Richard Dawkins Goes to Heaven

Here is the last of Anthony Horvath’s ghastly morality tales. This one is the easiest to summarize, because there isn’t much to say about it: Richard Dawkins dies, goes to heaven, is judged, and sent to hell. It’s short, only seven pages long, and five of them are spent in loving description of the disintegration of Dawkins. It’s nothing but a horror story for Christians in which the bad guy meets a grisly end.

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The hypocrites of Polk County, Florida

Polk County, Florida has a public school board that meets in the county school district auditorium to discuss the secular, governmental functions of running the public schools. Despite their purpose, though, they insist on opening with a prayer, a practice which has encountered some criticism and which they have dealt with evasively and dishonestly.

Earlier this month, the School Board began a new practice in which the board placed a disclaimer on the meeting agenda and held a prayer before the meeting officially began.

The policy change came after a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened a lawsuit if prayers during regular meetings continued.

The disclaimer reads: “Voluntary invocation may be offered before the opening of the School Board meeting by a private citizen. The views or beliefs expressed in the invocation have not been reviewed nor approved by the School Board, and the Board is not allowed, by law, to endorse the religious beliefs or views of this, or any other speaker.”

So they invited a local minister to say a prayer before the meeting officially began. Everyone is present, sitting in their chairs, ready to get to work on public business, but they’re just pretending the meeting hasn’t actually started until their god-botherer has finished begging Jesus to come into their lives.

It’s a lie and a game. They are still making religion part of the session, and there is no reason any gods need to be invoked prior to handling secular affairs. But of course the purblind Christian wankers on the board don’t see any problem with stuffing their religion in everyone’s faces.

John Kieffer sees the problem. He announced that “Prayer has no place in government!” — and he’s right — during a recent hypocritical flaunting of Jesus jabber before the meeting, and has been arrested for disorderly conduct. Apparently, invocations that are pro-god are legal, but invocations that reject gods will get you arrested in Polk County.

That challenging dogma is a criminal act isn’t the biggest issue in the county though. What’s even more appalling is the discussion that the school board then had in their meeting — they seem to think the problem will be resolved by packing more jeebus-jabber into the proceedings.

Audience member Tabitha Hunt told board members that the invocation needed to return as a part of the regular meeting.

“They (the atheist group) are very outspoken and I think as Christians we need to be just as outspoken,” she said.

Retired School Principal L.D. Wilcox said the incident brought tears to his eyes because of the children who were sitting in the audience.

“We talk about not leaving debts for our children, but what about integrity and responsibility?” Wilcox said. “It’s all right to disagree, but we have to learn how to respect one another.”

Fields said she would meet with School Board Attorney Wes Bridges about returning the prayer to its former spot on the meeting agenda.

O’Reilly said that while district officials want prayers at the meeting, it will be a costly legal fight and the district needs the community’s support.

“So if there are people who say we want prayers, then you better step up,” he said. “You go to your churches and synagogues and tell them they’ll need to help us.”

So they have a little dodge and disclaimer that they’ve implemented to justify their claim that they aren’t including religion in official county business…but now they’re arguing that they need to get more prayer into their governmental functions and that they want the local churches to help them do that. I think their cover is blown: these are wannabe theocrats in action.

Need more chicks?

Hey, this is a really good idea: No Chicks No Excuses is a speakers’ bureau that specializes in delivering expert women for speaking engagements. The only catch is that it seems to be entirely full of Australian women, who are spectacularly brilliant, of course, but there must also be plenty of brilliant American or European women, too. Does anyone know of an equivalent service that operates north of the equator?

Somehow, I don’t think they’ll actual commit to this idea

The theologian John MacArthur has a new book titled Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. His premise is that this is what being a Christian is all about: it’s about being a slave to your lord.

“Slave” is the word that almost every English translation of Scripture has avoided using, in favor of the term “servant.” But MacArthur insists that the image of a slave is absolutely critical for understanding what it means to follow Jesus.

