Onward Christian Thugs

This week in Texas, State Senator Dan Patrick proposed a bill to require women seeking abortions to undergo a mandatory sonogram, see the image of the fetus, hear its heartbeat, and hear a mandated description of the fetus by the doctor. The only purpose of such a bill is to coerce women into making a choice that Dan Patrick and his fellow Christian thugs think is the moral one. These sorts of bills have been proposed and many approved all over the country. Fortunately for Texas, some of the most odious parts of this particular bill have been softened in committee, leaving only the doctor-supplied fetal description mandatory.

The number of things wrong with this sort of effort are astonishing. Let’s see if we can list a few of them:

  • A major objection would have to be that these sorts of bills are a transparent (and often successful) attempt to use the government as a tool to further the lawmaker’s Christian beliefs. The supposedly “secular” purpose of the bill is education, but that’s a ruse (but we’ll get to that.) If freedom of religion means anything, it means freedom from religion — freedom from transparent con games.
  • They might also claim that they’re trying to reduce abortions, but that would be framing the issue wrongly. They are trying to create more people who can be coerced into their religion. You never see these Christian groups promote birth control, mandatory waiting periods or mandated doctor intervention for the MEN who are impregnating these women. You do see Christian groups working to remove an honest teaching of the responsibilities of parenthood in high school health classes. Christians feel that they’ve gotten the process this far with their efforts. They have to “close the loop” and get the baby born. See “God’s Little Rabbits” for more about their success.
  • They (and we all) know there is no God to whom they can pray to make more human beings. Only a moron would believe such a thing, right Dan? Matt. 7:7, Matt. 17:20, Matt. 21:21, Mark 11:24, John 14:12-14, Matt. 18:18 all have Jesus claiming that prayer works all the time. Gen. 1:26 (and others) has God creating humans. Christians don’t believe that stuff. Christians know they have to co-opt as many uteruses as they can (there’s plenty of sperm to go around — just make masturbation taboo).
  • Dan and his fellow Christians know that God and the church have failed to enforce their edicts on their flock. The absolutely must use the real power of the government to achieve their end.
  • After the baby is born, they lose interest. Christians know that the evolution-engineered motherhood hormones will kick in. While Christians want to have the power to make these decisions, they never step up to the plate when it comes to the responsibility for the child. If they ever did, you’d see Christian organizations make deals with women where the deep-pocketed Christian group would fund the child through college in exchange for the mother bringing the child to term. Christians instead use coercion and thuggery, which are their time honored tools.
  • Christians claim to care about poverty, but efforts like this have the effect of creating poverty. Again, the marketing doesn’t match the actual behavior. Their only “solution” here is to encourage single mothers to get married. “Family values” apparently means the creation of families by coercion. No wonder the divorce rates of evangelicals and fundamentalists is higher than that of atheists.
  • Christians like Dan don’t think the mother has the intellectual capacity to make the moral decision to keep the child, but they seem to think that she is perfectly capable of raising it. Ironically, the women seeking abortion are the ones that know their limitations. I’ll trust a woman’s decision about her abilities over Dan Patrick any day of the eternity.
  • There is often some claim of the “sanctity of life”, but Christianity is a religion that teaches our bodies are little more than soul traps whose natural use is to release the soul so that it can go meet the Christian god. The god of the Bible is a murderous thug who has also commanded the murder of children and the unborn. The “sanctity of life” is a complete fabrication incompatible with Christian dogma.
  • Dan Patrick is not a doctor, nor are any of the law makers (that I know of) creating laws like this. They have no business interfering with medical procedures.
  • Dan and his ilk clearly don’t believe in the golden rule, such as stated in Matt. 7:12. If they did, they would welcome others to insert themselves in their own medical treatments. I would encourage those of you who do believe in the golden rule to make Christians aware of this fact. If you can find someone who advocates Christian interference in medical practices, teach them a practical lesson in Jesus’ moral teachings.
  • Supposedly, women seeking abortions need education. I have yet to see a bill mandating education about the cost and responsibility of raising a child or the risk of child birth. There are no bills forcing women to see pictures of women who died in child birth. There’s no education about the emotional risks of postpartum depression and the risk of the mother harming the child or herself. The “education” that Christians propose is one-sided.
  • Christian efforts to slow abortion have failed. According to this article, countries with strong religious belief have higher rates of abortion. We might make more progress taxing religions and using those funds to support unwanted children.
  • Finally, I don’t see anything resembling compassion in Dan Patrick’s bill or other efforts by Christians to prevent abortion. These people clearly care more about their invisible friends (their concepts of god) than the women they seek to manipulate.

