In the US, blending religion with politics is typically a Right-wing affair. The Jeremiah Wright controversy, though, which involves liberal Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, has just gone from being a political squabble with religious overtones, to a religious one. The retired Reverend has decided that the furor over his remarks is an “attack” on black Christianity:

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s speech before the National Press Club this morning was not intended to be a political one. It was billed as the start of a religious gathering, and he came to talk about the black religious experience in America. …

“This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. This is an attack on the black church,” he said. “This is not about Obama, McCain, Hillary, Bill, Chelsea.” He said he was not going to sit back and let his church — comparing it to his mamma and grandma — be attacked.

But at the same time he was defending black Christianity as a distinct entity, he downplayed differences between black Christianity and other forms of his religion:

“Being different does not mean one is deficient,” he said. “It is just different. Black preaching is just different from European and European-American preaching. It is not deficient. It is just different. It is not bombastic. It is not controversial. It is just different.”

I really don’t see how black Christianity could be different enough that it comes under attack, yet basically the same … but there you go. It’s clear — to me at least — that the Rev. Wright is out of control. He’s so arrogant that he interprets critiques of his own preaching as an attack on black Christianity as a whole. Wow.

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Most of my comments concern religious topics, and sometimes things like quasi-religious forms of medicine; but humanity’s enslavement to metaphysics is not limited to those areas. No, people inject their irrational metaphysics into many other areas of life. Recently the New York Yankees went to great expense — and made a big deal out of — removing a Red Sox jersey from where it was embedded in concrete in the new Yankee Stadium, currently under construction.

It seems a malicious Red Sox fan, working last year at the site for just one day, managed to bury the jersey there, hoping it would “curse” the Yankees when they begin using the new ball field in 2009.

That’s right … work halted on one of the biggest public works projects underway in one of the world’s biggest cities, so that a baseball team could put to rest Yankees’ fans fears that their precious team might have been cursed.

Now, I live in and am a native of New England, so I know all about “the curse of the Bambino” (aka Babe Ruth), which was famously broken in 2004 when the Red Sox won the World Series. I had hoped all this asinine curse talk would have been put to rest, back then … but no.

Seems to me an awful lot of people are in desperate need of growing the hell up and getting over their metaphysical hangups. (Then again, these are the Yankees we’re talking about, whose owner and fans are not exactly famous for their maturity when it comes to their team — they fired Joe Torre, one of the best managers in the game, at the end of last season, because the Cleveland Indians beat them in the first round of the American League playoffs.)

Yes, stupidity, irrationality, and belief in unfounded metaphysics permeates humanity like a horrid contagion.

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Illinois legislator Monique Davis, D-Chicago, recently unleashed her theistic fury on atheist activist Rob Sherman, when he testified before the House State Government Administration Committee on April 2:

Davis: I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings. And it’s really a tragedy — it’s tragic — when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight. They want to fight prayer in school.I don’t see you (Sherman) fighting guns in school. You know?

I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children…. What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous —

Sherman: What’s dangerous, ma’am?

Davis: It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you’ll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!

Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I’m sure that if this matter does go to court—

Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.

Davis has since apologized, excusing away her irrational diatribe as resulting from having just heard that a Chicago pupil had been killed. Uh huh. OK. I guess.

Unfortunately, Sherman himself followed up being vilified before the committee, with a racist rant of his own, using wording more appropriate in a pre-civil-rights era — then justified it by suggesting that discrimination against atheists is a civil-rights matter as well and that such wording is appropriate in order to call attention to the problem. However, incendiary language and poor taste in response to wrongdoing, is never acceptable, so I hope Sherman does more than delete his comments from his Web site and offers a genuine apology, himself.

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A raid on a Christian sect in Texas has made the news recently. The mass media generally report this as a raid on a “polygamist compound”; however, the compound in question is actually a religious commune of sorts, belonging to the “Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” (abbreviated “FLDS”). Calling them merely “polygamists” isn’t really a good identifier; they are, rather, an extreme wing of the Mormons who broke away from mainstream Mormonism (aka the LDS Church) when mainstream Mormons ended the practice of polygamy a century ago.

