The Watering Hole, Monday, July 25, 2016: Of Interest To Christians

The Christian Post (CP), which calls itself “the nation’s most comprehensive Christian news website” (see their Statement of Faith at the bottom of their About page, showing the inherent contradictions in their viewpoints), published two posts detailing thirteen items from the Republican and Democratic convention platforms they deemed to be of interest to Christians. Specifically, Conservative Christians, as explicitly stated in the article on the Republican platform. [NOTE: In order to discuss what CP says about the platform, I will be quoting from their articles. Also note that I am taking the inclusion or not of amendments from the CP articles. I did not compare anything from the actual GOP platform as passed. And, obviously, the DNC is about to begin their convention later today.]

Staring with the Republicans, CP points out that the GOP will no longer be calling for a constitutional amendment to define “marriage” as being between one man and one woman. Instead they’ll say they object to the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges and go back to their usual “this is an issue for the states to decide” argument. Except that the Full Faith and Credit clause throws a wrinkle into that plan, as you would still have to recognize a marriage performed in another state. Another plank pointed out was one to support the First Amendment Defense Act, another inappropriately named Republican bill, this one to protect someone’s right to discriminate because they hate Teh Gays. Tony Perkins, the miscreant in charge of the Family Research Council, helped get this plank adopted, then backed away from supporting it because it has been “weakened” in Congress by a change in the language that would further a “two views” approach to marriage. IOW, they wanted the right to say, “Your marriage disgusts me so I don’t have to recognize it as such, or even serve you in a matter unrelated to your marriage,” to be the law of the land. It can’t work. The Anti-Gay Forces had another victory with a measure that “would keep publicly funded adoption agencies from being able to grant custody of children to same-sex parents.”

While up for consideration, the measure was opposed by Annie Dickerson, an adviser to billionaire GOP donor Paul Singer, who called the measure “blatant discrimination.”

“We need children to be adopted, so hooray to the gay community for trying to raise children in a happy and stable home,” Dickerson, who has adopted children, said. “I object to allowing patent discrimination against gays over the right to adopt.”

Interesting that out of the seven things CP felt would be of interest to Christians, the first three are about gay marriage, and how yucky they think it is and they shouldn’t be forced to think about it. Except nobody is making them. The issue is decided. They lost. The only ones making them think about it so much, and they do think about it a lot, are them! CP shifted it up a bit and listed a measure to repeal the Johnson Amendment of 1954. This was an amendment to the US Tax Code that said certain tax-exempt organizations, like churches, could not conduct political activities meant to influence the outcome of an election, including the endorsement of a particular candidate.

IRS explanation of the statute
The Internal Revenue Service website elaborates upon this prohibition as follows:

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.

Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.

On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.

In their twisted minds, they are being “silenced.” No, they are not. No one is going to throw them in jail and deny them their freedom for endorsing a candidate from the pulpit. They’ll just have to start paying taxes on the property on which they made the endorsement. And no matter what anybody from the right tells you, being forced to pay taxes is not equivalent to Slavery. The Republicans then added an amendment to support the right of parents to subject their children to the abuse of “conversion therapy” (or as it’s sometimes known, “Pray away the gay.”) It doesn’t work and does more harm than good. The Conservative Christians decided to lump all forms of pornography together and claim it is all a “public health crisis.” But then they specifically call for more “energetic prosecution of child pornography.” Okay, child pornography is a horrific thing and ought to be stopped entirely. But not all pornography involves children. And, yes, some of it involves human trafficking and sex slaves participating against their will. And that should also be stopped. But much of it involves two consenting adults (usually two) doing what consenting adults are allowed to do and letting me watch – I mean, letting other people, not me, watch. It is very much not the same thing, but their broad generalization of pornography, and its availability on the internet, is that it is “harmful to children.” Again, I call bullshit. Better they watch two consenting adults doing it right, then watch them try to kill each other. It isn’t about the children at all. And lastly, they’re looking for a back door way to get Bibles back in the schools, based in part on the common right wing lie that the first Congress specifically authorized putting Bibles in schools. That’s the top things the Christian Post thought would be of interest to Conservative Christians. Nothing about helping people. Probably because there wasn’t any.

In a subsequent post, the CP highlighted items they thought would interest Christians (Conservative ones) from the Democratic platform. They began with an alarm that the Dems want to repeal the odious Hyde Amendment. But, naturally, the CP quotes someone lying about the right to abortion and referring to it as “abortion on demand,” which no serious person on the left is calling for. We’re just sick and tired of Republicans throwing up obstacles over bullshit reasons to make it all but impossible to get an abortion. The Dems also want to support the Iran Nuclear Deal. This is alarming to the right who never seemed to demonstrate any understanding of what was involved in reaching that historic deal. I refuse to believe anything they say now. The CP also points out that a measure to name Israel as an occupying force (which they are) failed along with a measure to join the BDS movement. But then they quote what made it into the draft, and one wonders why they mentioned the opposing failed language.

“A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism,” the draft reads. “That is why we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself, including by retaining its qualitative military edge, and oppose any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement.”