Christians claim to care about “sin”, but overlook the issue of responsibility. Christians seek to try to make their god happy by coercion and manipulation of vulnerable people. The atheists I know, focus on responsibility. How can we educate people so that the understand the consequences of their actions? How can we provide them with tools to mitigate harm? How can we help people who know they are in over their head? Abortion is not a good thing, but why don’t we start using reason, responsibility, and compassion to address the problem?

Notice how misogynist the GOP has gotten lately? Want to do something fun about it?

Abortion rights is not necessarily an atheist issue. But it is a human rights issue. And it’s something the Christian Right has chosen to go to war over with its biggest, nastiest guns. They’re not exactly about playing fair either.

Recently, civilized hominids everywhere were left slack-jawed in disbelief when Republicans tried to redefine rape in order to make it damn near impossible for any actual rape survivor to terminate her pregnancy. They coined the baffling term “forcible rape,” implying they think there’s such a thing as “consensual rape.” Or something. Anyway, it’s obvious no Good Christian Woman would be out drinkin’ in bars and shit. So if some slutty sinful whore gets her drink roofied, it’s obviously her fault for not being pure enough, ain’t it?

Now it’s gotten crazier. As it seems to be GOP policy to constantly try to out-douche one another, Pennsylvania’s Republican Senator Joe Pitts has introduced H.R. 358. This bill would allow hospitals staffed by the kinds of people with a bug up their ass about abortion and a thin grasp of the Hippocratic Oath not only to decline to provide a life-saving abortion to a woman who direly needs one, but even to refuse to facilitate transporting her to a hospital that will. Save her life, that is. So we are presented with the spectacle of a woman dying in agony in a hospital parking lot while the nurses and orderlies on duty calmly watch Oprah and tweet about their weekends. Paradoxically, Pitts calls this the “Protect Life Act.” What a lovely thing Christian family values are.

And remember, these are the same people bleating about less government, less government!

It’s especially boggling when women, in what can only be thought of as Stockholm Syndrome taken to exponential new heights, fall into the right-wing misogyny camp and oppose the very medical procedures designed to help them in the unfortunate and hopefully unlikely event they will need them. Get it straight: no one is a fan of abortion. But to deny that sometimes the procedure is necessary, and moreover, to declare that the life of a woman is automatically worth less than that of a blastula, and that once a woman is gestating, she is automatically deprived of her personhood and her only function is now that of incubator, is nothing less than monstrous. That this is in fact how the Christian Right thinks is enough to make you think nuclear holocaust might be all humanity deserves after all.

But here’s a little something you can do. It’s even fun!

Recently, Lila Rose, a rising star in the (sexist wisecrack coming) right-wing bimbo brigade behind Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, made a ludicrous attempt to swiftboat Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides a plethora of invaluable health assistance to women everywhere, but which the right chooses to characterize exclusively as Dachau for Babies. Rose’s stunt was butt-stupid, even for a Republican. Like her BFF, convicted criminal James “Doctored ACORN Videos” O’Keefe, Rose tried to punk PP with some video doctoring of her own. Her ingenious plan must be read to be believed.

