Invade Africa — all of Africa — to punish “woke Twitter” for the Notre Dame fire

Andy Ngo, always a reliable source of hypocrisy, started a Twitter thread to document all the wicked Leftists who expressed joy at the burning of Notre Dame. It’s bizarre, because many of those Leftists are making legitimate points. France led a colonial empire, but we don’t see as much grief for the murdered and exploited peoples. Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque was burning at the same time, and got only a tiny fraction of the attention. Notre Dame is the responsibility of the French state, and there has been bickering for years about the cost of maintenance with the Catholic Church, yet the church still uses it for religious services. Catholicism is an odious cult, yet it gets treated with unwarranted respect (again, Notre Dame’s historical value is preserved by the French Republic, yet this is treated as a loss for Catholicism). Americans demolish Indian lands to build ugly monuments or dig mines, but there’s rarely an outcry about disrespecting their history (well, Indians cry out; we rarely pay any attention).

It’s complicated. I think it’s important to preserve European historical sites, but I feel the same about Native American sacred sites and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque and Jagannath Temple and Borobudur and a thousand other places, even when I have little cultural connection to them and may even detest the religion that drove their construction. Human history is full of majestic accomplishments, but they’ve all got warts on them. We’ve got to appreciate the good behind them, but never forget the warts. A tragedy like the Notre Dame fire occurs, and people rush to both deify and demonize the building — let’s try to have some perspective, OK?

I sympathize with the people who feel some schadenfreude at the destruction of one artifact that represents crimes against humanity at the same time that it represents a great human achievement. I don’t mind them reminding us all of the badness that lurks within that monument — I’d do the same. As long as you’re tolerant, no matter how angry you are, and not plotting active destruction yourself, I can respect that.

The interesting thing about Ngo’s thread, though, is that, as you might expect, it’s drawn out the right-wing hypocrites. They’re all deploring how hateful the Left is for expressing a personal dislike of Catholicism, or French imperialism, or thinking it’s only fair that France feel the kind of loss other nations have felt. But they’ve got their own rabid bigotry that they overlook.

There’s the usual call to destroy Islamic holy sites.

You know, Al-Masjid Al-Haram is even older than Notre Dame. If you’re calling for its destruction, you aren’t motivated by an appreciation of history or art, but by simple ideological vengeance. Then you don’t get to complain when people have an ideological contempt for Notre Dame.

Or how about this delusional threat?

He, personally, is going to invade Africa. All of Africa. This vast continent, with a deep history and thousands of complex cultures, is responsible for burning European cathedrals, and he is going to march over there and spank everyone. His reason? To spite people on Twitter he doesn’t like.

Mr Ngo wanted to expose wicked Leftists, but ended up holding a mirror to his own clique.

Doing the Lord’s work

There’s this nifty instagram site, PreachersNSneakers, with a simple premise done well. He looks at photographs of evangelical preachers and then looks up the price of their shoes. Like this:

That’s Pastor John Gray in a really ugly pair of absurdly expensive $5000 tennis shoes. It’s an extreme example, but browsing through the page it’s clear that successful Christians think nothing of dropping $500, $600, $1000 on a pair of shoes that look weird and ostentatious, and also look out of place with the rest of their clothes. There’s just something strange going on here.

Also, I don’t understand the economics of the shoes themselves. These are cheap items built overseas by virtual slave labor, and then given an immense markup in the US. What virtue is being signaled by the existence of these ludicrous status symbols, and what are these preachers saying about themselves?

The further adventures of Phillip Blair, ranting evangelist!

Wow. He gets around. Phillip Blair is the bozo who was preaching on a Sydney subway, but there’s more! Here’s a video of Mr Blair railing at passers-by on the street — everyone is avoiding him. He has a limited repertoire, simply assuring everybody that he loves them at the top of his lungs, telling them about his past as a businessman and marine, yelling at them that they can be saved by Jesus Christ…but this is not a religion, oh no, it’s a personal relationship with god. The low point comes when he chastises a man in a wheelchair, telling him that Jesus could help him, but he’s too bitter to ask.

The funny thing is that it is Blair who is posting these embarrassing videos to his own YouTube channel, where we also learn that he hates evolution.

Does anyone think these obnoxious tactics work?

