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.

More confusion about that darn church-and-state thing

Here’s an AP article talking about the existence of some of the new Washington dollar coins that managed to go into circulation without the “In God We Trust” motto stamped into the edge. These godless coins, legal tender all the way, are reportedly fetching around $50 apiece from collectors. In a display of the kind of theistic bias that has regrettably left its pee-markings on our entire nation, the godless dollars are described as “flawed” and “error coins,” while the ones proclaiming our patriotic “trust” in an imaginary being are described as “properly struck.” In an America that actually respected its own Constitution, the reverse would be true, of course.

So why wait? Tax them.

I’m still waiting to hear of any potential fallout from the little stunt called Pulpit Freedom Sunday, in which 33 Christian Right churches decided to send an unambiguous message to the government — to wit, “We’re Christians! Rules don’t apply to us!” — by openly politicking from the pulpit.

The whole charade was done in the hopes of igniting court cases. But I don’t see why that should be necessary. All the IRS needs to do is send these churches letters informing them that, as they have chosen to violate the laws pertaining to tax-exempt organizations by making formal political endorsements, their tax exempt status has been revoked effective immediately. And if the churches were to respond to such a letter with lawsuits, the courts should simply say, “Well, the tax laws are pretty clear about this one point, and you flagrantly violated it. So your suits are dismissed. Have a nice day.” See…no big deal.

You know, if every church in America were taxed — especially those absurd, stadium-sized megachurches that boast weekly attendance in the 10,000-and-over range — can you just imagine how that would help the country out of its financial slump?


Apropos of nothing: The post preceding this one was our 600th. Go us!

Religious Liberty Trumps Sanity in Texas

The Texas State Supreme Court last week ruled that a church member had no right to sue a church for damages inflicted to her in the course of “church activities for which members adhere.” The case involved a 17-year-old girl who happed to be a victim of a “spiritually charged” garage sale preparation in which fellow believers became convinced she was possessed by a demon. She was forcibly restrained and “laid hands on her” in an exorcism for several hours despite her pleading to be set free. Amazingly, she returned to the church at a later date when a similar episode occurred again. Her family sued the church for abuse, false imprisonment, and distress; she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident among other psychological fallout. An appeals court later lessened the original award of $300,000 to $120,000. A further appeal resulted in the Texas state Supreme Court ruling, which threw out the suit with a 6-3 verdict.

I find this ruling disturbing on many levels. First, there is no such thing as demons. The church members were caught up in a mass hysteria amplified by her non-participation. Courts of law dismissed spectral evidence as valid after the infamous 1662 Salem Witch Trials. The Texas Supreme Court should have been able to discern that demons are nonsense and that the church members got caught up in a mass hysteria for which they bore responsibility. The court seems to be saying that people, in a state of religious frenzy bear no responsibility for their actions.

Next, we’re talking about an underage girl without her parents present. She did not consent to whatever spiritual rape was inflicted on her. What about the idea of the state protecting children from harm? Didn’t the state just remove 400+ children from the FLDS compound because they were in danger of child sexual abuse? Perhaps this is not an equal comparison as the FLDS kids were brainwashed from birth. Presumably, the victim in this case had “chosen” by her free will to be part of the religious proceedings. She’s under age, however and cannot consent to being abused. The state got it wrong on this account, too. Perhaps cults should adopt a “safe word” concept so that people can escape when they’re not feeling the ecstasy that everyone else is feeling: “Darwin!” “Dawkins!” “Bertand Russell! God damn it! Let me go, you psychotic Jesoids!”

Seriously, though, the most disturbing part of the ruling is the Texas State Supreme Court placing “religious liberty” of a mob above the safety and liberty of an individual victim. Writing for the majority, Justice David Madina wrote, “Religious practices that might offend the rights or sensibilities of a non-believer outside the church are entitled to greater latitude when applied to an adherent within the church.” Is US and Texas law null and void in a church? Do they get to do anything they want as long as they can “justify” their position based on the Bible, which is nothing more than a Rorschach test for the morally challenged? It seems in Texas, that is the case. Send those FLDS kids back! The State has no claim against their cult. While we’re at it, let’s drop any case against the Catholic Church. Surely, they can think of some Biblical justification for molesting boys. They’re “adherents within the church,” right?