Let’s be honest here, Christian Post. The Conservative Christians in this country support Israel for one and only one reason – The End Times and The Rapture. Israel has to be around for Jesus to return. That is their only concern. It’s a pretty ill-founded and baseless one. (The Bible is not a historical document.) The Democrats also expressed opposition to standardized testing, and want to fight for the right of parents to opt-out. They want free tuition to in-state colleges for families earning less than $125,000 per year. I would support this but ask that the cap be adjusted for cost-of-living differences around the country. And lastly, for the first time ever, the Democratic platform will call for the end to capital punishment. I wholeheartedly agree with this position.

This is our daily open thread. Grab a cup, scoop some water from the watering hole, and chat about whatever you wish.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 23, 2016: Why Do Donald Trump’s Positions Appeal To You When He Clearly Has None?

We on the Left often talk about low information voters more than they do on the Right, but that’s only because the Right depends on them so much to stay in power. Without the low information voter and the low effort thinkers, Republicans would never have been able to grab onto and retain the political power they currently enjoy and abuse, not only on the national level, but at the state level, too. An informed voter would never vote for a Republican unless that voter was a greedy, rich, selfish bastard who couldn’t care less about helping his or her fellow human beings who are in trouble (often due to Republican policies.) And face it. If you aren’t greedy, rich, or selfish, you really have no reason to vote for a member of a party that openly admits to doing things that help the super rich far more than they help you or anyone else you personally know. I mean, seriously, do rich people need more tax cuts? We are talking about taxing income beyond a ridiculously high point at which they’ll literally be bringing in (not necessarily earning) more money than they can possibly use in their life times or their grandchildren’s, so why do Republicans insist on lying and acting like taxing more of that income will take away all incentive to make money? That’s pure selfishness talking, not sound public policy. And if it’s sound public policy you want out of your public servants, then why on Earth would you vote for Donald J. Trump? What possible argument could you have?

It can’t be because of Trump’s positions on any of the major issues. In addition to the fact that Trump often speaks in incoherent phrases, he has often been unable to state a position and stick to it. Whether it’s on taxing the rich, paying down the national debt, a woman’s right to exercise her constitutional right to an abortion, the minimum wage, money in politics, defeating ISIS, following international laws, immigration, H-1B visas, border control, the Syrian refugee crisis, banning Muslims, being so popular with white supremacists, the KKK and David Duke, the multi-national Iran nuclear deal, or even healthcare in the US, Trump has often stated, then reversed, then modified whatever position he had, sometimes within hours. He expressed three separate and conflicting opinions on abortion in less than an hour and a half. And some of his current positions are in conflict with longstanding planks in the Republican Platform. Here’s the thing: Whichever position Trump had that attracted you to him is almost certainly changed by now, possibly to be the opposite. And if his current position is appealing to you, just wait until he gets criticized on it and it will change again. “Everything’s negotiable” to Trump, even the interest paid on treasury bonds, which is ridiculous, of course. But Trump’s typical low-information, low-effort-thinking supporter doesn’t know that, nor does he know that the people who hold the highest amount of our national debt are you and your fellow American citizens, not the Chinese, as Trump often infers but never states outright (as far as I know.)

It can’t be because of his “honesty” (about which he often brags). Trumps says a lot of things on the campaign trail that simply aren’t true, or even close to true. Sadly for our nation, studies have been showing that, regardless of your political ideology, the truth doesn’t seem to matter. It would appear, to many Conservatives especially, that what you feel to be the truth is what is the truth (to you, anyway). This could explain why Trump tells lies to appeal to Conservatives emotionally, even though the lies aren’t in the least bit grounded in Reality. It feels right to Conservatives, so there must be something wrong with the evidence. It’s a shame, but not a surprise really, the Republican Party has been so antithetical to funding public education. Despite the fact that the truth may not matter, it’s still important that people learn how to think critically about a subject, regardless of whether it’s politics or religion, instead of just accepting what they’re told as true. But critical thinking requires effort, and your average Joe Sixpack conservative has neither the desire nor the ability to put a lot of thought into things. So when they do put that small amount of effort toward a position on something, they often end up choosing the Conservative point of view, even when it provably isn’t the best choice, or even the one that will move them toward their ultimate goals, whatever they are. Donald Trump may at one time in his life said something you also believed. He once said he believed in a woman’s right to choose to undergo an abortion. Now, because he panders to a bunch of low-effort thinkers, he says abortion should be criminalized (despite its being a Constitutional right) and that the doctor should go to jail for performing one, not the woman because she is also a victim. That kind of “thinking” requires you to believe the woman was not choosing to undergo an abortion and that it was done against her will. Kidnapping is already a felony so why would any new laws be needed? If taking away someone’s Constitutional rights can be done by making it illegal to ever exercise those rights, then we should be able to solve our national gun problem by making it illegal to exercise your right to own guns. But that’s not how it’s supposed to work, so these Republican efforts to ban abortion by criminalizing the performance of one cannot possibly withstand Constitutional muster. And neither will Trump’s efforts to bring back waterboarding and other methods of torture (“even worse”). Nor will barring people entry to this country because of the religion they practice. Nor will deporting people born on American soil. Trump has held many different positions on many different topics, so which position on which topic makes you believe Trump would make a good President? Or an effective one? Or even a competent one? Because by the time Election Day comes around, it’s entirely possible that Trump will no longer hold that viewpoint you thought made him better than the rest. So why would you vote for him?

