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.

The Watering hole, Saturday, February 13, 2016: We Need Less of Moore’s Ilk – UPDATED

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is at it again. It seems no matter how hard he tries, which appears to be not very, Moore can’t seem to wrap his head around the fact that the Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, and its rulings take precedence over any state or local law. Despite having lost his job once before in 2003 for refusing to follow the orders of the SCOTUS when they ruled he must remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from state property, Moore may be about to lose his job again, and for the same reason – failing to obey a SCOTUS ruling because it contradicted his personal religious beliefs. Moore claims the SCOTUS ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges is confusing because it says that not only must Alabama let gay people marry, but it has to recognize lawful same-sex marriages in other states. This violates the Chief Justice’s personal religious beliefs and he believes that is reason enough to order all Alabama probate judges in Alabama to stop issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples. He is wrong, of course, and in violation of his oath of office. Again. Like every public official in this country, elected or appointed, Moore took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. That oath does not allow for exceptions where you feel your religious beliefs are being ignored, or because you feel that state law takes precedence over federal law. In fact, on the latter point the Constitution is quite clear. “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” Chief Justice Roy Moore does not believe this means SCOTUS rulings take precedence over Alabama State Law. How he ever got through law school and was allowed to practice law and even become a judge with this belief is beyond comprehension. What in that clause would make anyone think a state’s constitution or laws would be superior to the federal Constitution? How can any sane, intelligent person make that argument? The answer is they can’t, which means any person making such an argumetn is not sane and intelligent. Especially when they say their religious beliefs are superior to any court rulings. Part of the problem here is that Alabama elects their state’s highest judges rather than appoint them and make them go through a confirmation process conducted by people who at least have more of an understanding of the law than the average voter. (In my home state of New York, our state’s highest court judges are appointed by the governor and confirmed by our State Senate.) Your average voter is completely ignorant about how the law and the constitution work, so putting the choice of who should be deciding how their laws are interpreted in the hands of people who are completely unqualified to make that determination is ridiculous. Too many people wrongly believe this nation is officially Christian and should abide by Christian law, which seems to be based entirely on Jewish Law given how often they quote the Old Testament. This is the kind of person Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is: a conservative evangelical with the warped belief that Christianity is the law of this land, the First Amendment to the contrary notwithstanding. He needs to be impeached, convicted, removed from office and barred from ever holding public office again. So does Associate Justice of the United States Antonin Scalia.

Justice Antonin Scalia is also at it again. What he’s at is demonstrating his complete and utter disqualification to be interpreting our nation’s constitution. In a recent speech to a Catholic high school class, Scalia made the claim that “there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that prohibits the government from legislating, establishing, or favoring religion over non-religion.” He thinks it’s possible, but he seems unsure, that the Constitution may prohibit the government from favoring one religion over another, but it can certainly favor religion over non-religion. I don’t make any claim to be an expert in the law or the Constitution, but that claim strikes me as being, in legal parlance, “bullshit.” Even before the third amendment sent to the states became the first one ratified (there were twelve amendments sent to the states; the first never passed and the second eventually became the 27th Amendment, and the other ten became the Bill of Rights), there existed a clause barring religion from playing a part in our government. Article VI clearly states “…but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” How then, can one argue, should our laws should be based on the Bible if it’s unconstitutional to require anyone to prove they believe the Bible to be something that should be the basis of our laws? I certainly don’t think it should be. Have you actually read it? It’s horrifying! It’s a form of child abuse to teach children it’s the truth. The same for any deity-based religious text. Prove to me that gods exist before you start telling me I have to do what you claim they say. But you can’t presuppose the existence of gods and claim that as your proof. Nor can you claim that only something like a god can produce everything we see around us, because that would be the same thing. First prove gods exist, then prove they made everything around us. Not the other way around. Don’t say only a god could produce everything around us, so that proves they must exist. Scientists have been debunking that for centuries. Nor can you make the extraordinary claim that gods exist but that it’s up to me to prove you wrong, so in the meantime I have to follow your god’s laws. There are so many flaws in the belief that gods exist, let alone that one or more of them created everything, that it simply defies logic to believe it’s true. And please, don’t tell me my disbelief is because I lack faith. Faith is the rejection of facts, evidence, and experience in favor of believing what one wishes to be true. To say something is true simply because you have faith that it is true is to literally reject logic and reason and say it’s true because you say so. Well, that’s not good enough for me. If you’re going to tell me I have to follow the laws laid down in your deity-based religious text, then I require proof that the deity on which your religious text is based actually exists and will do me harm if I don’t follow those laws. Is that really too much to ask? It’s not enough for you to tell me what your religious texts say will happen, because you still haven’t proven to me that your religious texts are based on anything real. In recent years, the Church of Scientology has been exposed as a giant scam. Nobody seriously believes our bodies were invaded by extraterrestrial beings from a planet billions of miles away. I mean, the entire story line is ridiculous, and I think most people would agree. So why are deity-based creation stories any more credible? Because you say they are? Can you imagine what would happen if someone tried to make Scientology the official religion is the United States and forced everyone to practice it? Well that is exactly what the founders of the United States, under the US Constitution, feared. Did you know that before the United States came along, every nation had an official religion? The USA was the first one to say, “We’re not going to do that. We’re not going to say one religion is better than any other. And we’re not going to say you have to practice one particular religion, or that you can’t practice certain other religions. We’re not going get into any of that at all. You are free to practice whichever religion you wish, or even no religion at all.” And that’s the part Conservative Christians like Associate Justice Scalia and Chief Justice Moore get wrong.

