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May 06 2009

Not even pretending anymore

As most of you probably are aware, the confirmation (or not) of Don McLeroy as chair of the Texas SBOE is pending. The SBOE is now officially a nationwide laughingstock, first with Conan O’Brien and then Bill Maher finding plenty of fodder for humor in the board’s idiocy ever since it’s been a country club for fundagelical numbskulls who believe the Earth was created more recently than dogs were domesticated.

Once the comedy gets all the way around to the likes of Dane Cook, you’ll know Texas’ reputation has bottomed out.

The Texas Freedom Network is urging every Texas resident to contact their state senators to urge them to vote against McLeroy’s confirmation. I’m nervous about this, particularly as my state senator here in Austin is loyal Republican Jeff Wentworth. But I plan to contact him anyway. You should do the same if you’re a rational Texan. Find out who represents you here.

In the meantime, fellow SBOE member Ken Mercer — the guy who keeps bringing up things like Piltdown Man — has rallied to his buddy’s defense. And sure enough, he’s playing the good old Christian Persecution Card. I mean, what else would Mercer be doing when his column has such a whiny title as “Christians Need Not Apply.” Seriously, that little card is starting to look more than a little worn and dog-eared, isn’t it?

By now, reading the angsty rants of fundamentalists scorned is a thoroughly tiresome exercise, inspiring little more than a bemused shaking of the head. But it’s worth noting that guys like Mercer are no longer even pretending not to be hypocrites any more. As the TFN blog points out, they want it both ways. They repeatedly claim (blatantly lying, of course) that their positions as board members are not in any way motivated by their religious beliefs, or the desire to pander to voters that share them. But in the same breath, if their policies and activities as board members are criticized at all, then it’s back to the old “Oh noes I is pursekuted becos I haz the Krischianity!!!!1!one!” So suddenly, the reason to support and defend McLeroy has everything to do with this…

“I wanted to write to you [McLeroy] and express my sincerest appreciation to you for having the courage to stand by your convictions during your recent hearing. It is unfortunately rare, today, to see anyone willing to clearly and calmly state and stand by their Christian beliefs, particularly in the face of abuse such as what you took.”

…even though we’re expected to go on believing that those Christian beliefs Mac boldly stands by do not in any way influence his work as chairman of the SBOE. As cons go, that ain’t very smooth, fundies.

The voting on this issue will be extremely partisan, people. Today the House voted down HB 710, which would have subjected the SBOE to periodic review by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. All but one Republican voted against this common-sense bill, which would not have stripped any authority from the SBOE at all. Even simple oversight strikes fear into the hearts of the Republicans and their Christian Right masters, it would seem.

Finally, I love this little quip from the TFN blog, in response to Mercer’s comparing McLeroy’s “persecution” to that we’re supposed to think is being suffered by homophobic pageant queen Carrie Prejean.

…Mercer deserves credit for coming up with the most apt comparison to date for the level of intellectual debate at the Texas SBOE — a beauty pageant. The uninformed, vapid discourse at the board resembles nothing so much as a room full of beauty pageant contestants confidently asserting opinions on politics or world affairs. And both ellicit similar snickers and groans from the audience.

Ouch! Come on, no need to harsh on the pageant girls! They’re a MENSA gathering compared to the SBOE. And cuter too!

29 comments

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  1. 1
    Lexrst

    Martin – Just wanted to point out that John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison are the U.S. Senators for Texas – they aren’t senators in the Texas Senate… you might check that link you posted for finding who represents you again… :)-Lexrst

  2. 2
    NAL

    He must have fixed the link because it lists:Texas U.S. SenatorsTexas U.S. RepresentativesTexas State SenatorTexas State RepresentativesTexas State Board of Education MemberI don’t think Carrie Prejean is attractive. She looks weird.

  3. 3
    Lexrst

    NAL- The link works fine, it’s just that Martin mistakenly posted that since he lives in Austin, his State Senators were Cornyn and Hutchinson. They are, of course, his US Senators, not State Senators.

  4. 4
    Martin

    Fixed it. Brain fart. Guess I could qualify for a job at the SBOE now!

  5. 5
    Lexrst

    Martin – I don’t know if you’d qualify. You have a brain that can occasionally fart. I don’t think Mcleroy has the cranial material necessary to produce cerebral flatulence…

  6. 6
    garneasada

    Is there a good resource where I can find how my state senator voted on a particular bill?

