Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
I've heard of Frank Schaeffer, even heard him interviewed and read some short pieces by him. But this afternoon a friend sent me a link to an excerpt from his latest book, and now I'd like to pass it on to you.
Schaeffer talks about how the whole "Left Behind" industry is really nothing more than the latest version of the crazy right-wing religious crap his father helped to start in this country. Here's a bit:
My mother is a great believer in forwarding emails of the Republican or Christian variety. I've seen most of them before, and generally I don't respond. Eh. My mom is awesome, but a little far right politically and religiously at this point in her life - and I'm too damned tired to start a war. Heh.
But when she forwarded this essay (quoted in it's entirety below the fold), and claimed it was written by our own curmudgeonly atheist Andy Rooney, I had to reply:
This was actually written by a sports writer by the name of Nick Gholson who worked for the "Times New Record" newspaper in Wichita Falls, Texas, back in 1999, NOT Andy Rooney. Andy Rooney is actually an atheist!
"Why am I an atheist? I ask you: Why is anybody not an atheist? Everyone starts out being an atheist. No one is born with belief in anything. Infants are atheists until they are indoctrinated. I resent anyone pushing their religion on me. I don't push my atheism on anybody else. Live and let live. Not many people practice that when it comes to religion." -Andy Rooney, Boston Globe, May 30, 1982.
"I am an atheist... I don't understand religion at all. I'm sure I'll offend a lot of people by saying this, but I think it's all nonsense." -Andy Rooney, from a speech at Tufts University, Nov. 18, 2004.
And as for agreeing with Gholson's essay below, obviously I don't. I think it's a pretty desperate argument to claim that "might makes right" like Gholson does here - especially in America! Adult Americans don't usually agree or use petty, childish, playground arguments like that. We usually stand up for the little guy, don't we? Defend those who need defending? We say, "I disagree with what you say, but I would die defending your right to say it!" Right??
Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are designed to counteract the sort of "tyranny of the majority" that Gholson is promoting, and to protect the rights of the minority from being trampled by all the frothing "Christian Nation" kooks in the majority who want to have MY kids pray to THEIR god in public schools paid for by my taxes. You can say your prayers any time you want - on the street corner, in church, in your home, heck, even at a football game! What you *can't* do is have public school officials lead *my* children in saying *your* prayers to *your* god, to the exclusion of all other religions, or non-religion - and then expect me to pay for the privilege!
Argh! It drives me nuts! :)
I love you Ma, and I'm really not trying to make you upset, but I think you're 180 degrees off-center on this issue. I hope you'll reconsider your position.
Ugh. I hate writing to my family about this stuff. It's going to make the holidays interesting, in any case! :)
The Lodi City Council has apparently "found their backbone" and has voted unanimously to allow sectarian prayers before City Council meetings in direct opposition to threats of legal action against the City of Lodi by civil rights groups concerned over the clear violations against the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause.
So, let's look forward in time a few months. Lodi's City Council has been rolling along offering prayers in Jesus' name for a while now. They knew that this meant - in an abstract way of course - that they may at some point have to allow a non-Christian prayer before the start of the meeting. So, a Mormon Bishop is allowed to pray. Then, a Rabbi. Finally, after much deliberation, an Imam offers a prayer to Allah.
People are tense, but things go well, and the sky doesn't split apart, so they try their best to forget it ever happened, while simultaneously patting themselves on the back for their "tolerance".
Then things start to go awry.
A Raëlian Priest, or "Guide" basically forces his way to the front of the meeting, ranting about God knows what. The Master at Arms throws him out, and the City Council members all have a nervous chuckle.
A Wiccan applies to lead the Council in a skyclad ceremony. The Council members look it up and deny the application.
A Pastafarian wants to dress and talk like a pirate while holding a delicious plate of spaghetti. Denied.
A Jedi Knight wants to have everyone close the blast shield and try to "feel the force". Denied.
Suddenly, a rain of lawsuits alleging First Amendment violations descend onto the City. Religious persecution accusations are flying thick. The Council members decide that the very next wacky non-Christian nutball who applies to lead a prayer, they'll approve.
A Church of Satan Magister applies. They swallow, and approve the application.