Finally, how exactly does the court decide who is an adherent? Is the court privy to some sort of mind reading device where they can decide who believes what? Isn’t one’s mere presence in a church is enough to be labeled an “adherent”? After all, Christians are famous for making up stories about non-believers having death bed conversions. Why not make up a story that someone who happened by a church “converted” to that church’s theology? I submit that sane people would be better off staying out of places and situations where they can be thought to be endorsing a particular religion. The Texas Supreme Court just gave us one more big reason not to support churches, or even darken their door.

You don’t take me seriously, but I’m disrespecting YOU?

I found an odd irony in an exchange recently.

On another blog someone asked if atheists can expect fair treatment from presidential candidates who state their religious beliefs are very important to them in their own lives. While I do think it’s possible for a person to value X, but still understand and respect others who don’t value X, I also understand the reason for the question. Some religious people see their views as simply being their own personal choice, and they don’t really extend that outward to consider what other people might choose. Maybe they don’t care what other people choose so long as we’re all getting along OK. But some religious people express real difficulty even understanding how a person could be moral, trustworthy, or honest (with themselves or others) if they aren’t also religious.

Without asking each person, it’s not possible to know how an individual views their beliefs or how they judge others based on the beliefs others may hold. But it made me recollect an online exchange I had, a very brief one, with a theist recently. And here’s why: I was accused of not being objective when I questioned an inference he made. I asked, “…are you claiming [your argument] is a rational justification for belief in the existence of god (any more than it constitutes rational justification for belief in the existence of fairies)?”

The person was pretty obviously offended by my equating his god to fairies. He became defensive. So, I I responded that I wasn’t trying to be funny, that my question was in all seriousness. He never wrote back.

I have no doubt that this person truly felt I was only trying to get a rise. But I can honestly say I never was. He wrote to an atheist list. He knew in advance that atheists do not believe gods exist. Why it would surprise him that I would equate gods to fairies, in that case, and in all seriousness, I cannot fathom. Apparently, I’m supposed to pretend to grant his belief in god a special status over belief in fairies—even when he knows, before he addresses, me that I don’t. And if his arguments support the existence of fairies as much as the existence of gods, I’m not supposed to notice that or ask about it.

In other words, by expressing my perspective of god’s existence, and by not accepting his view as a given, I’m being offensive. If I say that I—honestly—can’t see how fairies wouldn’t be proven just as much as gods by the arguments he’s providing, I’m not being serious, and I’m just being a jerk. But what’s really happening is that this theist isn’t taking MY position seriously. I REALLY do not see the difference between his belief in god and a belief in fairies. And he refuses to accept that as a serious assertion on my part—even though it is asserted in 100 percent seriousness. Am I offended by that? No. After all, I didn’t go to a theist forum to push my view on anyone. What do I care what he thinks? I was just responding and asking what I thought was a fair question about claims he was making.

But, how does this tie into respect? Well, I respected his belief by treating it like any other. He didn’t care too much for that. But if he’d have come to me saying he could prove fairies, and given me the same arguments he provided for gods, I would just as well have asked, “How would this not also prove leprechauns?” And so on. Would it be offensive to compare fairies to leprechauns in that case—just because someone actually believes in them?

If I can’t even ask a question without being considered an ass; if I can’t give my view without being considered an offensive jerk; If my perspective is automatically interpreted as sarcasm and cruel joking, even though it’s not. How is THAT respect for MY belief (or in this case, lack of it)? What if, instead of asking him how his claim for god did any less to prove fairies exist, I had written back and said, “Well, if you’re just going to write to us with ludicrous claims, trying to be funny about ‘god exists’—I mean, what sort of idiots do you take us for? You can go send your joke e-mails about gods existing to someone else’s list you arrogant prick!”

