Can we please stop having religion, people?

So this idiot punk-ass Somali kid decides he wants to be a big jihad hero and set off a bomb in Portland, and is exactly dumb enough to walk right into a sting. I imagine the FBI was having a hard time not laughing as they handed him the cell phone he thought would trigger a massive explosion. “Dude, it’ll be just like on 24, except this time you’re the good guy!”

On Sunday some clodhoppers decide to retaliate by burning down the Islamic Center the kid attended, though they only managed to scorch part of it a little bit and cause some smoke damage.

In the midst of all this, we have the unsurprising spectacle of Christopher Hitchens turning Tony Blair into thin strips of beef tripe in a debate over whether religion is a “force for good” in the world. The only debate there is whether anyone who would answer yes to that question is merely deluded or maliciously ignorant.

Religion, more and more, is being revealed as a haven for lunatics willing to commit all manner of lunacy to curry the favor of an imaginary father figure. I see precious few good guys, only idiots with competing holy books trying to outdo one another’s monumental acts of barbarism. Whatever good “faith” may be doing anyone is well hidden from view, at best. Can everybody please just let it go already?

…Sorry. Slipped into a little reverie there. Back to bad old reality yet again.

Burning Korans, drawing Mohammed, avoiding hypocrisy, creative vs. destructive protests — religion just makes the whole frickin’ world crazy!

There’s a truth about the upcoming Koran cookout planned by Dove World Church and its grandstanding (and light-fingered) pastor Terry Jones: they have every right under the Constitution to do this thing. Are they a bunch of dicks who don’t care about the potential devastating backlash of their actions as long as they get the publicity they crave? Yeah, I suppose they are.

Recently, atheists proudly participated in an online event called Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, which was as deliberate a middle finger to Islam as we could have thought up. Before that, PZ Myers famously threw a cracker in the trash, making him the bête noire of Catholics worldwide. (Though they conveniently forget that he also trashed a copy of The God Delusion at the same time.) As people who are not above acts of deliberate provocation ourselves — indeed, as people who are currently arguing amongst ourselves about the merits of “being a dick” in our encounters with religionists — it would hardly be honest of us to join the chorus of chest-beating outrage against Jones’ church for the horrible offense of burning somebody’s holy book. While most of us, I’m sure, take Fahrenheit 451 to heart and deplore book-burning on general principles as a disgraceful act of intellectual cowardice and the suppression of ideas, we should also acknowledge the legitimacy of the act as a form of protest speech. After all, I can’t very well defend the rights of flag-burners while condemning a Koran-burner. Don’t work dat way!

I suppose where the conversation ought to go from here for atheists is in whether or not Jones is motivated by a desire to conduct a legitimate form of protest, or if he’s simply a crass political opportunist, playing into a rising tide of anti-Muslim bigotry in order to increase his profile from “obscure pastor of an outcast hick church” to “internationally famous martyr and warrior for Christ”. Well, what is legitimate protest in this context? Yes, radical Islamists brought down the World Trade Center. But all Muslims are not radical Islamists, and all Muslims did not partake in, let alone condone, the 9/11 attacks. So if Jones’s idea is that he’s protesting Islam for 9/11, he’s clearly throwing his net way too wide. The thing is, I suppose he knows it, but doesn’t care. He’s getting the publicity he wants.

The potential for hypocrisy in criticizing the upcoming burning has been much on my mind, and I’ve been forced to think about the similarities and differences between what Jones is about to do, and, say, Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. And then I’ve been forced to question whether or not any of my ideas are simply bullshit justifications I’ve been making up to feel better. I don’t think they are. But I do think it’s a positive thing, overall, that I’m willing to be self-critical. This is an advantage the godless life offers, I think, over the brazen certainties of God-botherers like Jones, who confidently assert that God (i.e., their projection of themselves upon the universe) truly wants them to do what they’re planning.

