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‘Tis the Season to Talk about Religion – Believe It or Not

I just had an interesting conversation about religion with a guy working at my house.

He overheard my end of a phone call with another secular activist about a church-state violation. When I hung up he asked if those were the kinds of cases I take. He knows I’m a lawyer.

“Tis the season for violations of the separation of church and state,” I said lightly, not sure how much he might want to explore the subject or what his feelings might be on it. I’m wary when people I don’t know well bring up the topic of religion. The conversation could go well or it could get very uncomfortable very fast.

“Church and state ought to be completely separate,” he said, “especially in schools when kids are pretty much forced to go along with whatever the class is doing.”

jefferson-separation-of-church-and-state - no religion

 

I couldn’t agree more. It’s not fair to non-Christian schoolchildren to be told by their teachers what to believe about Christmas, which they may or may not celebrate for any number of reasons. For that matter, there are Christian children who don’t celebrate Christmas. There are non-Christians who do celebrate Christmas for reasons other than religion. If a child is doing religion “wrong,” the proper place for correction is home or their place of worship, not a public school.

secular christmas - religion comes in different guises this season

 

One thing led to another, and as the conversation developed he told me he had lots of questions, because the whole “god” thing just didn’t make sense to him. I told him about a certain hissy fit I threw over religion when I was a kid. It has never made sense to me, either.

Then he said that he goes to church, but he doesn’t buy everything the preacher says. Who does? I wonder.

We talked about the notion of a prime mover. I strongly suspect that Aristotle was not the first person to wrestle with the notion of what it was that tipped the first domino and set the whole universe into motion. My response to the prime mover concept is, “Okay, but what made the first mover move? Even St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest philosophers Christendom ever produced, ultimately said that God’s existence had to be taken on faith because there was no proof.

My new friend said he thought it was safer to believe, because what if he’s wrong?

Calvin's wager about Santa. It's the same as Pascal's.

 

“You’ve just described Pascal’s Wager,” I told him. If his preferred deity is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, why won’t his god know about his doubts? If what he outwardly professed conflicted with what his logical processes and his gut told him, wouldn’t that sort of god-the god our culture is typically familiar with-have a clue?

And furthermore, what if the religion he placed his bet on wasn’t the right one? What if there is some other god that really controls it all? What if there are a lot of gods who control by committee? What if those gods really couldn’t care less what people do – isn’t that the more likely scenario?

Then we talked about using the scientific method to explain things that were only explained in the past by “God did it.” I explained the concept of the God of the Gaps, and how that God keeps getting smaller and smaller with every new discovery and addition to scientific knowledge.

 

god of the gaps - religion plugs holes

 

Finally he confided that he didn’t believe in the Abrahamic god, but he would never admit that to his wife. And, ultimately, that’s why he goes to church.

There are so many of us out there, closeted and questioning.

Come out, come out, wherever you are.

On Orlando’s LGBTQ Victims

LGBTQ club Pulse's Facebook profile picture

LGBTQ people were massacred in Orlando.

Everywhere we look we seem to see the question, “Why?”

If we can’t see the answer to that question, we must not be awake.

The terrorist attacked a particular set of people in their safe place. For some of the victims, Pulse may have been the only place where they could be themselves. It may have been the only place they could hold hands in public with someone they loved.  It may have been the only place they could gather with others who truly “got” them, the only place they could celebrate themselves with full acknowledgment of a deeply important, integral, indivisible aspect of themselves. Some of the victims were outed as gay to their families because of where they were when they died so senselessly.

Don’t deny the obvious: this was an attack against LGBTQ people.

First and foremost, they were people. They faced and overcame challenges, they gave joy to other people, they loved and were loved by their families and friends. But their sexual orientation was the reason they went to Pulse Saturday night. Anderson Cooper, himself a gay man, was exactly the right person to tell us about the victims.  I watched Cooper’s choked-up tribute to the dead through my own tears.  The Orlando Sentinel has extended features on each and every one of the dead victims.

To say that this attack wasn’t an attack directed at LGBTQ people is to deny the obvious.

It was a deliberate attack on LGBTQ people in an LGBTQ venue. The attacker’s father said he may have been motivated because he saw men kissing.

To say “we are all victims” of this massacre minimizes the effect that hate speech, rigid religionists of various stripes, and homophobic political rhetoric has on a sizable portion of our population. This was a terroristic hate crime, plain and simple.

It was done by an American on American soil, with an automatic assault weapon legally obtained in America.

Politicians and news organizations have a responsibility to call this incident what it was. Not all of them have done so. Sky News did such a poor job of accepting this responsibility that the gay journalist being interviewed walked off the set in disgust.  Donald Trump used the massacre in Orlando to grandstand and to inflame his base’s bigotry toward Muslims in general.

