The dark, frightening abyss that is Brannon Howse’s world

It always helps to be reminded of a salient fact when dealing with the fundamentalist extremist: literally every single aspect of their lives is governed by fear. It is a dark and frightening world in which they live, made all the more grim by the way the dark fearfulness of it is so easily embraced by the believer, who disguises it under a thin veneer of righteousness and the sense of empowerment that comes from believing one is part of an oppressed minority.

I have brought up Brannon Howse and his personal neurosis factory, the Christian Worldview Network, for mockery here many times. I regularly get their email newsletters, and believe me, this guy has never met an over-the-top paranoid Obama conspiracy theory he didn’t like. His contributors are a rogue’s gallery of the spiritually psychotic: David Noebel, Ray Comfort, Phyllis Schlafly, David Barton, Kan Ham.

Howse’s latest ridiculous rant is one of those revealing moments in fundie bloviation that serves to remind those of us in the reality-based community just what this country has to deal with. It has the ominous title “Is America at a Dangerous Tipping Point for Receiving God’s Judgment?”, which is entirely in character, as Howse only does ominous titles. Remember when I said that every aspect of the extremist’s life is governed by fear? Well, that doesn’t just apply to Obama, teh gayz, libruls, evilutionists, or (Howse’s favorite villain-of-the-week) “Fabian Socialists.” There’s one thing the Howses of the world are even more scared of than all those things: their God. This week, Howse cannot stop wringing his hands (mostly in fear, but one detects a hint of sadistic glee as well) over the destruction he is sure God is about to wreak upon America, because, apparently…

…our nation has murdered nearly 50 million unborn children, states are rushing toward homosexual marriage, God is outlawed in our nation’s public schools, the criminalization of Christianity is greatly increasing, only 1% of adults have a Christian worldview and false-teaching and pagan spirituality has become mainstream.

I must say I found a lot of that surprising. Only 1% of American adults are Christians? If only! Of course, Howse really means that, by his estimation (and it’s one that lets him play the “me so persecuted” card with shameless impunity), only 1% of Americans are True Christians™ like him. The others are all misled fools who’ve embraced false teachings and “pagan spirituality.” Hmm. Okay. Though I must admit, this imaginary Scary America that exists between Howse’s ears is one I wouldn’t mind living in.

And what’s all this about the “criminalization of Christianity”? Seriously? You’d think if this were the case, then law enforcement would have a hard time overlooking all these hundreds of churches that appear on every fucking block in every town in the country, and be about raiding them Waco-style with greater efficiency than they seem to be employing at present. I mean, let’s look at something in our country that is criminalized, like drugs. So if we lived in some bizarro parallel universe in which drugs were “criminalized” to the same degree Howse thinks Christianity is, then this would be a parallel universe in which meth labs operated on every street corner like drive-in burger joints, vending machines sold both Coke and…coke, and you could pick up Master Kush and Purple Haze marijuana buds at your local nursery or Home Depot.

Truly, Howse is a silly, silly man. But the kind of fear he spouts — an all-consuming, comprehensive existential terror in which you are literally never safe from anything, including the God you profess to love — somehow hits huge numbers of people where they live. It speaks to them. And that, more than anything, is the tragedy of the religious mind. The brighter the beliefs look to the believer, the darker the abyss they actually inhabit.


PS: I just remembered…Howse did one of his Code Blue rallies here in Austin two days ago. No idea how it went yet. I’ll do some digging.

We get email, WTF edition

A charming fellow called Augusto sent us two of these thought-provoking missives, actually. This one is the more coherent of the two.

Just remember that atheism and materialism killed much more people than any cruzade before. Any. Atheism killed trillions, crusades was a joke. Fuck Mao tse tung, Stalin, Hitler, CIA.

Atheism and materialism killed billions in a curtain space of time than any cruzade before.

That’s why atheists think that they are inteligent plaiyng chess – the criminal game for idiots who whant power. Kids play always chess because they have no brain, only ambition. Atheists never gonne out. Nor in.

Atheism and materialism killed much more people than any cruzade before.

Atheism and materialism killed billions, crusades a few, compared to atheist hate.

Atheism and materialism killed much more people than any cruzade before.

I have fear of atheism because atheism is fear, they use psychiatry and psychology to demonstrate theyr kid power, to control population to theyr chess game.

I love jesus christ because he is my friend.

Grow up and became FREE

Augusto

Jesus, you really ought to screen your friends better.

