Posts Tagged “Religion”

President Obama greeted families in an overflow room after speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque. / Drew Angerer for the New York TimesFor years now I’ve blogged about what I call “the Great Neocrusade.” In the wake of Islamist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the Neocrusade has gone from a rhetorical effort to a physical and violent one.

President Obama took note of this, it seems. Taking a page from his predecessor, as the New York Times reports, he knocked the Neocrusade when he visited a Baltimore mosque (WebCite cached article):

President Obama on Wednesday embraced Muslims in the United States as part of “one American family” and implicitly criticized the Republican presidential candidates in a warning to citizens to not be “bystanders to bigotry.”

In a visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, his first to a mosque in the United States as president, Mr. Obama recited phrases from the Quran and praised American Muslims as a crucial part of America’s history and vital to the nation’s future.

“And so if we’re serious about freedom of religion — and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country — we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths,” Mr. Obama said.

The Right is, as one would expect, outraged over this. A lot of them still think he’s a “secret Muslim” (cached), and this visit will — for them — only confirm that delusion.

Look, I get it. These folk are angry. They hear about Islamist attacks and want all Muslims to be gone. The problem is, not all Muslims are terrorists. Being violent right back at Muslims who aren’t, themselves, violent Islamists is a form of “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and is fallacious.

Another problem is, Islamists aren’t the only terrorists who prey on Americans. Something else I’ve blogged about is the phenomenon of domestic Right-wing terror, which — despite our aversion to admitting it — exists, is real, and is at least as dangerous for Americans as Islamist terror.

Photo credit: Drew Angerer / New York Times.

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Jesus with a gun, via Counterlight's Peculiars / Jesus Kicks Ass!I’ve blogged occasionally over the last few years about a ridiculous movement — primarily among evangelicals — that angles to get more guns into churches. For some reason, guns are sacred to Jesus. I guess. I mean, it’s not as though I’ve ever understood this notion. After all, wasn’t Jesus — who supposedly founded their religion — the one who told Christians to “turn the other cheek” and “hand over one’s shirt with one’s cloak”, and “whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword” and all of that? I guess the sacred nature of guns must escape me, cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen that I am. I’m just not special enough to be gifted with such holy insights. Or something.

Anyway, this “bring guns to church for Jesus” trope has wandered into Catholicism, in a very public way. After his state enacted an “open-carry” law, the bishop of Dallas declared that guns aren’t allowed in any Catholic facilities in his diocese, and penned a missive on his blog announcing his opposition to “open carry.” Well, as you can imagine, this being Texas and all, that didn’t go over well. The Dallas Morning News reports on the backlash, which will include Catholics marching into churches armed to the teeth (WebCite cached article):

Plenty of Texas gun rights advocates celebrated 2016 as the year open carry finally arrived. But for some conservative Catholics, it’s another reason to clash with Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell.

The Dallas Diocese forbids parishioners from bringing guns – openly carried or concealed – to their churches. A recent online column by Farrell [cached] – described by some as “strident” – has made the Bishop’s critics even more vocal.…

The column said the ban was a reflection of the church as a place of sanctuary.

The column also praised President Barack Obama’s new executive order attempting to crack down on gun sales that hadn’t previously required background checks.…

“It is absurd that terrorists, criminals, and mentally unbalanced people can freely and openly buy weapons not intended for sport, but designed to kill people,” Farrell wrote.

It goes without saying a lot of Texans are incensed over what Farrell said. Much of that has more to do with the bishop’s expression of support for President Obama’s recent actions, than it does with his forbidding guns in Dallas-diocese churches.

At least one sanctimoniously-enraged Catholic quoted in the story plans to disobey Farrell:

[Catholic gun-toter Charles] Cleaver said he’ll continue carrying a gun to Mass, no matter what Farrell decides.

Remembering a friend’s warning, Cleaver said: “What good would that [gun] do for you if you’re not carrying?”

That last sentence points to the flaw in the gun-lovers’ arguments about how great it would be if everyone ran around with guns. They love guns; they think they’re useful; because they’re useful, that means they’re always needed; so if you don’t have one with you at all times, you may as well not even own one in the first place; but you do, so you have to take it everywhere. Yes, that’s the kind of “logic” we’re dealing with, in this sort of person.

P.S. Yes, in spite of the new law, private entities in Texas still have the right to forbid guns on their property. So Farrell’s ban of guns on diocesan property will stand.

P.P.S. I really love how Farrell’s critics called his ban on guns on diocesan properties and statement of support for Obama “strident,” as though stomping around armed to the teeth somehow isn’t also “strident.” Hmm.

