Posts Tagged “religionist”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Words not found in any Bible: 'Thou shalt be a complete asshole.' / PsiCop original graphicWhat is it about the practice of tipping that seems to bother Christians so much? Is it a true religious objection to it? Or are they just using their religion to rationalize saving a few bucks?

Back in January I blogged about a “pastor” who refused to tip a waiter because she objected to paying the waiter an 18% auto-gratuity when the Bible mandates tithing (or 10%). But this latest example of stingy Christian behavior is even more rude and insulting than that. KMBC-TV in Kansas City reports that a group of Christians refused to tip a waiter, because he’s gay (WebCite cached article):

A local server was thanked for good service during a recent meal at an Overland Park restaurant, and also received an anti-gay message with no tip.…

Here’s what happened: A server went to pick up a check from a meal, and found a message on the back of the bill. It read: “Thank you for your service, it was excellent. That being said, we cannot in good conscience tip you, for your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to God. May God have mercy on you.”

Friends of the server and customers took to social media to spread the word about what happened, and have vowed to go to the restaurant on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. as a sign of support.

It’s true these no-tipping-asshats didn’t identify themselves specifically as “Christians,” but one must concede that any group of God-mentioning gay-haters in Overland Park, KS is almost certain to be Christian, not members of some other faith. I suppose it’s possible they’re something else … like Jewish or Muslim … but honestly, that’s not very likely.

And that leads me to wonder what it is about Christianity that encourages people to use it to justify their bad behavior? I ask this in all seriousness. Why do Christians view their Christianity as a cosmic permission-slip allowing them to say and do the worst sorts of things, without remorse? Christians love to say their religion makes people moral; but it’s examples like this that demonstrate the opposite is true. Had their religion not taught these cretins to hate gay people, odds are they’d have just tipped their waiter the way people normally do. It took Christianity … and more specifically, the hatred of gays that a lot of Christians view as a component of it … to get these assholes for Jesus to stiff their waiter.

Photo credit: PsiCop original.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire, and Friendly Atheist.

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SiegeOfAcre1291Earlier this month I blogged about some Fox News hosts who said that non-believers should leave the U.S. if they prefer not to be forced to say “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. One of them was Bob Beckel, who — as Politico reports — has since advocated that the religious freedoms of Muslims in this country be taken away (WebCite cached article):

Fox News co-host Bob Beckel went off on American Muslims on Monday, demanding that no more mosques be built until moderate Muslims “denounce” the recent mall attack in Kenya.

Islam is “not the religion of peace,” Beckel, the show’s relatively progressive co-host said. “They are the religion of Islamic [fundamentalism].”

“I will repeat what I said before: No Muslim students coming here with visas. No more mosques being built here until you stand up and denounce what’s happened in the name of your prophet,” Beckel continued.

Politico offers video of Beckel’s spew:

As I see it there are a couple of problems with Beckel’s position: First, and most importantly, it’s unconstitutional. Muslims have freedom of worship in this country, guaranteed by the First Amendment. Unless an individual Muslim, or group of them, is breaking the law, there are no grounds for preventing them from building any mosques. None. I’m sure Beckel would agree with a lot of Neocrusaders who think there is no freeedom of religion for Muslims, because (they argue) Islam is not a “religion” per se, but a “political philosophy” which (they further argue) can be banned. (Not that this distinction even matters very much, either: Political parties and organizations of all sorts are allowed to exist, and they have rights, too.)

Second, Beckel thinks “denunciations” by American Muslims will somehow do something about al-Shabab and other Islamofascist terror groups. I’m not convinced that mere words even matter much. What does matter, is action. Ultimately, it is up to Muslims to police their own religion and stamp out extremism within it. And mouthing denunciations isn’t going to do that. Even so, I’m not sure precisely what actions American Muslims can take to rein in al-Shabab. They’re half a world away and difficult to contact — it’s true they use Twitter (cached), but they keep changing their handle, so using it to reach them won’t work. Traveling there to confront them personally is difficult at best, and dangerously foolish at worst. What American Muslims can do, is to stop joining al-Shabab (cached), and not give them any money … but it goes without saying that the vast majority of American Muslims already are not doing either of those things.