TFN Political event alert

I’m planning to attend this event hosted by the Texas Freedom Network.

From my inbox:


Could the religious right really be on the decline in America?

Come hear E.J. Dionne, the award-winning columnist for The Washington Post and author of the best-selling book Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right, at a Faith and Freedom Speaker Series event on September 24 in Austin. Dionne is one of the nation’s most respected voices on the intersection of faith and politics in America today.

As a liberal, I enjoy EJ Dionne’s column in the Washington Post and appreciate any opportunity to tweak the religious right. On the other hand, as an atheist I have serious misgivings about any efforts by the left to “reclaim” faith and politics. I am not particularly concerned by candidates who mention their own religious beliefs as a personal matter — frankly I appreciate the opportunity to find out who to be wary of — but I think religion has no place ever being an explicit part of politics.

In any case, I’m certainly interested in going to see what Dionne has to say, perhaps armed with a few pointed questions at the end. If anyone wants to join me, click on the link at the top. It is free to the public, but you are advised to reserve your spot as seating will be limited.

Leprechauns?

I wrote the following little skit as part of an e-mail response and Thad and I read through it on an episode of The Non-Prophets. Several people have asked for a written version (and Martin keeps pestering me to post at the blog), so I thought I’d make a few quick edits and post it here.

This is very rough and I doubt I’ll ever bother to update it to a proper ‘final draft’ – but, here it is…

NOTE: HUGE DISCLAIMER – the ‘Agnostic’ in this story represents a particular type of intellectual agnostic that makes assertions about the unknown and unknowable (and sends me countless e-mails) – this doesn’t represent EVERY type of agnostic or everyone who uses the label. Many of us have used or currently use the word agnostic to describe ourselves without ever approaching the nonsense represented here.

A very sturdy looking box rests on a table as two men walk up to it

Theist: That box has a leprechaun in it.

Atheist: I don’t believe that…why do you?

Theist: I heard him talking.

Atheist: I don’t believe that either…in fact, I have no evidence that leprechauns exist.

Theist: Well, either there’s a leprechaun in the box or there isn’t, right?

Atheist: Right.

Theist: So it’s 50/50…and since I heard him talk, I’m sure that there’s a leprechaun in there.

Atheist: Either there’s a leprechaun in the box or not, but that doesn’t mean the odds are 50/50.

Theist: Of course it does.

Atheist: Actually, it doesn’t, but could you offer some evide…

Theist: Hang on! He’s just told me that if you don’t believe he’s in there, he’ll chain you to a tree after you’re dead and stick his shillelagh up your ass for 10,000 years!

Atheist: Um, wow, but I was asking if you could offer some additional evidence beyond your claim that you heard him. I didn’t hear him say that, by the way.

Theist: Well, you’re not listening hard enough.

Atheist: Ok (listens)…noth…

Theist: Give it TIME! You’ve got to sincerely WANT to hear him…

Atheist: If he’s in there, I’d like to know it…I’ll keep listening.

Theist: Did you hear that?

Atheist: Nope, nothing.

Theist: You’re either lying or you’re so closed minded that he’s not letting you hear him.

Atheist: Not letting me? Leprechauns can choose who can hear them?

Theist: Of course! He could open this lid, show himself to me…and you’d never see it, you’d think the box was closed the whole time. They’re MAGIC!

Atheist: Well, do you have any evidence for any of this? I mean, I’ve never seen a leprechaun…I have no reason to think they even exist and every time you tell me how to prove it, the tests fail.

Theist: No, YOU fail. It worked for me.

Atheist: (Motions toward a handful of people to one side) Well, there are other people here who have tried this…and it failed for them.

Theist: Yes, but these people (motions toward a huge group off to another side) heard it. In fact there are WAY more people over here who will tell you they heard it.

(The Atheist moves off to ask them a few questions.)

Atheist: I talked to some of them…they all have a slightly different take on this. Some say it’s a leprechaun; others say it’s a fairy; still others say it’s a goblin. They don’t all describe the same voice and they apparently have conflicting messages that they claim came from inside the box. Most of them simply said that they knew other people who claimed to know what was in the box.

Theist: Ah, yes! There’s actually a troll in the box with the leprechaun. He sometimes pretends to be the leprechaun, or a fairy, or a goblin in order to fool those other people – but you’ll notice they STILL heard something.

Atheist: Yes, some say that, but others don’t.