Over a five day period, visitors to Planned Parenthood health centers in six states said they were seeking information from Planned Parenthood about health services Planned Parenthood could provide to underage girls who were part of a sex trafficking ring…. Men, sometimes accompanied by a woman, have visited at least 11 Planned Parenthood health centers in six states within a one-week time frame. During their visits, they claimed to be involved in sex trafficking of teens, some of whom are in the United States illegally. These men appeared at health centers without appointments and said that they were seeking health services for themselves, but they quickly turned the conversation to the sex ring they said they were managing.

Wait, what?

Yes, you read that right. The plan was to get PP to appear as if they were helping conceal the existence of a child-sex trafficking ring. Rose’s little brainchild was itself aborted, however, when PP did what she hoped they wouldn’t do: report this bullshit to the FBI.

Now of course, poor Lila — abetted by her pals in right-wing media, of course — will continue to try to sell this false story, and probably paint herself as some kind of martyr for truth. Wingnuts do that kind of thing. But here’s a fun thing we can all do, as a kind of sweet revenge. It’s a way of letting petty little people like her, and all her anti-choice pals, know that the more they lie, the more they try to tear down women’s right to safe and legal health options through disinformation, the more we will remain committed to the cause of women’s health. And a little thing called truth.

  • Click on this link. It will take you to Planned Parenthood’s “Honorary Giving” donations page.
  • Throw a few bucks their way “in honor of” Lila Rose!
  • Finally, send Lila a friendly, cordial, profane-insult-free email at lilarose@liveaction.org, informing her that you have done this, and that her campaign of disgraceful lies has resulted in your increased support for Planned Parenthood. In her name. Don’t be snarky. Don’t cuss her out. Don’t give her any ammo to whine about the evil libral socialist godless heathen scary people who are stalking her. Be so civil it hurts. You could also add that you hope she never finds herself in need of PP’s services, and to keep an eye on her drinks when she goes out.

That should do it. A little bit of the old martial artist, turning your opponent’s attack back upon them, you see. Most satisfying. But then, people like Rose have committed to a life of lies. Committing to truth, as she’ll soon learn, wins in the end.

The Biblical Spin Continues

ACA member and frequent commentator David Tyler went on the campaign trail briefly with Mark Loewe to John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church. David’s trip report is in our November Austin Atheist Newsletter (p. 2). I’m sorry I couldn’t go to this service. I’ve always wanted to see John Hagee in action. If you missed my 2008 Atheist Experience episode on John Hagee (episode #557), he’s a major wackjob with a large following in San Antonio. His main shtick is promoting end-times theology, complete with apocalyptic theology books, a major lobbying effort to bring about the end times, and an insistence that Hitler was inspired by God to bring Jews together (so good Christians can be raptured).

The speaker was co-Christian lunatic and propagandist, David Barton, of “Wall Builders” fame. I’ll be talking about Barton on this Sunday’s episode, but I wanted to draw attention to his “4 values” that he promoted to get the flock to vote his way:

1. Open display of worship (prayer in schools and government functions).
2. No killing of innocents (abortion, Pro-life).
3. Honor your father and mother (traditional marriage, family only – no gays).
4. Protection of private property (no government eminent domain seizures).

Barton allegedly got these directly from the Ten Commandments. I wanted to point out how self-serving his interpretation is.

1. While proselytization is nothing new to the Christian faith, the 10C in the Exodus fable was directed at the Israelites, God’s supposedly chosen people. If you weren’t part of that chosen people, advertising wasn’t going to help you. For Christian “leaders” like Hagee and Barton, advertising is necessary to sell that lemon of a religion. Who cares if you have to embrace the tactics of the Pharisees condemned in Matt. 6-5.

2. When did “Thou Shalt Not Kill” get turned into something about killing of innocents? Innocent by whose standard? I guess to these Christian leaders, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans is completely just. The abortion thing is simply made up (bearing false witness). There’s no mention of abortion anywhere in either the Old or New Testaments. The penalty for causing a miscarriage is a fine (Ex. 21:22)… paid to the father–the one whose property has been taken. Remember that the wife is property herself and has no real rights under Biblical law.