(Current mainstream Mormons go to great lengths to tell people the FLDS followers are not Mormons; but in fact, they are, since they derive their teachings from the same source as all other Mormons, i.e. the 19th century “prophet” Joseph Smith.)

It turns out that Texas authorities — far from being blindsided by discovery of polygamists in their midst — have actually known about these people for years:

The local sheriff today defended his decision not to intervene sooner at a West Texas polygamist compound, despite having a confidential informant who provided him with information over four years.The confidential informant told authorities days ago that beds in the group’s sacred temple at the Yearning for Zion Ranch were used by adult men to have sex with underage girls, according to court documents.

“It’s just like anything. If you have a meth lab on your property and you feel it’s there, you’re not going to (trample) their civil rights or treat them any differently until you get probable cause or information or an outcry,” said Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran.

The sheriff’s comparison to a meth-lab is weak; somehow I doubt he would have sat on a stream of inside information on the existence of a meth-lab and chose never to act on it, for over four years. It defies reason to think he was never alarmed by what he heard from his informant. Given that the sheriff’s excuse is a poor one and likely a lie, let’s face it, folks: Texas is the buckle of the Bible Belt (or should I call it, as they do, “the Bobble Bay-elt”)! Fundamentalist religious groups thrive there, and for a very good reason — authorities are loath to do anything to any of them.

Granted, the average Protestant fundamentalist in Texas isn’t likely to be too fond of Mormons (whether of the mainstream LDS or the splinter FLDS), but authorities nevertheless won’t be eager to set a precedent for interfering with such a group.

If you’re wondering why polygamy is a particular phenomenon among Mormons (whether present or past, mainstream or splinter-group), here’s the explanation: Mormons believe that women do not directly qualify for the highest level of salvation (i.e. to be resurrected and to become gods themselves, at the end of time); this privilege is reserved to men alone. Women achieve this status only by having been married (in what Mormons refer to as a “celestial marriage”), and the husband must then choose to elevate his wife to this status, when the time comes. Unmarried women are left out of the cosmic loop, if you will, at the end of time; therefore getting as many women as possible into celestial marriages was a theological necessity. Note that this theology also has the effect of forcing a Mormon wife to be obedient to her husband — since her chance at this level of salvation depends on his wanting to elevate her to that status.

It’s no wonder that so many FLDS women — raised since birth to believe in this convoluted sexist soteriology — would actually go along with polygamy.

Having said all of that, I have to wonder how long this sheriff in Texas planned to wait, before stopping these FLDS nut-jobs and their institutionalized statutory rape … ? Had a 16-year-old mother and victim of this pedophilic community not called an emergency help-line, what would he have done? Guesses, anyone?

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Fitna (the movie)By now most everyone has heard about the short film, Fitna (“strife” in Arabic) by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders. No doubt you have also heard that it was first available on the Internet video repository site, LiveLeak, then yanked … because of death threats against LiveLeak staff. LiveLeak restored it after taking security precautions; view it here.

I find it an interesting film, although most of the content it conveys, i.e. the calls to violence in the name of al-Lah and Islam found in the Qur’an, is actually old news. The film dramatically overlays these Qur’an quotations — as well as calls for violence in Islam’s name by Islamist-extremist terrorists — with footage of real terrorist acts perpetrated by real Muslims who really believe in these extreme interpretations of Islam and the Qur’an.

Of course, this film has aroused the ire of Muslims around the world, as happened previously with the Mohammed cartoons published by Wilders’ countrymen a couple years ago.

This current reaction to Fitna, now, has exactly the same impetus as the cartoon-controversy in 2006: Muslim immaturity and unwillingness to accept that anyone might criticize their religion.

Yes, I said immaturity. And I meant it. No other word describes it. To be incensed — to the point of violence — that someone does not believe what one believes, can only be called “immaturity.”

