Media fawning over Papal claptrap

Is is just me, or does pretty much every news story about the Pope’s latest emanations annoy you, too? No matter what he has to say, the media is there like hungry puppies eager to lap it up and puke it out in your local newspaper or TV news program. There’s usually a whole series of puff pieces trying to add drama to his latest moral pronouncement. Rarely is there any real balance to the stories and the Pope is held up as some great expert on whatever he chooses to blather about.

This week, the media was all about the Pope’s latest message about condoms being ok sometimes, but not others. Two stories have run in the Austin American Statesman about this “burning” issue.

Here are my list of gripes:

  1. The media consistently fails to point out that whatever the Pope/Vatican has to say is self-serving. In this case. using condoms to stem AIDS infections would certainly take a little heat off the Vatican from health experts who have rightly pointed out that its policies are tantamount to murder. Condoms also have the very helpful benefit of not leaving DNA behind in the behinds of boys molested by priests. Furthermore the Pope still frowns on any contraceptive usage that might reduce the number of potential future tithers. Self-serving “moral” pronouncements are nothing more than propaganda and they should not be repeated in the media.
  2. Neither the Pope nor anyone at the Vatican is qualified to speak on health issues. They just have nothing valid to say and health advice from anyone so blatantly unqualified should not be repeated in the media. To make matters worse, it’s rare to see any news piece that will add at least a little balance by quoting a health expert. Even a junior trainee at a family planning clinic would be far more qualified. I have yet to see an acknowledgment in most articles about Vatican pronouncements that the they are on the wrong side of this issue by consensus of 99% of the people who DO have qualifications.
  3. I personally think the Pope is unqualified to speak on moral issues. I’m sure most atheists would agree. His moral sensibilities are hopelessly broken by his indoctrination in to a church that has perpetrated some of the most ghastly horrors conceived. The Christian holy book is a genocide manual and loaded with atrocities and immoral teachings.
  4. The Vatican is a criminal enterprise. I can’t think of any reason why US media should serve as a mouthpiece for an organization that has systematically molested tens of thousands of children in dozens of countries over at least four decades. (This is just the tip of the criminal iceberg, but hopefully fresh enough for journalists to have some awareness.) The Pope himself authored some of the most odious policies and shuffled priests personally. Yes, the Vatican has yet to be brought to justice in the US. This is only because our “tough on crime” elected officials are whimpering pussies when it comes to the guys with the big hats and magic crackers. Even if you want to play the “guilty until proven innocent” card, there’s no reason to actively promote the Vatican until they are properly tried. Don’t hold your breath.
  5. The Vatican will never accept responsibility for its actions. The Pope’s pronouncements are considered “news” because there is an assumption that many people will follow his bad advice. Publishing Papal pronouncements is a tacit admission by the media that a sizable fraction of Catholics are unwilling or unable to reason for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions. The media then completely fails to hold the Pope/Vatican responsible for the impact of its policies on the world. Either Ratzinger’s opinion carries no weight and there’s no reason to print it, or it does carry weight and the Church is responsible for the effect of their dogma. I see plenty of puff pieces promoting Catholic dogma, but very very few investigative reports on how many people have been negatively impacted by Catholic dogma. I would love to see some real reporting on how many people have become infected with AIDS as a result of the Vatican’s condom policies, or the number of women who have become pregnant when they didn’t want a child but followed Catholic “moral” teaching for whatever reason. The Vatican is creating victims without any moral accountability. I would like to see the Vatican compensate these victims–especially anyone who may have been impacted who is not Catholic. I think that municipalities should be taxing Catholic charities to recoup the expenses related to Vatican contraceptive misinformation.

If you agree with my complaints, perhaps when you see one of these puff pieces you can write a letter to the editor or provide other feedback pointing out one or more of these problems and ask why the media is so consistently doing the wrong thing. Trust me, until we do, little will change.

Obama disappoints religious right repeatedly

This isn’t new news, but I’m cleaning up loose ends since I promised to post these stories to the blog on the last show.

Dobson ‘Disappointed’ Obama Skipped Day of Prayer Ceremony

Evangelical author and radio host James Dobson said that he is “disappointed” that for the first time in nearly two decades there was no representative from the White House during the National Day of Prayer event.

“I have not asked to meet with the president and certainly he has not asked to meet with me, but I would just like this country to remember its foundation, to remember its heritage and honor it, especially on the day set aside by George Washington in the beginning for prayer in this country,” he said. “And I would hope that that would have occurred.”

The president has disappointed James Dobson. Folks, can I get an “Awwwww”?

