Pomp and Pope

I’ve been to a Catholic church exactly once. It was embarrassing. Stand, kneel, confusedly try to follow everybody’s lead, fuck up royally by trying to follow them up for Communion (a grubby non-Catholic such as myself doesn’t get to participate in cannibalism). It seemed like a lot of work. And people I knew as total bastards five days a week at school suddenly transformed into altar boys? Puh-leeze. But at least that last bit was fun. It’s always cute when your classmates are mortally embarrassed in white dresses.

So that’s it. The sum of my direct experience with Catholicism. I’ve known Catholics, of course. Read up on Church history. Seen the art. Heard about the scandals. I remember seeing Pope John Paul II on television, and liked him. He seemed decent enough, not batshit insane per se, remarkably down-to-earth for a dude in a funny hat and a robe. And at least he didn’t wear bright red shoes. He wore brown ones.

Needless to say, I’ve not been keeping close tabs on the current Pope’s visit. But it’s been nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Hard to avoid, especially when PZ Myers bends him over a knee for a sound spanking.

And I’m catching up on the week’s Daily Show and Colbert Report, and there’s quite a bit of bright white robe shining out from my television. So I started doing some digging.

Here’s the first thing I came across:

“Official merchandiser of the 2008 U.S. Papal Visit.”

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

And this man is going to come lecture us on materialism? This is rich.

The man who’s said this:


VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday criticized “materialistic” ways of celebrating Christmas, pressing the Vatican’s campaign against unbridled consumerism.

and this:


“People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and of unbridled consumerism.”

has an official merchandizer. And has a personal cobbler. And a fucking papal helicopter that he flies between the Vatican and his summer residence. Summer residence? Oh, yes, he’s got a summer house, too, did I forget to mention that?

But this is the man who wants us to believe. He wants us to believe that “reason without faith leads to materialism and selfishness.” Somehow, it’s okay for him to preach to us about the evils of our culture and our belief – and most particularly the non-believers among us. He speaks of living a life in Christ. What was it he said to our Catholic leaders? Oh, yes:


“Indeed a clearer focus upon the imitation of Christ in holiness of life is exactly what is needed in order for us to move forward. We need to rediscover the joy of living a Christ-centred life, cultivating the virtues, and immersing ourselves in prayer. When the faithful know that their pastor is a man who prays and who dedicates his life to serving them, they respond with warmth and affection which nourishes and sustains the life of the whole community.”

And I’m sure that Christ would agree that expensive red shoes, clothes with plenty of gold embellishments, a helicopter, and a summer house are all vital accessories to a life in Him. What better way to preach peace, love and charity, to convincingly argue for a life in faith instead of materialism and consumerism, than to do it while imitating Christ’s love for the trappings of power and glory?

Let’s see what Jesus has to say:

Heh heh heh whoops.

“Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth,” you said. Well, you’ll forgive me if I take your meaning of “truth” with a huge block of salt, and turn to truth guided by evidence instead. I prefer my truth without hypocrisy, as did the man you claim to serve.

Expelled Expectorated!

It’s been a busy day not seeing Expelled. I’ve spent the majority of it reading the flood of terrible reviews, the deluge of ridicule, and reflecting on the meaning of this meaningless film. I’ve also thought about what’s likely to happen next.

I’ve a few predictions:

  • Morbid fascination will keep the film in theaters longer than we expected, and help pay part of the enormous sum Yoko Ono will extract for use of 25 seconds of “Imagine.” The rest of the settlement and attorney’s fees will come from Mark Mathis’s lecture tour on the rabid fundie circuit explaining how Yoko Ono persecutes ID advocates and leads to atheism. Meanwhile, XVIVO laughs all the way to the bank, and creates the animation for a wildly-popular anti-Expelled documentary entitled Expelled: When Fools Flunk.
  • The next court case challenging ID’s pathetic attempts to crawl its way into science classrooms will introduce Expelled into evidence. ID’s final attempt to pass itself off as a non-religious alternative to evolution will meet a gruesome end when it runs full-tilt into the steel hawsers now tying God to ID. A gory decapitation will ensue. It will be years before another suitable euphemism is discovered and they can resurrect themselves for another attempt.
  • In 2012, presidential candidates will no longer be asked, “Do you believe in evolution?” but “Did you fall for Expelled?” The gotcha question will turn from flag pins to questions about a candidate’s fitness for office if he let a steaming pile of pig offal fool him.
  • The extreme Christian right will do nothing but watch reruns of Expelled in church basements and whine about how persecuted they are. They will continue to confuse fact-based rebuttals to their bullshit with being thrown to lions.
  • Scientists will release a flurry of popular science books, movies and websites that treat the American public as if they have a brain, and the American public may possibly remember that they possess one.

These are my predictions, founded on hope, grounded in weary cynicism. While there are a great many smart Americans, the country as a whole has seemed perfectly content with being bloody stupid for many years now, and I’m not sure how long it may take for that to change.

