Why is our government such a mess?

Partly because it is staffed with unrelenting idiots like Nathan Dahm. The Oklahoma senator has filed a bill, Senate Bill 1457, which…well, read it for yourself.

All wildlife in Oklahoma is to be the property of an imaginary being. This could be great news for poachers, who can always insist on waiting for the legitimate owner of the game they shoot to place a formal claim against them. Or that they got approval in their heads from their deity to go hunting.

Thirteen lives wrecked

A horrific story of child abuse:

A Southern California couple are in custody after one of their daughters called 911 and led authorities to their home on Sunday. There, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department says it found 12 of the teen’s siblings inside, including “several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings.”

Of the 13 siblings living at the home in Perris, Calif., officials say six were under the age of 18. The siblings ranged in age from 2 years old to 29, and the daughter who sought help was 17 — though when law enforcement officers met with her, “she appeared to be only 10 years old and slightly emaciated.”

Six kids and seven young adults, all abused for their entire life and trapped in a dysfunctional home. What could drive the parents to commit such unforgivable neglect and torture of their kids? Take a guess.

David Turpin’s parents, James and Betty Turpin of West Virginia, told ABC News that they were “surprised and shocked” at the allegations because their son and daughter-in-law were “a good Christian family.” They said they had not seen the family since visiting California four or five years ago.

Of course they were good Christians. It takes religion to foster that degree of fanaticism and ignorance.

Their neighbors had only a vague notion that they might have had any kids — and they had that many, for so long. Those poor children were subject to horrible environmental deprivation for a damaging length of time. You know there had to have been hints that something unusual was going on with this family — the father’s parents are just playing dumb — and that all the aberrant behavior was concealed under a cloak of weird religious beliefs.

I can’t bear a modern American church service

So how intolerable do you think a Nazi church service would be?

In contrast to the post-war myth-making that tried to paint the Nazis as pagans and atheists, Stephen Waldron points out that instead, Nazi Germany was soaking in Christianity, and that the Nazis themselves were fanatically devout, seeing religion as an obliging tool to gain support for an agenda that was anti-semitic, anti-feminist, and anti-intellectual.

We can easily forget how deeply Christian Nazi Germany was. As historian Doris L. Bergen puts it, “Christianity permeated Nazi society” (9).

Although Hitler was not very pious, the 97% of Germans who identified as Christian mostly convinced themselves that he was. [Sound familiar? –pzm]

Most Protestant Christians at the time were ecstatic at the creation of a newly Nazified world. And they went to church.

This new world demanded a renewed church with reinvented liturgies. In the midst of a fierce struggle for control of the churches, the pro-Nazi “German Christian” faction preached sermons, edited Bibles, revised hymn-books, altered liturgies, and changed the church calendar.

The whole thing is terribly familiar. Every aspect of this story reminds us that fascism was something imposed from above by a strong leader, but bubbled up from the inclinations of the citizenry, often tied to religious beliefs in their superiority over others. It’s happening here, right now.

What can we do with the knowledge that Nazi church services were public, masculine, anti-intellectual, anti-Jewish, and nationalist?

Especially in the U.S., we can let go of the idea that the real danger is that fascism could happen. Fascism can happen in everyday life without government control or a dictatorship, and it’s not any better because it isn’t full-blown.

The fact that Nazis were able to recycle already-existing aspects of church services in the service of their ideology should disturb us all. We can already find U.S. flags at church altars, desperate attempts to make church more masculine, and anti-Jewish readings of New Testament texts. That’s bad enough.

We might get rid of Trump, eventually, and we’re lucky that he’s an incompetent boob…but we’re still going to have to do something about the christofascist churches and the right-wing thugs who cloak themselves in the new holy trinity of God, guns, and capitalism.

Cloaking hatred with a thin veil of love

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is The Scathing Atheist, and it lives up to its name. One of the regular bits on the show is called the diatribe, where they just cut loose and fulminate for a few minutes on some subject that has sparked their rage, and while I don’t always agree with it, I do have to respect a righteous rant. Last week, they focused their fire on Ray Moore, and the topic of the diatribe was how Christianity has become, or perhaps always has been, a religion of hate. It has become a reliable motivator of evangelical Christians lately — they will throw away all their principles, cast off even the illusion of morality, and vote for whatever racist, sexist pig screams the loudest and angriest about Muslims or the gays or the liberals or the transgenders or the Chinese or whatever other has caught their eye this week. It has become an ideology that serves only tribalism, without regard for any positive belief.

