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Politics in the United States

1099 Siege of JerusalemI’ve blogged about “the Great Neocrusade” for several years. This, of course, is my name for the Religious Right movement that seeks to drive Muslims out of the US — and then eradicate Islam from the planet. These folk are enraged at the very existence of Islam, because it’s the chief rival religion of Christianity, to which the majority of them belong (although there’s a notable minority of Neocrusaders who’re Jewish).

They’ve long used the barbaric terrorism of militant Islamists, such as ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-savage-brood, to justify their demand that Islam be obliterated. Sure, there are extremists within Islam — which I’ve argued doesn’t reflect well on their religion — but many of the Neocrusaders are, themselves, religious militants; they just happen to be militant Christianists rather than militant Islamists.

Their reasoning, therefore, is nowhere near as utilitarian or “pure” as they’d have you believe. They don’t realize, or care to know, that Christian and Right-wing terror is every bit as real a problem as Islamist terror.

Neocrusaders’ blanket condemnations of Islam, of course, make them look like sanctimonious bigots — which, if truth be told, they are! But some of them have realized this, and have undertaken a different tack. What they’ve done is to declare themselves opposed not to Islam, or to Muslims, but instead, to what they call shari’a law.” This is a generalized term for “Islamic law traditions” which have legal force, of one kind or other, in some Muslim-majority countries. According to this particular wing of the Great Neocrusade, “shari’a law” is about to be imposed on the US; and once that happens, supposedly, every American will be forced to convert to Islam.

This past Saturday, as the Los Angeles Times reports, one “anti-shari’a law” group took to the streets around the country to protest the putative imposition of “shari’a law” on Americans (WebCite cached article):

Speaking out about what they believe are the ills of Islam, anti-Sharia law activists demonstrated nationwide Saturday, but were met by counter-protesters who assailed their rhetoric as insensitive and demeaning.

Members of Act for America, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, gathered in parks and plazas across the country, organizing nearly two dozen so-called March Against Sharia rallies, stoking concerns and counter-events by Muslim leaders who say the group is spewing hate.

In Atlanta, an assortment of militia men brandishing assault rifles, supporters of President Trump waving American flags and men’s rights activists wearing helmets descended on Piedmont Park, a leafy oasis in the city’s affluent, liberal Midtown neighborhood.

In New York, nearly 100 people attended a rally near lower Manhattan. They were outnumbered by counter-protesters, and the two sides hurled insults across two rows of police barricades.

The problem with this outfit is that it’s premised on a lie. There is no effort to impose “shari’a law” on any American. It’s impossible for it ever to happen, since the First Amendment prevents government from imposing a religion — or by extension, a religious law code — on Americans. “Shari’a law” can’t be imposed on the US any more than Roman Catholicism’s canon law can be. It’s a figment of their paranoid imaginations. It has not happened; it is not happening now; and it will not happen any time in the future. Period. End of story.

To be clear, if I thought for a moment that “shari’a law” was going to be imposed on me, I damned well would protest it, right alongside the members of Act for America, or anyone else who protests it. But it’s not … and the idea that it will soon be, is an outright fucking lie. It’s simply a rationale for pitching fits over the fact that Islam exists and that there are Muslims here in the US. Nothing more.

This specific form of the Neocrusade movement reminds me a bit of anti-Semites who cloak themselves behind the contention that they’re not really “anti-Jewish,” they’re really just “anti-Zionist.” Unfortunately, most of their invective is directed at Jews generally, not at Zionists specifically. It also reminds me of a subset of Holocaust deniers who don’t necessarily deny that the Third Reich went after Jews, it’s just that they dispute that around 6 million Jews died at their hands. They contend the number is smaller — often much smaller. But really, this quibbling about numbers isn’t really relevant. For instance, if the Nazis had “only” killed 600,000 Jews instead of 6,000,000, that still wouldn’t make what they did anything other than a horrible atrocity.

I note that some of the Neocrusaders who participated in these supposed anti-“shari’a law” rallies, themselves, acknowledged they had other reasons to protest Islam:

Some anti-Sharia marchers in Orlando, Fla., such as Sheryl Tumey, noted the timing of event, two days before the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, as a reason to protest. The gunman, who killed 50 people at the gay club, had been inspired by Islamic State extremists.

