The Wit and Wisdom of Ed Brayton, Guru Edition

I will probably never stop loving this bit of dry wit aimed at people who just cannot come to grips with reality. Ed Brayton on the death of a guru, my darlings.

The richest guru in India died of a heart attack in January. Doctors have declared him dead. But his followers insist that he isn’t dead, he’s just in an incredibly deep state of meditation. So deep that he has no heartbeat or brain activity and has to be kept in a freezer.

Image shows an orange and white cat standing with its front paws clenched in front of its face and its mouth gaping. Caption says, "It's alive!!!! Alive, I tell you!!!!"

Sometimes, all you can do is point and laugh without laughing. Thank you, people who invented deadpan humor.

Dear Atheist Leaders: If You Sound As Sexist As William Lane Craig, Ur Doin It Rong

Adam Lee at Daylight Atheism has read William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith column so we don’t have to. In the process, he found something that sounds almost exactly like some of our supposed leaders. Craig is responding to a woman who’s concerned about the sexist stereotyping Craig had been spewing. See who this response of his reminds you of:

First, Craig says in response, he’s noticed that the audiences for his lectures are nearly all men:

First is my observation that apologetics seems to have far more interest for men than for women. That observation is based upon an enormous amount of experience in speaking on university campuses, at apologetics conferences, and in classroom teaching… It became very evident to me not only that the audiences which came to these events were largely male but that in event after event only the men stood up to ask a question.

And why should apologetics classes appeal predominantly to men? To explain this, Craig dusts off the old saw, “women don’t do thinky“:

Second is my hypothesis that this disparity is to be explained by the fact that men respond more readily to a rational approach, whereas women tend to respond more to relational approaches.

You know, I’m torn. On the one hand, that sounded very much like Michael “A Lot of Women Have Accused Me of Sexual Assault and/or Rape” Shermer, who said “it’s more of a guy thing” when confronted with the dearth of women in atheism. But it’s also got a strong whiff of Sam “I’m Not a Sexist – My Wife and Editor (whom I pay) Love Me!” Harris, who babbled about an “estrogen vibe” when confronted with same.

Image shows a shocked-looking cat. Caption says, "I can't believe you said that"

I’m sure there are plenty of atheist bigshots who’ve mumbled similar around the feet in their mouths, so do feel free to quote them in the comments.

Adam brings up the same point that struck me the very instant I read Craig’s words and correlated them with what our ol’ atheist “thought leaders” have said.

It’s striking how much Craig, a staunch Christian apologist, sounds like some of our male atheist “leaders”. They, too, have fielded questions about the gender imbalance in their audiences; and they, too, have often responded with clueless, patronizing, armchair answers about how they’re just too unimpeachably rational to appeal to women – that is, when they’re not snarling about “social justice warriors”, or pining for the good old days before political correctness when men could grope women with no repercussions.

Here’s a novel suggestion for both atheists and Christians: if you want to know why women aren’t showing up at your classes or your lectures, try asking some women. Don’t just assume, with no evidence, that there are inherent biological reasons for it, or that women are instinctively repelled by logic and reason. Of course, I don’t expect Craig to heed this advice, from me or from anyone else – his lamentations over the increasing influence of women shows that he’s thoroughly absorbed the sexism intrinsic to fundamentalist Christianity. The only question is whether we in the atheist community aspire to be better than him.

And really, let’s be brutally honest, here: if you can’t manage to be a better human being than William Lane “Genocide is Peachy As Long As God Tells You to Murder Everybody” Craig, you’ve got absolutely no fucking business whatsoever leading a movement of any kind. Ever. Step down and enjoy some obscurity until you can manage to treat women and minorities with more respect than that jackass, at the very least.

Image shows a tortoiseshell kitten with its paw pointing off-camera. Caption says, "OUT."

Yes, You Can Be an Atheist and Like Bits of the Bible, Too

As with any collection of writings, even those chosen more for “God wants you to include this and will curse you if you don’t” rather than literary merit or storytelling chops, the Bible has a few gems of real value amongst all the religious dross. I don’t really approach it differently than any other body of mythology: I’m a writer, and I will damned well cannibalize anything. In fact, back before I was even an atheist, I had an atheist character who regularly spouted bits from the book of Revelation, and would have bopped the noggin of any one of the crowing Christians who love to scream “GOTCHA! You DO believe!” whenever he did so. Revelation spoke to him; God, not so much, and certainly less than the Norse gods. If he ever converts to anything, it will be something to do with Odin long before Yahweh gets an audition.

No, even the story he tells where Satan possesses him in an attempt to murder God while God just sits there and watches, drinking coffee, doesn’t mean he’s a believer. It means he’s a writer who knows how to use myth and powerful imagery to make a point.

Image shows a black cat and a white cat in the sky over a city against a stormy background. Caption says, "Basement cat vs. Ceiling Cat. Final Battle for our souls has begun."