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to make fun of Donald Trump, or discuss anything else you wish.

The Watering hole, Saturday, May 7, 2016: Who You Calling a God?

I want to talk about something that’s important to me and I know that along the way I’m going to greatly offend a significant portion of you wonderful people reading this. And even if it isn’t what I say that you’ll find offensive, I’m sure some of you won’t like the way I say it. But as the closing song in “Night Shift” (sung by Rod Stewart) goes, “That’s What Blogs Are For.” I am atheist. I do not believe in the existence of gods. To be clear, I do not believe in the existence of gods as they have been portrayed in most religions, entertainment depictions, and writings known to many. I don’t believe the set of gods worshiped by the ancient Romans and Greeks actually existed. Ever. Nor do I believe the “One True God” worshiped by Jews, Christians, and Muslims actually existed. Ever. Nor do I believe any of the other gods worshiped by billions of other people throughout human history actually existed. Ever. I do not believe that the Universe was created by some kind of sentient being, often, and for purposes of this discussion, referred to as “God.” I also do not believe that a Universe without God means we got “something from nothing.” People who say that do not understand the Big Bang theory. It wasn’t “nothing,” it was a hot, almost infinitely dense singularity that exploded, expanded outward, and eventually formed what we often think of as the “Universe.” And when I refer to “the Universe,” I am specifically referring to the Matter and Energy that directly resulted from the Big Bang event that created “our” Universe. I have reason to think there are things out there unrelated to our Big Bang, but I’ll eventually get into that in a later post. My point is simply that there is a scientific explanation for how things came to be (the Big Bang event being just one possible part of it; other scientific theories exist), and that there doesn’t need to be anything like a god to explain it all.

This may surprise some of your Christian relatives and friends, but in many other religions, the Creation of the Universe is explained in completely different ways. And what your Bible taught you is but just one of many thousands of unproven, and impossible to prove, explanations for how we came to be here. And it is no more valid than any of the others, no matter who told you otherwise. Because just like all the others, it relies completely on Faith and the cognitive dissonance needed to reject all the Science that says otherwise. It’s going to sound like I’m picking on Christians in this piece but remember a few things: I’m an American living in America. The vast majority of people I interact with believe one or another version of Christian thought. And whether or not they want to believe this, their set of beliefs about Creationism are just as much nonsense as your deity-based explanation for how we got here. But having grown up here, Christianity is the religion to which I’ve most been subjected, so I’m going to use it more than most others. But this is supposed to be more about gods in general.

Do I believe gods exist? No. Not the kinds of gods you’re thinking of. But being an ardent fan of sci-fi, especially of Star Trek, I believe there are many life forms throughout all of the universe (not just the Milky Way Galaxy), and that many of them reached different levels of Evolution far beyond our own. These creatures may be able to manipulate matter and energy simply with their own thoughts and could even bring into existence something like a Big Bang event that could eventually lead to people like you and me. (But not Trump supporters.) The important thing is that even if such beings do exist, I maintain that they would be NOTHING like the God described in the Bible (or any other deity-based religion.) And I certainly don’t believe they designed and created human beings. The human beings you see walking around today are the result of billions of years of Evolution, not the result of some being with great powers wishing us into existence, just as we are today. I mean, it’s pretty obvious we humans have genetic flaws, and remnants of body parts serving little or no purpose. Are you seriously going to say we were designed to get diseases from microscopic viruses we can’t see, and which seem to have no purpose for existence but to kill? By design? Really? That makes sense to you? A perfect being should be able to do better than we humans.

So, while I will agree that it’s possible there are sentient life forms capable of manipulating matter and energy, I don’t believe any of them could be confused for the God of the King James Bible, which can’t realistically exist. If he’s responsible for all Life on Earth, then he created horrible things that can’t be justified. And if He only meant to create Life here on Earth, then what purpose to the other stars in the Universe serve, or the other planets in our own solar system, for that matter? American Christians, particularly Conservative Christians, are often discouraged from asking too many questions about the religious stories they were taught as children. Dad says it’s true, so it’s true. And they never seem to want to question it because if it turns out Dad’s wrong about God, what else is he wrong about? And soon, Dad begins to lose his authority over his children, and they go off and learn truths about the world he’d rather they never learn. Which might not happen if he didn’t choose to lie to his children about the existence of God in the first place. It’s okay to be honest and tell them that we’re not here because some strange, sadistic, schizophrenic sociopath created us on a whim, then killed most of us when he didn’t like how we turned out, but that we’re here simply because the conditions necessary for life forms such as ourselves to evolve existed here and in few other places. Yes, it is random chance. No, there really isn’t any reason why we’re here. Does that mean Life has no purpose? Well, if you’re willing to accept the fact that we’re not here for any special reason, then your life’s purpose can be what you want it to be (within the acceptable norms of Society.) You want to help people less fortunate than yourself? Good for you. If you’re lazy, like me, you can help them by paying your taxes and letting the government do the heavy lifting. That’s what programs that help the poor are there to do. You can tell Republicans don’t want to help their fellow human beings. They’re more interested in helping those that have already helped themselves to more than their fair share.