Australia’s got the attytood

When I lived in Philadelphia, one of the miseries of taking the subway was the abusive street preachers who’d board and start haranguing everyone. There was one woman I remember vividly who’d wear a sandwich board covered with an incoherent salad of bible verses and condemnation and fire up with a well-practiced gospel singers vocal chords and tell us all about how we were going to burn in a lake of fire. Philly residents are generally blunt and outspoken, but no sir, we all just shut up, shoved our faces in the Daily News sports page, and hoped no one would say a word, because they would start gabbling and howling even louder if you did. I hated it. I’m kind of an outspoken atheist myself, but I knew that protesting would be futile, and would just alienate the other riders because no one wanted to hear any of this crap at 7am, before the start of a long day, or at 5pm, when we all just wanted to get home.

They have a different response in Australia. An evangelical loudmouth (and an American asshole, too–how embarrassing) boarded a Sydney subway train and started witnessing to the other passengers. He seems a bit nonplussed because no one is respecting his piety.

“Yeah, shut up,” another passenger chimes in. Phillip struggles along for a bit longer, as the pissed off legends who frequent Sydney Trains turn around, block their ears, and ignore everything he’s saying.

“Mate, if you ask for our time, we have the right to say no, we’re not giving it to you,” one passenger points out.

Why are you so triggered, my friend? Phillip asks.

Whoa. That’s a tell-tale phrase only a right-winger would use.

“Why won’t you just shut up?” the passenger responds. “Speak quietly to someone who wants to listen.”

At this point, the train reaches a station, and almost everyone seizes the opportunity to get as far as possible away from this guy. He keeps trying to yell things, but it’s a bit hard to hear him as people shoulder through him to get to the Opal gates.

I’m here because I care about you — one more stop and I’m leaving! he pleads, trying to get a single person to hear him.

“Oh, thank god,” someone responds.

I care about you, he tries again.

“Apparently not about our opinions, because we’d like you to shut up.”

“No one wants to hear it, bro,” another passenger adds.

I’ve been in prisons in El Salvador, I’ve been in the slums of India, I’ve –

“Nobody cares, okay?” the first angry passenger explodes. “I don’t care if you love me. I don’t know you!” Half the carriage is laughing at this stage, and cheering every time someone gets the preacher to shut up.

“You’re the selfish one because you won’t shut up! Can you not see that? You’re forcing your opinion on everyone in this train. We are asking you to shut the fuck up. And do you? No! How selfish is that?”

At this stage, the guy finally, finally shuts up. Salvation is close. Heaven, in the form of a quiet peak hour train carriage, looms. And then another passenger begins to speak. Well, let me give my testimony, he says. I used to be a Buddhist, for 27 years of my life, but I became a Christian, um,

“Oh no,” someone sighs. The guy closest to the ex-Buddhist shakes his head and puts his headphones on. “Nobody asked,” someone else groans. “Shut up, you sound like such a dickhead.”

I learned a few things from that story.

  • It’s worth it to make evangelicals squirm when they inflict their hokey religion on the public.

  • They’ll still keep trying to talk, so you won’t get immediate relief, but maybe they’ll eventually learn appropriate behavior.

  • Australians are like Philadelphians, only more so.

Interesting data…for what it doesn’t say

The Nones have just passed the Catholics in numbers, at least according to one survey. And the Evangelical Protestants may have passed their peak. That’s all good news.

It looks like a lot of the gains among the nominally godless have come from the Mainline Protestants, though — so, basically, the people with a pragmatic, already fairly unsuperstitious perspective have shifted labels, abandoning a specific church affiliation. In that sense it’s not a major transition.

Note also the absence of the label “atheist”. It’s kind of padding the ranks to just lump together all the diverse beliefs ranging from outright denial of all gods and supernatural powers to blissful confidence in a divine creator who is not accurately represented by established religion into one catch-all category, “no religion”. The message isn’t so much that more and more people are adopting rationality as it is that more and more people are finding the spectacle of religious fanatics unsavory. That orange line is an impressive granfalloon.

But I’ll take it. It’s a good step forward. Now if only we could put an end to organized atheism’s embrace of the unsavory, too.

First you struggle, then you get coopted by religion, and then you die

I just learned that the Art Institute of Seattle has closed. This is bad news — I knew people who went there and others who aspired to go there. It seemed like a good place, and the closure is doing deep harm to people.

The Art Institute of Seattle will close abruptly on Friday, leaving about 650 students in the lurch — without classes, professors, or possibly diplomas.

The Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), a state regulation agency, announced the end of the school’s 73-year tenure on Wednesday, just over two weeks before the winter quarter was supposed to end.