I’ve become more like Chretien, as I’ve grown older. For one, I have become an atheist, and for another, I’ve fully accepted doing what I like with the Bible, just as I do Buddhist and Hindu and Norse texts. Any body of mythology is up for grabs; any stories people have told each other in order to make sense of the world and find their way in it can be powerful, and worth incorporating. And sometimes, the language is just pretty.

I do try to stay away from overtly Christian themes, however – not because they’re terrible (although sometimes they are), not because I don’t want people claiming me for Christianity (although I’m sure they’ll try anyway), but because they’ve been done. Often, they’ve been done to death. But sometimes, you can incorporate them in such a way they’re fresh and relevant, and so I’ll do that (still not a Christian, Christians). Sometimes, it’s the character who’s Christian and, when that’s the case, the Christian theme is unavoidable. And sometimes, it’s because I’ve discovered something new (to me, at least) in that terribly old book.

All of this is a long lead-up to a Thing that was going around some time ago, about atheists and their favorite Bible verses. There are several bits that I sometimes enjoy, and a lot of things that are beautifully stated (not that their equivalent can’t be found elsewhere – what a long stint in reading history and comparative mythology taught me was that nothing was original to Christ, and often I can find the equivalent said by some non-Christians in profound and beautiful ways. Sorry, Christians who like to believe God said it first and best). However, one verse has rather come to the fore, both because it’s beautiful in and of itself, and because it’s the one that springs to mind whenever I see these Good Christians™ doing things like demanding we send children away to die, or enthusiastically endorsing the death penalty. It’s the one I hope Jesus says to these disgusting little shits should that particular myth prove to be true and he comes back to whup some ass. And it’s one that turns out to be Ed Brayton’s favorite, as well:

I was a little surprised that no one offered up my favorite verse, Matthew 25:40.

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

I have always found this to be a powerful statement of human compassion. It is the core of all moral reasoning, the idea that we must treat others well because we wish to be treated well.

That’s some powerful stuff, indeed. In context, it’s basically saying that the folks who refuse to give sanctuary to refugee children (because brown) or who advocate for the painful executions of possibly innocent people (because criminal and probably brown) aren’t getting that mansion in heaven they thought they already had the keys to. And there’s no extra credit for treating people well who looked and acted like you. That’s not difficult, after all. What’s hard is having empathy and taking care of people who are different or sick or even fuck-ups. Not all of us can live up to the standard of treating everyone well, but we should at the very least refrain from actually demanding harm.

So that’s a good verse.

The other bit I discovered recently whilst doing other things was one of the Proverbs I’d never read. Did you know that the first thing God created was Wisdom? And that Wisdom’s a woman? Well, definitely a she. Read it right here, for yourownself. I really like the final bit:

“And now, my children, listen to me:
happy are those who keep my ways.
Hear instruction and be wise,
and do not neglect it.
Happy is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favor from the Lord;
but those who miss me injure themselves;
all who hate me love death.”

Of course, I’m sure my definition of wisdom is different from religious people’s definition of wisdom. But it’s a very nice thing to have in my mental pocket, that, waiting to be unloaded on someone who insists upon being an ignorant dipshit.

Now, after encountering some of the folks who spout Bible verses and expect you to repent or be damned, or who claim you’re not an atheist just because you have some money in your pocket that has “In God We Trust” stamped upon it by the government (who really shouldn’t be doing that), you may be reluctant to even look at the bloody book, much less consider any verse of it worth keeping. And I don’t blame you. There have been times when I wish we could get rid of the whole sorry lot, too. But Valerie Tarico is right, here:

As a young adult, I struggled to recover from the crazy parts of my childhood. I once had a therapist who said, “You’ll know you are independent from your parents when you can do what you want for yourself even if they want it too.” To my mind, the Bible writers are like dysfunctional parents to our whole society, parents we have turned to, collectively and individually, for guidance. but who all too often instead have caused harm or trauma. One of the ways we will know that we have truly outgrown them is when we are able to claim what we believe to be useful and beautiful, even if they said it.

Indeed. So I’m bloody well calling dibs on some good bits. You can have the other 9/10ths that are either long boring stretches of begats or a bunch of horrifying drivel, dear Christianists. And the best part is, it will probably drive you into conniptions.

Image shows a cat with its eyes closed and tongue stuck out. Caption reads, "Phht. That is all."

New at Rosetta Stones: Stories from Survivors of Creationist “Science” Education

I’m republishing our Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education series over at Rosetta Stones. The posts are essentially the same, but with fewer in-jokes (like the word “Christianist”), and aimed toward an audience whose computers (or brains) have naughty-word filters. There will be places where I’ll add direct invitations to creationist students to really think about what they’re learning. I’m also letting through some creationist comments I’m getting, in case you want to go have fun with their myths, misconceptions, and outright ignorance about science. I’ve already had a dude making the “we only use 10% of our brains” claim – it’s hilarious. I’m still contemplating how much creationist schlock I’ll allow to clog up my comments section, but I actually haven’t gotten much. I’m impressed.

