But…but…it makes no SENSE!

Welcome to Florida, where they hate teh gayz, but are apparently pretty open-minded about furries. The Sunshine State goes out of its way to prevent gays and lesbians from marrying or even adopting (though their adoption ban has been ruled unconstitutional), and yet they just can’t seem to muster up the energy to ban bestiality.

But here’s what I find confusing, even by the standards of wingnut tomfoolery. Aren’t these folks the ones who believe that homosexuality leads to bestiality? Aren’t they the ones telling us that buttsecks and being fabulous is just a gateway drug to boning Fido? I mean, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and our ol’ buddy Pat seem to think so, and many others in the I’m-Not-Repressing-Anything-No-I-Mean-It Brigade agree. So is it Florida’s position, then, that while The Gay is a threat to the very fabric of our society that must be eradicated at all costs, the presumably-ickier kinks it apparently leads to aren’t really much to be worried about? Wouldn’t it follow that if homosexuality really corrupts society, then bestiality would be a total apocalyptic leghump for the whole planet? But if they’re now saying bestiality is a “rare crime” that it would be a waste of time dealing with legislatively, then aren’t they admitting that Huck and Pat and Rick and those guys are (gasp!) wrong!? But how could they be lying to us? They’re good Christians! Gah! Dealing with these people makes my poor head* throb. I need a cookie.


*I mean the one on my shoulders. Geez, you people…

Yes, I know, this is just begging for a joke about teabagging…

…But even I won’t go near it, gang. Wait, I just did. Oh well! And yet, a headline like “Christian Right leader takes vacation with ‘rent boy’” is still funny no matter how many times stuff like that happens. Gee, it’s almost like “Christian Right leaders” are all a bunch of repressed moral hypocrites or something.

I’m sure Howard Stern’s people are speed-dialing

So there’s this Christian pop singer cutie who’s just come back from a seven-year hiatus to reveal she’s gay. Unlike Ted Haggard, she’s totally cool with her gayosity, so all props to her! But I wonder if the title of her new album Letting Go really means what she wants it to mean. Sweetheart, we’re all very happy for you, but religion is not your friend! The hate you’re about to get from those who pride themselves on how devout they are is something you just don’t need. Just be proud you’ve found the music in you, and move on.

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.

Cal-irony-fication

The California Supreme US District Court is currently hearing a case over whether 2008 Proposition 8 (which bans same-sex marriage in the California State Constitution) is itself constitutional. If the court rules that it is not constitutional (by the state’s US constitution), then same-sex marriage would revert to being allowed in the state. This is a pretty important case as many people feel that California is a cultural leader for the entire US–not to mention its sheer size.

There has been a recent side-show as to whether the hearing would be (video) broadcast to the public. One can make an argument that public interest is served by transparency, especially in such an important case. This little debate went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States that decided today that there should be no such coverage. The 5-4 decision (with the conservative Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, and Alito in the majority) was ostensibly decided on a technicality. Not too interesting so far; but let’s look under the hood, shall we?

The very fact that SCOTUS even heard the case and issued a decision was based on an urgent claim of “irreparable harm” to someone. According to one source, “The Court also found that the high-profile nature of the trial might intimidate witnesses and cause irreparable harm if the rule were not stayed.” However, the dissenting justice wrote (page 24-25): “I can find no basis for the Court’s conclusion that, were the transmissions to other courtrooms to take place, the applicants would suffer irreparable harm. Certainly there is no evidence that such harm could arise in this nonjury civil case from the simple fact of transmission itself.” (This article has a good analysis.) Perhaps a broadcast on YouTube would cause irreparable harm to their cause.

So what’s going on? The religious supporters of Proposition 8 are wanting have their free speech rights to make false and emotionally manipulative claims, but they are crying persecution when it comes to taking responsibility for them. Consider defendant Hak-Shing William Tam, who wrote, “On their agenda list is: legalize having sex with children,” and that, “other states would fall into Satan’s hands,” if gays weren’t stopped from marrying in California. A successful advertising campaign during the Proposition 8 election claimed that homosexuality would be taught in public schools. They want to perpetrate thuggery on gays, but they’re playing the persecution card when it comes to taking responsibility for their lies–and the conservatives on the Supreme Court are backing them up. Apparently, taking responsibility is irreparably harmful to the religious.