A friend of mine, a gay man who has dealt with being demonized and insulted by American society and the uber-Christian elements of the Southern culture we live in, said it beautifully:

Things that piss me off: Folks saying “Oh, don’t politicize this tragedy. We shouldn’t be calling them LGBTQ Americans; they’re just Americans like everyone else.”

How motherfucking magnanimous of you.

For the past few years (and much longer than that) you’ve treated us as second-class citizens and politicized the everloving shit out of us when we wanted to take a piss or buy a cake for our weddings (that you rallied against and weren’t even invited to). You’ve put our kids under microscopes and our jobs on the line. You’ve called us every disgusting thing in the book to rally up your hateful little fan clubs from your bully pulpits and in the process, you have blamed us for every goddamn natural disaster known to man.

You’ve told us to our faces and on the airwaves and Internet that we deserve to be murdered, or to be raped, or to die of horrific diseases, or to just kill ourselves and above else that we needed to just get the hell out of YOUR country. In the past year you’ve filed over two HUNDRED bills into the laws of our land to tell us that we’re NOT like you and that we need to “know our place”.

And NOW we’re “just” Americans – now that some window-licking dipshit took your words seriously and the whole world sees exactly what you’ve advocated all this time?

Where the fuck was this solidarity before now? Did you just now find some goddamn backbone? Is it this tragedy that finally caused you to drop a set? Little remorse for realizing that WE reap what YOU sow?

I doubt it. You just don’t like that it’s, for five minutes, not all about your cushy little faux-victimized existence.

You can be as offended as you want by my existence, but let me be perfectly clear: you don’t get to make us visible only when you need a convenient bogeyman and pretend we don’t exist when we’re dead.

We’re real. We exist. We don’t go away the instant you turn your attention elsewhere. We don’t sit on the shelf until you’re ready to play with us. We have lives of our own that don’t revolve around what’s convenient for you. And if you don’t like it, that’s tough shit.

We’ve been on this planet a lot longer than you, and we’ll still be around long after you’re dust and forgotten, so if you don’t want to see us in the news, then how about you quit putting us in the motherfucking news to begin with.

OK. I feel better. Proceed with your day. Sparkles and sunshine and shit.

We cannot act surprised that this massacre happened. We cannot ignore our homegrown homophobia or our lack of responsible action to prevent these attacks from happening. Politicians – officials we elected – have publicly engaged in actions that hurt LGBTQ people as a class. (I’m looking hard at you, North Carolina.) Our religious leaders – Christian and Muslim alike – excoriate them and relegate them to a category of subhumans not entitled to the same rights as straight people. Our culture marginalizes the needs and dignity of LGBTQ people. The number of anti-LGBTQ hate groups is on the rise in this country.  Hate is hate regardless of faith.

The massacre at Pulse was not an Islamist attack on America. It was a calculated attack on LGBTQ people, perhaps by someone whose brain was polluted with anti-gay bigotry as a result of his religion but also perhaps by the American culture that surrounded him his entire life. He didn’t have to be Muslim. There are Christians in our society who say the same things, feel the same way as did this perpetrator.

This was not an attack on America.

This was an attack by an American on particular people in a particular venue.

It was an attack that came from a place of hate.

This was an attack directed at LGBTQ people. Don’t deny the obvious.

Mike Huckabee Displays Idiotic Christian Arrogance Again

Mike Huckabee was on the Daily Show again last night. He’s hawking his new book, but naturally he didn’t much talk about his book.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Mike Huckabee Extended Interview Pt. 1
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Mike Huckabee Extended Interview Pt. 2
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

“Why does anybody have to be automatically anything other than what they truly believe?” Huckabee asked Stewart in the first part of the interview (6:14). At that point, he was talking about letting black conservatives be conservative without calling them “pawns,” or worse. A good question, which begs the question put to him in the second segment of the interview: why do Christians who don’t believe what their fundamentalist preachers tell them to believe have to be consigned to the fires of hell?

Yes, the second segment of the interview is what’s really important.

Stewart started the second segment by asking, “When [conservatives] keep demonizing these groups, whether it be single women, black people, illegal immigrants, it makes it impossible to work with them as a collaboration. Why would you collaborate with evil people? And when you convince them that they’re evil, why work with them?”

Unfortunately, this question never got answered. Huckabee denied demonizing these people, and truthfully, he probably has not demonized most of them himself. His network and his party certainly have, though he won’t speak for either of those entities. Now, Huckabee has demonized the natures of gay people, but Stewart did not take him to task for that.

Instead, Stewart segued into an abbreviated version of the despicable two minute commercial Huckabee narrated for the Christian Right just before the election. You know the one.