It wouldn’t be right to give Obama full marks for snubbing Dobson without noting that it came out later that Dobson didn’t actually invite him to the event.


Only ‘Pro-Life’ White House Officials Invited to Prayer Day Event

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson scolded the White House for neglecting to send a representative to yesterday’s National Day of Prayer event at the Capitol, but a source familiar with the situation said the Obama team didn’t have much of a chance. That’s because the event organizers stipulated that the White House representative had to be opposed to abortion rights, according to this source.

“The administration’s representative had to be pro-life,” says the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Nobody else was allowed to go.”

Damn, now Obama has an excuse. I would have preferred it if he had just come out and said “James Dobson can kiss my ass.”

But in other happy news,


Obama budget cuts funds for abstinence-only sex education

President Obama’s new budget would eliminate most money for abstinence-only sex education and shift it to teen pregnancy prevention — a U-turn in what has been more than a decade of sex education policy in the USA.

The proposed budget, sent to Congress last Thursday, “reflects the research,” says Melody Barnes, director of the team that coordinates White House domestic policy.

Since we all know by now that abstinence-only education simply doesn’t work, this appears to be another nice step on the road to moving us back towards being a reality-based country.

Do Moderate Christians Enable Fundamentalist Agendas?

I have a theist friend who thinks I’m too quick to blame some of the world’s ills on religion. After all, he was raised in religion. He believes in god, and he doesn’t care if anyone else does or not. He isn’t trying to force it onto anyone else. He isn’t writing to legislators to ask them to incorporate his beliefs into laws that impact anyone else. And none of his friends or family has ever done anything like that, either. Christianity isn’t impacting U.S. policy. I’m simply imagining things.

My friend is an example of what Sam Harris discusses in his writings when he describes how moderate Christians act as a buffer—a safety net—for fundamentalist Christians who are pushing their agendas into public policy and legislation. To criticize such a Christian agenda insults moderate Christians (like my friend) who are quick to defend that their religion should not be blamed for public ills. After all, what moderate wants to be held responsible for harmful public policies and legislation?

Say that religion is at the root of such a problem, and you get shot down before you’re even out of the gate (if I can mix my metaphors)—not by overzealous fundamentalists, but by moderate, liberal Christians—like my friend. Point out where religion harms society, and you’re met with the shout down—from moderate, middle-of-the-road Christians—that you’re guilty of painting religion with too broad a brush. You’re cherry picking lunatics and fanatics and trying to impose that dysfunctional mess upon all Christians, who are, for the most part, socially benign.

To be honest, I have no idea if the majority of Christians are “moderate”—in the sense that they have personal beliefs they don’t try to spread around or impose on others. I have no aversion to assuming most Christians fit that bill. Certainly most believers I have met personally aren’t any different. But whether they have majority numbers or not, it’s the fanatics that are running the program, invading politics, and shaping law and policy in this nation to bend it to a fundamentalist Christian agenda.

If a silent majority doesn’t like being represented by a squeaky-wheel faction—I recommend they should learn to speak up against their brethren whom they condemn privately as “lunatics” and “fanatics.” Instead, from what I can see, moderates would rather use their collective, “majority” voices to speak out against anyone else who condemns their fanatical members publicly. And here I have to excuse (and applaud) more responsible, moderate Christians—few though they may be—who do actually counter fundamentalism publicly, such as Barry Lynn Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

But it can no longer be denied, by any reasonably informed person, that public policy is being shaped by Christian agendas—whether it is the work of a fanatic, but highly politically efficient, minority of Christians or not. And if the moderate middle rebuffs criticisms of their more fanatic brethren, denies there is any problem in their midst, and refuses to join anyone in confronting the negative elements within their own camp—how are they not part of the problem? These moderates aren’t just guilty of letting the fundamentalist element run roughshod while they sit silently by, they’re actually protecting fundamentalist actions against legitimate criticisms by throwing the accusation “gross generalization” and “prejudice alarmist” at anyone who dares claim there even is a problem to criticize within the Christian ranks.

In the editorial section of this morning’s Austin American-Statesman, there are two articles that address the statistically observable supreme failings of Texas’ abstinence-based sex education in public schools. One article, “Learning Sex the Texas Way,” has this to say:

“Gov. Rick Perry’s office said he is comfortable with the abstinence-based approach. ‘We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until heterosexual marriage,’ said his spokeswoman.”

