The Watering Hole, Saturday, August 15, 2015: How The Right STILL Gets Religious Freedom Wrong

This past Thursday, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins interviewed Fox News Channel Host/Parasite – I forget which – Todd Starnes (both men can best be remembered by forgetting they exist as soon as you finish reading this post) about a recent federal appeals court ruling that said a Colorado baker violated a couple’s rights when he refused to bake them a wedding cake just because they were both men. Here is my own (generously abridged) transcript of an exchange between Perkins and Starnes courtesy of the good folks at Right Wing Watch:

STARNES: It was really chilling to hear you read what they, what the government wants this Christian business owner to do. And when you read the ruling – I’ve had a chance to read the 60-some-odd pages of the Court of Appeals ruling, which is affirming the lower court’s decision – it’s not much of a legal stretch to imagine the day when they will tell pastors the same thing, “You will participate in these gay weddings.” So it’s a troubling thing when you look at this document and you realize that Christian business owners, at least in Colorado, really don’t have as much freedom as they thought they did.

PERKINS: Yeah, and that’s one of the points I’ve tried to make with pastors, you know, I know pastors have been concerned that, you know, any day now they will be forced to do same sex weddings and I say, look, look, look, it probably will come but not immediately. What’s more immediate are the people sitting in your pews, the bakers, the photographers, you know, the florists, we’ve seen those already. But it’s coming, you know even further, it’s coming to the fire chiefs, like Kelvin Cochran, who’ve you written about in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s the regular business people, the public servants. It’s Judge McConnell in Ohio, a city court judge, who did not want to do, perform, actually have to perform, and there was, I don’t know if you saw this, Todd, but there was a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court Ethics Board that said he was required, as a judge, to perform same sex weddings.

Where to begin? Let’s start with the apparently malleable term “Christian business owner.” What is that, exactly? Is it the owner of a business specializing in Christian merchandise? Or is it the owner of a business who happens to be a Christian? If it’s the former, then an argument could be made that Christianity plays a part in how this business owner runs his business. And one might (if one wanted to try hard enough) be able to make an argument that he should be able to run his business according to Christian principles. Otherwise the latter applies and Religion has absolutely nothing to do with how you run your business if your business is one that’s open to the general public. If your business is one that’s open to the general public, then it has to be open to ALL of the general public. If you wish to start a private service to your friends and other like-minded bigots and operate on a membership-only basis, you can do that. You just can’t pretend your business is open to the general public. And since we’re not talking about business owners who specialize in selling Christian things, the word “Christian” when attached to the words “business owner” means nothing. Starnes says it twice, but in neither case does it bolster his argument because he’s primarily trying to apply it to the owners of a general business. And operating a business in the United States has nothing to do with Religion. You are free to practice Christianity. And you are free to operate a business. But you are not free to operate a business according to any Christian principles if those principles infringe on anyone’s Constitutional rights. To do so would be to force others to practice your Religion, and you are never free to do that.

Starnes, who to my knowledge has as much legal training as I (zero), then goes on to say one of the most ignorant things one could say about this subject, “…it’s not much of a legal stretch to imagine the day when they will tell pastors the same thing, ‘You will participate in these gay weddings.'” Actually, Todd, it is just that – a legal stretch, and a huge one at that. Here’s why. In the United States of America, Marriage is considered a civil institution, not a religious one. (By contrast, in Israel, marriage is considered a Religious institution, and certain people can be denied the right to marry in Israel. It doesn’t mean legal marriages performed outside Israel won’t be recognized, it just means Rabbis in Israel do not have to perform same sex weddings.) If anything, we accommodate Religion by saying if your wedding ceremony is a religious one, performed by someone recognized by the state as being a member of the Clergy sanctioned to perform marriages recognized by your Religion (a priest, not an altar boy), then the State will also recognize that marriage and you won’t have to have a separate wedding for civil purposes. So all religious marriages are recognized as civil ones, too. But not all civil marriages are, nor should they be, recognized by any religious entity. My wife and I were married in a restaurant by a Justice of the Peace. There was no God mentioned or involved. And yet our marriage is considered 100% legal by the State of New York and, by extension, all the other states. Nobody could rationally dispute that our marriage is valid. And since a civil marriage is possible for all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs (or lack thereof), no clergy or church will ever be forced to perform a same sex wedding. In fact, in every state that legislatively passed some kind of Marriage Equality Act (including my own state of New York), there has always been an exemption for churches or clergy members who do not wish to perform same sex weddings because their religion forbids them. And to my knowledge, no church has ever been successfully sued for refusing to perform one. And nobody is saying they should. If your Religion refuses to live in the 21st Century, that’s your Religion’s problem.