Nobody can be required by law to do anything just because a religion requires it of its adherents. There may be perfectly valid non-religious reasons to lass a law banning something, and those have to be the ones cited as justification. The one thing you’ll find in common with such valid laws is that they follow a principle common to many religions but also to non-religious philosophies alike. And it’s a principle most atheists you’ll ever meet follow: Treat other people the way you would want them to treat you. You don’t want someone to be able to murder you? Then make it a crime to murder someone. You don’t want someone to be able to steal your stuff, then make it a crime to take other people’s possessions. This has nothing to do with religion, or what reward or punishment (if any) one might have to endure after one dies, it’s simply the right thing to do. I am amazed at how many people distrust atheists. In fact, there are seven states where atheists are barred by law from holding public office. Those laws are unconstitutional, of course, and must eventually be struck down even if they’re never enforced. For reasons surpassing logic, people seem to believe that it’s impossible to have a moral code without a belief in God. This is nonsense. If the only thing that makes you do the morally right thing is the belief that you’ll be rewarded or punished after you’re dead, then you really don’t want to do the morally right thing, do you? I don’t believe in an afterlife, or a reward for good people or a punishment for bad ones. I try to treat other people the way I would like them to treat me because it’s the right thing to do. I’m 100% positive that it won’t make any difference to me one way or the other what happens to me after I’m dead because I won’t be around to experience it. And if you want to wave your religious books in my face and tell me I’ll suffer eternal damnation for not believing what you do, understand that the only thing preventing me from taking your religious book out of your hand and smashing you in the face with it is my morals, the ones you say I can’t possibly have because I lack a belief in God.

UPDATE: Associate justice Antonin Scalia was found dead at his ranch in Texas. http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/us-world/article/Senior-Associate-Justice-Antonin-Scalia-found-6828930.php?

I will not celebrate the death of any man, but I will not weep for this one.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to make fun of religious nutjobs like Moore and Scalia, or discuss anything else you wish..

The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 30, 2016: Bruisin’ From A Cruz-in’

As a human being, you are capable of believing whatever you want to believe whether it has any connection to factual reality or not. For example, while I don’t think either is real, I would believe that The Matrix is real before I believe any crazy story about a mythical being creating the universe and everything in it. At least The Matrix makes some sense and explains better why I seem to encounter several examples of the same kind of thing on my way to work on any given day. Like that car that goes by with one headlight out. I might not see a car like that for several days or weeks, and then one day I’ll see three or four go by me, all on the same drive. Or a car who wants to go slower than I will pull out of an intersection ahead of me before turning off down a side road, but not before another pokey pulls out in front of him, for the obvious sole purpose of keeping me from getting where I want to go in my lifetime. I could more easily accept that these are subroutines being repeated in a computer program than I could that some omnipotent, omniscient Being is trying to send a message to me through bad drivers. (A more effective technique might be to leave a message in green lipstick on my bathroom mirror, knowing that my wife has no green lipstick nor any intention of ever wearing any. I’m more open-minded on the subject.) It makes zero sense to believe in Creationism. And in order for it to make any kind of sense at all, you have to attribute so many contradictory rationales to the Being responsible that it ends up making even less sense. Does God really care if I masturbate or not? Do you really think Jesus never masturbated as a young teenage male? After all, Jesus didn’t find his calling until the last few years of his life. So he wouldn’t have grown up thinking he was God’s personal offspring, or that his “special purpose” really had a special purpose. It just doesn’t make any logical sense. People tell me I say that because I lack Faith, and they’re right. I do lack Faith. Because I need to see evidence, backed by science and observation. It’s true that I will accept something as true just because Neil deGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye says it’s true, but that’s because I know they base their beliefs on evidence, backed by science and observation. And I also know that if evidence based on science and observation proves them wrong, that they’ll change their views. And hearing them explain why they now believe what they didn’t before, I’m more likely to change my views, too. Before you counter with that’s an Appeal to Authority argument, I’ll tell you why it isn’t. First, I’m not arguing any point in particular and telling you it’s true just because NdT says it’s true. Second, I wouldn’t say something is true just because he said it was, but for the reasons he said it was true, which I know derived from evidence based on science and observation (not the millennia-old speculations from scientifically illiterate people.) So I wouldn’t be making an argument that appeals to authority, I would be making one based on the same evidence that appealed to my authority.

