The battle is joined! War on Christmas comes earlier every year

The other day, Fox News was hyperfocused on the War on Christmas.

I guess I need to gird my loins or something.

First you fondle your gun, then you worship it as your god

A Moonie splinter cult is now buying up property and using AR-15s as church accoutrements. These are not good neighbors.

Moon’s congregation, Rod of Iron Ministries, also known as The World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, is a gun-centric spinoff of the much larger Unification Church, founded by his late father, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a self-proclaimed messiah and businessman whose followers were famously known as “Moonies.” The younger Moon, who also goes by “The Second King,” split from the main church amid a dramatic falling-out with his mother about who, between the two of them, was the rightful heir to his father’s empire.

In 2017, Moon founded his church in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, siphoning off hundreds of followers from the main congregation who were willing to make the seemingly radical leap of incorporating high-powered rifles into their spiritual life. He did this with the backing of his older brother, Kook-jin “Justin” Moon, the CEO of Kahr Arms, a gun manufacturing company headquartered nearby. In recent years, he’s made headlines for recreating the mass wedding ceremonies that his father’s church was famous for, with the addition of AR-15s.

I think a good part of the problem here in America is that we have a constitution that says you have freedom of religion, which is interpreted to mean that churches have complete freedom from any kind of regulation, rather than that individuals have freedom of conscience. Similarly, despite the word “regulated” in the amendment that allows people to keep and bear arms, we have interpreted that to mean we get to go crazy with guns. The constitution doesn’t say anything about capitalism, but similarly the parasites have decided that a “free market” implies a total absence of constraint.

Oh, well, we all know how this will end up.

(In case you’ve forgotten your trashy pop culture, that’s a scene from Beneath the Planet of the Apes, where the mutant humans worship a nuclear missile they want to use to destroy the world.)

The poison in Murdock, Minnesota

If someone said to you, We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children, and if they then said they were good people, would you take their word for it? I sure wouldn’t. That’s Nazi shit. If you were a city council member voting on whether they could buy a church in your community, would you be reassured if they argued that their goal was to guarantee that there were would be blond haired, blue eyed children a hundred thousand years from now? Would you vote yes if they promised that, while they weren’t going to allow any black people to set foot in the church, they’d be polite about escorting them out?

All that happened just a few miles down the road from me, in Murdock, Minnesota, where the Asatru FolK Assembly is setting up shop. The city council member who voted in favor, Pat Thorson, is a smug centrist white guy who wasn’t offended as long as they weren’t coming after him, and he asked if he looks like a white supremacist. Yeah, Pat, you do. You don’t have to wear a pointy white hat and set crosses on fire to be a racist — all it takes is that you shrug your shoulders and look the other way when bigots move in.

The Guardian sent a crew to Murdock to dig into what’s going on. I went down there myself a while back, and all I could see was another tiny Minnesota hamlet, population 300, which was dead quiet and sleepy, with absolutely nothing happening. I should have gone on a Sunday morning and crashed the church if I wanted to see anything, I guess.

I watched that and came away with total contempt for their church, which they call “Baldurshof” and less respect for small town city councils.

How to breed atheists

This video (transcript) makes a lot of sense, pointing out that how atheists are made is a combination of historical/cultural/emotional experiences plus an intellectual assessment of the meaning of those experiences.

I used to think I too was brought up as a religious believer, going to church and Sunday school almost every week. I noticed something, though.

  • When I was very young, I would regularly see my great-grandparents in church. I’m confident that they were true believers, their house was full of religious and ethnic displays, like the Lord’s Prayer in Norwegian on a plaque. But they stopped going late in life because they were relatively frail, and were dependent on being driven to church by my grandparents, who…
  • Almost never went to church. Maybe sometimes for a Christmas pageant, although they were quite insistent that we kids had to go, to which my parents…

  • …agreed. My parents also didn’t go to church. My father, never — he would say that he was a member of the Church of Christ, as was my paternal grandmother, but I would never see them pass through the door of that church. My Lutheran mother never went, either. She was a good mother, but she had six kids, and Sunday morning was two hours she could use to recover, even if it did impose an additional cost of getting the kids into their shiny shoes and putting on nice coats or dresses and putting a bow tie on me.