Theist: Well, that troll sometimes blocks the sounds so people can’t hear it.

Atheist: So, how do you know, when you hear the leprechaun, that you aren’t hearing the troll?

Theist: Don’t be absurd! The leprechaun is my friend; he makes sure that I only hear him.

Atheist: But how can you be sure…if you think there’s a troll there too, who pretends to be a leprechaun…how can you know? Maybe there’s ONLY the troll and he’s just fucking with you.

Theist: Now you’re just being thick. Look, there’s a box, right?

Atheist: Yup.

Theist: Now why would there be a box here unless there was something in it?? There MUST be something in it, right?

Atheist: No, the box could be empty.

Theist: No it couldn’t, or there’d be no reason for the box to exist! Boxes are for holding things. We all know that.

Atheist: So you’re claiming that the box could not possibly be empty?

Theist: Correct.

Atheist: And you don’t see that as a flawed premise?

Theist: No, and it’s confirmed by the fact that I heard a leprechaun.

Atheist: How did you hear him?

Theist: He talks to me telepathically.

Atheist: Oh, so you didn’t mean to listen with my ears, you meant listen with my mind?

Theist: Your heart.

Atheist: That doesn’t listen…

Theist: Your metaphoric heart!

Atheist: Ok…but that guy says he heard it with his ears.

Theist: He’s wrong…he’s hearing the troll.

Atheist: But I don’t even hear the troll.

Theist: He’s blocking you.

Atheist: Ok…how do you know all of this?

Theist: The leprechaun told me.

Atheist: Ok, so you’ve made appeals to magic, telepathy, leprechauns, trolls and non-empty boxes….you’ve offered no evidence. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you.

Theist: Don’t forget the shillelagh!

Atheist: Right… and you’ve made threats about things that’ll happen after I’m dead – when there’s no evidence that there’s any ‘me’ to experience anything after I’m dead. I just don’t believe your claim.

Theist: What if you’re wrong? Isn’t that a lot to risk? He says he’s got a pot of gold for you if you believe…isn’t that worth believing?

Atheist: Look, even if I could make myself believe, which I can’t, why would I want to do that? If there’s no leprechaun in there, then I’ve wasted the opportunity find out what’s really in the box. And if he wants me to follow his instructions…

Theist: Oh, he does…I’ve written them down for you, here…

Atheist: (Looks at the list) Then I’ll have wasted time doing things that…does that say “Do not eat poo”?

Theist: Yup…great rule, isn’t it?

Atheist: Yeah, but what about “Drop money in the box”

Theist: He’s got needs too…pots of gold don’t grow on trees.

Atheist: I thought he was magic.

Theist: He is…but, well, the money is so we can tell other people what the leprechaun wants.

Atheist: Why doesn’t he tell them?

Theist: He could, but…well, he will, if they’re open too it. Some, like you, are fooled by the troll.

Atheist: Why doesn’t he get rid of the troll.

Theist: It’s a mystery, but we’re sure he will eventually.

Atheist: Anyway, if this isn’t true, then I’ll have wasted a lot of time and money on something false…only to avoid a threat that wasn’t real.

Theist: Yeah…but what if you’re wrong.

Atheist: Ok…look, I’m done. I do NOT believe there’s a leprechaun in the box.

Theist: How can you be sure?

Atheist: I’m not, but I don’t believe there is.

Theist: How can you say there’s no leprechaun in the box!

Atheist: I didn’t…I said I don’t believe there is one.

Theist: Same thing.

Atheist: No it isn’t…however, now that I’ve considered and rejected your claim…

Thei
st: Don’t do it!

Atheist: I’m willing to say that I actually do believe there is no leprechaun in that box.

Theist: NO! You’re making an irrational claim…you think you know everything?!??!

Atheist: No, I’m not claiming that I’m absolutely certain that there’s no leprechaun in the box…but I actually believe, to some degree of certainty that there isn’t…because if there were, I’d expect there to be some evidence to support it, and investigations keep coming up empty. I’ll be back with some tools…we’re going to open that box.

Theist: You can’t open the box.

Atheist: Why not.

Theist: You just can’t, it’s impossible.

(Another person walks up)

Agnostic: He’s right. Neither of you know what’s in the box. You’re both equally absurd to assert that you DO know.

Atheist: I didn’t assert that I’m absolutely certain, I simply stated what my belief is…and it’s based on the evidence, or lack thereof

Agnostic: Don’t be silly…you’re just as dogmatic as he is.

