Archive for the “Fuzzy Thinking” Category

Examples of fuzzy thinking, illogic, absurdity, etc.

Popular Mechanics / The Real Face of JesusChristians love to assume their religion is founded on historical fact. Specifically, they’re absolutely certain their Jesus lived and walked the earth in the first decades of the 1st century CE. This assumption is so compelling that we count the years in terms of Jesus’ supposed lifetime … i.e. our Year 1 is, supposedly, the first year he was on earth.

The reality of it, though, is that it’s by no means certain at all that Jesus ever actually lived. Many people find this surprising, but Jesus’ historicity has been a subject of scholarly review and conjecture for over a century now. While devout believers in Christianity are certain Jesus lived, the rest of us, and scholars especially, aren’t as sure, because the historical record of his existence is vastly less clear and compelling than Christians claim.

Despite the lack of scholarly certainty, this month’s National Geographic cover story proudly trumpets that Jesus definitely lived (Archive.Is cached article). Their evidence? The discovery of a tomb:

Just yards from the tomb of Christ [at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem] are other rock-hewn tombs of the period, affirming that this church, destroyed and rebuilt twice, was indeed constructed over a Jewish burial ground.

Nat Geo has made a big deal about the recent discovery of one particular tomb near the Holy Sepulchre. The problem is, in historical and archaeological terms, this finding doesn’t really tell us anything, and it certainly doesn’t prove Jesus must have lived. The site of that church was “found” by the (Christian) Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine. When she was there in the 4th century, it’s possible she knew tombs were nearby, and that may have been why she picked that location. So finding a tomb in the area doesn’t mean anything.

The problem here is that Nat Geo is accepted as an authoritative publication. Many Christians looking to promote Jesus’ historicity are sure to use this article as ostensible “proof” that he actually lived. Unfortunately for them, it’s not “proof” of anything, other than that Christians would like to think he existed and will go to ridiculous lengths in order to say they’ve “proven” it.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Popular Mechanics.

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In this photo provided by the Australian Government Royal Commission, Commissioner Justice Peter McClellan, seated left, watches as Governor-General of Australia Peter Cosgrove, seated right, signs a document after receiving the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse at Government House, in Canberra, Dec. 15, 2017. The commission delivered its final 17-volume report and 189 recommendations following a wide-ranging investigation. (Jeremy Piper/Australian Government Royal Commission via AP)Australia has been investigating child abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic clergy for several years now, and at long last, its report is final. As the Associated Press reports via Religion News Service, the numbers are staggering, and among contributing issues is the Church’s mandatory celibacy policy (Archive.Is cached article):

An Australian inquiry into child abuse recommended Friday that the Catholic Church lift its demand of celibacy from clergy and that priests be prosecuted for failing to report evidence of pedophilia heard in the confessional.

Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its final 17-volume report and 189 recommendations following a wide-ranging investigation. Australia’s longest-running royal commission — which is the country’s highest form of inquiry — has been investigating since 2012 how the Catholic Church and other institutions responded to sexual abuse of children in Australia over 90 years.

(That last part is for all the Roman Catholic apologists out there who think this investigation was merely a pretense for attacking their precious Church. It wasn’t. But I digress.)

Another problem cited in the report is the confessional secrecy:

It said the bishops’ body should also request clarity on whether information received in the confessional that a child has been sexually abused is covered by the seal of secrecy and whether absolution of a perpetrator should be withdrawn until the perpetrator confesses to police.

Catholic clerics who testified to the royal commission gave varying opinions about what if anything a priest could divulge about what was said in a confessional about child abuse.

The commission’s recommendations, which with interim reports total 409, include making failure to report child sexual abuse a criminal offense. Clerics would not be exempt from being charged.

The law should exclude any existing excuse or privilege relating to a religious confessional, it said.

This recommendation wasn’t exactly welcomed by the R.C. hierarchy:

“I cannot break the seal. The penalty for any priest breaking the seal is excommunication; being passed out of the church,” [President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis] Hart said. “I revere the law of the land and I trust it, but this is a sacred, spiritual charge before God which I must honor, and I have to try and do what I can do with both.”

Let’s be honest about it, though: The R.C. bureaucracy often uses the sanctity of the confessional to justify not reporting abuse to local authorities, the premise being that a priest’s superiors learned about it in the confessional. That, of course, is just a contrivance. I’m no expert on Catholic doctrine and dogma surrounding reconciliation (aka confession), but as I understand it, using the confessional as “cover” for one’s criminality — and especially using it to invite the collusion of the priest to whom one confesses — invalidates it as a sacrament. And that, in turn, lifts the secrecy provision.

But hey, what could this cynical, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such holy things?

Photo credit: Jeremy Piper/Australian Government Royal Commission, via Associated Press.