Photo credit: Counterlight’s Peculiars.

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Facepalm (7839341408)By now my readers surely will have heard about the shooting in San Bernardino, CA yesterday that killed 14 and wounded 17 (WebCite cached article). Among all the yammering that’s been said about this horrific event, in the mass media and by officials, pundits and politicians, I’m not pleased to report that it’s been used as ammunition in the annual phantasmal “war on Christmas.” Raw Story explains how this connection was made this morning, on (you guessed it!) Fox News (cached):

Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. warned that Wednesday’s mass killing in San Bernardino could be a “literal war on Christmas.”…

“I don’t want to come to any hasty conclusions at the point,” Johnson continued, “but if you look at the dots, if you start to connect them in a way that’s rational and reasonable — and not political — based on simple things we know about terrorism, simple things we know about criminal justice then it leads inescapably to that one horrible conclusion: terror.”

“Is it based on politics? Is it based on religion? Is it based on hate? Is it a literal war on Christmas?”

Is this guy serious? What the fuck? How much lower can these people stoop, in their effort to bolster the lie that there’s a “war on Christmas” in the US and that it’s about to be outlawed, as a way of wiping out Christianity and its followers? You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me!

P.S. I love how Johnson says he doesn’t “want to come to any hasty conclusions” … yet he proceeds to barge right ahead and do exactly that. Although I concede, based on reports that have come in all day today (cached), that this very likely is an example of Islamist terrorism. It wasn’t an entirely unreasonable assumption, but it’s still idiotic for him to make a point of professing not to make assumptions, but then go ahead and make one nonetheless.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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On the heels of presidential candidate Ben Carson’s idiotic Islamophobic yammering, and my release of a static page on this blog explaining what the Great Neocrusade is and what’s wrong with it, the furious Christofascist Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council repeated that Muslims don’t have freedom of religion in the US. Right Wing Watch reports on his claim, and includes audio (WebCite cached article):

On his “Washington Watch” radio program yesterday, Perkins repeated his claim that Islam is not protected under the U.S. Constitution.

While discussing GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson’s recent statement that he would never support a Muslim candidate for president, along with the claims of Kim Davis’ critics that a clerk would never receive such praise from the Religious Right had she been a Muslim, Perkins railed against media commentators for “interjecting” Islam “into all of these discussions.” He said that the media is using Islam as a “wedge” to divide conservatives, suggesting that Kim Davis’ decision to impose her Christian beliefs onto her county office was different because Islam is not protected in the Constitution, while Christianity is.

“Religious freedom and our liberty is ordered liberty under the Constitution,” Perkins said. “And as Dr. Carson pointed out, and I know this is driving the left crazy, that Islam is not just a religion, Islam is an economic system, it is a judicial system, it is a compressive system which is incompatible with the Constitution. That’s what Dr. Carson said and he happens to be correct.”

This isn’t the first time Tony-boy has said something like this. I noted he said pretty much the same thing just about a year ago. He hasn’t changed his tune a bit since then, I see. But just as was the case back then, Tony-boy is a blatant fucking hypocrite, decrying Islam as “an economic system” and “a judicial system” in addition to being a religion. He conveniently ignores that his own Religious Right movement is simultaneously religious, political, economic, and judicial. For Tony-boy to say Muslims can’t be granted religious freedom because their religion has certain features, but not admitting to them within his own religion — which he says does enjoy religious liberty — is hypocritical. Which he’s not allowed to do, since his own Jesus clearly, unambiguously, and explicitly forbid his followers ever to be hypocrites, at any time or for any reason. He simply can’t do it!

As I’ve noted repeatedly, the problem here is that the Religious Right views Islam as its main rival, on a global scale at least. That it’s a small minority religion here in the US, and that it does seem to have a propensity for violent extremes at the moment, makes Muslims here a convenient and ready target. That doesn’t mean all Muslims are dangerous, even though Tony-boy and his fellow Neocrusaders keep insisting that’s so. They forget there is such a thing as Christian terrorism, too. So yeah, that’s another example of Religious Right hypocrisy … condemning Islam as a “terrorist” religion, but ignoring the terrorists within their own faith. Nice, eh? Fucking hypocrites.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Rainbow flag breezeThe Religious Right is still pitching fits all over the place over the fact that gay marriage is now legal throughout the US. It’s natural that they’d go apeshit over Obergefell v. Hodges, because it forces them to treat gays as equals rather than as second-class citizens. And they can’t stand that.

