We haven’t heard from Bill Donohue for a while

I wonder what he is up to…ah. He’s defending Trump’s savage budget cuts for the arts, because art isn’t reverent enough.

Justice demands that these agencies should be eliminated: Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for assaults on their religion. Christians constitute roughly 75 percent of the population; Catholics are approximately 25 percent of the total. In the name of “art,” these Americans are expected to pay for irreverent exhibits, but depictions that are reverential—such as a nativity scene outside City Hall—are denied a dime. It’s time we stopped giving the arts a privileged position and cut their funding. The same is true for publicly funded radio and TV programming that has a history of insulting the majority of Americans.

I don’t think he understands art. Bye, Bill, sink back into obscurity, ‘k?

Sadistic Christianity

I always thought that one of the pleasures of parenting was helping kids grow up to be themselves — to develop to be independent people with their own interests and goals, which might be very different than my own. We’re about giving opportunities, not dictating how they should live their lives, and one of the advantages of that is that all of my children were relatively stress-free (kids are never totally stress-free) and have never caused us much in the way of problems — and I think part of the reason is simply that we did not force them to go against their natures. There were lots of moments where I didn’t understand their choices, or even disagreed with them, but I just had to remember that my parents didn’t quite understand what I was doing with my life, either, but they let me be me and we all ended up happier for it.

Some people just can’t do that, though. Authoritarians are all about control, and it can lead to catastrophic evil against children.

Today, in the United States, there is a multibillion-dollar industry for residential treatment—one that sells an illusory promise to desperate parents: Your children’s addictions and mental health problems can be cured with a relatively quick (and usually expensive) fix. Yet the potential danger of abuse and neglect is a real threat for many of the 200,000 to 400,000 young people trapped in the nation’s poorly monitored secular and religious “group care” facilities, “troubled teen” residential schools and unlicensed treatment programs. Too often, critics say, these programs profit off the misery of emotionally troubled kids, substance abusers or just misbehaving youth, as well as their parents, who struggle to deal with kids they can’t control. “These are throwaway children,” says Jodi Hobbs, the president of the nonprofit group, Survivors of Institutional Abuse. “They are looked at as dollar signs, not as individuals.”

One of the most common types of private programs for errant youths are the virtually unregulated religious schools, many of which push fundamentalist Christian beliefs and employ violently harsh discipline against enrollees. Inspired in part by the programs of a fiery Baptist radio preacher, the late Lester Roloff, purveyors of these programs have been exposed for whippings and beatings and accused of rape. Perhaps the largest alliance of such ultraconservative churches is the far-flung Independent Fundamental Baptist organization with thousands of churches nationwide and numerous boarding schools that cite the biblical importance of breaking the will of the child. “If you’re not bruising your child,” a pastor declared in a 2007 sermon captured by ABC News’s 20/20, “you’re not spanking your child enough.”

That’s part of the story of Restoration Youth Academy, a Christian boot-camp in Alabama that promises to straighten out those darned rebellious teenagers with discipline…which means solitary confinement, beatings, bloody whippings, and sexual abuse. Many of these kids do have serious problems — drug abuse and mental health issues — but a) those are problems that can be worsened by a miserable home life, and b) even if the parents are otherwise blameless, shipping them off to a violent, brutalizing incarceration isn’t going to make them better. The article doesn’t say, but I wonder what proportion of these kids weren’t actually serious problem children, but were just people who had a different sexual orientation or dissented from the religious views of their parents, and were sent off to be punished and re-molded into a different view. Given that many of the institutions discussed in the story were intolerant fundamentalist Christian horror shows, I suspect a lot.

The story is also about intransigent Alabama politicians who refused to take action and closed a blind eye to the evidence of child abuse going on, probably in part because they had a shield of immunity, that they were preaching Christianity. Among the problem characters was the Alabama attorney general, Luther Strange, who was in the news lately for a promotion.

Kennedy is equally outraged that former state Attorney General Luther Strange has been appointed a U.S. senator to replace Jeff Sessions, the new U.S. attorney general. “He [Strange] threw the children under the bus so he could grease the way for his political ambitions,” Kennedy says. “All these politicians have lined their pockets with the blood of children.”

And all of those churches.

Is there no religion Reza Aslan won’t pander to?

It seems to be his schtick. Religion is just plain good, and the only way to criticize it is to cherry-pick unrepresentative bad bits, he seems to argue, and he uses this argument to paper over a lot of truly horrific, deeply imbedded aspects of faith. And apparently, he has a show on CNN called Believer, which I haven’t seen, in which he does this repeatedly.

There’s an episode coming up in which he makes excuses for Scientology, of all things; he’s going to highlight small independent groups that have split away from the mainstream cult and are somewhat less toxic (in part because they also represent a way to get outside the controlling influence of the Church of Scientology, and can be a gateway to leaving the religion altogether), while ignoring the greater crimes of the much larger, main sect.

