Posts Tagged “religious”

'If you KNOW about it, but will not CORRECT it, then you CONDONE it!' / PsiCop original graphicThis morning on his satellite-radio show, Michael Smerconish brought up the case of Wendy Bell, a local television anchor in Pittsburgh who’d been fired because she put something racially insensitive on Facebook (WebCite cached article). He mentioned it because she’d just initiated a lawsuit against the station over her firing (cached).

I bring this up not in order to discuss Ms Bell’s case specifically — it’s part of a larger story that began in early March with the massacre of a family in a Pittsburgh suburb (cached) — nor do I have any way to know how her lawsuit will turn out. What I can say, is that, without regard to whether or not the TV station that employed her should have done so, they’d fired her over what she’d put on Facebook. And they did it for the simple reason that it made them look bad.

This contrasts mightily from what happens when other kinds of folks, particularly preachers and pundits, say things that are often far worse than what Ms Bell said. All too often, they suffer no consequences — at all. On the contrary, extremists and lunatics are allowed to rant and rave any way they want, without being punished and without having to endure any negative repercussions.

We had a few examples of this recently in the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando FL. Multiple religionists said some horrible things, including expressing the hope that some of those wounded would soon die of their injuries. The only consequence any of those folks have suffered is that the church run by one of them has been told its lease will run out early next year (cached). Otherwise, none of them has been punished. (And I’m not sure how much of a hardship losing a lease will turn out to be. So that’s not much of a consequence.)

Still, it’s not just these creatures I’m talking about. Christianists have a very long history of saying horrific things but never being punished for them. For example, Jerry Fallwell — with Marion “Pat” Robertson’s assent — said that the September 11, 2001 attacks were caused by “pagans,” “abortionists,” “feminists,” “the ACLU,” “People for the American Way,” and so on (cached). Yet, Falwell was never reprimanded, disciplined, or punished at all. He kept his ministry and his university. Robertson still has his television network, and still appears on his own show.

If you need another example, here’s one: Virginia legislator Robert G. Marshall announced, 6 years ago, that children are born with handicaps due to abortions. As horrible as that claim was, he remains in his office in the Richmond capitol. So his constituents clearly didn’t disapprove of his hateful spew.

Another example: A North Carolina pastor, during a sermon four years ago, called for all gays to be rounded up, then penned up somewhere and allowed to die off. He still has his position; in fact, his own congregants have defended him.

Oh, and another example: An African-American pastor in Texas claimed that African-Americans had been better off as slaves than if they’d been free. Yes, he said it … and he still has his job, too.

It shouldn’t be necessary at this point, but here’s yet another example: Ray Comfort, a well-known Christian evangelist once made fun of Hindus who’d been killed or injured when a statue of their god Ganesh fell. He was actually happy about it and considered it a justified example of “God’s wrathful judgment.” In spite of his giddiness over someone’s death, Comfort too still has his job and his ministry. Like the others I’ve mentioned, he’s paid no price for his words or actions. None.

I could go on, but won’t. There have been all sorts of nasty, offensive words that have tumbled off the lips of religious leaders throughout the US … but they’re left alone. The cold fact is that lots of sanctimonious Christianists say and do a lot of outrageous things, that — if they’d been said or done outside of a religious context — simply would never be permitted. They’re the sort of thing that tend not only to get people fired — as happened with Ms Bell — but can even end people’s careers entirely.

Granted, a lot of other Christians protest that cretins like Falwell and Robertson don’t speak for them … but those are only words, and they mean nothing. Not. A. Single. God. Damned. Fucking. Thing.

The stark reality here is that, what you refuse to correct, you condone. If you let monsters like Falwell blame 9/11 on the ACLU, then you’re telling others who think like him that they’re free to say the same thing, or something related, if not even worse. Remember that extremists are speaking in the name of your religion, and in the name of its founder, Jesus Christ. If you refuse to prevent them from doing so, then you’ve chosen to allow them to make your religion look bad to the rest of us who aren’t part of it and only know its meaning from the words and actions of those who claim to belong to it.

If you’re a Christian who disagrees with any of the militant Christianist creatures who’ve said horrific things in the name of your religion, then don’t just say you disagree and leave it at that. Get off your ass and do something about it. Correct them, discipline them, punish them. Measures can range from getting them removed from their offices or pulpits, to having their clerical credentials (if they have them) revoked, to … well, pretty much anything, as long as it’s legal and it affects them in a meaningful way. You can do it … but only if you want to.