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Pope Francis Philadelphia 2015 (cropped)This is one story I couldn’t resist commenting on. Not just because it’s about the relatively-unconventional Pope Francis, but also because it concerns Bible translation … which has been an interest of mine since I first learned Biblical Greek during the early 1980s (while I was a Protestant fundamentalist). As the New York Times (among many other outlets) reports, the Pope proposed that the common translations of a portion of the Lord’s Prayer may not reflect the original text (Archive.Is cached article):

It has been a question of theological debate and liturgical interpretation for years, and now Pope Francis has joined the discussion: Does the Lord’s Prayer, Christendom’s resonant petition to the Almighty, need an update?

In a new television interview, Pope Francis said the common rendering of one line in the prayer — “lead us not into temptation” — was “not a good translation” from ancient texts. “Do not let us fall into temptation,” he suggested, might be better because God does not lead people into temptation; Satan does.

“A father doesn’t do that,” the pope said. “He helps you get up right away. What induces into temptation is Satan.”

In essence, the pope said, the prayer, from the Book of Matthew, is asking God, “When Satan leads us into temptation, You please, give me a hand.”

The text of the Lord’s Prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13, with a much briefer version in Luke 11:2-4. Here is the passage the Pope is talking about, from the (Catholic) New American Bible, and in the original Greek:

and do not subject us to the final test (Mt 6:13a)

και μη εισενευκης ημας εις πειρασμον (Mt 6:13a)

The language from Luke, for this particular passage (i.e. Lk 11:4c), is exactly the same, so I didn’t bother quoting it here.

It’s true there’s been some discussion over how best to translate this, and there’s been some dissatisfaction with most of the translations that have been offered.

Even so, the original Greek text does not agree with what the Pope proposes. Nowhere in this is it even implied — much less stated outright — that the supplicant is asking for God’s help when tempted. The original Greek definitely presumes God is instigating the “test.” εισενευκης (eiseneukés) is a form of the verb εισφερω (eisferó), meaning “to lead in, to carry in, to bring in.” Thus, “lead us not into temptation” is an entirely valid translation.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it when Pope Francis bucks Christian and Catholic convention. Few things in this world are in more desperate need of a stern challenge, than Christianity! But I just I can’t get on board with this.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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This Christmas tree is upside down! Outside a local bar :) #upsticksandgo #bar #bangkok #christmas #christmastree #upsidedown #travelgram #travellinglife #travellingtheworld #michfrostA new salvo has been fired in the Religious Right’s phantasmal “war on Christmas.” And that is, upside-down Christmas trees. Yes, you heard that right … upside-down Christmas trees. I’d heard of these a few years ago, as a space-saving way of having a Christmas tree that doesn’t take up floor space. In other words, a sometimes-practical variation on a traditional practice.

But as with everything else associated with the solstice-time holiday, it becomes fodder for Rightists’ annual “war on Christmas.” As Newsweek reports, pundits on Fox News have taken them as an assault on Christianity itself (Archive.Is cached article):

The president’s favorite TV show tackled an important topic inspiring nationwide debate on Friday, brought in an expert and somehow turned it all into a political controversy. Yes, we’re talking about upside-down Christmas trees.

In a segment on Fox & Friends, host Pete Hegseth opened a discussion about trendy inverted decorations by linking them to the so-called war on Christmas, a rallying cry for some evangelicals and Republicans who argue politically correct culture is hurting American values. Hegseth wondered aloud whether having a traditional, right-side-up Christmas tree was part of those values and then asked Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski what he thought.

This was, of course, a setup; the irrationality snowballed from there:

Lewandowski first said he didn’t know what the trend was about. Then, in a swift and almost masterful maneuver, he used it to attack the Democrats for their response to Senator Al Franken’s recently revealed sexual misconduct.

“It’s like an upside-down world. It’s like Seinfeld, the bizarro world. Like you can be a U.S. senator after groping people on a picture and nobody has any accountability for it,” Lewandowski said. “That’s what the upside-down Christmas tree means to me. I mean, it’s everything that is wrong.”

He went on to say that he thought the Trump family would be keeping the White House Christmas tree—a 19-and-a-half-foot Balsam fir from Wisconsin—right side up because they appreciate the country’s traditions.

This is a dense package of habitual Right-wing appeals. Lewandowski alluded to Al Franken — who, contrary to what the Groper-in-Chief’s minion claimed, has offered to be held accountable for his actions (cached). He asserted his boss, the GiC, would bravely defend the country against the relentless onslaught of upside-down Christmas trees and courageously protect “tradition” — which, if Rightists are to be believed, is perpetually in danger. He mentioned the world being turned upside-down, which is a common Rightist complaint in the face of almost anything that ever happens, e.g. the advent of gay marriage).