But it seems Rowan county, Kentucky has become a nexus of contention over the matter. County Clerk Kim Davis has decided that, due to her Christianity, no gays in her county should be able to marry. Her Christianity, you see, prevents her from letting it happen. WKYT-TV in Lexington reports on how legal warfare is beginning to pile up over her childishness (WebCite cached article):

A flurry of activity happened Friday afternoon in the case of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, including an apparent effort to have her charged with official misconduct.

Friday afternoon, Davis, who refuses to issue marriage licenses despite a court order, said in court documents that she filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court to have a justice review her appeal. A spokeswoman with the Supreme Court told WKYT they had not received the petition as of Friday afternoon.

Davis apparently submitted that filing to the Supreme Court and then asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to extend his stay– which is scheduled to expire Aug. 31 — on his marriage license order while she appeals to the Supreme Court. Bunning responded hours later, denying that request.

Meanwhile, the Rowan County Attorney’s Office said on Friday that it has referred to the Attorney General’s Office a charge of official misconduct against Davis.

If Ms Davis doesn’t want to do her job according to the law and issue licenses for gay marriages, there’s a simple and easy solution that doesn’t require her to violate her religion, and that is for her to just fucking resign and let someone else take over the job who’s willing to do it.

See how easy that was? What need is there to resort to the Supreme Court … again? Especially when she’s likely to lose?

Oh wait, I can answer that: It’s because she wants to feel persecuted for Jesus because that desire is part and parcel of the psychopathology of her religion. Going to court and losing is, in a perverse way, exactly what she wants!

Update: Yesterday the Supreme Court turned aside her request (cached). She’s going to have to decide whether or not to fulfill her duties as a county clerk.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The Assumption of the Virgin (1612-17); Peter Paul RubensSomething I’ve long warned American Catholics about is their alliance with the Religious Right. This movement had grown out of the Southern Baptist Convention initially as pushback against segregation (WebCite cached article). And its membership remains primarily evangelical Protestant … even though the Roman Catholic bishops have joined ranks with them, and there are plenty of Catholic politicians (e.g. Rick Santorum, Sam Brownback, Newt Gingrich, and others) who are definitely part of the R.R. The reality of this Catholic/R.R. alliance is that it’s tenuous at best, predicated on only a few points in common, such as opposition to abortion and contraception. The reality is that they’ve been ecclesiastical rivals for centuries, and while they’re no longer at war with one another, each maintains its own distinct vision of Christ and Christianity.

What a lot of Catholics fail to understand — or even know about — is the degree of hatred a lot of their supposed allies in the R.R. have for them. They don’t often make a point of it, but there are occasions when evangelical Protestants find themselves unable to contain their contempt for those “saint-worshipping papists.” An example of this phenomenon emerged when TX gov. Greg Abbott — a Catholic — posted something recently to Facebook (cached):

Texaas Governor Greg Abbott (R) got a lesson in religious tolerance over the weekend after posting an image of the Virgin Mary accompanied by praise on his Facebook page, according to the San Antonio Express-News [cached].

On Saturday the governor, who is Catholic, posted an image of the mother of Jesus [cached] on his Texans for Abbott Facebook page, accompanied by the comment: “The Virgin Mary is exalted above the choirs of angels. Blessed is the Lord who has raised her up.” Saturday was the celebration of the Assumption; the day when the Holy Mother is believed to have been accepted into Heaven.

Responses from followers on Facebook were fast and furious, with many joining in with the governor and praising the Virgin Mary, while others less accepting of his Catholicism accused him of idolatry.

“So you’re Catholic Mr. Abbott? So what? You worship idols; not something I’d be telling everyone,” one commenter wrote, while another seconded the comment, writing: “This is nothing more than idol worship.”

Another pointed out that “Jesus is The Blessed and Holy One!!!” before asking “Were you hacked ?????”

Comments ran to over 900 as people of various faiths battled over whose religion was the most righteous, argued over Scripture, and even questioned the accuracy of the Bible and whether Jesus wrote it.

Honestly, I hadn’t known the Republican Abbott was Catholic. And I suppose a lot of folks (of the evangelical Protestant sort) even in Texas didn’t know it — which is why his Facebook post elicited so much sanctimonious outrage. Had his Catholicism been more widely known, the reaction probably wouldn’t have been as extensive or vitriolic as this, because those evangelical Protestants would already have been steeled to Abbott’s Catholicism and held their tongues.