  7. 7
    cipher

    I sent a link to this post to a friend who hails form Texas, but now lives here in godless liberal Boston. I thought I’d share his remarks:The state’s always had its fill of idiots, but I’ve never seen a time when so many have overrun public discourse and set policy. There’s been a long history of electing clods like G.W.Bush to high office (and usually, they stay contained in Texas, but look what happened!) but I’ve never seen so many in office across all different levels of governmental, educational (shudder) and even cultural organizations.Somebody must have spiked the water supply with a special kind of dumbass fluoride!andSad, really. We had some of the savviest politicians and political thinkers in people like Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Kathy Whitmire; have produced some fine writers; McMurtry, Vasser Miller, Wm Prescott Webb, Bruce Sterling; musicians out the wazoo and some damn fine artists. But what Texas will be remembered for is blustery bullshit bigotry and anti-intellectualism of the most idiotic kind.

  8. 8
    Barnetto

    I gave my representatives a call. But being an Austin resident, its not my representatives that are the problem. All I could really do was ask their positions and commend them for their good work.Donna Howard is my state rep and, now I’m forgetting, either the sunset bill or the transfer of the permanent school fund is her bill. I suppose I could send her a campaign donation the next time we’ve an election. Any idea if its okay to send campaign donations to people who aren’t your representatives? I asked Kirk Watson’s representative what I could do to help out on this issue and they directed me to the Texas Freedom Network. I’m trying to think what else I could do to help out but I’m stuck…how do you change the vote of reps if you’re not one of their constituents, if they are out their doing their best to represent the will of their constituents?

  9. 9
    DavidCT

    @ BarnettoThis past year I supported my friend Hal Bidlack who was running for congress in CO while I still live in Maine. It seemed that if he had been elected everyone in the country would have been better off. I think the same thing would apply to helping to get the best people elected to posts in Texas. This would be particularly true if the person who is best for your district has a “snowball in hell” problem and someone in another district has a chance.

  10. 10
    Guillaume

    This is very depressing. How come the most powerful nation on Earth fell so low? I simply can’t get it.

  11. 11
    Ing

    “How come the most powerful nation on Earth fell so low? I simply can’t get it.”From Christianity? Well my first question is, do you mean Rome or America?

  12. 12
    Guillaume

    It didn’t help the Romans either (although one could debate abouit the real impact of Christianity in the fall of Rome), but I was wondering about America. And thinking about it, the brand of Christianity that is being practised in the US would actually seem too strict and narrow-minded from a late Antiquity or medieval perspective (I know a thing or two about it, I am a medievalist). Creationism is a twisted road Christianity took relatively recently in its history, therefore the fundies are literally more primitive than Christians from more than 1000 years ago. Baffling.

  13. 13
    cipher

    therefore the fundies are literally more primitive than Christians from more than 1000 years agoGuillaume,Seriously? From the perspective of a medieval scholar, you really think this is the case?I always tell liberal Christians that, while fundamentalism as a movement is only a century old, the basic beliefs of today’s fundamentalists – substitutionary atonement, salvific exclusivism with eternal damnation for everyone outside of the fold – are the same as those of most Christians for most of the past 2,000 years. Would you disagree with this?

  14. 14
    Guillaume

    I do not disagree with this, I am just saying that medieval Christian scholars did not believe in the Genesis as literally true. They obviously thought it had a spiritual truth, but not a factual truth. And in their eyes only God could understand the Bible fully, men could only speculate. They were much more open minded than todays fundies, and were actually studying their holy book.

  15. 15
    Guillaume

    Oh, and cipher, I just want to avoid any ambiguity: I am not saying that people of this time did not have their share of flaws and I am not idealising the time period. I am merely saying that there was among educated Christians more intellectual honesty than now, at least in regards of interpreting the Bible. Origen (I think) went as far as saying that if one thought that God created man like it is written in the Genesis, that person was utterly ignorant. But maybe it just meant that there were more educated Christians then than now.

  16. 16
    Ing

    “But maybe it just meant that there were more educated Christians then than now.”Due to the lack of printing press and the way education worked then I think it’s more accurate to say that ONLY Christians were educated. Laity didn’t get their hands on the bible, the theology was in the hands of either the learned or the political (who were also often the learned). There wasn’t the democratic evangelicalism where any Joe the Plumber is seen to be as knowledgeable and fluent in theology as a scholar.