In it, Huckabee quotes Psalm 127:1 and says that “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” He then calls certain things “not negotiable:”

  • The right to life from conception to natural death
  • Marriage should be reinforced, not be defined
  • It is an egregious violation of our cherished principle of religious liberty for the government to force the church to buy the kind of insurance that leads to the taking of innocent human life

Against a backdrop of flames, Rev. Huckabee goes on to say that “Your vote will be recorded for eternity.” He asks, “Will you vote the values that will stand the test of fire?”

This commercial is so incredibly offensive on so many levels my stomach still churns with anger to watch it, and the election is over and done with.

Huckabee actually claimed that this commercial did not attempt to send the message that if Christians voted for the Democrats they would go to hell – unless they were biblically illiterate. I really cannot imagine how that wasn’t the message, since I don’t even believe in hell and that’s the clear message I got from it – and I’ve read and studied the Bible extensively. “Oh, no!” exclaims Huckabee. “If they know 1 Corinthians 10, they will know!” Then he claimed that 1 Corinthians 10 was about being tested in the fires of a forge, and coming out stronger or some such.

For the biblically illiterate, let me explain 1 Corinthians 10. There is not one word about forges or fire. It’s all about not worshipping false gods and not participating in idolatry. We all know that since there is only one true god, so there can’t be any other gods, no matter how true their own believers believe them to be, and no matter how false those idolaters believe the one true god to be. Frankly, the arrogance of the “one true god” thing just staggers me, especially when one considers that the adherents of the Abrahamic religions have no better proof of their god than the adherents of any other religion.

But let’s look at 1 Corinthians 10:29, which asks, “Why should my liberty be judged by someone else’s conscience?”

Why, indeed, Reverend Huckabee? Why should my freedom be judged by your conscience? You arrogant twit, I can cherry-pick Bible verses just as well as you can.

I think the Good Reverend Huckabee was actually referring to 1 Corinthians 3:13, which more or less says what Huckabee claimed this commercial meant to say, just without the forge part. Because that’s totally not in there. And the part about judgement day, and therefore hell, definitely is in that particular passage.

Again, this is what pisses me off about Christians. They want to spew their Bible at me, but then I have to correct them – even the supposedly learned ones – because they don’t get it right. If they want to beat me up with their scripture, they should at least know their stupid scripture.

Of course, maybe he really meant 1 Peter 1:7, or 2 Peter 3:7, or some other passage that refers to fire but not hell, even though most of the passages I find pretty much equate testing by fire with the Judgment Day and hell. So Huckabee’s protests that the reference to fire doesn’t also refer to Hell or Judgment hold about as much water as that colander I used to strain my spaghetti last night.

Let’s examine the the three points of that disgusting commercial.

The right to life from conception to natural death

Nowhere in the Bible does any religious authority, real or imagined, claim that life begins at the moment of conception. I’d cite verses where it says so, but there aren’t any.

Let’s face it: The Biblical God is not pro-life. He advocates and permits child murder, infanticide, child abuse, and, yes, abortion.  Fundamentalist Christians rely on such passages as “thou shall not kill” Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17 (one of the commandments), and  If men strive and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no misfortune follow, he shall be surely punished according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.And if any misfortune follow, then thou shalt give life for life,eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Exodus 21:22-24. Although the Exodus passage seems to be a favorite among the anti-choice crowd, I would point out that the harm mentioned in it is harm to the woman, not to the aborted or miscarried fetus.

God’s favored prophets prayed for abortions. Don’t believe me? Read Hosea 9:11-16. This same favored prophet also advocated ripping the fetuses out of the wombs of pregnant women in Hosea 13:16, something the God-favored King Menahem of the Israelites proudly did in 2 Kings 15:16, too. There’s even a ritual to induce an abortion in a faithless wife in Numbers 5:21 (presumably done instead of stoning her, although when stoning and when abortion is the proper course of action, the Bible doesn’t say).

So God is definitely not pro-life, at least for fetuses. But what about hastening death? Apparently the fundamentalist Christians also don’t like euthanasia, mercy-killing, or assisted suicide, either. They want people to suffer. This is where compassion gets thrown to the wind by these Christians. Suicide is tantamount to murder, in their eyes.

The Bible reports several suicides (Ahithophel; Saul and his armor-bearer; Samson; Zimri, who was king of Israel for only seven days; and Judas Iscariot) and men who want to be stricken dead (Moses, the prophet Elijah, and Jonah – twice) but nowhere in the Bible does it condemn them for that. The Bible also reports mercy killings, without reference to judgment, except in the case of the Amalekite who lied to David about killing Saul. Saul himself was not condemned for asking to die. Abimelech begged his armor-carrying servant to kill him in Judges 9:52-54, because he lost a battle and could not bear the indignity of his inevitable murder at the hands of (gasp!) women. There was no judgment attached to Abimelech’s death.

