The Watering Hole, Saturday, July 5, 2014: The Fault in Our Bartons

David Barton is at it again. In a span of about two minutes, the professional liar recently made several false claims, including that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is an “Atheist Mormon.” [From the audio clip on RWW's site:]

He has actually proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would re-write the First Amendment to take away original protections and limit the protections in the First Amendment.

Actually, Senator Reid didn’t propose the amendment, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall did. And campaign finance reform was not on the minds of the authors of the First Amendment, nor was it written to protect the flow of unlimited amounts of money in the federal campaign process. Senator Udall’s amendment would protect citizens from that flow.

What it also tells me is, and he’s apparently a Mormon guy, that’s fine. He is probably an atheist Mormon, Mormon in name only and the reason I say that is that so many Mormon folks are so conservative on the Constitution and such great defenders.

There is no “apparently” about it, Harry Reid IS a Mormon. (How do you like that little dismissal of Mormons – “that’s fine.”) And while it is true that Mormons as a group have the highest percentage of self-identified Conservatives and the lowest percentage of self-identified Liberals, it is not correct to call Liberals Mormons “in name only” just because they aren’t Conservative. It would be like saying soon-to-be unemployed VA Representative Eric Cantor is a Jew in name only because he’s Conservative. And it’s thoroughly hypocritical to have such a mendacious snake oil salesman who proclaims to be a Christian question someone else’s devotion to his faith. But the Gish Galloping continued.

And so, when you look at what he’s doing, the Bill of Rights is laid out in the Declaration of Independence, you start with the first belief that there’s a Creator, the second belief that the Creator gives us certain inalienable rights, the third belief in the Declaration is that government exists to protect those inalienable rights.

Where to begin? First of all, the Bill of Rights (which usually refers to the first ten Amendments to the US Constitution) is not “laid out in the Declaration of Independence.” While there are certainly references to grievances later addressed by the Bill of Rights (which was not written by the same body of people who wrote the Constitution), they are not all individually and specifically addressed. They’re pretty much ignored completely in the Articles of Confederation, written less than eighteen months after the Declaration. If the Bill of Rights were such an important part of the Declaration (as Barton implies), then why were they not mentioned at all in the Articles of Confederation, the framework for the first United States of America? As for the sequence of beliefs laid out in the Declaration, Barton is twisting things to support his erroneous agenda that the United States was founded as a Christian Nation. The first belief isn’t that “there’s a Creator” but that all men are created equal. It’s an important distinction because it’s true that all men are born equal whether or not you believe in a God. (I don’t believe in a God, but I do believe we are all born equal and that no one is born “better” than anyone else.) In fact, this line was specifically written as a refutation of the then-widely held belief by monarchs in the Divine Right of Kings. It was a message to King George III that just because he was born into a family of nobility did not mean he was better than anyone else, or that he was born with rights others did not have. It does say that government exists to secure these rights, but he leaves out an important distinction: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed.” There is no dependence on God for our rights. Humans guarantee our rights with the support of other humans.

So eleven years later when the Founding Fathers did the Bill of Rights they said, hey, these are those rights that we were talking about that the government is not allowed to touch because these come from the Creator and government exists to protect rights from the Creator.

The “Founding fathers” did not “do” the Bill of Rights, the First Congress (a body of men elected after ratification of the US Constitution, which had no Bill of Rights when it was ratified) did. They were introduced by James Madison (one of the primary authors of the Constitution), but he didn’t think they were necessary, and that his primary motivation for introducing the original twelve amendments was so that they could tell their constituents who wanted them that they tried. In his introduction of the Bill of Rights, Madison made no mention of God or a Creator, nor did he reference the Declaration of Independence, nor any “God-given rights.”

So that’s why we’ve never messed with the Bill of Rights because they were always off limits to government because they came from God directly to man, they did not go through government to get here.

Actually, if you read Madison’s comments, he mentions that several States already had a Bill of Rights, and that the ones he proposed were similar to the ones in the States. It’s important to Barton that he maintain the fiction that our rights came only from God and not from an agreement among humans that people should be treated better than they have been.

If you don’t have the belief that you will answer to God for what you do, you will sell your country, you will sell your kids’ future, you will sell everything going on and that’s where we’re getting. And so it’s not just a belief in God, it’s the belief that you answer to God and you believe that, and see that’s where Harry Reid is not. You know, he may believe in God, he probably says he does; I don’t think he has any cognizance of having to answer to God for what he does.

Actually, Davey, Harry Reid doesn’t have to answer to God for what he does in Congress. He only has to answer to the people of the state of Nevada. And they continue to send him back to Congress despite the right wing crazies the Republicans run against him.

If the David Bartons of the world have any fault, it’s that they so badly want the United States to become a Theocracy that they’ll ignore the Ninth Commandment not to bear false witness (lie) about the intent of the people who threw off the shackles of oppression to declare the colonies free and independent states. And it’s up to the rest of us to stop them from succeeding. And that is best done by voting.

This is our daily open thread. Have at it.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, June 14, 2014: Losing Their Religion

Conservative Christians have been crying about being persecuted for a long time. It’s nothing new. You don’t hear Liberal Christians crying about being persecuted because of their faith, but that’s because they generally don’t say the kinds of things Conservative Christians say and profess it to be part of their religious beliefs! Of course there are Liberals who say stupid, hateful, anti-gay things, but they don’t usually claim them to be part of their religious beliefs. Conservatives do. And when they are called out for the stupid, hateful, anti-gay things they say, Conservatives usually claim, “I’m being persecuted because of my religious beliefs!” And that’s false, which, ironically, is a very big no-no for some of those Conservative Christians.

Christians are not being persecuted in this country (USA), no matter how much they cry and stamp their feet. Nobody is denying them the right to practice their religion. The fact that they don’t really practice their religion correctly doesn’t seem to bother them. Now I’m an atheist, but even I hear some tidbits from religious teachings. One of them was “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” Yet the vitriol we often hear from the Religious Right is directed at the gay people themselves, not what they do. And it’s clearly driven by fear. They are afraid. But of what do they have to be afraid? Is their Faith not strong enough to withstand the sight of people who do not follow their own religious beliefs? More than that, why do they talk about it all…the…time? I mean, for something that supposedly disgusts them so much that they have to speak up and say something, they seem to be dwelling on the subject far more than one would suspect. If gay sex bothers you so much, then stop thinking about gay sex. Why can’t you? Did it never occur to you that maybe God is talking to you through the gay people you meet? Do you think it might mean something to you that the gay people you personally know, maybe you work with them or they live near you, they’re very nice people, they seem to be okay, but it’s the ones you never met who are the Evil That Must Be Purged? Is there any reason to believe that the majority of the gay people you don’t know aren’t just like the really nice gay people you do know? And how do your religious beliefs about gay people (which may, or may not, be informed by the facts) apply to the really nice gay people you personally know, and possibly like?

Then there’s “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” You say that discriminating against people who don’t follow your religious beliefs is part of your religious beliefs. But if that means you have to hate your neighbor, then don’t you have to hate yourself? Actually what it means is that you love your neighbor despite the fact that he doesn’t follow the same religious practices as you. It doesn’t mean you get to say, “No, I refuse to bake your wedding cake for you because you’re gay.” It means you take their order the same as you would for any other paying customer. And if you think that amounts to a slap on the cheek, then offer the other! Jesus Christ, does an atheist have to tell you how to be a Good Christian?