THAT’S respect? I asked a serious question. He blanketly refused to take me seriously. And it appears to me that he is totally incapable of taking my view seriously on any level. Yet, somehow, that makes ME disrespectful of HIS beliefs.

While I’m not concerned about one online theist, I have to wonder how many others feel this way, or how many politicians share this view? That is a concern. Not an offense (to me, at least), but a real concern.

One Nation Under God

“It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase ‘under God.’ I didn’t.”

–Barak Obama, “Call to Renewal” Keynote Address, June 28, 2006.

This quote was featured this morning on another atheist blog I frequent, Austin Cline’s atheism.about.com section.

Austin makes some good points, and points most of the people who visit this blog spot would probably think of themselves. That the phrase is openly discriminatory toward atheists, and that it furthers the disenfranchisement of atheists in our culture.

I certainly don’t disagree. Although, if I’m going to be honest, I personally also never felt that the Pledge thrust religion or monotheism upon me as a youngster. I honestly don’t believe that any child will become monotheistic by being compelled to say the Pledge every morning and recite the phrase “One Nation Under God.”

Let me be clear, however, that I acknowledge that the insertion of the phrase is completely in violation of the Establishment of Religion clause, and should be removed, if on no other grounds than that.

Also, just because the phrase never offended me, personally, I certainly don’t take issue with anyone else feeling uncomfortable with it. How it makes a person feel is just that–how it makes them feel. It’s not wrong to have feelings or to acknowledge them. And just because I don’t share a person’s feelings, doesn’t invalidate their feelings, or my lack of them.

So, it is a phrase that at the very least violates our Constitution and, therefore, our law, and also that may offend some citizens who like to think that they are just as patriotic as any theist, or that they don’t want their children compelled to say this any more than a Christian would want their child compelled to say “One Nation Without a God.”. And these are real problems.

In my humble view, however, as someone who has dialogued with quite a lot of theists, neither of these things comes close to what I consider to be the real harm caused by the insertion of this phrase into our Pledge of Allegiance. What disturbs me beyond these two very real concerns? The fact that there is a group of very vocal, very politically active theists, specifically Christians, who would insert this phrase and similar phrases all over our government and our government-sponsored public institutions in order to promote the view that we are, on some level, a theocracy.

The last time I was on AE, Matt Dillahunty pointed out that if a person says “This is a Christian nation,” and they mean by that that our citizens, by and large, are Christians, they are correct. If they mean by that that the vast majority of early Americans and founders of the United States were Christians or monotheists along Christian lines, they are correct. If, however, they mean by that that our laws are based upon the Bible, and that Biblical authority or Christian authority supersedes Constitutional authority, they couldn’t be more wrong, (and, I would add, perhaps dangerous).

I know that by posting this, I’m preaching to the choir. And I have no intention of launching into arguments that already plaster the Internet regarding why I disagree with the theocratic stance. I’m only writing to address that, to me, it is unwise to ignore a growing group who vocally express a wish to enforce their religion upon the rest of our society. And it is unwise to believe that simply because I’m not feeling particularly offended by something, it’s not potentially threatening or harmful. Did anyone see the early push that Huckabee got in the primaries? Anyone who thinks there isn’t a growing movement for theocracy in the Christian community isn’t paying attention. And anyone who isn’t concerned by that isn’t thinking it through to the end. Even Christians should fear that concept, because, historically speaking, believers haven’t been particularly kind even to other believers when they aren’t in complete doctrinal agreement.