In the meantime, we’ll point out what we did a year ago, when CNN’s series was originally supposed to come out. On occasion, we are taken to task for focusing so much energy on such a small organization, the Church of Scientology, with its 20,000 members. We think Scientology, with its billions in assets, its ruthless legal tactics, and the way it treats children and families is worth keeping an eye on, even if we are just, for the most part, a sole proprietor with a single-subject website.

If some people, however, don’t think the Church of Scientology is worth paying attention to, what does it say that CNN, with its worldwide media reach, will be using its mighty resources to promote a “movement” of perhaps only a few hundred people doing something that is not really very controversial or that affects many other people at all?

“Aslan is clearly confused or deliberately trying to create a scenario to fit his preconceived story line,” Mike Rinder tells us. He points out, however, that even if Aslan is all wet, his show might accidentally be useful for people still stuck in the Church of Scientology to believe that there are alternatives to Miscavige’s brand of Hubbardism. “The idea that Scientology is only available in the church is something Miscavige and company try very hard to pretend is true.” The idea that there are alternatives, Rinder says, could be “beneficial.” But as for Aslan’s claims about the size and growth of independent Scientology?

“It just makes Aslan look uninformed and stupid,” Rinder says.

There was a time when I thought Aslan was mildly interesting as a counterbalance to the more extremist arguments against Islam, but it’s become clear that no, he’s just an apologist for inanity.


Culture of life, my ass. More like a culture of Catholic hypocrisy.

A mass grave containing the remains of babies and children has been discovered at a former Catholic care home in Ireland where it has been alleged up to 800 died, government-appointed investigators said on Friday.

Excavations at the site of the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway, have uncovered an underground structure divided into 20 chambers containing “significant quantities of human remains”, the judge-led mother and baby homes commission said.

The commission said analysis of selected remains revealed ages of the deceased ranged from 35 weeks to three years old. It found that the dead had been mostly buried in the 1950s, when the facility was one of more than a dozen in Ireland offering shelter to orphans, unmarried mothers and their children. The Tuam home closed in 1961.

Let’s not even consider those unmarried mothers, locked away in isolation and virtual slavery.

If all those people complaining about Planned Parenthood wanted to do what’s right, they’d move their picketlines to the nearest Catholic church.

I’m an EX-Lutheran. Do I still have to register?

Uh-oh. I agree with this. Lutherans are a terrible people who have inflicted much pain and suffering on others in their history, and if we’re going to start discriminating against people for their religion, it’s a fine place to start.


But…but…I was brought up as a Lutheran. I’ve since renounced the faith, but my driver’s license does say “Minnesøda”, and I’ve got Scandinavian grandma stories to tell, and I know a few Ole & Lena jokes, and I might be able to remember a verse or two of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”. This is probably enough to indict me, especially since our country’s new Muslim ban doesn’t give a flying goddamn about what people think, but just makes sweeping prohibitions based on country of origin.

I also probably belong on the list because hot dish and weak church coffee are enough to inspire me to contemplate revolution already.

I was worried for a moment that I’d also have to be on the atheist registry, but the ongoing alignment of that philosophy with neocon principles might actually counterbalance the Lutheran entanglement. Unless it’s an SJW Atheist registry, then I’ll be doubly damned.

I got it

Christianity has a martyr complex. They always think they’re being persecuted, when they’re not — so you hear constantly about Romans throwing them to lions, but never about how Christianity coopted the Roman imperial bureaucracies, and eventually the emperor himself, to rule over the Western world. They claim that Hitler was an atheist, ignoring the fact that he banned Darwin, not the Bible, had the support of the German Catholic church, and encouraged faith in his people. So I knew exactly where this cartoon would have to go, if it were at all honest.

Our current autocrat is supported by Christian evangelicals. Damn few are hanging their heads in shame (although, to be fair, some are).

Let’s face it, though: the success of the Christian religion has partly rested on its eager willingness to aid and abet authority, unlike, for example, Judaism. Mainstream Christianity has been an enabler, not a critic, of secular authority, no matter how oppressive it may be. There have been exceptions — liberation theology, for instance — but then the Church turns to oppose and oppress them.

Odious Christianity

I woke up to Ken Ham testifying to his faith…and demonstrating why I hate Christianity.

Hate is a strong word, but not strong enough for my feelings. Ken Ham might be a decent human being if he weren’t so thoroughly poisoned by this toxic faith he professes, and insists on infecting others. Christianity is the rot that corrupts minds.