So Beckel’s demand is not only unconstitutional, it’s useless. I’ll have to add him to the ranks of the unthinking, fierce Neocrusaders who actually believe that one form of irrational religionism (i.e. theirs) is superior to another (i.e. Muslims’). I’m not convinced this is the case. Rather, they’re two sides of the same coin … and therefore have no right to hurl stones (whether real or rhetorical) at each other.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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These Qurans were found after the arrest of the Rev. Terry Jones. / Polk Cty Sheriff's Office, via Tampa TribuneOnce again I have to blog about that crankish Neocrusading Christofascist, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL. He’s still as angry as ever that there are actually Muslims in the world, and he just can’t seem to control his juvenile fury over that fact. While on his way to burn a few thousand Qur’ans, the Tampa Tribune reports, Jones was arrested (locally-cached article):

It wasn’t a jihadist or suicide bomber who stopped the Rev. Terry Jones from torching nearly 3,000 Qurans on the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was the long arm of the law.

Jones had planned to burn 2,998 copies of the Muslim holy book — one for each victim of the Sept. 11 attacks — in Loyce E. Harpe Park, just north of Mulberry at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Supporters gathered, but Jones never arrived.

That’s because at 4:58 p.m., the 61-year-old pastor was pulled over by sheriff’s deputies a couple of miles away. He was a passenger in a pickup truck driven by Marvin Wayne Sapp, 44, an associate pastor in Jones’ Dove World Outreach Center.

The truck towed a large, smoker-style grill that Jones was going to use as an incinerator. In the smoker were the condemned Qurans.

Some of the books were soaked in kerosene, said Fran Ingram, spokeswoman for the church. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested Jones on felony charges of unlawful conveyance of fuel and open display of a firearm.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said deputies saw Jones at a McDonalds in Mulberry and watched as he doused the books with kerosene on his way to the park.

Now, I have no idea why Jones first doused the Qur’ans in kerosene and then drove with them. I would never want to drive around with a whole bunch of anything doused in kerosene, much less Qur’ans. I mean, seriously … you’ve got to be fucking insane to think that’s a good idea!

Jones went into this with his usual self-righteous, childish belligerence:

As soon as he announced the event, problems began to arise.

To stage such an event, he needed a permit from the county, but he never applied for one.

“We have tried to file for permits,” Jones said in an interview last week, “but we feel that a permit is just an excuse to turn us down.”

Like many other religiofascists, Jones doesn’t think the rules the rest of us have to live by — such as, registering trailers we may be towing around — apply to him. He’s special, you see, because he’s angry about Islam, you see, and this, you see, means he gets to do whatever he wants, you see, whenever he wants.

I’m sure the Religious Right will rage and fume about Jones’s arrest, saying the Polk County sheriff had no right to arrest him just because he intended to burn Qur’ans, but I’m not sympathetic. What he did … i.e. carrying around a load of kerosene-soaked Qur’ans … is neither safe nor smart. There’s no reason he couldn’t have doused them at his destination, but he didn’t. In fact, he doused them in sight of sheriff’s deputies and then drove off like that. I seriously wonder if he hadn’t intentionally goaded them into arresting him, knowing they’d object. I expect the R.R. will view him as a martyr; after all, they’re devout Christians and love martyrs. Like all of them, Jones wants to feel persecuted, because that desire is part of the underlying psychopathology of his religion. He can’t help but want to feel persecuted. And now, he can … even though he has no one but himself to blame for his arrest.

Photo credit: Polk Cty (FL) Sheriff’s Office, via Tampa Tribune.

