Posts Tagged “Religion”

bygging þar sem Alþingi Íslendinga situr, síðan 1881 (Íslenska); Parliament Building in Reykjavík, Iceland (English)For years now I’ve pointed out that the “crime” of blasphemy is really no crime at all; it doesn’t actually harm anyone or anything else. Consider: If (for example) someone expresses disrespect for a deity, what does that accomplish? It can’t harm the deity, since — if they exist — deities are metaphysical entities unaffected by such things. The deity — again, if it existed prior to the blasphemy — will continue to exist and in the same state as before. It can’t harm the deity’s religion, because it will go on just as it had previously; it will still have followers, its teachings won’t vanish, its various artifacts (objects/locations of worship, sacred texts, etc.) will go on as before. It also can’t harm the deity’s worshippers; they can keep on worshipping him/her/it as they always did, and continue believing as they did, prior to the blasphemy having been uttered.

Thus, blasphemy damages nothing and no one. People might be offended by it, but that doesn’t really mean anything, since they aren’t harmed in any meaningful way.

Despite this, a lot of countries have outlawed blasphemy, as well as apostasy (refusal to adhere to the prevailing religion, which is related). As noted, because blasphemy never harms anyone or anything, these laws accomplish nothing, except to protect believers in those countries from the terrible burden of being offended by someone outside their faith. This has the corollary effect of sensitizing people to any expression of blasphemy, and this in turn infantilizes them, fooling them into thinking the entire world believes as they do and they’re entitled never to have to know that not everyone does. This leads them to do insanely juvenile things like riot, maim and murder when they hear someone might burn a Qur’an (for example), or kill people over rumored blasphemies that never actually happened.

There really is no reason, therefore, for any jurisdiction on earth to have a blasphemy law.

I’m glad to hear, therefore, that — as the BBC reports — earlier this month, Iceland repealed its old blasphemy law (WebCite cached article):

Iceland’s parliament has abolished its blasphemy laws, despite opposition from some of the country’s churches.

A bill was put forward by the minority Pirate Party [cached], which campaigns for internet and data freedom.

It came after the deadly attack the same month against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

The bill said it was “essential in a free society that the public can express themselves without fear of punishment”.

It’s too bad it took a massacre to bring this to their attention … but at least they managed to get this done, driven by Iceland’s Pirate Party, which had been small but is growing in both numbers and political influence (cached). What’s also gratifying is that Iceland’s largest church supported repeal of the blasphemy law (cached):

The Iceland Monitor website said that the Church of Iceland supported the change [cached], and quoted them as saying that “any legislative powers limiting freedom of expression in this way is at variance with modern-day attitudes towards human rights”.

The Catholic Church of Iceland, along with a couple others, opposed it, claiming that allowing people’s religion to be insulted somehow reduces their religious freedom. I haven’t a fucking clue how that works — and I suspect they don’t either — but that’s what they said.

It’s time the entire world grew the fuck up and did what Icelanders did, which is to get rid of blasphemy laws. Because that’s what this is all about, ultimately … the maturity it takes to let people say what they want, even if it offends their religious senses. We can no longer afford the alternative. We just can’t.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Newport Patch / Stain Below Jesus Painting in Newport Church Seen as a Sign from GodYet another miracle has the Ocean State all agog. This time it’s inside a church in Newport. The Providence Journal, among a number of media outlets, reports uncritically on a stain on the wall beneath a painting of the crucified Jesus (WebCite cached article):

For years, parishioners of St. John the Evangelist Church didn’t say much about the rust-colored stain running beneath the 12th Station of the Cross painting of Jesus.

Some never noticed it.

Others, without knowing what was causing the mark, didn’t want the 140-year-old Episcopal church to become a roadside curiosity or tabloid headline.

But this spring the church has turned a spotlight on the odd little stain, which in the right light appears to have trickled like blood directly from a painting of Jesus’ crucified feet onto the plaster of the church wall.

On Sunday, the Rev. Nathan J.A. Humphrey’s sermon addressed the “mysterious red mark,” suggesting that, whether of earthly or divine origins, it was evidence of Jesus’ presence in the church.

So this thing’s been there for no-one-knows-how-long, but suddenly — because the church’s minister mentioned it in a sermon — it became news? Why? I have no idea. I guess Rhode Island must have had a slow news day or something.

For the record, it looks to me as though it’s a rust stain from plumbing in the wall behind the painting or from the frame itself. Parishioners shouldn’t have to keep cleaning it up; instead, they should take down the painting, fix whatever causes this stain, clean the stain that’s already there, and paint over it. But why do I doubt they’ll do that, when this is attracting interest in their church?