You are not being persecuted! You are not being denied the right to practice your religious beliefs! You are being denied the right to discriminate, but so do your religious beliefs! Have you noticed that every single president in this country’s history has been a Christian? More than 3/4ths of this country’s population identify themselves as some form of Christian, so how is it that you feel you are a minority? The Tea Party People, who are often religious conservatives, like to speak (incorrectly) of Tyranny. But isn’t it tyrannical of the majority to impose their religious beliefs on the minority? Some of you have actually said that you believe that Freedom of Religion means the freedom to practice only Christianity. For the life of me I cannot fathom how you arrived at that belief, but it’s wrong, too. It’s not just wrong, it’s the exact opposite of what the First Amendment guarantees.

So your knowledge about the Constitution is about as shaky as your knowledge about your own Religion, yet you claim the Constitution guarantees you, and only you who practice what you think is Christianity, the right to practice that Religion (but not in a way that your religion compels you to do.) Face it, Religious Conservatives: You don’t want the right to act like Christians, you want the right to act like assholes. Well, that’s not covered by the Constitution. Unless you’re a member of Congress.

This is our daily open thread. Sorry for the delay. Whether or not you’re a Conservative Christian, I hope you can forgive me. Feel free to talk about anything you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 24, 2014: Love Thy Neighbor As Thy Self Does Not Mean Love Thy Neighbor Like Thy Self

As a Liberal Atheist (no, that’s not redundant) who believes in treating others as I would like them to treat me (also known as the ethic of reciprocity; it’s a good philosophy, one that came from Plato, not Jesus), it surprises me when elected public officials who proclaim to be followers of Jesus Christ’s philosophies fail to interpret them correctly. One of the laws Jesus followed was Leviticus 19:18

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Yet the Chesterfield County, VA, Board of Supervisors seems to believe the word “as” is the same as the word “like”.

Not content to be allowed to open their public meetings with a prayer (because nobody really means it, according to the Conservatives on the Supreme Court), the board “limited opening prayers to ordained leaders of monotheistic religions.” The county maintains an official list of local clergy from which the invitee to give the prayer is chosen, but not all religions are welcome. A local Wiccan was denied a spot on the list because it was felt that “neo-pagan” faiths do not fall within the Judeo-Christian tradition and that they invoke “polytheistic, pre-Christian deities.” And the official county list (isn’t it a little creepy to hear of a local government keeping an “official list” of local clergy?) excludes a local Sikh organization, even though they practice “strict mono-theism.” Then there’s the problem that the list only includes ordained clergy. As the ACLU of VA and Americans United for Separation of Church and State say in their letter to the board, “The requirement that prayer-givers be ‘ordained’ is similarly problematic, as some religions do not require their clergy to be ordained, and others do not have clergy at all.” Out of curiosity, I wonder if any Muslims will be invited to say a prayer? After all, they worship the same God as the Christians and Jews. Actually, I would be surprised if there were anyone the list, because it would mean there are practicing Muslims in Conservative Virginia.

Why do Conservative Christians continue to blatantly act as though Freedom of Religion only applies to some denomination of Christianity? Why, when given an opportunity to impose their fantastic beliefs on others do they deny others the opportunity to impose their own fantastic beliefs right back to them? Why do they act as if Christianity is “under attack”? Why do they think Christians are being persecuted? Are they trying to assert that Christians aren’t being allowed into public office? Do they think that no Christian can ever get elected President of the United States, except for every single President we’ve elected, and even the one we didn’t? (No, I’m referring to Gerald R. Ford, not George W. Bush. Bush was declared the winner of an actual election thanks to voter fraud by the SCOTUS, who weren’t required to show a photo ID at the time.)

Look, I’m all for protecting your right to practice the Religion of your choice, even if that means believing in magical sky beings who don’t seem to care about human suffering. But it doesn’t mean that I have to practice it along with you. And it doesn’t mean you have a right to shove it down my throat, to borrow a common Conservative term applied to things that frighten them, or sexually arouses them, I’m not sure which. Probably both. It means you get to practice your Religion in the privacy of your own life. If you and others who believe as you do wish to gather in a privately-owned facility (such as a church, a temple, or a bar) to practice your Religion, go for it. But don’t believe for a second that the Public Square is the proper venue for Christian Evangelism (or any other kind, though few practitioners of other kinds, if any, seem to be doing it.) It’s funny to me how the Supremes said religious phrases are okay to be used by elected public servants because, in essence, nobody really means it, so nobody is trying to force their religious beliefs on you. But that’s not the point. Part of being a human is sharing experiences, and when non-Christians are being asked to publicly assert their devotion to Christ, our natural human desire to belong is challenged. Would you want to be a Christian standing in a street of Muslims all bowing down and facing Mecca to pray? Would that make you comfortable? Wouldn’t you think that, at the very least, you ought to get down on the ground, too, even if you’re just faking saying something? I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be made to feel that way by others, so why do you insist on being the one doing it to others?

This is our Daily Open Thread. Feel free to discuss oppressed and persecuted Christians, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 14th, 2014: For Reals?

“Believe it or Not: ‘Heaven is for Real’ a Community Conversation-Starter.” This intriguing headline in the local Southeast-Brewster Patch e-newspaper caught my eye yesterday. (I’ll get back to that later.) Until I read the article, I was unaware of both the book, and now a movie, based on a supposedly true story relating a young boy’s experience during emergency surgery. The boy just happens to be the son of a pastor.

[DISCLAIMER: My mind's personal jury is still out on the issue of near-death experiences and the like. There's so much uncharted territory in the human brain, there could be a section that might be labeled "Here there be visions."]

From an article in the Christian Post:

Heaven Is For Real opens in theaters on April 16 and tells the story of the Burpo family, whose son Colton experienced a vision where he traveled to heaven and met Jesus when he was just 4 years old. [Wait - he met Jesus when Jesus was 4 years old? Damn, I wish people knew how to write clearly!]

The details Colton shared with his father about heaven include the fact that people do not age there. Todd Burpo decided to break this down from a theological standpoint.

“Adam and Eve were created to never die and once they sinned the punishment for sin was death so they started aging,” he explained. “We know in heaven there is no sin [we DO?] so if you go to a place where there is no sin, why would the consequence of sin be there?”

If you scroll down past the crap-ads, there’s a video and other related links (if you’re interested.) Fun comments after the article, too. For instance:

ArmoftheLORD 3:45 PM on April 11, 2014
If you want to learn about heaven or Noah learn how to read the bible for your sake. The bible interprets itself and therefore not subject to anyones subjective flight of fantasy. Jesus does not ride a rainbow horse.”

Tammy Roesch 7:46 AM on April 12, 2014
ArmoftheLORD – Excellent post! This story is so contrary to the Bible….but sadly….many people fall for the unbiblical things it teaches, because that is what they want to believe…rather than studying the Bible for themselves and finding out the truth….

ArmoftheLORD 10:21 AM on April 10, 2014
garbage in garbage out. The bible is the final authority on the life after life afterlife not Tod Burpo

Bob Wierdsma (Moderator) 6:08 PM on April 10, 2014
ArmoftheLORD – Of course. But Jesus still is the way which Todd confirmed

["Of course." Really? Amazing how they're so SURE of their "facts."]

From Wikipedia regarding the original book, “Colton also claimed that he personally met Jesus riding a rainbow-colored horse and sat in Jesus’ lap, while the angels sang songs to him. He also says he saw Mary kneeling before the throne of God and at other times standing beside Jesus.” Wiki mentions a bit more in their section about the upcoming film: “He talked about looking down to see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn’t know what to believe. In Heaven, Colton says he met his miscarried sister whom no one had ever told him about and his great-grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born. He shared supposedly impossible-to-know details about each. Colton went on to describe the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how “reaaally big” God and His chair are, and how the Holy Spirit “shoots down power” from heaven to help people.”