And, you know, I was able to use my keen observational skills and analytical mind to put the facts in order and realize that church was a sham, a glorified babysitter for an overworked family that saw no other value in the ritual. I was a Christian because I was told that I was a Christian, and I found no lasting spiritual value in memorizing bible verses or singing hymns. I could also see that my parents were good people who didn’t need Christianity to make them that way.

So here I am now.

You mean there are degrees of Catholic foolishness?

The Catholic Church seems to be experiencing a few rifts of their own. The current pope has apparently been sending down decrees to bust up the practice of the old Latin Mass, which is rather interesting. Back when I was a kid I had Catholic friends who talked about how their church was changing, which, as a lackadaisical Lutheran, I didn’t get at all. Wasn’t Protestantism a bigger upheaval? My Sunday school teacher said so. But now I guess the Pope is tightening the rules even more.

The members of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church have been on edge for weeks, worried that their way of worship is under threat, and what makes their fears especially agonizing is the identity of the person leading the crackdown: Pope Francis.

The congregants — belonging to one of hundreds of U.S. churches devoted to the old Latin Mass — say they can’t understand the pope’s thinking on limiting its practice. Some say they are praying that Francis’s better judgment still might prevail. One influential church member, theologian Peter Kwasniewski, has spent day after day publishing fiery opinion pieces, calling Francis’s decree contemptuous, vindictive toward Catholic traditionalists, an atomic bomb against the faith.

“Let’s not mince words,” Kwasniewski wrote at one point on Facebook. “This is a declaration of total war.”

Now, as a more worldly atheist who has encountered too many conservative Catholics, I think I understand. I read that and what I thought, again not as a knowledgeable Catholic, that it was obvious what he’s doing: he’s cracking down on the far right Catholics because they’re absolutist, authoritarian assholes who hinder any progress. Not that I think he’s particularly progressive, he just wants to shift the church a few millimeters to the left when what they really need to do is break up and move the rubble a few kilometers, but that’s what I, in my ignorance, figured must be going on, and surprisingly, the article confirmed it for me.

His mid-July decree dramatically tightened the rules on who can celebrate the old Latin Mass, requiring, among other things, new permission from local bishops. Some of the pope’s allies say the goal is to curtail forces antagonistic not specifically toward Francis’s pontificate, but toward Catholicism’s sometimes-lurching effort since the Second Vatican Council to modernize and reform.

The story further confirms my assumption that Catholic conservatives are assholes.

But many congregants speak of an inner turmoil — of feeling at odds with the supreme authority of their religion over something so core. To them, the Latin Mass is not just a form of prayer, but also the central force for like-minded people in their community. For people who take the faith seriously. Who pray the rosary. Who believe the teaching as it was written — that homosexual acts are disordered, that contraception is wrong, that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ. Some of these are minority viewpoints even among American Catholics, and St. Francis congregants say they sometimes feel like outsiders in their own city, uneasy about sharing their convictions, other than at their church.

Again, I’m not arguing that the church hierarchy is not awful, right up to the tippy-top — they have a tremendous amount of guilt for pedophilia and genocide — but that these people who want the Latin Mass are worse. These are the Michael Voris/Church Militant types who want to roll the whole world back into the Middle Ages, like this guy:

For Jacob Bauer, 24, that meant applying the principles of the church to nearly every aspect of his family life. It meant modesty — no trips to the beach, for instance, where revealing clothing would be on display. It meant refraining from gossip. It meant a defining 2017 conversation with his eventual wife, Hannah, now 25, about how the role of women had veered off course during modern times, and how something more traditional would be best for their family. So Hannah decided to reconsider her optometry career goals and stay home to raise a family. They now have one young child and hope to have more. Hannah wants to home-school the children.