The irony is so thick here you could build a church with it. Some supporters of Proposition 8 have gotten harassing phone calls and e-mail messages. I can’t say I feel any pity for these people. They are being subject to much milder versions of the same tactics they have done to gays and others over the years. (Religious readers are referred to Exodus 21:22-25 and Matthew 7:12 for a little morality lesson and some tasty just desserts. I long for the day when the majority of gays vote on the Christians’ right to marriage, just as the Christians have done to gays.) Christian death threats are a common intimidation tactic and the religion has plenty of people who are willing to carry them out. Gays have been subject to (real) hate crimes for years, most of which have been religiously motivated. Christians have made a big business out of persecuting gays. Proposition 8 itself is just part of that business. If same-sex marriage becomes normalized, they will have a much harder time vilifying gays and their red-meat lovin’ constituency will turn to other pursuits and take their tithes with them.

Same-sex marriage in the US will happen eventually, but we can count on the religious fighting unfairly every step of the way.

Another konk on the head with the Reality Mallet

Okay, so you know how the homophobic Christian Right clutches its pearls and bleats that if teh gayz are allowed to marry for realz, it will, like, totally destroy the institution of marriage for everybody, forever? So we have to keep gay marriage illegal because the sanctity of traditional straight marriage simply won’t survive otherwise?

Well, it turns out that in the big wide real world that the fundies like to pretend they don’t inhabit, things actually seem to work a little differently.

Now of course, correlation is not causation, and you couldn’t say that if the states with gay marriage bans were to allow gay marriage, then overall divorce rates would start to reverse. I think it’s more of an indicator that many of the states with gay marriage bans have a high fundamentalist demographic, and the rigidly patriarchal marriages that exist in that culture are not exactly the portrait of perfect connubial bliss they want everyone to believe they are.

But it does tend to throw a bit of cold water — like, enough to fill Lake Erie — on the claim that gay marriage is some kind of heterosexuality killer. One has to wonder what folks who say things that stupid are so desperate to suppress.

Somehow, the logic of this escapes me

Found on Facebook, with editorial commentary by yours truly.

Also, I wasn’t aware inventions could be homosexual. Probably explains that alluring rattle my space heater makes.


Addendum: Okay, everyone’s pointed out what I was hoping was the case: that this was some kind of epic Poe-ing. Still, that’s the whole point of Poe’s Law: that it should not be especially surprising to find people out there in the world calling for the destruction of computers by holding up signs that have a URL on them. This is exactly the sort of hilarity you’d expect to see coming from the Westboro crowd with no irony whatsoever.

Christianity and the allure of “cheap grace”

One aspect of religion that has often come under atheists’ critical fire is the way in which it enables the most egregious hypocrisies amongst its most devout adherents. Considering how important Christians will tell you Scripture is to their lives, it’s remarkable how selective they are in their reading of that Big Book of Multiple Choice. The warnings against hypocrisy among believers that comprise most of Matthew 6 would be sufficient to shut up almost the entirety of the American Christian Right, if they were the kinds of people who practiced what they preached.

But I think there is something about religion that’s even more insidious than hypocrisy, and that’s the way it puffs up believers’ hubris, allowing them to think they’re more special and entitled and deserving, even (and especially) without having done anything to earn it. Religion tells people they’re part of a select group, favored over others by God. And yet these are the same people who routinely like to attack unbelievers — and the intelligentsia many unbelievers are part of — as “elitists.” What could be more elitist than believing everybody but you deserves eternity of torture in hell, simply because you belong to the Jesus Fan Club and they don’t?

I’ve been thinking about this over the last couple of days since my attention was drawn to something that hasn’t really turned up on atheists’ radar: the Manhattan Declaration. This is a kind of manifesto that has recently been put together by several prominent conservative Christian figures — among them arch-bigot Tony Perkins and Kazim’s old pal Chuck Colson — as something of an ideological purity test. It begins as follows:

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Some quick Googlage has revealed that this Declaration has already ruffled the feathers of liberal, progressive Christians, who have quickly called the whole thing out as an effort to enshrine conservative prejudices as “fundamental truths about justice and the common good.” Only the most smug and arrogant bigots could claim with a straight face that a Declaration that openly repudiates GLBT marriage equality is one that favors “justice” in any form. I think that word, to quote The Princess Bride for the 80 billionth time, doesn’t mean what they think it means.