I agree with that diatribe. Religion is not a benefit to mankind in any way, and we’d be better off without it — or more fundamentally, we’d be better off without this tribal thinking that divides humanity into Us and Them. But I also think the show didn’t bring up two other important points (which is OK, if they threw in everything the podcast would be longer than my gym time).

One is that religion is often a master of Orwellian subterfuge. You can point out how often religious thinkers are endorsing hate, but the true believer will simply look a millimeter deep at the holy texts and tell you that they are all about love. I’ve seen no clearer example of this than a recent declaration by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. It’s all about love and understanding and forgiveness, don’t you know.

At the outset they make their position crystal clear.

As leaders of various communities of faith throughout the United States, many of us came together in the past to affirm our commitment to marriage as the union of one man and one woman and as the foundation of society. We reiterate that natural marriage continues to be invaluable to American society.

We come together to join our voices on a more fundamental precept of our shared existence, namely, that human beings are male or female and that the socio-cultural reality of gender cannot be separated from one’s sex as male or female.

We acknowledge and affirm that all human beings are created by God and thereby have an inherent dignity. We also believe that God created each person male or female; therefore, sexual difference is not an accident or a flaw—it is a gift from God that helps draw us closer to each other and to God. What God has created is good. “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).

No gay marriage — it’s unnatural. There are only two genders, male and female, and you will accommodate yourself to the one God gave you. That, bluntly, is what this document is about: a gang of old celibates are here to inform you of the truth about sex and gender and identity, and in the name of love will tell you who you get to love.

But they’re going to surround their authoritarian perspective with a good amount of fluffy padding. The only difference between Westboro Baptist and the Catholic Church is the amount of pretense they package around their hate.

A person’s discomfort with his or her sex, or the desire to be identified as the other sex, is a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth. Each person deserves to be heard and treated with respect; it is our responsibility to respond to their concerns with compassion, mercy and honesty. As religious leaders, we express our commitment to urge the members of our communities to also respond to those wrestling with this challenge with patience and love.

Sensitivity and truth, patience and love…we know members of our communities are struggling with the complexities of identity and desire, and we’re going to listen attentively to you before we crush your concerns with brutal simplifications. And then we’re going to go all But the children! on you. You transgender men and women are hurting the children and destroying our society, but we love you anyway, if you’ll conform.

Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can “change” their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults. Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of “first, do no harm.” Gender ideology harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt. The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it.

Religious leaders who claim their adherence to the scientific fact of human biology while dispensing fact-free ideological recommendations to medical institutions are disingenuous hypocrites. Fuck off, you frauds.

The movement today to enforce the false idea—that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa—is deeply troubling. It compels people to either go against reason—that is, to agree with something that is not true—or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.

Read that paragraph again. Who is facing ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation? It’s not the frequently bullied transgender boys and girls, or the young people who are asexual or bisexual or androgynous or queer. These old assholes fear that acceptance of people’s identities will lead to them being ridiculed for trying to enforce a false binary. They are the victims, in their heads. How troubling!

We desire the health and happiness of all men, women, and children. Therefore, we call for policies that uphold the truth of a person’s sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all. We hope for renewed appreciation of the beauty of sexual difference in our culture and for authentic support of those who experience conflict with their God-given sexual identity.

They desire health and happiness for all who accept the narrow dictates of the Church, who ignore the sexual identity expressed in their minds, and adopt one of two (and only two!) gender roles, the traditional masculine and feminine. And the genitals you were born with had better well align with those roles!

This is all counterfactual assertion and raw denial, with the intent of condemning and ostracizing the people who refuse to conform to their rules. It is a call to the tribal majority to reject the outsiders, the weirdos, those strange Others who do not accept their arbitrary rules, or their supernatural justification for them. But notice how they mask it all with the language of kindness and love. I’m sure the Inquisition also thought the thumbscrews were a loving way to bring heretics to the grace of God.

Hey, there’s a second point I wanted to make, but it’s one I’ve made before, and maybe I’ll let it rest with just a brief mention. If we’re going to rail against the hateful tribalism of religion, we should do likewise with atheism. There’s a significant component of the atheist movement that has sent it sliding off the rails: those atheists who equate reason and rationalism with hating Muslims, all Muslims, or with contempt for feminism. This represents a cheap appeal for popularity that is as vile as Catholic bishops spitting on gay marriage, and on transgender men and women — it’s an attempt to fuel the movement with hate. It might just work, as far as growth goes. But it also produces a framework for thinking that I don’t want to be a part of.

