Christians setting a bad example

Every year, Minnesota Atheists participate in the gay pride event in Minneapolis — they don’t go in to make “conversions”, but to show support for our fellow citizens. There is no flaunting of trophies afterwards, no singling out of gay folk who Suddenly! Turned! Atheist! because of our godless proselytizing, because that’s not what it’s all about. In particular, the purpose isn’t to steal attention from the real goals of the event, which are all about equality and rights for same sex couples.

I expect there are also liberal Christian groups that participate as a show of support, rather than as an attempt to convert. But that’s not the case for Trinity Works, which sent evangelical teams to Twin Cities Pride, and afterwards bragged about bringing 80 people to the Lord (knowing how these groups play fast and loose with the numbers, they probably just got the Christian gawkers to reaffirm their prior beliefs).

Another devious ploy: they set up a free corn feed booth. It was a bait-and-switch, offering corn and serving loathing instead.

Trinity Works held a corn feed at 11th Street and Hennepin Avenue along the Pride parade route. According to OutFront, the support team had to counsel dozens who mistakenly thought it was part of Pride activities. “Pride-goers who went in, assuming it was LGBTQ-friendly, were surrounded by Trinity works people who said they would burn in hell because of their sexual orientation,” OutFront’s Monica Meyer said in a statement. “Our support team counseled more than a dozen people who unknowingly went in and left the corn feed shaken, crying and traumatized.”

I bet a lot also left furious and upset — emotions that aren’t part of the intent of the event.

I don’t get how people who are so into dictating other people’s proper sexual behavior can simultaneously be so into rat-fucking.

So confused

I got these pamphlets in the mail yesterday. People send me Bible tracts all the time — who needs to think when you’ve got Jack Chick to give you a Hallmark shortcut? — and I usually just flip through them and toss them. But these were weird. One was about a Ken Ham-like preacher ranting that God wanted you stupid and ignorant and receptive to his message; another was all about the necessarily literal truth of the first book of Genesis, and that the whole rest of the Bible falls apart if you don’t accept it; and the other one is about how Jesus was a failure, since almost everyone goes to Hell, and only the elect few get to join him on his motorcycle to heaven. They were evil Poes.

Apparently, you’re supposed to distribute these at bus stations and truck stops and other places more typically associated with cheap Jesusy crap. I could see how someone might pick these up and confuse them with genuine believer baloney. I’m going to have to keep my eyes open for Christians sincerely spouting the mockery from the True Bible Church.

The only way to win is to not play

I like this one: Theologian Chess.

In Theology Chess, the theologian has the entire chessboard to himself and only one piece: God. Whenever the opponent (who has no pieces) asks a question about God, the piece may be moved to a different square in any direction with no restriction on distance. This may be done infinitely until the questioner gets up and leaves.

Hobby Lobby won

Of course they did: in a court packed with Catholics and their twisted views on reproduction, it would have been a surprise if they decided otherwise. So now, the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have a right to dictate how you manage your health care, and the corporation’s religious convictions (they can have them, apparently) trump yours.

You’re all boycotting Hobby Lobby, right? And if you work there, try to get out.

We now have the underlying truth about the decision.


Criminal, arrogant, and stupid

Ah, Mormons. Utah is a lovely state, but one thing I don’t miss at all are inhabitants who make a mess of it — I recall a camping trip in the Stansburys in which we found a campsite totally trashed by the previous visitors. That just took a little clean up, but here’s a story of a group of enthusiastic Mormon missionaries visiting a designated wilderness area, climbing up a mountain, and using concrete to mount a flagpole so they could leave their ugly mission flag flapping over the area. Not cool, dudes, not cool at all.

But just to further tarnish the reputation of Mormon missionaries everywhere, they did one thing further: they signed the flag.

They signed the evidence of their crime.

I know. It sounds so…Mormon.

Really…we’re against shooting anyone

This op-ed by Robert Grant, claiming that the New Atheists are ‘dangerous’, was infuriating. What a string of stupid cliches!

While their starting point was the lack of scientific evidence for God’s existence, they quickly expanded their target to argue that religion is the “root of all evil” in the world. Far from being tolerated, religion should be banished. It obstructs the progress of the human race; and progress based on the pursuit of science and reason.

Can anyone find a single quote by a prominent New Atheist that demands that religion be ‘banished’? Anyone? Anywhere? Bueller? How about any one of them stating that the root cause of all evil in the world was religion?

The New Atheists offer a binary world view, neatly divided into good and evil. Science and reason on the one hand, religion and faith on the other. The implication being: if we get rid of religion we get rid of evil.

Oh, nonsense. Morality is always going to be an ongoing struggle; it’s a process, not a state of bliss. Freeing yourself of religion rids yourself of one source of ignorance and flawed thinking. It does not make you perfect.

They make the mistake here of treating evil as if it exists exclusively within a set of beliefs or practices, rather than as an inherent part of human nature.

As journalist Chris Hedges puts it, they externalise evil. Fundamentalist religious groups do the same, only for them evil resides in liberal secularism.

Oops, -100 points for relying on the rabid anti-atheist Chris Hedges.

Again, why does Grant keep claiming these things that are simply not true? He got into an argument with Michael Nugent on this, and Michael rightly hammered him on this claim. He can’t cite one source or give even one quote to back up this assertion (neither can Chris Hedges, who in a recent talk was reduced to this same strategem of equating atheists with fundamentalists, so he could quote fundamentalists, and then announce, “Aha! see! That’s how atheists think!”)