These are students who’d sunk tens of thousands of dollars into their education, who are probably still carrying daunting amounts of debt, and who’ve now been told they pissed away years of their youth and all of their investment and will get nothing for their trouble. How could this happen? How can the government stand aside and let this happen? This was an accredited institution which, one would think, was an assurance of quality.

One clue is in a few key words in this summary:

The Art Institutes, a group of art colleges nationwide, has struggled with financial troubles for years; the company that owned them went bankrupt in 2017 and Dream Center Foundation, a faith-based nonprofit, bought the schools. Court filings show that since the purchase, the schools have grappled with financial issues.

Oh, here’s another clue: A College Chain Crumbles, and Millions in Student Loan Cash Disappears. Somebody skimmed off a lot of cash in this deal, not just from the Art Institute, but a whole mess of struggling colleges that were snapped up by a religious entity.

The affected schools — Argosy University, South University and the Art Institutes — have about 26,000 students in programs spanning associate degrees in dental hygiene and doctoral programs in law and psychology. Fourteen campuses, mostly Art Institute locations, have a new owner after a hastily arranged transfer involving private equity executives. More than 40 others are under the control of a court-appointed receiver who has accused school officials of trying to keep the doors open by taking millions of dollars earmarked for students.

26,000 students? This is unconscionable. The first problem is that these colleges were bought out by Pentacostal evangelical Christians with no experience in running an educational institution.

Dream Center is connected to Angelus Temple, which was founded by Aimee Semple McPherson, a charismatic evangelist once portrayed by Faye Dunaway in a TV movie, “The Disappearance of Aimee.” It is affiliated with the Foursquare Church, an evangelical denomination with outposts in 146 countries.

Buying a chain of schools “aligns perfectly with our mission, which views education as a primary means of life transformation,” Randall Barton, the foundation’s managing director, said when Dream Center announced its plan.

But Dream Center had never run colleges. It hired a team including Brent Richardson, who worked on the conversion of Grand Canyon University to a nonprofit as its chairman, to lead the schools’ corporate parent, Dream Center Education Holdings. He stepped down in January.

Alarms were ringing from the moment the takeover was proposed. Dream Center’s effort to buy the failing ITT Technical Institutes schools had fallen apart after resistance from the Obama administration. When it asked to buy Education Management’s schools, consumer groups, members of Congress and some regional accreditors raised concerns.

The second problem is more secular: the gang of idiots currently running the country, who are engaged in a thrilling give-away of our assets to line their own pockets.

Led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Education Department has reversed an Obama-era crackdown on troubled vocational and career schools and allowed new and less experienced entrants into the field.

“The industry was on its heels, but they’ve been given new life by the department under DeVos,” said Eileen Connor, the director of litigation at Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending.

Ms. DeVos, who invested in companies with ties to for-profit colleges before taking office, has made it an agency priority to unfetter for-profit schools by eliminating restrictions on them. She also allowed several for-profit schools to evade even those loosened rules by converting to nonprofits.

That’s what Dream Center wanted to do when it asked to buy the remains of Education Management Corporation.

Schools are just plunder to these people. One has to wonder, though, how the church’s “mission” would have been implemented in these secular schools, if they hadn’t run them straight into the ground.

“Truly I say to you…you will deny Me”

George Will is what passes for an intelligent man on the conservative side, I suppose, but wow, but religion twists his brain into a pretzel. His latest illogical argument is about the Bladensburg cross. This thing.

He thinks that the Supreme Court should rule that this is not a religious symbol. His arguments for this are, well, fucking stupid.

It was for reasons of traffic safety that the government in 1961 acquired the ground on which the Bladensburg cross sits. If, 58 years later, a few people in this age of hair-trigger rage choose to be offended by a long-standing monument reflecting the nation’s culture and traditions, those people, not the First Amendment, need help. The court should so rule when, sometime before this term ends in June, it announces its decision in this case, as the nine justices sit beneath a frieze that includes a symbol of religion: Moses with the Ten Commandments.

Bladensburg last had the nation’s attention because of the shambolic events of Aug. 24, 1814. President James Madison fled from there, where feeble American resistance enabled British soldiers to proceed to torch the president’s house and the Capitol. At Wednesday’s oral argument, the court, sitting across the street from the Capitol, can begin to tidy up its establishment clause jurisprudence that Justice Clarence Thomas correctly says is “in shambles.”

Here’s the enlightened reasoning he uses to arrive at this counterfactual conclusion.