That the GiC’s own White House is, itself, a “bizarro world” is something that neither Lewandowski or anyone else on this show accepted … but I digress.

Really, there’s nothing insidious, blasphemous, anti-Christmas or anti-Christian about upside-down Christmas trees. Newsweek links to an article on their antiquity; they actually date to the early Middle Ages (cached). I also found articles. One is at Christianity Today, surveying the history of Christmas trees, which mentions those early-medieval upside-down Christmas trees (cached). There’s also a religious commentary, by a prominent minister, at the Gaston Cty, NC Gazette suggesting upside-down Christmas trees are theologically appropriate (cached)! So really, this complaint has no basis in reality … or in the metaphysical irrationality of Christianity.

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“Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7:23, New American Bible) / PsiCop original graphicReally, I wish this wasn’t the case. But I can’t say I didn’t expect this. It certainly appears Alabama’s fundagelicals managed to live down to all my expectations of them, in the wake of the possibility that former Judge Roy Moore — thunderous proponent of Ten Commandments worship — may have had relations with teen girls back when he was in his 30s. Newsweek reports that their support for him has actually increased since these allegations were reported (Archive.Is cached article):

Talk about loving the sinner!

Nearly 40 percent of Evangelical Christians in Alabama say they’re now more likely to vote for Roy Moore after multiple allegations that he molested children, even as voters across the historically red state now seem to be punishing Moore for his past actions, a new poll shows.

A plurality of evangelicals — 37 percent — described themselves as more likely to support Moore because of recent sexual assault allegations levied against him, while only 28 percent were less likely to do so. Thirty-four percent of the supposedly devout Christians said that the allegations reported last week in the Washington Post [cached] made no difference in their support for Moore.

Yes, that’s right, folks. More than 1/3 of Alabama’s Christianists actually have a higher regard for Moore, now, than they did before WaPo‘s takedown.

There are lots of rationales these folk can employ in order to justify this (cached). Many will dismiss the story as fiction, or “fake news,” merely because it comes from the insidiously liberal Washington Post, which cooked up vicious lies about their precious “Ten Commandments Judge” in order to deprive him of his deserved Senate seat. There are also no doubt others who don’t really see anything wrong with older men dating (or courting, or whatever they call it) teen girls (cached). There’s also, of course, the matter of consent (i.e. the girls didn’t object to whatever Moore did), but in at least some cases — especially that of the 14-year-old — “consent” is not relevant, since no one that age can consent to sex. And there’s the objection that statutory rape isn’t as bad as some other crimes, so what Moore did is OK. Yeah, one of his defenders actually said that (cached)!

Look, this is the very same crowd who chanted that Hillary Clinton should have been “locked up” over her private email server. I don’t point this out as a way of defending her on that … as an I.T. professional, I know that using a private email server to conduct public business was a profoundly bad idea and diminished transparency, which is necessary for office holders … but I am saying that these folk are willing to think the worst, and demand prosecution of, their ideological foes whenever they feel it appropriate. They just refuse to ask the same of their own, and are willing to give them license to do — well, whatever the fuck they feel like. Because they’re good Christians, of course. And as we all know, they’re not perfect, just forgiven. Right?

And there’s the matter of the decades that passed before this came to the nation’s attention. Moore and his defenders think that means the allegations can’t be true (cached). But Moore’s penchant for hitting up teen girls wasn’t exactly not known. Locals in Gadsden, AL were aware of his habits as long ago as the 1970s (cached and cached). As for why these women would have remained silent (beyond the Gadsden area), keep in mind that Moore was a county prosecutor and worked his way up Alabama’s judicial ladder after that. Taking on such a person is intimidating … and remained so even after his removals from office, due to his popularity as the “Ten Commandments Judge.”

At long last, we can now dispense with any pretense that any of these Religious Rightists are interested in promoting “family values.” They are not. For all their claimed high morals, they’re all just sex-obsessed deviants, who scream and rail against the “perversions” of others (e.g. homosexuals, transgenders, etc.), but they’re just as perverted, only in their own ways. They’re all just fucking hypocrites, in spite of the fact that their own Jesus Christ explicitly and unambiguously forbid them ever to be hypocritical … for any reason or at any time. It is, quite simply, not permitted them.

What these folk are really after is what Moore has promised to provide them: A Christocracy, in which they rule the country (as though they don’t already), in which their fundagelical version of Christianity is the national religion, in which their dour metaphysics is the law of the land, and non-Christians who insolently dare defy them by failing to convert are either jailed, exiled, or killed. They are, in a word, militants, and they’re going to stand by their Ten Commandments Judge no matter what, because of that.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Mt 7:23.