Can atheism, at least, be an idea that is willing to accept people for who they are, rather than trying to wedge them into ill-fitting pigeonholes?

It’s amazing what they’ll just come out and say on YouTube

Roy Moore lost the election in Alabama, but he refuses to concede. He’s put out a video explaining why. It’s revolting.

After a brief nod to the fact that they’re still counting some military ballots (won’t make a difference to the outcome), he gets around to the real reason. It’s too important to God to allow godless sodomites to have a say in an election. We have to stop abortion, homosexuals, and men who claim to be women, and we need to have prayer in the schools, and Immorality sweeps over our land! To preserve our republic and honor the Constitution, he is going to deny the outcome of an election. Well, gosh, can we also deny the outcome of the last presidential election simply because the asshole-in-chief is an affront to morality?

I don’t think he understands the concept of a republic. Remember that next time some theocrat runs for office — their intent is to destroy that institution.

Hey, you know who else doesn’t understand anything? Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad. Benjamin really is a Nazi at heart. He did a hangout with another alt-right fuckwit, MillennialWoes, and they let it all hang out. What is he afraid of?

You’ve got diversity in everything…it’s terrifying, isn’t it?

He’s terrified because…what? Brown people and gay people and women might also get employed and share equal status with his pale right-wing brothers? This is a blatantly racist, anti-egalitarian statement — and he probably wouldn’t consider my criticism a rebuke, but something to be proud of.

He’s also afraid of SJWs, because they’re a fucking massive problem. We have a terrible great power.

…the reason thousands of young girls are getting raped is not because the police didn’t want to do something or couldn’t do something. It was because they were afraid of social justice warriors calling them racist.

That doesn’t even make sense. Say or do something racist, and someone might rightly say to you that you’re a racist, therefore the problem is…people able to point out reality? A policeman might shoot an unarmed black man to death, but that’s OK — the real horror to a Sargoonian is that someone might point to a pattern of such incidents and declare that there is clear evidence of racist oppression. Say it right out loud, in public!

So we need to silence those goddamn SJWs.

The worst case scenario for the alt-right’s success in this endeavor is less intolerable to me and my family than the SJW success. So from a tactical evaluation, I have to choose this angle. I have to try and explain to the alt-right that they can get what they want and they should take this gambit, even if it means the end of liberal democracy.

I don’t think there’s much difference between old Christian theocrats and the new Nazis at this point.

Christianity is not dead

An evangelical Christian declares that the death of Christianity in the U.S.

Christianity has died in the hands of Evangelicals. Evangelicalism ceased being a religious faith tradition following Jesus’ teachings concerning justice for the betterment of humanity when it made a Faustian bargain for the sake of political influence. The beauty of the gospel message — of love, of peace and of fraternity — has been murdered by the ambitions of Trumpish flimflammers who have sold their souls for expediency. No greater proof is needed of the death of Christianity than the rush to defend a child molester in order to maintain a majority in the U.S. Senate.

I wish Christianity were dying. It’s not. It’s merely reverting to its roots. The Christianity he’s pining for — a beautiful faith of “love, of peace and of fraternity” — only existed briefly in the minds of a tiny fraction of wishful thinkers. It’s as if he thinks that benign Christianity is the eternal truth of the religion, and that this recent controlling, selfish, faith of indignant sanctimony is a recent innovation.

Just go back to the 19th century. Christianity was used to justify colonialism, slavery, the extermination of Indians, manifest destiny (oh, man, Christianity is so tangled up in the very idea of manifest destiny), the whole European expansion. Christianity sailed into China aboard gunboats selling opium. Christian missions were planted in Africa to justify invasion. In North America, Christian schools were tools to destroy Indian culture. Yet now we’re supposed to pretend the bigotry and sleaziness of Roy Moore are an aberration doing great harm to the reputation of the faith? Only if you’re shortsighted and have no appreciation of history at all.

If you insist on more recent examples, though, remember that it was the good Christians of the South who lynched black men for imagined or trivial slights against the propriety of Christian white women, or that even today the Southern Baptist Convention opposes gay rights. These are not exceptions. It’s built right into the bones of Christianity.

