Posts Tagged “Religion”

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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Gustave Doré, Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople, via Wikimedia CommonsToday I offer not just one, but two blog posts on the theme of what I’ve referred to as the Neocrusade; i.e. the American Religious Right’s effort to outlaw Islam in the US (and sometimes destroy it everywhere else).

I’ve blogged before about Christofascists declaring that the First Amendment’s freedom of religion doesn’t extend to Muslims. Usually the reason cited is because Islam — supposedly — isn’t really a “religion” per se, but rather, it’s a political philosophy. Therefore, the reasoning goes, it can Constitutionally be outlawed. Or something like that.

Of course, I’m not sure how that works, because as far as I know, the US also has things like freedom of speech and freedom of association, which together would make it impossible for government to outlaw any given political philosophy. Maybe that’s just because I’m a cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen and such important sacred notions are beyond my feeble, god-deprived mind.

But I digress.

Despite this, it’s rare for Religious Rightists to just come right out and say this. They tend to keep this notion close to their vests. Even so, once in a while one of them lets it slip. It turns out that, as Right Wing Watch reports, Tony Perkins did precisely this recently (WebCite cached article):

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who now styles himself as an Islamic scholar, said on his “Washington Watch” radio show yesterday that members of militant groups like ISIS are the real Muslims who are truly “practicing their faith.”

Islam is such a danger, Perkins explained, that Muslim-Americans should not have the same religious freedoms as other citizens.

He echoed other Christianists on the subject of why Muslims should be deprived of freedom to follow their religion:

He warned that Islam isn’t necessarily protected under the Constitution because it “tears at the fabric of our society” and undermines “ordered liberty,” adding that Islam is “not just a religion, it’s an economic system, it’s a judicial system and it’s a military system.”

As with other Christianists who’ve advocated defying the First Amendment in order to outlaw Islam in the US, Perkins claims it’s not merely a religion, but a lot more, thus depriving it of protection:

He warned that Islam isn’t necessarily protected under the Constitution because it “tears at the fabric of our society” and undermines “ordered liberty,” adding that Islam is “not just a religion, it’s an economic system, it’s a judicial system and it’s a military system.”

I find it truly odd that a Christian like Tony-boy would condemn Islam because “it’s an economic system, it’s a judicial system and it’s a military system.” After all, the Religious Right movement as it exists in the US is most certainly an economic system, a judicial system, and a military system. If we’re to deprive Muslims in the US of their religious freedom on those grounds, then by the very same reasoning, Perkins and the rest of his fellow Christofascists must also forfeit theirs.

Only a brazen hypocrite could come up with something that insipid. Perkins’s own Jesus explicitly forbid him ever to be hypocritical, of course … but Tony-boy isn’t aware of that, and not likely ever to obey that injunction even if he were to be educated about it.

To be clear, I’m no more a fan of Islam than I am of Christianity (an accusation that correspondents have leveled at me). It is, of course, absolutely correct to protect the US and American interests, and Islamic terror groups such as ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-people-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood ought to be destroyed. There also does appear to be something about Islam which allows such primitive barbarism to grow and fester in a manner not seen — at this moment — in any other religion. But even this admission doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, or even helpful, to outlaw Islam in the US or deprive Muslims here of their religious-freedom rights, merely because some anxious Christian presumes mosques here might be recruiting terrorists. Americans — all Americans, not just Christians! — have certain rights, not the least of which that they shouldn’t be presumed guilty of wanting to be terrorists until there’s reason to think they might be. This means Muslims should be left alone in their homes and mosques (which should continue to be built) until there’s information suggesting otherwise.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Kelly McBride / The Community Press, via the Cincinnati EnquirerBy now I assume most of my readers have heard of “the Ice Bucket Challenge” which has become a wildly successful fund-raiser for the ALS Association. Well, it turns out that the R.C. archdiocese of Cincinnati doesn’t approve. As the Cincinnati Enquirer reports, they’ve declared the challenge and its associated charity persona non grata (WebCite cached article):

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has asked the principals at its Catholic schools not to encourage students to raise money for the ALS Association as the ice-bucket challenge becomes an internet sensation.

The challenge itself is fine, said Dan Andriacco, spokesman for the Archdiocese.

The Archdiocese just doesn’t want fundraising to be sent to the association, which funds at least one study using embryonic stem cells, Andriacco said.

“(Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a terrible disease,” Andriacco said, a day after an email was sent to principals from Superintendent Jim Rigg.

“We appreciate the compassion that has caused so many people to engage in this,” Andriacco said. “But it’s a well established moral principle that a good end is not enough. The means to that ends must be morally licit.”

An embryo must be destroyed to harvest its stem cells, Andriacco said. Many Catholics relate that to abortion.

Gosh, I’m so glad the archdiocese managed to acknowledge how horrific ALS (aka “Lou Gehrig’s disease”) is. They just don’t approve of the science being done to fight it. The archdiocese demands Catholics give the Church all their charity money:

The Archdiocese asks that any money raised is sent instead to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa, where the research is only conducted using adult stem cells.

Gee, how convenient of the Church to decide that it should retain custody of all that money. Hmm. I wonder who’s profiting off that? Anyone care to guess?