“We live here and that touched us — and that was a terrorist,” said Tumey, 50. “We are here and they want to bring in a religion of hate and oppression.”

These people, you see, can’t even keep their own disingenuous pretenses straight! As for who’s promoting “a religion of hate and oppression,” I acknowledge that’s what Islamists do … but it also happens to be what the Religious Right, a predominantly Christian movement right here in the US of A … also does. Fucking hypocrites! Maybe they should pay attention to their Bibles, and note that the founder of their own faith reportedly ordered them never to be hypocritical, at any time or for any reason. They’re quite simply not allowed — by their own Jesus! — to do so. Ever.

What these sanctimonious liars need to do is fucking grow the hell up, for the first time in their sniveling little lives, and accept the fact that Islam exists, that there are some Muslims here in the US, and that they can never change either of those realities, no matter how angry they get about them.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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'One Nation, Under God: Remember, if you don't believe in God, you're not a REAL American. Keep prayer and God in school, where they belong!' / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of GeorgiaI’ve blogged a few times about Bible classes in public schools. The nation’s Christianists have long agitated against the Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in Abington School Dist. v. Schempp, which forbid the reading of Bible passages or reciting the Lord’s Prayer in public schools. Even decades later, militant Christianists throughout the country are still fighting back against that decision. They’ve consistently whined that Abington ripped the Bible out of public schools — which isn’t true — and have repeatedly pushed to get more Bible classes in more public schools throughout the country.

The reality is that lots of school systems have “Bible-as-secular-literature” courses. But many of them still run afoul of Abington. An example is the Mercer county, WV school system, which has a Bible course running through many grades, beginning in elementary school. The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed suit to end Mercer county’s Bible classes this past January (WebCite cached article). The FFRF’s complaint shows how the program’s lessons are more like Sunday-school religious lessons than “Bible-as-secular-literature.” After some wringing of hands over the last few months, as the Bluefield (WV) Daily Telegraph reports, Mercer county schools have decided to suspend the program for a year while they review its content (cached):

Mercer County’s Bible in the Schools program is being suspended for next year, providing time for a review of the optional class for elementary and middle school students.

Members of the board of education approved the suspension last night at their regular meeting.

“Since the Bible class is an elective, I would like to include community members and religious leaders along with our teachers in this process,” said Dr. Deborah Akers, superintendent of schools. “In order to conduct a thorough review, we need to allow at least a year to complete the task. Therefore, I am recommending that we suspend the elementary Bible classes until this review is completed.”

The way the schools got around the law on this is, as I see it, moderately clever. Their “Bible in the Public Schools” program is administered by the school system, but funded by private donations, with those funds paying the program’s teachers. They also say it’s an “elective,” but virtually every student takes it, which is undeniable evidence that it’s not actually an “elective” at all.

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph ran a second story to reassure readers this wasn’t necessarily the end of the program (cached). Rather pathetically, it lamented “the loss of jobs” due to the year suspension:

Although Mercer County schools administers the program, Pelts’ group raises money to pay the seven teachers, who will now be out of their jobs at least for next year.

“Right now, the loss of jobs for our teachers is heartbreaking,” said Pelts. “Our primary and immediate emphasis is to honor and show appreciation to our Bible teachers.”

The group raises almost $500,000 a year to pay for the program.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a staggering sum of money for a private fund to raise, just to pay for Bible classes in one Appalachian county. As of 2015, Mercer county’s population is a mere 60,000 or so. I can’t imagine those residents can consistently raise half a million dollars a year, just among themselves. It doesn’t seem plausible. Outside groups must be paying for this program.

If I may crib from my earlier remarks on this topic: As someone who’s studied the Bible, both as sacred and secular literature, I don’t dispute that “Bible-as-literature” classes add value to public schools. There’s no doubt whatever about that! Biblical allusions are common in other literature and art, and some of the Old Testament books serve as tremendous examples of etiology. Kids can certainly use this as a foundation for understanding other works.