One thing I hope is that America’s native sense of fairness, equality and lip-service to freedom doesn’t rise up like Michael Behe to shoot us firmly in the foot. We need to remember that these people don’t mean the same thing by fairness, values, morals, and rights that we do. We need to remember that while we are happy to give quarter, they are happy to give none.

I’m not sure how many of us are waiting for them to admit defeat, but I hope no one’s holding their breath. They’re already screaming “VICTORY!” Well, persecution, actually, but they’re delighted by such things as Expelled Exposed and blog swarms and bad reviews. Proves they’re persecuted, they say. They have no idea what persecution is. They think that criticism equals suppression. Their ideas are too weak to withstand the force of evidence, so they have to squeal about conspiracies. They think that the outcry we’ve raised is driven by something more nefarious than a genuine outrage at outright propaganda. They’re dupes, but they can’t admit that. They can’t possibly be wrong. So if we counter their lies with truth, they’re being oppressed. If we force ID to play by the rules of science in the science classroom, they’re persecuted. If we stay silent, they’ve won. If we give them a hint of respect, they’ll declaim victory.

We can’t win. Not against them. But that doesn’t mean we stop fighting for truth, justice and what was the American way before the lunatics took over the asylum.

We have to be loud. We have to hit back hard with every fact at our disposal. We’re not doing it to change their minds and win their hearts – we can’t. But there is a huge swath right there in the middle that still values truth. There’s a great number of people who understand that being Christian means being honest. Christ himself said it: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Some still believe that. They aren’t afraid of truth, and they have no reason to be. What they should be afraid of is lying sacks of shit who wrap themselves in a warped version of God and pretend to be righteous. What they should be afraid of is lies drowning the truth, and kicking this country right back into the Dark Ages.

Mathis and his ilk do Christians no favors. And most Christians will be smart enough to see that, especially if they’re aware of just how extreme Expelled’s dishonesty is. If movie reviews are anything to go by, plenty of Christians already are.

That gives me almost as much hope as the wrath of Yoko.

If you’re not through expectorating Expelled, have some links:

Blake Stacey at Science After Sunclipse has posted a tour-de-force: Creation, Power and Violence. If you read nothing else today, read that. Should your horror and outrage grow too great, skip down to the link to fluffy kittens in the comments.

The Lippard Blog has news on Expelled’s weekend box office.

The Panda’s Thumb has an avalanche of truly awful reviews. There’s also a contest!

Abbie put up a link to a pirated video of the Expelled animation that should lead to much courtroom goodness.

The Digital Cuttlefish has a few truly awesome poems up. What did I tell you about Expelled being good for the arts, eh?

Expelled Exposed grows all the time.

Bay of Fundie has an educational illustration of what will shortly happen to Expelled.

Thoughts in a Haystack has a quartet of extremely entertaining posts.

Laelaps exposes Expelled’s true purpose: to get folks to stop thinking. That is, of course, the only way their ideas can possibly be accepted.

And, finally, Monty Python’s classic treatise on rights, oppression, and babies in boxes:


Monique Davis: Crusader for… Atheists…?

Via Decrepit Old Fool (who has fast become one of my favorite bloggers), I came across a pure gem of a post from Half-Hearted Fanatic. He’s got a strange-but-true take on the whole Monique Davis drama:


However, Davis may just be the kind of crackpot that atheism needs.

This is a life lesson I learned two years ago: Ranting lunatics can be a blessing.

Funny, but I was thinking the same thing. I’ve seen more than one person pull themselves up short when they realize the company they’re keeping. It’s like a bucket of icewater down the old collar.

Half-Hearted Fanatic does a perfect job showing this. Go read. Find out for yourselves how skate parks, stubborn old ladies, and Monique Davis all relate.

And remember that this extends beyond Davis. I get the same sense from Bush’s spectacular fuck-up as president. I think that once this long slog of a nightmare is over, a lot of people are going to wake up and take a quick shuffle toward the left. Not many folks want to be too close to the rabid monkey.

“God Bless the Idiots”

A while back, I pondered why Christians are so afraid of atheists, and threw out some ideas. I couldn’t really answer that question. During that brief period I was a Christian, I wasn’t afraid of atheists. My Christian friends aren’t afraid of them (obviously). I don’t go out of my way to collar Christians, announce my atheism, and ask the ones who start trembling in terror why they’re deathly scared of me. It’s hard to hang onto their collars, for one thing – I don’t weigh 100 lbs soaking wet, and they’ve got the power of adrenaline lending them super-strength and speed.

So it’s a good thing I have best friends like N.P., who are not only wonderful writers, but totally non-fearing Christians who have observed the timid ones and can report back. She very kindly gave me permission to bung her email up here.

I think she’s dead-on here. I believe it’s important to highlight this, because the first step in reaching an accord is to understand each other. And I’m adding emphasis to the part that resonated most:

Here’s the thing, lovey. Some Christians are, in fact, insecure in their faith, and they’ve been raised to believe it so wholeheartedly, that in the back of their minds, they’re afraid that if they discover a bitty hole in their logic, the whole damned (pardon the expression) thing would unravel before them, and then what have they got to cling to?

