How quickly can we expect to see religious/political exploitation of last night’s Batman shooting?

How about already?

(And, in case you hadn’t heard the news yet, well, this happened.)

Louie Gohmert — shamefully, but not surprisingly, from our state — has helpfully opined that all of it happened because the country just isn’t Christian enough.

It’s pretty much the same thing we heard from Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell after 9/11: there are too many people out there who aren’t like us, and that pisses off God, and so he’s decided to lift his hand of protection from our society. Because he’s just as petty a shit as his followers are.

Oh, and of course, the shooting could easily have been brought to a quick end if there had been some heroic, armed, and doubtless Republican moviegoer in the audience to take the shooter out. Because when you’re in a huge darkened auditorium full of hundreds of screaming and panicked people, with extremely loud surround sound systems blaring, there’s no worry that some random citizen pulling his own gun would have done anything but draw a perfect bead on the assailant and bring him down with a single shot, and no concern at all that his own wild firing would have just wounded or even killed more innocents into the bargain.

Would you like to let Louie Gohmert know how impressed you are with his opinions? I thought some of you might.

His site only accepts emails from people in his district, so enter anything from 75601-75608.


Addendum from the “Fair and Balanced” Dept.: On the heels of the blathering blame-assigning from the like of Gohmert, Fischer, and Warren, we now, I am sad to say, have an example of an atheist doing much the same thing.

Matt Slick defends “honor killing”: a woman’s hymen is worth more than her life

By way of introduction, some of you will remember Matt Dillahunty’s on-air debate with apologist Matt Slick of the CARM website, which was recorded on February 22, 2009. If you missed it, here you go. Keep in mind this is the first of nine parts.

Recently one of our viewers emailed us about a rather alarming article by Slick on the CARM site that stands as an exemplar of just how religion’s confused notions of what constitutes “morality” has led religion to be the foremost enabler of atrocity in history. In brief, when Christians insist that morality itself is impossible without Christianity, and atheists reply by rattling off endless examples both from scripture and real life of the devout behaving badly, the spin machine kicks into gear so fast you can practically see the Higgs boson particles zinging off it in all directions. Justify, justify, justify, is the order of the day.

Here, Slick justifies what may be one of the most appalling crimes there is: the “honor killing” of daughters (yes, it’s always daughters) who are not acceptably virginal in the eyes of their fathers and grooms. In this context, “father” and “groom” is a term interchangeable with “owner.”

Slick begins by quoting a lengthy passage from Deuteronomy in which God’s laws for dealing with an insufficiently chaste bride are detailed. The passage first declares that any groom who is caught trying to weasel out of his marriage by lying that his bride was not a virgin will be fined 100 shekels and then forbidden from ever divorcing his wife as long as he lives (which I imagine is considered the worse punishment). On the other hand, if it turns out that the bride was indeed not a virgin at her nuptials, then the skanky ho is to be taken out and stoned to death.

So let’s review. Man at fault = fined money. Woman at fault = murdered. Yeah, that sounds ever so egalitarian!

To attempt to defend a practice so primitive, inhumane and frankly monstrous, one would, you’d think, have to be not only an idiot, but someone plumbing hitherto unexamined depths of idiocy just to see how far he could go before imploding into something like a black hole of idiocy so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape. Well, folks, we have that intrepid explorer right here. Step right up, Mr. Slick.

When you got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose, and so Slick leads with his worst punch.

Critics of the Bible must be careful not to impose their present day moral system upon that of an ancient culture found in Scripture and then judge Scripture as though it is inferior to their own subjective morality. The above verses were written 3,000 years ago in a very different culture and location.

Uhhh…yeah. Let’s see, how do I explain this to someone so intellectually impacted?

What is at issue here is the notion of treating a human being as property, denied any sense of personal agency. By slipping in that favorite of all apologetic weasel phrases, “subjective morality,” Slick doubtless believes he’s scored a home run right out of the dugout, when in fact it’s a pop fly. If anyone here is exhibiting “subjective” morality, it’s Slick, making the above quote one of the most awesome irony-meter-melting sentences you’re likely to read from an apologetics source.

