a moment that a lot of Florida’s schools won’t leap at the chance to ram religion down the throats of kids, you’re sorely mistaken; I already blogged about the godly folk in Cross City FL who’ve stated they were willing to defy court orders to remove a Decalogue idol from their courthouse steps.
The article ended with this precious little tidbit:
“God bless y’all,” [Siplin] told senators after the vote. “I’m praying for you.”
I hope Siplin realizes that, in saying this, he violated Jesus’ explicit and unmistakable command never to engage in public piety (see Matthew 6:1-6 among other gospel passages). These militant Christianists really need to stop disobeying their own Jesus.
But of course, we all know damned well they won’t!
Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.
Photo credit: Austin Cline/About Atheism.
, gary siplin
, house bill 317
, orlando FL
, public piety
, public prayer
, public school
, public school prayer
, school prayer
, senate bill 98
, tallahasee FL
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It’s one thing to have nutty metaphysical beliefs. It’s another to have beliefs so nutty that they jeopardize one’s health. But it’s another thing entirely to have beliefs that jeopardize other people’s lives. Dale and Shannon Hickman of Oregon City, Oregon are two such people. Their newborn son died because they refused to take him to a doctor, and as the Washington Post reports, they were recently convicted of manslaughter over it (WebCite cached article):
A jury on Thursday (Sept. 29) unanimously convicted an Oregon couple, Dale and Shannon Hickman, in the faith-healing death of their infant son.
Both parents were found guilty of second-degree manslaughter, a Class B felony that requires a sentence of at least six years and three months in prison under Oregon’s mandatory sentencing law. However, because of a religious exemption that was eliminated after the Hickmans were indicted, they could face less than 18 months in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The story of how the infant died, is chilling:
David Hickman was born on Sept. 26, 2009, and lived less than nine hours.
His mother, Shannon Hickman, went into labor two months before her due date. Instead of going to a hospital, she and her husband opted to have the baby in her mother’s home. At birth, he weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces.
The Hickmans testified that David appeared healthy then took a sudden dire turn. Dale Hickman responded by holding his newborn son, praying for him and anointing him with olive oil. The parents said they never considered calling a doctor, and the baby died quickly.
Their defense attorney claimed that medical help “could not” have saved little David:
In closing arguments, defense attorney Mark Cogan maintained it is unfair to fault the Hickmans for failing to call 911. “What opportunity was there?” he asked. “What benefit would there have been?”
It’s true that medical care might not have saved David, but then again, it might have. We just don’t know — and thanks to Cogan’s clients’ actions, we never will.
The Hickmans, as the Post explains, are part of a weird church that has seen this happen all too often:
The Hickmans are members of Oregon City’s Followers of Christ church, which has a long history of children dying from treatable conditions because their parents relied on faith healing rather than taking them to doctors. In response to such cases, legislators this year removed religious exemptions from Oregon’s criminal statutes.
In the case of the little, late David Hickman, this change to the law does nothing. It’s a classic case of the horses and the barn door.
The Hickmans, of course, insist they had no choice:
When asked why he didn’t call 911 once he realized his infant son was failing, Dale Hickman responded, “Because I was praying.”
He did this, because — of course — it’s not possible both to pray and call 911 at the same time. I guess. According to him. I don’t know how that works, but then, what could I know about such important matters? The coldest response to this came from little David’s mother:
Shannon Hickman said that as a woman in the church, she must defer to her husband. “That’s not my decision anyway,” she said. “I think it’s God’s will whatever happens.”
She stood by and let her own son die, because her husband told her to and because he’s the man, so his word is law. Also, she alludes to the old “life is cheap in God’s eyes” principle espoused by many religionists, wherein anyone and everyone’s lives can be freely sacrificed, if God decides it must be so.