Others have been taught to believe wholeheartedly that it’s risky to expose themselves to that which is “of the world.”

There was an anecdote in a Bible study I had in high school. It’s about a mother and daughter in conversation as the mother prepares dinner for the family. The daughter wants to go to a concert with her friends, and the mother doesn’t want her to go because of the nature of the music. The daughter objects, trying to assure her mother that it’s just music, and she’ll still have her faith if she goes to the concert. At this comment, the mother tosses the carrot peelings from the sink into the salad bowl. When the daughter asks her why she did it, the mother answers, “Well, you don’t seem to mind garbage in your heart and mind, so I thought you wouldn’t mind a little in your salad, either.”

While a mildly amusing story that makes a larger point within the spectrum of the Scriptures, this anecdote makes an interesting point from an exterior point of view: Christians avoid that which may invite sin into their hearts, and pretty much anything outside of the teachings of the church invites sin into hearts.

I was raised in a church that shunned me for wearing a cap-sleeved shirt that showed too much of my shoulders or a skirt that didn’t cover my knees when I sat in the pews. The idea was that if I dressed “immodestly” (anyone who knows me knows I’m anything but immodest), I would tempt the men of the church with my womanly wiles I guess, which would lead to all kinds of sinful whatever and eventually would lead to “backsliding” from the church, and eternal damnation.

So Christians guard themselves from all things that could potentially corrupt them so as not to become corrupted.

I think they’ve got it backwards, though. Jesus knew it wasn’t the faithful who needed His Love. Jesus dined with tax collectors and prostitutes. He sat among the lepers. Jesus knew it was those who were “sick” that needed Him. He didn’t shy away from the opportunity to spread His message of Love, no matter who was there to listen. It’s the people who get their hands dirty that get the most work done. Mother Teresa, for example, didn’t spend all her time with the Pope or the local bishops. She went where she believed she was needed, as all Christians should.

I consider myself one of your friends who isn’t scared of anything. I am a Christian, yes, and I try to love people the way Jesus demonstrated through His ministry on earth. I admire the beauty in Wiccan rituals. I practice yoga. I read anything and everything I can get my hands on. I have friends who are Catholic, Protestant, Wiccan, atheist, agnostic, liberal, conservative, straight, gay, bisexual, American, German, Hispanic, Irish, Polish, and animal.
If God doesn’t discriminate in His powerful and unconditional love, who am I to turn someone away from my imperfect, human love?

Christians who are scared have already taken those first steps away from God’s love because they’re letting the worldly, sinful emotion of fear overshadow the love they claim to have for everyone.

God bless the idiots.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I wish more Christians understood this. And I think you see now why N.P is one of the most remarkable human beings I’ve ever known, and why I cherish her so.

Michael Medved: Assclown Extraordinaire

I was going to write a blazing post beating Michael Medved down for his fuckery regarding why an atheist could never be President, but others have done the job for me. To them, I am grateful. It means I can turn my attention to other assclowns.

Carpetbagger highlighted the dumbassitude in “This Week in God:”


First up from the God machine this week is an eyebrow-raising column about why Americans couldn’t possibly vote for a non-believer as president.

The very idea is remarkably remote. Gallup did a poll last year and found that Americans would sooner vote for anyone other than an atheist. But far-right commentator Michael Medved devoted his weekly column to explaining why Americans are right about this, and should only consider monotheists for the presidency. To elect a non-believer to a secular office to lead a secular executive branch, Medved said, would be “bad for the country.”

[snip]

This is probably the dumbest thing I’ve seen in print in quite some time.


Considering the stupidity CB runs in to on a daily basis, that’s saying something.

Daylight Atheism gives Medved the pounding he deserves, saving me the trouble:


This is the old canard that atheism is somehow intrinsically disrespectful of the religious in the way that other religions are not. It’s hard to see how this claim can be sustained, though, because Mormonism and Judaism both deny fundamental tenets of Christianity: one rejects Jesus’ claim to be the messiah, while the other asserts that he was just one in a potentially infinite line of deified humans. These faiths already deny so many of each other’s major tenets: why does the one additional tenet denied by atheism make all the difference?


If you want to know what I was going to say, go there. I might have a few potshots to take later, but honestly, I can’t muster up the energy. Not for a wingnut radio host who believes in Bigfoot and is a Discovery Institute fellow.

No, I’m off to find more challenging game. Spanking someone who’s already removed their pants is just not the same.

One Apology Down, 303,829,130 To Go

Atheist-hater extraordinaire Monique Davis has finally issued an excuse apology to atheist extraordinaire Rob Sherman:


Yesterday, State Representative Monique Davis (D-Chicago) called me from the Floor of the Illinois House of Representatives to apologize for what she had said to me at last Wednesday’s hearing of the House State Government Administration Committee.

[snip]

Rep. Davis said that she had been upset, earlier in the day, to learn that a twenty-second and twenty-third Chicago Public School student this school year had been shot to death that morning. She said that it was wrong for her to take out her anger, frustrations and emotions on me, and that she apologized to me.