Slick appears to accept that our moral precepts are different from those of 3000 years ago. Thus he suggests that while we may be right to be appalled at savage acts of cruelty towards young women in 2011 CE, we have no reason to be appalled by the same acts in 989 BCE. (Yeah, I used a calculator.) I guess time heals all wounds, eh? And yet, Slick gives us no reason why we should suspend our “subjective” morality in this way. Beyond basically saying “This is how they rolled back then,” we are given no valid moral justification (hell, I’d have even taken a mildly coherent one) for why we should think misogynist brutality is A-okay as long as it happened long long ago.

Moreover, is there a statute of limitations (maybe in the fine print at the bottom of the decalogue tablets) for this kind of thing? Is there a cutoff period where my “subjective” morality just becomes straight-up morality and it’s okay for me to call an atrocity an atrocity? Can I just look at American slavery and say, “Well, I must must be careful not to impose my present day moral system on the culture of 160 years ago.” Or is it too soon?

Let us briefly consider what is involved in stoning someone to death.

Matt Frauenfelder at Boing Boing (too many Matts in this piece, I must say) has helpfully provided us with an illustrated guide. This graphic shows how they do it in the Muslim world, which is the only contemporary culture I know of still goat-fucking barbaric enough to pull this crap. The details might have been different when the ancient Jews did it, but I suspect the results were the same: a dead girl.

First the victim is partially buried standing up, because it’s no fun if the stonee is running around frantically for her life. You might miss and hit your mom or something. Then, the actual process of killing the victim can take anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on, I don’t know, whether the victim’s skull is especially thick, or whether the stones are nice and hard or soft and crumbly, or maybe it’s just a matter of how goddamned sadistic the killers are feeling that day.

Imagine being in the pit. You can see nothing, but you hear the deafening roar of the crowd’s bloodlust. Your pulse is hammering, and you have probably already shit yourself in blind terror. Then, after what seems like an agonizing eternity, the first rock clips you. Maybe it hurts like a bastard, but wasn’t hard enough to kill you. (In Islamist countries, there is in fact a law that the rocks used cannot be so heavy and large as to kill with the first blow. Not nice spoiling everyone’s fun.) But after the explosion of pain, you start feeling light-headed, dizzy. A few more blows, and you go into shock. Your vital signs plunge, your whole body begins to feel cold, and if you haven’t shit yourself already, now you do. You slip out of consciousness. If you’re lucky, you’ll die very soon after this.

I suspect this is as terrifying and brutal a way to die 3000 years ago as it is today. I see no reason to think a young girl experiencing the above back in the distant past would have felt any less horror, agony and despair than her modern-day counterpart. So why is Slick telling me that it’s okay to be appalled by modern-day stonings, but that I’m out of line for being appalled by 3000-year-old stonings? Is there some “moral absolute” at play that I’m just not Christian enough to get here?

Anyway, let your imagination run with all this as you continue to read Slick’s apologia. Remember the above is what he’s defending.

Sexual purity was very highly valued, unlike today, and when a man would marry a woman, her virginity was critical. In ancient times a dowry was paid to the father of the bride and the rightful expectation was that the bride would be a virgin.

So there, you see? She’s his property, so that makes it okay. And notice the snide aside about “sexual purity [being] highly valued, unlike today.” Yeah, because we all know a woman’s hymen is of more value to her male owner than her fucking life. There’s your religious “morality,” gang.

When you’re in a hole, stop digging, unless you’re a Christian apologist. Slick goes on yet some more, reiterating that really, it’s just all about teh mehnz.

In the culture of the time it was the father who was charged with the covering, care, and well-being of his daughter. Her sexual purity was representative of the father’s ability to raise her according to the laws God. Therefore, in that culture, a man’s reputation, as well as the family’s reputation in the community, could be adversely affected by the fornication of his daughter. If his daughter had been promised to a man to be married, and a dowry had been paid, there was every expectation from the bridegroom that she would be a virgin. If the contrary was discovered after the marriage, then the implication is that there had been a deception in which the father could be implicated, or it would mean that he was unaware of her sin and this would bring great shame to the family and the community, not to mention it being a display of outright rebellion against God’s law. In this case, to insure the integrity of the family, and to remove the evil of adulterous/fornication from the community, stoning was advocated.