Now back to the Southeast-Brewster Patch:

“[The movie] tells the story of Burpo’s son, Colton, who said he left his body during an emergency appendectomy around age 4 and visited Heaven. His parents, Todd and Sonja, believed the story after Colton described details about his great-grandfather and miscarried sister about whom he didn’t know…

Besides meeting family members who had passed, talking with angels and seeing Jesus ride a multicolored horse, Colton shared this about the community in Heaven:

“It’s a lot like Earth in many ways, but everybody there would help you out just because they wanted to help you out and not because of their own interests,” he said. “So that’s a pretty good community.”

My favorite comment after this article, with all of its misspellings, etc.:

Joe Rubalcava April 13, 2014 at 04:59 PM

“J Michael you do not understand God word very well. I Not trying to be critical just want to enlighten you and some of the orthers. God created every one, but all are not his children. To be a child of God in the old Testament you had to except God by faith. Since Jesus Christ in the new Testament, you must except Jesus Christ as you Lord and Savior, to be come a child of God, just not his creation. The only way to have the Holy Spirit with in you , is to except Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, read John 17 : 6 – 8 1 Corinthians 2: 9- 16 the Holy Spirit is your helper to gives you the knowledge of God word. With out the Holy Spirit in you, yo can read the Bible but you will not get much of any true understanding of what you read. Michael you were right when you said God has unconditional love of everyone all the way to you death bed, but if you do not except his free gift to except him as you Lord an savior and die in that state he will not except you at that point and you will suffer eternal separation from him. Those who did except his free gift and excepted him as Lord and savior will have everlasting life with him. God said he hopes no one would parish, and that why he gives you all the way until right before you death to except him, but he will not force anyone to except him, he give you the free will to do it or not, and if you don’t you will not at that point be excepted by him. You made a comment that God does’ t need a middleman, and your right, but he does use them. The Holy Spirit to teach you and give you understanding if you ask him, once you have excepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and earthly men as pastors and priest and just some ordinary every day people who believe in God, to keep reminding you why you need to turn to God and except Jesus Christ. I hope this might be able to give some clarity to what some may not understand about God’s ways and word.”

(In an aside: On the sidebar on The Christian Post website, I discovered that there is an annual “State of the Bible Survey” – who knew? I have no idea who The American Bible Society spoke to in their latest “State of the Bible Survey”, but one ‘statistic’, if accurate, could be scary: “56% of America remains Pro-Bible.* *People who believe the Bible is the actual or inspired Word of God with no errors.”)

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 12, 2014: Religion Gone Mad

I do honestly believe it is your right, in both the Constitutional and Moral sense, to hold whatever religious beliefs you want inside your own head. You can even exercise those beliefs provided your actions cause no harm to others. I’ll even go so far as to say that, as a private citizen, you have a right to try peacefully to persuade others that your religious beliefs hold a shred of validity. But what you do not have a right to do, in neither the Constitutional nor Moral sense, is force others to accept, or even worse follow, your religious beliefs. And as long as I draw breath in my body, it will always be that way in this country. It ought to be that way around the world.

Now I won’t sit here and say that Religion has never done any Good anywhere in the world. It’s clearly not true. [NOTE: Before continuing, however, I want to make clear that unless otherwise explicitly stated, when I speak of Religion in this post, I am speaking of those Religions which involve the worship of one or more Deities, of varying strengths, abilities, and fetishes.] Throughout history, many people have been motivated by their religious beliefs to treat their fellow human beings with compassion, or to seek an explanation for how things work. Sadly, and undeniably, Religion has motivated people to perform horribly unspeakable acts of inhumanity against their fellow human beings, all in the name of pleasing their particular Deity of Choice. And that’s the dark side of Religion that we Americans don’t like to discuss – the Evil that Men do in the name of Religion. People have been killed because someone else thought they worshiped the wrong gods. Which is really kind of stupid when you think about it, something those religiously-inspired murderers rarely did. These religions often require one to forsake any other gods and worship only a specific one, and not to worship the other gods which they acknowledge exist. They then teach that this one specific god was the one who created everything (including, apparently, all those other powerful gods you aren’t supposed to worship), or that while other gods existed, this one was the only one capable of creating the planet on which we all live. (Some religions – okay maybe just the one – claim that their God proudly claims to be a “jealous God,” but that Jealously is still a mortal sin for human beings because, I don’t know, it’s bad? But okay for a God to have. It’s not just hypocritical, it’s illogical. God is telling you there’s something really bad about Him. But he loves you, and he won’t ever, ever hurt you again. By Flood, anyway.)

Our Constitution prohibits our Congress from passing any law respecting an establishment of Religion. It also extends that protection for the People to each of the States so that no state can pass a law respecting an establishment of Religion. (After all, what would be the point of being an American Citizen with the religious liberty to worship as one pleases if the state within which one lives can force one to practice a different religion?) That same Constitution requires any person holding any office of public trust in the United States, before entering office, to take an oath to support and defend that same Constitution. (I took such an oath. To my knowledge, belief and practice, it had no expiration date.) So it’s reasonable to expect that a person taking such an oath would familiarize him or herself with that same Constitution. So as to not do something stupid like this.

The Great State of South Carolina (which holds the record for most Civil Wars started in our country), has advanced a bill (Pregnant Women’s Protection Act) in a Senate committee that would expand their state’s ill-conceived Stand Your Ground Law to protect unborn children, defined as having started from conception. Opponents argue that the bill is unnecessary, as pregnant women already have the right to use deadly force in self-defense, but proponents claim that this bill is intended to extend that right to the fetus, on the theory that there are things you could do to a pregnant woman that might not be deadly to her, but might be for the unborn fetus. Here’s where I have a problem with the bill (besides its existence).

The bill the panel approved also includes a definition of “unborn child” as “the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.”

Regardless of what its advocates claim, this is nothing but a backdoor attempt to deny women their right to an abortion. And the people that want to do that, almost to a person, want to do so because of their religious beliefs. They are the ones who claim that Life begins at conception, and that the unborn should have the same Constitutional rights as the born. This is absurd. They would be granting rights outside the authorization of the Constitution. It clearly states that all persons born in the United States are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein the reside. The key word there, the only one that matters in any discussion of rights, is “born.” You have to be born to have any rights as an American citizen. I recently caught a repeat of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit involving the theft of frozen embryos by activists who felt Life begins at conception. The Assistant District Attorney pointed out that in New York State, Life begins at a baby’s first breath, which is why you couldn’t prosecute a woman for murder who had a stillborn baby (a lesson, BTW, some other states need to learn.) This bill undeniably is an attempt to impose a religious view on the citizens of a state, whether or not they practice that religion. And it is morally reprehensible.

Speaking of morally reprehensible, the Great State of Louisiana is moving forward with making “the Bible” the official book of the state of Louisiana. The bill doesn’t say which version of the Bible would be the official one, because a previous version of the bill that did so met objections from some lawmakers.

Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, said he sponsored the proposal after a constituent made the request. But Carmody insisted the bill wasn’t designed to be a state-endorsement of Christianity or a specific religion.

“It’s not to the exclusion of anyone else’s sacred literature,” he told the House committee. Again, later he said, “This is not about establishing an official religion of the state of Louisiana.”

Except that it is. What Conservative Christians often forget is that not everybody thinks or believes as they do. And they forget that other religions do not refer to their holy books as “the Bible.” In fact, that’s pretty much limited to Christianity (in most of its myriad forms.) Jews do not follow a Bible, nor do Muslims. So saying your state’s “official book” is a sacred text specific to one form of religion is endorsing that religion. How could it not be? When you make something your “official book,” you are, by definition, choosing it to the exclusion of all other books, religious or not. That’s the whole point of making it “official.” It’s like saying your state’s official bird is “the web-footed bird,” but not any specific web-footed bird, then trying to say you’re not endorsing aquatic fowl over all other forms of bird. Of course you are. And if the Constitution read “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of bird,” your official state bird would be unconstitutional. And you couldn’t say it’s not to the exclusion of all other birds (because it is), and you couldn’t say it’s not an endorsement of any particular kind of bird, because it is.