Lastly, Todd, the fact is that nobody has as much individual freedom as you think, as least as far as forcing others to practice your personal religion goes. But what we all have, including you, is the freedom to refuse to practice someone else’s religion. Some religions believe you should always keep your head covered in deference to God. Should you be forced to follow that practice if you’re not a follower of any of those religions? Of course not. And saying that two people of the same gender should not be allowed to marry because YOUR religion forbids it would be the same thing as forcing them to practice YOUR religion instead of theirs. You also don’t have the freedom to punch Liberals in the face, despite the fact that many Conservatives have publicly expressed a wish to do so. So you’re not free to do anything you want. There are limits, and those limits generally apply to the point where they affect others.

Now for where Perkins gets things wrong. First and foremost, the day will never come when pastors are forced to perform same sex weddings against their will as pastors. If they’re also public servants that’s different and we’ll get to that shortly. As I said before, I know of no states where pastors and clergy are forced by law or the courts to perform weddings for two people of the same gender, and I seriously doubt this will ever be an issue.

For those who understandably forgot, Kelvin Cochran was the former Fire Chief of Atlanta who self-published a book about his religious beliefs that said some negative and ignorant things about LGBT people (while still Fire Chief.) He also distributed this book on city property, and for that he was suspended. What Conservatives coming to his defense fail to notice is that as the Fire Chief, he’s in a position to influence the careers of any firefighter serving under him, including those who happen to be gay. How then could a gay firefighter in Atlanta ever feel he or she has an equal chance at promotion or advancement knowing the person in charge thinks they’re ruining society just by being gay? There’s no evidence that he ever did, but how can you ever feel your job is safe knowing what the boss thinks of you?

But Perkins didn’t stop there. He tried to draw an equivalence between being a private citizen business owner and being a public servant. Toledo Municipal Judge C. Allen McConnell refused to perform a wedding for a lesbian couple citing his deeply held religious beliefs. (After a 45-minute delay, the couple were married by another judge.) Judge McConnell asked the Ethics Board to give him guidance and they did. They said he couldn’t refuse. And they were right. What Conservative Christians (an oxymoron, as the message that Jesus Christ gave was overwhelmingly Liberal, so how can any good practicing Christian adhere to Conservative beliefs?) fail to grasp is that your right to practice your religion is just that – YOUR right to practice YOUR religion. It is NOT, however, YOUR right to impose YOUR religion on anyone else. But more importantly, and often overlooked in the discussion, is that discrimination against gay people (and only gay people) has nothing to do with one’s religious beliefs. Would the Colorado baker refuse to bake a cake for a woman who happened to be menstruating? Would he refuse to serve a divorced woman? Would he refuse to serve a customer he knows eats shellfish? These are all things the same chapter of the Bible (Lev 18) says are worthy of banishment, so if he’s willing to serve all of them, then his objections to serving a gay couple have nothing to do with his religion. And despite what illogical Conservatives like Justice Scalia think, that does matter because it means the claim that he runs his business according to Christian principles is a lie, which means the legal argument he presented to the Supreme Court was perjury. If I said I refuse to serve Conservatives because my religion teaches me they have sex with elephants, do I really have a constitutional leg to stand on? Of course not, because such a belief is clearly not based on my religious beliefs. And neither was the baker’s.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss religious freedom, illogical conservatives, gay leaders of the community like Todd Starnes, Tony Perkins, or Justice Antonin Scalia, or anything else you wish.