I’m not going to slam Obama as a uniquely insensitive or unaware, here. I’m sure Obama isn’t the only person–or politician–to share this sentiment. I actually have heard many atheists say the same thing: “It doesn’t bother me, why get all worked up over it? It’s harmless recitation.” But to that, I have to respond that there is a larger world out there, beyond me and how I feel. And it would be wise of us all to take notice of how others around us “feel,” because we might find they feel that our government should require us to adopt, if not their beliefs, at least their behaviors with regard to their religious perspectives. And they use these seemingly innocuous items to promote that agenda. Since it shouldn’t be there in the first place, by law, is it wise to endorse it, retain it, or defend it as “inoffensive,” while supporters of a U.S. theocracy begin to rally and test their power?

I’m thinking, “not.”

Huckabee’s fundamentalist pandering: a rant

There’s a rumor going around that America is the most advanced nation on Earth, in terms of human rights and scientific prowess at the very least. But in reality, the majority of this nation has greeted the prospect of returning to the dark ages with open arms. Atheists only ever usually see this in the comments creationists leave on science blogs, most of which (the comments, that is) are such a black hole of vacuous moronity coupled with unwonted arrogance and smugness that they must be seen to be believed.

But Americans’ eagerness to flush the last 200 or so years of civilization down the commode can be seen in so many places, and most prominently in the fact that the front-runner for the GOP right now is Mike Huckabee, a hyper-fundamentalist nincompoop who proudly wears his sexism, homophobia and scientific illiteracy on his sleeve, and who puts his superstitions right at the forefront of his campaign as if they were his greatest virtue. That the benighted American public thinks the more idiotic religious atavism you practice, the more virtuous you really are, it’s sadly predictable that Huckabee’s lunacy is selling. It’s selling so well that people not only don’t care that, when he was governor of Arkansas, this staunch enemy of abortion rights pressed for the early release of a serial rapist from prison despite numerous warnings that the man would almost certainly offend again (and sure enough, he raped and killed one more woman after Huckabee let him walk), but they’d probably be more inclined to support him if they did know. Hell, it’s what all them uppity feminazi bitches deserve, ain’t it?

I fear some folks are taking the confident “it can’t happen here” attitude towards a possible Huckabee presidency. Even American voters couldn’t be that idiotic, they assure themselves. Well, when you remember that over half the population of this country believes the universe was created after dogs were domesticated, I think the intelligence of the majority is something one should not overestimate. That Huckabee has gotten as far as he has solely on flogging his Christian faith, while openly displaying his ignorance of foreign policy and geopolitics ought to be enough of an indicator of GOP voters’ low standards for who they’d like to see in the White House (as if Bush weren’t bad enough).

Yes, Huckabee has tried to assure people he’s open to non-Christians as well (“The key issue of real faith is that it never can be forced on someone. And never would I want to use the government institutions to impose mine or anybody else’s faith or to restrict…”), but when he’s on record as stating he’d like to “take this nation back for Christ,” then defends it as simply the kind of thing you say to a Baptist gathering, forgive me if I’m a little dubious. If a presidential candidate were to appear at an Islamic mosque and talk about taking America back for Allah, or at a Klan meeting to talk about putting the uppity blacks in their place, and then respond to the press that “certainly that would be appropriate to be said to a gathering of” Muslims or neo-Nazi hicks, his political career would be over faster than you could say “redneck.” (Though creepily enough, Ron Paul’s lunatic fringe of supporters don’t seem terribly bothered by his apparent affiliation with white supremacists, so maybe racism wouldn’t be much of a liability to a candidate these days.)

Well, who knows yet how things will turn out in the caucuses, but it does appear as if the GOP at large is throwing former golden boy Romney overboard in favor of Huckabee. I can say that if Huckabee actually gets the GOP nomination, it would be a sufficiently awful turn of events that I might actually be driven to support Hillary. At least the worst you can say about her is that she’s a dishonest, opportunistic careerist who never takes a stand on anything she can’t abandon in a heartbeat if it appears to be hurting her in the polls.

Can you tell I’m not overly optimistic about the election year?