Your religious freedom ends at my body. You have no right, neither Constitutional nor Moral, to force me to accept your religious beliefs as valid or irrefutable. And you have no right to force me to live by those religious beliefs. So stop trying to do so.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss religious freedom, Stand Your Ground, bibles, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 29, 2014: Ah, No

A new movie has Christian Conservatives up in arms because of its alleged inaccuracies. It’s called “Noah” and it’s the story of a young boy whose obsession with words leads him to write a novel that redefines the meanings of words commonly in use at the time and — and I am being told that this is not what the movie is about after all. Then it must be the one about the man who works for a shadowy company that tracks people with special abilities — and I’m being told this isn’t the story, either. Ah, I know. It’s got all these right-wingers upset, so it must be the story of a shadowy government agency that tracks weather patterns and tries to warn people that the average overall planet’s surface temperature is rising — and I’m being told that’s the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Then what’s this one about? The what? Are you sure? Okay, if you say so. Apparently it’s the story of a man who signed up for AARP and — what? Not AARP? Ark? He signed up for an Ark? That makes no sense. Oh, he built an Ark after getting a DM from God. Why would he do that? Read my what? Oh, alright, if you insist.

According to Le Bib (or, as the Gangsters call it, the Bible), Noah was a 600-year-old righteous man chosen by God to build an Ark of a specific size, for the purpose of rescuing a sample of all living land and air animals from a flood He was about to bring upon the Earth, wiping out all living things (except, I presume, the fish.) A version of the original story (certainly not the original version itself) can be found in the Authorized King James Version (AKJV) of the Bible, in Genesis. Chapter 5 gives Noah’s genealogy from Adam (God’s alleged Creation), which tells us that this story takes place about 4,400 years ago, if you believe the earth is about 6,000 years old. It also means it takes place about 2,400 years before the birth of Jesus. Why this movie should bother Christians so much baffles me. It’s not their story. And if you want other non-believers to think the God you worship is an all-loving God, you don’t want to draw attention to this story. God is so fed up with Humanity that he’s going to kill them all and start over with Noah’s family. Why would you believe He wouldn’t kill everyone again? You say it’s because God promised he wouldn’t do that again? That’s not the way I read it, but more on that later.

This two-and-a-half hour movie (which I have not seen, but whose contents I base on the reviews I cite) is based on Genesis Chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9. The main complaint of the Right Wing Christian Reviewers (they’re so much alike they might as well belong to a formal organization with that name) is that the Darren Aronofsky film Noah is not true to the story in the Bible. Well, at least the Bible we presume they mean. They never seem to say which one. And as much as I hate to admit it, they’re right. Debbie Schlussel says a better title would be Not Noah. Erick Erickson is not kidding when he says it was “one of the funniest comedies I have seen in a very long time,” and that he’s “Not sure it is worth it for anyone who takes the Bible seriously.” And Ben Shapiro calls it a “perversely Pagan mess.” And they are correct that the short story of Noah that I read in the Bible (Yes, we Atheists do have access to Bibles, as evidenced above) said nothing about warriors battling Noah for a place on his Ark, or of giant stone creatures, or of Methuselah having magical powers. It doesn’t really say much of anything, really. The gist of the story is summarized in Chapter 6. Flood coming, start building. Animals gathering, start loading. Rains pouring, start praying. Storms passing, start looking. Waters receding, start living. Throw in some really awesome special effects (which, when you get right down to it, is the entire point of the movie) and you’ve got a Hollywood movie. Of about twenty minutes. Of course they had to pad it with things not strictly found in the Bible. They could have been a little more in line with the original story. I’m pretty sure Noah’s sons were not named Ham, Eggs, and Bacon. (BTW, why would a vegetarian – Noah is depicted in the film as a vegetarian – name his son ‘Ham’? For that matter, why would anyone who practiced a religion that proscribed pork name one of their children ‘Ham’? But I digress.) And the Biblical Noah did not have a Ford F-150 to help him haul lumber around. And Home Depot did not donate an apron for Noah to wear with pockets for nails. But these are minor things. Okay, I made those last few things up.

What also bothers the RWCR is that the word “God” is not mentioned once in the movie. Oh, does that irk them. Noah makes reference to the Creator, but never calls him God or any other particular name. And this seems to bother them a lot. But if you;re going to make a claim that a movie is not faithful enough to the original book, you should be absolutely certain you have your facts right. Assuming we’re talking about facts. Perhaps “details” would be a better choice of word. Schlussel says that Noah was 500 years old when he began the Ark. Not correct. Noah was 500 when he started having children. He was 600 when he started building the Ark. And Shapiro says that God promised never to destroy Humanity again. That’s not how I read it. There are the thoughts God had to himself, and there’s the words of the Covenant he spoke to Noah. And what he told Noah was that He would never flood the Earth again. That doesn’t mean he won’t do something else, like let the temperature rise so much that the planet became uninhabitable for humans.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 22, 2014: Will Creationists Never Get It?

In case you didn’t already know, I’m an Atheist, and happy and proud to be one. I believe that our portion of the Space-Time Continuum came into being as the result of a Big bang, an explosion of matter and energy that rapidly expanded, and eventually formed the many, many galaxies of which our own is just one. I said “Space-Time Continuum” instead of “Universe” because I believe there are many, many Universes, spread far apart from one another. The Space-Time Continuum is just the framework within which everything happened, happens, and will happen. It is infinite in size, and infinite in time. It has always existed and it will always exist, but the matter and energy within it will constantly change. It was not brought into existence by anything, it was already there. Matter and energy may be turned into each other, but the infinite framework will still be there. Many religions that believe in a God have a Creation Myth. The one in the Christian Bible is not the only one, but that’s the one that religious conservatives want to see imposed on everyone. Their Creation Myth begins with three simple words, “In the beginning…” And that’s where the Bible and I part company. Because as far as I’m concerned, there was no beginning. People erroneously believe there MUST have been a First Cause, some kind of Force that brought everything into existence. I disagree. You want to tell me that the Space-Time Continuum Framework was entirely empty before some kind of Deity decided to start making stuff in it? For how long must that Deity, that all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing Deity, have sat around in a whole bunch of Nothingness? That makes absolutely no sense at all. None. What makes much more sense is that there was no beginning, that it was always there in some form or another. And it will still be there long after we all turn to star dust. Wouldn’t that imply that Life has no purpose? Yeah, but so what? In the wise words of Peter Falk in The Princess Bride, “Who said Life is fair?”

Which brings us to the Creationists of Answers In Genesis. They still don’t understand the concept of Science. They’re upset because Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the revival of “Cosmos,” won’t allow “balance” and present the view of the anti-Evolutionists. They seem to think that any effort to educate the public about things like the Truth, using such controversial tactics as citing Facts, must be balanced by teaching things what could only be described as “Falsehoods” and “Lies.” They seem to think that young people should be taught all points of view, no matter how absurd or demonstrably false, and then let them “decide” what they want to believe. This is how you raise a generation of stupid people. And stupid people tend to be conservative in their thinking (a well-documented fact), and stupid, I mean, conservative, in their voting. This has always been part of the long term strategy of the Right. People who don’t understand how Science works, who think that every point of view is valid, tend to be easily manipulated emotionally into being afraid. And people who are afraid make bad decisions, like voting for Conservatives to govern them. Which is why the Conservatives let the Religious Right have their way, no matter how wrong, no matter how intellectually void of merit their ideas, no matter how unconstitutional their proposed legislation.