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 6, 2015: How The Right Gets Religious Freedom Wrong – Still

It appears the Conservatives still don’t understand how religious freedom works, even if their State legislatures do. They definitely don’t understand how the Constitution works. Or how Executive Orders work. Even when they lose at the Supreme Court level, the way our Founding Fathers intended legal disputes to be resolved once and for all (it’s exactly what they said, in slightly different wording), they decide their right to freely practice their religion says they don’t have to obey the Constitution of the United States of America, because they are Americans, and they have Religious Freedom, just like the people who amended the Constitution said. Pay no attention to what the later people amended the Constitution to say, such as Equality Under the Law for everyone and Birthright Citizenship, the direct taxation of income from whatever source derived, the direct election of Senators by the People, the right of women to vote, and term limits on the President. Those are Amendments Conservatives have openly stated they would like to see repealed. Because they just won’t accept losing. I consider it one of their mental defects. (I have plenty of my own, as people who personally know me would be quickly paid to list.) But for a party that traditionally boasted their desire for Law and Order: SCU (Skull Cracking Unit) style life to prevail, they show an astonishing, almost pathological, intent to never be ruled by the laws they say the rest of us must follow.

Proving for anyone wishing to check that he has never read Article III of the Constitution, The Incredible Huck (I never believe a word he says) wrote an op-ed for Fox News Dot Com claiming he would not surrender to judicial tyranny, but you will surrender to his tyranny. He began by mischaracterizing the recent SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality thusly:

America didn’t fight a revolution against the tyranny of one unelected monarch so we could surrender our religious liberty to the tyranny of five unelected lawyers.

You mean like when your side told us to sit down and shut up about the Bush v. Gore ruling, the one where five unelected lawyers told the state of Florida to ignore the Constitution and not continue re-counting the votes because the result might harm the petitioner’s ability to claim victory (the petitioner being Bush and the likely winner of the recount Gore), which meant that if the recount was allowed to continue and it showed that Gore won, Bush would have a harder time claiming victory. That is exactly what they said. And THEN they said that, oh yeah, this decision can never be used as precedent for any future decision ever. Talk about judicial tyranny. How was this marriage equality decision like Bush v. Gore? His second sentence proved his ignorance of the concept of Separation of Church and State.

The Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being, and the Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage than they can the laws of gravity.

There is a great body of scientific experiment that tends to support the Theory of Gravity as being valid. There is nothing which shows that your idea of the “laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage” exist anywhere but in your religious texts. Nor are any of us constitutionally required to live according to your religious texts. That’s what my religious freedom means. And I have never once heard you argue so vociferously against the marriage of divorced people or pregnant women, just gay people. I seriously question how sincere a religious belief this is, and not simply one of ignorant bigotry. But in case you thought Huck understood Article III, he continued

Last Friday’s same-sex marriage decision by the Court, which rejected the will of people in over 30 states, is an out-of-control act of unconstitutional judicial tyranny.

Actually, the other decision I mentioned was an out-of-control act of unconstitutional judicial tyranny. The Marriage Equality decision striking down the unconstitutional will of people in 30 states (because you don’t vote on rights) was exactly what they were created to do. To strike down laws that go too far, that violate the Constitution (of which the 14th Amendment is still a part). But then, Marbury v. Madison was another decision they didn’t like. And so, in traditional Conservative opposite-speak, The Incredible Huck vows to light a match to the Constitution by ignoring it.

While some cowardly politicians will wave the white flag and surrender to the false god of judicial supremacy, I refuse to light a match to our Constitution. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.

Except, Huck, when the Supreme Court rules, it’s over. But you won’t let a little thing like the Constitution get in your way, will you? No, you’re just going to get around it by issuing the biggest, baddest tool of Executive Tyranny you have – the Executive Order. You think that as President, you have the authority to tell everyone working for the federal government that they don’t have to obey a Supreme Court decision. That is a far cry from issuing an EO that tells the Administration how it will carry out a law passed by Congress, which is the purpose and properly constitutional function of an EO. If a President feels a law passed by Congress is unconstitutional, he can fight that law all the way to the Supremes. But if they rule against him, he has no choice. He MUST follow the law. He (or She) can’t just tell the Administration that the oath he took to faithfully carry out the office of President allowed him to ignore the law. Nixon tried that approach and look where it got him. Dead. Okay, it had nothing to do with his death, but he did die Disgraced.