Image shows a priest at left saying, "No question!! God did it!! God wills it!!" and a professor at left holding chalk in front of a chalkboard and saying, "Do you have any questions?" Caption says, "Religion vs. Science. Faith does not give you the answers; it just stops you asking the questions."

And I’ve had a ton of comments from people who fully support robust science education. And then there are my favorites: comments from people who survived that creationist crap and managed to discover what science really is later on. Some of them broke my heart. But all of them give me a lot of hope. At least some of these kids make it out.

Please go read their stories, and if you have a story of your own, I’d absolutely love for you to share it either here or there. All my respect and support to you!

Image shows the Eleventh Doctor, pointing at someone off-camera. Caption says, "Who's awesome? You're awesome!"

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IVc: Wherein the Climate Heats Up

Onward, Christianist weather! We’re warming up with some global warming talk today. While SPC was content to devote a mere text box to climate change, basically blowing raspberries at anyone who gives a shit about it and waving off dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions by proclaiming hey, plants love carbon dioxide!, BJU’s Earth Science 4th Edition isn’t satisfied with blurting a few facts and moving on. No, there’s a whole chapter on the subject. And, people, they are the totes reasonable ones. They’re right in the middle. Look: they sneer at both sides!

They begin with a very telling couplet of sentences:

You’ve probably heard a lot about climate change. And you’re probably wondering what you should think about it.

This right here encapsulates exactly the attitude shared across all three Christianist curricula: they aren’t here to teach kids how to think. They’re telling them what to think. There’s only one way – God’s way – and they all have the direct line to the Almighty. Never mind they’re all hearing different things when they call. They have the answer (theirs God’s), there’s only one correct way to think about things (theirs God’s), and by God, you will think exactly what they God tells you to think. (Nevermind that God appears to have told the three textbook writers different things. I’m sure it’s just one of those ineffable mystery thingies, or the other two are delusional, or something.)

Image shows a white and orange cat bopping a gray and white tabby on the nose. Caption says, "BJU cat sez, "No, this what bible meanz."

Image courtesy Nathan Vaughn
via Flicker (CC BY 2.0). Caption by moi.

So let’s find out “what you should think,” per BJU’s God.

The first thing is not to think like those Christians.

Some Christians reject the principles of environmentalism because they associate them with the extreme views of people who worship nature and violently protect animal rights. These believers go in the other direction, polluting and consuming Earth’s resources with no concern about conservation. They may think, “God is going to burn up this world some day soon anyway and create a new one. So there’s no need to worry about using the earth and its resources wisely, right? This view is anti-environmentalism.

Well, that sure told them. Are you listening, A Beka and ACE? Herngh??? You’re not thinking right!

Now, I hope you were running low on straw, because ES4’s having a fire sale:

There are also radical environmentalists who view people as nature’s biggest problem. Man’s works are evil. Nature is good. Population growth is bad. Technology consumes Earth’s precious resources and pollutes. “Mother Earth” must be protected at all costs because we came from the earth through evolution.

Ah, how sweet of them to call everyone who thinks we should, maybe, y’know, save the planet we live on from our own predation because hey, we live here “radical environmentalists.” It’s kinda like how all the folks who think hey, mebbe we should stop being so shitty to women are “radical feminists.”

And, like MRAs, they want us to know that we are so wrong, you guys. We’re defying God! Humans are the bestest, He said so! And those other Christians are wrong, too, because we’re stewards! God said so!!

Oh, and the “climate change debate” is “a crusade of extreme environmentalists.”

Oy.

Well, at least they believe saving animals from our own stupidity like oil spills, doing some recycling, and engaging in some energy conservation glorifies God. Baby steps.

Image shows a swimming dog with bulging eyes, getting ready to bite a bottle floating in the pond with him. Caption says, "How many times do I have to tell you that this goes in the recycling bin???"

All that’s the first page of the chapter. Laying it on with a trowel, they are. Fortunately, aside from a not-funny cartoon about a teenage girl using global warming as an excuse to buy a new wardrobe, they dial back to just-the-facts mode. They do a fine job explaining things that affect climate, like latitude, ocean currents, topography, and so forth. No God talk ensues until we turn the page and run smack into a text box about the Canopy Theory. Yes, that canopy. Oh, dear.

We’re told to “imagine the rain pounding on the Ark’s roof,” and where did all that water come from? (And why doesn’t ES4 mention it would’ve been boiling?) We’re treated to vapor canopies and proof texts. There’s an illustration of the vapor canopy that looks like an orange wrapped in a coffee cup sleeve. They fuss over how the Hebrew word raqiya should translate. They dither with Russell Humphrey’s idea that God made a bunch of stuff with two different gobs of water, and hey, even though “we don’t know as a certainty how God actually created the universe,” that totally fits the Bible, right? Only to become shocked – shocked, I tell you – that actually modeling this canopy thing shows either a) Earth was broiling hot like Venus or b) you could hardly get your ankles wet with the rain resulting from the canopy collapse. And the authors conclude that the canopy’s probably a dud, because the dude who came up with the original vapor canopy theory was one of those freaks who believe in an Earth that’s millions of years old. Harrumph.