Open thread. Have fun.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 9, 2016: David Barton – What a Fool Believes

I know you’re at least a relatively intelligent person. I know some of you are at least as intelligent, though nowhere near as vain, as I. I know you’re not incredibly stupid, because you wouldn’t even be trying to read this blog if you were. You’d be perplexed by the preponderance of polysyllabic put downs pointed at perennially petrified prevaricators of poison posing as presidential possibles as you probe your proboscis with a pinky. You poopy-head. So I know you’re not so foolish as to believe what self-titled “historian” and delusional snake oil salesman David Barton had to say about the relationship between how one reads, interprets, and understands The Bible (specific edition and reasons why it’s better than the other versions unknown) and the Constitution of the United States (the one that makes no mention of The Bible or God, and which even says you can’t require a religious test for any public office in the United States, including Chaplain.) Barton’s been known to say ridiculous things many, many, many, many times before, but this recent one was a real head scratcher. Even scratching someone else’s head didn’t help.

“If your religious faith is such that it doesn’t connect you to God, you’re not going to be good for the country. How they look at the Bible will tell you how they’re going to look at the Constitution. I’m not saying the Bible and the Constitution are the same thing, but I’m saying you have the same view toward authority, you have the same view toward there are absolutes, there are standards that should be followed and must be followed.

He continued…

“The fervency with which someone follows their religious faith, a biblical faith, is nearly always a direct indicator of how well they will follow the Constitution. If they don’t respect the Bible, they won’t respect other firm, fixed documents like the Constitution, so we, as citizens, ought to engage in that type of personal religious test for our president.”

Didn’t someone just mention how the Constitution prohibits any kind of religious test to hold public office in the US? Oh, yeah! It was me, just a few sentences ago. My how time flies. And my how wrong he is. So very, very wrong.

If your religious faith is such that it doesn’t connect you to God,
There are thousands of variations of what are legitimately called religious belief systems practiced, for good or for evil, throughout the world. Many of them involve no gods of any kind, but instead promote a spiritual connection to the planet and all life on it, especially your fellow human beings. Atheism is not one of the religious belief systems, because Atheism is not a religion. It’s simply the belief that there are no such things as gods. Any other beliefs about the Universe, its origins, and whether or not you should work with your fellow human beings to make life better for all of us or be a selfish conservative jerk are entirely separate.

you’re not going to be good for the country.
I’m going to stop you again right there, Davey. There is this false conceit among Evangelicals that it is impossible to have a moral center without a belief in, and fear of, one or more gods. Nothing could be further from The Truth. People can be and are good without God. No matter which God you believe will punish you or reward you after you die, that God still wants you to follow one rule above all others that even the people who don’t believe in that God follow: Treat other people the way you would like them to treat you. It’s so simple, and there’s no argument against it. Human beings are social creatures (not me; I am a creature, just not a very social one), and in order to both survive and prosper, we depend on other people. No matter how much of a rugged individualist you might think you are, you cannot prosper alone. You might be able to survive, but you won’t be able to do more than that. And you probably won’t smell too good, either. We need the help of others, so it makes sense to treat others the way we’d like them to treat us. You don’t need to fear an eternity of pain and suffering after you die on this plane of existence to understand that. So why bother fearing it?

How they look at the Bible will tell you how they’re going to look at the Constitution.
How I look at a work of pure fiction, put together for the sole purpose of controlling people’s lives through fear and intimidation, will tell people how I look at the founding document that guides how my country will govern me and treat me as a citizen? Even when the founding document makes no mention of the work of pure fiction, or whether or not I have to believe it? Not sure how they’re the same.

I’m not saying the Bible and the Constitution are the same thing,
Good, because it would prove you’re an idiot if you did.

but I’m saying you have the same view toward authority,
No, you don’t. The Bible commands the People to obey the ones in authority; the Constitution commands the ones in authority to obey the People. The Bible is not for people who want to be free, it’s for people who want to be authoritarian followers.

you have the same view toward there are absolutes, there are standards that should be followed and must be followed.
I don’t want to digress into an area in which I’m not well educated, that of moral absolutes, but I will say that throughout human history there have been people who have found excuses to commit the most heinous of atrocities against other human beings, and often those excuses had their roots in religious beliefs.