The problem I have with public-school Bible classes is, I don’t trust the people — generally, devout Christians — who create curricula for, and teach, them. Many are motivated by a desire to proselytize. Even if they set out with the intention of keeping these classes completely secular, will they be able to resist the temptation to turn them into religious instruction? The ardency with which some of them have pressed to get such classes into public schools makes me question how truly committed they are to a secular approach to the Bible. I particularly find it suspicious that half a million dollars is spent annually, in little Mercer county, WV on this effort. That kind of money makes the whole thing appear very suspicious.

Photo credit: Austin Cline, Licensed to About.Com; Original Poster: University of Georgia.

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'This is America ... Founded by White Christians seeking religious liberty. ... Where people know their place. This is YOUR America. Keep it White & Christian!' / Racism & White Supremacy in American Christianity America as a Christian Nation, America as a White Nation: Racism & White Supremacy in American Christianity. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National ArchivesThe recently-elected Groper-in-Chief, having run relatively quiet for a few days in the wake of yet another debacle of his own manufacture, gave the commencement address at one of the temples of American fundamentalist Christianity, that being Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. During what was, effectively, yet another of his rally speeches, as the Washington Post reports, one of his remarks betrayed a common, but fallacious, trope of Christianist thinking (WebCite cached article):

In his first commencement address as president, Donald Trump on Saturday drew a parallel between what he faces as a political outsider in Washington and what he said the Christian graduates of Liberty University can expect to encounter in a secular world.

“Be totally unafraid to challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures,” Trump said. “Does that sound familiar, by the way?”…

Trump’s address was short on scripture but cast the president as a defender of the Christian faith — a mantle he assumed throughout the campaign.

“In America, we don’t worship government,” Trump declared at one point. “We worship God.”

The Apricot Wonder alludes, here, to the common evangelical belief that secularists, progressives, Leftists, etc. (pretty much anyone who’s not in their own camp) “worships” government, in the same way they themselves worship their own religion and deity. This belief is predicated on the assumption that all human beings somehow must “worship” something. In their minds, this means people either worship their own religion and deity — i.e. they have the “right” faith — or they believe in a false religion (whether it’s Islam, or Buddhism, or Satanism, or “statism”).

This is fallacious thinking on their part, of course, because it’s possible for a person to not worship anyone or anything at all. (Yes, really! It is.)

Many have questioned the degree to which the GiC is really a Christian, let alone an evangelical like the faculty and students of Liberty University … but as WaPo explains, he has taken up the mantle of “champion of Christian fundamentalists” and consistently tries to speak as though he’s one of them and is their standard-bearer. Thus, in his remark about worshipping God rather than government, he’s continuing to appeal to their sentiments. Not to mention, he’s appealing to the teeming masses of “Christian nationers” out there, too, all clamoring to make their militant Christianism into the national religion.

Oh, and by the way … just to be clear on this … I’m an American who absolutely, truly, and unabashedly does not worship the Apricot Wonder’s God — but I also do not worship government. If he or any of his rabid fanbois thinks that, as an American, I’m obligated to worship his deity, I invite that person to give it their best shot. Lock and load. Do your worst! Rest assured, I will never do so, no matter what.

Photo credit: Austin Cline, About.Com based on original from National Archives.

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'Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.' / Friedrich Schiller / PsiCop original graphicPlease pardon me, Dear Reader, for this blog post, which is mostly political, but which is relevant to a topic (i.e. veracity) I cover often.

I’ve blogged before that we now live in a post-truth age. People generally disdain veracity, these days, preferring instead to cling to whatever bullshit or lies they find emotionally comforting. Because, of course, emotions are always much more important than reality … right?

Nowhere is this more evident than in our Groper-in-Chief, a man who lies habitually, but who never will admit it and who doggedly continues spewing his lies long after they’ve been debunked — mainly because his own fanbois back him all the way.

Through his presidential campaign, and the first few months of his presidency, he and his minions have reeled off any number of rationales for why he lies so often, going so far as to demand that the public and media just ignore his lies altogether (WebCite cached article).