This would be adorable if it wasn’t in a book claiming to be an actual science textbook.

Following, we have a long section about climate zones, which could use a little more detail on their map, plus someone who knows what a saguaro cactus is (“Towering Sonora cactuses?” *snortle*) Otherwise, it’s not bad, and is a nice introduction to the concept of climate zones.

But we get a hefty dose of OMFG with the “Serving God as a Climatologist” box. They wax nearly lyrical over Lonnie Thompson, who “may have spent more time than anyone else in the world above an elevation above an elevation of 18,000 feet.” He is, they say, “trying to preserve history in the ice.” Now, you may get the impression that Dr. Thompson is a creationist, considering how these creationists are salivating over him. He is not. In fact, he is a pretty important scientist on the climate change front, and so the staff writing ES4 have a shiny-sharp knife for his parka’d back:

Dominion Opportunities

A secular climatologist’s work is impressive and can be difficult, but he is missing something big. His data is valuable and is needed by the climate change debate, but his interpretation is affected by his worldview. What he interprets as annual changes in ice over thousands of years may actually be a record of individual storms over a much shorter period of time. Secular, old earth views of history reject the authority of God’s Word.

Waal, that’s a fine fuck-you to Lonnie, innit?

The current controversy over climate change highlights how this science and the politics it drives can touch our daily lives. We need more Christians in this field to build solid scientific models based on the true history of the earth – the one found in the Bible.

So. These little ratfuckers want to infiltrate scientific fields, shit all over the data scientists like Lonny T have sweated blood and risked their lives to obtain, and force everyone to follow their fairy tales, which basically means allowing the world to broil to death because we can’t see reality for what it is.

I don’t like ‘em and can’t trust ‘em. Nor should anyone who works with one of these voluntarily delusional fuckwads.

I shall let Dr. Thompson have a stern word:

Thompson dismisses skeptics who contend that the current warming trend is due to a natural cycle. “Name one who has ever really studied climate or collected data,” he says. “I bet you can’t.” Glaciers, he adds, “have no political agenda. They don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. Science is about what is, not what we believe or hope. And it shows that global warming is wiping out invaluable geological archives right before our eyes.”*

Image shows a man wearing a fur hat, sunglasses, an ice-goatee on his beard, and a black jacket with snow on it. He is looking into the camera with a no-nonsense attitude.

Lonnie G. Thompson during an Antarctic Expedition in 1974. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Yeah. Something tells me he’d have zero sympathy for BJU’s “but that’s not what God says” shenanigans.

You’d think, after a post this long, that we’re done with this chapter. But no! There’s a whole ‘nother half devoted specifically to climate change. Buckle in, kids, and be sure to wear your best crash helmets. I have a feeling the next post is gonna get wild and wooly.

 

*I believe that, my darlings, is the rhetorical equipment of bringing a howitzer to a knife fight. Lonnie is awesome.

Homeschool Sex Machine: The Unreliable (Horny) Narrator Par Excellence

A lot of the stuff I read by homeschool alumni is poignant, rage-inducing, eye-opening, jaw-dropping, and quite often terrifying. These kids were raised in the straitjacket of extreme Christian fundamentalism, subjected to educational malpractice, threatened with hellfire and damnation, raised with an extreme emphasis on gender roles and chastity, indoctrinated for decades. Yet they still managed to emerge with sharp minds, a willingness to question, and the ability to share their journeys. They have my undying respect. They’re amazing people.

But this is the first time one of them has had me nearly peeing myself with laughter in the wee hours of the morning.

Book cover for Homeschool Sex Machine. A young, gangly Matthew in a red turtleneck holds a clarinet and half-smiles at the camera.

I downloaded Matthew Pierce’s Homeschool Sex Machine: Babes, Bible Quiz, and the Clinton Years because I needed a bit of easy-but-related-to-current-project reading at bedtime. But mostly, I did it because of the title. I mean, we’re talking about someone raised in the purity culture, folks. You cannon even imagine how jarring the idea of someone raised to be pure and virginal, not even supposed to date or kiss until marriage, being a sex machine is. Also, I’d been seeing alumni reviews here and there, which were all positive, and the thing was $2.99, and so it seemed a safe bet.

Don’t make that bet if you’re still recovering from abdominal surgery, because you’ll bust your stitches.

Now, you may have heard this of this book being blacklisted by some Christian sites. This is because they can’t stand the idea of sex, and also, there are bosoms. (I suspect those declining to carry this book are the same sorts who flipped their shit when they got a brief sex scene at the beginning of The Wedding Party. Seriously, read the one-star reviews – they’re hysterical.)

I do have to warn you: there are bosoms. And sex appeal. And *gasp* dancing.