Another Conservative who is either illiterate or stupid intellectually challenged is Texas Attorney General Bill Ken Paxton. He believes that the Federal Constitutionally Mandated oath to support and defend the United States Constitution does not supersede his state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and that clerks in his state do not have to issue marriage licenses to a particular couple if it violates their religious beliefs. And he would be wrong on both counts. Not only must they all obey the Supremes' decisions, but Texas is one of those states that passed a RFRA that actually says you can’t deny someone their civil rights and use the RFRA as an excuse. Which means Bill Ken Paxton was wrong when he told his state’s clerks they didn’t have to issue licenses to “those” people because the RFRA said so, because the RFRA said the exact opposite.

What the Bill Ken Paxton’s of the world keep ignoring was the original intent of the federal RFRA. It was passed after the Supremes said Native Americans couldn’t use peyote in their thousand-year-old rituals if the federal law says nobody can use it. They thought they were being fair to everyone by saying that the law didn’t allow for any religious exemptions, so nobody could claim one. Except nobody, I mean nobody, seriously meant for federal anti-peyote laws to apply to people who appeared to be responsibly using it for millennia. So they passed the national RFRA to protect the right of Native Americans to practice their religious rituals. And nobody, and I mean nobody, intended for the law to be used to protect someone’s right to violate another person’s civil rights. And the first few state level RFRA’s were similar to the federal law. But that began to change in recent years, and Conservative Christians began using RFRA’s to claim the right to deny their services to gay couples on the grounds that it violated their religious beliefs to in any way support an attempt by gay people to get married. Never mind that the part they were being asked to play may have had nothing at all to do with the marriage itself (though some may), or that it seemed to be the only thing they refused to do on religious grounds. There are plenty of other people in both Lev 18 & Lev 20 (the source of the Conservative Christian Contempt for Teh Gay) that you’re told to treat just as harshly (be it banishment or stoning) but that you refuse to treat so. Are your religious beliefs only that strong when it comes to gay people? You have no problem selling a bridal gown to a pregnant woman? You have no problem selling wedding rings to a divorced woman? You only have a problem selling a cake to a couple of guys who want to celebrate the marriage ceremony they just finished with a party for their friends. I have a seriously hard time believing your wish to discriminate against gays has anything whatsoever to do with your religious beliefs, and everyone to do with your ignorant bigoted ones. So don’t ever lie to us again and claim your religious freedom is being threatened, because it’s not. As some of you know, I live in New York State (to my first-time visitors, How ya doin’?), and when we passed our Marriage Equality Act, we allowed churches and clergy to refuse to marry same-sex couples. I’m pretty sure even more conservative states would have fiercely insisted on having such an exemption in their laws, too. And rightly so.

And nobody’s, I mean nobody’s, religious freedom is being denied in any way. Only their hate.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss religious freedom or anything else you want.

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 8, 2015: Denny and the Duggars – An Example Of Conservative Hypocrisy

The Duggar Family, famous for being on a show currently called “19 Kids and Counting…”, are now being infamous for their rank hypocrisy. In an exclusive, if somewhat disastrous, interview with Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly, the Duggar parents lied or distorted what the official records show happened. For example, it’s not true that they told the police “everything.” It’s not true that they presented Josh to the police for interrogation in 2006. It’s not true that none of the victims were aware that anything happened. One woke up and felt her shirt being lifted, so it’s not true that all the “inappropriate touching” was “above the clothes.” So there’s a number of things they said that were not true. Lies make baby Jesus cry.