Rob reports that he forgave her, which proves he’s a kinder human being than I.

I think this is a sad fucking excuse for an apology, and I shall now count the ways.

1. It took being named Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World” before she even bothered to offer an apology that should have been profuse and immediate.

2. It was issued privately, which is wonderful – except that while her statements were aimed at Rob, they hit us all. Christians, atheists, et al deserve a very public mea culpa. This wasn’t a private matter. The offense happened when she was acting in her official capacity. It’s ridiculous that she seems to think she can then apologize as a private individual.

3. This wasn’t even an apology. It was a fucking pathetic excuse followed by “I apologize” and it does nothing to solve the latent problems that led to her outburst in the first place.

The phrasing in this so-called apology tells me she’s only sorry she let her feelings out in public, not that she’s sorry for the underlying prejudice. Note the key words “anger, frustrations and emotions.” That so-called apology offers no understanding of or remedy for her (b)latent motivations. It’s just damage control. It’s spin. It’s pure fucking bullshit. But I’m sure she thinks this solves everything.

It doesn’t.

Oh, I grant you she fulfilled the letter of an apology:

1. An acknowledgment expressing regret or asking pardon for a fault or offense.

2.


a. A formal justification or defense.
b. An explanation or excuse…

But she sure as shit didn’t manage the spirit:


[A]pology usually applies to an expression of regret for a mistake or wrong with implied admission of guilt or fault and with or without reference to mitigating or extenuating circumstances. [emphasis added]

Without that pesky little implied admission of guilt or fault, her apology means nothing. It’s ass-covering. She’s just trying to make people stop giving her a well-deserved spanking. She’s not going to take anything to heart. She’s not going to rethink her attitudes toward atheists. She’s not going to take a step back and realize that such attitudes have no place in public service. She’s not going to face what her outburst says about the meaning of the Constitution with its Establishment Clause and prohibitions on religious tests for public office.

She doesn’t see how damaging her outburst is to the dignity of her office. She doesn’t understand the damage done to her church. All of this is manifestly obvious by that half-assed excuse for an apology offered to Rob Sherman and no one else.

And she can get away with this because Christianity has a stranglehold on this country, and atheists are god-haters with no morals, no PAC, and no impact. Everybody can feel just fine hating on atheists. It’s a total non-story.

If she had said “You have no right to be here” to a Muslim, there would have been an outcry. If she’d said it to a Jew, the media would have been screaming it 24-7. Same thing for a gay, a welfare mom, a drug addict, or any number of reviled minorities who still get defended when some complete assclown of a Democrat slips up. Even Republicans are forced to backpedal furiously when they let their prejudices slip that badly. Her apology would have had to be profuse, and extremely fucking public.

But she shouted down an atheist, and so there’s nothing.

That, more than her lack of insight, apalls me. It shouldn’t matter what shade of citizen was the subject of that tirade. You could have sat a serial killer, a child molester, or a Republicon in that same chair, subjected him to that same abuse, and I’d say the same thing I’m saying now: “Twasn’t right, and you need to apologize to us all.”

There’s that pesky Constitution again, you see.


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It’s the right of the people to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The Constitution never, not once, adds “unless they are atheists, or another despised group, or unless the Representative is having a bad day, or if the theoneocons get in power and decide who does and does not deserve these rights.”

The right to petition is even in their very own Illinois State Constitution, in case you were wondering:


SECTION 5. RIGHT TO ASSEMBLE AND PETITION

The people have the right to assemble in a peaceable manner, to consult for the common good, to make known their opinions to their representatives and to apply for redress of grievances.

That’s right below the section on freedom of religion, mind.

To sum up: No public official has a right under either the United States Constitution nor those of the states to tell any citizen of this country that they have no right to come before the government and testify. And this is what I think Monique Davis needs to realize, and make abundantly clear, in a very public apology.

I’ll even draft a sample one for her:

“I want to extend my sincerest apologies to Rob Sherman, to the people of this great State of Illinois, and to all Americans, for the remarks I made to Rob Sherman during his testimony before the House State Government Administration Committee. My outburst was inexcusable. I apologize to those I hurt. I reaffirm the rights of all citizens to petition their government, whether they profess a faith or no faith. And I pray that I can understand and overcome the fear that led to this regrettable outburst. Let this incident give us the opportunity to reach out to each other in understanding and in hope, and strengthen our commitment to the principles of freedom this country was founded upon. Thank you.”

See? That’s not so hard. And it’s a fuck of a lot better than a snivelly excuse and a quick dodge.

Lessee… it’s been two hours since I started this. Let’s see how many people Monique Davis needs to apologize to now:

303,829,771

I’d hurry before that number hits 400,000,000, myself.

News Flash for Monique Davis: It’ll Only Get Worse

As the citizens of the United States still await her apology, Keith Olbermann sits up and takes notice:

It’s not every day that a Democrat earns the dreaded “Worst Person in the World” top honors on Countdown. Muchos gracias, Keith!