Matthew Pierce has a cutting sense of humor, which he most often uses to undercut himself. Take learning the clarinet, for example: He talks about being placed “in the class that wore red turtlenecks, which was probably the class for prodigies.” Now, woodwinds weren’t quite what he’d had in mind when his parents said they were putting him in a band. He’d expected more rock star than orchestra. But it went well:

The entire class would soon bear witness to my meteoric rise, as I soared to the position of fifth chair clarinet in a section of six clarinets.

Yep. Meteoric, indeed. This former member of the concert choir that often performed with the high school orchestra larfed and larfed.

But you came here for the sex machine part, didn’t you? Never fear! There’s plenty of salacious detail as Matthew makes us witnesses to his stellar career as a sex machine. He didn’t even begin as a homeschool one: his first assignation was as a public school student. Alas, he didn’t save his first kiss for marriage, but gave it away willy-nilly to the luscious cheek of a kindergarten classmate – and promptly passed out from the magnitude of it. With such a promising beginning, you know that homeschool doesn’t put the brakes on this sex machine. His mad Bible knowledge, his amazing ability with the clarinet, and his gift for crushing opposing teams at Bible Quiz take him from one torrid affair to another. The fact they were all in his head and rated GA does nothing to detract from our admiration. He is the James Bond of the homeschool circuit.

Marvel as he resists the pressure of mother, siblings, and peers, and avoids being “knighted into purposeful singlehood.” Which is good, because it would have been a shame to waste an opportunity to use all the Xian pick-up lines he’d been composing during the purity lecture.

Admire his determination and cunning as he uses his grocery store earnings to escape homeschool and attend a Christian private school, and his extraordinary height to join their basketball team – all for a girl. Hijinks, of course, ensue.

Feel your heart melt as he attends a prom. Of sorts. No dancing, because that is a heathen pleasure denied to good Christian teens.

Instead, CHS was hosting a Spring Banquet. There was to be no cleavage (thanks, Presbyterians), no touching, no dancing (thanks, Baptists), and essentially no fun of any kind. And just to make sure we left the event edified, the school had booked a Christian performance artist to act out the Book of Jonah is a one-man play.

At the after party, he asks a strict Baptist what dancing is, and the climax comes as the most eligible bachelor on campus drags him out to dance with destiny. Well, with Sporty, the love of his life, the woman of his dreams, the lady he had moved heaven and earth and spent his money on private school for. Since he had to ask a strict Baptist what dancing is, and had to be manhandled onto the dance floor by his chief romantic rival, you can imagine how odd the conclusion is.

The fact that Matthew Pierce survived those strictly-repressed and terribly sheltered years with a wicked-sharp sense of humor and a healthy outlook on love, I put down to the power of his Inner Romeo.

You’ll come out of this book with aching ribs, a different view of the cloistered homeschool world, and a huge measure of affection for a narrator you know is unreliable, but is always all heart. And sometimes flowers.

An Apt Analogy for Varieties of Creationist

I don’t know if any of you read Paul Braterman’s blog, Eat Your Brains Out. No, it’s not a blog about zombies, although occasionally Jesus is mentioned. It’s actually a blog about science and creationism, and I’ve now read it in its entirety. Great stuff within.

And, sometimes, a very funny and apt bit. Paul took on the arguments of mathematician and theologian John Lennox, who rejects this god-of-the-gaps nonsense, yet apparently associates with Douglas Axe, director of the Biologic Institute (part of the Discovery Institute; and Norman Nevin, a biblical literalist and Chairman of the Centre for Intelligent Design. Lennox took Lawrence Krauss to task for words about the Higgs boson being more important than God with a bit of a Ford analogy:

That is as wrong-headed as thinking that an explanation of a Ford car in terms of Henry Ford as inventor and designer competes with an explanation in terms of mechanism and law. God is not a “God of the gaps”,  he is God of the whole show.

And Paul took that analogy and ran with it to places where I’m sure Lennox would have preferred he not gone:

To pursue the Ford analogy further, Lennox believes that the car works because it is well designed, Axe believes that it works because there is a miracle-working mechanic inside the gearbox, and Nevin believes that it was sabotaged by the drivers’ grandparents.

Precisely. I don’t think anyone’s ever summed up the differences between old-school science-accepting theologian/scientists, intelligent design proponents, and Biblical literalists more succinctly. I laughed.

Image shows a blueprint for a Model T engine with God photoshopped in.

“The Engine of God” Original images courtesy Wikimedia Commons, photoshopped poorly by moi.

Perhaps It’s Time to Renounce My Atheism and Worship Satan

I love it when Satanists see Christians behaving badly achieving freedom of religion and decide to twist their noses partake of said freedom (via Zingularity):

In a statement, the Satanic Temple said that it will use the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision to exempt its believers from state-mandated informed consent laws that require women considering abortions to read pro-life material.