Well, the Apricot Wonder — compulsive Twitter aficionado that he is — recently posted an explanation for why he and his staff often misspeak/lie. As he explains, the poor little things are just too busy, you see (cached and cached):

Yes, Mr President. Obviously, that’s the answer! Don’t hold any more press briefings, which just further evince how inept and stupid you and your minions are. Why of course that’s the solution! You and your staff definitely ought to run and hide from anything resembling accountability to the public. That’ll remove any need for you or them to have to try to be accurate in what they say.

Why, it’s just horrific insolence of anyone to expect that you or your staff should actually know what the fuck you’re talking about, whenever any of you speaks. What an intolerable burden for all of you! There there, Mr President. Here, let me give you a pacifier. Then I’ll give you a drink of water and tuck you into bed. That way you can sleep peacefully, knowing all the bad people will leave you alone.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Friedrich Schiller quotation.

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US flag with cross instead of starsBrace yourselves for even more religious politicking in the US. While campaigning for president, the Groper-in-Chief had said he would “destroy the Johnson amendment” (WebCite cached article). That’s the regulation which bars non-profit entities — of which churches and religious organizations are one type — from engaging in partisan politics.

The sniveling crybabies who comprise the Religious Right have agitated against this rule for decades. That it exists hasn’t prevented them from constructing a very powerful, religiously-propelled political engine … but that hasn’t stopped them from bellyaching about it. What’s more, it hasn’t stopped some of them from endorsing candidates without being punished by the IRS (which generally is afraid of enforcing it).

The New York Times reports that tomorrow, the National Day of Prayer, the Apricot Wonder will start making good on that promise (cached):

President Trump plans to mark the National Day of Prayer on Thursday by issuing an executive order that makes it easier for churches and other religious groups to actively participate in politics without risking their tax-exempt status, several administration officials said.

Taking action as he hosts conservative religious leaders Thursday morning, Mr. Trump’s executive order would attempt to overcome a provision in the federal tax code that prohibits religious organizations like churches from directly opposing or supporting political candidates.

The move is likely to be hailed by some faith leaders, who have long complained that the law stifles their freedom of expression. But the order is expected to fall short of a more sweeping effort to protect religious liberties that has been pushed by conservative religious leaders since Mr. Trump’s election.

Churches and other religious groups have whined for years that the Johnson amendment somehow “violates” their rights and gets in the way of their “free speech.” This, however, is completely untrue. It’s a lie straight out of the pit of Hell. All a church has to do, if it wants to endorse candidates and campaign for them, is to forfeit its tax exemption. Once it’s done that, it can politick to its heart’s content! There’s nothing — other than greed — preventing them from doing so.

The United States of Jesus is on its way, folks. You read it here first!

Photo credit: CJF20, via Flickr.

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LGBT flag map of ConnecticutI assume my readers know about the vile practice known as “conversion therapy” (aka “reparative therapy,” and some other innocuous-sounding circumlocutions). Its proponents say it’s a way to help gays become straight, and they’ve been pushing it on the country for a couple decades now (WebCite cached article).

In the 1970s, the psychiatric profession stopped treating homosexuality as a mental illness, but shortly afterward, Christianists took up the cause, and cooked up “ministries” intended to “deliver” gays from their “sin.” Among the most famous of those was Exodus International, which more or less shut down just a few years ago (cached).

By the early 90s the “convert the gays” movement was almost entirely fueled by evangelical Christianity, even though a few psychologists like Joseph Nicolosi tried to give their weird pray-the-gay-away “treatments” a clinical veneer, having signed on as consultants to their ministries (cached). The bottom line is that “conversion therapy” is not only ineffective, it’s harmful to many who participate (cached). It’s pseudoscientific, and frequently barbaric (in the case of the “aversion techniques” they use). It also provides a pretext for the mistreatment of gays.

While my home state of Connecticut is as deep-blue Democratic/Liberal as one can get — and was among the first states to permit gay marriage (in 2008) — it’s taken a while to address “conversion therapy” here. As CT Mirror reports, though, the state House of Representatives approved a law to ban it in the Nutmeg State (cached):

The House of Representatives voted 141 to 8 Tuesday to pass and send to the Senate a bill that would make Connecticut one of a half-dozen states barring conversion therapy, the discredited practice of trying to change the sexual orientation of young homosexuals.