Illinois Rep. Davis’s antics have even earned her immortality in song. And a good song it is, although she can’t carry much of a tune.

Your own dear Dana has jumped on the email bandwagon, as a full week without an apology is seven days too many:


Dear Rep. Davis:

You do not represent me, but you have affected me as a citizen of this country.

On April 3rd, you told atheist Rob Sherman, “You have no right to be here!”

You launched a tirade against him for not believing in God. You did this not as a private citizen, but in your official capacity as an elected representative of the citizens of Chicago. Your behavior was utterly outrageous for one of our democratically elected leaders. And yet you’ve shown no shame.

No apology. No explanation. Not a single word.

You should be deeply ashamed, as an American, as a Christian, and as a human being.

I feel sympathy for you. I truly do. I can only imagine that your vitriol came from a deep-rooted fear of atheists. It must be a terrible thing to live with so much fear. But that doesn’t excuse your ignorance or your actions.

Atheists are part of your constituency. You represent them. You cannot do so effectively when you scream at one of them that he has no right to be testifying before his own government.

Atheists are human beings. We have a moral compass, just as you do. We live, we love, we feel. Our lack of belief in a deity does not in any way minimize our humanity, or make us dangerous to you. Do not mistake a desire to see church and state safely separated for the desire to destroy all religion. The vast majority of us have no issue with what others choose to believe. We do take issue with those who would force their faith on us. We most certainly take issue with those who would tell us we have no right to petition our own government.

I want you to reflect, and pray, and consider what happens when a population is dehumanized, ostracized, and condemned by virtue of their creed. I’m sure you have a basis for comparison. Christianity, after all, was once a reviled faith until it grew strong enough to oppress in its turn.

You owe your city, your state, and your country an apology, but you owe one to your savior most of all. From what I
understand of him, he preferred compassion to condemnation.

Sincerely,
Dana Hunter

In my copious amounts of spare time tomorrow, I will be compiling a list of news outlets and writing up a nice little email we can all send along demanding attention. Such outrageous attacks from elected officials shall not pass unnoticed and unanswered.

And if many more days go by without a heartfelt mea culpa, I won’t be in such an indulgent mood, either.

“I am Fear! I am Evil! They Call Me… Peaches”

I’ve spent years wondering why some Christians are so damned scared. I mean, from my brief excursion into the church, I thought it was supposed to be “God-fearing,” not “God, fearing.” Then again, fearing God didn’t make any sense to me either, so what the fuck do I know?

My Christian friends are of no help to me, because they’re practically fearless. They’re not scared of gays, lesbians, liberals, pagans, atheists, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Christians from the church down the street, evolution, epithets, the ACLU, sex, magic, rock n’ roll, video games, or any of the 10,452,867,983 other things that many other Christians seem to fear. So I doubt they’ll be able to explain what I sensed from Rep. Davis’s little tirade.

It wasn’t just contempt. It wasn’t just anger. It wasn’t just disgust. All of those things were there, but above all, filling my nose like a nosegay dipped in raw sewage, was naked, shitting-herself terror.

I’ve got theories. Maybe it’s to do with the fact that someone’s getting along just fine without God propping him/her up like the U.S. of A. supporting a useful dictatorship. That can’t be comfortable. Here you are, letting go and letting God, and there’s some schmo frolicking happily in the meadows of free thought. Manifestly not suffering. Suspicious lack of bursting into flames, or getting struck by lightning, even. Blessings abounding, despite the fact said atheist has poked ye olde middle finger straight up God’s nose. You toil and sweat and suffer through those gawd-awful hymns sung off-key at church on a Sunday morning, while the atheist lolls abed or plays in the park, and yet you both get an equal share in the blessed and the cursed.

No fair, eh? Makes one wonder, don’t it?

So yes, I suspect it has a lot to do with atheists giving the lie to sacred teachings, just by dint of living human lives like everybody else. But is that really all that leads to that vicious fear?

I mean, come on, ye faithful. God might just be biding His time, giving said atheist just enough rope for a good self-hanging, right? Hellfire and damnation to come, no? You’ll be laughing all the way to Heaven while Satan’s asking that dirty atheist “Would you like your damnation spitted or flayed?” What’s to worry?

Here’s a clue: “It’s dangerous for our children to even know your philosophy exists!”

Except… no. It’s not. Kids are indoctrinated brainwashed taught how to resist the siren call of those Christ-denying Jews and those Johnny-come-lately-to-behead-you Muslims and the they’re-not-following-the-Bible Baptists down the road. There’s less fear and a lot more sneer in those cases. So why are they terrified of pagans and shit-scared of atheists?

And they really are that scared. There’s a subset of Christians who just can’t handle the presence of one of said pagans or atheists.

It’s anecdote time. Settle in and grab your drink.

So this one time, at the library, a few years after I’d given up Christianity for a bad job, I was sitting on the floor in the stacks. Doing research, you see. Had a story featuring a Native American character, didn’t I, and I knew bugger-all about the Kiowa. So I had a bunch of books on the Plains tribes spread out around me. Books with titles like Red Power and Native American Myth and Legends. Which maybe should’ve been the first clue to the willowy young woman who came mincing her way between the shelves. But she had me dead in her sights, she did, and that cross was sparkling on her chest, and she was going to bring me to Jesus, oh, yes.