Leviticus 19:11 You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. (*)

TLC’s page about the Duggar’s show describes them as having “values rooted in their strong personal faith.” Really? Strong “personal faith”? What is one’s “personal faith” but your own set of rules on how you think you should be allowed to live. It doesn’t equate to a “religious belief.” If it’s a “personal faith,” then who else is practicing it? I seriously question this lifestyle has anything to do with “religious freedom.” In the first place, Michelle and her daughters have no freedom. By the rules of their “Quiverfull Movement,” they are required to be completely subservient to their husbands, including the granting of sexual favors at his desire. That’s not religious freedom, that’s sexual slavery. The only person in that house that’s even remotely practicing a religion is Jim Bob Duggar, and I even question that. When your entire lifestyle is predicated on one passage of the Bible, then I say you are not practicing a religion at all, you are just taking one line out of context and fucking up a lot of people’s lives with it. In addition to all that, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are very active in the fight against LGBT rights. Last but not least before leaving the Duggars, there were also accusations made by the family that the police records were illegally released. That is another lie.

Dennis Hastert became Speaker of the House of Representatives after Newt Gingrich resigned amid a sex scandal, and after Bob Livingston resigned before he could even replace Gingrich after his own sex scandal came to light. Hastert presided over the House while it impeached President Bill Clinton for his sex scandal. Then the Mark Foley sex scandal broke out, and Hastert resigned as Speaker over his handling of it. Now we can suspect why. Hastert had his own secret sex scandal he tried to hide from back in his high school wrestling coach days. It seems he got a little too gropey-fondley with one of the students and ended up paying him lots and lots of money to keep it quiet. Or maybe it was two. But if he at least supported the rights of our fellow LBGT citizens, we wouldn’t be able to call him a hypocrite so easily. Unfortunately, we can.

As a federal legislator, Hastert voted regularly against bills to empower gay people. In Congress from 1997 to 2007, Hastert voted for the so-called “Marriage Protection Act,” and in favor of a constitutional amendment to “establish that marriage shall consist of one man and one woman.” The year he stepped down, Hastert voted no on the “Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” a bill to prohibit companies from discriminating against employees “on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Even the Associated Press noticed that Hastert got 100% ratings from the National Rifle Association (or NAMBLA), the Christian Coalition, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Right to Life Committee. You have got to be one deceitful bastard to get a 100% on your voting record from the Christian Coalition while you’re hiding a same-sex child molestation scandal in your past.

But what is it with these anti-LGBT conservatives? They love to quote the Bible, specifically…

Leviticus 20:13 If a man lies with another man as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood guilt shall be upon them.

They like to quote this as their justification for all these anti-LGBT laws. No doubt Scott Lively used this passage to convince Uganda to pass its famous “Kill Imprison Forever The Gays” bill. But here’s the thing. Just two chapters before it, there’s a very similar passage that says simply this:

Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a man as one does with a woman. It is an abomination.

You might well ask what Chapter 18 says the penalty is for this identical crime, and you’d be wrong to assume it was also death. In fact, while a few of the abominations, depravities, and perversions have specific penalties mentioned, the rest fall under the umbrella of this

Leviticus 18:29 For whoever shall commit any of these abominations, those persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people.

That’s a far cry from killing them, and closer to what the Ugandan bill that ultimately passed requires as a punishment (for being yourself.)

If you want to see some more confusing things from which these folks get their rules, I suggest you go to the link below (easiest way to scan the Bible), and closely compare Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20. Many of the same offenses that get you cut off from your people in Lev 18 get you killed in Lev 20. And in between is Leviticus 19, which lists a bunch of other rules conservatives hypocritically ignore. For example, there’s

Leviticus 19:26 You shall not eat anything with the blood in it, nor shall you practice divination or fortune-telling.

Somebody tell that to Pat Robertson, please.

Like I said. Hypocrites.

(*) All Bible quotes were found using Bible Gateway using the Modern English Version (MEV).

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

Sunday Roast: The Hubris of the Huckabee

We knew it was coming, right?  Huckabee sticks up for those poor, poor Duggars.

Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family. Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable.’ He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things. The reason that the law protects disclosure of many actions on the part of a minor is that the society has traditionally understood something that today’s blood-thirsty media does not understand—that being a minor means that one’s judgement is not mature.