But you can’t do that when you insist on accepting something on Faith alone because, by definition, you are accepting it without evidence based on science and observation. And Faith demands that when the evidence proves you wrong, you discard the evidence and continue to believe the now disproved thing. How can anybody live that like? How can you go through life believing things proven to be false, or follow the advice of a book proven to be self-contradictory and scientifically inaccurate in so many ways? As just one example, bats are not birds, no matter what any religious text tells you, even one followed by two major religions. How could such a text possibly be “the inerrant word of God” when it contains such a blatant error? If the error is entirely attributable to the flawed human who put the words to paper, then how can it be considered “inerrant”? And if it was transcribed exactly as God intended, then how could God not know bats are not birds? Something has to give in to logic and reason if it is going to be a valid argument.

In an interview earlier this week with Dana Loesch (a famous conservative who, by standard conservative reasoning, must fear me quite a lot because she actually blocked me on Twitter, and she would say that if I blocked her, it must have been because I feared her), Rafael Cruz, the foreign-born father of foreign-born US Senator Ted Cruz, actually said this when asked if it was “difficult to see people go at” his son

“It is, Dana, but at the same time, you know, if you are not making a difference, if you are not having an impact, nobody’s going to attack you,” he said. “Jesus said, ‘They persecuted me, they will persecute you.’ When you are having an impact on America, those who disagree with you are going to come out lashing at you with everything they’ve got. But you know what, we get encouraged for seeing that we are making a difference, Ted is making a difference, that truth sets people free. And he’s speaking the truth and those who don’t want to hear it are going to lash out.”

I’ll let the fine folks at PoliticusUSA, FactCheck and Politifact recall just a few of the many lies Ted has told, but I want to respond to a few of the inanities his dad said here. I’ll begin with “…if you are not making a difference, if you are not having an impact, nobody’s going to attack you.” First of all, Conservatives (especially the Christian kind) equate attacking a person’s position with attacking the person himself. So when they don’t like someone’s position, they see no problem with attacking the person himself. Being projectionists, it’s what they would do, so they assume it’s what everyone else is doing to them, even when it clearly isn’t. Second, people are attacked and even murdered all the time, and it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with that person’s impact on anyone else, other than they had the misfortune of being near their attacker at the wrong time. So it is simply, factually untrue that “nobody’s going to attack you” if you aren’t making a difference. This is just pure, delusional, Christian Persecution Complex thinking at work. Raffy then goes on to claim that he and his son “are making a difference, Ted is making a difference, that truth sets people free.” Now I can’t tell if this one is the result of Conservatives not knowing what words mean, not caring what facts are, or a combination of the two, but it’s not true for two reasons. One, nobody’s mind is being changed by the Los Cruz. Nobody is listening to either man for the first time and saying, “You know, he makes a lot of sense. I’m going to start following him.” No, the people listening to them have already made up their minds that what the two men go around saying is true, so they show up to listen for the reinforcement of their own set of beliefs. And, two, Ted isn’t telling the truth (as PoliticusUSA, FactCheck, and PolitiFact have been trying to tell us.) He lies constantly, so how can what he says set anyone free? “And he’s speaking the truth and those who don’t want to hear it are going to lash out.” He’s not speaking the truth, and we are not trying to “lash out” at him, we are pointing out that the things he says all the time are factually incorrect. We’re attacking the things he says, not him personally. Except for the fact that he continues to repeat false things, so we have to question his motives, sanity, intelligence, honesty and character along with them. If Ted would stop repeating lies, nobody would have to attack anything he says, and we certainly wouldn’t have to attack his character. Los Cruz can end the persecution they feel simply by admitting they’re both bearers of false witness. But that’s one Truth about themselves they’ll never face.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss logical reasoning, something Rafael Cruz might have said, or anything in between.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 9, 2016: The Hole In The Head Gang