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, for one thing, was on the whole a creative rather than destructive act of protest. It was a response, not only to the real Islamist violence and threats of violence that erupted in the wake of the publication of a few innocuous (and not especially good, when you think about it) cartoons, but to the arrogant assumption on the part of Islamists that non-Muslims were somehow obligated to follow Islam’s rules. Also, at the end of the day, what you had were a bunch of silly cartoons. While there was a little huffing and puffing about EDMD, in the end, the message I think got across (to the general public, if not to radicals) that taking someone’s life over a lame doodle was both insane and pitiful in equal measure. Lame doodles themselves can’t possibly hurt a fly. EDMD might have offended some Muslims. But in the end, no one killed anyone.

Now, piling up a couple hundred copies of the Koran and torching them — that would be a destructive form of protest. Furthermore, it’s hypocritical of Jones to justify it by condemning Islam as a hateful, intolerant religion, when he has a history of hate speech (against gays, the usual suspects) and intolerance. While I think Jones has the right to go through with his speech, I don’t think his motives are honest. He’s exactly what he condemns, except that his religious radicalism wears a cross rather than a crescent moon and star. (The atheists who took part in EDMD might condemn Islam and Islamist violence, but we’d never want to deprive Muslims of their right to worship, as many right-wingers do right now.)

Could this event trigger more terrorist attacks and counter-strikes against our troops overseas? Yeah, I suppose it could, though it isn’t as if they needed more reasons to do that. But if Jones ends up giving them one, the first such attack will be all the vindication he needs. “See, we were right about how violent Islam is!” Not caring that, in this instance, he threw the first punch. Yeah, it’s entirely valid to condemn radical Islamists for doing what they actually do, which is kill people who aren’t sufficiently “respectful” to their beliefs. But you limit your condemnation to those individuals and groups who do the violence. As has been pointed out to an indifferent Jones, it’s absurd and dishonest as hell for him to suggest that he’s only protesting the violent Islamists, and that “moderate Muslims” ought to support him, when it’s their holy book he’s burning too.

In the end, I think what we as atheists should take away from all this insanity is a sobering realization that this is the kind of world you get when religion runs the show. Belief pits us against our fellow man for the most absurd of reasons: failure to worship the correct invisible magic man in the correct way. And for all that defenders bleat about the alleged benefits of religion — that sense of charity, well-being, love and community we are told believers enjoy better than any of the rest of us — they always leave out the part about religion’s innate tribalism. Whatever benefits religious beliefs confer are only enjoyed by those within that particular belief community. If you’re an outsider…run.

We rationalists can only hope humanity outgrows its penchant for religious tribalism one day, and that all these vile superstitions are eradicated from our cultural landscape completely. (Not through violence, of course, but through intellectual and moral awakening.) There really ought to only be one tribe — humanity.

But until then…yeah, go ahead, burn that Koran. Whatever. I’ll be at home that day. Let me know when the smoke clears and it’s safe to breathe free again.

Heartless

So there’s this young man of Japanese/Italian descent, name of Takumi, by all accounts very smart and outgoing, with fluency in seven languages. He’s suffering from a condition called Ventricular Septal Defect. He has three holes in his heart, and this year alone he’s already had two heart attacks and a stroke. It would be nice to know this young fellow had the support of a loving and devoted family to see him through his health crisis. But that’s not the case, you see, because Takumi is gay, and his family are devout churchgoers. So instead of getting him proper medical care, they beat him up and threw him out of house and home. Because being religious is all about that family values thing, of course.

Happily, we live in the Internet age, and so with the help of online donations and spreading the word via social networks, Takumi’s been getting by, barely. One can only cringe at the thought of all the gay kids living 20 years ago, who didn’t have these resources to fall back on. How many gay sons and daughters, who only wanted a little love and someone to call family, have been killed by hearts hardened into hate by religion? (Hey, not bad, that one. It’s nice when you can combine a rant with some alliteration.)

Counter-protesting Phelps in SanFran: doin it rite!

Via Dawkins’ site, I come upon this post at Laughing Squid reporting on a recent protest by — oh great, them again — Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church at San Francisco’s Twitter offices, and the counter-protest by locals. Note the tone is one of glorious, effusive mockery, as seen in the example below.

More where that came from, kidrocks. Take a moment to note that this is absolutely the right approach to take with idiots like Westboro: “point and laugh” should always be the default response to utter troglodyte stupidity. And yes, we have gotten emails from viewers saying, “ZOMG, I heard Fred Phelps coming to my town, and I want to counter-protest! What should I do?” Well, here you go.