Make no mistake, Perry has won re-election in the past. I cannot claim that he is unpopular. And I’m guessing he knows who his supporters are. What politician doesn’t? If he put forward policies not backed by the majority of voting Texans—how would he remain in office? Any thinking person might legitimately then ask, “what constituency would support failing programs and policies that put their own children at risk of deadly STDs and unwanted pregnancies?”

Let’s examine that question.

At the American Family Association (AFA) online, in their article, “Abstinence-Only Education Proves Effective,” it states, “there is no logical reason why abstinence-only education would not be effective in reducing sexual activity among teens.”

Logical or not, we come pretty close to abstinence-only in Texas—and it’s not working as it “logically” should.

Just to cement that this is a Christian organization, in their section “Does AFA hate homosexuals?” the site states:

“The same Holy Bible that calls us to reject sin, calls us to love our neighbor… AFA has sponsored several events reaching out to homosexuals and letting them know there is love and healing at the Cross of Christ.”

Make no mistake AFA is a Christian coalition.

Another supporter is The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. On their site is an article “Support Abstinence Education,” that says, “Don’t let the Senate jeopardize the future of abstinence education. Call or e-mail today!”

Do I need to keep going? The religious right has code words as well, such as conservative, family values, traditional, moral, and so on. They have less overtly religious organizations as well, such as the National Review—which bills itself as a “conservative” media source. Not every group is an outright Wallbuilders. But the more you educate yourself about these issues, the faster you begin to recognize the words that equal “Christian.” Doubt me? Try following a few of these sites for a month to see if you don’t start seeing particular words and phrases that begin to stand out as secular, yet repetitive.

Why use codes? Why not simply say, “This is my religious belief, and I’m going to do all I can to promote it in public policy and legislation”? AFA pretty clearly does this—so why not all organizations with a Christian base?

There is one clear advantage to hiding a religious agenda. Ask Intelligent Design proponents. When the courts tell you that teaching Creationism in schools is using the government to promote religion, and you can’t do that, you are forced to find more subversive, secular-sounding means to reach your goals. You take out “god” and put in “Intelligent Designer.” (Just make sure to double-check the search-and-replaces in your documentation really well before going to court.)

Still, today I realized something different and new and as enlightening as it is disturbing. I realized that even powerful mainstream critics of these religious fundamentalists have learned to pretend that this is actually a battle between secular ideologies—Republican vs. Democrat—and religion plays no part. In both opinion pieces, religion is oddly absent—as is any mention of who might be promoting such policies. Why call out Perry alone? Yes, he’s a politician, and his performance should be examined in the paper. I can’t deny that. But is a public official who has won re-election really the cause of bad policy or is he merely the elected representative for it? Again, without the support of the majority of voting constituents in Texas—he could not have won re-election. Perry is doing the will of the (voting) majority in Texas. And when his office can issue a statement such as the one quoted earlier—can there be any doubt it’s a Christian Right majority he intends to please?

What would happen if the paper
published an editorial critical of the “Christian” agenda to promote abstinence-only education? In addition to raising the ire of far right groups like AFA, Wallbuilders, Liberty Commission, and so on—they would upset, as well, huge numbers of “regular” people—like my friend—who would cry “foul” at being lumped under the umbrella of the fundamentalist “lunatic fringe” who are causing this harm.

But if I say Christians are at the root of the abstinence-only policy, I’m not generalizing any more broadly than if I were to say that horses run in the Kentucky Derby. The group promoting these policies consists of self-identified Christians. And the animals running in the Derby consist of horses. Do all Christians support these policies? No more than all horses run in the Derby. So, what’s the problem? I don’t care if some Christians—even most Christians—aren’t supportive of these policies. It’s no less true that the policies are, by the largest margin, Christian created, promoted and supported. But if we say that, nobody will hear—not because the Religious Right will shut us down, but because religious moderates will.

My friend made this point loud and clear. “There’s nothing religious in those articles. It’s just about the schools and education. Where do you see religion even mentioned?”

He’s right that I don’t see religion even mentioned. But I have to ask if he sees any mention of who is at the root of these policy directives? Does my friend imagine Perry just made this up himself?

Fundamentalist Christians use public policy and legislation to push their religion onto everyone else. Anyone who criticizes the far right source is immediately shot down by the moderate middle. And, for the most part, we all pretend religion has no bearing on public policy—to the point that many people actually believe this is true. Anyone who says otherwise is just an overly excited alarmist. And the fundamentalists proceed, without mainstream majority opposition or interference, to push their religious agenda onto everyone else, with absolute gratitude toward their moderate brethren—the ones who would never do anything to push their religion onto anyone else.