I think he’s on to something, actually. Those creepy stories by Horvath are all about being servile and sucking up to Jesus, after all.

Let’s make a deal. Christians get to bow and scrape and do the menial work (since Christian education involves so much corruption of science, that’s all they can do competently anyway), while we atheists get to revel in pride and arrogance and good education. We’ll be in charge, they can be our servants. It’ll be good practice for heaven, don’t you think?

Antony Flew Goes to Heaven

Anthony Horvath is responding to my reviews with some flustery bluster. He’s insisting that you must buy his stories in order to have any credibility in questioning them, which is nonsense: I’m giving the gist of his fairy tales, and he could, for instance, clarify and expand on the themes of his story, explain what I’ve got wrong and where I’m actually seeing the True Christian™ message, but instead he chooses to run away and hide while flogging people to buy his stories.

He does throw out a hilarious complaint cloaked in his refusal to address anything I’ve written, like this:

As before, I have no interest in responding in any detail, although I might say some things when he is done. I will say: “PZ, what makes you think Antony awakes in a garden?”

Well, hey, how about the fact that the very first sentence of the story is:

When the man opened his eyes the first thing he beheld was a garden.

I’m looking forward to his denials that the Dawkins story isn’t torture porn tomorrow.

This is the weakest of Horvath’s trilogy of morbid tales of dead celebrities. It’s just not very interesting. One flaw is the protagonist: not to disparage Flew, who was an entirely respectable philosopher, but he wasn’t much of a star outside the world of academic philosophy. His sole claim to any kind of popular prominence was driven by the fact that evangelicals loved that he backed away from atheism to adopt a kind of fuzzy deism in his dotage.

He was a rational atheist until almost the end, though. He was best known for arguing that one should follow the evidence, and that until real evidence for any gods was disclosed, one ought to assume atheism as the default position. He later converted to deism, claiming (erroneously!) that the argument from design was persuasive.

Horvath’s story is mainly a tiresome exercise in mocking Flew’s arguments. The vehicle is that dead Flew wakes up in a garden, and a gardener comes along and has a boring dialogue with him.

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Phelps v. Anonymous? Or Phelps v. Phelps?

I saw the open letter from Anonymous threatening to shut down the Phelps gang and the Westboro Baptist Church. It didn’t sound right. WBC is not at all reliant on the web, but they are always on the lookout for more opportunities at promoting themselves through the media…so it seemed to me like a futile exercise, with any damage Anonymous might do being entirely tangential to the operation of the GodHatesFags gang, and actually gaining them more notoriety and news.

Cory Doctorow has a more plausible angle. This is WBC itself playing games to draw more attention. He also suggests that the WBC site has been left open as a honeypot to draw in hackers, who would then be traced and sued by the infamously litigious family. I don’t know if I’d go that far; I’d give the Phelps’ credit for cunning and devious legal acumen, but I haven’t heard that they’ve got the specific skill set they’d need to beat hackers at their own game.

“I have not yet ordered the use of force, not yet ordered one bullet to be fired…when I do, everything will burn.”

Lies and threats, that’s what Gaddafi is reduced to now. I won’t shed a single tear when he’s deposed, but I will hope that he isn’t removed by impaling his head on a stick. He has just given a blustering speech. I think he’s doomed.

Although I wish there were less chanting about Allah, I do think it’s great that the people of the Muslim world are rising up. Is this another 1848?

One movie, ruined!

In a too rare fit of quality, our local theater is showing The King’s Speech this week, which I keep hearing is wonderfully well made and a serious Oscar contender. I was thinking of going, but now Christopher Hitchens shreds its historicity — it’s about yet another royal fascist-sympathizer — and Katherine Preston explains that it’s got the neurology of the speech defect all wrong. I don’t think I can watch it at all now. I can enjoy a fiction without apology, but I find it impossible to watch a false story that pretends to be true.

The reviews are annoying, too — they all praise the quality of the movie-making and the acting, while telling me that the core premises of the story are false. How can I enjoy it when Something Is Wrong On The Screen?