I’d personally go with “GOD HATES HASHTAGS,” but that’s just me.

Letting people as hopelessly pathetic as Westboro make you angry simply validates their hate, which is what they want. True, there are times when it’s perfectly fitting to respond angrily to such stupidity. But that would be times when, say, homophobia takes on the sort of political character that can lead to legislation that harms and discriminates, like Prop. 8. Phelps, on the other hand, is a mere clown. And we laugh at clowns. At least, the ones that aren’t frackin’ scary.

Christian Hate wins in Maine…but…

Once again, the fundies have locked and loaded the only weapons they have, hate and fear, and brought them to bear in Maine, where a marriage equality vote went the wrong way yesterday. Naturally, this is disappointing for those of us who support love and families regardless of such details as race, creed, or sexual preference, and oppose ignorant discrimination based on fearing the wrath of an invisible magic man in the sky.

But I see some encouragement here. Note that the hate vote was only 53%. I think only ten years ago it might have been upwards of 70% or even 80%. Opening hearts and minds to accepting that, first, women, and then blacks and other racial minorities, deserved equality under the law took a huge cultural sea change. (And of course I’m talking across a broad base here, not just the issue of marriage. When you get right down to it, movements like women’s suffrage and the right to have birth control, and the rights of African Americans to sit wherever the fuck they pleased on the bus, are essentially the very same fight as the GLBT marriage fight: it’s about equality, period.) It will take an even bigger sea change for our culture at large to begin to accept gay marriage, primarily because, of all the equality fights down the years, this one is tricky because it’s going against centuries of religious programming that gays and lesbians are the vilest kinds of hellbound sinners alive.

Progress is happening faster than you might think. Remember the article from just a few days back, reporting the rise of secularism among New England states, and the frustration of evangelicals in those states. I suspect that it may just take a generational shift to move more people in the mainstream of America towards the side of marriage equality. After all, one huge factor that has been shown to be alienating younger people today from their parents’ traditional Christian faith is this constant hammering of the “Get The Fags!” drum on the part of Christians just about everywhere. As these older generations pass on, and more open-minded young people grow up and adopt tolerant secular attitudes, things will shift.

So yeah, marriage equality fighters, the downside is that I am suggesting it may not be until the ’20s or ’30s before widespread legalization of gay marriage becomes a reality in America. But really, despite yesterday’s election setback — again, by not nearly as large a margin as it could have been — the momentum is with you. For GLBT marriage equality, it’s only a matter of time. It’ll happen. Not this year. But it will.

George Tiller: Death by Propaganda

In today’s Austin American-Statesman, there was an editorial that included a photo of a church marquis letting us know that George Tiller died the same way he lived. I believe the inferred connection there is intended to be “murder.”

The first article I read about this was in the June 1 edition. President Troy Newman of Operation Rescue responded to the murder by saying he was “shocked” and that “Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice…We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning.”

In fact, Tiller was, actually, “brought to justice” where justice, it seems, acquitted him of charges that he had illegally performed late term abortions without a proper medical second opinion.

In addition to seeking peacefully to bring Tillman—a man who was found to be breaking no laws—to justice, Operation Rescue also featured a “Tiller Watch” at their Web site. I guess now they can take it down. It’s work here is done, as the saying goes.

It didn’t get done right away, though, because it turns out that Tiller was actually the victim of a similar shooting in 1993, when another life-affirming, anti-choice, protestor—a woman—managed to get within range. I wonder if “Tiller Watch” was up back then as well to inspire her—or if it was put up after the first attempt failed to achieve the goal?

When I read Newman’s comments about his “shock”—I was, ironically, shocked myself. I turned to my friend and said, “If you go around screaming that someone is mass murdering babies—what do you think will happen?”

And this was before I had read down to the part of the article where Operation Rescue Founder Randall Terry had actually called Tiller “a mass murderer.”