Another thing: Lots of people love to say that prayer is an effective way to treat illnesses. I’d love for any of those people to explain, then, why it didn’t work in the case of David Hickman? Aside from the old “It wasn’t God’s will that he live” … because after all, the idea of prayer is to change God’s mind about such things, is it not?
Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.
Photo credit: Lawrence OP.
, dale and shannon hickman
, dale hickman
, david hickman
, faith healer
, followers of christ church
, oregon city
, oregon city OR
, prayer effectiveness
, shannon hickman
, what's the harm
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Here’s a stunning example of how not to do critical thinking, and why amateurs and idiots should never attempt it on their own. A (believing) woman won the New York lottery recently, as a result of a mock prayer by her (atheist) son, and he’s now a “true believer.” WNBC-TV in New York City reports on this irrationality (WebCite cached article):
A mother and son’s prayers were both answered with one scratch of a lottery ticket.
Gloria Bentivegna of West Babylon won $1 million in the New York Lottery’s Sweet Million game one day after her son had called on God to give his mom the money. …
But Sal Bentivegna, 26, never saw eye to eye with his mom’s beliefs, describing himself as somewhere between an agnostic and an atheist. …
Last month, mother and son’s ongoing debate over religion came to a head as they played the slots in Atlantic City.
Sal Bentivegna challenged God to prove he exists.
“I said, if he wants me to believe, he’ll give you a million dollars.”
The answer came within twenty-four hours. …
A few days later, Sal joined his mom at Ss. Cyril and Methodius church in Deer Park. It was his first church visit in some twenty years.
“I don’t think one can ask for more proof than something like that short of God or Jesus appearing physically in front of you,” said Sal.
Unfortunately — in the eyes of strict logic — this “challenge prayer” is proof of absolutely nothing whatsoever. First, there is no direct, causal link between the “prayer” and the lottery win. It’s possible that the mother would have won the lottery without the prayer being said. There is such a thing as a coincidence, you know … even if religionists conveniently refuse to accept that coincidences happen.
Second, a lottery win is too wild, statistically, for one such event to tell us anything. What would be needed is something bigger and more meticulous; a larger sample size, i.e. many more lottery tickets than just one, and controls, i.e. some of them which are not prayed for. In other words, demonstrating a connection between prayer and lottery winnings would require a large, well-designed, tightly-structured study.
One challenge prayer and one lottery win do not meet this standard.
In fact, given the nature of the supernatural, it’s ultimately impossible to design any such thing, since one can never exclude elements of the supernatural, which — by definition — lie outside the control of anyone operating such a study, as R.T. Carroll of the Skeptic’s Dictionary points out. In other words, even the best-structured study could, conceivably, be mucked around with, if God chooses not to cooperate with it or purposely muddles its results. No study can possibly be set up so as to work around or isolate out the supposed omnipotence of God.
As one would expect, fierce Christians are jumping for joy at this news, e.g. this story from the Christian Post (cached):
Realizing that the odds of his mother winning were so farfetched, Sal has now become a firm believer.
He testified, “I can’t shrug off that Jesus had a hand in it.”
“No pun intended, but it was a Godsend,” he said.
Gloria Bentivegna, reflecting on what had happened, is thankful to God for her winnings, but even more thankful for her son’s conversion. She said: “’God performed two miracles, a true miracle.”
What these jubilant Christians forget is that their religion is not supposed to be based upon challenges to God and real-world events. This is what their scripture explicitly tells them, e.g.:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Converting to Christianity as a result of a financial boon doled out (supposedly) by God, is precisely the kind of “boast” that this epistle condemns. Thus, any Christians rejoicing over this, are actually being anti-scriptural!
Photo credit: Leo Reynolds.
, critical thinking
, critical thinking fail
, gloria bentivegna
, intercessory prayer
, new york
, sal bentivegna
, west babylon NY
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The militant and angry Christofascist Georgia state representative Bobby Franklin used Facebook as a platform to whine about the victims of recent tornadoes, as Georgia Politico reported recently: (WebCite cached article):
Georgia Republican State Representative Bobby Franklin today compared the victims of the massive super cell tornado system that ripped across the southern United States over the weekend to idolaters “praying to their god, FEMA”.