“Hi,” she said in this bright, quavery voice. “I’d just like to invite you to our Bible study class.”

Back in those days, I wore an ankh from Vampire: the Masquerade. Maybe that’s what made her ignore the fact I was wearing all black and sitting cross-legged among all those Native American books: to the untrained eye, that ankh looks something like a loopy cross. Regardless, I slowly looked up at her eager little face and thought, awshit. I had to think fast. My first instinct was the truth: I’m agnostic. Only, if you say something like that to a prostelytizing Christian, they hear I’m wishy-washy on the whole God thing, tell me more! I didn’t have time for ten hours of argument on the subject, and I had fresh in my mind the incident wherein one of my friends told some Jehovah’s Witnesses he’s a witch and got to watch them run away. So, in an inspired moment, I said in my most forboding tones, “I’m pagan.”

She turned sheet-white, stammered out “I’m sorry!” and ran away. Literally. Ran away.

I couldn’t fucking believe it.

I’ve mulled that little scene over for years. I don’t understand it. I have no idea why they can’t abide the mere presence of an avowed pagan. They’ll run from those, but atheists are a different story: we godless sorts make them act like cornered animals, shaking in fear and loathing and fighting for their lives. It’s incredible. Rational Christians, like my friends, just sort of roll their eyes when I proclaim my lack of belief, but Christians like Rep. Davis just go apeshit. And if you were really secure in your faith, if God’s really with you, why should that be so?

Is it because atheists are better with Bible quotes? Satan can quote Scripture to his own ends, right, so maybe that’s it: we’re literally Satan. But if you read your Bible, if you understand what it means, you’ll know that, Satan started out as just an adversary, and he and God liked to have a bit of fun at the expense of people named Job. Job clung to his faith with his fingernails and all was well. Did he run? No.

Did Christ run away screaming when Satan came a-tempting? No. They had a debate, and Jesus won. That simple.

So that’s why I don’t get this “I must run away before I’m destroyed by this atheist” mindset. We’re not so dangerous to people of faith. Even the atheists who like to try to talk sense into Christians can’t make a dent in strong faith. We do have fun trying, sometimes, but I’ve talked to many Christians who find it just as fun to turn the tables. I respect them. Those who are truly secure in their faith also tend to be warm-hearted toward infidels such as myself, and that’s returned in kind.

So perhaps that’s what it really comes down to. The most homophobic are often closet homosexuals. The most anti-atheist could just be closet atheists. We scare them because we resonate.

Interesting thought, no?

I wish I had a useful summation here. It would be nice to have the solution to all of the fear and loathing and bigotry. But I’m afraid all I can do is show a bit of understanding: yes, you’re terrified of atheists, and you lash out from that fear. That’s what frightened animals do. Rise above that or get the fuck out of public office, right?

In the end, we atheists may just have to revel in our status as a scourge worse than Islamofascisthomobabykilling freaks until time proves that the entire world isn’t going to descend into hedonistic chaos because we gave up gods. After all, it gives us the chance to quote Rocko’s Modern Life:

“I am fear! I am evil! They call me… Peaches.”

…and I think you’ll agree that’s pretty fucking awesome.

Dana’s Court of Opinion

On the docket today: People vs. Pat Robertson

Charged with: Being a crazy fucking lunatic.



PAT ROBERTSON,
DANGEROUS FUCKING LUNATIC


GERRY STRAUB,

GENUINE CHRISTIAN*

I now admit into evidence this article by Bill Sizemore from the Virginia Quarterly Review:


Robertson had long rued the day in 1947 when the Supreme Court, in Everson v. Board of Education, enshrined Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Convention describing a “wall of separation between church & State.” That decision, he has written, paved the way for the high court’s rulings in the early 1960s banning organized prayer and Bible reading in the public schools, which Robertson blames for “virtually every social pathology” in the United States today: the exploding prison population, teen pregnancy, drugs, divorce, murder, alcoholism, and low scholastic achievement. The lamentable result, he insists, has been the “establishment in the public schools of the religion of secular humanism with its attendant sexual permissiveness, embrace of one-world government, and Marxist-inspired economic theory.”

By training a new generation of lawmakers, Robertson hoped to reverse the Supreme Court’s wayward path. The first step would be to reject the legitimacy of the court’s landmark Marbury v. Madison decision of 1803, which established the concept of judicial review—the ability to declare laws unconstitutional. The final corrective, he wrote, would be for Congress to “nullify the decisions of the Supreme Court” by refusing to allow it to overturn new Christian-based laws: “Then those laws will remain in effect.”

At the same time, however, Robertson was pursuing a second trategy—a bid for the presidency. A president, he wrote, could simply refuse to enforce the court’s decisions. After all, he noted pointedly, the court has no army.