Again with the “in that culture” business. Here is why Matt Slick is a moral imbecile: S.F.W. if this activity was the norm “in that culture”; does Slick think it’s right or wrong to do this to another human being, period? Especially — especially — for reasons as pitifully selfish and banal as your own “shame.” Slick steadfastly avoids passing any moral judgment upon the killing, while telling “critics of the Bible” they are in no position to pass a moral judgment either, which is itself a moral judgment. Somehow, you can’t condemn death by stoning (if it’s ancient and Biblical, that is, because something tells me Slick would flip-flop in a picosecond when presented with the spectacle of modern-day Islamist stonings), but you can condemn those who’d condemn it, on the ground that they are somehow applying “subjective” moral standards.

So what is the Godly “moral absolute” on this issue then, Mr. Slick? Can young women be treated as chattel by their fathers and husbands, or not? Can they be murdered for making men embarrassed about their pee-pees, or not? If a “morally subjective” approach is the wrong way to think about all this, then clearly a “morally absolute” approach is the right way. So what does the absolute moral lawgiver have to say, Mr. Slick? Is he pissed off that we no longer stone our women to death? If his morals are absolute, shouldn’t this still be common practice today?

I think I’ve said enough. If any article demonstrates better than this one how badly religion can screw up a human being’s fundamental sense of right and wrong, I’ve managed to miss it. Religion, far from providing anything like morality, simply sets a list of arbitrary rules that allow any number of vile acts to be visited upon the helpless, and it is all elaborately justified with feeble rhetoric later. Secular morality may not be perfect either, but it is immeasurably stronger for being rooted in basic human empathy and reason. Not only do I not need a God to tell me that “honor killings” are a horrible evil, but it appears that people who do have a God don’t think it’s all that evil after all. Lord, protect me from your followers!

(That was sarcasm.)

What casual remarks reveal about theism’s view of the world

I’m writing this on Monday, but have delayed the scheduled posting of it for a few days, in that I do think there’s such a thing as inappropriate timing. Some folks may still think I’m off base with this one, and that’s fine.

In the wake of the horrific shootings in Tucson the other day, there has of course been a lot of argument as to possible causes, motivations, the role America’s current volatile political climate may or may not have played in the event, and so on. I’ve been involved in a few arguments on Facebook myself.

What will go unnoticed — indeed what is almost certain to be praised — is the way theists will spout sanctimonious, pious bullshit so staggeringly stupid and offensive that it can only be by a willful disconnection of one’s higher cognitive functions that the stupidity of such pronouncements do not meet with immediate ridicule and condemnation. Here’s one such inane homily, plucked at random from CNN.

“The doctors are pretty clear that we just have to wait and see,” Mike McNulty said. But he added, “I can only think that God has more important things planned for her in the future.”

Now, sure, I’m willing to accept that Mike McNulty is a respectable Democratic congressman, a dear friend and colleague of Gabrielle Giffords’, a good man dedicated to serving his state and his country, and an all around decent and intelligent fellow. He is in a deeply fraught emotional state, as anyone would be, and of course I’m not unsympathetic to that. I’m not attacking him here, so much as I am the inanity he has uttered, and what it says about how religion asks us to view the world.

Let’s consider what kind of God this remark is proposing here.

As he sits upon his heavenly throne of purest gold and alabaster, he thinks to himself, “Hmm, I have important things planned for this Democratic congresswoman. Being omnipotent, there are any number of ways I can achieve this. But I think the best is this: I will arrange for a delusional psychopath to purchase a gun under his state’s extremely lax gun laws, fit it with an extended clip, and shoot her in the head at point blank range in broad daylight in public. In the process he will shoot a number of other people, killing some, including a small child. But these will just have to be acceptable collateral damage, even though in my omnipotence it would be easy for me to prevent all of it. I’ll just make sure the girl gets an extra-awesome Barbie collectors set when she gets up here, along with pie. Now, the congresswoman herself will not die, as I will arrange for the bullet to perforate only one of her brain hemispheres. She will be in a coma following this, and will be several years recovering. But the end result of it all will be that it will allow me to implement my important plans for her once she recovers. If she does. Even though I could do it any other way.”