The day comes, and all nervously await the Magister as he sweeps into the chambers. The lights dim, and with eerily glowing eyes he begins the blasphemous words for a Black Mass:
"Thou, thou who, in my capacity of Priest, I force, weather thou wilt or no, to descend into this host, to incarnate thyself into this bread Jesus, artisan of hoaxes, bandit of homages, robber of affection- hear! O lasting foulness of Bethlehem, we would have thee confess thy impudent cheats, thy inexplicable crimes!. We would drive deeper the nails into thy hands, press down the crown of thorns upon thy brow, and bring blood from the dry wounds.
Cursed Nazarene, abstractor of stupid parities, impotent king, fugitive god! O Infernal Satanic Majesty, condemn him to the pit, evermore to suffer in perpetual anguish. Bring Thy wrath upon him, O Prince of Darkness, King of Filth, Emperor of Putridity, Dark Lord Satan, hear our demands!"
Cue the lightning and fog machines and wolf howl special effects.
People freak the fuck out, cats and dogs start living together, chaos ensues, council members start raping goats right in the chambers, pregnant Christian ladies give birth to deformed monsters.
You know, the usual.
And atheists sit back and laugh. "Look," we'd say with a chuckle, "we fucking warned you morons about this six months ago! Now, grow the fuck up, stop breaking the law, and try following the Constitution. Make the council meetings secular, idiots, and pray in your own fucking church, and this won't happen ever again."
(Maybe not in those exact words... Heh.)
Not what you think.
Heard this Saturday morning on Weekend Edition, and about split a gut:
Rabbi Shea Hecht plucks a chicken off a truck parked behind a synagogue in Queens, N.Y., and demonstrates how to swing a chicken.
"You take it by the wing," says the white-haired Hecht, careful not to get the chicken's feathers or anything else on his black suit and tall black hat. "You put one wing over the other wing. See? It's very relaxed. And you swing it very softly over your head like this."
Hecht holds the bird, waves it three times above his head, and says the prayer of Kapparot (or Kapparos, depending on heritage). He prays that his sins will be transferred to the bird and he will escape the divine punishment that he deserves. The prayer is more than 1,000 years old, and countless Orthodox Jews will recite it in the days before Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, which begins at sundown Sunday. Hecht says waving the chicken isn't the point of this ritual.
the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s."
Seems like some Christians could stand to re-read their bible:
Two Florida school administrators face contempt charges and possible prison time for saying a prayer at a school luncheon.
Frank Lay, principal of Pace High School, and Athletic Director Robert Freeman are accused of violating a consent decree banning employees of Santa Rosa County schools from endorsing religion.
They face a non-jury trial September 17 before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers. The statute under which they are charged carries a maximum penalty of up to six months in prison, subject to sentencing guidelines.
Of course, the folks at Liberty U, who are backing the accused, say that this is an infringement of their 1st Amendment rights:
I'm sure you all remember this case:
WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) -- A central Wisconsin man charged with killing his daughter by praying instead of taking her to a doctor read from the Bible while testifying Thursday that he couldn't seek medical help without disobeying God.
"I can't do that because Biblically, I cannot find that is the way people are healed," Dale Neumann told the jury. "If I go to the doctor, I am putting the doctor before God. I am not believing what he said he would do."
So, either the bible is wrong, God lied, or He doesn't exist.
But your daughter is still dead.
From the same article:
... I really, really hope that this site is run by atheists:
Information Age Prayer
Information Age Prayer is a subscription service utilizing a computer with text-to-speech capability to incant your prayers each day. It gives you the satisfaction of knowing that your prayers will always be said even if you wake up late, or forget.
Subscriptions start at $3.95 a month, and there is a discount for volume prayers. No, I am not kidding.
Absolutely brilliant. I love a good scam.
Got a flyer in the "doormail" yesterday that my good lady wife set aside for my amusement. I figured I should share. Since I can't construct the same kind of grid they use, here's the basic idea:
The Easter Bunny vs. Jesus
Hides eggs throughout your house: The Easter Bunny.
Brings baskets of goodies on Easter morning: The Easter Bunny
Favorite food is carrots: The Easter Bunny
Gives peace, life, & forgiveness to your soul: Jesus!