Further damning testimony, from Gerry Straub, former CBN producer:


“I would be terrified,” he wrote, “to have the president of the United States be a person who has daily conversations with both God and the Devil.”


The court, based upon testimony from intrepid reporter Bill Sizemore, rational Christian Gerry Straub, and countless other reality-based individuals, that Pat Robertson is a batshit-crazy, dangerous fucking lunatic. It is so ordered that Americans of all political and religious stripes shall fight like hell to confine this man to a tiny corner of the nuttosphere where his harm to society can be limited.

Court is adjourned.

*You may wonder why I call Gerry Straub a genuine, rational Christian. Peruse the evidence for yourselves:


A short hop from the glitz of Hollywood and the opulence of Beverly Hills, in a drab office behind a Quiznos sub shop in Burbank, California, Gerard Thomas Straub—Gerry to his friends— sits in front of a video monitor and watches endless pictures of poverty flash by. A leper colony in Brazil. A teeming slum at the base of a mountainous garbage dump in the Philippines. Homeless people living in cardboard boxes on Los Angeles’s skid row. Starving children lying helpless in the dirt in the remotest reaches of Uganda.

A gifted photographer and storyteller, Straub weaves these distressing images into documentary films aimed at exposing Americans to the harsh reality of persistent poverty. The films are difficult to watch. The scenes of abject squalor are presented with an unblinking eye, in an all-too-real cinema-verité style.

[snip]

“We try to find people who are living their faith,” he told me when I visited his small, windowless studio, which held a tangle of electronic equipment and mismatched office furniture. “People who exemplify a kind of self-emptying love, giving themselves away.”

Straub came to embrace this brand of Christianity—emphasizing social justice, concern for the poor, peace, and nonviolence—after a long and winding spiritual odyssey that included a life-changing stint with Pat Robertson and a public fracture that threatened to shake the ministry to its foundation.


Read the whole article. Just… read it.

Mark Mathis Opens Mouth, Proves Stupidity (Again)

Someday, I’m going to write my Great American Novel, Cornflakes. I’ve been gathering material for it going on two decades now. It’s about the rampant stupidity of certain human beings. Mark Mathis, Associate Producer of Expelled, has earned his place within it, for verily, he is a corny flake.

Well, actually, he’s a total fuckwit, but the novel’s not called Fuckwits, alas. Perhaps it should be.

Many of you will have had the great good fortune of not knowing just who the fuck Mathis is. I’m sorry to be the one to draw your attention to this raving lunatic. Just take comfort in the fact that, despite all of his efforts to draw attention to himself, you had no clue who he was before I foisted him on your attention. Those of you who needed no introduction, my sympathies.

Perhaps the only thing you need to know about Mathis is that he’s one of those lying sacks of shit making sensible Christians feel ashamed of their brethren. That, anyway, is all the introduction I’m willing to give him: He’s one of the bastards responsible for the atrocity that is Expelled, and he’s a lying sack of shit. Everybody say hi to Mr. Mathis.

Now that introductions are taken care of, let us proceed.

I wanted to thoroughly spank Mathis for a few particular inanities he spouted in that “conference” call so spectacularly interrupted by PZ Myers. I know I don’t have to wear my own arm out – just search ScienceBlogs for “Mark Mathis” and you’ll see what I mean – but I just get this twitch when I’m confronted with this level of inanity. Paddling his tender bottom will help that twitch subside.

Brother Richard from Life Without Faith was part of that conference call, and he was so kind as to post his raw notes. One of the questions and answers in particular caught my eye, but before we get to that, let me share the Mathis quote that had me nearly pounding the floor with laughter. Appetizer, then main course, as it were:

[Mathis] also points out that he had a personal grudge against Myers and he wanted him to have to pay for the movie. He points out that he let Michael Shermer attend another viewing and that Shermer enjoyed the film. [emphasis added]

Let’s put aside the fact that Mathis only settled on the “personal grudge” excuse after trying the “PZ was causing a disturbance” excuse (he wasn’t) and the “Myers and Dawkins were gate-crashers” excuse (they weren’t). That isn’t what made me nearly fall to the ground in hysterical laughter. Look again at the line in bold.

Michael Shermer? Michael Shermer? Seriously Michael Shermer, you mean, the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine? The one who had this to say about Mathis:

My take on Mathis is that he’s an opportunist. He says and does whatever he thinks necessary to get his film made and now promoted. My guess on the latest flap about tossing PZ out of the screening but not Dawkins was PZ’s original assumption that they just didn’t notice Dawkins there, and only after the fact rationalizing the whole affair with plausible (and ever changing) reasons.

And this about Ben Stein:

I also pointed out to him that Darwin has been used and abused by ideologues of all stripes, and that in any case that is all separate from
whether the science is good or not. That seemed to tax his thinking too much, because shortly after he announced that he had to take a rest break and he just got up and went out to his car for about 20 minutes!


[snip]


Then Stein came back in and that’s when we walked around the office with the handheld camera to get some B-Roll footage, and they showed him asking me about my books, and that’s where I told him I thought ID was much closer to pseudoscience than science.