3. I was amused by the “honoring thy father and mother” turning into a slam against gay rights. That one’s new to me. Jesus never said anything about gays, but he did make it very clear in Matt. 10:34-38 that people should disobey their parents, leave their families, and follow him. Jesus should have been killed for his contempt of Jewish law. Too bad there were no serious followers of Jewish law around to extract the penalty of death. But what drama would there be in that?

4. Let’s take a look at Biblical property rights, especially in that “coveting” commandment (Ex. 20:17). Wives, slaves, animals, and tangible property are all listed as a man’s property. Elsewhere, it’s clear that his children are a man’s property, as well. It would seem that would make Barton pro slavery, against women owning property, for multiple wives, and against anyone interfering with a man’s desire to have his own children aborted, should he so choose. Christians self-servingly never associate the “coveting” commandment mentioned their meddling with others’ reproduction–others’ property, according to their own Bible.

You’ll also never hear Barton associate his pro-Christian twisting of American History with the commandment about bearing false witness. Lying is his livelihood just as peddling Christian snuff porn is Hagee’s. So Barton’s plug for the 10C is really about promoting the Christian agenda of advertising their crap, the manufacture of future tithers, selling hatred of gays as red meat for rabid followers, and making sure Christian leaders keep their profit$ and tax advantages. They’ll both say and do anything to make a buck and their followers are too stupid to know they’re being conned.

Sick and Tired of Christian Manipulation

The headline reads, “Oklahoma Senate Passes Five Controversial Abortion Bills.” It should read, “Christian Theocrats Make Strides in the Promotion of Sadism, Manipulation, and Hypocrisy.” Let’s face it: if there’s a group in the U.S. that wants to harness the reproductive capacities of others, it’s Christians. In this case, the Christians elected by Christians in the Oklahoma State Senate has thought of various creative ways to screw with women who are convinced they’re not able to raise a child that they have in their womb. The Senators feel it’s their duty to demand potentially invasive medical tests to take “baby pictures” for the sole purpose of emotional manipulation. They feel it’d be a good idea to invade the personal lives of these women. And to add insult to injury, they’re making the patently false claim that they’re trying to help these women.

If Christians would really like to help women seeking an abortion, I have some suggestions. First, I have yet to see a Christian group put up the money (up front in escrow) that is necessary to raise a child to adulthood as a trade for a woman not to have an abortion. Why not? Christians want to have the power over a woman’s womb, but they run away like squealing vermin when the slightest mention of responsibility is mentioned. Their propaganda says that “God will provide.” Christians, why don’t you pony up the money and let your invisible friend reimburse you? We all know that will never happen. If you want to reduce abortions without being sadistic and manipulative bastards, try actually putting your money where your mouth is. If you don’t believe your bullshit propaganda, why should anyone?

Other suggestions:

  • Quit sabotaging contraceptive use, sex ed, and family planning. These things actually reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions. It’s obvious that reducing abortions is not the motivation of Christians. And please quit pretending to want to reduce abortions. Your obvious intent is to increase the number of believers in the world without having to pay for them.
  • Quit meddling in the lives and medical business of people you don’t even know. Nobody appreciates being fucked with. Duh.
  • Please understand that what you are doing is religious persecution. If you can’t show a bit of empathy for your victims, don’t expect anyone to give a shit about your religious rights when that glorious day comes when the shoe is on the other foot.
  • Learn a little empathy and humility. Just because you’ve sucked up to the invisible Big Thug in the sky doesn’t give you the right to be a little thugling. Anyone who has taken an objective look at your religion is aware is a load of crap. Keep it to yourself.
  • Concentrate first on fixing your festering boy fucking problem that shows how astoundingly incompetent your God is, and how amazingly gullible your fellow believers are for believing the amazing bullshit rationalizations used to excuse the problem.