I think it’s wonderful that some Christians have struggled against the grain of Christian history to try to build a better, more egalitarian religion. I would wish that they could succeed. But let’s be honest here: you’re trying to do so on a foundation of patriarchal authoritarianism, with 1700+ years of persecution and corruption as a tradition. If you really want to get rid of the hatred and sectarianism and obsolete sexual mores, the first thing you have to dump is the Bible, and then you’re not Christian anymore.

You also have to admit that Roy Moore isn’t anti-Christian at all — he’s following the Bible with more fidelity than someone who accepts modern ideals of tolerance and pacifism and the acceptance of love in all its forms. You just have to recognize that Moore’s religion is a bad thing.

Republicanism a cult? That explains a lot.

This article begins by wondering what Marshall Applewhite was thinking as mixed the poisons for the Heaven’s Gate cult, before they committed mass suicide. And then it leaps immediately to describing what the Republican party is doing.

Republican Roy Moore, removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for his erratic behavior and banned from the mall for harassing teenage girls, has cloaked his campaign for the Senate in the language of “spiritual warfare.” As such, he is the most apt representative of the Republican Party in our age of cult politics. Moore is pitching himself as God’s candidate and his voters are slopping it up like poisoned applesauce. The party of “family values” is about to send a known sexual predator to the Senate because God wants them to. This would be startling, except they already used the same reasoning to put a known sexual predator in the White House.

The same magical reasoning infects Republicans tax reform plans. We are in the eighth year of continuous job growth, the eighth year of economic expansion, and the eighth year of a head-spinning stock market boom. Corporate profits are at record levels and the economy has been redlining at full-employment for almost three years. By any marginally credible economic reasoning, this would be an ideal moment to raise taxes, curb debt, make investments in public infrastructure, and just generally do the things one does at the peak of a long economic expansion.

At this moment, why are Republicans trying to slash taxes for the wealthy? Why would someone castrate themselves and commit suicide? Because that’s what the cult demands.

I don’t think it’s a stretch at all, especially since the Republican cult stitched itself mouth-to-anus with the Religious Right decades ago. If you want to see an egregious expression of this behavior, watch this interview by Anderson Cooper with a Moore spokesperson — she’s got nothin’ but her insistence that Moore is a godly man who tried to support God’s commandments and the Declaration of Independence says we’ve got a Creator, and that’s all that matters, and all of his wacky statements and the court decisions can be ignored.

I think we atheists have been thinking small. We try to get religion out of government, but what we really need to do is get this cult-like religious behavior out, no matter whether it’s tied to a named and admitted religion or not.

Both sides suck

Sean Hannity has been defending creepy hebephile Roy Moore, so people have been calling for advertisers to pull their ads from the Hannity show. One advertiser who has done so is Keurig, which has been prompting the triggered snowflakes on the right to #boycottkeurig. Suddenly I’m seeing angry videos of right-wingers throwing Keurig machines from balcony windows or shooting them with shotguns. It’s absurd.

But what is equally absurd is that I’m seeing liberals declaring that they’re going to buy Keurig machines, or trade in their Nestle equivalent for a Keurig, or are celebrating by drinking coffee from their Keurig. Aaaaargh. K-cups are wasteful — consisting of almost as much packaging as coffee. Why are you celebrating a minor tactical decision by an exploitive, destructive capitalist company by rewarding them for a design that promotes convenience over the environment? I don’t get it.

I should also remind you that Keurig was supporting jingoistic, far right wing propagandist Sean Hannity all this time, that they didn’t seem to mind his constant America-First schtick of hatred for immigrants and people of color and queer folk and the poor, but only broke from the pack when he supported sexing up underaged white Alabamans. There’s an unconscious prioritizing of problems here. It’s not that I don’t think it’s despicable for Roy Moore to have been assaulting children, but that there is so much that is despicable about Moore that it’s shocking that his supporters are only noticing a problem now.

I appreciate that the opposition is finally crystallizing around this one incident to try and kill Moore’s career, and I’ll be very happy if it succeeds, but I’m just disappointed that his long history of theocratic bullshit and general incompetence weren’t enough to have kept him out of office, any office, for the last 40 years. But then incompetence and ideological asininity are no barrier to success in this country.