I reject his notion of sin — the idea that there is some kind of divine law against which we can transgress — but humanists do not deny that we can do wrong and we can do harm. We think we should do better, not to appease some vengeful deity, but because it improves our lives and helps make those around us happier and better able to live up to their potential. We certainly do accept that death is inevitable, but not because we are wicked — the wicked often seem to flourish while the good may die young. Are we to measure the virtue of human beings by their longevity? Charles Manson is 82, and surely destined to join the saints in heaven, while every infant death must open a chute directly to hell for its wicked soul.

What enrages me most is the implicit condemnation of every human being who had the effrontery to die, which by the Christian doctrine so clearly stated by Ham is every goddamned human being ever.

So my father, a good man, died quietly in his sleep on Christmas years ago — of heart disease. But in Ken Ham’s filthy mind, his death was the bite of an angry god against whom he’d transgressed.

My sister, a good woman, died suffering in a hospital bed of a massive systemic infection, leaving behind two young children. To Ken Ham, she deserved her death because she’d transgressed in some unknowing way against his mighty, vengeful god.

We all have people we’ve loved and lost to accident, to disease, to old age. To a Christian, their god willed this loss, and to Christians like Ken Ham, those deaths were a punishment for “sin”.

Some day, Ken Ham will die, and remember — it will be because he is struck down by his capricious god for his wickedness, and every moment of his dying, if it be long and agonizing, will be deserved. At least, that’s what he should believe.

Even us sacrilegious jerks have limits

I got drawn into a Twitter conversation, because I am apparently the living manifestation of sacrilege. I actually wouldn’t object to my apotheosis as the god of god-hating, but even in that job, there are rules.

It started off with Madhusudan Katti objecting to an act of sacrilege by Jenniffer Lawrence.

The story of the Lawrence Heresy:

How do you define “sacred?” One simple answer: it’s something you keep your butt off. Jennifer Lawrence got that memo, but decided to disregard it. In a recent interview she recalls her “butt-scratchin’” on sacred rocks while shooting Hunger Games in Hawai’i. They were, to her mind, a useful tool to relieve her of itchiness.

In the comments, which she made on a recent episode of the BBC’s Graham Norton Show this week, she says: “There were … sacred … rocks — I dunno, they were ancestors, who knows — they were sacred.” She goes on to say: “You’re not supposed to sit on them, because you’re not supposed to expose your genitalia to them”. But she did. “I, however, was in a wetsuit for this whole shoot – oh my god, they were so good for butt itching!”

She knew this was a gross cultural breach – that much is clear – but Lawrence decided to go ahead and desecrate the rocks anyway.

Razib Khan seems to think this is an example of a double standard — people defended my act of sacrilege, so how can they find Jennifer Lawrence’s act offensive?

Katti notes some differences: Are you punching up or punching down? Are you disrespecting a whole culture or criticizing an intrusion of one culture into another?

Long story short, Katti’s right. I wouldn’t do that. I said over and over again during the whole Catholic wafer episode that what I was protesting was 1) the assumption that the Catholic church gets to control what I or anyone does in our private, secular spaces, and 2) the historically toxic influence of religion as a whole and Catholicism in particular on people around the world. Trashing a communion wafer turned out to be a surprisingly effective way of highlighting those problems without violating anyone’s rights or committing violence, and most of the effectiveness came not from my trivial act, but the exaggerated outrage from Catholics. It became quite clear that many people did want to control my beliefs in my home, and were willing to threaten violence to do it.

Catholics are free to practice and believe whatever they want in their spaces. Aside from finding their beliefs silly, I’m not going to outlaw communion or blow up churches (although I would like to tax them) or show up at church to disrupt their ceremonies. I will point out the sacred Catholic practice of sheltering pedophiles, of denying birth control to people, of buying up hospitals and then imposing arbitrary Catholic rules on medical practice, of just generally trying to tell non-Catholics how to live, are all examples of using their wealth and power to oppress others.

I find the idea of sacred stones rather silly, too. But I don’t find the native people of Hawaii to be silly, and do find them lacking in harmful intent. There’s nothing I (or Jennifer Lawrence) have to protest, even symbolically, about native Hawaiian culture; if anything, we have amends to make for our great big Western European butts rolling over and largely crushing their people, and wiping our butts further on little things they ask us to let them have is simply condescending, cruel, and wrong. If you go to someone’s house and they ask you to not sit in Grandpa’s favorite chair, do you then make it a point to reject their request and insist on taking that chair and only that chair for your entire visit?

Sure, if it’s a great and comfy chair buy one just like it for your house, and then you can complain if they try to reserve your sacred chair for their grandfather. But otherwise, show a little courtesy. It doesn’t do you any harm. Especially if you’re a hugely overpaid fabulous actor getting millions of dollars to play-act on a Hawaiian beach, and who can afford to buy their own non-sacred custom-designed butt-scratcher and hire a poor Hawaiian to haul it up and down the beach at your convenience. It’s just petty and rude to go out of your way to ‘defile’ a shared public resource simply because you can.