“The fervency with which someone follows their religious faith, a biblical faith, is nearly always a direct indicator of how well they will follow the Constitution.
That would mean the reverse is true, too. That how well they follow the Constitution is an indicator of the fervency with which they follow their biblical faith. There is absolutely no connection between the two. Virtually every president in our nation’s history, from all parties, has to a certain extent violated the Constitution. Some did it to test principles, and some did it because didn’t know any better. But all of them (to date) claimed to be Christians. I can only name one president who I know practiced what his faith taught him to do, who actually did what his religion said he should do for people less fortunate than himself, and to this day he continues to be vilified by the very people who claim if you’re not Christian, you’re not worth public office in the United States. And that man is President James Carter. The Religious Right wanted to deify Ronald Reagan so much that they had to make the political opponent he defeated, Jimmy Carter, out to be the most evil human to walk the planet. If Ronald Reagan was going to be a saint, then Jimmy Carter had to be the devil. Does anybody truly believe that Jimmy Carter would deliberately violate a law passed to ban him from giving money to certain people by trading arms for hostages? Religious Conservatives is so nutty.

If they don’t respect the Bible, they won’t respect other firm, fixed documents like the Constitution,
There is absolutely no truth to this statement, and it’s a mighty huge insult to anyone who does not consider him or herself a Christian, to suggest that you must respect the Bible in order to be able to respect the Constitution. BTW, Barton is also promoting the staunchly held but wrong conservative belief that the Constitution is fixed, with only one correct interpretation. To believe something like that, you would have to think the Framers had no intention of the government having a say in how things like electronic communication devices could be regulated or used. Or in how huge multi-national oil companies (which they would have objected to being allowed to exist in the first place) could exploit our habitat without concern for anyone telling them how they can run their business in the US. Such things did not exist 230 years ago, so by conservative logic, nothing in the Constitution should apply to those things.

so we, as citizens, ought to engage in that type of personal religious test for our president.”
Except for that no religious test thing again. If only the Constitution didn’t keep getting in the way of forcing everyone to follow the Bible, they could turn this place into Hell on Earth. And then they’d put Ted Cruz in charge of it. And Life as we know it on this planet would come to an end.

And then a few million years from now, asteroids carrying various minerals will crash into what’s left of the Earth. The minerals they bring will combine with amino acids to form new lifeforms, just as they did here billions of years ago. And Evolution will kick in as more and more life forms develop so that the ones most suitable to the environment as it will exist then will prosper the most, and pass on their DNA to their offspring, some of whom will be slightly different from their parents. And before you know it, Jesus will be saying, yet again, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” That is, if you’re a Christian who claims to believe in Evolution.

Daily open thread. From whom do you buy your snake oil?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 26, 2016: God Doesn’t Want To See You Pray In Public

No matter what the Evangelicals tell you, God does not want you to pray in public. God doesn’t need to hear them out loud, because God knows what you do in secret. God knows when you secretly give to the poor with your right hand without letting your left hand know what’s happening. And God doesn’t want you to gather out in the streets and in the public square and pray to him so everyone can hear you. Instead, God wants you to go into a private place in your own home, a closet even, and pray silently to God. Bryan J. Fischer told me that the admonition against praying in public was about the reason for doing it, to be seen doing it. [I’ll update it if he answers me. I’m surprised he did at all, considering how rude I’ve been to him before. And it wasn’t just because I’m from New York, he had it coming.]

Conservative Christians are so afraid of (among many, many other things) religious persecution against them, as opposed to from them, which they have no problem doing. This is despite the fact that we’ve had 43 different men occupy the highest political office in the country, and every single one of them practiced some version of Christianity. How it could be considered the “one true religion,” as all deity-based religions do, baffles me. It would seem unnecessary to have more than one. If there’s only one God, then why are there different ways to do what He wants? FTR, I believe there is no such things as gods at all, at least not in the sense that most humans think of them. I suppose it’s possible there are more highly-evolved creatures than us capable of doing things we’d think only a god could do, but then you’re straying so far from the image of God as portrayed in the monotheistic religions that it becomes clear we’re taking about two different things. OTOH, even the religions that do believe in gods claim there is more than one. If you’re Judeo-Christian, the First Commandment says not to put any of those other gods (you know, the ones that created all the people God didn’t, such as Cain and Abel’s wives) ahead of Jehovah because he is a jealous god. I can say his name, you can’t, because I don’t have anything to fear from him. Which brings up something else. For those who believe in God being perfect and humans being sinners, if envy is a sin, why is a “perfect being” like God allowed to have it? If God is perfect, and if he’s capable of being envious, then why should being envious be a mortal sin? What’s wrong with envy if it’s a trait of the most perfect being in the universe?

Still ducking the question:

The reason Religion is so rife with con men is because it’s easy to go around telling everyone, “Listen to me, Folks. I just had a chat with God and he has some things he wants me to say,” and have people believe you. Why? Because the truth is there’s a lot of stupid people out there who either don’t like to think, on account of it hurts too much, or they can’t, on account of they’re stupid. They don’t ask for proof that the person talking really did talk to God, they actually think it’s neat and wish it was they to whom God spoke. And they believe every thing this con man says, even when it makes no sense at all to those who are capable of critical thought. At some point you have to acknowledge that the instructions we’re being given by these men, who supposedly know what God wants us to do, are self-contradictory. Why do we persist in believing them when what they say can’t possibly be the truth? And why do we believe what they’re saying to be the Word of God, who is supposed to be perfect, when what they’re saying is so clearly and obviously imperfect? Faith alone isn’t going to change the fact that sometimes the Bible says one thing and sometimes it says something in complete contradiction to it. In Logic, which I know you’re not supposed to use where the Bible is concerned, if you start with a premise and show that the premise leads to a contradiction, then you’ve proven the premise false, and any argument derived from it must find another premise. If your premise is that the Bible (the word means a collection if little books, which were assembled, translated, and chosen for inclusion by flawed human men working for King James) is the inerrant Word of God (even if you believe Him to be the only God, which contradicts his First Commandment), and you find it contains a contradiction, then it cannot be “inerrant,” since a contradiction is an error. It is not a test of one’s faith, it’s a mistake. Which means the premise that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God must be False. That’s how Logic works.