  • It’s just the Outrage Brigade complaining. They “choose to be offended”, so they should just not choose that way. Only people who take Christianity for granted have voices that count.
  • It’s tradition. Yeah, so? Slavery was a tradition, too. That something was done one way in the past does not entail that it must be done in the same way for eternity.
  • It’s passive. No one is going to be converted just by walking past a cross, which is true, but that’s not the concern. This is on government land. It sends the message to everyone that the government favors one religion over another.
  • Honoring the war dead is a secular purpose. Sure, it’s even a humanist purpose. But what matters here is how they’re honored. Would Will make the same argument if the symbol were an inverted pentagram instead of a cross? No, he would not. He would freak out that the dead were being honored with sacrilege…to him.
  • There are other Christian symbols in government facilities. Yep. That’s not an argument for keeping others, it’s an argument for tearing them all down. Or, if they’re artistically worthy, neatly excising them and transferring them to private hands.
  • Circumlocutions. Many defenders are referring to this as a “cross-shaped object”, as if that passively removes all religious context. If I say a statue is only shaped like a winged demon osculating the hind end of a goat, that doesn’t abruptly turn it into an abstract, neutral object that would make no heretical impression on a passing Christian.

The whole thing is ridiculous. This cross was dedicated as an explicitly Christian symbol.

Representative Stephen W. Gambrill of the Fifth Maryland District delivered the dedication address, in which he stated: “You men of Prince Georges County fought for the sacred right of all to live in peace and security and by the token of this cross, symbolic of Calvary, let us keep fresh the memory of our boys who died for a righteous cause.”1 An invocation was given by Rev. A.J. Carey, pastor of St. Jerome’s Catholic Church. Rev. B.P. Robertson, pastor of the First Baptist Church pronounced a benediction.

For a court that claims the intent of the authors of the Constitution must be respected to suddenly pretend that the plain intent, clear symbology, and openly stated purpose of a giant Christian cross can be disregarded so they can maintain a dishonest pretense is absurd to an extreme degree. This is Christian conservative hypocrisy.

But I’m a pragmatist. I’m willing to compromise. I’m willing to cut George Will and other fanatics some slack and let them have their obvious Jesus monument if they’ll concede that we can reinterpret the Second Amendment to mean that only official military organizations of the US government are free to bear arms. You know, that’s less insane than putting on a pious act that a Christian symbol of Calvary is nothing but two sticks at right angles to one another.

Also, hey, George Will: read Matthew 26:34.

Catholic Child Rapist Pell convicted

Finally. It’s been revealed that Cardinal George Pell is officially a convicted child rapist.

Cardinal George Pell, one of the most senior figures in the Catholic Church, sexually assaulted two 13-year-old choirboys at a cathedral in the Australian city of Melbourne 22 years ago, according to a verdict by an Australian jury in December that has been suppressed by a gag order until now.

Details of the assault are at the link, I’d rather not repeat them.

Celebrate the conviction by playing this song LOUD. It’s a lovely catchy piece of music, and now it’s especially appropriate.

I swear to…who?

I am so glad that I don’t watch Fox News, but that other people suffer through it to let me know what they think is the latest threat to the Republic. It seems the newest change that has Republicans foaming at the mouth is a new oath.

The House Committee on Natural Resources has in the past used a witness oath that reads, “Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony that you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

The proposed new version will say, “Do you solemnly swear or affirm, under penalty of law, that the testimony that you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

If it helps them make up their minds, as a devious atheist with a scheming mind I could regard that “so help you God” clause as a loophole — God doesn’t help me, so the oath doesn’t apply. Also, you’ve just made me affirm a religious oath that I do not believe in, so by saying “yes”, I’ve already said a lie. A few more won’t hurt, then. And if my punishment for lying is hellfire, which I don’t believe in, then there is no compulsion here.

As Rob Boston points out,

The gang at Fox News might want to ponder the following statement: “A magistrate ought not to tender an oath to an unregenerate man … and cause him to take the name of God in vain.”

What left-wing Marxist said that? Actually, it was colonial-era religious freedom pioneer Roger Williams. Williams was a far-sighted man and a devout Christian to boot. Fox News could learn a thing or two from him.

Exactly. The Republicans already would consider me an unregenerate man, so why should I find that oath binding? It does have the benefit of giving us unregenerates an opportunity to spit in the face of their imaginary god, but otherwise, it doesn’t have much going for it.