The idea that the Almighty has nothing better to do with his/her/its time than plant a rust streak in the wall beneath this painting, is just flat-out fucking ridiculous. I mean, seriously. S/he/it has an entire universe to run, fercryinoutloud. It’s arrogance of the highest order for this Newport church to presume to have this much of the Almighty’s attention. Besides, there are a lot better ways for the Christian God to make himself evident to people, than this, if s/he/it actually wished to make him/her/itself evident.

Photo credit: Newport Patch.

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Wedding RingsIreland held a referendum yesterday on gay marriage. To no one’s real surprise, as Reuters reports this morning, voters there approved the measure (WebCite cached article):

Irish voters backed same-sex marriage by a landslide in a referendum marking a dramatic social shift in the traditionally Catholic country, government ministers and opponents of the bill said on Saturday.

Final results were not expected until later in the day, but ministers predicted Ireland had become the first country to adopt same-sex marriage via a popular vote by a margin of around two-to-one, just two decades after it decriminalized homosexuality.…

The proposal was backed by all political parties, championed by big employers and endorsed by celebrities, all hoping it would mark a transformation in a country that was long regarded as one of the most socially conservative in Western Europe.

As one would expect, the Roman Catholic Church — which has a large presence in the Emerald Isle — opposed this measure. But their influence has waned in Ireland as a result of the Catholic clerical abuse scandal, which was a particularly thorny issue there. This rendered the Church nearly impotent as the vote approached:

The Catholic Church, whose dominance of Irish politics collapsed in the wake of a series of sex scandals in the early 1990s, still teaches that homosexual activity is a sin. But it limited its ‘No’ campaigning to sermons to its remaining flock, a marked contrast with active public opposition to similar moves in France and elsewhere.

I can’t think of a better example of an organization “reaping what it sowed” as a result of its own actions. I hope the bishops are happy. Had they not torpedoed their own reputation in Ireland — by virtue of their actions and inactions where child-abuse by clergy were concerned — they might have actually had a chance to fend off this referendum. In this case, they marginalized themselves.

Photo credit: firemedic58, via Flickr.

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'Allahu FUBAR' / PsiCop original graphicIf you haven’t figured it out by now, much of the Muslim world — though certainly not all of it! — is, essentially, infantile. They’re mired deep in centuries of religionistic immaturity and they just refuse to grow up, because they think their al-Lah has granted them exclusive license not to have to grow up, and they think it’s up to the rest of the planet to accommodate their hyperjuvenile nature. The latest issue of Charlie Hebdo, with its Muhammad cartoon cover (which includes the incredibly uplifting message “All is forgiven”), has — both sadly and predictably — set off violence around the planet among Muslims who just can’t handle it. Here’s a selection of reports on the mayhem, death and destruction:

  • BBC News: Charlie Hebdo: Niger protesters set churches on fire (WebCite cached article)

    At least three people have been killed and six churches attacked in Niger amid fresh protests against French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

    Protests began outside Niamey’s grand mosque and reportedly spread to other parts of the country, a day after five were killed in Niger’s second city.

  • Reuters: Protesters clash with Pakistan police near French consulate (cached)

    Pakistan police fired tear gas and water cannon at about 200 protesters outside the French consulate in the southern port city of Karachi on Friday when a demonstration against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo turned violent.

  • USA Today: ‘Hebdo’ protests turn violent in Muslim nations (cached)

    Angry reactions to the cartoon triggered street demonstrations as wide-ranging as several hundred people gathering on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Friday to slogans chanted by Muslim activists in Hyderabad, India.…

    In Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood organized a crowd of 2,000 protesters who clashed with police in the capital of Amman as they moved toward the French Embassy. Police used batons to break up the gathering.

Terry Firma over at the Friendly Atheist provides a catalog of many more such incidents from around the world.

Oh, and … Jyllands-Posten's Muhammad Cartoons, #10 (Jyllands-Posten, via About.Com) / URL: http://middleeast.about.com/od/religionsectarianism/ig/Muhammad-Cartoons-/Muhammad-Cartoons--10.htmwhile we’re on the subject of the Muslim world’s approach to depictions of Muhammad … can we please just fucking stop already with the bullshit objections that Islam doesn’t forbid such things (cached)? Effectively it does forbid them — because millions of Muslims clearly believe it does, and because a lot of them are willing to riot, maim, burn and kill over that belief! Don’t tell me, or the rest of the occidental world, that riots like this are un-Islamic. It won’t do any good. If these raging clowns are wrong about Islam’s teachings on the subject, it’s up to other Muslims — who are clear on the matter — to rein in and discipline those who disagree and coerce them to stop this childish, riotous shit already. And they need to do it before someone else gets killed. The rest of the world simply can’t wait any longer for these overgrown children to start acting like mature adults.