Creationists continue to insist that their views be given equal weight with Scientific viewpoints and Theories. But there is absolutely nothing scientific about Creationism or Intelligent Design. They start with the premise that God exists, and assume that anything that isn’t understood is the Will of God and Not For Mere Mortals to Understand. That is not Science. How can you test any hypothesis when you hope the result is that you can’t discern the answer, so it must be God’s work? Even more, Creationism isn’t even a true Theory in the scientific sense. It’s nothing more than a belief that things happened a certain way, on the whim and time scale of a Power we can’t hope to understand, with no allowance for any belief otherwise. Why should that be given equal weight with the culmination of hundreds of years of scientific discipline and pursuit of the Truth? Especially when it’s been long proven that the Religious views on the nature of the Universe have been proven wrong time and again? The Sun does not revolve around the Earth. The Earth is not the center of the galaxy, let alone the Universe. We are no more important in the Grand Scheme of Things than the people living on a planet circling Alpha Centauri. And they probably think the same thing about us. And you know what? We’re both right.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Creationism, real Science, Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or anything else about Neil deGrasse Tyson that you like.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 8, 2014: Why Republican Religiosity is Wrong

According to my dictionary, the definition of “fact” is

n. 1. the quality of existing or of being real; actuality; truth.
2. something known to exist or have happened.
3. a truth known by actual experience or observation.

Facts are important. When Reality offers a challenge, you must deal with facts if you’re going to solve the problem. You can’t solve a real problem if you ignore the facts, or worse, try to act as if the opposite were true. Now look at the definition of “belief”:

n. 1. something believed; an opinion or conviction.
2. confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to vigorous proof.
3. confidence, faith, or trust.
4. a religious tenet or tenets

Notice the difference between these two words. Facts have the quality of being real and actual, where beliefs do not require any reality or actuality. You can believe something with all your heart but it won’t make it a fact if it’s not actually true. Beliefs can be wrong (and often are), but facts, by their very definition, cannot be wrong, because they are what is true, what actually happened. When it comes to education, you cannot treat belief as equal to fact. You cannot give an opinion or conviction equal weight with something real, actual or true. It may, in the long run, turn out that what someone believes is true, but that doesn’t justify teaching it as an actual fact, reliable as anything based on scientific evidence or experiment. Just because you believe something to be true, it doesn’t mean everyone else should be taught your belief as it were an actual fact. Especially, and I cannot emphasize this enough, if your belief is a religious one.

There are many Americans (far, far too many, IMHO) who believe that The Bible is factually true, that it is literally the Word of God, and that it should be taught in public schools. I have yet to hear any of these proponents specify which version of the Bible should be considered “The” Bible, and this, in itself, is problematic for me. Not so much that people can’t decide which version of the Bible they want taught in public schools, but that there are so many versions of the “literal Word of God” in the first place from which a choice must be made. They’re all different in some way or else there wouldn’t be different versions. But how can any one of them claim to be the literal Word of God if they differ? And just because King James I commissioned a new version of The Bible which he hoped would replace the one then currently in widespread use, why should that version be given any more credibility than any other version? It’s not because the King said so, as James did not make any order or proclamation that this version of The Bible be used in place of any other. It might interest you to know that the Geneva Bible, the one eventually supplanted by the KJV, was even more popular among the Pilgrims than the KJV. So when enthusiastic Conservative Christians claim America was founded on the principles of “The Bible,” it’s important to know which version they mean. But I digress.

In Missouri, Republicans want belief to be given equal authority to fact. A second-term State Representative, Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville), has introduced a bill that would allow parents to pull their children out of classes where evolution is being taught. “What my bill would do is it would allow parents to opt out of natural selection teaching,” Brattin explained. “It would not prohibit the child from going through biology from learning about cell structure, DNA and the building blocks of life.” Mr. Brattin has been trying for several years to get Intelligent Design taught in high school science classes as an alternative theory to Darwin’s theories about Natural Selection. This despite the fact (there’s that important word) that courts have consistently ruled against public schools teaching Intelligent Design as Science because it’s nothing more than Creationism dressed up in a sexier framework. [A quick word about Natural Selection. Its advocacy of "survival of the fittest" does not, as its opponents often say, mean "survival of the strongest." Rather it means survival of the species most suited - i.e., "fit" - for a given environment. If the edible leaves on the plants are higher up on the tree, the species that can reach them are more likely to survive and pass on their physical characteristics to their offspring than the ones who can't reach them as easily. It has nothing to do with strength, but with suitability to one's environment. The species that thrive, survive, and the ones that don't, won't.]

No matter how they try to disguise it, Intelligent Design is nothing more than Creationism, and Creationism is nothing but Religion, and Christianity in particular. And it’s a violation of the First Amendment to require publicly financed schools to adhere to any particular religion, even Christianity. It doesn’t matter that it’s the most popular religion in the United States, it’s still a religion and it still violates the Separation of Church and State to endorse any one over the other. You might believe it’s true, but you can’t prove it through any scientific methods, and that’s the primary reason it has no place in a Science class room. Evolution, on the other hand, has testable hypotheses and is constantly being confirmed by new findings and evidence. If you have to infect the minds of the young with something as ridiculous as Intelligent Design (its main argument seems to be that you can’t prove it’s wrong, and the fact that you can’t explain every aspect of Evolution somehow proves that Intelligent Design is right, as if the only two choices were a 100% understanding of everything that ever happened or blind acceptance that a God designed and made everything and that this is the reason you can’t understand it), then a Philosophy or Religion or Study Hall class might be the more appropriate place. But you do not teach Creationism as Science when it is anything but. People should be free to believe it if they wish (though they’re wasting their time and lives doing so), but it shouldn’t be public policy that every child in school be taught that this particular Religion is as true as Science.

But if you think that the Science class is the only place where Republican Christians want their religious beliefs to decide all aspects of our lives, think again. Not only does Mary Helen Sears of Houghton Count, Michigan, claim that Darwin’s evolutionary theory “gave rise to Hitler’s Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Russia,” but she also believes homosexuals prey on children, that “Satan uses homosexuality to attack the living space of the Holy Spirit” and that Republicans “as a party should be purging this perversion and send them to a party with a much bigger tent.” Why does it matter what she thinks? Because she’s a candidate for a Michigan seat in the Republican National Committee. And she would join a man the party chairman asked to resign “for the good of the party” for his anti-gay comments. He would not do so, and due to specific party rules about representation on the national committee, a seat for only a woman was opened when a woman on the committee stepped down to concentrate on her Senate campaign. The funny thing about this anti-homosexual strain in today’s GOP is that there is no universal agreement on whether not the Bible bans homosexuality. Listening to the anti-gay crowd, you’d think the Bible was filled cover-to-cover with anti-homosexual pronouncements, but in truth there are only seven passages in the Bible that mention the subject, and not one of them is associated with Jesus! (Nor Satan, for that matter.) Why these folks think the Bible is more concerned with male homosexuality (lesbianism is not actually condemned outright anywhere in the Bible) than it is with income inequality or helping the poor is beyond me, and it is dangerous for America if they are given any kind of political power. Having your opinion influenced by Biblical teachings (whatever they may be) is one thing, but having those beliefs carved in stone by them is something altogether different. And it’s dangerous for Americans to put people who think this way in positions of political power in the secular United States of America.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 14, 2013: The Myth of the 21st Century Catholic

This past Sunday, Raylan Alleman of Fix the Family, wrote a column entitled 6 Reasons (+2) to NOT Send Your Daughter to College. The Editor’s note explaining the title tells you all you need to know about why I’m proud of my secular public education: Editor’s note: The original post was “6 reasons” and 2 were added since (#6 and #8) just in case 6 weren’t enough. [I did not edit that in any way.] The entire post is supposed to be a rational argument for why women should not go to college. It is anything but.