Everyone has a breaking point. I don’t care who you are. You have one. Seriously, let’s say you sincerely believed your neighbor was mass murdering children in his home. You call the cops, frantic, and explain to them that he’s torturing and killing young children—you’re absolutely sure of it! But the dispatcher just says, “Yeah–that’s totally his right. We really don’t come out for things like baby killings.” You keep calling back. Surely they didn’t understand you the first fifty times you called? But the response is always the same. And here you are, on the phone, wasting time, while the monster next door is killing more and more innocent children! My god, man! What do you do?!

If this was actually happening, and you knew it, and nobody was stopping this killer, at what point—if out of nothing more than pure altruism (if there is such a thing?)—would you finally say, “I don’t care if I die for this or go to prison for the rest of my life—someone has to do the right thing and stop this monstrous freak!”

Groups like Operation Rescue consist of members (and apparently leadership as well) who make a point of publicly labeling these doctors, and their patients, as “baby killers”—literally mass baby killers. And maybe it’s just me—but if someone actually is going around mass murdering children—I don’t think I would be “shocked” that someone stepped up and killed that person. So, why is Operation Rescue expressing “shock,” if they know this man is a baby killer? Are they “shocked” that by labeling such a person a “baby killer,” that someone might think he should be stopped by any means necessary? I mean, would it shock you if you believed what they believe? What, exactly, do they think happens when you whip up masses of (often already emotionally driven) people with something like that?

We’re all supposed to play along, I guess, that they never expected anything like this to happen as a result of merely calling someone something so benign and harmless as “a mass murderer (of babies)”? Who would have thought people would be all “up in arms,” literally, and excited over something like that? Apparently not Newman. But I think most other people could have seen it coming light years away. And I can’t really bring myself to play along that Operation Rescue is “shocked.”

I have a saying when someone asks me to believe obvious bullshit. I say, “Either you’re stupid—or you think I am.” And like most people, I don’t appreciate it when someone, or in this case some organization, communicates to me like I’m an idiot. It doesn’t upset me, but I find it hard to play along. No, Operation Rescue, you’re not shocked. Please stop pretending, and have your victory celebration unapologetically.

I guess that would result in some really crappy P.R. But, still, how refreshing to see some noble honesty for once?

“Mass baby killing.” There’s the trigger. Pun not intended, but wholly (holy?) appropriate in this case.

Most people agree with rule of law. If they didn’t we’d have far more chaos than we do. But I don’t think there is anyone who does not understand that at some point, we would all be willing to defy the law in order to do something we consider morally necessary.

Yes, it’s cliche’, but I’m going to use an example from Nazi Germany until a better example comes along—which will, hopefully, be never. But, if I lived in Nazi Germany—I hope I would not turn someone in if I knew they were a hiding Jew. I hope I would, like I hope many of you would, end up breaking the law, and maybe even dying, myself, or potentially killing someone, to protect others from people I view as utterly wrong and dangerous. So, it’s no “shock” to me, and probably not to you, either, that if you whip up huge numbers of fundamentalist-thinking people with things like “godless baby killers!” you’re going to get not a few individuals (I’m surprised they don’t get more) who go ape-shit and fly completely off the rails in the worst way.

I don’t think Operation Rescue crosses a line against free speech—such as someone who might say, “Somebody needs to put a bullet in these doctors. Can I interest you in further details?” would be doing; but, when they try to divorce themselves from a natural—and, let’s be honest here, pretty predictable—consequence of their influence—that’s where I want to cry “hypocrite.” Not “foul.” Not “lock you up for what you said.” But “Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid—that did not shock you.” In fact, if it shocked any one of you, you don’t get out enough.

This isn’t a video game about killing doctors. This isn’t a music CD about killing doctors. This is a group of real human beings calling other real human beings “baby killers” and then saying they can’t believe that simply being consistently and publicly labeled as a “baby killer” would make someone want to kill you. I mean, he was just a baby killer—nothing to get all worked up about and start shooting people.

Really? Can’t imagine how an agenda of working nonstop to convince (many already deluded) people this guy was a baby killer, could result in someone getting hurt?

Are you stupid, or do you think I am?