As I always do when stories like this erupt, I’m including a gratuitous Muhammad cartoon in this post. The more these fucking Islamist crybabies rage and riot, the more I’ll post them. If there are Muslims out there who don’t like it … the solution is to grow up, calm down, and stop going up in flames over them all the time. It’s just that simple.

And one last comment: It’s time the White House stopped evading the reality that atrocities like those in and around Paris, not to mention beheadings by ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood or massacres of villages by Boko Haram, aren’t examples of “Islamist terror.” They are exactly that; refusing to use that phrase just makes the administration look like total clowns. Yes, I get it’s mostly the Right-wing that objects to the White House’s refusal to call it that (cached). And they have an agenda in making this complaint; mostly it’s because they’re Christianist Neocrusaders trying to bolster their own religion at the expense of what they consider their chief rival religion. Still, just as even a broken clock is correct twice a day, they’re correct on this point. Sugar-coating it helps no one. This particular kind of atrocity is — at the moment — a product of how a lot of Muslims follow their religion. Other Muslims who disagree with them are, for better or worse, the only ones who can correct them. Implying that Islam isn’t a problem here, or that it’s not a factor in this barbaric violence, won’t help, because it relieves those moderate Muslims of the task of correcting and disciplining their presumably-wayward co-religionists. Perhaps it’s not fair to them, but that’s just the way it is.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Top, PsiCop original graphic; middle, Jyllands-Posten via About.Com.

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Angel-FacepalmI’m tagging this post “you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” because … well … you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me! It’s rare to see people do something so insanely stupid, publicly, and then proceed to double down on it, refusing to acknowledge an error which is absurdly blatant and for which there can be no rational excuse.

This December 15, not too far from me in Springfield, MA, the city held a menorah lighting in its famous Court Square. That city’s Republican newspaper reports on the raging idiocy one of the city’s councilors spewed (WebCite cached article):

Jaws dropped in Springfield’s Court Square Tuesday afternoon when Springfield City Councilor Bud Williams offered his take on the annual city menorah lighting ceremony.

“Jesus is the reason for the season,” Williams said during remarks at the ceremony that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

Following short speeches by Congressman Richard Neal of Springfield and Mayor Domenic Sarno, who both touched on the history of religion in Springfield, Williams was handed the microphone and uttered the line that had people talking long after the ceremony ended.

What Williams apparently was unaware of, is that Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday and that Jews don’t worship Jesus. The article gives a brief sketch of what Hannukah is about, and links to Chabad.org’s FAQ page on the holiday. I suggest checking it out.

If you do, you will discover that Jesus had nothing to do with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (except, perhaps, assuming he lived, as a Jew himself, he may have celebrated it). It’s a Jewish holiday, as should be obvious, and Jews don’t revere or worship Jesus.

A lot of folks who said something this stupid would accept correction and apologize. But not Mr Williams. He was having none of it, and is not backing down as the Republican reported just a little later (cached):

[City Councilor Bud] Williams, a Baptist, made the remark during a Court Square event attended by Mayor Domenic Sarno, Congressman Richard Neal, city dignitaries, and leaders of the greater Springfield Jewish community, all of whom gathered at the downtown park to mark the Dec. 16 start of the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights.

“I thought it added something to the service, it didn’t take away,” Williams said Tuesday night.

The city councilor said he referenced Jesus Christ, whose birth is celebrated every Dec. 25 by Christians worldwide but not by Jews, after participants in the ceremony mentioned “the bright light” of 2,000 years ago — an allusion to Christ, according to Williams.

“They said it,” Williams said.

The councilor said his remark wasn’t meant as an expression of religious superiority or “dominance,” but rather as a simple reminder about the “reason for the season.”

Did you catch that? Williams blamed his stupidity on the rabbis, throwing them under the bus, as it were. “They said it,” he insists … ridiculously! In his mind, the rabbis’ mention of “‘the bright light’ of 2,000 years ago” could only have been Jesus, and cannot possibly have been a reference to the “miracle of lights” which the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah commemorates. Williams further engaged in his own variation of the “some of my best friends are Jewish” defense:

Williams said some people thanked him for his remarks. “A couple of the rabbis walked up to me and said, ‘Great comments, Mr. Williams.'”