Informed consent or “right to know” laws state that women seeking elective abortions be provided with information about alternatives to the procedure, often couched in language that attempts to personify the fetus. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 35 states currently have informed consent laws, and of those, 33 require that the woman be told the gestational age of the fetus.

In some states, that information consists of pro-life propaganda that links abortion to a higher incidence of breast and ovarian cancers, or discusses “post-abortion syndrome,” a mental condition not recognized by any major medical or psychiatric organization.

Because the Satanic Temple bases its belief “regarding personal health…on the best scientific understanding of the world, regardless of the religious or political beliefs of others,” it claims that state-mandated information with no basis in scientific fact violates its “religious” beliefs.

I am almost tempted to get pregnant just so I can print out their handy religious-exemption letter, skip to the abortion doctor, and become a test case, laughing merrily as courts realize that Hobby Lobby protects far more religious beliefs than perhaps they dreamed. I need to form a closely held corporation first so that I can make it company policy that my employees are exempt from these stupid laws. Then I’ll need to move somewhere with those stupid anti-abortion laws. And convince this rather infertile body to conceive… crap. This could get complicated. Maybe I should leave it to the young ‘uns. Still: if you’re a woman of reproductive age in a conservative state, consider converting! It will be so much fun to watch people’s heads go asplodey when you stuff your sincerely-held religious beliefs up their noses.

And yes, I know Hobby Lobby applied to federal, not state, law. I know courts will twist themselves into pretzels to say why it’s different when Satanists (or Hindus, or Muslims, or pagans) want their slice of the religious freedom pie. But it’s a great way to force the law to either live up to the First Amendment or show themselves as hypocritical asshats who will be overturned by future, saner courts. It’s a beautiful means by which to show people what religious freedom really means. And it makes it much harder for theocrats to force their theocracy on the unwilling when they, in turn, find they’ve left themselves open for having a disliked sort of theocracy forced upon them. I’m behind the Satanic Temple in this effort all the way.

Besides, I’ve always had a soft spot for the ol’ Prince of Lies. I always wondered if he might not be the good guy after all. And, should you wish to consider some theological points with me, here are some memes to ponder.

Image shows a woodcut of Lucifer and other fallen angels. Caption says: "Educates first woman. Satan."I can get behind women’s education, and respect those who give knowledge to humanity. Already liking this Satan fellow.

Image is Neil Gaiman's Lucifer, holding a martini glass. Caption says, "Understands human nature. Doesn't judge you for being human."Which is ever so much better than making us human, then condemning us to an eternity in torment for being human.

Image shows thoughtful T-Rex. Caption says, "If Satan punishes evildoes, wouldn't that make him a good guy?"A fair point.

Image shows man made up to look like red devil. Cpation says, "I gave them metal. But they keep listening to shitty pop music."I listen to metal. I enjoy the gifts Satan gives. And pop music is often bloody awful… one might even say, evil…

Image shows Anton LaVey. Caption says, "Y'all motherfuckers need Satan."Well, my gosh. Cannot argue that. The argument is immaculate.

Image shows a cat's face with glowing eyes in a black background. Caption says, "Souls. I eets them." Why, living off of souls is even more Earth-friendly than veganism. I’m convinced! Satan is the good deity. All hail Satan!

What Recent Supreme Court Decisions Have Told Me About My Value as a Woman and a Human Being

I’ve learned so much from the Supreme Court over the last few years:

Corporations are totes people who have the right to put as much money where their mouth is as they want – well, they don’t technically have mouths, but they’re still American people who have every right to talk as much as those mere biological people they’re notorious for trodding upon.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) Limits on corporate and union political expenditures during election cycles violate the First Amendment. Corporations and labor unions can spend unlimited sums in support of or in opposition to candidates as long as the spending is independent of the candidates.

(Notice we hoi polloi are thrown a sop in the form of labor unions being able to spend unlimited sums – which would be nice, if it weren’t for the fact that corporations have been busy murdering unions for decades. Hey – does that count as first-degree murder? Because that means we should be able to imprison or execute them, then.)

Corporations and rich people have lots more freedom of speech than people who aren’t rich or corporations.

McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) Limits on the total amounts of money that individuals can donate to political campaigns during two-year election cycles violate the First Amendment.

Image shows Supreme Court portrait: the conservative justices have corporate logos on their robes. Caption says, "I don't always undermine the Constitution of the United States, but when I do, I make sure I get paid."

People who want to keep guns around in order to shoot other people (but not corporations, because while corporations can “speak,” they can’t actually bleed) are more important than people who would rather impose sensible limits on guns for the safety of total non-people (such as children outside of wombs).

McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010) The individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense is fully applicable to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

People of color don’t need any protection from systemic racism. Nossir. Times have changed and there is no longer any such thing as, oh, say, corporations (which are Very Important People) and political parties (*coughRepublicancough*) discriminating against people whose skin is other than white. They certainly wouldn’t refuse to hire them or prevent them from voting!

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) A Michigan state constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action does not violate the Equal Protection Clause.

Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which contains the coverage formula that determines which state and local jurisdictions are subjected to federal preclearance from the United States Department of Justice before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices based on their histories of racial discrimination in voting, is unconstitutional because it no longer reflects current societal conditions.

Making everybody in government pray to Jesus doesn’t violate anyone’s free exercise of religion. Why wouldn’t Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and atheists and pagans and all them other (totally fake) people love praying to Jesus? Their objections are silly and can definitely be ignored. Remember: being forced to pray to a god your religion or conscience tells you doesn’t exist is no big, even if your god is a jealous fucker who will cut you for paying lip service to someone else’s god.

Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) A town council’s practice of opening its sessions with a sectarian prayer does not violate the Establishment Clause.

We look forward to seeing the Court twist into pretzels to define why praying to Allah is totes a violation of the Establishment clause.*

The Court has given me to understand that women are definitely lesser people than corporations. Corporations have the right to force women and trans men who haven’t had surgery to pay for their own birth control, because a corporation can be totes religious just like a person, and private for-profit corporations are so pious that they, like churches, can impose their beliefs that women should be baby factories upon women, trans men, and other folks with a uterus. Uterus-having folks, however, have no right to impose their desire for appropriate healthcare upon the corporation providing health insurance as part of their compensation. No word yet on whether corporations must pay for the aspirin they’re telling ladies to keep between their knees as a substitute for effective birth control, but I’m sure they won’t have to if they classify all pills as birth control.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc, 573 U.S. ___ (2014) Closely held for-profit corporations have free exercise of religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Viagra, of course, will be provided to the menfolk with limp willies free of charge.

Image is an angry Captain Picard with his hand extended as if protesting. Caption says, "Hobby Lobby is not a church, it's a fucking crafts store."

But hey, isn’t it sweet that the Court’s enlightened enough to finally realize there’s no good reason for the federal government to say “I don’t” to same-sex marriage?

United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines—for federal law purposes—the terms “marriage” and “spouse” to apply only to marriages between one man and one woman, is a deprivation of the equal liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The federal government must recognize same-sex marriages that have been approved by the states.

Shorter Supremes: “We’re going to give corporations insane control over the political process, and gut all the laws protecting you from racist jackasses, and let Christians force their prayers and beliefs upon you even in government settings, and we don’t give a single shit about women’s reproductive rights because every fetus and potential fetus is sacred until it’s born, after which we don’t care if it gets shot, but hey, we’re not bigots – you can have all the same-sex weddings you want! Just, y’know, don’t expect us to tell corporations, which are completely religious people, that they can’t discriminate against you. Because it’s obvious we think they own you.”

Image shows Scalia. Caption reads, "Equality? Not founder's intent, lol."

For those who say elections don’t matter, I just want to point out one thing: the majority are all Reagan / George W. Bush appointees. The dissenters: Clinton and Obama. Just one less Bush term, and women might not have to put up with their employer forcing their religious views up their vagina. Had Obama lost, same-sex marriage would still be a distant dream rather than an impending reality. So fuck you if you’re one of those who was willing to risk McCain or Romney just to punish the Dems for not being progressive enough. Play those games with local and state elections where there’s less risk and more reward, people. Leave the ability to appoint Supreme Court justices in hands that aren’t bloody evil.

Image shows Voting Rights Act being signed. Caption says, "Undone by 5 justices. #whycourtsmatter"

And go read Greta Christina’s piece on this travesty. Get outraged. Get voting. Don’t ever let yourself believe elections don’t matter. The only thing that’s going to defeat all that corporate cash is a lot of good people willing to pull the right levers.

Image is a gray cat in a suit. Caption says, "Lawyer cat objects to everything."Boycott Hobby Lobby. Get involved with SafeAndSecular.org.

*I will soon be running for office as an ordained minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – if you vote for me, I assure you each meeting will begin by invoking his saucy blessing upon our government business. Does anyone know where I can find meatballs that are halal, kosher, and don’t violate Hindu dietary laws?

Snippets about the landmark rulings filched from Wikipedia’s handy list.

The following memes were found by Ophelia, who has been blogging this case all day. Take them. Spread them. Annoy your Tea Party relatives with them.

Americans United meme. Text reads, "Apparently, the Supreme Court's HOBBY is acting as a LOBBY for the interests of corporations run by the religious right." Image is a 50s illustration of two women. Caption reads, "Face it, dear. Corporations have more rights than we do." Fight back at www.safeandsecular.org. Atheists.org meme: Image shows a Hobby Lobby store, with a Monopoly-style card over it that reads "Fake religious freedom. Get out of the law free. This card may be used to treat women as second-class citizens." Caption says, "A gift from the Supreme Court to religious extremists."  Elizabeth Warren quote: I cannot believe that we live in a world where would even [sic] CONSIDER letting some big corporation deny the women who work for it access to the basic medical tests, treatments or prescriptions that they need based on vague moral objections. The current Supreme Court has headed in a very scary direction.