What’s sad, though, is that if they were really shocked—then this man died for some mysterious agenda. “Shocked” means you don’t really think what he was doing was something a person might kill another person over. And that means you don’t believe he was a mass baby killer—because who wouldn’t expect a mass baby killer might be, himself, killed by someone one day? So, what is going on over at Operation Rescue, where they aren’t at all responding like they believed he was a mass baby murderer? What if they had some other, ulterior motive—and this guy died as collateral damage for some superficial propaganda blitz? That would really be hosed up, wouldn’t it?

But—other than their inexplicable, “shocked” reaction—why would anyone think Operation Rescue wasn’t since
re about their claims that abortion doctors are committing mass infanticide, unhindered within our own borders?

Well, here’s my theory: If they truly believed what they say they are convinced of, then abortion in the U.S. is probably the largest, mass infant murder movements in history. I’m going to assert that they’d all be shooting doctors. And, I would hope that if I really, truly, sincerely believed there was a mass child killer on the loose and nobody was stopping him or her—that just maybe I would courageously do the same thing—if I really believed it. Of course, if I just wanted to emotionally manipulate a huge bunch of people, and I didn’t really believe or care about what I was saying, then I’d be doing exactly what Operation Rescue does—taking my time in courts, standing on corners with signs, taking people’s money, telling them who to vote for, and watching them hang on my every recommendation as I play on their fear and hate.

The fact that groups like Operation Rescue stop short of reaching the, not only logical, but obvious conclusion of what needs to be done if their claims are believed—and human children are being slaughtered in droves—demonstrates to me, or to anyone, a lack of genuine belief in their own propaganda. I think, like most religious views, they “believe” it in some weird way on some odd, superficial level where it hits emotional response (and, I mean, come on, how easy is that?), but doesn’t ever sink down into thought centers, where it would normally ruminate and ferment into a more cohesive and fully formed “idea”—with actual implications and repercussions and consequences. But they obviously don’t believe it on that sort of level—on the sort of level where any real, proportional “action” would necessarily follow—as I would expect action to follow if any real, thinking human being believed unhindered mass murder was happening unabated?!

Where is the courage of conviction here?

Where is any conviction here?

What the hell do these people honestly believe?

And why did this guy really die?

They do homophobia bigger in Utah!

If you haven’t seen this delirious anti-gay ad that recently ran in the Salt Lake City paper, placed by AmericaForever.com, one of those patriotism-is-the-last-refuge-of-scoundrels Christian hate groups, you haven’t lived. I don’t know what’s funnier here. Just basking in the raving paranoia and idiocy (seriously, people, if you really believe your own marriages will be devalued by letting gay couples marry, then your marriages aren’t worth shit to begin with); trying to count the misspellings and number of fonts used; or simply having a chuckle over the we-didn’t-catch-the-irony use of such words as “backdoor”.

Enjoy. And, uh, think of the children.

But there’s more. Here’s an example of thermostupid right from their website, copied as written, without editing or corrections.

They are using intimadation to gain ground and are lying to the public, ALL THEY WANT IS MARRIAGE RIGHTS to valdite their relationship of the same-sex!!! THEY ALREADY HAVE THE RIGHT to Marry, a gay man can marry a gay woman!

Comedy frickin’ gold!

And now, a rant: Christians can’t be happy unless they’re making gays unhappy. That’s mean. Mean people suck.

What a sickening cesspool of hate and fear Christianity has become. How can so many of its adherents live with themselves, when they actively take steps to bully, victimize, and bring misery to the lives of a group of people for the sole crime of being different? Word comes from California that it isn’t enough for the supporters of Proposition H8 that they’ve banned gay marriage. Now they want to nullify the thousands of marriages that were performed in the few brief weeks that gays and lesbians actually got to see what having a basic human right was like.

Look, I know there are many decent and tolerant Christians out there who were (and are) opposed to Prop H8, and supportive of gay rights and marriage equality. I’d suggest that if those people are intelligent enough to support those things, then they’re intelligent enough to know that all of Christianity’s superstitions about God and Satan and Heaven and Hell and choirs of angels and talking donkeys are bullshit, too. And the moral character they possess that, in addition to their intelligence, allows them to support equality and tolerance is something they possess despite, not because of, their Christianity. You can’t get morals from an immoral religion. If you’re progressive, tolerant, humane, decent, and Christian, well, one of those things is a fifth wheel. Pop it off. You don’t need it.