The Republican notes, however, that they couldn’t verify this:

Rabbi Noach Kosofsky, who attended the ceremony, was asked Tuesday night for his reaction to Williams’ statement. “I’ll get back to you,” he said.

It’s safe to say that either these rabbis never said any such thing to Williams, or they did, but were just being nice to an assholish, mindless buffoon who clearly had no idea what he was talking about. In any event, Williams plainly hasn’t the slightest clue he said something he shouldn’t have said; thus, he isn’t about to apologize for it. Because, after all — as all the “war on Christmas” proponents have been railing for the past several years — Jesus “is the reason for the season” and anyone who says otherwise is trying to destroy Christianity and kill Christians. Or something like that.

Isn’t it time for Christians to just fucking grow the hell up already and get over themselves? Is it really necessary for them to presume everyone else on the planet sees everything the same way they do … even when they belong to non-Christian religions? Yes, references to “light” can mean Jesus … but they can also refer to other things within other religions, too.

Photo credit: shane_d_k, via Flickr.

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Waaah!I just blogged about some insane reactions to the Ebola outbreak. But now I’d like to comment on some Christianists using it as a promotional tool. This isn’t new for them, of course; their appeals to what I call “disaster theology” are old hat. There’s a reason they use this tactic: First, because people talk a lot about disasters and crises, and they’re well-covered in the media, so these guys hope to ride these stories to more attention than they’d have gotten otherwise; and second, because it’s a way of playing on fear, and fear is a way of hooking their audience, and — they hope! — reel in more donations.

The first example comes from Pastor John Hagee and is reported by Right Wing Watch with accompanying video (WebCite cached article):

“I want every American to hear this very clearly,” Hagee said, citing Joel 3 to warn that God will judge any nation that seeks to divide up Israel and declaring that “our president is dead set on dividing Jerusalem. God is watching and he will bring America into judgment.”

“There are grounds to say that judgment has already begun,” Hagee continued, “because he, the president, has been fighting to divide Jerusalem for years now.”

“We are now experiencing the crisis of Ebola,” he stated, as well as threats from Islamic radicals and even civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri all as a result of God’s judgment on America due to Obama’s policies

Hagee is a rabid Christian Zionist, one of those Christians who claims to love and support Israel, but what they’re really doing is agitating for that nation to (somehow) trigger Armageddon. (Specifically, what they hope is that Israel will do something to elicit a massive attack from “the kings of the east” as related in Revelation 16:12.)

Now, I have no idea why he thinks President Obama is “dividing up Israel.” My guess is he’s referring to the “two-state solution.” Unfortunately for the obnoxious little troll Hagee, that isn’t Obama’s invention. Not at all! It actually predates him by decades. In fact, it predates even the creation of Israel (and therefore predates Obama’s birth!). Its origins can be traced to the time of the British Mandate in Palestine, and the Peel Commission in 1937. Of course, that partition never happened, nor did the subsequent UN partition proposal which came along 10 years later. The current manifestation of the “two-state solution” began with the Oslo Accords in 1993; since then, it has been the policy of every US president — Democrat (Clinton, Obama) and Republican (the Younger Bush) — to pursue a two-state solution. It’s no more Obama’s policy than it was Bush’s or Clinton’s, nor is it (in principle, anyway) much different from any number of other plans that have been floated for the last few decades. (And I’ll leave alone the fact that Israel was “divided” in ancient times by the Hebrews themselves.) Why God would choose this particular moment to savage the country with Ebola, when Palestine-division plans had been tossed around for most of the 20th century and all of this one to date, isn’t really evident. At least, Hagee doesn’t bother to explain it.

The troll’s claims about Ebola being a pestilence sent due to “Obama’s” plan to divide Israel, conflict with what another pastor has said about it. A North Carolina pastor, Raw Story reports, says it’s because gay marriage is now legal, and the epidemic will grow worse as new states enact it (cached):

A Baptist pastor is warning that God will escalate the Ebola crisis when North Carolina begins performing same-sex marriages.

During his Sunday sermon following a series of court actions that effectively struck down North Carolina’s constitutional ban on marriage equality, Berean Baptist Church Pastor Pastor Ron Baity suggested that homosexuality was a sign of the End Times.

“So the book of the Revelation is about End Times events and what happens when this world is destroyed by fire, when the stars and the universe and the sun and the moon, like untimely figs cast from a tree, are just completely done away with and annihilated,” he said, telling his congregation to focus on what the Bible said would happen before that.