I tried a different tack with Fischer, since he doesn’t want to answer the question I’m asking him. Fischer thinks we should vote for Ted Cruz. But Teddy Panderbear likes to make a big show of praying in public. We’ve all seen the pictures.

BTW, notice how he tries to paint a Nazi-esque picture of Liberals with the “Uberleftwing”? Of course, if one thinks about it for a moment, why wouldn’t Right Wing Watch be as far left as possible when the entire reason they exist is right at the top of their webpage: “A project of People For the American Way dedicated to monitoring and exposing the activities of the right-wing movement”? If they aren’t very far left, then they’re too far right to be counted on to do what they tell us they do. But conservatives don’t really like to think about things for a moment. And why would they feel they need to? Conservatives often do not see hypocrisy as negating their argument. They’ve also been known to project a lot, and Fischer probably thinks that since he would use such a website to advance his own secret agenda, Norman Lear must be doing that, too. Frog-Human Hybrid The Least Reverend Jimmy Faye Bakker must think like that, too. He thinks that American Christians are being persecuted in America (as opposed to the real phenomenon of American Christians being captured and killed by murderous scumbag assholes who wrongly use religion as a cover for their evil elsewhere in the world), and that if we continue down whatever path it is he imagines we’re traveling, in the end people who pray in public will be gunned down by machine guns. If you watch the following clip carefully, you can see Bakker catch and eat a fly with his 24″-long tongue.

Okay, that must have been a different clip. But he’s totally wrong, of course. Not only about the eventual outcome being people like him who pray in public will be machine gunned down, but about whether or not people should be praying in public in the first place. Jesus thought that people who made a show of praying in public so that others would see them, including inside houses of worship, were hypocrites, and that if all they wanted was for others to see them praying, they got their reward. He said that God would prefer that you not pray where everybody can see you but in the privacy of your own own. Specifically, your closet, where I’m sure many, many Conservative Christians can be found. He said praying in public was unnecessary because God knows what you’re going to ask him before you ask it (which makes me wonder why praying is necessary at all), and so you should do it where no other people can see you doing it. God hears your secret prayers which, again, makes me wonder why it’s necessary to vocalize them at all. In fact, if He can hear you when you’re “praying” quietly to yourself, there shouldn’t be any formal procedure necessary. You should just be able to keep walking along and say to yourself, in your own mind, “God, could you please make that asshole Wayne burst into flames and be gone for good?” and it will happen. But since it didn’t happen, and because I know at least a few of you asked for it to happen, we must logically conclude that prayer doesn’t work. Which makes the premise of God answering prayers a false one. Yeah, sometimes the answer is, “No.” I know. But that would mean He can’t really be an all-loving God, since that would take away from the premise of him being a perfect being. Why would a perfect being hate anyone? Why would he make someone he would hate? Why would He make me, and let me sit here denouncing his very existence after so many of you asked Him a few moments ago to make me burst into flames? I know, I was there. I heard you. And yet I’m still here. Which makes the premise of him being some kind of “perfect being” a false one. Which I’ve been trying to tell you for years.

Open thread. Go for it.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 19, 2016: Please Don’t Feed The Bible Literalists

There are people going around expounding ridiculous theories on the history of Earth and the Life that has existed on it, and we have to stop encouraging them. I’m not suggesting they be locked up in prisons or mental institutions (the former might be a bit harsh but I do think the latter might do them some good), but I am saying that we have to stop treating these ridiculous ideas as if they have any merit whatsoever just because there are still people around delusional enough to believe them. There are many such ideas, but the one I want to talk about today is the Biblical story of the farmer’s daughter and the traveling salesman Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood. They never happened. There was no flood 4,400 years or so ago that wiped out all humans and other living land-based animals on the planet. There may have been flooding in various parts of the world, but it wasn’t a global phenomenon, and it didn’t rain for nearly six weeks, and then take nearly six months for the waters to recede. For one thing, even if all the ice on all the land melted, the waters would never rise enough to submerge all the mountains or come anywhere close to doing that. And if, as the story goes, the waters rose high enough to cover the mountains all over the world (not just in the know part of it at that time), then to where did the water recede? Did it just evaporate off the planet? Did it go down some giant drain that God temporarily plugged up while it rained? The water that rained down had to have come from somewhere. If it came from the oceans, then they would have been depleted by the amount of water they gave up to become rain. So the water coming back down out of the sky couldn’t possibly have been more than what went up into them. So the waters from the rain couldn’t possibly rise higher than the mountains. It’s just not possible.