Unless you’re Black or Hispanic…or from a broken home or unwed mother…or have gay parents, OF COURSE.  BTW, “mistakes” happen once or twice, not over and over again, leaving child victims in one’s wake.  A fourteen year old isn’t fully mature, but he should have a basic understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong — especially since the Duggar claim to be on higher ground than the rest of us in that area.

Those who have enjoyed revealing this long ago sins in order to discredit the Duggar family have actually revealed their own insensitive bloodthirst, for there was no consideration of the fact that the victims wanted this to be left in the past and ultimately a judge had the information on file destroyed—not to protect Josh, but the innocent victims.

Hmmmm, I would argue that revealing that Josh Duggar was (is?) a child molester was not to discredit the Duggar family, but to protect any little girls in his vicinity from being sexually abused.  Frankly, the “fact” that the victims wanted their sexual abuse at the hands of their own brother “left in the past” is suspect, since the parents who failed to protect the girls in the first place were the ones influencing such a decision-making process — AND they allowed the molester to return to the home.

Huck wraps it up with a brand new shovel:

It is precisely because we are all sinners that we need His grace and His forgiveness. We have been blessed to receive God’s love and we would do no less than to extend our love and support for our friends. In fact, it is such times as this, when real friends show up and stand up. Today, Janet and I want to show up and stand up for our friends. Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support.

Awwwww, Huck didn’t really want to be presidunce anyway, but don’t worry — he’ll keep up his folksy snake oil sales/sham campaign as long as he possibly can.

Huckabee’s self-satisfied assholierthanthou attitude has caught up to him, and his minions are not amused.

Oopsy.  Huck forgot to consider that some of his followers had been in the Duggar girls’ position.  Of course, he’s pretty consistent in forgetting unpleasantness.

Brava, Carisa!!  Critical thinking!  Keep up the good work.  Huck’s going to miss your subscription to “Learn Our History” most of all…

Montel Williams chimed in with this tweet:

And continued on facebook, with a nasty dose of Tony Perkins, as seen on RawStory.

In short, Mike Huckabee thinks he’s a brilliant, intelligent, compassionate Christian, who’s promoting excellent family values and sticking by his friends in hard times, but he’s actually a slimy bigoted skeev, who thinks anyone who DOESN’T believe what he believes is “less than,” and anyone who DOES believe what he believes can molest little girls (including his own sisters) and it’s just a “mistake” awaiting forgiveness from “god,” and we big meanies just need to get over.  He doesn’t give a shit about the harm done to John Duggar’s sisters, and I highly doubt he cares about the Duggar family at all, except for the weird political boost and associated publicity attached to them, and he’s stupid enough to believe we don’t know it (I’m pretty sure the Duggars are completely clueless when it comes to Huck — and everything else, except money).  Even worse, Huck KNOWS most of his followers are stupid enough not to know it, but is too filled with hubris to see past the end of his self-centered, hateful, bigoted agenda.

Buh bye, Mike.  I’d ask that you return to the underside of the rock from which you crawled, but I know the money’s just too good for a “good” “Christian” “man” like you to resist.

This is our very late daily open thread — I’m cranky.

The Watering Hole; Thursday April 23 2015; Religion in 21st Century America

There’s been a lot of religious chit-chat of late, mostly centered around complaints that LGBT people are being granted the right to (horror of horrors) participate in same-sex marriage. The (fundamentalist Christian) OUTRAGE has been, to say the least, extremely vocal and for the most part — to the rational ear, at least — completely irrational. It’s as if allowing others to live their lives in a manner not approved of by those of loud voice and particular “belief” is not only an abrogation of the rights of those who disapprove, but is also an assault on the first amendment’s clause that reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” an assault on the very foundation of the ‘Christian Nation’ aka the United States of America.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always thought that religion — no matter its name — had as its centerpiece a combination of generosity, of caring, hope, charity, and peacefulness, and that hate, fear, discrimination and their consequences were alien. To Religion. To practitioners thereof.