I Think Jesus Probably Hates You

There’s a preacher man on The Ultimate Fighter 19. A lot of MMA fighters are religious; B and I have a good eye-roll at the ones who ink crosses and bible verses all over their bodies, and the ones who fall to their knees thanking God for helping them beat the shit outta that other Christian. But this is the first time I’ve seen an actual preacher in the cage.

Todd Monaghan getting ready to fight Daniel Spohn, TUF 19.

Todd Monaghan getting ready to fight Daniel Spohn, TUF 19.

I don’t think God actually likes this preacher – Todd Monaghan – very much. I mean, sure, Todd got to live the dream by submitting his opponent with an arm bar, thus winning a spot on the show. So far, so “God loves meeeee!” But then he got defeated his very first fight against an opponent who didn’t seem to like hitting preachers in the face. Daniel Spohn (who got into The Ultimate Fighter house by knocking a tough dude out cold in front of the dude’s mom) pretty much just dumped Todd on the ground and kept him there for the entire fight. His corner screamed at Spohn to score some points with some ground-and-pound. Dana White, lord and master of the UFC, nearly puked with boredom. But Spohn just kind of hugged and squeezed, while Mr. Man-o-God did not listen to the excellent advice being screamed at him by the two legendary fighters coaching him. Perhaps he couldn’t hear them over the sound of his praying. It ended with Todd basically being cuddled to defeat and the man who could make-or-break his MMA career thoroughly disgusted with him. God works in mysterious ways, eh, Preacher Todd?

Daniel Spohn hugging Todd Monaghan into submission.

Daniel Spohn hugging Todd Monaghan into submission.

Alas, he’s around for the whole season, because losers stay in the house to watch everyone else win. And he probably now believes God only wanted him there to win souls. Sigh. Happily, most of his preaching appears to have been left on the cutting room floor.

But it’s not the defeat that makes me think that if Jesus actually exists, he can’t stand Preacher Todd. It’s not even the fact Jesus doesn’t seem to want him preaching the gospel on teevee in between yakking to the audience about the other fighters. It’s the stuff Jesus has done for him that makes me wonder.

You see, Preacher Todd is a man who has been blessed by God. We got to hear all about it the Sunday before his defeat, when he gave a little sermon to the guys about how his life had been soooo shitty before God. He told ‘em how he’d been adopted by a white family in Iowa, who protected him from gangs and stuff, but couldn’t do his African-American hair right, so the black kids teased him. So he got into fights, and the next thing he knew – bam – he started “selling things I shouldn’t sell.” His life of crime doesn’t sound at all bad: all that robbing and stealing got him lots of nice things in college. He’d make at least $1,000 per weekend, so he had all the “ladies” he wanted, 5 pairs of gold teeth, more shoes than Imelda Marcos, and apparently no jail time worth mentioning.

Then his neighbor got all up in his face with some bible verses and knowing Christ as his savior, so he decided to do it “God’s way.” He didn’t say what that is, but did assure everyone that God blessed him with a Jaguar for his very first car after converting. Coulda been a Pinto, and “materials” aren’t important, he sez, but God gave him a Jaguar. And he’s not bragging or materialistic or anything, but God’s also blessed him with a camper and a boat and a brand new Tahoe. We weren’t told if the gold jewelry and Rolex watch he wears are also blessings or were purchased with the ill-gotten gains of his youth, but God surely has blessed Preacher Todd with many nice vehicles. That’s what you get when you are, and I quote, “taking care of business” for the Lord.

This is the point where I started laughing my ass off – I mean, seriously, a Baptist MMA fighter spouting all this Prosperity Gospel bullshit? LOLZ.

Now, I’m an atheist, and I really think Todd has managed to bless his own self with all this stuff, both back when he stole it and now that he’s earning it with the sweat of his brow. But something struck me that has never occurred to me before.

If we take this shit at face value, if there is a Jesus and he did say that shit attributed to him in the New Testament, such as:

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God. (Mark 10:25)

and really meant it:

Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:24)

what does it mean if Jesus makes you rich?

Sounds to me like JC can’t stand Preacher Todd and all these other Prosperity Gospel ratfuckers, and is making absolutely damned sure he won’t have to spend eternity with them. I can tell you from personal experience that there is zero chance of any standard camel getting through the eye of quite large needles.

Image shows a dromedary camel standing in profile, with its head turned toward the camera. It appears to be smiling.

Standard camel. Rather too large to stuff even through a needle meant for yarn. Image courtesy Jjron via Wikimedia Commons.

Now, murderers, rapists, thieves, and other assorted assholes can repent and be saved, thus ensuring they end up in Heaven.

But do you really think these Prosperity Gospel greedlords will ever do what Jesus commands in Mark 10:21?

Image shows an orange and white cat lying atop an enormous stack of money, looking defensive. Caption says, MINENope.

Which means, if Jesus is making you rich, you might want to consider what that says about his long-term plans for you and your soul.