Big ol’ godless rally this weekend in Austin

And it’s typical that I won’t be in town to partake. Ah well. For the rest of you, American Atheists is sponsoring a Church-State Separation Rally to be held on the south steps of the state capitol building in downtown Austin, this Saturday, September 8, from noon till 3. Here’s the salient info from the press release, with thanks to Joe Zamecki for being the driving force behind this.

The 2007 Texas State-Church Separation Rally will take place this coming Saturday, Sept. 8, 2007 on the South steps of the State Capitol building in Austin, TX.

Joe Zamecki, Texas State Director for American Atheists, said that the event is being held to build awareness of the First Amendment separation between government and religion, and the civil rights of non-religious people. Mr. Zamecki added that the Rally is also to show support for David Wallace Croft and his family of Carrollton, TX, who have recently challenged the recitation of the state “pledge” and a requirement that students be required to observe a “moment of silence” in public school classrooms.

“These are the sorts of state laws and practices that are all too common in Texas, and undermine our freedom from religion,” said Mr. Zamecki.

“Our state legislature and Attorney General need to understand that not all Texans are fundamentalist Christians, and that freedom of conscience is important to everyone,” Zamecki added. “Our state government needs to realize that we are a diverse citizenry, and should stop pushing religion on the citizens.”

The State-Church Separation Rally will include speakers representing a number of Atheist, Freethought, Secular Humanist and pro-separation groups. They include Nicholas Paschall of University of Texas SA Secular Student Alliance; Meghan Regis, Atheist Agenda; Dick Hogan, American Atheists; Derek Jones, PathofReason.com; Texas civil rights activist Marsha Corriera, and others. Mr. Dean Croft will also speak, and there will be a voter registration table.

Sadly, we Texans live in such a religion-addicted state — our tool of a Christian Right governor just appointed a pig-ignorant creationist stooge to head up the State Board of Education, fer cripes sake — that I fear we may be subject to a lot of shove-it-down-your-throat religious legislation, slickly marketed to seem pro-diversity and pro-tolerance, for some time to come. But with the increased public profile of atheism in general these days, at least rallies like these help get the message across that not every patriotic citizen thinks one should have to acknowledge sky-gods as par for the course. Also, fearful and closeted unbelievers are sometimes prompted to come out from hiding once they realize they’re not as alone as they thought.

Surely one of my fine team members here will attend and post a report with photos. (Sorry…did I break anyone’s toes when I dropped that hint? Heh heh…)

Episode #512: Intolerance

I have gotten some requests for show notes on occasion. In response, I’m going to begin posting summary notes to the blog, so that when requests for notes come in, I can just point them here. Thanks, Martin.

The word “tolerance” has two very distinct meanings that can, but do not always, overlap. One is to respect others or their actions and beliefs. The other is to merely allow others to act and express their beliefs—regardless of whether or not I, personally, respect them, their beliefs or actions.

It is unreasonable to expect that no one will disagree with my opinions or ideas. In fact, there are many ideas that are so widely disrespected that they are almost universally disdained. The ideas expressed by Hitler or NAMBLA not only lack widespread acceptance; they are openly disparaged by the general population; and the actions they promote are legally prohibited. So, in either sense of the word, they are not “tolerated.” The ideas they espouse are not generally respected; and the actions they endorse are not allowed. No society exercises absolute tolerance by either definition. And expecting any belief, value or idea to be universally respected is simply unrealistic.

The goal in the United States—and I realize it’s not always achieved—is to allow the individual the right to believe and act freely insofar as his/her actions do not compromise the rights of fellow citizens. We value, in this country, the right of Freedom of Speech—aka Freedom of Expression. We all have the right to express our ideas and opinions to the extent we don’t violate someone else’s rights. Freedom of Speech can violate someone else’s rights when, for example, I seriously threaten to harm or kill someone for exercising a legal action or expressing an idea or opinion.