Religion is a specific problem of traditional teaching of invalid and bad ideas. It’s not that we think people are perfect if their brains are freed of the poison of religion — quite the contrary, human brains are faulty and full of shortcuts and limited in their degree of comprehension of the real world. But it doesn’t help if we compound our flaws with lies and lazy excuses and incoherent moral teachings. That’s the objection to religion: that it is counterfactual and destructive.

It’s as if we’re trying to teach that 2 + 2 = 4 in our math classes, but swarms of people were to insist that in their cherished traditional folkways, and in the words of their holy book, 2 + 2 = 3, and they must teach it that way. We should be able to say that that will give them wrong answers. It does not in any way imply that if only they all accept the truth of fourness, math becomes easy and everyone will be doing calculus by the time they hit kindergarten.

On the other hand, teaching people to question religion does mean that maybe, just maybe, they won’t kill other people who also question it. Check out this horror story from Iraq: fanatical Sunni Muslims in ISIS are administering roadside tests to refugees. There is, apparently, an absolutely correct answer to how you hold your hands during prayers: a Sunni way, and a Shiite way, where praying like a Shiite is utterly wrong, and the penalty for failing the quiz is to be led off to the side of the road and get a bullet in the brain.

You won’t find the New Atheists sympathizing with that approach. Rather, we’re appalled that anyone finds these artificial distinctions within bogus superstitions, whether Sunni or Shiite, Catholic or Protestant, to be useful ways to order one’s life. That we point out the futility and waste of these divisions does not imply that we’re planning to take all parties to the side of the road and have them shot — that’s religious thinking, and that’s what seems to be infecting poor Robert Grant’s mind.

Forging their own chains

The insidious thing about religious fundamentalism is that usually, you aren’t forced to accept it — you can’t be made to believe against your will. Instead, little nudges and suggestions lead you to willing embrace the beliefs, out of fear.

Kheir writes about all that he lost by becoming a fundamentalist Muslim.

For a long time, I agreed with my family’s conclusions. I took part in the decisions. I pushed them towards fundamental Islam. I practically shoved it down their throats. I showed the book I’d read to my mother, and when she ignored it, I pushed. I pushed until she gave in. I thought I was freeing my family from their hellish shackles, but in reality, I was just tightening them. The devil was not chaining them, I was; I chained my family to Islam. To Wahhabism. To Salafiyyah. At age 12, we threw aside our cultural music. At 14, I convinced her to wear dresses instead of pants. At age 15, we shunned our cultural artwork. At age 17, we destroyed our family photos. The chains grew tighter and tighter. The same chains that forced my grandmother to undergo female genital mutilation. The same chains that made my aunts wear the niqab, and made my uncles grow beards. The same chains that separated my family from me. I locked them in those chains, and I threw away the key.

It’s heartbreaking, but again, you can’t force people out of their chains.

Boeing employees of Seattle, I hope you choose wisely

When I was growing up in Seattle, my family rode the Boeing roller coaster. Long time residents know what that is: the constant cycle of hirings and layoffs by the company. My father was always trying to get employed there, but it was always temporary as Boeing constantly expanded and contracted its workforce. So one year, we’d move into some nice new tract house in the suburbs, live well, and take advantage of all the benefits: vaccinations, regular check-ups, and lots and lots of dental appointments. The next year, Dad would get laid off, have to take jobs pumping gas, or reading water meters, or doing custodial work (or multiple combinations of the above to make ends meet), we’d move again into some shabby rathole, and no more visits to the dentist or doctor. We really were at the mercy of Dad’s employer for basic health care.

So good news for Boeing employees now! They still try to provide good worker benefits, and you’ve got your choice of two health care providers. You can choose UW Medicine, cutting edge stuff from one of the best universities in the country (said as an alumnus, of course), with access to all of the latest treatments. Or you can choose the Providence/Swedish plan, if you like good care for all of your bits except the nasty ones, which you think deserve only medieval punishment.

Because Providence/Swedish is a Catholic health care ministry, employees who choose the Providence/Swedish option will be subject to care that is limited by Catholic doctrine as laid out in the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care.   Providence very clearly says that “As a Catholic health care organization, we require adherence to all Ethical and Religious Directives as a condition of medical privileges and employment.”  These ERDs forbid contraception,  “direct” abortion in all circumstances, research that relies on embryonic stem cells, and participation with WA’s Death with Dignity Law.

Wow, what a tricky choice.

Yet another reason to refuse to debate William Lane Craig

Because, in addition to being an amoral pseudoscientific dumbass, he doesn’t even believe in the validity of debate himself.

Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter. (Reasonable Faith, Third Edition, 48)

There are a whole bunch more quotes there at the link where Craig basically endorses faith as a last-ditch bolthole to dodge any argument based on evidence and reason. So why waste any time on him?

Louie Gohmert really is the dumbest man in congress

And when the dumbest Christians collides with one of the smartest Christians I know, the contrast is dazzling. Here’s Gohmert grilling Barry Lynn on proper Christian beliefs. Apparently, he doesn’t want to judge — only God can do that, he piously declaims — but he does want Lynn to declare that all non-Christians are condemned to Hell right this minute. Don’t ask me how that simultaneously judgmental and non-judgmental thing is supposed to work, I think you have to have a gigantic hole in your brain to accommodate both views at once.

And it’s true that even when talking to a swarm of atheists, Lynn doesn’t hide the fact that he’s a Christian minister.