Whenever anyone tells you they are doing what God wants them to do, run. And I don’t mean for president. It’s amazing how many people claim God told to run for the same public office, especially in America, which is officially and constitutionally a secular nation. There were all those Republicans in 2012 who said they heard God calling upon them to run for president. The fact that none of them even came close to winning might suggest in an otherwise free thinking person that maybe those claims of being told by God to run were false. Not lies, exactly, just inaccurate. In fact, it makes a lot more sense to believe Satan told these people to run for high office. Why we never ask them if this was a possibility is beyond me. When you have at least four people standing on a stage each claiming to be there because God told them to run, why just accept that as truth? Why not grill each one and ask them why would God do such a thing? (And why would he tell even more of them to run this time?) It seems to me that an allegedly all-powerful deity wouldn’t bother with democracy. He could just make a bunch of write-in ballots appear all over the country, naming the person he wants to be president. That’s within his capabilities, isn’t it? Does anyone truly believe God wanted George W. Bush to become president in 2000? So much so that he rigged an election in a state governed by his brother to make the victory happen? And then addled the mind of several Supreme Court Justices, just to make sure? And then went further and told George to invade Iraq? Why believe anybody when they say God told them to do something? With no witnesses around to confirm it? Is there any reason to believe them? Even Adolf Hitler thought he was doing what God wanted him to do, so one really should question anyone making such a claim. Which is why I question Ammon Bundy’s claim that he is doing what God told him to do, even how to do it (which apparently included not preparing for it.) It may offend you to hear me say this, but it’s stupid to believe an all-powerful, all-knowing being would care about political candidates or sports athletes. It really is. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. And that’s precisely why it should disqualify anyone for public office when they claim God told them to run for that office. And an athlete that says his or her talent comes from God must think very lowly of their alleged Creator that he would endow them with athletic ability to entertain us, but not endow scientists and medical researchers with the talent and intelligence they need to find cures for diseases like cancer. OTOH, if you believe God created everything, you have to believe God created cancer. Otherwise your entire set of beliefs is false and unworkable. So how much does God really love you, that he would take your child away from you with cancer? God did not tell any of those people to do any of those things. They told themselves to do those things.

And why would God talk only to Ammon Bundy, and not his brother or any of the others there? And why would he put a lot of false notions in his head about the issues he’s supposed to be defending? These folks clearly do not understand the concept of “We The People.” They do not understand that the federal government IS us, and that we have constitutionally granted it powers to act on our behalf in preserving and protecting those lands. That the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge they claim to be taking back for the people already belongs to We The People. Nor do they seem to understand that the People closest to them (geographically) do not want them there, and do not want them to claim they are speaking for us. That they want the invaders to leave. (This was from a group Ammon Bundy helped form.) And they should leave, especially if they are illegally accessing the federal computers at the refuge they occupy. Regardless of the rationales they put out, they are not within their rights to do this. And they’re not right in their reasons for doing this. Nor are they right in the logic they use to come to the conclusions they have. The property they have improperly seized belongs to all of us, meaning it belongs to you and me, too. Would you want a bunch of armed delusional people squatting in your back yard saying they’ll use deadly force if anyone tries to make them leave? Because that is what they’re doing.

There is seriously something wrong with people who think the way these people think. Whether it’s the idea that God exists and tells several different people to do the same pointless thing (run for president against other people he told to run for president, or take over a publicly owned wildlife refuge in the middle of winter), or that the American federal government has no connection whatsoever to the People of America, these people clearly have a hole in their heads. They are the types who believe County Sheriffs have more authority than the federal government. They’re wrong here, of course, because they have occupied federal property, which makes what they’re doing a federal crime. It’s also a crime to use federal employee badges to access federal computers, which they obviously did. (The reporter said three of the four computer screens had screensavers running on them. I think it very highly unlikely that the people working at the refuge left those computers running over a long holiday weekend. Ammon Bundy’s brother Ryan claims they didn’t touch anything in that room, even though the reporter saw him try to hide the badges.) The best thing to do would be to have the local sheriff (whom they believe has more authority than the federal government, even on federal property) explain to everyone in that group that they are in violation of federal law, that they will be charged with violations of federal statutes once the occupation ends and they are brought out, that no one has any intention of firing upon them first, and they might as well give up now before anyone gets hurt over their complete and total ignorance about what they’re doing. I don’t want to see anyone die over this ridiculous issue. But the occupiers are the ones who brought guns to this showdown and threatened to use them. If any of them are killed, I’ll simply say what I always do when bad people die: I will not celebrate the death of any man, but I will not weep for this one.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the occupation of public property by delusional wingnuts, or anything else you wish to discuss. Just don’t set up camp on my property.