My right to say what’s on my mind is limited when it forcibly stops others from exercising legal actions or expressing ideas and opinions. In the public forum, I can disagree, disparage, ridicule, challenge, even insult; but I cannot try to silence the free expression of others. I must tolerate (allow) all expressions, in the sense that I must respect—not the expression itself, or even the person expressing it—but the right of other person to express. And that freedom extends to responses as well. In the real world, no idea, opinion or belief is universally respected or accepted. If I don’t want my ideas challenged, then I should carefully consider whether or not I want to express them in a public forum; because the public has a right to respond, and I need to respect that right, even if I disrespect the content of the responses I might receive.

In the show, I referenced the following:

http://www.powers-point.com/2006/10/intolerant-atheist.html
-Karen Powers

“I always like to point out to my many atheist friends that I have never tried to convert them or ridicule their beliefs, but have been on the receiving ends of dozens of rants against my belief system…something that feels a lot like the person is trying to “convert” me to their way of life (atheism) all the while accusing religious people of being intolerant.”

Here Karen equates attempts to convert with intolerance. First of all, an attempt at conversion does not impede Karen’s right to believe or act. No matter how badly someone wants Karen to do X or believe X, simply talking to her about X cannot force her to do either. She is correct, though, that it can show a level of disrespect for the beliefs she holds currently when someone tries to change her mind. Atheists understand this from dealing with apologists; just as Karen understands this from her atheist friends. But I’m free to respond that I disagree with them, as is Karen, and also to express why I disagree, as is Karen. I’m also free to not listen to them if I so choose, as is Karen. No harm, no foul.

Karen’s post was not the only one addressed, but it was representative of what is found when you look up “atheist intolerance” on the Internet. The main complaint is that atheists don’t publicly respect theists or theism. But, again, that’s the case with any belief—none are universally respected. I’m unsure, though, why that’s a problem. No one requires my stamp of approval in order to do or believe whatever they want. If I express that what someone else does or believes is silly or stupid, it has no impact whatsoever on their right or ability to continue to do or believe it. There is, in fact, no reason whatsoever for anyone to care what anyone else thinks about what they do or believe—if the assessment extends no further than a mere personal opinion.

Fortunately, with regard to atheists, most of the people I know in the community really don’t care what Christians “believe,” despite the fact we get weekly letters asking us why it bothers us so much that other people believe in god. It actually doesn’t bother most atheists that theists believe in god. What tends to bother atheists is when any particular religious group tries to impose it’s beliefs upon the rest of the population—either via legislation or via other means of policing public policy (legal or otherwise). When theists try to dictate my behavior so that it is in line with their theistic doctrines, this imposes on my individual rights and freedoms—granted to me by the Constitution. Constitutionally, I have as much right to choose my beliefs and actions as any other citizen in this country.

The show included numerous readings from theists who felt that atheists should not exercise their Freedom of Speech. Perhaps the best example was the transcript of a Paula Zahn Now! show:

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0701/31/pzn.01.html

In this episode, real venom was aimed at atheists and atheism. I don’t mind people aiming venom. Again, so long as they let others live their lives, I don’t care what they think or how vehemently they think it or express it. But a line is crossed when they begin telling others to “shut up.” Attempting to demand that others stop expressing ideas, opinions, and beliefs—is the beginning of intolerance. Criticize ideas however you like—but don’t tell others they need to stop exercising their Constitutional right of Freedom of Speech. Each of us has as much right to express our ideas as anyone else has to criticize them. I’m happy to dialogue—but “shut up” isn’t a dialogue. It’s an expressed wish to monologue publicly, without public challenge or response. And that’s the way to shut down public debate—which is simply hypocritical, cowardly and not in the best interest of maintaining a free and open society.

