Hey, it’s sure been quiet around here. I just got back from Fargo and the Project 42 conference where, most unfortunately, my hotel room’s wifi was abominable and intermittent. I figured you’d all be able to cope without me for a day, right? No panicky withdrawal symptoms, no rioting, no furious outrage and decisions to become a Christian because I wasn’t entertaining enough?
I just started sucking in the mountain of email that came in, so don’t expect much from me for a while. As a sop, you might be amused by this story out of Bay Minette, Alabama: they’ve decided that as an alternative to jail, people convicted of misdemeanors can opt to go to church instead. Didn’t you just know it all along? Church is the equivalent of prison, and attending church is a punishment.
That’s got to be unconstitutional. If only for the cruel and unusual part.
I figured you’d all be able to cope without me for a day, right? No panicky withdrawal symptoms, no rioting, no furious outrage and decisions to become a Christian because I wasn’t entertaining enough?
And I had just finished melting down the family’s gold to cast this octopus I’ve sculpted…
Glen Davidson says
Nah, Scientology for me.
Might as well pick something falsifiable and falsified, as something unfalsifiable for not making sense.
…and if you normally go to church on Sunday anyway, there is effectively no penalty at all. What a deal.
Tim DeLaney says
It’s an interesting question. I think it would pass muster so long as the alternative jail sentences were not made intentionally harsher in order to force church attendence.
Of course, constitutional issues would inevitably arise. For one thing, suppose an inmate (outmate?) claimed that his worship service consisted in meditation on the bank of a quiet stream? (perhaps with a fishing pole in hand)
tim gueguen says
It’s amazing how clueless people are about religion and crime. The world is full of people who go to worship in their local house of worship after a week of comitting crime. A bunch of the crooks in Bay Minette are likely no different.
P Smith says
I don’t get it. Religion is the reason most are committing crimes, with mindsets like “I can pray and be forgiven!” or “gawd wants me to have this!”
When you have a sense of personal responsibility and concern for how others perceive you, you’re far less likely to commit unethical acts. Religion allows and encourages people to absolve themselves of responsibility.
kevin Alexander says
Plus, although the church doesn’t have a shower, there’s another way that it’s like prison.
If you’re a kid.
Caine, Fleur du Mal says
Well, I was about to sacrifice an octopus on this altar I built…
Setár, self-appointed Elf-lord of social justice says
kevin Alexander #8: Sexual assault is not a punchline.
'Tis Himself, OM says
You were gone?
The ad at the bottom of this for me was for a Christian dating website. Levity, thy name is AdSense.
feralboy12, der Ken-Puppe Sie außerhalb in 1983 verlassen says
I was going to become a nihilist, but I decided I didn’t give a shit.
Jim Mauch says
If I attended the 52 services in the back pew rolling in hysterical laughter at the sermons would I get off?
I’ve got one offering to make me an ordained minister.
Well, surely they’ll have a rigorous evaluation and any church that doesn’t show a clear rehabilitating impact on people will be rejected from future participation in the program, right?
Not to mention that participation will be open to all religions equally, including the Church of Satan and the local wiccan covens, right?
actually I did!
That’s why I went to the public library or swimming pool for years, instead of the babble studies I had been send to attend.
Brother Ogvorbis says
Well, my way of worshipping is having wild monkey sex with Wife. Think they’ll buy that as a substitute for prions?
chigau () says
I have an ad for something that “heals water”.
Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says
PZ, stay out of Fargo. You caused one of my external hard drive to fail, and another is beginning to go. *hold in there another hour forty, and you can die with dignity*
chigau () says
Tpyos will be very pleaded with that one!
Brother Ogvorbis says
Brother Ogvorbis says
Never mind. I went back and read what I wrote. Sorry. That was ‘prison’, not ‘prions’. Though I did use the right litters. Just not the right order.
Not so much a punishment as a “Get out of Jail Free” card for the Faithful.
Obviously this would not pass constitutional muster unless appropriate arrangements were made for atheists and such…Let the atheists spend their sentenced time the way they usually do on Sunday morning, in a warm bed with a complaisant companion.
Where do I go to commit misdemeanors? If I don’t have a girl friend can I get one from the atheist convict pool?
Oh, you misunderstand. Prisoners aren’t being offered the chance to attend a “worship service,” they are only allowed to attend church. The choices are a Christian service or jail. And, no, it isn’t remotely constitutional.
Church is a punishment.
It’s boring. Churches are cold and drafty. The free sandwiches are always on stale bread and have plastic cheese on them (bleargh). The free biscuits are always stale. The free tea is always lukewarm and weak (and sometimes leads to puking all the way home*). The free coffee is always crappy.
(I know it’s free, but it’s food. As a kid I thought free food and having someone else make it for you was a pretty okay reward for suffering through two freezing cold and sniffle-filled hours. Or roasting-hot and full of the stench of various gender’s and age group’s BO. Nowadays, I know I can get better free food from my parents. Well, mostly-free.)
* Childhood story: My parents managed to convince the woman who handled the free tea and coffee to give me a cup when I was 6. I spent the next three hours vomiting. To this day, we don’t know what was wrong with the tea.
They’ve committed a great folly in giving the convicted an opportunity to say, “I choose prison over the hellish alternative!”
Wow, there are reasons to go to Fargo other than for shooing a movie!!
Dr. Strabismus (WGP) of Utrecht says
I’ve been following this story fairly closely, as I live in Alabama.
There is some concern on the part of the authorities that they may not be able to accommodate Muslims or Jews as there are not that many temples or synagogues in that area. There’s talk of hiring imams and rabbis to come in once a week from Mobile or Montgomery if needed. They aren’t concerned about atheists. I’ve worked in that part of Alabama, and I assure you, they don’t believe in atheists. Since atheists don’t exist (in fact, can’t exist) they are sure it won’t be a problem.
Anyway, WE know atheists all live decent and moral lives and would never end up on the wrong side of the criminal justice system. Isn’t it odd that there are way more atheists in foxholes than there are in jails?
To be fair, they’ll probably be about as good at rehabilitation as many American prisons. Which, according to the comments on that article, are practically palacial, having such luxuries as air conditioning and shrimp, and offering prisoners terribly unneccesary things like education.
Toxoplasma Gandhi says
Air conditioning? Heck, they have color televisions! Because few prisons still hire someone to go to estate sales looking for black and white sets anymore.
Still, even without air conditioning, I’ll bet a prison doesn’t have people packed in as densely, and few if any are wearing half an ounce of the most horrible cologne/perfume in a vain attempt to cover up their unwashed/unwashable/old-people smell.
Just churches? No mosques?
Ray Fowler says
Can you imagine the leverage churches would now have over those people, knowing that they could easily send them back to jail?
Probably – but not in the way you mean.
All we need is some funing, some grad students, and a control group and Science can put away that going to church reforms and makes for a better person silliness.
Although being the religious south, the preacher’s male hookers and meth habits might bring people back, at least to cheap out of town motels.
This posting has made me a little haggard.
I used to be forced to go to church for all of my school years. At the age of around 15 I decided to sit there conspicuously not praying when everyone else did, conspicuously not singing when every one else did. I’d sit and stand as required but do little else. I sat there thinking about something else the whole time. The best part was the headmaster sat in a transept directly looking across from me glowering.
Anyway I think these offenders should do likewise. Count their blessings to have stood before a stupid judge who offered them the choice and amuse themselves whatever way they care. Pick a large church with few attenders and sit at the back reading a book. Get your card signed by the priest and enjoy the remainder of the day doing something more constructive.