Of course, you could just throw up your hands, and continue to let the extremists keep saying and doing vile things in the name of your religion, its founder and your deity. Leave your religion up to the hatemongers! Let the extremists control it. Yeah, that’s always an option. How important is the integrity of your religion? Do you think well enough of it to police it? It’s really up to you to decide.

Hat tip: Michael Smerconish, via Twitter.

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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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Demon of CalicutMost believers think that adhering to their metaphysical notions — whatever they might be — is virtuous. It somehow makes them better people, superior to others, even. Or something. I’m still not clear as to how that works, exactly, but they’re convinced of it, and they just love telling everyone so. The problem is, their beliefs can and do have some terrible ramifications. Take, for example, this report from the Associated Press via the Washington Post, about a Virginia father who killed his little daughter because of his metaphysics (WebCite cached article):

A Virginia man who said his 2-year-old daughter was possessed by a demon has been sentence to more than 20 years in prison for her death.

Thirty-year-old Eder Guzman-Rodriguez was sentenced Monday in Floyd County after pleading no contest to first-degree murder. His daughter, Jocelyn, was found dead in November 2011.

Prosecutors say Guzman-Rodriguez told police that his daughter had a demon inside of her and that he had attempted to exorcise her of the demon.

But this conflicts with other information the father had provided:

According to Shortt’s summary of the evidence, Guzman-Rodriquez told police that a “bad spirit” had entered him. He said that he saw his daughter gesturing to him, as if she wanted to fight and that he punched her “over and over” with his bare hands, Shortt said.

So, was the baby possessed, or the father? In the end, no one can say. Until someone provides objective, verifiable evidence to the contrary, I must assume neither was possessed. Nevertheless, I guess it was necessary to kill the baby. Or something.

I note that, when police arrived, there were some other people there, holding Bibles. It’s not clear if they played any part in Guzman-Rodriguez’s exorcism attempt; the article doesn’t say — possibly because the police never were able to make any determination. They very well could have arrived after the deed. I certainly hope they weren’t involved in Jocelyn’s murder.

Hat tip: Doubtful News.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The Stupid It Burns / plognarkThis is a topic I’ve covered before, but it seems I have to address it again. The recent Pew Forum study about America’s religious lanscape … which media outlets have misrepresented … has renewed repetition of a phrase that ought to have died out long ago. And that is, “spiritual but not religious.” As but one example, this illogical phrase is the focus of this piece on CNN’s Belief blog (WebCite cached article).

I simply can’t put this any other way: There is no such thing as “spiritual but not religious.” This statement is a contradiction in terms. The reason I say that, is because everything one can call “spiritual” also happens to fit the definition of “religion.” There’s no meaningful difference between the two. People think there is one, but really, if you look at the definitions involved, you’ll see they refer to the very same things. Here are some definitions of “religion”:

  • Merriam-Webster (cached)
    2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
  • Oxford US English Dictionary (cached)
    the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods
  • American Heritage Dictionary (cached)
    1. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
    2. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
  • Wiktionary (cached)
    1. The belief in and worship of a supernatural controlling power, especially a personal god or gods.
    2. A particular system of faith and worship.

Now, compare all of these with the definitions of “spiritual”:

  • Merriam-Webster (cached)
    1 : of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit : incorporeal <spiritual needs>
    2 a : of or relating to sacred matters <spiritual songs>
    b : ecclesiastical rather than lay or temporal <spiritual authority> <lords spiritual>
    3 : concerned with religious values
    4 : related or joined in spirit <our spiritual home> <his spiritual heir>
    5 a : of or relating to supernatural beings or phenomena
  • Oxford US English Dictionary (cached)
    1 of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things
    2 of or relating to religion or religious belief
  • American Heritage Dictionary (cached)
    1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material.
    2. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.
    3. Of, from, or relating to God; deific.
    4. Of or belonging to a church or religion; sacred.
    5. Relating to or having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural.
  • Wiktionary (cached)
    1. Of or pertaining to the spirit or the soul
    2. Of or pertaining to the God or a Church; sacred
    3. Of or pertaining to spirits; supernatural