So, there does not seem to be a problem with euthanasia, either. Huckabee’s first point fails, on both counts.

Marriage should be reinforced, not be defined

This one is so easy it’s almost a no-brainer. I cannot grasp why these wackjob Christians think that the Bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Jon Stewart jumped on this pretty fast, pointing out that the biblical definition of marriage is polygamy. Although Huckabee tried to say it isn’t, he cited no biblical authority for his position other than the Adam and Eve story. Lots of biblical marriages came after that one. Furthermore, it’s not real clear that Adam and Eve ever actually tied the knot. They sort of hooked up because of the dearth of others of their same species to choose from, and apparently shacked up, never going that extra step of committing to each other monogamously. They had no other options but bestiality.

So it stands to reason that yes, marriage could stand to be defined. But to say it’s biblical marriage really leaves the door wide open.

Because if you let your servant get married, and he leaves your employment, his wife and children are yours unless the servant agrees to stay and have his ear bored through with an awl. (Exodus 21:6) I’m not clear whether this means the servant’s earlobe gets pierced, or if his eardrum gets pierced. Either way, it’s pretty barbaric. But, that’s one definition of Biblical marriage.

Exodus 21:10 reminds men who take second wives that they can’t neglect the first one. Oops, Mr. Huckabee. Guess there’s a new definition of biblical marriage implied here.

Deuteronomy 22 is a great place to look for definitions of marriage. I like the one where the guy marries the woman and decides he doesn’t like her. If her father can’t then produce bloody sheets proving that she was a virgin at the time of the wedding, well, she gets stoned to death. What a sweet marriage that makes.

One of my favorite definitions of marriage is the rapist and his virgin victim. Yeah, Deuteronomy 22:28-30 is all about that.

Now, Paul is not real keen on marriage at all. Despite the fact that the species will disappear without it, sex is gross, and women are … well, Paul’s misogyny is another issue altogether. Paul thought everyone ought to have a spouse, though, if they really want sex, whether or not he could fathom why they’d want it. My guess is that Paul was so undesirable he never got laid, and therefore had no idea what he was missing.

And that doesn’t count all the various marriages in the Bible that involved multiple wives, concubines, and slaves. Heck, Abraham had a wife (Sarah), his wife’s slave (Hagar), another wife (Keturah), and an unknown number of secondary wives.

Then his grandson Jacob had two sister-wives (Rachel and Leah), and two servants of his wives (Zilpah and Bilhah).

Solomon had 700 wives and 300 secondary wives, in addition to the Queen of Sheba. That’s 1001, for those of you who aren’t good with math.

And the list goes on.

It is an egregious violation of our cherished principle of religious liberty for the government to force the church to buy the kind of insurance that leads to the taking of innocent human life.

Right.  Do I really have to explain this?

Most people in the United States who are lucky enough to have health insurance coverage have it because their employer provides it. If their employer did not provide it, health insurance would be prohibitively expensive. Therefore, people are generally forced to accept whatever health insurance is offered through work, unless they are wealthy enough to afford it on their own – which most people are not.

Limiting your employee’s health insurance options based on your own religious beliefs, whether or not your employee shares your religious beliefs, is totally not forcing your religion on them. (/Sarcasm)

Until there is a single-payer system, or until health insurance is decoupled from employment and made affordable, employers are in a position to unfairly force their religious beliefs on their employees.

It is an egregious violation of our cherished principle of religious liberty for anyone to limit our access to health care based on religious beliefs we do not hold. If the government permits this, the government is complicit in the establishment of religion.

Therefore…

Stewart nailed him on the thinly disguised guilt trip the Huckster attempted to foist on good believing Christians. The commercial was pro-life and homophobic, and it essentially told Christian voters, with the appropriate imagery of their religion of intimidation and threat, that if they were not also pro-life and homophobic, they would burn for all eternity. Sweet message, that.

Among the most disturbing things about these Christians who want to impose their Bible on the rest of us are:

  1. For a number of reasons, foremost among them its bizarre contradictions, we don’t believe their Bible to be reliable, and therefore object to basing our laws on it;
  2. Their Bible contravenes proven science;
  3. We do not agree that some of the crazy shit they think is good is actually, well, good;
  4. As a foundational document, their Bible is inconsistent, violent, bigoted, misogynistic, and homicidal, and none of those things are acceptable in modern society;
  5. If they cherry-pick only the “good parts” of the Bible to apply to modern life, we have to question why, if so much of it is dispensable, they consider it to be a legitimate authority;
  6. Why they think it is acceptable to force their dogma on people who do not accept their dogma.

Dissenting minorities and minorities representing different demographics will always need protection from the will of the majority. And right now the majority seem to be batshit Christians, who want to impose their will on the rest of us.

 

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