The name is not the problem

When I was young there were still a fair number of fundamentalist Christian churches around, and by that I mean churches that were proud to be fundamentalist and often even used the term “fundamentalist” as part of the name of their church. To them, fundamentalist meant they had abandoned the accumulated centuries of man-made traditions, and gotten back to the fundamentals of the faith. They had separated the wheat from the chaff, the gold from the ore, the essentials from the distractions. And they were proud of it.

As time went on, though, these groups became famous for other things: narrow-mindedness, judgmentalism, dogmatism, and ignorance. The term “fundamentalist” started accumulating negative connotations, and being linked to stereotypical attitudes and behaviors. Believers grew reluctant to identify themselves as fundamentalists, and wanted to be known as evangelicals instead. Evangelicals, you see, were the ones who understood what was really important about the faith. They wanted to get away from all this divisiveness and denominationalism, and go back to what was truly important about the faith.

As a young believer, I was glad I was an evangelical rather than a fundamentalist. Fundamentalism was bad. Fundamentalists did bad things and had bad attitudes. But you know what? As time went on, I realized that the evangelicals were doing the same things and promoting the same attitudes. Narrow-mindedness. Judgmentalism. Dogmatism. And a really, really proud and defiant ignorance. They weren’t called fundamentalists any more, but they were still doing the same behaviors and preaching the same attitudes, and thus acquiring the same stigma.

What I learned from that experience is that, in the long term, changing the name does no good if the underlying attitudes and behaviors don’t change with it. It happened with fundamentalism and with evangelicalism, and now it’s happening with plain old bigotry.

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Why can’t conservatives discriminate too?

Writing for, Christian apologist Frank Turek asks, “Can Bruce Springsteen Refuse to Play a Gay Wedding?”

I agree with Bruce Springsteen who cancelled his concert in my adopted home state of North Carolina because he objected to HB2 (the bathroom law). I also agree with Paypal, which cancelled their plans to expand in Charlotte because they think the law is “discriminatory.” Why? Because I believe that performers and businesses have every right not to do business with whom they disagree. In other words, they have the right to discriminate against the people of North Carolina.

But if liberals can deny services to people with whom they disagree, then why can’t conservatives?

And while we’re at it, why can’t you peel an apple the same way you peel an orange? Life is just so darn unfair!

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The Case of the Exploding Wedding Cake

A Michigan TV station is reporting that a local cake decorator is taking some heat after she backed out of a deal to decorate a cake for what she later discovered was a gay wedding.

A recent status update by Bake It U.P. Cakes explains that the business denied services to a same-sex couple after it was commissioned to decorate a cake for an upcoming wedding. The decorator was unaware it was for a same-sex couple, and as soon as she found out, the business backed out of the transaction. The post states, “This has nothing to do with the person, or the lifestyle they choose. This is about me not participating in the event… I have nothing against this person for their choice in lifestyle. If this person had come to me for any other occasion and needed a cake I would have gladly made one for him.”

Public response was immediate and negative.

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When to say no

If you’re not a software developer, you may have missed it, but there’s been a huge outcry recently in the world of functional programming, about a conference called LambdaConf. The problem is not the conference itself, but the fact that one of the papers selected for presentation turns out to be the work of a well-known racist whose online postings have argued that blacks are naturally suitable for slavery. In fact, this same person submitted a similar paper to an earlier conference called Strange Loop, who initially accepted it, and then rejected it after they found out who the author was. The LambdaConf organizers were familiar with that incident, and decided not to reject the speaker, on free speech grounds, as long as he agreed to abide by the conference Code of Conduct while in attendance.

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Faith under pressure

I’ve been an atheist for a good while now, but for the first 40-some years of my life I was an old-fashioned American Christian. It’s where I developed my original sense of what kind of place the world was, and what the difference is between right and wrong. And I think that’s why part of me is continually astonished by the continual rabid lust Christians have for persecuting people who are different in harmless ways.

It’s as though all the civil rights advances of the past 80 years have been putting the Christian faith under more and more pressure by denying them an outlet for their desire to hurt people. And now, with a black guy in the White House, and gay couples being allowed the same privileges as heterosexual couples, believers have had enough.

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Bonehead NC legislators make women’s restrooms more accessible to men

Once upon a time in North Carolina, if you saw a man going into a women’s restroom, you had good reasons to be suspicious, and likely call the police. But now, in a bold move whose brilliance can only be compared to Wile E. Coyote’s decision to use nitroglycerin in the fuel tank of his Rocket-Powered Road Runner Catcher, a gang of conservative legislators, with the avid assistance of the governor, has railroaded through a law requiring trans men to use the women’s facilities. (Nor is that the only serious flaw in this badly-botched attempt at persecuting a harmless minority!) You read that right: this new law requires certain men to use the ladies room.

Now, people capable of engaging in rational thought for more that one or two seconds at a time will immediately realize that trans men look no different than any other men, in most cases. By requiring trans men to use the ladies room, the idiots in the NC state government have given all men a plausible excuse for being in the ladies room. They don’t even need to pretend to be trans. And if a real cis-het rapist were to decide to take advantage of the state government’s stupidity, all he would need to do is make sure to select his targets carefully, and only invade the rest room when the woman there would be unlikely to challenge his presence until it was too late. And thanks to the NC governor and his knuckle-dragging henchmen, there is now a legitimate opportunity for him to do so.

You know what? I take back what I said. Wile E. Coyote is WAY smarter than these Stone Age “geniuses.”

You first

Panicked politicos, in Washington and elsewhere, are using the Paris attacks to push for even greater and more invasive government surveillance of individuals. They’re blaming encryption and other privacy measures for “allowing” ISIS terrorists to coordinate their attacks undetected. They want to end the technology that makes privacy possible, and leave everyone effectively naked to Big Brother’s all-seeing eye.

So I tell you what. You say it’s dangerous to let people have secrets, Mr. Politico? Let’s start with yours then. You want to put an end to dangerous secrets, let’s start by ending this ridiculous notion of “state secrets.” A corrupt government has far more power to do harm than any individual. If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you shouldn’t have anything to hide, amirite? What are you not telling us about your own contributions to the rise of ISIS? What flaws and faults are you hiding that will continue to endanger us because you prevent us from knowing you have them? What crimes are you committing, in the dark, that are going to come back to bite us?

Your secrets are far more dangerous than ours, and our privacy is far more vital to liberty than the government’s. You want to howl for an end to secrets, knock yourself out. But if it comes time to surrender someone’s privacy, you go first.

The other anti-Semitism

Just a quick reminder: the term “Semitic” refers to an ethnic group of Middle Eastern peoples that includes Jews, Arabs, and a number of others. It is just as anti-Semitic to be prejudiced against Palestinians as it is to be prejudiced against Jews. This puts Israel in the ironic position of being one of the most violently anti-Semitic nations on earth.


Some of you may have heard that the Pope made a special visit to Kim Davis during his recent trip to the US—which apparently you weren’t supposed to do, or at least the Vatican is somewhat chagrined that you did. By way of damage control, they’ve released a special statement announcing that the Pope’s visit to Davis should not be seen as indicating that he supports her. They also announced this morning that they’re kicking out a senior priest because he publicly admits being gay.

So just to clarify the Vatican’s press release, the Pope absolutely does support Davis. They just don’t want people to see it.