One particularly interesting statement made on the program was when Karen Hunter said, “Don’t impose upon my right to want to have prayer in schools, to want to say the pledge of allegiance…”

First of all, nobody can impose on anyone else’s right to “want” something. But as far as her right to actually have it—nobody has imposed on that, either. Anyone is legally allowed to pray and say the Pledge of Allegiance in any nondisruptive way, and I have yet to meet any atheist who opposes this. However, theists are not Constitutionally allowed to impose prayers upon nonadherents, and they are out of line to add narrow religious statements into a pledge that is intended to be used by the entire nation. This imposes a pledge to monotheism/religion upon all citizens who would like to also be able to say the Pledge to their nation. There is no reason the Pledge should not be accessible to all citizens equally. It should not apply only to those citizens who adhere to the idea of a monotheistic deity. Again, Karen’s right to express her beliefs should end where the right of others to express themselves begins. According to Karen, it’s perfectly acceptable for me to have to choose
between pledging loyalty to her religious beliefs and pledging loyalty to my country. But if no mention of god was contained in the Pledge, there would be no imposition to either theistic or atheistic Americans. That’s the difference. The insertion of the monotheistic god into the Pledge was a move in the 1950s that continues to alienate some very patriotic citizens in the U.S. to this day. And it is logical that a national Pledge should as much as possible unite, and not divide the citizenry.

I ended with a reading of several articles, all published in the last month, that gave examples of Christians being intolerant by attempting to disallow others to exercise legal actions or express beliefs. Examples included death threats to J.K. Rowling, threats of harm to a library for a summer program that included workshops on astrology, a bomb planted at a women’s clinic, a man who murdered another man because his victim was gay, attempted book bannings at a school library by one mother, an attempted ban on Sunday liquor sales, and a disruptive protest during a Hindu prayer before the U.S. Senate. There were more articles, but we didn’t have time to address them all.

While I acknowledged on the show that this behavior is not representative of the vast majority of Christians; it is fair to ask why, when this sort of religious thought-control and behavior-control intolerance is covered in the U.S. media, it appears to be almost exclusively attempted by Christian adherents? And why, if that is the case, are atheists the ones consistently labeled as “intolerant”—most often merely for legally exercising their Freedom of Speech by criticizing ideas with which they disagree?

National Day of Prayer never had a prayer

Several more prominent blogs have already reported on this, arguably making its coverage here superfluous. But it’s just so hilarious that I couldn’t not remark upon it. In Washington D.C., no one bothered to turn up to the National Day of Prayer event on the Capitol lawn. They set up 600 folding chairs, and a podium with a huge PA system. But there were never any more than four seats occupied. The official spokesman for the International Bible Reading Association responded to this ultimate in flopdom by saying, cryptically, “This isn’t that kind of event.” What kind of event? The kind where people turn up at all, you mean, thereby making it an “event” in the first place? Then why set up 600 folding chairs?

Now comes the hilarious part. The aforementioned spokesman is one Jeff Gannon (real name James Guckert), best known for having the most unusual career trajectory in all Washington. Prior to finding his way into the White House press corps, where he was essentially a plant whose role was lobbing Democrat-bashing softball questions at Bush, he was offering his services for $200 an hour at HotMilitaryStud.com, a gay online escort service. Now he’s the spokesman for the International Bible Reading Association? Truly, the Lord works in mysterious ways. But then, I suppose He can afford the 200 bucks.


Jeff Gannon before…

…and after.


You think Jeff let Bush have that one on the house?

Praise the Lord and pass the KY!

I’m sorry. That was pretty bad. Even for me.

PS: The article goes on to state that a counter-rally for the National Day of Reason held nearby by the Beltway Atheists drew only five people (one more than the NDOP crowd!), indicating that the whole thing is, to the general public, pretty much a non-event. Which I’m pleased to see. The more that the efforts of the theocrats are met with blanket indifference by the public at large, to the point where even protest actions are seen as utterly unnecessary, the happier we’ll all be. Nevertheless, our own Don Baker reports that the NDOR gathering in Austin went over rather well, so perhaps we can persuade him to blog about it for those who couldn’t attend.