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Hypocrites Are Us (aka Hypocrites R Us)Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A sanctimoniously angry religionist who rails and fumes against the perceived “perversions” of others (e.g. gays), and who condemns the prevailing licentiousness of society generally, turns out to be just a tad less than the morally-unassailable, pure-as-the-driven-snow icon of ethical perfection s/he claims to be. Yeah, it’s not a new story. Like me, you’ve heard it a million times already. Jimmy Swaggart, George Alan Rekers, Jim Bakker, Marcus Lamb, Ted Haggard, are just a few of the many names that leap to mind in this regard. Well, today the Washington Post reported that Alabama’s most famous and most militant Christofascist might also be a pedophile (Archive.Is cached article):

Leigh Corfman says she was 14 years old when an older man approached her outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Ala. She was sitting on a wooden bench with her mother, they both recall, when the man introduced himself as Roy Moore.

It was early 1979 and Moore — now the Republican nominee in Alabama for a U.S. Senate seat — was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. He struck up a conversation, Corfman and her mother say, and offered to watch the girl while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing.…

Alone with Corfman, Moore chatted with her and asked for her phone number, she says. Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.…

Aside from Corfman, three other women interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks say Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they say they found flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older. None of the three women say that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact.

As if to fend off the inevitable Right-wing cry of “Fake news! Fake news!”, WaPo explains the ways in which they attempted to verify Corfman’s story. For instance, they checked court records to find that Corfman’s mother did, in fact, have a hearing at the time described. The paper also explains that neither she, nor the other three women mentioned, came forward with allegations against Moore on their own; they only coughed up their stories after multiple interviews. So none of them was motivated to “bring down” Moore.

Moore, of course, denies all of this and decried WaPo‘s story as fiction intended to destroy him. (Yeah, it’s that old Right-wing “Fake news!” mantra, coupled with the old standby “Left-wing bias” complaint. Yawn.) Still, that they checked out many details and have confirmed what they were able to, suggests this is anything but fiction.

Moore is, as one expects of furious Christofascists, angry and is resisting quitting Alabama’s Senate race. He has a lot of support in Alabamastan, even among folks who haven’t denied the encounters described might have taken place. For instance, state auditor Jim Ziegler has pointed out that Jesus’ mother Mary was a teenager when she was married (cached). They’re quite happy with their perpetually-outraged, militant Christianist “Ten Commandments” judge, and have no problem with him being — maybe! — a pedophile. All they care about is, once he’s in Washington, he can help force the entire country to worship the Ten Commandments right along with him.

That Moore would decry the sexual perversions of others, but engage in some of his own, makes him a brazen hypocrite. And hypocrisy, he may be interested to know, was explicitly and unambiguously forbidden him by the founder of his religion. But I guess Moore and his fanbois think it’s OK for him to disobey Jesus. After all, they’re doing it in his name. Right?

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic.

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‘The Christocrats are coming! The Christocrats are coming!’ / PsiCop modified graphic, based on 1940s illustration of Paul Revere’s ride / National Archives #535721, via Wikimedia Commons (url: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paul_Revere%27s_ride.jpg)The Religious Right has agitated against the Johnson Amendment — a decades-old regulation that prevents non-profit entities from endorsing political candidates — for many years now. It’s not as though its existence has prevented them from building a religious-political edifice of their own; but they think, somehow, that it has stifled them. They claim it hinders churches’ free speech, but that’s a lie. Right now, any church in the country can, in fact, endorse political candidates. All they need, in order to do it, is to forfeit their tax exemption. That seems a small price to pay to get true “freedom,” but they love their money more than they love their freedom, so they refuse, and bitch and whine about it.*

With the election of a Groper-in-Chief who’s promised to end the Johnson Amendment (Archive.Is cached article), they finally have someone in the White House who could make that reality. As the Associated Press reports via Yahoo News, the Religious Right-dominated House’s proposed tax plan will do exactly that (cached):

Churches would gain the right to endorse political candidates and still retain their tax-free status under a provision in the House GOP’s tax overhaul plan.

The bill would repeal a 63-year-old law credited to former President Lyndon Johnson when he served in the Senate.…

Campaign finance groups warned the change could have far-reaching implications, turning “churches into tools for secret campaign spending,” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United.

More to the point, though, it will turn churches into political engines in their own right and help them promote Christofascism even more than they already do. It will further open the door to increased Christocracy.

* Strangely enough, Jesus himself clearly ordered Christians never to be concerned with money. Among some of his more famous teachings:

  • “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. … No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:19-21, 24)
  • And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)

But let’s be honest, Christians have vociferously ignored Jesus’ teachings for close to 2,000 years; at this point I don’t think the poor little things can help themselves any more.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on original from Wikimedia Commons.

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