Atheist: I’m not dogmatic about this at all – I’d just like to open the box and find out.

Agnostic: The box is impervious.

Atheist: How do you know?

Agnostic: Um, well, I don’t…it just seems impervious.

Atheist: Really, do you have other impervious things to compare it to?

Agnostic: Well, um, no…but I’m sure it’s impervious.

Atheist: If you’ll forgive me, as we’re essentially on the same side in that we reject his assertion…

Agnostic: I don’t reject it, I don’t reject anything

Atheist: Do you accept his claim?

Agnostic: I don’t know.

Atheist: You don’t know whether you accept his claim?

Agnostic: No, I mean I don’t know if he’s right or not.

Atheist: Well, neither do I, but that’s not what I asked.

Agnostic: The box is impervious

Atheist: Well, you sound just as dogmatic about our inability to know as he does about his private communications with the leprechaun

Agnostic: Now you’re just being rude

Atheist: Look, I’m going to open this box

Agnostic: Silly atheist….

(The atheist manages to drill a tiny hole in the box…)

Atheist: Look, it’s not impervious! I’ve got a hole here. We may eventually be able to investigate this in more detail.

Theist: You switched boxes!

Atheist: No, this is the box.

Agnostic: It’s STILL impervious; your little hole doesn’t give you enough information to support your claim.

Atheist: I can continue to investigate…and so far, there’s no evidence to support the theist’s claims.

Theist: You switched boxes!

Atheist: No I didn’t.

Theist: Then, um…he’s hiding. He needs you to believe without seeing him, so he’s hiding.

Atheist: That makes no sense.

Theist: The troll has created an illusory hole that is providing you with false information about what’s in the box!

Atheist: /sigh

Agnostic: That might be possible, I really couldn’t say.

Atheist: No, I bet you couldn’t.

The theist walks away, to tell other people about the leprechaun in the box.

The agnostic tries not to be anywhere near either of them, while secretly keeping an optimistic eye on the atheist’s activities.

The atheist goes about his life, occasionally finding new ways to investigate the box, but he tries to enjoy his life while preventing the theist from ruining it by imposing the leprechaun’s rules on everyone.

Obama’s education speech: a quick one

So, Obama’s upcoming speech to students is now online, and it looks as if all the right-wing hysteria about how this is going to be an exercise in Marxist Hitler Youth Indoctrination (or whatever scary buzzwords conservatives have figured out how to pronounce this week) is, surprise surprise, a tad overblown. It’s a nicely composed pep talk about the value of education, not the tiniest bit controversial, not even — for me — in its standard-issue “God Bless America” signoff. I know that kind of language has earned a sneer from PZ and some other atheists, but I’m not the kind of guy to think seven words of boilerplate political-speech language detracts from the actual content in any way.

I’m hopeful that, once this speech is out there, more people will begin to wake up to just how out of control the right has become in their reactionary scaremongering over our Eeebul Socialist Kenyan President, and a few hot heads start to come off the boil a bit. I’m also hopeful I’ll find 10 million dollars in a paper grocery bag abandoned in a ditch and that Chris Jansing will knock on my front door tonight wearing nothing but baby oil. We’ll see which of these little hopes pans out first.

Now, I do think there is a legitimate objection to the idea of making the watching of this speech a mandatory class event. Let’s be honest, if Dubya had prepared a speech for mandatory school viewing, those of us who were less than his most ardent fans would have objected too, and probably voiced concerns about possible inappropriate political proselytizing. Some bloggers have made the point that, where the students are concerned, this will merely be a boring interruption in an already boring school day, something lame that the grownups want them to take part in, like eating vegetables, that you’ve got to do because it’s good for you. I’d say that, with YouTube and other internet sources set up to make a speech like this available on demand, into perpetuity, there’s no reason for watching it to be some kind of class requirement. Indeed, to make it one would smack of demagoguery, regardless of how inoffensive the actual speech content turns out to be. Better perhaps to encourage students to watch it, perhaps at home with their parents, and maybe earn extra credit for doing so and writing a couple of paragraphs of feedback. Sure, there is that terror-stricken element of the ultra-right freak fringe who hear Obama’s name and immediately think of The Scary Nazi Communist Black Man Who Wants To Kill Grandma. But those people are not exactly big on the whole education concept in the first place, are they? If they were, at the very least, they’d know that the Nazis and Communists loathed each other.