Our research has shown that although both The Easter Bunny and Jesus get a lot of press this time of year, they actually have very little in common. If you are into a quick chocolate buzz, hide and seek with inedible eggs, and someone to share your carrots with, the Easter Bunny is your guy. If, however, you are looking for peace for your soul, some eternal assurance of acceptance, and unlimited forgiveness... Jesus has much more to offer. Go to church on Easter, and do a little research of your own.
. . . as any other version of prayer, actually: Chat With God Online.
If you get a good response, post it.
My initial intellectual training was in economics, so that tends to influence to a great degree how I see the world. I find it useful to see how motives and desires are played out in terms of economics. So it is that I came up with this thought experiment.
Consider, what would happen if each prayer made to some deity came with an unavoidable non-trivial cost? Perhaps a dollar was deducted automatically from your checking account each time you made a prayer. Or for it to be considered 'valid', you had to deposit a five-spot into a little piggy bank that the local shaman would collect each week. What do you think would happen?
I really gotta wonder if this is a joke:
Faith Of Britain Day is a day that focuses all of the positive energy in the country towards achieving our hopes and aspirations. For exactly two minutes on March 6th at 11.00am our consortium of psychics and healers will act as a channel for the positive thoughts of the entire country.
Why March 6th at 11.00am?
March 6th has been chosen as Faith of Britain Day because March is a time of seeing light emerging from the darkness of Winter, therefore emphasising hope in an unsure world. Numerologically this date is symbolic because the 3rd month, the 6th day and the 9th year are all multiples of 3 which is about balance - which is what we strive to achieve as humans. The time, 11.00am is a master number, or a powerful 2 (1 + 1) which is the duality of the inner and outer self, encouraging us to look within to find solutions.
The woo just keeps getting better. Here's another passage that I particularly loved:
The main article is by Robert Sibley who inspired another post by me only a couple of days ago. I did not realize the degree of revulsion Sibley feels for the New Atheists and atheism in general, but his December 26 essay is brimming with resentment that reveals itself in absurd acts of psychological speculation and rhetorical foul play. What follows are just a few examples. First, my jaw dropped when I read this (my own emphasis added):
Modern philosophy, natural science and psychology are, more often than not, atheistic in outlook. So, too, are many of our social and political institutions. It is a virtual taboo for a Canadian politician to refer to his or her religious faith in public life. The school system teaches students about sex and drugs, but classroom prayers have largely been cancelled.
[continued after the flip...]
The LA Times totally misses the point of the Freedom from Religion Foundation's attempt to stop Colorado governor Bill Ritter's proclamation of a day of prayer. The editorial asserts that the controversy centers, in part, around whether the specific prayer to be given would amount to an endorsement of a specific religion or of some right-wing policy supported by the "hysterical" (their word) James Dobson's Focus on the Family.
But the verse in question is not the problem. The problem (obviously, or so one would think) is that the very act of a prayer assumes the existence of--and gives acquiescence to--an omnipotent super-being. That may not be an official endorsement of a religion, but it is most certainly a tacit endorsement of religion itself.
. . .and we can blame the sub-prime debacle on it!
Don't read this if you want a happy-happy Friday.
The MRFF helps another atheist soldier file a suit against the Defense Department:
[link] Spc. Dustin Chalker, who has served in Korea and Iraq, is the second soldier at the northeast Kansas post to file such a lawsuit. The New Mexico-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation joined Chalker as a plaintiff in his lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.
Here's the PDF of the "Complaint For Injunctive Relief".
I wonder how long it will be before he receives his first drunken death threat from his fellow "good Christian" soldiers?
Remember a couple of weeks ago when the Focus on the Family nuts all decided to pray for rain at the Democratic convention? PZ talked about it. Even Olbermann featured it. With the bad publicity, they decided to pull the video, and it's no longer available on YouTube. Which is a shame, really, given what happened this morning:
DENVER - A sprinkler system partially flooded part of the Pepsi Center Monday morning.
The Denver Fire Department, which has a crew stationed at the center all week, was able to respond quickly before 5 a.m. when the sprinkler went off.