But don’t waste your time trying to explain that to Wayne Propst, of Tyler, Texas. [First name Wayne = Red Alert.] Wayne is convinced he found evidence of Noah’s flood in his aunt’s front yard. “How much better can it get?” he asked, unfortunately to a reporter from a local television station as opposed to no one in particular. I guess that would depend on your definition of “better” and in which direction you want this story to go. For example, Wayne wants to claim the fossil he found is proof that Noah’s flood happened. (Why do they call it Noah’s Flood? He was the one good guy on the planet. He didn’t flood the earth. God did.) But if that were true, then when would the flood have happened? About 4,400 years ago? So his fossil couldn’t be older than that. But fossils, by definition, are at least ten thousand years old. If you find a fossil, then you have found something that, by definition, pre-dated the story of Noah and His Technicolor Dream Flood. Therefore it cannot be proof that the flood story ever happened, because it was already there in the ground when the flood supposedly happened above it. In fact, if you’re a Bible literalist, it was in the ground before the Earth was created.

Speaking of Noah and Worldwide Synchronous Drowning Event, I hear many people wrongly say that God’s Covenant to Noah was that he would never destroy the world again, and that the rainbow in the sky would be a reminder to Him (God, not just Noah and the other remaining seven people on the planet) of that covenant. Okay. Why would an omnipotent being need some kind of reminder about something? Does that make any sense at all to you? He’s all-knowing, yet there are things he can forget happened. He’s all-powerful, except against memory loss. But that’s not what God promised Noah. He only promised Noah and his family that he would not destroy life on Earth by flood again. Read it for yourself. But why would He have even done so in the first place? He’s an all-powerful entity, isn’t He? Doesn’t he later send out a mysterious ankle-deep fog that killed the first-born male child of every household (according to Cecile B. DeMille)? If He had the ability to do that, why not do the same thing without the first-born male filter? Why the scientifically wrong flood story? But He never said he wouldn’t do the opposite, either. He never said he wouldn’t destroy all life on Earth by drying it up, and letting it catch fire. Or by making the air unbreathable. Or by setting loose a killer virus, unstoppable by modern medicine (which some people think violates his wishes, too.) He created the world in six days, but he needed forty to flood it with extra-terrestrial water and another 150 days to let it dry up? He couldn’t do all of that with the same wave of His Hand he used to create all Life on this planet? Does that make any sense to you at all? Because it sure as shit doesn’t make any sense to me. Why do people believe such nonsense? And why do we treat them like they’re sane when they tell us they do? How can “the Bible” (which is just a collection of little books) be the “literal word of God” when it was translated from stories written in languages unspoken in centuries, by flawed human men who obviously mistook the ancient word for “moon” or “month” as the word for “year” (hence, all these old men living twelve times longer than normal), and it contains such blatant falsehoods? Please, tell me you don’t believe the Bible is literally true. I want to be able to talk to you again.

This is our daily open thread. You know what to do, and what not to do.

The Watering Hole, Monday, February 29, 2016: Leap of Science Day

Monday, February 29, 2016, marks another nearly-quadrennial observation of the triumph of Science over Faith. Leap Day. The day we add to the calendar to correct for the fact that God didn’t make the Earth go around the Sun in a way that has any relation to how long it takes to spin once on its axis. Nor did God make the Moon orbit the Earth in an even number of days, or in relation to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, which turned out to be the Center of our own Solar System (one of, it turns out, a hundred billion in just this Galaxy) contrary to what those men who had a direct pipeline to the Almighty Creator told everyone was true. Not for nothing, but doesn’t the fact that some otherwise ordinary man who was in charge of a Religion tortured people for not believing something that was scientifically inaccurate and still got to be called “infallible” make you think, even for a second, that maybe their Religion was wrong about other things, too? But I digress. Or not. Now the Moon goes around the Earth 13 times for each revolution of the Earth around the Sun, depending on how you measure them. I thought the number 13 was supposed to be bad. So why would God make our Moon go around the Earth a bad number of times in a year? In fact, assuming God did make our solar system, why make our planet have such a strange orbit? Why not a regular, circular, easily predictable, revolution, with no tilting of the planet and changing of the seasons? And why not start life in the tropics, instead of a desert? And why even bother with the other planets and planetary debris and asteroids if the point of this planet was to support life for the only living things in the universe? If there’s nothing on Mars for us to see, then why would God make Mars for us to see? Or let us name it for an inferior god? Sorry, but the whole Christian Creation Myth makes no more sense than any other cultures’ creation myths. When something doesn’t make sense through Reason, they tell us you have to have Faith. But Faith is just the rejection of Reason, so they are really telling us, “It makes sense if you don’t think about it.” Then why believe it? Why believe something is literally true if it makes no sense when you think about it? Then explain to me why you should threaten peoples’ lives for not believing it? But I digress. Again. Leap Day is a triumph because it was Science, not Religion, which revealed to us our method of keeping track of time needed adjusting if it was to keep in alignment with whichever celestial body was guiding our long term time reckoning. The ancient Egyptians used a much simpler calendar, which they knew needed tweaking every four years. To understand why we do it today, you have to go back to the time when Romulans walked the Earth.