A global society such as the one we live in, cannot afford this kind of immaturity. Muslims are simply going to have to accept that there are other people in the world who do not like their religion. No religion — in fact, no ideology or package of beliefs of any sort — is entitled never to be analyzed or critiqued. To expect never to be criticized is irrational and juvenile. Period.

Anyone care to hazard a guess when Islam will collectively grow up and accept that there are people like Wilders who refuse to “surrender” (that is, after all, what islam means in Arabic) to their god al-Lah?

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Two parents’ devout faith has cost the life of a girl … their own daughter:

Parents’ Faith Fails to Save Diabetic Girl

Cops Mull Charges After 11-Year-Old With Undiagnosed Disease Dies Easter Sunday

Wisconsin authorities will consider filing charges in the case of an 11-year-old girl who died on Easter Sunday of complications from diabetes that went untreated because police say her parents’ obscure religious beliefs do not allow medical intervention.“When you’re dealing with an 11-year-old child, your first thought is neglect,” Capt. Scott Sleeter, a spokesman for the Everest Metro Police Department in Wisconsin, told ABC News.

Madeline Kara Neumann, who went by the name Kara and was the youngest child of Leilani and Dale Neumann, died Sunday of “diabetic ketoacidosis,” according to a Marathon County autopsy report. Efforts were made to revive the little girl, whose diabetes had never been diagnosed, when she stopped breathing at the house, officials say.

We have, then, a girl who died of diabetes — which could have been prevented since the signs of its onset were not, in this case, instant — because her parents chose “faith” over medicine.

Yes, folks. Religion kills. It really can … it sometimes does … and in this case, it did.

What makes this case even worse is that the parents and the odd sect of whom they are part, are totally unrepentant about this. In their own statement on the matter, they said:

Sometimes we stumble because of lack of faith or repentance in an area but hopefully we correct this and get back up. ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ Those who do not know Jesus through being born of His Word think it is a terrible thing to die and it is for them.

You read that right: These people see absolutely nothing wrong with a child dying for lack of medical care. For them, this is “God’s way” and they’re quite happy with it. If their cold-blooded lack of concern for the life of a child doesn’t make you sick, there’s something wrong with you.

Welcome to the wonderful world of the extreme lunacy that “faith” sometimes drives people to!

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Florida is not the only place where the evolution vs. religionism (aka “intelligent design”) battle is being fought. Texas is the next avenue of the religionsts’ attack:

Evolution on Trial in Texas Board of Education Battle

Later this year, the state will review its science curriculum; observers fear that creationist explanations of life’s origins will be presented as scientifically valid alternatives to evolution.

There’s ample reason to think intelligent design — a theory that views so-called irreducible complexities to be proof of divine intervention, and was discredited legally and scientifically two years ago during the Kitzmiller v. Dover case — could mount a comeback in Texas.

State science education official Chris Comer was fired last November after telling friends and colleagues about a lecture critical of intelligent design. The 15-member Board of Education is roughly balanced between supporters and opponents of evolution — but the March 4 board election features two pro-ID candidates, both running against pro-evolution incumbents.

The Associated Press reports that would-be board member Lupe Gonzalez, a retired school administrator, wants intelligent design given “equal weight” with evolution in school textbooks. The second challenger, retired urologist Barney Maddox, considers the state’s current science curriculum an attempt to “brainwash our children into believing evolution.”

The fallacy the religionists are guilty of, here, is misunderstanding the nature of science. Science does not — contrary to what they claim — treat all ideas “equally.” Science is in the business of separating bad ideas from good, the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats (to use a religious metaphor these people should understand). For instance, the Ptolemaic model of the solar system is not on “equal footing” in science with the Copernican/Keplerian/Newtonian model; any science teacher who treats them “equally” should be fired on the spot, quite obviously.

There is no such thing as “equality of ideas” in science; whatever model for a phenomenon is superior, is the accepted one at any given moment. Obsolete models are discarded. That is how science works.

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