The article includes a screen shot of his whiney hyperreligious drivel:
GA state rep Bobby Franklin's Christofascist comment on Facebook (via Georgia Politico)
Obviously this comment is insulting to the tornado victims — the majority of whom are, no doubt, Christians (seen as how the entire country is majority-Christian). Another problem here is that, in a way, FEMA constitutes a kind of insurance to which the victims have all contributed over the years, in the form of federal taxes they’ve paid. Would Franklin accuse someone of “praying” to an auto insurance company (for example) when s/he files an accident claim? People like Franklin likely object to this view since they see government disaster-coverage as coercive, as opposed to insurance which is a private contract. But the fact is that it’s not possible to purchase tornado coverage for one’s home or business … all insurance policies exclude
“acts of God” (e.g. violent weather events). The private sector offers little opportunity to buy such coverage, because — quite simply — no private insurance company is large enough to absorb the losses it might have to accept, without pricing premiums so high that few can afford it. That’s a risk only government has the resources to handle.
Militant Christofascists like Franklin view government as somehow having “replaced” churches in the social order. What they want, is for churches to become — once again — the entity upon which everyone relies, when they’re in need. This will, in turn, grant churches a degree of power and control over people’s lives that they do not currently have.
To an extent, it’s true that churches once constituted the societal “safety net.” But there’s a reason FEMA exists … because not even churches are large enough to take on a risk of this size. Churches would not be able to rebuild all the homes and businesses lost to these tornadoes. They might be able to rebuild some of them … but they would have to choose whom to help and whom to leave to their own devices, and that would likely be based on the person’s beliefs. Only those most loyal to a church’s dogma would get that church’s aid.
That’s what this is all about folks … it’s nothing more than a play for power. Christofascists like Franklin want people to become serfs of the churches where they live, and use their control over them to bend them to their religious views. It’s despicable, of course, but that hardly matters to people who think they’re entitled to force everyone, willingly or not, to adopt their own religion because they believe they’re entitled to have the entire planet worship as they do.
Another Christofascist objection to the US government, of course, is that under the current Constitution, they’re not able to force their religion on Americans. The only way they can do that is to abolish it and create a new theocratic government. Hence their opposition to the current administration and anything that calls attention to it (e.g. FEMA’s recovery activities).
Hat tip: Religion Dispatches.
Photo credit: NOAA.
Tags: bobby franklin
, christian right
, religious right
, safety net
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Texas has experienced an unusual wave of wildfires over the last few days (WebCite cached article). One would think Texas governor Rick Perry would be coordinating firefighting efforts, calling in resources at his disposal such as the National Guard, and otherwise working hard at responding to them quickly. But that would be assuming too much of the fiercely religionistic Perry. No, Reuters reports that Perry’s idea of a good response to wildfires, is to tell Texans to pray for rain (cached):
Texas Governor Rick Perry called on Texans to pray for rain as cooler temperatures on Thursday helped firefighters contain wildfires that have charred more than 1.5 million acres across the state.
That’s the way, Rickie-boy. Use a disaster to order your state’s citizens — believers and non-believers alike — to obey the doctrines of your own religion. There’s nothing like taking advantage of a crisis to foist religion on people, is there?
In a unique and hilarious reversal for a man who once threatened to make his state secede from the Union (cached), Perry asked for federal help:
Perry, a Republican, sought increased federal help in combating the blazes last weekend and urged Texans to ask the same from a higher power over the Easter holiday weekend.
What a wonderful way to stick to your “Texas-can-go-its-own-way-if-we-don’t-like-Obama” principles, Rickie-boy. Way to go!
Photo credit: Svein Håvard Djupvik.
, austin TX
, pray for rain
, rick perry
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