We get YouTubes (Historicity of Jesus part 2)

As mentioned in the previous post, this is the video posted by Aaronk1994.

A little after the one minute mark, Aaron accused Jen of misrepresenting the argument that she was trying to address. Jen said: “The claim is the Jesus must have been divine because his disciples wouldn’t have died for something that they knew was a lie. So they must have known that he was the son of God, and was resurrected.” Aaron calls this a straw man, claiming that no apologist would say such a thing. Then he goes on to rephrase almost precisely the same argument.

The point, Aaron says, is that “because they died for it, that proves beyond any reasonable doubt that they really believed it. Which, then, you have to explain the origin of the belief in the resurrection.” And of course, Aaron’s explanation is that they were correct. Maybe you can tell the distinction between this and Jen’s “straw man,” but I think it’s beyond splitting hairs and into splitting nanoneedles.

Why does anyone have to explain anyone else’s belief? In the next clip, Jen points out, correctly, that the 9/11 hijackers died for their beliefs. As George from NY mentioned when he called, there’s the Heaven’s Gate cult. There’s Jonestown. If you asked me whether those people died because they sincerely believed whatever nonsense their leaders were peddling, I would say “Absolutely yes!” Does that require me to explain that belief? Certainly not. Should the default position in that case be “They believed it because it’s true”? It’s a judgment call, but in that case I would certainly say no.

Aaron dismisses the reference to the hijackers by using the magic words “straw man” again, and describes it as “another stupid analogy.” He explains that the difference between a disciple of Jesus and a 9/11 hijacker is that the disciples were eye witnesses to the events of their religion, while the hijackers were not.

Which, of course, is the whole problem. We have no way of knowing that, and no amount of eye-rolling, sarcastic inflection, or dismissal of the opposing claims as “ridiculous” is going to fill that knowledge gap. As I was saying in my previous post, whether or not you accept that a guy named Jesus existed doesn’t say anything about whether the rest of the stories in the Bible were true. If the stories about Jesus’ miracles were embellished after the fact, the martyrs who died wouldn’t have been dying for “a lie,” they would be dying for some holy cause that they believed to be true because they had been told that it was without requiring strong evidence for it.

Yes, just like Muslim suicide bombers. Just like Jonestown cultists. Just like Japanese kamikaze pilots who believed that Hirohito was a god. You simply can’t make any claims about what they supposedly knew to be true without providing solid evidence for the specific part of the Bible that says that Dead Jesus showed up before the apostles. And folks, a brief mention in passing by a historian reporting secondhand information eighty years later is simply not going to do that, any more than a story told by a Greek poet will establish that there is an island where men get turned into pigs.

When Aaron actually called into the show, starting at around the nine minute mark of this clip, he took issue with Matt’s point that Tacitus was not a contemporary of Jesus. Aaron challenged: “Contemporary evidence is not a requirement. You don’t have to have a contemporary source. If you’d like to claim that, then could you please cite me a historian who specifically says that you need contemporary evidence?”

Aaron goes on to say, back in his framing video, that Matt had said earlier that contemporary evidence is the ONLY kind that can establish a claim. Then he accuses Matt of being hypocritical.

There’s a problem with Aaron’s understanding of historical standards here, and it goes way beyond what historians say. It really comes down to what people regard as proof of something. Yeah, it’s true. Not everything in history needs to be verified by a contemporary source. There is a lot of secondhand information that is regarded as solid. But not uncritically. Once again, there’s a huge difference between the kind of evidence it requires to insert Julius Caesar into the history books, and the kind it requires to insert “Julius Caesar was a God” into the history books. There’s a difference between saying that Jeff Dowd is “The Dude,” and saying that Jeff Dowd foiled a kidnapping plan orchestrated by a fake millionaire poseur. One is fact, and the other is embellishment.

Aaron tries to gloss over this detail by quickly blurting out that you certainly don’t need a contemporary source to prove that something as commonplace as a crucifixion took place. Haw haw! How silly anyone must be to suggest that! But come on, be serious here. Aaron, like other apologists, wants to use the text of the Bible to prove a thoroughly unprecedented, unique, and unbacked-up claim like the resurrection. He wants to prove that this Jesus chap rose from his grave.

And in this case, I’m sorry, it’s going to take more than a few passing remarks to prove that. If I told you, right now, today, that I saw a guy rise from the dead, I don’t think you would believe me. And that’s not even getting into the fact of whether I’m a primary source or whether I’m contemporary with the event. I suspect that even Aaron would balk at the suggestion that he should accept this claim on my say-so, and would want to hear more information before accepting this as true.