Christians claim to follow an all-powerful God who has the ability to create people. If that’s true, why doesn’t your God make more gullible toadies if he really wants them? Seriously, aren’t there already enough in the world? The actions of Christians make it obvious that they know it’s a complete lie. They know they have to harness reproduction to make the next generation of sycophants. Unfortunately, with all it’s claimed power, Christendom plus God don’t have the power to control their own flock’s reproduction. Instead, they are hijacking the reproductive capacities of others via government control—and then foisting the expense onto them. This policy actually creates poverty and ignorance, which make it easier to instill religious belief in the next generation. If Christians want to run a breeding program, at least do it with your own people and your own money. And start paying your taxes. What you’re doing is not charity and deserves no public support.

In the spirit of Jesus’ saying of “Doing Unto Others,” I would like to suggest new law to be applied to Christians. Under the law, Christians would enjoy their Constitutional Right to free exercise, but upon entering their church, they would need to submit to a head x-ray (at their expense). The test would help them determine whether they had a brain and it would be purely for the benefit of the congregant. I would also suggest that any Christian in a leadership role, such as clergy or in government, submit to a weekly anal exam with the results published on the Internet. We want to make sure those assholes are working properly, don’t we?

Nebraska Abortion Regulations

I am on the road for about the next month or so. Interestingly I had alerted Matt that I likely would not be able to participate much in ACA activities during that time. However, I’ve had at least three events/items come up that I’m burning to share. Two are more involved, one less so. And since I have only a few minutes, I’ll go with “less so.”

In reading USA Today, I see that Nebraska has just given final approval to a new sort of measure requiring women to be screened for mental health problems before they can have an abortion.

In principle, I would probably support this, if it wasn’t so non-universally applied. I have known women who have had abortions, and at least one I think should have thought it through more thoroughly before having the procedure. I could have foreseen that it would be something her personality would later ultimately regret–and it was. However, I still support it was her decision, and I know that there are other women for whom abortion may be, or may have been, a better life choice. Is offering counseling to women considering abortion a bad thing? Certainly not.

That being said, the first thought I had upon reading this blurb was, “I wonder when they’ll pass a law requiring the same thing for anyone planning on becoming a parent?” Am I the only one who has thought that about the Quiverful adherents? Would that the parents on “17 and counting”—oh wait, isn’t that “19 and counting” now—would require some sort of screening.

It would be great if we had screening for elective surgery applicants, people wanting to become parents, and women considering abortion. But the fact is, we don’t require it. Doctors or clinics can set rules for such counseling, and sometimes do, but the state does not normally. And so I see this as somewhat prejudicially applied, and wonder if the real motivation is concern for the woman’s well being, or to create further pressures and delays on women trying to obtain an abortion?

I have no idea what the debate in Nebraska has been leading up to this, but it smells a bit of fundamentalist conservatism. Feel free to correct me in comments if I’ve misjudged.

One less religious deception in Austin

The Austin City Council unanimously passed an ordinance yesterday that would require “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” to post information about what services they do and do not offer. These centers have sprung up around the country in recent years with billboards targeting pregnant and desperate teenagers. While posing to help people in a challenging situation, these fake clinics are only in existence to manipulate the victim into having the child. They do not provide contraception or information about contraception. Another impact they have is that they delay the decision, thus making getting an abortion more difficult. The ordinance partially addresses the problem by making it a bit clearer to the victim of what they’re getting into. From the ordinance:

The Owner or Operator of a Limited Service Pregnancy Center shall prominently display, at the entrance of the Center, two black and white signs, one in English and one in Spanish, that state as follows: “This center does not provide abortions or refer to abortion providers. This center does not provide or refer to providers of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved birth control drugs and medical devices.”

I hope other communities follow suit.

Odds and ends

Other Work has kept me from posting over the weekend, but I thought I’d just toss a few kernels of corn to all you lovely pigeons!