Pondering that notion reminded me that several years back I found — somewhere, can’t recall where — a brief synopsis of the world’s various religions, taken from appropriate quotes which more or less spell out at least the underlying and driving thesis for each. It’s interesting to read, also to wonder — while listening to today’s highly audible “religious” screamers (i.e. American right wing fundamentalist voices, aka Republicans) — what is it that’s gone so terribly wrong?

Brahmanism: “This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” ~Mahabharata 5:15-17

Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” ~Udana Varga 5:18

Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.” ~Talmud, Shabbat 31:a

Confucianism: “Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you.” ~Analects 15:23

Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” ~T’ai Shag Kan Ying P’ien

Zoroastrianism: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good: for itself.” ~Dadistan-i-dinik 94:5

Islam: “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother what which he desires for himself.” ~Sunnah

Christianity: “Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and . . . know nothing but the word of God.” ~Martin Luther

It almost seems as if Martin Luther’s comment has not only caught on, but may even define the attitude of today’s American right wing fundies, especially when viewed in context with most any religious right statement on most any event or policy with which they disagree. Here are just a couple of recent links that point toward their embedded fears and hatreds, as linked to their “fundamentalist” religious dogma.

Janet Porter: Gay Marriage To Blame For Noah’s Flood, Will Usher In End Times

Bryan Fischer: Tell A Gay Couple They Are Going To Hell On Their Wedding Day

Philosopher David Hume seems to have pretty much summed the enduring fundamentalist core dilemma when he noted that “Men dare not avow, even to their own hearts, the doubts which they entertain on such subjects. They make a merit of implicit faith; and disguise to themselves their real infidelity, by the strongest asseverations and the most positive bigotry.” Is that a fair summation of we’re seeing today? Probably not, but at least Hume points toward the “doubts” which must surely drive “faith” in the hate/fear realm. “Bigotry” in Hume’s context.

Abrahamic faiths seem to be most burdened. Judasim, Christianity, Islam — each acknowledges essentially the same God, each is convinced that it is the “true” religion, each is, in result, similarly burdened by the events common to life itself. As David Hume put it, “. . . the first ideas of religion arose not from a contemplation of the works of nature, but from a concern with regard to the events of life, and from the incessant hopes and fears which actuate the human mind.” Or perhaps, as historian Edward Gibbons suggested, “The theologians may indulge the pleasing task of describing religion as she descended from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings.”

Whatever be the case, the world today is beset by religious irrationality, and ordinary people suffer in result. Why is such nonsense tolerated, much less praised and worshiped by so many? Why can’t we all simply get along? Why does mythology occupy such a prominent pedestal in the human passage?

Gautama Siddharta — Buddha — perhaps spoke the best solution to religious fears when he said,

“Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.”

Imagine what the world could become — if only . . . Meanwhile, ‘Homosexual Armageddon!’ Anti-Gay Activists Decry ‘Satanic’ Gay Rights. The beat goes on but the question remains: whereto from here, America?

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 13, 2015: Guess Their Home Planets

Ben Carson is afraid. That’s not unusual for a Conservative, since fear is the primary thing that motivates them to action of any kind. But in Carson’s case’s case that fear is not warranted by anything happening on this planet. Carson is among the many conservatives who believe that all manner of terrorists will cross our border with Mexico with the express purpose of killing them, and only them, on account of we on the Left being their bestest buddies in the world. Courtesy of our friends at Right Wing Watch, at the recent NRA annual circle jerk meeting

Likely GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson told the NRA’s annual meeting today that Americans need guns more than ever since the southern border has been exposed to infiltration from “radical extremist Islamic terrorists” whom President Obama doesn’t intend to fight.

“When they get here,” Carson said, “we need to be able to fight them, particularly if we have an administration that won’t fight them, we need to be able to fight them ourselves.”

He added that guns are necessary for people to “defend themselves against an overly aggressive government that wanted to exact tyranny in this country.”