After all, it’s that fifth wheel that allows these confused people to set up websites called ProtectMarriage.com whose stated agenda is to destroy marriages by the thousands. See, a person who really was both intelligent and moral would see the oxymoron there, and say, “Hey, I’m being conned!”

Honestly, why is it that conservative Christians (who would be likely, actually, to agree with my assessment that tolerant progressives shouldn’t be Christian either, as everyone knows they are the only True Christians) can’t be happy unless they’re making gays and lesbians unhappy at every opportunity? Because, you know. That’s mean. Mean people suck. But then, so does Christianity. So it makes sense, I guess.

I get the impression that these are the family “values” True Christians enthusiastically favor, eh?

A grim reminder on a grim anniversary: it can happen here

Because people need to remember exactly what was at the root of the most horrific terrorist act of modern times: religious fundamentalism and zealotry. Here is the list of instructions that was found among the personal effects of 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. Some salient excerpts:

Keep in mind that, if you fall into hardship, how will you act and how will you remain steadfast and remember that you will return to God and remember that anything that happens to you could never be avoided, and what did not happen to you could never have happened to you. This test from Almighty God is to raise your level [levels of heaven] and erase your sins. And be sure that it is a matter of moments, which will then pass, God willing, so blessed are those who win the great reward of God. Almighty God said: ‘Did you think you could go to heaven before God knows whom amongst you have fought for Him and are patient?’

Remember the words of Almighty God: ‘You were looking to the battle before you engaged in it, and now you see it with your own two eyes.’ Remember: ‘How many small groups beat big groups by the will of God.’ And His words: ‘If God gives you victory, no one can beat you. And if He betrays you, who can give you victory without Him? So the faithful put their trust in God.’

When you have reached (M) and have left the taxi, say a supplication of place ['Oh Lord, I ask you for the best of this place, and ask you to protect me from its evils'], and everywhere you go say that prayer and smile and be calm, for God is with the believers. And the angels protect you without you feeling anything. Say this supplication: ‘God is more dear than all of His creation.’ And say: ‘Oh Lord, protect me from them as You wish.’ And say: ‘Oh Lord, take your anger out on [the enemy] and we ask You to protect us from their evils.’ And say: ‘Oh Lord, block their vision from in front of them, so that they may not see.’ And say: ‘God is all we need, He is the best to rely upon.’ Remember God’s words: ‘Those to whom the people said, “The people have gathered to get you, so fear them,” but that only increased their faith and they said, God is all we need, He is the best to rely upon.’

The ultimate “faith based initiative,” this.

Ah Martin, some of you might be saying, of course radical Islamists are violent psychotics. But that’s what their religion promotes. Christianity is all about peace and love and forgiveness and fluffy bunnies. You’d never see that kind of mindset bred here, goodness gracious me no!

Except, of course, we do. Meet “Joel’s Army,” a fast-growing group of Dominionist maniacs so flamboyantly extreme that they even frighten other conservative Christians. In the words of Rick Joyner, a popular pastor associated with the movement:

“As the church begins to take on this resolve, they [Joel's Army churches] will start to be thought of more as military bases, and they will begin to take on the characteristics of military bases for training, equipping, and deploying effective spiritual forces,” Joyner wrote. “In time, the church will actually be organized more as a military force with an army, navy, air force, etc.”

This is how you brainwash a generation of kids into becoming the kinds of killers who strap bombs to themselves and walk into public places. You convince them that any violent act they see fit to commit is fully justified as an act of self-defense. And the best way to feel like you’re a persecuted minority when you really aren’t is by embracing religious piety. Ol’ Adolf had convinced himself of this, when he wrote many religious justifications in Mein Kampf for his anti-Semitism, and the psychology was well understood by Hermann Goering, a much smarter and more cunning man than Hitler, who testified in Nuremberg, “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” Goering was speaking in a general political sense there, but the principle applies to religious terror as well. Just replace “pacifists” with “unbelievers” or “unsaved,” and “patriotism” with “piety” or “faith,” and it’s basically the same sentiment.