That Michael Shermer? Oh, yeah. I’ll bet he enjoyed the film. It must have been the same sort of life-changing experience as being interviewed for it by those two assclowns.

And yet, that wasn’t the most inane thing Mathis said. That wasn’t what had my spanking arm twitching. Brother Richard notes:


The question is asked, if the issues are just about science, then why are so many Darwinists upset? Why do they have such passionate anger? Mathis says that Darwinism is a worldview. Scientists like Myers and Dawkins are scared because their atheistic worldview might come crashing down on their heads.


This is wrong in so many ways that it’s going to take me the rest of the night to deconstruct it. Grab yourselves some snackage and drinkage and make yourselves comfortable. We’re in for the long haul.

Firstly, “Darwinism” is only a worldview in the miniscule mind of Mathis and those of his ilk (and how I wish I didn’t have to add that last bit). Rational people who enjoy objective evidence for claims of how life came by its incredible diversity have accepted the scientific theory of evolution because it provides abundant evidence of said diversity, no myth required. If someone proved by means of objective scientific evidence that evolutionary theory was incorrect, and came up with a better explanation, our world would not end. Thinkers such as ourselves are quite used to adjusting to new evidence. I refer you to the excitement rather than panic when Einstein’s theory of relativity nudged Newton aside for a good example of this.

As for people like PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins being scared that their “atheistic worldview might come crashing down on their heads”… puh-leeze. I’m no scientist, merely an avid consumer of same, but I am an atheist, and I can tell you that the last thing I’m scared of is having that worldview come crashing down. We’re not angry because we’re scared. We’re passionately angry because we can’t stand lying sacks of shit trying to force their useless dogma on us.

“Why do we have such passionate anger?” I have a few ideas. And I can tell you why I’m spending so much time and energy fighting these assclowns and the poison they’re pushing with this propaganda flick.

1. The (scientific) theory of evolution has led to medical breakthroughs that save lives. Intelligent Design has not. Au contraire, “Goddidit” and pseudoscientific explanations do nothing to further the science that gives us new treatments for disease, and sometimes they kill.

2. Intelligent Design is not science. It has no claim to be treated as such, and therefore deserves expulsion. Academic freedom isn’t even in it. So it really pisses me off when some total bastards try to get their religion into the classroom by playing us for fair-play suckers. They want Intelligent Design in the classroom, fine – it can go in Comparative Religion where it belongs.

3. Three words: Creationism’s Trojan Horse. Two more words for you: Wedge Document. Real sci
ence doesn’t have to come up with systematic schemes to lie and cheat and game the system to get recognized as science. Even if it weren’t for the above two items, the IDiot’s whining claims for equal time and the right to academic freedom would be annihilated by the stunning intellectual dishonesty their strategy displays. Credibility destroyed(.pdf).

4. Science class is for science, not pseudoscience, not the frontiers. And for those who claim Intelligent Design can be introduced and then debunked, face facts: you’d cry bloody murder, infringement on religious rights, persecution, the whole works. You don’t want it debunked, you want it enforced. So even that little strategem fails. ID doesn’t belong in the classroom under any pretense, period.

5. But I know they don’t give a shit about science or integrity, so I’ll just mention this: it’s bad religion. It’s harming the Christian mainstream message. Go on. Everyone, now, even the IDiots in the audience. Go read the whole comment I linked to. It’s on a Christian message board, so you don’t have to associate with those icky atheist scientists.

You know you’ve fucked up when your religious compatriots are saying that “the ‘Intelligent Design’ movement is a plan by Satan to discredit the Gospel in the minds of many…,” eh?

So let’s review: the fuckwits pushing Intelligent Design are floating a pseudoscientific raft of bullshit under the misnomer “Theory of Intelligent Design.” Their “science” has made not one useful contribution to medicine, while evolutionary theory has. They lie six ways of Thursday and have nefarious little plans on sneaking their fanaticism into the classroom. They’re making things miserable for their fellow religious travellers. And they think scientists and atheists are just scared our worldview might be challenged? They think we’re fighting them because of that?

Worldview isn’t even in it.

And sadly, my five points above have just barely scratched the surface. I encourage you, even if you think Intelligent Design can’t harm you, to click on a few of the above links. It’s not just about Intelligent Design trying to edge out evolution in classrooms, my darlings, although that should be quite enough – this country is failing miserably at science education, and it’s not like adding religious pablum will make it any better.

No.

It’s not just that.

It’s about keeping the fanatics from getting a toehold. They catch enough young ears and bend them, we’re all going to end up in a theocracy run by the most outrageous elements of the Religious Right, and I damned sure don’t want to wake up to that world in a few years. Neither do you.

I’m not asking you to do anything more than be vigilant. Watch out for the lies. Keep the theocrats out of our government, our school boards, and our personal lives. Don’t be swayed by the silver tongues of the terminally stupid. You’ll feel badly if you end up featured in Cornflakes right there beside Mathis.

Tip o’ the shot glass to Brother Richard.