Before I begin telling you about their 6 (+2) reasons and what’s wrong with them, who are Raylan Alleman and Fix the Family? According to their website, they’re Catholics, and they think you can be happily married and Catholic, too. They believe that there is a serious problem in that the Catholic moral teaching on marriage and family, as rock-solid and beautiful as it is, has not reached the faithful. [Here’s a suggestion: Continue reading

Watering Hole: Tuesday March 5, 2013 – Boy next door Jesus

Boy next door Jesus

     You have to look at Jesus as the boy next door. This is the young man you would want your daughter to marry. This is not the same guy who threw the moneylenders out of the temple. No, he works in the cubicle next to yours, and is not going to make any waves. He who hath not sinned? No problem. This Hollywood Jesus has the assuring look of a young earnest programmer looking to move up the corporate ladder. Feed the poor? Clothe the naked? No, this Jesus is made to comfort the comfortable and afflict no one. The sandal shod, long haired Jesus of your hippie days cannot compete. This is how you get followers. The medium is the message. This flier was left on our door knocker Saturday. What’s not to like? “Cat’s are we doing anything on 3/26?”

This is our open thread. Have at it.

BREAKING GNUS: Romney’s Real Religion Revealed

Questions regarding Romney’s real religion began circulating shortly after it was revealed that the only country in the world that favored Romney over Obama was Israel.

Ever vigilant, The Zoo’s top investigative reporters began digging and snooping around to get to the bottom of this unusual, and some would say unholy, Mormon-Jew alliance. It is now being revealed for the first time that:

MITT ROMNEY IS A JEW.

That’s right. When Romney toured Israel last summer he took part in a secret Bris ceremoney. His Mohel spoke on condition of anonymity. “I have his foreskin right here” said the Mohel, holding up a dried-out ring of pink flesh.

Calls to the Romney campaign were largely derided. The campaign released a short statement: “This is nothing but a desperate smear campaign, cooked up by the liberal left, to discredit Romney’s religious beliefs. Romney was, is, and forever will be a Mormon.”

Reporters, however, are pressing the candidate to disprove this story: “Show us your foreskin”

The Watering Hole – Saturday, August 25, 2012 – Keep the Kids Out of This

Bill Nye, the Science Guy (@TheScienceGuy), has a video out called “Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children.” It was put out for BigThink.com. This week’s hat tip goes to LGF.:

Denial of evolution is unique to the United States. I mean, we’re the world’s most advanced technological—I mean, you could say Japan—but generally, the United States is where most of the innovations still happens. People still move to the United States. And that’s largely because of the intellectual capital we have, the general understanding of science. When you have a portion of the population that doesn’t believe in that, it holds everybody back, really.

Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology. It’s like, it’s very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates. You’re just not going to get the right answer. Your whole world is just going to be a mystery instead of an exciting place.

As my old professor, Carl Sagan, said, “When you’re in love you want to tell the world.” So, once in a while I get people that really—or that claim—they don’t believe in evolution. And my response generally is “Well, why not? Really, why not?” Your world just becomes fantastically complicated when you don’t believe in evolution. I mean, here are these ancient dinosaur bones or fossils, here is radioactivity, here are distant stars that are just like our star but they’re at a different point in their lifecycle. The idea of deep time, of this billions of years, explains so much of the world around us. If you try to ignore that, your world view just becomes crazy, just untenable, itself inconsistent.

And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.

It’s just really hard a thing, it’s really a hard thing. You know, in another couple of centuries that world view, I’m sure, will be, it just won’t exist. There’s no evidence for it.

Directed / Produced by
Elizabeth Rodd and Jonathan Fowler [via LGF]

It wasn’t a belief in Creationism that gave this nation a reputation for being the best and richest country, that expanded it through the Industrial Revolution, that built the Interstate Highway System, that had twelve of its citizens walk on the surface of the Moon or that landed a nuclear-powered probe on the surface of Mars and broadcast pictures and other data back. It was a belief in Science that did all that, and without it, we would be no better off than those that live in deeply religious Third World countries.

If you have a child that really wants to study Science and Math, encourage him or her to do so. It’s not just our nation that needs more scientists, it’s the world. We are all in this together. The world’s climate problems are not going to be solved in such a way that we in the United States live and everyone else fends for themselves. Global problems require global solutions and global participation.

One of the biggest dangers to our country lies in our political system. We are a two-major-party country, and one of the two major parties simply does not believe in Science. Nor have they bothered to educate themselves on the subject and insist on just flat-out denying the inescapable conclusions of the men and women who have actually studied these things whenever they don’t like the results, as if Scientific Consensus meant whatever the uneducated-in-Science people thought was true. That’s not how Science works. A Scientific Consensus is the conclusion arrived at by Scientists, not the public. And not the Republican Party.

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss any topic you want.

[Cross-posted at Pick Wayne's Brain.]

The Watering Hole – Saturday July 14th 2012 – Stupid Christian Tricks

You have to wonder about a Religion so insecure that it can’t stand even the existence of anyone who might think it invalid, and thus must be treated like perverts.

As a proud Atheist, I think we would be doing the children of the world a grave disservice if we didn’t teach them the ‘Dos and Don’ts’ of what to do when encountering a faux-Christian. We can begin with a couple of easy ones:

DO:

Be suspicious. It seems that often, some of the very people decrying someone else’s immorality are guilty of the same thing.

DON’T:

Believe anything they say about what the Bible says. There’s an extremely good chance they’re wrong.

Another handy tip for the little ones is to teach them some questions to have handy, in case someone comes knocking on their door asking if they’d like to hear about the Bible. I’ll begin the list here:

“In the garden of Eden, as Adam was naming the animals, what non-Latin name did he give the Tyrannosaurus Rex?”

BTW, as to the question, “Why are they always so sad?”, the answer is, “Because we’re surrounded by blissfully ignorant faux Christians!”

Hat tip to Jane & Zooey, who contributed greatly to the content of this post.
Thanks, Ladies.

This is our open thread. Have fun with the contest or talk about anything you like. Anything at all. Even the Bible. And if you do, I have a few questions for you. :)

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Daniel below, we now have a source for this.

http://objectiveministries.org/kidz/

Daniel says they may be a parody. He may be right.

Leftside Annie: We Are All Chattel Now: A Hard Look at Women’s Rights

Natalie Behring-Chisholm/Stringer/Getty Images

Cross-posted from Leftside Annie’s blog, Welcome to the Leftside.

“Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me. But they all seem to. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress, they want to control how we act, they even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies. Yes, it is hard to believe that even here at home, we have to stand up for women’s rights and reject efforts to marginalize any one of us, because America needs to set an example for the entire world.” ~ Hillary Clinton

She’s right, you know. Extremists all over the world have moved heaven and earth to control women, and they continue to do so to this day.

We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg here in the United States, where the current crop of rightwing extremists are vowing to push women back to the early 1900′s, when birth control was illegal. Margaret Sanger, who saw her own mother die at the age of 50 after 18 pregnancies in 22 years, took up the cause of contraception and spent years crusading for the right of women to have control over their own bodies and not just serve as walking, talking incubators. She was even arrested and tossed in jail for disseminating information about contraception, which at the time was considered “smut” and outlawed via the 1873 Comstock Act, which “criminalized publication, distribution, and possession of information about or devices or medications for “unlawful abortion or contraception.”