Does that about sum it up?

Seriously, the only way a person could believe in a God like this is if they just don’t think about the implications of what they believe. Religion trains you not to think of such things. And this is why I think religion, far from being something to offer true comfort in a time of crisis, simply offers a way to delude yourself that every tragedy has a silver lining, and that a benign space daddy still has my back, even if making life better for me required a little girl to die.

If you think I’m being offensive offering a snarky critique of a statement made by a theist in the wake of a tragedy that happens to reflect his beliefs in the midst of emotional upset, well, that’s your prerogative. For my part, I am offended by the way religion so easily makes light of human pain and suffering to find some way, no matter what, to glorify its God. It’s not Mike McNulty I’m criticizing, it’s the indoctrination that’s influenced his thinking, and the way it values its God’s glory over innocent lives.

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.

Why we need blasphemy

Pat Condell, in one of his wonderfully cranky YouTube rants, opined that the Danes (I think it was the Danes) were probably wondering what the hell had happened to their free country since Islam showed up. The idea that freedom should surrender without a fight to religious fundamentalism of any kind, but especially that which has only fear and violence to support itself, is disgusting. And craven laws like that passed in Ireland, which naively strip away basic rights out of the fear of even a little bit of violence, merely give the fundamentalists what they want: a culture of oppression which is the only kind of culture where fundamentalism can thrive.

Now from Denmark comes word that a Somali terrorist has been shot (to which I say “Good,” and the PC crowd can flame away all they like) and wounded attempting to break into the home of cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who was responsible for some of the controversial Mohammed cartoons that caused such a stink some years ago. The man’s goal was, of course, not to sit down over coffee with Westergaard to offer constructive critiques and rebuttals to his work, but to murder him, which is of course a perfectly rational response to a cartoon.

Once more with feeling: if your religion cannot stand up to a fucking cartoon, it ain’t the cartoon that has the problem.

I have spoken to a number of atheists who, with the very best of intentions, have naively asserted that the best thing to do when faced with the violence of radical religious extremists is to sit down, shut up, and not get them riled, because really, we don’t want anyone to get hurt, do we? That they cannot see how this cowardice and capitulation gives religious lunatics the power over us they wanted all along never ceases to amaze me. And does anyone actually think that, by appeasing them once in this way, they’ll be satisfied and decide they can stop shooting and bombing and whatever else it is sky-daddy has told them to do this week, “peace” be upon him? Let’s do that as a multiple choice question: A) No; B) No; C) Hell no!; D) What, are you stupid? Once they know that a tiny bit of fear is all it takes to control you, then they’ll just keep demanding and threatening more and more, until you’re afraid to wipe your tender bottom without their divine mandate.

People, what we need is more blasphemy, more anger and more outrage in the face of this lunacy. Religious extremists are the cockroaches in the kitchen, and only the light of reason will send them scurrying to hide. Belief systems propped up by violence are ones that have already failed. No respect should be given them. So pick up your pens, cartoonists, and blaspheme your butts off! And if they turn up at your door, well…shoot first. If they really think they’re the only ones out there to be feared, they obviously haven’t heard Matt Groening’s dictum: “It is unwise to annoy a cartoonist!”

Sometimes it’s nice to disengage…

Again, the blog has lain fallow for around a week. Sorry about this. I keep forgetting that when I don’t post, no one else does either. But then we all have lives down here, and sometimes that just takes us away from the world of computering and blogging and online ranting. And I must say, it’s nice to take a break sometime.

Because dealing with the nonstop depredations of those with whom we’re unfortunate enough to share the planet can just be wearying. Sometimes it’s just nice to go off and live your life, blessedly free of religion and crazy religionists, and unhinged political ideologues.