About 2770 years ago, King Romulus, the first king of Rome and leader of the Romulan Empire, which consisted pretty much of just his kingdom, was said to have invented the Roman calendar. Other people were keeping track of time in their own way, so it’s not like he invented the entire concept of the calendar. He just invented the one that would become the basis of the one we use here in America today (and many other places, which are alleged to exist on this planet.) The one that started when winter ended, in a month named for the God of War. Wait, what? You heard that right. King Romulus may not have been entirely sure of what he wanted, but hew knew he wanted his calendar to have ten months. Some historians believe (which means the rest don’t) that the ancient Romans did not believe in fighting wars during the Winter, so the new year began when Winter ended. Which is why they named their first month Martius, after Mars, the God of War. The next month was named Aprilis, though no one’s really sure why. Some think it was really called Aphrilis and was named for Aphrodite. But that would be silly because Aphrodite was the Greek Goddess of Love, not the Roman one, Venus. Others less silly think it was named for the Latin verb Aperire, meaning to open, on account of that’s about the time flowers started opening all over the place. Makes better sense than naming it after another group’s gods. His third month was called Maius, after Maia, the Goddess of growth and plants. The fourth was called Junius, named after Juno, Queen of the Gods and patroness of weddings and marriages. Then King Romulus must have gotten tired because the remaining six months were named after the numbers Five through Ten. Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November, and December. Martius, Maius, Quintilis and October would have 31 days, the rest 30. Then they apparently let 61 days and a couple of moons go by before they would begin their new calendar.

Loonies that they were, the Romulan calendar was based on the phases of the Moon. Now if the point of having a calendar is to tell when you when it’s time to plant the crops, you’re going to run into problems basing it on the phases of the moon. Here’s why:

The orbit of the Moon around the Earth is not an easy process. The Moon makes a complete orbit around the Earth approximately once every 28 days. This means that the Moon orbits the Earth around 13 times in a year. The complex part pops up because there are several ways to consider a complete orbit of the Moon, but the two most familiar are: the “sidereal month” being the time it takes to make a complete orbit with respect to the stars, about 27.3 days; and the “synodic month” being the time it takes to reach the same phase, about 29.5 days. These differ because in the meantime the Earth and Moon have both orbited some distance around the Sun.

“Phase” is the way to describe the relative position of any object that moves in a cyclical form. The phase of the Moon is measured in degrees, from 0 (zero) to 360 (three hundred and sixty).

It doesn’t take long before a lunar-based calendar gets, to use the technically correct scientific term, out of whack. And that happened to the Romulan calendar. Each of its months had day markers that fell on the first new moon, the days of the half moons, and the days of the full moon. The new moon marked the first day of the month and was called the Calends. The Ides fell on the full moon, and the Nones were eight days before the Ides. Events were documented according to how many days they happened before or after these markers. This calendar really didn’t work because it didn’t align very well with the seasons, so about fifty years later, King Numa Pompilius, decided to make some changes. He added Januarius and Februarius to the beginning of the year, rather than to the end. This meant the months named for their position in the year no longer matched. I’m sure that bothered a lot of people. It bothers me to this day. And it still didn’t work. They even had a system where someone (not necessarily the emperor) would add an extra month, called an intercalary month, to try to get the calendar in line with the seasons. Finally, Julius Caesar (inventor of the Orange Julius and, later in his career, a successful Las Vegas casino magnate) did away with intercalary months, renamed Quintilis after himself, and borrowed the idea of the Leap Year from the Egyptians, whom he was fucking on the side. Some final adjustments were added by a subsequent ruler, Augustus, who took the liberty of renaming Sextilis after himself. Who knows? If Rome hadn’t fallen when it did, the months of September through December might be called something else by now.

The Gregorian Calendar we use today was based on Pope Gregory’s dislike of the idea that Easter was always shifting around on the calendar, so he made some more adjustments that included the fact that while there would be a Leap Year every four years, there wouldn’t be in years divisible by 100 (such as 1700, 1800 and 1900) unless they were also divisible by 400 (2000). Then he decided to take eleven days out of the calendar to make everything line up better. The official change in the colonies happened in 1752. George Washington was actually born Feb 11, 1732 under the Julian Calendar. When the switch to the Gregorian was made, Washington simply changed his birthday to the familiar Feb 22, 1732. Some people, perhaps those who believed God really did have a book in which He wrote your date of birth and death, thought they were suddenly moved eleven days closer to their date of death (as determined by God’s Little Black Book.) This was nonsense, of course, because everyone knew God was using the Mayan Calendar and we were all going to die in 2012. So even though the motivation to change the calendar was based on Religion, we can thank Science that there was a rational, logical, objectively justifiable reason to add a Leap Day, and not because God told somebody to do it.

This is our once-every-four-years thread. But you can still feel free to discuss what you want.