Basically, the highfalutin language of the thing does little to disguise the fact that it’s a huge anti-gay-rights and anti-abortion petition, and it takes a Bushian “with us or against us” attitude that is nothing less than a gauntlet thrown down to all those liberal Christians who haven’t toed the Hate Line to the satisfaction of their conservative betters.

Surfing the blogosphere, I come upon this post by blogger Hugo Schwyzer — who, as an avowed pro-GLBT liberal feminist Christian, is about as far from the fundies’ notion of ideological purity as a guy can get — where he takes the Manhattan Declaration to task for being little more than a reactionary pushback against the tendency among the younger generation of modern Christians to reject right-wing fundie obsessions with “pelvic morality” (basing culture war talking points on sexual and reproductive issues to the near exclusion of everything else) in favor of broader moral concerns — saving the planet, helping the needy — that are generally of interest only to those damn latté sipping libs. Schwyzer makes an astute point about the “cheap grace” enjoyed by fundies whenever they beat their chests and pontificate over such narrow-minded issues: that these are fights they love precisely because they have nothing at stake.

Here’s the thing: fighting against abortion and gay rights is, in the end, cheap. It requires no particular personal sacrifice or reflection on the part of those who claim these are the top issues. Men who will never get pregnant; heterosexuals who have the privilege to marry those whom they love — they surrender nothing precious to them by fighting tooth and nail against reproductive and glbtq rights. The struggle against global poverty and the struggle to save the planet from environmental degradation, on the other hand, make radical claims on all of us — particularly on the affluent in the West, whose unsustainable consumption patterns are directly linked to human and animal suffering. Fighting against climate change and poverty require that the wealthy transform their lifestyles; fighting against gay rights requires nothing more than censorious and self-righteous indignation.

Bam! — direct hit, below the waterline. But I’d caution Schwyzer not to forget that, in a very real way, “cheap grace” is at the heart of all Christianity, not just the version practiced by wingnutty Sarah Palin and Carrie Prejean fans. Christianity presents believers with this odd notion about morality, sin, and fate: that, merely by virtue of being alive, a person is a worthless sinner damned to eternal agony because of the Fall; but hey, not to worry, because Jesus took all of that punishment upon himself, poor chap, and now by virtue of his sacrifice, you’re good to go, and all you need to do is make sure (at some point before you die) you publicly high-five Jesus for taking one for the team, accepting him as your savior. So, we’re damned, but we’re not, and eternal salvation is ours simply by the rough spiritual equivalent of clicking a confirmation email.

So right from the outset, Christians are more or less raised in the extremely confident belief that all the heavy lifting for their own personal redemption was already done 2000 years ago. Their own efforts require no personal sacrifice at all. If this is not cheap grace, what is?

The very thing that Christianity tries to sell as its most morally and spiritually profound element — salvation by proxy — in fact cheapens the entire notion that in life, self-respect, the respect of others, and an enduring reputation as the kind of good person whom the rest of us should want to emulate, must be earned. The whole notion of salvation by faith and not works (which, admittedly, might be more favored by conservative Christians than liberal ones, though I think God, if he’s up there, ought to do his job right and clarify matters) gives Christians the ability to think pleasingly of themselves as among the saved elect, regardless of how they might actually behave in their lives. The popular Christian bumper sticker “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” conveys egotism, not humility, as it’s basically saying, “Yippie! I’m a Christian, and I never have to change, never have to better myself, never have to take responsibility at all.” The very hypocrisy Matthew 6 rails against is enabled by Christianity’s entire salvation mechanism. How else could so many arch-scumbags (insert names here, but off the bat I think of Kenneth Lay and Jim Bakker) preen with such pride while living the sleaziest, most immoral lives they could manage?

So, while I’m always pleased to see liberal Christians who aren’t afraid to take on the Right Wing Noise Machine (a thing we have pointedly challenged them to do for a decade on AETV), I’d caution Schwyzer and his liberal Christian brethren not to overlook the cheap grace at Christianity’s very foundation. But to be fair, perhaps the fact that guys like him, at the very least, do try to live decent lives of higher personal responsibility, supportive of the real meaning of terms like “justice” and “equality” that the wingnut
s simply treat as pious catchphrases, means they’re more aware of it than they might like to admit.