At any rate, this should provide a lesson to any Catholics out there whose political leanings are toward the Religious Right. Pay attention: These people are not your friends. Many don’t even consider you to be Christians! They may not be up-front about it, or let it show very often, but the bottom line is that they hate Catholics almost as much as they hate Muslims and atheists. If they manage to seize control of the country and make it into the “Christian nation” they’ve been screaming for, once they’ve dispensed with both of those groups, Catholics — followed closely by Orthodox Christians — will be next on their hit list. They won’t give a shit that you helped them establish their Christocracy; they’ll persecute you mercilessly in spite of it, because you’re un-Christian idolaters, as they see it. And they’ll be happy to go after you with everything they’ve got.

So Catholics, be careful. Very, very careful.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The mayor argues that this Nativity scene celebrates the town's origins. / KOAT-TVAccording to Fox News, it’s on, folks! That’s right, Christianists’ annual paranoid whining about an imagined effort to abolish the celebration of Christmas in the US has resumed early — in August! (Even so, that’s not as early as back in 2013.) This story involves the town of Belen, NM which has a nativity in a city park year-round (“Belen” is the Spanish equivalent of “Bethelehem,” so Christians there appear to believe this is somehow necessary). KOAT-TV in Albuquerque reports on this particular little controversy (WebCite cached article):

It’s an iconic symbol for Christians everywhere — the birth of Jesus Christ, known as the Nativity scene — and it’s on display in a Belen city park. But now a Wisconsin advocacy group is warning the city to take it down.

“My first reaction was seething anger,” Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova said.

It’s an iconic symbol for Christians everywhere — the birth of Jesus Christ, known as the Nativity scene — and it’s on display in a Belen city park. But now a Wisconsin advocacy group is warning the city to take it down.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation says it was contacted by a concerned local resident and, after reviewing the situation, it agrees: the Nativity scene on government property is unconstitutional because it’s not a separation of church and state.

But Cordova doesn’t see it like that. He says the scene is more historic than religious, as “Belen” is Spanish for Bethlehem.

“Our town was named Belen for a reason, because our founders wanted it to be named after Bethlehem and of course, what happened in Bethlehem was the birth of Christ, which is something we’ve expressed since our founding,” he said.

I love the editorial reference to the FFRF as “a Wisconsin advocacy group.” As though they’re a bunch of meddling outsiders trying to tell these fine upstanding locals what to do, and who have no place in New Mexico. It turns out this is a common refrain, particularly regarding the FFRF, when they intervene anywhere in the South. “How dare these ‘outsiders’ come down here and order us around?” is a frequent complaint by Christianists offended by being confronted with the law. As noted in the story, though, the FFRF had been notified of this by locals who’d requested their assistance. Besides, the FFRF’s status as “outsiders” to Belen is irrelevant. If they’re breaking the law, then they’re breaking the law, and being told so by out-of-staters cannot and will never change that fact.

As KOAT-TV relates, mayor Cordova used an appeal to the slippery slope in order to justify keeping the nativity on city property:

“Where does it stop?” Cordova asked. “If we don’t stand up for the Nativity scene in the heart of Belen, next will they be asking us to change our name?”

For the record, I know of no effort anywhere in the country to force any municipality to change its name. It has never happened. To assume it will happen merely because one imagines it might happen, is irrational and illogical. At any rate, fuelled by his sanctimonious rage and standing on a foundation of fallacy and paranoia, Cordova promised his city will defy the FFRF and take the case to court. The odds are very good that they’ll lose. What’s more, a court battle is likely to cost them a good deal of money, even if some Christofascist legal outfit promises to represent them pro bono, because after the court case is over and they’ve lost, Belen will end up having to pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs. And that won’t be cheap.

I can’t help but wonder why any of this is even necessary. First, why must this nativity — reflecting Belen’s heritage as a New World “Bethlehem” — be placed only on municipal property? Is there any reason it can’t be moved to private property? Will it somehow lose all its magical power unless it’s in a city park? Is there any reason it can’t be moved to some church’s front lawn or something?

Second, why are Christians even erecting idols to their deity — which is essentially what a nativity is — in the first place? As I point out in my page on Decalogue monuments, idolatry is forbidden to Christians, as recorded in both the Old and New Testaments:

You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God. (Lv 26:1)

Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness (Jon 2:8)

Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images, who boast themselves of idols; worship Him, all you gods. (Ps 97:7)

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Cor 10:14)

Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (1 Jn 5:21)

On top of this, though, a nativity put up prominently on public property is most certainly a form of public piety, which also was explicitly forbidden by none other than Jesus himself:

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)

How, exactly, is a public nativity scene even an appropriate way to worship a deity who not only prohibited the construction of idols, but also public piety of any kind or at any time? Maybe it’s because I’m a cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen and haven’t been granted the special sacred insight required to explain the illogic inherent in all of this, but I really and truly don’t get it.

Photo credit: KOAT-TV.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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