Joel’s Army have what must be the biggest case of fatwa envy on the planet, and take my cynical little word for it: the only difference between them and al Qaeda is that Joel’s Army simply haven’t gotten around to the “killing people” part of their plans yet. They’re hopeful, indeed, even eager, to see a sea change in public attitudes that will make that kind of activity in America receive the sort of overall public support that Qaeda’s terrorism gets in much of the Islamic world. But that doesn’t mean they’ll wait around to commit acts of violence, any more than the Islamist terrorists have. Proud of their anti-intellectualism and lack of education and worldliness, the cretins of Joel’s Army pray for the day God’s armies swoop down across the United States, killing off all the fags and libruls and establishing a blessed Christian fascist theocracy to welcome the savior’s second coming.

Sure, you might say that, with the vast majority even of Christian denominations contemptuous of the militarist fantasies of JA’s “Kingdom Now” theology, and arrayed against them, that they’re unlikely to gain any kind of majority foothold. But while they might hope for that kind of acceptance, disaffected loons don’t exactly need a majority foothold to be violent. Indeed, the feeling of being further isolated and marginalized might prompt them to action sooner rather than later. And with the far right currently energized by the rise in popularity of Sarah Palin, a book-banning zealot of the fire-and-brimstone old school from a Dominionist church, who knows what kind of plans are fomenting in the brains of these loons, if it looks like even a shred of respectability is suddenly being accorded their views. (Not saying that Palin’s fundamentalism, while too extreme to make her a safe bet in the White House, is as extreme as Joel’s Army. But the link between her church and Dominionist teaching has been noted.)

So on the 7th anniversary of 9/11, it behooves us to remember that not only is the war on terror still not won, it will probably never be won as long as the primary ingredients of terrorism’s recipe — a self-righteous sense of victimhood married to an implacable faith that God is behind you all the way — remain at full boil on the stove. And while we’ve been spending all our time these last seven years nurturing our fear of the Islamists, and wasted countless lives and resources trying to bring the war to them on their shores, over in America we’ve been cooking up our very own divinely inspired wannabe mass murderers, who have as much, if not more, contempt for the United States and its diversity and freedoms as al Qaeda ever had.

Another Expelled victim: Could Ben Stein’s lies launch a wave of religious hate?

Over at Richard Dawkins’ site, Dawkins posts a crazed, histrionic letter from a Jewish man to Michael Shermer. This fellow evidently saw Expelled over the weekend, swallowed the movie’s foul calumnies about evolutionary theory being responsible for the Holocaust with complete credulity, and went berserk. Dawkins publishes his own calm and even-tempered response to the man (who wails that Shermer ought to be run out of the country, a point which Dawkins admonishes the man is shamefully just like the views the Nazis held towards the Jews), in which he makes the facts abundantly clear and assures the man he has been most callously and cold-heartedly lied to by evil, mendacious people with an agenda. It will be interesting to hear if the man replies, or tucks his tail between his legs and runs off.

This is something that has, perhaps, not been fully addressed in the runup to Expelled‘s mild opening weekend, but which perhaps should be addressed now: the possibility that certain individuals will take the movie’s lies to heart and a wave of flat-out religious hatred towards the sciences and academia may begin. We already know that religious extremists don’t need a whole lot of motivation to go completely unglued. Fundamentalists are, by definition, fearful and irrational. It hasn’t taken much to inspire the God-soaked to pick up a rifle and gun down an abortion provider, or to beat gay men to death, or to dress up in white robes and lynch black people, or crash jetliners into buildings. Those, of course, are the very worst examples. Right now we have scientists getting hate mail. Is there a chance we might see a Molotov cocktail or two lobbed through the window of a university classroom somewhere?

Hopefully that’s just slippery slope thinking. But then, as history teaches us, the more fanatical the belief in the divine, the more dangerous a person is apt to be. And remember, those Wehrmacht belt buckles didn’t have Darwin fish on them; they read, very clearly, “Gott Mit Uns.” I hope it doesn’t turn out that Ben Stein ends up having far more to answer for than just stolen animations and music. Shame on you, Ben. What you’ve done is deeply immoral and unforgivable.