You see from all of these that “spiritual” includes beliefs about the supernatural, deities, the soul, spirits, the sacred, the incorporeal, etc. But the word “religion” also involves the very same things, as well. Believing the universe was created by a an almighty deity, is just as much a “spiritual” belief as it is a “religious” one. Believing in guardian angels is just as much a “spiritual” belief as it is a “religious” one. Believing in karma is just as much a “spiritual” belief as it is a “religious” one. Belief in hauntings is just as much a “spiritual” belief as it is a “religious” one. Reincarnation, astral projection, and channeling are all just as “spiritual” as they are “religious.” I could go on and on … but why should I? By now you should already have gotten the point. “Spiritual” and “religious” are equivalent words, because they all relate to the same referents.

Look, I get that a lot of people associate “religion” and “religious” with “religious institutions” or “organizations,” but the fact is that “organization” is not a requirement for any of the above definitions of “religion.” In fact, the M-W and AH definitions explicitly state that “religion” can be either individualized or institutionalized. One need not belong to a religious organization in order to have religious beliefs.

It’s time for people to stop claiming to be something they aren’t by trotting out non sequiturs like “spiritual but not religious.” If you are spiritual, then by the above definitions, you are also religious — and vice versa. There’s no effective difference between the two. None. Just fucking stop already with that gibberish. OK?

Editor’s note: I’ve repurposed and slightly edited this blog post, as a static page on this blog. So if you think I’m repeating myself … well, I guess I am!

Photo credit: Plognark.

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Setting the world on fire, for Jesus (literally) | PsiCop originalA couple months ago the well-known food company General Mills apparently committed the cardinal sin — in the eyes of militant religionists, anyway — of supporting gay rights. A devout Christian was so outraged by this, that he decided to stage a protest at company headquarters, by burning some Cheerios. But as the Smoking Gun reports, he managed to do just a little bit more than that (WebCite cached article):

The gay marriage opponent seen in a viral video accidentally setting a fire outside the General Mills headquarters is a Minnesota real estate broker who has previously recorded a series of anti-gay YouTube clips.

In the above video, Michael Leisner, 65, can be seen outside the General Mills corporate campus in Golden Valley. He is carrying a box of Honey Nut Cheerios in one hand and a blowtorch in the other.

As an aside … I wonder if there’s any particular reason Leisner chose “Honey Nut” Cheerios for his protest? But I digress:

But after Leisner torches the Cheerios box, he somehow allows flames to spread to the lawn in front of a giant General Mills sign. After trying–and failing–to stamp out the flames with his feet, Leisner tells two young companions, “Okay, get out of here guys.”

You’ve just got to love the way this idiot and his cadre of gay-haters fled the fire. What a class act!

Here’s video of this little exercise of religious expression:

I may have read the Bible extensively — from front to back, up and down, including reading the New Testament in its original Greek — but sadly, I appear to have missed Jesus’ instruction to his followers to “Go forth and set fires in My name.” If anyone out there would be so kind as to supply me with chapter and verse on that, I’d be much obliged. Thank you!

Please note that I refrained from exploiting the obvious pun reference to “flaming.” It would have been just too easy!

Photo credit: PsiCop original.

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Michelangelo's "God", from "the Creation of Adam"Every time some hideous catastrophe takes place in the occidental world, inevitably, people start musing about “where God was” while it was going on. I’ve noticed this has been particularly common in regard to the Aurora massacre that happened just over a week ago. CNN’s Belief blog alone has hosted multiple postings which ask this one question … but that’s hardly the only place. The media and the blogosphere are literally choked with people asking that question. Last Sunday, preachers and pastors around the country were (trying to) answer it for their flocks during their sermons, and I assume are still trying to do so.

I tangentially mentioned that particular question myself, just a few days ago — so I have to confess, even I have stumbled into it. Given how frequently this question has come up, I’ve decided I must address it a little more directly.

The question, “Where God was during the Aurora massacre?” is a direct consequence of “the problem of evil” which lies at the philosophical heart of the Abrahamic faiths.