The Christian Brothers…now there is a name that will live on in infamy

The things one learns long after the fact…when I was a boy, my father had a favorite fishing spot, an oxbow in the Green River north of Kent, Washington, where we lived. It was a lovely place, a little bit of a walk from the road, but you were surrounded by river and trees and grass. I remember well this one trip where we’d been spectacularly successful and had caught a pair of 10-12 pound steelhead, and we were walking back to the car; I was carrying one of the fish, my fingers hooked in the gills, Dad was carrying the other, and my brother Jim was carrying the tackle box, and he saw this thick trickle of dark red blood dripping over my fingers and down the flank of the steelhead, and he puked all over the tackle box. He always had a delicate stomach. I also used to tease him about how he’d get seasick on ferry rides.

Of course, then when he grew up he got a job as a commercial fisherman and spent all his time on a heaving boat in the North Pacific hauling in massive quantities of aquatic beasties, so he’ll probably deny that event.

Anyway, those were good times. The site also had a crumbling wreck in the middle of it, an old school that was decaying walls and broken windows surrounding a gutted interior. My father wouldn’t let us go anywhere near it. He didn’t like the place at all; he’d name it with a little snarl, because it apparently had an ugly history with people who grew up in Kent in the 40s and 50s. I vaguely recall being taunted by other kids about being shipped off to Briscoe if I was bad, but that was about it. All I knew was that it was a step above a ruin, and there was a statue of Jesus in the courtyard, which I was surprised to see erected in the Catholic churchyard in town some years later.

The place was called the Briscoe School for Boys. It was a Catholic reform school where the delinquent kids were sent. That was all I knew about it. A bit out of the way, good fishing, decaying building, occasional whispers of dislike from my parents’ generation.

That’s an impressively oppressive sorta Gothic building to have been plunked down in a small farming town in the Pacific Northwest. I guess the long reach of the Catholic Church meant all kinds of nightmares were assembled in out-ot-the-way places. Even now, the small town I live in in Minnesota has a Catholic history, with the Sisters of Mercy building an Indian boarding school right here in the middle of the prairie. It’s as if some malignant cosmic entity has sprinkled Stephen King bait all across the country.

It was just last tonight that I stumbled across the story of the place. It was founded by the Christian Brothers of Ireland — and you already know what horrors dwelt there, just from that name. Hogwarts it wasn’t; it was a torture factory.

Decades ago, society was much more accepting of corporal punishment, the men alleging abuse acknowledge.

But what happened to them at Briscoe “weren’t beatings, they were torture,” said John Green, a 59-year-old technology consultant who lives near Everett and boarded at Briscoe in the 1950s. “It continued into self-gratification and rage. It had nothing to do with punishment.”

The brothers carried leather straps — about a foot long and an inch or two wide — with which they hit students, the men say.

Jerry Blinn, 65, a retired business manager in Placitas, N.M., said students were punished for anything from getting wrong answers in class to talking in meal lines.

He said one brother would strap students so hard his feet would leave the ground. Blinn, who was sent to Briscoe in 1946 after his widowed, ill and impoverished mother was unable to take care of him, said some brothers also grabbed students by their ears or cheeks and shook them “like a bass on a hook.”

Davison, of Seattle, who ended up at Briscoe about 40 years ago after he ran away from home, remembers being beaten with straps and fists — sometimes so hard he was knocked unconscious. “They beat me half to death there,” he said.

He and some of the other men say they saw brothers beating naked boys with wooden paddles in the showers, and that some brothers had students fight each other.

“It was a truly brutal place,” said Earl Dye, 60, a mental-health counselor in Seattle whose mother sent him to Briscoe around 1955 at the urging of nuns. “In the morning, you would think: ‘I hope I don’t get beaten today.’ And every night you would hope you wouldn’t be one of those boys that the brothers would pull out of bed.”

Several of the men say they would sometimes see brothers take one or two boys out of their dorm-room beds for a while at night.

Pat Gogerty, retired executive director of Childhaven, a local agency serving abused and neglected children, said that happened to his brother, William Gogerty. William lived at Briscoe from about 1937 to 1945. Once, when Pat stayed overnight during a visit, he saw a brother take William out of the room.

“He was gone for a while,” Pat Gogerty said. “He didn’t talk about what happened (then). In those days, you never talked about anything like that.” Years later, his brother told him he had been sexually abused at Briscoe, starting from his first day there at age 8.

Jesus. I had no idea. I’ve known of the Christian Brothers, an evil cabal of self-righteous perverts and sadists, but I always associated them with other places, other countries. But they’d set up shop in my hometown and had creeped out my father years ago? Eerie. Survivors of sexual abuse are still talking about went on there. And what is it with the Catholic Church building prisons for young boys all around the world, and staffing them with psychopaths?