Today’s “Duh!” moment

From the WaPo:

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a “virginity pledge,” but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers

Abstinence-only sex education is an exemplar of the neocon/religious right way of handling problems: wishful thinking. But it’s no substitute for education. Teach students about the actual consequences of irresponsible and careless sexual behavior, teach them the benefits of protecting yourself and realizing that you’re the one who makes the decisions about your body and no one else, and they’ll be much better off. Basic human urges simply can’t be swept under the rug with ritualized denialism. But they can be properly controlled and channelled if you have a good idea what can happen to you if you don’t exercise a little common sense in knowing when to act, and when not to act, upon those urges.

Fundamentalist miseducation in Florida endangering kids’ lives

Florida is turning — scratch that and let me start over — Florida has turned into a fundamentalist hellhole that is bound and determined not only to miseducate its kids, but actively put their lives at risk as well.

It’s sad enough that Florida is the state that shamefacedly must claim such embarrassments as “hanging chads,” Katherine Harris (happily forgotten), Kent Hovind and the largest concentration of Scientologists in the country. But the cancer of religidiocy runs even deeper than you might have thought.

We’ve all heard about how a bogus “Academic Freedom Act” specifically designed to target science education, and machinated by the Discovery Institute, has passed out of its first Senate committee. But you might not be aware that what is already in place in the Sunshine State are abstinence-only sex education programs. And, like all miseducation programs put together by the religious, whose real motivations are to maintain ignorance and suppress knowledge rather than encourage, nurture, and cultivate it, the results have been disastrous. I mean, majorly disastrous, as in, we’re damn lucky we haven’t already seen some dead kids as a result of this.

A recent survey that found some Florida teens believe drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV and a shot of Mountain Dew will stop pregnancy has prompted lawmakers to push for an overhaul of sex education in the state.

The survey showed that Florida teens also believe that smoking marijuana will prevent a person from getting pregnant.

State lawmakers said the myths are spreading because of Florida’s abstinence-only sex education, Local 6 reported.

This is so staggering that you really need to read it a few times before it sinks in. A cap of bleach!? Seriously, kids down there are that stupid and ignorant about their own bodies? Gee, Christians, that “stick your head in the sand and hope all that scary reality goes away” approach to schooling just seems to be working out great, doesn’t it?

See, this is what we’ve been saying all along.

A sex education program, geared towards a segment of the populace whose hormones are rampaging through their bodies like Count Dracula at a blood bank, that delivers no actual information on the subject other than “Don’t do it, save yourself for marriage!” is going to be an epic fail. Every assessment that has been made of abstinence-only programs has determined this.

And lacking accurate information, well, what do you think the little adolescent horndogs are going to do? They’ll get their information from the usual oh-so-reliable places: their peers, the locker room, MySpace chat, wherever. And they’ll get idiotic ideas in their heads because you haven’t put facts there first. And that irresponsibility on your part will lead to irresponsibility on theirs, leading to more teen pregnancies, STD’s, and worse. O the irony. But hey, at least you didn’t have to subject yourself to the discomfort and embarrassment of having to get up in front of a class of horny teenagers and talk about the nasty, did you?

Fundies always have to learn this the hard way. Just because you don’t like a fact, because it offends you, or because it doesn’t flatter your religious preferences, doesn’t make it stop being a fact. And harsh truths don’t go away when you close your eyes to them.

You know, when you get right down to it, the worst that could happen if some poor dumb SOB grows up deceived about evolution is that, well, he’ll just be dumb where that subject of science is concerned, and sadly bereft of a sense of wonder for the pageantry of life, and all that. But on the whole, someone like that can more or less get by in life as a cog in the proverbial machine, selling insurance or managing an OfficeMax or whatever.

But here, we see an instance where the pernicious influence of conservative Christian fundamentalism on education is more than just a nuisance. It could actually get some boys and girls frickin’ killed!

Wow. Just wow. At least they’ve come to their senses and are changing course. I wonder how many unwanted pregnancies and abortions had to happen first.

Two headlines

Via a friend living in Tennessee, these two stories showed up in the same paper on the same day.

Story number one:


Testing for STDs offends parents

Juvenile detention facility insists policy protects children’s health

For some parents, the testing is the usurpation of their authority and obligation to make sound decisions concerning their children’s health.

Story number two:


State’s STD rate among highest

Tennessee in top 10 for cases of syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that the state ranks eighth for syphilis infections, ninth for chlamydia and 10th for gonorrhea. All three diseases are caused by sexually transmitted bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics.

They seem like they might be related somehow, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…