By the way, the idea that adult stem cells are equivalent to embryonic stem cells, is a Roman Catholic lie. They are not, in fact, the same. There are things embryonic stem cells can do, which adult stem cells cannot — which the Church pretends is not the case. It is, of course, true that adult stem cells have their virtues as well; the bottom line is that both types of stem cell research are necessary for ALS research. Limiting oneself to just one type is foolhardy.

In any event, the R.C. Church doesn’t have the standing to declare whether or not any given medical-research charity is morally acceptable. As I’ve blogged so many times before, the Church tore up and burned its “moral arbiter” card long ago, when as a matter of long-standing worldwide policy its hierarchs purposely allowed its own clergy to abuse children in its care and actively protected the abusers from being caught and punished. (On top of all that, they’ve had the gall, over the past several years, to blame their own policies and behavior on other people and things, including Jews, gays, the Devil, the mass media, and even the child victims themselves.) They’ve got the morals of the Mafia and the scruples of used-car dealers. I no longer fucking care what any given R.C. hierarch thinks about the morality of anything — nor should anyone else. They no longer have a vote.

As a token of my disrespect for the Cincinnati archdiocese’s announcement, I’ve just donated to the ALS Association. And I urge all my readers to do the same. Please give as generously as you can. Thank you!

Photo credit: Kelly McBride/The Community Press, via the Cincinnati Enquirer.

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Universal Church of the Lord God, Incorporate (PsiCop original graphic)Given the Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, released this morning, which exempts corporations from the ACA’s contraception mandate if they have religious objections to doing so (WebCite cached article), I expect corporations’ religious objections to just about everything to expand immensely.

Just think: If a corporation has a religious objection to paying minimum wages (for example), by the Court’s reasoning, they should be exempted from that. If they religiously object to having to provide a safe workplace, they can be exempted from OSHA regulations. If they religiously object to registering vehicles, they should be allowed to skip going to their state’s DMV. And so on.

“But wait!” you, Dear Reader, are no doubt objecting. “There’s no religion that objects to any of those things!” That may be so … but that problem can be easily fixed. All one needs to do is create a new religion which does object to them.

Let’s create a “Universal Church of the Lord God, Incorporate.” Its main tenet is that, since the Lord called his followers together to join as a Church, likewise people join together to form Corporations. As such, each and every Corporation is a reflection of the Lord God’s holiness. Each is inviolate and sacrosanct.

This new corporatist church could easily teach that Corporations should never be constrained or limited in any way. Government regulations would not apply to any UCotLGI-following Corporation. They can’t be taxed — taxation reduces profits, you see, and because profits are the reason Corporations exist, forcing them to pay taxes would violate their sanctity. Even things like simple liability would go right out the window for a UCotLGI-following Corporation. Too bad for you, if you’re hurt or killed by some defect in a UCotLGI-following Corporation’s products!

So let’s get moving on this new Universal Church of the Lord God, Incorporate! Make all CEOs its clergy. Have them all get together (hey, those rotten little anti-trust laws that would normally prevent such conferences are an unacceptable limitation on Corporate behavior!) and figure out how best to exploit all the possibilities. And those possibilities might even include things like the restoration of slavery!

Of course, there’s just one little problem here: Does anyone know precisely how it is that a corporation can have religious beliefs? I’m still not clear on that. Just wondering. Anyone care to fill me in on that?

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic.

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Imagine No ReligionIn news that’s sure to ignite the rage and fury of religionists throughout the country, a Harris poll shows that religious belief is declining in the U.S. (WebCite cached article):

A new Harris Poll finds that while a strong majority (74%) of U.S. adults do believe in God, this belief is in decline when compared to previous years as just over four in five (82%) expressed a belief in God in 2005, 2007 and 2009. Also, while majorities also believe in miracles (72%, down from 79% in 2005), heaven (68%, down from 75%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (68%, down from 72%), the resurrection of Jesus Christ (65%, down from 70%), the survival of the soul after death (64%, down from 69%), the devil, hell (both at 58%, down from 62%) and the Virgin birth (57%, down from 60%), these are all down from previous Harris Polls.

Belief in Darwin’s theory of evolution, however, while well below levels recorded for belief in God, miracles and heaven, is up in comparison to 2005 findings (47%, up from 42%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,250 adults surveyed online between November 13 and 18, 2013 by Harris Interactive.

I can hear Christianists’ bellicose, sanctimonious whining now: People are worshipping Darwin instead of our Gawd! they’ll shriek. I know I’ll be chuckling when I see/hear it!

The news isn’t entirely good, however. An awful lot of Americans cling to a wide range of other nutty metaphysical and/or irrational notions:

The survey also finds that 42% of Americans believe in ghosts, 36% each believe in creationism and UFOs, 29% believe in astrology, 26% believe in witches and 24% believe in reincarnation — that they were once another person.

42% believing in ghosts? That’s almost half the country believing in something that doesn’t exist!

I note that the Harris Poll story refers to “belief in UFOs” … but what they really mean is “belief in extraterrestrial visitors to earth,” because no one questions that “UFOs” (i.e. “unidentified flying objects”) exist. People do occasionally see flying things they can’t readily identify. What they don’t see, are extraterrestrial craft breezing through the atmosphere.

I note that Harris admits these results were drawn solely from online respondents. As such, they may well reflect the beliefs of Internet-connected Americans; but it can’t be safely assumed they reflect the beliefs of the entire population. So everyone — myself included! — must take this report with more than a grain of salt.

Photo credit: JasonTomm, via Flickr.

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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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