I mean, good grief, in the past week, since the Tiller murder, we’ve not only had another right-wing psychotic demonstrate his moral superiority to us all by going on a public shooting rampage (today’s appalling incident at the Holocaust Museum), but we’ve also seen a spectacular act of douchebaggery from — as if they could get any worse — Operation Rescue, who have actually had the audacity to make an offer to buy the now-closed clinic of Dr. Tiller. I cannot imagine what they would want it for, except as a chance to showboat. And the Tiller family lawyers, recognizing an exercise in showboating when they see one, have turned them down flat. I mean, how could anyone interpret the purchase offer as anything but tacit approval of Tiller’s murder? Even if that is the last thing O.R. intended by making the offer, well, you know, appearances count.

I’d like to think that maybe O.R. have sprouted a sudden conscience, the way your nose sometimes sprouts a pimple while you sleep, and thought that they might turn Tiller’s clinic into something like an adoption agency. But then I’m reminded of the fact that radical anti-abortionists don’t give a shit about human life unless it’s fetal. Once those babies are out of the sanctified amniotic sac, they’re on their own! And don’t even think about offering them anything like health care.

So, yeah, sometimes, it’s just nice to shut the crazy out and decompress for a while. Read a book. Spend time with your family and pets. Resuscitate an old hobby, like gardening or working out. It can be a relief when the lunacy that has taken over our planet gets too much for you. At least, it’s a relief that’ll last until some enraged, God-soaked lunatic bursts through the door and opens fire.

To those who think I’m wrong to claim that right-wingers’ lives are ruled by fear…

…I present this headline.


Addendum: Factcheck.org exposes the falsehoods behind the NRA’s fear campaign regarding Obama’s views on guns. Still, you gotta admit the gun lobby’s come up with a great con to boost sales, hasn’t it? Take a page from religion’s playbook: exploiting fear and uncertainty always sells.

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.

Hey, kids, guns! And Jesus! Find your faith!

Allow me to preface this by saying that I am not against gun ownership. But this sends a rather peculiar message, don’t you think?

An Oklahoma church canceled a controversial gun giveaway for teenagers at a weekend youth conference.

Windsor Hills Baptist had planned to give away a semiautomatic assault rifle until one of the event’s organizers was unable to attend.

The church’s youth pastor, Bob Ross, said it’s a way of trying to encourage young people to attend the event. The church expected hundreds of teenagers from as far away as Canada.

Wha? Gee, what about iPods or XBox360’s? Or do you not want kids playing those evil violent video games or listening to that godless rock ‘n roll or hip-hop? Yeah, an assault rifle is much better. It’s not like a teenager is likely to misuse that.

“I don’t want people thinking ‘My goodness, we’re putting a weapon in the hand of somebody that doesn’t respect it who are then going to go out and kill,’” said Ross. “That’s not at all what we’re trying to do.”

Perish the thought. It never crossed my mind.

Ross said the conference isn’t all about guns, but rather about teens finding faith.

Okay then, I feel better already! You know, when the Muslims give kids deadly weaponry at a religious function, I think they call it terrorism and it’s the kind of thing that makes the sphincters of priviliged white Oklahoman Christian conservatives completely lose their structural integrity. Well, maybe they’re just taking precautions for when Obama’s elected and he throws a huge party for all his Islamofascist friends on the White House lawn. Must be it.

I suppose if this weren’t all happening in the state that gave us the psychotic Sally Kern, it wouldn’t have such a shudder factor. I’d say, “Could be worse, could be Texas,” but I have a feeling this might be an old Texas tradition…

The cost of abandoning reason is measured in lives

From the news today:

A group of up to 300 young men killed 11 people who were accused of being witches and wizards in western Kenya, in some cases slitting their throats or clubbing them to death before burning their bodies, officials said….

“The villagers are complaining that the (suspected) wizards and witches are making the bright children in the community dumb … These (suspected) witches are not doing good things to us,” Makori told The Associated Press.

Deputy police spokesman Charles Owino said that the gang hunted down the eight women and three men in the western Kenya villages of Kekoro and Matembe. Most of the victims were over the age of 70, Owino said.