The sprinkler was located on the club level in a skybox which had recently been renovated to host a news crew. It appears the skybox belongs to Fox.
After going off, the sprinkler released 50 to 100 gallons of water per minute and 9NEWS crews estimate it was on for around 5 minutes.
Yes, Faux News's skybox was flooded.
(Nearly) Instant Karma, anyone?
It is a truism that religious bigotry and the entitlement mentality of the wanna-be theocrat grow strong in our small community school boards. It's relatively easy to get elected to a school board as a trustee, and in a small town most folks think just like you do.
Imagine the surprise of the Wylie, TX School Board trustees when during a bond meeting, School board member Ralph James tried to begin the meeting with a recitation of with The Lord's Prayer. He had got out "Our Father..." when bond committee member Mikki Lewis stood up and said very loudly, "Excuse me?"
Mikki Lewis is Jewish. Her husband is a Catholic. Her father is an atheist, and his parent were orthodox Jews.
[link] ...it wasn't on the agenda, and it surprised me," said Mrs. Lewis, a mother of two in the Wylie school district.
"I wasn't there to pray or practice my religion," she said.
Afterward the committee decided to have a "moment of silence" instead of a prayer. Mrs. Lewis then emailed the superintendent to discuss her protest. However, instead of a reply from the superintendent, she received a response from school board trustee Sue Nicklas - who does not seem to get the whole "U.S. Constitution, First Amendment" thing.
[link] "I must share with you first and formost [sic] that there are many people who are praying for you," Ms. Nicklas wrote. "In ten years as a trustee of the Wylie school board, you're the first parent to complain about a prayer, and the very first person in my 68 years that has ever had the audasity [sic] to interrupt God and one of His children in prayer."
Ms. Nicklas said Mrs. Lewis "doesn't set the agenda for meetings. We are elected by the people ... in the community."
Wylie is a Christian community, Ms. Nicklas said.
"You go with the culture and customs of the community," she said.
You see Mrs. Grundy, that's not the way it works. Christianity isn't "more equal" than every other religion out there, and because of the First Amendment, U.S. citizens have a reasonable expectation that we won't be preached at by our elected officials. Quite frankly, no one gives a flying fudge sickle about your self-righteous proclamation about "many people praying for" Mrs. Lewis. Jesus! How arrogant can a person get, anyway?
Tell me the truth, Sue - is that part of your publicly elected secular job description as a Wylie ISD school board trustee? To organize voodoo chants against the unbelievers? I don't think so.
It isn't "audacity" that made Mrs. Lewis speak up after four years of cowed silence, Mrs.
GrundyNicklas - it was a sense of outrage! A sense of injustice perpetrated by the bullying 400-lb gorilla of the Christian majority!
Here's a little secret I can let you in on, Sue: You don't get to be "more equal" than everyone else. You don't get to have the privilege of including your own personal wacky religious rituals in public meetings. Period. The end. Yes, yes, even if you have wink-wink, nod-nodded at it for 10 years. Just because you and your fellow Christian theocrats have been breaking the law for ten years does not magically make it legal.
Also, your tut-tutting at Mrs. Lewis was truly despicable. She is the one trying to get you to follow the law - YOU are the one breaking the law.
For the sake of our Constitution, I sincerely hope the citizens of your school district vote you out at the next election.
So, how many more kids have to die in the name of religious belief?
GLADSTONE, Oregon (AP) -- Authorities say a teenager from a faith-healing family died from an illness that could have been easily treated, just a few months after a toddler cousin of his died in a case that has led to criminal charges.
Tuesday's death of 16-year-old Neil Beagley, however, may not be a crime because Oregon law allows minors 14 and older to decide for themselves whether to accept medical treatment.
"All of the interviews from last night are that he did in fact refuse treatment," police Sgt. Lynne Benton said Wednesday. "Unless we can disprove that, charges probably won't be filed in this case."
An autopsy Wednesday showed Beagley died of heart failure caused by a urinary tract blockage.
A urinary tract blockage which could have been corrected easily using modern medical science. But of course that shows a 'lack of faith' in the Sky Daddy. Nevermind that the Sky Daddy showed a lack of competency in keeping Neil alive, though.