The fact that it didn’t get written down until 70 AD is, in actuality, the least of the problems with this claim. And to say that the written word in the book is in any way proof that it happened, or that historians reporting several decades later about what Christians claimed of their savior provide independent corroboration of an event they never saw… yeah, that’s gonna be good enough for the modern history books.

Just ask Julius Caesar, the god.

We get YouTubes (Historicity of Jesus part 1)

On the show two weeks ago, Matt and Jen got a call from aaronk1994, a 15 year old YouTube apologist. Aaron called in within the last few minutes, so the argument didn’t have time to get up to speed.

That week, a viewer sent email mentioning that Aaron might call back during the week I (Russell) was hosting, and suggested that we should be ready to take a call with some serious argument about the historicity of Jesus.

Aaron did not call back, but he did make a rather sarcasm-laced video declaring victory over Matt and Jen. I’ll link that video in my next post, after I’ve said a few general words about the historicity debate.

Let me come clean about this: I am not much of a Christian history buff. Matt, being an ex-Christian almost-minister, has always been fascinated with the Bible and with the various details of the Christian religion. As a lifelong atheist Jew, I couldn’t care much less. To the extent that I’m interested in Christianity at all, it’s the social implications that gets me reading. The Bible is not my area of geekitude, as I lean more towards formal logic and philosophy of science. Hence I was somewhat interested in talking to Aaron from that perspective, but since he didn’t call, I’ll just content myself with going over the video response for a bit.

I’ll just say straight off that I think the question of whether a guy named “Jesus” really lived in ancient Rome is missing the point. There may or may not have been such a guy. The Jesus of the Bible may have been based on him. Many atheists like to argue that there’s strong reason to believe that Jesus was an amalgamation of already existing gods.

But this is an argumentative red herring because the question we are really interested in is not “Did someone named Jesus exist?” but “What do we know about this purported real Jesus?” As well as: “To what extent can we trust the Bible as an accurate account of events that happened?”

To see why it’s a red herring, consider a couple of examples from the world of entertainment. Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, from the movie The Big Lebowski, is a real person. Sort of. He’s based on real life slacker Jeff Dowd. But did Jeff Dowd get attacked by nihilists, foil a phony kidnapping, harass a pornographer in his penthouse, and get covered in a dead friend’s ashes? Probably not.

Cosmo Kramer, of “Seinfeld” fame, is a real person. Sort of. He’s based on Kenny Kramer, the real life wacky neighbor of producer Larry David. But did Kenny Kramer coach a Miss America contestant, found Kramerica Industries, invent the mansiere, and spend a year in jail for failure to prevent a mugging? I don’t have inside knowledge of this, but I assume the answer to all these is no.

I hope this illuminates why “Did Jesus exist?” is kind of the wrong question. The real question is, “Was Jesus a real person who also walked on water, fed a large crowd with only a small bit of food, healed the blind, cursed a fig tree, and rose from the dead?”

In logic puzzles, sometimes you are confronted with determining whether you are talking to the sort of person who either always tells the truth, or always lies. Too often, the question of the Bible’s accuracy is treated as this kind of question — are the factual questions 100% true, or 100% false? Notice how apologists often make arguments like — I swear this is a real argument — “Historians did not believe that such-and-such a place in the Bible was real, but then archaeologists found the remains! The Bible is proven true once again!”

Clearly that’s definitive proof that not every single sentence of the Bible is false. But we don’t live on an imaginary island contrived for the purpose of framing logic puzzles. In the real world, different bits of information have to be evaluated individually, and some statements may be true while others are false within the same document, often even within the same sentence. To state otherwise is tantamount to saying that The Big Lebowski is 100% accurate because it takes place in Los Angeles, which is a real city.

Jesus Christ certainly isn’t the first (possibly) real person who had divine powers attributed to him. The life of Julius Caesar is pretty well documented, but historians stop well short of accepting the common claim of his time that Caesar was a god in human form. It’s no problem at all for historians to take some claims as true and others as false.

Likewise, Homer’s Iliad describes an event — the Trojan War — which may well have been real. But it also describes the Greek gods like Zeus and Athena stomping around influencing the outcome. Again, just because some basic historical details are true, doesn’t mean that the work as a whole isn’t mostly false.

In the next post I will go over the video.