  17. 17
    Barnetto

    I called Lt Gov Dewhurt’s office to push them to put the Permanent school fund bill in committee. He’s holding it up right now (so says TFN website).I had a friend once who worked in some government offices and her job was to just write support/not support for issues when people called in. They look at the number of supporters an issue has, but not necessarily the quality of the arguments.Call, it takes less than 5 minutes.

  18. 18
    anton

    I have been compelled to create some Satirical Postings that I hope eventually come true. My latest relates to the new “country” of Texberta. If it comes true most of our problems will cease to exist.http://www.withoutgods.net/2009-05-8-TEXBERTA-1.htm

  19. 19
    cipher

    Origen (I think) went as far as saying that if one thought that God created man like it is written in the Genesis, that person was utterly ignorant.Origen is a good example of what I’m talking about. I believe he advocated a belief in universal redemption. So what did they do? The proscribed him as a heretic.

  20. 20
    Archaneus

    I think the impression that Christianity was more sophisticated in the past is perhaps a consequence of the rate of survival of documents combined with lower education in the general populace. You get writings by the well-educated, sophisticated believers filtering down through time and all the masses that couldn’t write and the less-sophisticated writer’s points of view fall to the wayside.

  21. 21
    cipher

    And, Guillaume, as I type this, I’m watching an episode of NOVA entitled, Cracking the Maya Code, about the deciphering of Mayan glyphs. It took us so long and was such a difficult job because the priest in charge of converting the Maya destroyed as much of their written material as he could get his hands on. In addition, he tortured and executed them for crimes of “devil worship”. And this is just one example.All right, so perhaps you had a few educated priests who weren’t strict literalists. I still maintain that the vast majority of Christians, for most of the past two millennia, held the same basic beliefs as today’s idiot fundamentalists – who, I’m quite certain, would be behaving in much the same way as their predecessors if given the opportunity. Luther claimed it was permissible to torture nonbelievers, as it was appropriate to treat them in this life as God would treat them in the next. Today, the demographic group most in favor of the use of torture is that of white evangelicals.”Plus ca change… ”

  22. 22
    Guillaume

    @cipher-Origen, like many hérésiarques, was still very influential in the Church. I am not saying that there were no dogmatic people, obviously they were many, but that there was also intellectuals and thinkers, which voice was then heard, at least among scholars. As Ing said, educated people were believers then. Religion had nothing to do with it, as everybody was religious to a degree or another, educated or not, but at least it meant that unlike now, total idiots ignorant of their own faith did not preach. Not as often anyway. Anyway, I was talking about the way medieval thinkers interpreted the Genesis, not their practice of Christian moral. They were not, unlike the fundies now, literalists, as they did not considered the Bible to be a literal account of what happened (not when it concerned the Genesis anyway). Hence they were more educated and less dogmatic than today’s preachers.And about what you said about the Mayas, I don’t want to sound anal, but that happened in the Renaissance. I was talking about the medieval period.

  23. 23
    cipher

    And about what you said about the Mayas, I don’t want to sound anal, but that happened in the Renaissance. I was talking about the medieval period.Yes, I realize that. It was just an example that happened to be at hand (and it wasn’t all that long after the “official” end of the Middle Ages). Are you arguing that things got worse during the Renaissance? In any case, it doesn’t detract from my point. As I said – fine, so there were a few educated priests who weren’t strict literalists, and the ignorant masses didn’t preach. That isn’t really the point. The point is that the underlying belief structure hasn’t changed, and it’s nothing to be proud of.

  24. 24
    Guillaume

    Well, wether or not things got worse in Renaissance is debatable. And when you said that it was not long after Middles Ages, keep in mind that the medieval period lasted a thousand year. Within the period of time, things changed tremendously, and of course things progressed. We owe the people from that time many inventions and discoveries, as well as the existence of universities. Anyway, what I wanted to stress is that these people valued knowledge, the pursuit of knowledge and intellectual debates. It was a Catholic priest who translated Al-Ghazali, even though Al-Ghazali challenged the divinity of Jesus. Many monks became astronomers. They did not know what we know about biology, physics, chemistry, yet they valued education and research. This attitude is now absolutely absent from the vocal Christians who now, even though we have proof of evolution, would still rather believe in the literal truth of an old book. Something people a thousand years ago, with less information about the world we live in did not.