“Listen, folks, it’s on,” he announced. “You might as well get ready for it. It’s on. It’s just a matter of time when they’re going to say to the churches… It’s just a matter of time before our constitution in our churches will be overturned like our state constitution just been overturned this week. I mean, it’s coming.”…

“You think Ebola is bad now, just wait. If it’s not that, it’s going to be something else. My friends, I want you to understand, you can’t thumb your nose at God, and God turn his head away without God getting your attention.”

Of course, Baity threw into this sanctimoniously-outraged sermon the obligatory references to Sodom and Gomorrah, referring to the common Abrahamic-religious legend that YHWH incinerated those two cities because of homosexuality — even though this assumption isn’t really supported by the Bible itself. Like most Christofascists, little Ronnie is upset over the existence of gays and would rather they all went away so he wouldn’t have to deal with them or have to treat them like fellow human beings.

Expect more, not less, of this sort of thing as the Ebola crisis keeps getting the mass media’s attention. Fierce religionists aren’t going to turn up their noses at something that useful.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Gustave Doré (1832-1883), The Crusaders war machinery, via Wikimedia CommonsThis is the second of two posts today on the subject of what I call the Great Neocrusade … i.e. the American Religious Right’s war on Islam, mostly within the US but in some cases not limited just to this country.

There are a lot of really angry Christianists in the US, and most of them are mortally offended by the mere existence of Islam, which they view as the world’s chief rival to their own religion. Many of them sincerely believe that there’s no such thing as “Islamic extremism”; in their minds, all Muslims everywhere are by definition “extremists,” so all Muslims must be put down before they slaughter everyone else. Or something like that.

That the US is now contending with the Islamofascist group ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-people-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood isn’t helping. That particular outfit is guilty of a level of savagery the world hasn’t seen much of in the last decade or so. Boko Haram’s kidnapping of hundreds of girls in Nigeria earlier this year, and al-Shabaab’s attack on a mall in Kenya a year ago, provide similar examples of the primitive barbarism some Muslims have been willing to stoop to in the name of their particular version of Islam.

While groups like this don’t represent the entirety of Islam — in fact, other Muslims are more frequently the targets of their savagery — these sorts of events fuel Christianists’ sanctimonious rage over Islam and push them to lash out as a result. Right Wing Watch reports on one such Christofascist whose shit-fit over Islam made him declare an “overwhelming Christian just war” on that faith (WebCite cached article):

Yesterday, anti-Islam activist Gary Cass, founder of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, posted a piece on his website [cached] in which he calls for Christians to prepare to wage holy war in an effort to utterly destroy all 1.6 billion of the world’s Muslims because Christians simply have to “face the harsh truth that Islam has no place in civilized society.”

Saying that there is no possibility of converting Muslims to Christianity and forcibly sterilizing all Muslims in order to prevent them from building an “Army of Islam” is impractical, Cass declares that the only solution is biblical violence, which is why Americans must now begin preparing to launch an “overwhelming Christian just war” by arming themselves and their children and forming “small cells” that will “crush the vicious seed of Ishmael in Jesus name”

I won’t quote any of this creature’s nasty screed. If you feel like reading it, you can do so for yourself. I will just point out that Cass’s group, the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, is just another of many Christianist groups who presume that Christianity needs to be “defended” because it’s about to be wiped off the map. There is, of course, no effort to abolish Christianity in the US even if Cass and his colleagues believe there is. Christians are the majority in the country and will remain so for the indefinite future. He and the rest of the Religious Right have been hoodwinked by the psychopathology inherent in their own religion to want to feel persecuted for their beliefs, so they simply invent that persecution.

In any event, while the country’s Christofascists are cheering on Cass’s declaration of “just war” on Islam, I’m sure the rest of the world … especially the Muslim parts of it … aren’t entirely impressed. Cass doesn’t care about them, of course. In fact, the angrier they get, the happier he gets, because their anger only fuels his own sanctimonious indignation over Muslims’ continued insolent refusal to convert en masse to Christianity. In their minds, the only way to deal with some Islamists’ jihad against the rest of the world, is to direct a Christian holy war right back at them! In the meantime, those of us who’re neither Christian nor Muslim are watching these two groups engage in a pissing contest over whose god can beat up who else’s god. It’s all very tedious and also deadly, but since both sides are deeply mired in immaturity and anger, it’s not going to get better any time soon. More’s the pity.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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