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Archbishop urges Church to ‘repent’ over ‘wicked’ attitude to homosexuality / Photo: Getty Images, via the TelegraphI just blogged about some pithy remarks made recently by the former Archbishop of Canterbury. Well, his successor, the incumbent head of the Anglican Church just made some comments that are even more remarkable. As the (UK) Telegraph reports, while addressing an evangelical organization, he had strong words for the terrible manner in which many Christians treat gays (WebCite cached article):

The Most Rev Justin Welby told an audience of traditional born-again Christians that they must “repent” over the way gay and lesbian people have been treated in the past and said most young people viewed Christians as no better than racists on the issue.

These are noteworthy words, coming from a man who, as the Telegraph explains, had campaigned against permitting gay marriage in the UK and voted against in the House of Lords. He has a long way to go, himself, but he clearly has begun opening his mind to the concept that gays are human beings, too, and is telling other Christians so.

He further took note of the significance of the date on which he was speaking:

Noting the fact that it is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, he urged Christians to speak out about what they are in favour of rather than simply what they are against.

He praised the Alliance’s work tackling social problems by promoting food banks, working in social care or recruiting adopters and said that it was time for the Church to make “an alliance with the poor”.

But he went on: “One of things that I think is most noticeable where we make a bad impression in society at the moment is because we are seen as against things, and you talk to people and they say I don’t want to hear about a faith that is homophobic, that is this that that, that is the other.”

The Archbishop is correct in that Christians … and in fact, most religious people of whatever tradition … are much quicker to declare what they dislike and what they’re against, and to go after others, than to declare what they like and what they’re for, and to support others. The very nature of religionism is that it tends to define itself negatively rather than positively.

Oh, and I can see the whining now, before it’s even happened. “Welby called us ‘racist’ because we hate gays!” the more militant Christianists will scream. The trouble is, if they say that, they will have lied. Because Welby absolutely did not say that gay-hating is racism. Not at all! What he actually said is that “people under 35 … equate it to racism.” Which is not the same thing as saying gay-hating is, itself, racism.

In any event, let the screaming and crying from Christofascist quarters commence. I’ll be watching with glee as they show themselves, once again, to be sniveling little crybabies.

Photo credit: Getty Images, via the Telegraph.

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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Help! Help! I'm being repressed! (Dennis the constitutional peasant, Monty Python & the Holy Grail)This is a seriously “WTF” story. Almost as if in support of the notion that religious people tend toward stupidity (something I’m not saying, although I just blogged about a meta-analysis that suggests so), we have this truly insane story. The Associated Press reports via ABC News that a devout Arizona family had to be rescued in the Pacific Ocean after they went adrift (WebCite cached article):

A northern Arizona family has survived being lost at sea for weeks after an ill-fated attempt to leave the U.S. over what they consider government interference in religion.

Hannah Gastonguay and her family will fly back home Sunday after taking their two small children and her father-in-law and setting sail from San Diego for the tiny island nation of Kiribati in May.

Weeks into their journey, the Gastonguays hit a series of storms that damaged their small boat, leaving them adrift for weeks, unable to make progress. They were eventually picked up by a Venezuelan fishing vessel, transferred to a Japanese cargo ship and taken to Chile.

The article explains how their little trip to Kiribati went awry. This family ended up adrift in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, far from any land and off of usual navigation routes. They were lucky they’d been discovered by a fishing vessel and didn’t perish at sea.

The reason they made this perilous trip? They were persecuted, you see:

Hannah Gastonguay said her family was fed up with government control in the U.S. As Christians they don’t believe in “abortion, homosexuality, in the state-controlled church,” she said.

U.S. “churches aren’t their own,” Gastonguay said, suggesting that government regulation interfered with religious independence.

Among other differences, she said they had a problem with being “forced to pay these taxes that pay for abortions we don’t agree with.” While federal law bars public funding for abortion, state attempts to block Medicaid funding for organizations that provide the procedure have met with legal hurdles. Opponents say that funding allows those groups to perform abortions.