Elsewhere I’ve devoted an entire Web page to this particular dilemma. To keep it brief, the problem lies in the fact that the Abrahamic faiths believe in a creator deity which is simultaneously omnipotent (i.e. having the power to do anything s/he/it wants), omniscient (i.e. knowing everything that can be known: past, present, and future alike), and benevolent (i.e. wanting there to be no suffering on the part of anyone). In spite of this supposed combination of traits, though, we know that this deity’s creation contains suffering … a lot of it. Over the centuries many theodicies have been proposed to explain how this presumed creator deity can have all three of these traits yet still there is a lot of suffering. All of those theodicies, however, fail the test of logic, because they all fail to take into account the absolute nature of the three traits the Abrahamic deity is assumed to possess, as well as his role as the creator of the universe.

The one most apologists use is the “free will” theodicy, or the claim that the creator has given humanity “free will,” so that each of us can do whatevever s/he wishes at any time, and said deity refuses to do anything about it … hence there is suffering in the world that God cannot prevent. Unfortunately this fails for three reasons: First, not all suffering is even of human origin, so that someone’s presumed “free will” played no role in it and cannot have caused it. Second, that creator deity is believed to have intervened in human affairs many times in history and has gone so far as to order people around; clearly he is not some kind of remote spectator-being who’s philosophically opposed to getting involved in people’s decisions and unwilling to get in their way. Third, as the creator, he must have known how his creation would turn out; he must have known in advance what everyone would do; he must have known there would be widespread suffering for uncountable billions of people over many generations; yet — despite knowing all of this prior to the moment of creation — he created the universe anyway.

Ultimately, a truly omnipotent and omniscient being can never be absolved of any responsibility for what he creates; if he exists, and if he created this universe, he and he alone is responsible for everything that ever happens in it. Those who are part of that creation can, at best, only be secondary agents — since he created them as they are, and they did not create themselves. In the end, simply put, it is logically impossible for the creator of the universe we live in — which has suffering in it — to simultaneously be omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent. It just doesn’t work.

The curious thing about the problem of evil is, as soon as you take the Abrahamic deity’s presumed benevolence out of the equation, the rest of it actually becomes logically tenable. Removing his omnipotence or omniscience tends not to work so well: If you assume the creator was less-than-omnipotent, you’re still left with a creator who made a universe he knew would get out of his control and have suffering in it that he couldn’t do anything about; and even if the deity was less-than-omniscient, he still must have had some idea that he was risking creating a universe that might have suffering in it. So even taking either or both of those out, you’re still left with a creator-being who must have behaved in a less-than-totally-benevolent manner.

While this is coolly logical, it unfortunately does not fit with prevailing notions about the Abrahamic faiths. Most Jews, Christians and Muslims are unnerved even to consider that the deity they worship might be something other than benevolent. Some are willing to dispense with his omnipotence or omniscience (e.g. Harold Kushner, author of the best-selling When Bad Things Happen to Good People), but for the most part they simply refuse even to entertain the idea that their creator deity could be anything less than loving and compassionate.

Thus, as far as I’m concerned, for followers of the Abrahamic faiths to have to ask themselves, “Where was God during the Aurora massacre?” just provides more evidence of the inherent, undeniable absurdity of their beliefs. They shouldn’t even be asking it! What they should be asking — instead — is, “Why do I believe in a creator-deity to whom tradition assigns a combination of traits that logic tells me he can’t possibly have?”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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ScarletLetterIt almost goes without saying that there’s a strong antipathy toward non-believers in this country. Examples of it are fairly common. But just in case you needed one more, I can offer one. Consumerist reports that Capital One refuses to let an atheist “A” on any of its credit cards (WebCite cached article):

Consumerist reader Mike has a Capital One credit card. He’d hoped to get one of the bank’s customizable “Image Cards” printed with a big red “A” for atheism. His initial upload was rejected by Capital One, which sent him a long list of possible reasons. And when he called to appeal, things just more bizarre. …

“I spoke to someone after the second rejection that someone there said that there was a note in my file regarding the fact that they do not allow religious or anti-religious images,” Mike tells Consumerist.

However, this policy doesn’t actually exist, as Mike discovered:

But why, Mike asks, does the card-making interface on Capital One’s own website have 34 photos in a category it labels “Spiritual” and which includes several options to put Christian and Jewish imagery on your card?

Look, there’s no mystery here. Capital One just doesn’t want to allow an atheism symbol on its cards, but they don’t want to just come right out and admit it. Instead of just being honest about it, they become evasive, sniveling cowards, and invent fictitious excuses for it.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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