  • The latest entry in the “Dumbass Utterances from Texas SBOE Members” Sweepstakes: An article at the Texas Tribune informs us that not only is the SBOE incompetent at determining curricula and separating their personal political and religious agendas from the educational needs of children, but they’re also ineptly managing the Permanent School Fund, a $23 billion endowment that basically pays for the state’s schools. Hardly anyone on the SBOE has experience with this level of financial management, and among their idiotic decisions was to hire consultants, against the advice of the Texas Education Agency, who were not only poorly ranked but actually being sued by the town of Fairfield, CT, for losing the town’s entire pension fund to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme! Responding to criticisms that the SBOE didn’t know their asses from their elbows, the board’s dimwit du jour David Bradley actually tried to argue…well, I’m not sure what the fuck he’s arguing. Either he’s arguing that it’s perfectly okay for unqualified people to do jobs better suited to qualified people, or the exact opposite. Either way, it’s Argument Fail By Bad Analogy for $1000, Alex: “If you sit on the mental health commission, do you have to be retarded? If you sit on the [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission], do you have to be a drunk?” No no, David, the SBOE has a lock on the “drunk retard” quota, don’t worry.
  • Oh dearie dearie me! Some unscrupulous soul has either planted malware on the computers over at the Christian Worldview Network, or just spoofed their email. You remember them, Brannon Howse’s House of Lunacy, where they never met a persecution complex or conspiracy theory they didn’t like — especially both in combination. Well, I haven’t been getting their newsletters for a while, and I figured they’d learned I was a godless baby-eating hellbound librul socialist communist Marxist whatever who simply subscribed so he’d have all manner of material for blog snarkage, and deleted me. It’s a fair cop. But imagine my glee to see an email from them today, only to discover, when I opened it, this:
    Aww, boo! Boring! When I checked the link (out of curiosity, mind you), it was really nothing but the most mundane spam. I mean, it really should have been gay hentai! That would have been the most delicious cosmic justice for old Brannon!
  • In the wake of Scott Roeder’s murder conviction, news is making the rounds that some people aren’t too happy about it. I imagine you can guess who. Thing is, I’m puzzled by the who-cares obviousness of the headline “Roeder conviction angers anti-abortion militants.” So basically, a bunch of domestic terrorists are angry that a domestic terrorist is going to prison for an act of domestic terrorism. Yeah, so? I’m quite sure al Qaeda gets a little peeved whenever we blow up one of their top guys too. Does that warrant its own news coverage? How about “Crackheads angry over crack dealer conviction”? Not anyone’s problem but their own, you know? I’m just sayin’.

Guilty, asshat!

That’s what Scott Roeder, murderer of abortion provider George Tiller, just got from a jury after a scant 37 minutes deliberation. Roeder had, of course, hoped to turn his trial into a media circus and referendum on abortion. By arguing a manslaughter defense and hopefully getting away with a mere five years — the thrust of the defense being that Roeder had an “unreasonable yet sincere conviction” that he had to shoot Tiller in order to save babies, because guys like him care so much about the babies — he and his ideological brethren at Operation Rescue hoped to make his trial the first shot across the bow in the war to eventually overturn Roe v. Wade.

The jury, comprised of the sensible Kansans, wasn’t having any. Instead of seeing a valiant superhero of the Lord courageously protecting the unborn, they saw a cowardly, first-class douche canoe who willingly popped a man in the back of the head in public, and handed him a first-degree murder conviction. The prosecutor says she will seek a “hard 50″ sentence, meaning Roeder will have to serve at least 50 years before eligibility for parole. This is effectively the same as life without parole for a man who’s already 51. Once behind bars, if very unlucky, Roeder may have to face an entirely different kind of “hard 50.”

Never fear, Scott. Once they’re done with you in there, at least you won’t need an abortion.

6,753 douchebags: a post in which I swear a lot, even in Finnish

That is the number, as of this posting, of the people who have actually voted “yes” to the current CNN online poll question: Should information about women who get abortions be posted online? Fortunately, they are in the vast minority on this one. As much as America has been slouching toward lunacy in the past eight years, at least most people have an appropriate sense of clarity on something this deranged. Still, that’s a lot of fucking douchebags!