The poor little things. They’re so oppressed!

I’ve blogged many times previously about many Christians’ claims that they’re being persecuted here in the ‘States. They aren’t, as anyone with half a brain knows. The reality of their status is summed up elegantly and succinctly in the following graphic:

'Help! I'm being oppressed!' / sublate, via Flickr

‘Help! I’m being oppressed!’ / sublate, via Flickr

That said, I do understand why they say this. It’s part and parcel of the psychopathology of Christianity. The founder of their religion was killed for his preaching, and his apostles were killed because of him, too. They largely can’t help themselves but wish to be persecuted for their faith just as Jesus and the apostles were. I really do get that.

But if you need any further evidence of how devastatingly harmful this kind of delusional thinking can be, consider that the Gastonguays barely survived their compulsion to flee “persecution” that’s not even going on.

Any more questions? I thought not. Glad to have cleared that up.

Photo credit, top: Based on Monty Python & the Holy Grail; middle: sublate, via Flickr.

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portrait of crying baby girl on living room at homeBrace yourselves for a full-blown meltdown by sanctimoniously-enraged believers! The (UK) Independent reports on the release of a meta-analysis that claims religious people are, collectively, less intelligent than atheists (WebCite cached article):

A new review of 63 scientific studies stretching back over decades has concluded that religious people are less intelligent than non-believers.

A piece of University of Rochester analysis, led by Professor Miron Zuckerman, found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity” in 53 out of 63 studies.

According to the study entitled, ‘The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity: A Meta-Analysis and Some Proposed Explanations’, published in the ‘Personality and Social Psychology Review’, even during early years the more intelligent a child is the more likely it would be to turn away from religion.

Before I go any further with this, I need to point out that I’m always a bit skeptical about studies that talk about “intelligence.” Measures such as IQ are far from ideal in evaluating that quality people refer to as “intelligence.” The frequently amorphous, subjective, and biased nature of such measures all too easily can lead people to suspect conclusions. This is a meta-analysis, which required different measures of intelligence to be related to one another. To call this a slam-dunk is premature at best.

Even so, this analysis can’t be dismissed outright:

The review, which is the first systematic meta-analysis of the 63 studies conducted in between 1928 and 2012, showed that of the 63 studies, 53 showed a negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity, while 10 showed a positive one.

Only two studies showed significant positive correlations and significant negative correlations were seen in a total of 35 studies.

To dismiss the authors’ conclusion out-of-hand would be just as foolish as proclaiming it flawless and unassailable.

The reason I’m commenting on this, is because, as I said in the first sentence, it will no doubt trigger fury and outrage among believers. They will refuse to accept that it even might be remotely true, and will bluster and fume about how awful it is that someone dared insult them for their metaphysical beliefs.

As a matter of fact, just such a tirade can be found at the Independent itself (cached). Among the complaints:

As a sociologist the question that interests me is why do people embark on a project that seeks to determine the relationship between intelligence and religious belief.

Apparently the angry author of this plaintive whine thinks this is a question no one should be allowed to ask, and worse, that anyone who thinks to ask it, must be insane, mentally deficient, or evil or something. Moreover, he chalks this conclusion up to “sciencism” (whatever that might be). He apparently is unaware there’s been no law passed that decides what questions researchers can and cannot look into. He can’t handle that someone dared reach a conclusion he disapproves of.

As I said, there are problems inherent in any studies or analyses like this. Its validity, or lack thereof, will be thrashed out in the process of peer review. Throwing hissy-fits over someone daring to release it, cannot and never will invalidate it. Religionists would be better off growing up and accepting that questions like this might be asked, rather than getting all bent out of shape over them being asked in the first place.

Hat tip: Peter at the AntiBible Project on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Fiery-Phoenix, via Flickr.

P.S. Concerning the relation between religiosity and intelligence, something I find more measurable — not to mention more compelling — is that non-believers tend to be better-informed about religion, than believers (cached).

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