  25. 25
    cipher

    Yes, but the priest who translated Al_Ghazali believed Al-Ghazali was going to hell!I really don’t understand what it is you’re trying to argue. You aren’t invalidating my point. Fine, there were a few priests who were intellectuals. So? They still reveled in the fact that billions of their human siblings would be tortured for all of eternity. I’m going to put this very crudely: Christianity sucks. It has always sucked. It advocates the eternal torment of billions of frail, flawed human beings who, in the words of that genocidal book, “Don’t know their right hands from their left.” The fact that a handful of medieval clerics had more than a few neurons to rub together doesn’t alter this fact.

  26. 26
    Guillaume

    I don’t know if the priest who translated Al-Ghazali thought that he was going to Hell. I didn’t ask him. People then, just like now, had various ideas about what was required for salvation. The priest who translated Al-Ghazali did not think himself could go to Hell by spreading the ideas of an heretic. Anyway, the point I made early on in my comment is that medieval Christian scholars had a greater regard for knowledge and progress. I can call fundies on that, just like I call on fundamentalist Catholics when they deny evolution: the Catholic Church recocgnises evolution since the 60s. It does not make the Church right on everything, but it does shows the contradiction of its most radical elements.And yes, Christianity sucks, yet I do enjoy Mozart’s masses nevertheless. I do not want the Sixtine Chapel to be burned down because it belongs to a millenia old institution that was and is still chauvinistic, homophobic, antisemite and what have you (that said, I do stress to homophobic Catholics that Michelangelo was gay and that the ceiling of the Sixtine Chapel is filled with homoeroticism). Even Dawkins said he was a cultural Christian and that he had some attachment to the Church of England. It might be contradictory, I don’t know, but that’s where I stand.

  27. 27
    Ing

    And yes, Christianity sucks, yet I do enjoy Mozart’s masses nevertheless. I do not want the Sixtine Chapel to be burned down because it belongs to a millenia old institution that was and is still chauvinistic, homophobic, antisemite and what have you (that said, I do stress to homophobic Catholics that Michelangelo was gay and that the ceiling of the Sixtine Chapel is filled with homoeroticism). Even Dawkins said he was a cultural Christian and that he had some attachment to the Church of England. It might be contradictory, I don’t know, but that’s where I stand.”Christianity really needs a secularization/cultural movement like Judism does. The big problem is that, objectively Judism is theologically less discriminating than the other big two Abrhamic religions. Judism has God’s chosen people, but at least it doesn’t have those chosen people being saved with everyone else being fucked over. Even if the “hell” for non-believers is just not being saved or being ‘shamed’ for eternity it’s still an arrogant and judgmental belief. the christians who don’t believe in torture forever amuse me, because they still think they’re better than most people. Obviously they have to on some level, they get the magic gold ticket and everyone else gets screwed over. It doesn’t matter if it’s obliteration, damnation or shaming (the last one is so pompus as it by it’s nature implies that non-Christians should be ashamed of not being Christians blech). It’s still “we rock, you suck”. Judaism has a whole cultural aspect that atheists can connect to. Christian atheists can’t connect culturally to Christianity since the believers and leaders feel that they’re scum. As it stands now it’s impossible to be a christian and an atheist. Religions that are more personable, less judgmental or more personal like Judaism or Buddhism have less of this group shunning. The most non-believers/skeptics can do if they want to still be part of their familial heritage is the “I’m spiritual but not religious” card, and I don’t see it changing in the near future.

  28. 28
    Guillaume

    @Ing-I don’t know enough about Judaism to comment, but yes, Christianity has a tendency to shun its atheists coming from its ranks. In my natal Quebec, secularism started and developed in spite of the Catholic Church, not because of it. But when it comes to be a cultural Catholic, or a cultural Christian, I don’t think it has anything to do with the atitude of the Church(es) towards its former members. You still come from a cultural background that is familiar to you and to a degree shaped you. But yes, a good secularized movement would be badly needed. Using again Catholicism as an example (it is the faith I am most familiar with) there are more liberal priests and religious people, but the hierarchy is still reactionary, sometimes dangerously so.

  29. 29
    cipher

    Ing is correct; among non-Orthodox Jews, atheism isn’t really seen as a stigma. Jewish identification is largely ethnic or cultural; many (perhaps most) liberal Jews are agnostic or atheist. Even the Modern Orthodox (Orthodox who embrace secular culture) tend, by and large, to be somewhat tolerant. The so-called ultra-Orthodox aren’t, of course, but their influence on Judaism as a whole is negligible. In fact, a schism between Orthodoxy and the liberal denominations has been predicted for decades, and I am among those who argue that it has already occurred in all but name. For all practical purposes, we now have two distinct religions.

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