In case some of you are wondering with slack-jawed horror what might have prompted this poll question in the first place: yes, it’s true. The great state of Oklahoma — home of Silly Sally Kern (read up on her by doing a search over at Abbie’s); the state where they were so offended by Richard Dawkins’ speaking tour that the legislature introduced a resolution telling everyone how offended they were, as they’d already eradicated all crime and poverty in the state and therefore had plenty of downtime that week — yes, Oohhhhhklahoma wants to pass a law…

that will post information online about women who get abortions in the state — an act critics say would be harassment and an invasion of privacy….

“We’re not trying to embarrass anybody, hurt anybody or make anybody’s identities known. That’s not the purpose of the legislation,” the Republican lawmaker says.
“We want to collect hard data that can be a useful tool in helping prevent future unwanted pregnancies.”

You know, I was going to call this bullshit, that being what it is and all, but it occurred to me that mere English profanities were not sufficient to convey the totality of the bullshittery on offer here. So I did a little Googling and discovered that “bullshit” in Finnish, which is a lovely lyrical language, is ja vitut! Nice! Just kind of rolls off the tongue. So having logged “bullshit” in my multiculti swearing lexicon I began a desperate search for “motherfucker,” but the best I could come up with was runkkari, which evidently only translates to “wanker” but which I’m also assured is “extremely offensive.” Great, I’m sold! Now, setting aside the fact I know bugger-all (see, I can do it in Cockney too!) about proper tenses and grammar and such in Finnish, I’m just going to cobble the thing together and proudly announce that I’ve come up with exactly the thing to say to any right-wing runkkari who tries to tell me that their new “harass teh wimminz” law is all in the interests of looking out for their delicate well being. Ja vitut, runkkari!

(And I’m not kidding about the lyrical qualities of Finnish profanity, people. Wikipedia helpfully informs me of the magnificent phrase Vittujen kevät ja kyrpien takatalvi!, “paraphrased, ‘Oh fucking shit!’ or literally ‘The spring of cunts and the late winter of dicks!'” That simply leaves me reeling in awe. It’s like the kind of album title you’d get if Marilyn Manson ever went emo.)

I mean, I could tell these idiots how to prevent future unwanted pregnancies. Just drop millions of free condoms from low flying airplanes! Or just pass some kind of comprehensive sex education to inform all those poor redneck kids of yours that inserting Knob A in Hole B usually results in Lump C unless sensible precautions are taken. This suggestion perhaps unfairly assumes a measurable percentage of Oklahomans are sensible, but please, won’t someone think of the children!? Anyway, there are any number of easily-implemented ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies if that’s what they really wanted to do up there, so if you try to tell me you’re taking down women’s private information and posting it on the goddamn Internet, for chrissakes, in order to help these women, then you’re just olla naama norsun vitulla. (Yeah, look that one up, kids. Har!)

So the wingers are of course trying to lie about their real motives, which is to frighten women out of exercising their reproductive rights entirely, and claim that…

The measure specifies women’s identities will be protected. “Nothing in the Individual Abortion Form shall contain the name, address or information specifically identifying any patient,” it says. “Nobody’s identity will be made known,” Lamb says.

Which naturally prompts the question of why do it at all then? What exact scientific information that is helpful to anyone will be gleaned from looking at a bunch of questionnaires and determining, “Well, X thousand women had abortions last year, and of those, 25% were due to health dangers, 10% were due to interfering with their lifestyles, 20% were due to being raped by their dads in the back of the singlewide when ma’s off doing church bingo, and the rest were due to the women realizing their kids would grow up to be dumbfuck rednecks from Oklahoma and they simply couldn’t bear the shame.” None of that is necessary to get you to the simple realization that you could have spent all that time and energy simply dropping condoms from airplanes!

It will be interesting to see how badly this crashes and burns, although when the wingers get motivated, watch out! There are no guarantees. In the meantime, just remember: Ja vitut, runkkari!

So do Finns have a word for “douchebag” anyway?

PS: I’ve actually met a lot of nice people from Oklahoma. I have. Really! :-)

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.