But he is also among the delusional right wingers who feel Obama hasn’t done anything to fight terrorists who exploit a perverted version of Islam as a justification to kill innocent people, primarily those who are non-Muslim. Apparently these right-wingers are so caught up in their own bubble of mis-information that they didn’t notice all the complaining from the Left about Obama’s drone strike program and how it keeps killing innocent people. Obama, along with several other countries in the Mid-East, has been attacking these guys. He just isn’t committing huge numbers of ground troops to the operation like the right wing wants. And that’s because in the Conservative universe, military power is the only kind of strength anyone respects (because it’s the only kind of power they respect.) There are many planets where right-wingers like this can be found, but in Dr. Ben Carson’s case, that planet would likely be Sigma Draconis VI. This is the home planet of the woman who boarded the Enterprise and removed Spock’s brain while leaving his body alive and functioning. This was possible because of a powerful computer capable of giving someone temporary knowledge beyond their normal intellectual abilities, but whose effects are sadly temporary. The result is when the effects of the intelligence enhancements wear off, the person is left being so stupid they don’t even understand what a brain is, let alone how to successfully remove one. This is clearly what happened to Dr. Carson after he left his home planet and the effects of the machine that gave him the ability to be a brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon wore off.

Donald Trump is also afraid, but the only thing that frightens him is the thought that people may one day see just how irrelevant, meaningless, and buffoonish he really is. Trump, who understands nothing of nuclear power, foreign diplomacy, or when to keep one’s mouth shut, badmouthed the recent framework for a deal negotiated with Iran by Secretary of State Kerry and five other nations. And, naturally, since the historic framework for a deal did not involve bombing Iran’s current nuclear facilities, the right wing thinks it’s a totally bad deal. It’s not even a final deal yet, just the framework for a deal that will keep Iran from being able to enrich the kind of uranium that can be used to make a nuclear weapon. And right now, this negotiations for this framework have been the only thing stopping the Iranians from making that bomb. But Trump thinks it’s a terrible deal.

“The deal is terrible, this deal is going to lead to nuclear all over the place and everyone’s going to want to have it and it’s a disaster for Israel, I can tell you, it’s a disaster for this country.”

And we should listen to Trump because he wrote (what he claims is, and what may be, but which I don’t care if it is) the top-selling business book, “The Art of The Deal.” And as everyone in the Conservative Universe knows, Capitalism and International Diplomacy are interchangeable. If you’re good at one you must automatically be good at the other. Herbert Hoover was a Capitalist, and his economic policies led to the Great Depression. George W. Bush was an MBA from Harvard, but that didn’t mean he was the smartest person in the room when it came to foreign policy. Even his Secretary of State, who was supposed to be an expert on the Soviet Union, failed to see its impending collapse. These people know nothing about running a government, let alone how to negotiate with people from another culture. The Conservative Universe has many right wingers who don’t know what they’re taking about, but the Donald Trumps of Earth orginally came from Iota Geminorum IV. This is the home planet of the tribbles, small furry creatures whose purrs have a calming effect on humans. The pelt of one has been resting on Trump’s head for many decades.

As a country, we need to stop listening to people like this. I’m not suggesting they be silenced, just ignored. Many people say there’s no difference between the two major political parties. That is completely false. That doesn’t mean that one works for the benefit of the top 1% and the large multi-national corporations and the other doesn’t. But one party doesn’t have nearly as many crazy people holding crazy viewpoints that they think the rest of us are crazy for not heeding. And it is also not true that Liberalism and Conservatism are just two sides of the same coin. It’s more like two sides of the same circle – the inside and the outside. Conservatism is rooted in Selfishness, in looking out for oneself over the needs of strangers, in asking “What’s in this for me?” of anything new, and in preserving the status quo as much as possible. Like the inside of a circle, there’s a core set of not-always-well-defined principles intended to keep things from changing too much. Liberalism, on the other hand, is rooted in Altruism, in looking out for all of us rather than just some of us, in asking, “How does this benefit the most of us?” of anything new, and in changing things that don’t work for everybody. The two philosophies are in no way equal, so when trying to find solutions that would benefit the nation as a whole, why would anyone believe Conservatives have the best ideas? That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Conservatives don’t care about you. So stop voting for them.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Ben Carson, brain surgery, Donald Trump, Tribbles as fashion accessories, or anything else you wish to discuss. Just don’t vote for any Conservatives.