Texas SBOE: The beatings continue

Don McLeroy may no longer be in charge, but the State Board of Education in our poor beleaguered state is no less risible and contemptible. Just how many scathing editorials must these idiots receive before they start getting the message? That’s a rhetorical question, so don’t bother answering it, because it answers itself: They will never be humbled, because it is in the nature of fundamentalist ideologues to embrace the martyrdom of criticism, and the more abuse they take from the fallen secular world, the more proof that is to them that they’re doing right by their Lord. These are people who take Jesus’s line that “if the world hates you, remember it hated me first” to heart, and no mistake.

Anyway, the latest thrashing has been administered by the Corpus Christi Caller:

…The State Board of Education has rarely failed in its efforts to look ridiculous, as when it voted, some time back, not to require biology textbooks to include the theory of evolution. Or, more recently, when a panel of “experts” chosen by Republican members of the board urged the removal from the standards of [Cesar] Chávez, who greatly improved conditions for Hispanic farm workers, and [Thurgood] Marshall, who argued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education that resulted in racial desegregation.

The state board is an embarrassment and will continue to be an embarrassment so long as narrow-minded ideologues and culture warriors dominate the agenda. You can argue that “education” is the least of their priorities.

That’ll leave a mark! Or it would, if these people had any sense of humility or decency whatsoever.

The Worldview Wackaloons are coming to Austin

Not like I’m going. I mean, part of me thinks, from a journalistic standpoint, it would be an intriguingly revealing peek into the mindset (generously assuming there will be minds present at all) of the mad. But then the idea of being bombarded with that much 50-kiloton thermostupid all at once is simply more than I can bear. Still, Brannon Howse and his big Christian Clown Car will be here on September 13, offering us an eye into the alternate universe he inhabits between his ears, of which the following topic list is representative.

How This Happened to America, Where We Are Going and The Biblical Response; How This Can Be The Greatest Hour For the American Church; How to Prepare the Remnant For What is Coming; The Worldviews and People Destroying America From the Grave and How Every Teen and Adult Must Respond To Be Protected; Refuting Evolution; What Happened to the Dinosaurs; The Impact of Evolution on America; Political Correctness is Cultural Marxism; How to Contend For The Faith in the 21st Century; Why Oprah’s Pagan Spirituality is Doubling in America Every Eighteen Months and a Christian Response; Why Worldview Training Matters and Students Want it; What The Bible Has to Say About The Coming One-World Religion, One-World Economy and Global Governance.

If that isn’t a concentrated spasm of atavistic “Mommy help me the monster is under the bed!” terror, I don’t know what is. Surprising that he left out anything about teh gayz, but maybe one of them will remember before the big tour begins.

I mean, I’d consider covering this for the blog and TV show, you know, but seriously, the amount of abuse my poor brain would endure would make me insist that, I dunno, every AXP reader send me $100 for medical expenses or something. So I guess we’re left to our imaginations, which, even at their wildest, I’m sure would not be the equal to the parade of delusion these rallies will exhibit!

The Big Book of Multiple Choice, now with more choices!

God’s inerrant Word is getting a makeover yet again. The NIV “will be revised to reflect changes in English usage and advances in Biblical scholarship,” apparently.

This is interesting. Many fundies cling like wet Kleenex to the original KJV, I suppose because they think English that sounds Shakespearean best conveys the gravitas God’s Word requires. What many believers seem to object to in the NIV are PC-ish edits making some passages more gender-neutral. For instance…

It was the TNIV that ushered in changes from “sons of God” to “children of God,” or “brothers” to “brothers and sisters.” In Genesis I, God created “human beings” in his own image instead of “man.”

I can see how this might be threatening to those kinds of fundamentalists who want the Bible to endorse a strictly patriarchal social system.

Still, here’s what intrigues me: Why don’t they just ask, you know, God? I mean, he supposedly authored the thing, dictating to human scribes, which seems a fairly inefficient way for an omnipotent author to go about his business, but there you are. But it seems to me this is a prime opportunity for God to put in an appearance and make his editorial desires known. After all, if the Bible is God’s inerrant Word, then doesn’t screwing with it in any way run the risk of spreading a completely botched version of God’s message, one that could lead more people to perdition and woe than salvation and grace? I mean, it seems like God ought to be more — oh, what’s that idiotic term — proactive here? I mean, he sure was with that whole Flood thing. I’d think making sure his Bible was error-free would be at least as important, you know?