“This practice and treatment is not science, it’s science fiction,” the bill’s chief House sponsor, Rep. Jeffrey Currey, D-East Hartford, told his colleagues.

The bill would enshrine in state law the conclusions of the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and other national associations of health professionals: Homosexuality is not a disease, and forcing conversion therapy on a minor can be harmful.

Only 8 legislators voted against it … all Republicans (no surprise there!). One of them offered this boneheaded excuse for her “nay” vote:

[Ann] Dauphinais [of Killingly] said passage put Connecticut on a slippery slope of further interfering with parental rights.

“I believe this is a violation of the rights of parents to make choices they see as in the best interest of children,” Dauphinais said.

I guess she’d approve of parents treating their kids’ maladies with bloodletting, then … right? That is, after all, the natural consequence of her stated wish that parents have absolute, unfettered freedom to do as they wish to their kids. No?

What a fucking moron!

If the bill passed 141-8 in the House, I expect it will get through the state Senate, too, although probably with a little tighter margin.

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Unsplash, via PixabayThe Commonwealth of Kentucky has an awful lot of problems … or so I thought. I mean, last I knew, it’s home to some of the most impoverished counties in the entire US (WebCite cached article). It’s taken decades for Kentucky to devolve into its current dismal status. Yes, it’s been hurt by the loss of coal production, but no, this wasn’t caused by the coal-hating Barack HUSSEIN Obama; coal jobs have diminished steadily since the 1980s, under presidents of both parties.

But it seems the Bluegrass State has solved all of its problems, including the deep poverty of its eastern reaches, because Frankfort has moved on to dealing with problems it doesn’t have: Namely, not enough Bible-thumping. As the Christian Post reports, Kentucky’s governor bravely signed a bill that establishes a foundation for Bible classes in the commonwealth’s public schools (cached):

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin recently signed a bill into law that authorizes public school boards to allow schools to offer elective Bible literacy courses and provides state guidance to help establish such classes, local news outlets have reported [cached].

According to the Ohio County Monitor, Bevin, a Republican, has signed House Bill 128 into law, which provides guidance to schools as they begin offering students the ability to sign up to take Bible courses.

The bill, which was introduced by Rep. DJ Johnson, passed overwhelmingly in the state’s senate 34 to 4 late last month.

The CP article includes obligatory references to the historic nature of the Bible and how important it is to civilization and yada yada yada. It even included this claim:

“Additionally, studies show that students that have a higher level of Bible literacy also tend to have higher GPAs,” [Republican representative DJ] Johnson continued.

No citations to these “studies” are provided, and I’m willing to bet either that no such thing exists, or they were commissioned by religious groups, in which case their results are suspect at best.

The article also points out the classes designed as a result of this law are to be “electives” only. The problem is that large swaths of Kentucky are packed with militant Christianists, so in many schools these “elective” classes won’t really be “electives”; nearly all kids will take them as a matter of course, and the few who dare not do so will be harassed and bullied. Yes, it will happen, no matter how vehemently the people promoting these classes insist they won’t permit it.

As someone who’s studied the Bible both from a religious and secular perspective, I don’t deny that secular Bible-literacy courses can have value for kids. The problem is, will the folks who teach these classes be willing to limit themselves to a secular approach? Will they have the restraint not to use them as an opportunity to proselytize? I’m not sure all of them will be able to resist the temptation to do so.

Really, what’s going on here is a kind of Bible-worship, or treating the Bible as though it were an idol. The people behind this law think that exposing kids to it will magically make them Christianists just like themselves. They really need to stick crowbars into the Bibles they long ago slammed shut, though, and actually read them for once … because it contains admonitions against idolatry and other forms of magical thinking.

At any rate, allow me to congratulate the Commonwealth on its achievement. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with Kentucky any more, and all that’s left is the passage of laws to promote Bible-reading. Well done, Kentuckyites! You must be so proud!

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