We’ve come a long way since then. Unfortunately, the extremist right is trying to push us back in time to the days when women died by the thousands at the hands of back-alley abortionists. Since abortion is still illegal in many countries world-wide, the WHO (World Health Organization) reports that approximately 68,000 women die as a result of illegal abortions every year, and the number of women suffering from long-term complications from illegal abortions is staggeringly high as well, as many as 7 million women, who end up with sepsis, hemorrhages and internal injuries.

Men controlling women doesn’t stop there. In many Muslim countries, the lives of women are even more restricted and often dangerous or even fatal. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, “honor killings” are becoming more common every day, as these countries sink deeper into the morass of war and chaos. The Taliban, an extremist Islamist political group enforces its strict interpretation of Sharia law, which puts extreme limitations on the rights of women to move freely, to dress, to marry, to receive an education, to drive a car or ride a bicycle. It even prohibits a woman from wearing high heels, because it may “excite” a man. Women may not appear in public without a male relative, and must be fully veiled from head to toe in a restrictive garment called a burqa, which is essentially a very large bag that covers the entire woman, with the exception of a small section of mesh at eye level through which the woman is expected to navigate.

In these countries, another atrocity against women is on the rise: acid attacks, which men in India and Southeast Asia use as a form of revenge on a woman for refusing their sexual advances, proposals of marriage or demands for a dowry. The statistics are alarming: 80% of acid attacks are against women, and 70% of those attacks are carried out on women and girls under the age of 18. In countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, religious fanatics use acid attacks to enforce the strict Islamic dress code for women – if they consider a woman to be improperly dressed or immodest, acid thrown at her face is a method to ensure that women know the penalty for immodest behavior. Acid attacks have also been used against schoolgirls, because these religious fanatics do not believe that women should be educated. These men throw hydrochloric acid or sulphuric acid in the faces of these women and girls, maiming and often blinding or even killing them.

Please read the rest of Leftside Annie’s post at her blog.  You won’t be sorry!

Sunday Roast — Get your government hands out of my vagina

RMuse over at PoliticusUSA has written a great post about the Republican/Religious war against women, entitled Republicans Have [Awakened] a Sleeping Giant and She is Furious.*

The true motivation for a war is not always clear in spite of proclamations by a nation or its leaders…

…Over the past couple of weeks, there have been important clues to what the conservative’s endgame is and although contraception, abortion rights, and women’s health issues are at the forefront, it is male dominance that drives the assaults.

There it is, right there.  Male Dominance.  Of course, not all men want to dominate women; I would say that a majority of men don’t want to dominate women, but a bunch of loudmouths in the extreme rightwing of the Republican Party (i.e. all of them) and the ever-present blowhards in the American Taliban-wannabe religious right have declared outright war on the women of this country.  Apparently, we have forgotten our “place” as second class citizens, and they are determined to force us into that position again.

We can’t ignore them and expect them to go away — too many of them are in positions of power, and there’s a lot of money invested the Republican agenda.

The rightwing (I’m not going to use the qualifier “extreme,” since only a few sane Republicans exist anymore), in addition to their decades-long attack on our reproductive rights, now they’re attacking the Girl Scouts.  Cuz why not wage war on female children, as well as female adults?

One Republican from Indiana claimed Girl Scouts “promoted homosexual lifestyles” and although there is no truth to the Planned Parenthood connection or promoting homosexuality, it is stunning that the claims were made in the first place.

Beat ‘em down while they’re still young, right?  “Tradition” is all important to these ideological freaks even (and especially, it seems) when it simply doesn’t work.  There might be quite a few women out there who would like to have babies and then stay home to raise them, but in today’s world, unless the spouse or partner has a large income, it simply isn’t possible.  It doesn’t matter how much they beat the old “women should be at home caring for their children” meme, it is not economically possible.  Or desirable in many cases.

Now we have the ridiculous contraception flap.  Again, it’s the control and dominance; keeping women in our place. Continue reading

Sunday Roast: Christian nation? No!

Examiner.com

Christian conservatives — I’m looking at you Michele Bachmann — insist that the United States was created as a “Christian nation,” which would really surprise the Founding Fathers.

The following quotes are strong evidence — along with the First Amendment — that the Founding Fathers wanted no part of religion in our government.

1. “Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man”- Thomas Jefferson

2. “The hocus-pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs.” -Thomas Jefferson

3. “It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet the one is not three, and the three are not one- Thomas Jefferson

4. “And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors.”- Thomas Jefferson

5. “There is not one redeeming feature in our superstition of Christianity. It has made one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.”-Thomas Jefferson

6. “Lighthouses are more useful than churches.”- Ben Franklin

7. “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”- Ben Franklin

8. “I looked around for God’s judgments, but saw no signs of them.”- Ben Franklin

9. “In the affairs of the world, men are saved not by faith, but by the lack of it.”- Ben Franklin

10. “This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it”- John Adams

If that’s not clear enough, go to the original article at Examiner.com for ten more quotes!

I know some people will never be convinced that we are a secular nation, and they are actually horrified at the prospect, but being such protects their ability to worship as they choose.

We have freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion, and it really is best that way.  Declaring the U.S. a “Christian nation” opens up a nasty can of worms.  What kind of Christianity?  Catholic, Protestant, Jehovah Witness, Mormon, Evangelical, etc?

Let’s settle on Protestant for a moment.  What kind of Protestantism?  Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, snake handling?  See what I’m getting at here?  It’s a friggin’ nightmare.

Better to go with the Founding Fathers’ wisdom, and leave religion out of government.  That way, government can work of, by, and for all the People, and those same people can worship — or not — on their own.

It’s really not a difficult concept.  Separation of church and state is a great idea.  Really, it is.  Do you need examples?

This is our daily open thread — Please join the discussion!

Watering Hole: Monday, December 12, 2011 – A Creation Story

The fundamentalist Christians want creationism taught in school.  Now, I don’t have a problem teaching their story of creation as long as it is not part of a science class because creationism isn’t science.  If creationism is part of a social studies curriculum along with other stories of creation, than I feel it is perfectly fine to teach it.  Most cultures have stories about how it all began.  Here’s one that I would like to share.

The Native Americans of the Northwest give power to animals, especially to Raven.  No, this is not our Raven but Raven who brought the sun, the stars, and the moon to our dark planet.

No one knows just how the story of Raven really begins, so each starts from the point where he does know it. Here it was always begun in this way. Raven was first called Kit-ka’ositiyi-qa-yit (“Son of Kit-ka’ositiyi-qa”). When his son was born, Kit-ka’ositiyi-qa tried to instruct him and train him in every way and, after he grew up, told him he would give him strength to make a world. After trying in all sorts of ways, Raven finally succeeded. Then there was no light in this world, but it was told him that far up the Nass was a large house in which some one kept light just for himself.

Raven thought over all kinds of plans for getting this light into the world and finally he hit on a good one. The rich man living there had a daughter, and he thought, “I will make myself very small and drop into the water in the form of a small piece of dirt.” The girl swallowed this dirt and became pregnant. When her time was completed, they made a hole for her, as was customary, in which she was to bring forth, and lined it with rich furs of all sorts. But the child did not wish to be born on those fine things. Then its grandfather felt sad and said, “What do you think it would be best to put into that hole? Shall we put in moss?” So they put moss inside and the baby was born on it. Its eyes were very bright and moved around rapidly.

What I find interesting in this story is the “virgin birth” of Raven.  The story goes on to tell how Raven, the beloved grandson cons the rich man into giving him the boxes that hold the sun, the stars and the moon.  Once Raven has possession of these boxes, he opens them and releases the light into the sky and our planet is no longer in darkness.  You can read the complete story here.

Sometimes Raven sounds like a scoundrel and at other times, he does what is needed to be done.  To the Tlingit, there is no good and there is no evil.  It is just the way it is.

This is our Open Thread.  Speak Up and tell it like it is.

Sunday Roast: Let us all unite!

The final speech of Charlie Chaplin’s amnesiac Jewish barber in The Great Dictator is quite timely today.

In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

Isn’t this what we want?  To help one another, to care for one another?  That all people should have the basics to live a decent life?  Imagine that world…we don’t want a world of ‘rugged individualists,’ each living and working only for themselves.

You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power! Let us all unite! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth the future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie! They do not fulfill their promise; they never will. Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people! Now, let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

Soldiers! In the name of democracy, let us all unite!

Well, the 1% aren’t going to give up without a struggle, nor will the religious fanatics, but there are more of us than there are of them, and we have little left to lose.  We will fight them with education and persistent non-violence, wave after wave after wave.  We must, for the sake of our children and grandchildren, and all future generations.

In the words of Thom Hartmann, despair is not an option.  We’ve got a big job in front of us, so let’s get busy.  Each of us has something to give to the cause.

This is our daily open thread — Discuss!

Watering Hole: Monday, October 24, 2011 – Pick One or Two or Three…

This picture speaks for itself.

This is our Open Thread. I’m sure you can find something to say about any one of the issues presented on this picture, so Speak Up!

Daddy Dearest

Guest post by Hoodathunk

Many years ago I read a couple of books by Joseph Campbell about the evolution of religion.  How the warrior father image replaced the Earth mother in the West.  It made lots of sense.  And it certainly helped define the development of Western society along patriarchal lines.  Men know everything.  Or rather, men control everything which, in a weird way, came to mean they knew everything.  I think St. Paul was instrumental in this idea in European society.  Why a closeted gay with delusions of violence would gain a place of eminence in a religion based on love and compassion says a great deal about said religion’s commitment to compassion.

But this is about Fathers.  As in divine Fathers like God and earthly fathers like me.  Supposedly the divine father has the idea that if you don’t do exactly as he wants he will banish you for eternity into hellfire.  This is a core teaching of the Christian religion for over 1,600 years.  Screw up and burn in hell (BIH).  Unless you repent before you die and agree that the Big Daddy is 100% right and you are a worm who has to agree with it.  Just makes you want to be a kid, donit?

Now for my take.  I’m a dad.  Three times over.  And a grand dad, 4 times over.  Contrary to what some might say, I’m human.  If one of my kids (grandkids aren’t old enough yet) decided to embrace ideas contradictory to mine I will damn each and every one of them to eternal hellfire and pain for the temerity of their acts.  Unless they accept every word I say as gospel and the sole reason for their existence, they are less than toast.  As their father, I have supreme and ultimate control over their minds, bodies and souls and it is my right to punish them for any deviation from my will.  I brought them into this world and I have absolute and total control over them.  And if they rebel, it is my right, my responsibility, to damn them to the most horrible and grievous punishment imaginable.

This is what the Fundy Gawd says.  It sells humans into slavery by their birth rather than freeing them to find their path.  I am a father.  A father who would no sooner visit any of that crap on my children than I would stick a nuke up my ass and visit the President.  Fathers are supposed to love their children, want only the best for them.  Not make them puppets to live lives under their control.  Screw every religion and philosophy on the planet that does not embrace this idea.

Fathers are supposed to be protectors.  Guides.  Teachers.  Fathers do not damn their children to hell for any reason and any religion that says differently is based in demonology.  It is based in evil and pain.  There is no place in this universe for that.  That is about control, about making one’s own needs mean more than the need of society, of people.  Any religion that espouses any form of damnation for anything less than outright and clear evil behavior, is selling snake oil.  You can’t go to hell for defying your father.  Nor your mother.  You can’t be damned for eternity for honest love.  Or eating fish on Friday.  Or marrying outside your faith.  Or believing in another deity.  Or believing in no diety.

Fact is, no Father could ever even dream up an idea like Hell unless He was one sick puppy.  And if you want to believe in a deity that would accept the idea of BIH for eternity, you might be one sick puppy.  Good news is, you can heal.

Watering Hole: October 10, 2011 – Charter Schools and Tax Dollars

I know that today is Columbus Day, but I refuse to pay homage to that brutal killer.  Instead, I would like to share this mini documentary with you.  This is where tax dollars and religion meet… in Charter schools.

This video is copyrighted so I am providing a link.

This may surprise you.

This is our Open Thread.  Speak Up!

A fundamental lie

By Guest Blogger, Hoodathunk.

Lots of talk these days.  Politics, religion, religious politics.  Some things just naturally go together to their mutual benefit.  Like peanut butter and jelly, or peanut butter and chocolate or Irish whiskey and coffee, or, well you get my drift.  Religion and politics really fall into the category of oil and water, fire and ice, or life and death.  This melding has been something that has been tried many times in Western history and the results have never benefited mankind in general.  You would think that by now we would know better, but such is not the case.

The reason for this is, IMHO, there are a great many people out there who claim to be Christian, but lack the comprehension of basic Christian teachings.  Somehow they keep coming up with the idea that this Jesus fellow was about fighting.  I suspect much of this is due to reading the rather violent Old Testament and some of the books of the New Testament written by folks who never really met the man and that, over the years, interpretations and editing have tweaked the message in the divinely inspired book to fit the more militaristic aspects of human society.

The New Testament is filled with contradictions.  This is to be expected because much of the information was written down a generation after it happened or later.  For me, this places the Bible into legend.  None of it was written by the man himself and, IIRC, only one book was written by someone who actually was with him.  But in spite of this, there is one thing that remains pretty constant and that is the legend of that last week.  Up until then Jesus had done a good job of side stepping the whole Messiah issue.  I suspect it was because there were several factions in the Jewish community who were chomping on the bit, looking for a warrior king like David to lead them so they could get rid of the Romans.

That wasn’t Yeshua’s bag.  He was Gandhi, 2,000 years before Gandhi.  He was the original counter culture revolutionary.  Love, not war.  His teachings were all about suffering anything in this world because it would get you a penthouse in the next.  Read the Sermon on the Mount.  The only slight step out of character was the thing with the money changers in the Temple, and even then his anger was at the money.

So now we are down to the big fundamentalist lie.  The monstrous Christian lie, propagated over the centuries in the name of political power and control and spitting in the face of the man who supposedly founded their religion justified by one act — His dying.  In the final days there were several opportunities for him to either walk away or rally his supporters to fight for him.  He begged his father to take the cup from him, to let him live and finally said, “Into your hands, Father.”  Pilate gave him two chances to duck.  Herod gave him one.  In the end, in all accounts, he bore his cross, suffered and died because of his belief.  Didn’t ask anyone else to do it for him.  Didn’t call up the warriors to defend him.  He died for his teachings.

Had he done what his followers are calling for today and have all across the centuries there would have been a huge revolt in Israel.  The Jews were primed for the return of their warrior-king Messiah.  Blood would have flowed and in the end Judaism would have probably died.  If you don’t agree, check out Masada and the Diaspora.  Might have survived as a minor religion.  Christianity would never have been born.  Rome would have pounded Palestine into submission in their very efficient and brutal fashion.

But the bottom line is the heart of the one legend that shows in the various books of the Bible.  Jesus died for his beliefs.  Didn’t fight for them, didn’t go to war for them, he accepted and died for them.  You can pick any other reading from any other book to try to explain, justify or whatever but the bottom line is Jesus so believed in what he did that he was willing to die for it.  All by himself, not behind a wave of warriors, just him.  Sort of how it always comes down to it, every person is always faced with one last thing.  One on one, with their maker.

No mulligans.