“I was given the conviction I could do that from church,” where many women were going the same route, she said.

If that’s really what she wanted, fine. It’s just funny how every time conservatives talk about gender roles they somehow magically end up deciding that the woman who was on the road to a productive career is the one who needs to drop everything and stay home with the kids. Especially when the man’s primary role seems to be hanging out on Twitter telling everyone to go to Mass.

Bauer says he just wants space for his family to follow their own beliefs, without threats, and so his response has been to think of the pope daily: To pray for him, to cite him by name, with the hope that he “sees the love a lot of us have for the Latin Mass.” On Twitter — where Bauer describes himself in his bio as a “12th, 13th, 14th, 15th-century moderate; 21st-century hyper-traditionalist” — he has been similarly civil. He has regularly extolled the virtues of the old Latin Mass but refrained from criticism of Francis.

I’m not so civil. That’s an asshole hiding behind his civility. I can see why the Pope would want to distance himself from these wackaloons.

By the way, it’s not just Catholics. The worst members of every religion are the absolute authoritarian assholes, who always seem to muscle their way into loud leadership positions.

I see a pattern here

In the US and Canada, we’ve had a tremendous number of cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests — over and over, with the church hierarchy concealing and actively shuffling criminal priests about. But maybe it’s just us Americans? Or Canadians? So let’s see what’s going on in other countries. It’s another horror.

A major report released Tuesday said French Catholic clerics had abused more than 200,000 minors over the past 70 years, a systemic trauma that the inquiry’s leader described as deep and “cruel.”

The report’s findings could trigger a public reckoning in a country where church officials long stalled efforts to investigate complicity. The findings also add to the picture of country-by-country trauma within a religion that has tended to find abuse on a stunning scale anywhere it has looked.

I know, you find it hard to believe, but the common link seems to be … the Catholic priesthood! Who could have guessed that?

I think the appropriate response would be to disband the church, for governments in every country to seize their assets, and for everyone to look on Catholic priests as we would Nazis or the KKK.

That last is only a minor punishment in the USA.

I think, though, we know what to expect from the Vatican: empty pieties and disingenuous regret. But Jesus, 200,000 abused children, how are they going to gloss over that?

Ken Ham adds another flag

Answers in Genesis is fond of a peculiar metaphor: portraying secularism and Christianity as two castles in a bitter war. You can find lots of cartoons at their site illustrating this binary worldview, but the latest adds a new flag to the array of banners flying from “secularism”.

Yep, “Pedophilia” is new. These guys think that if you’re not Christian, you’re a pedophile…conveniently ignoring all the Christian preachers who’ve been exposed as sexual abusers. As summarized by William Trollinger:

One other thing about Ham’s fortress image. In Righting America at the Creation Museum Susan Trollinger and I argue that Ham and AiG and the Christian Right hold to a radical binary. In this binary the world is divided into two groups, Christian and Secular. Each group is identified with a set of linked terms that necessarily are the opposite of the other group’s set of linked terms.

So, according to this image, to be secular is to be a racist pedophile who supports the killing of babies and the disabled, and who suffers from gender confusion. To be Christian is to be “color-blind,” anti-pedophiliac, life-affirming, and very clear on the gender binary and one’s place within it.

What’s going on here? Do secularists have a reputation for raping babies or being racist? No, this is just propaganda. If you’re wondering where it came from, the answer is obvious.

Referring to the image displayed here, which Ken Ham has circulated via Twitter and Facebook, a friend asked if, by adding the “pedophilia” flag to the “secular worldview” fortress, Ham “is trying to appeal to QAnon” devotees?

It seems obvious that the answer is yes.

That site then links to an insane video filmed at Ken Ham’s Ark Park by a rambling QAnon devotee — it’s a maddening mess by a guy wandering around ranting at a camera, with the permission of AiG, blithering on about God wanting Trump to have two terms, etc. AiG has been suspiciously quiet about it all, not publicly speaking out for or against QAnon, while it’s clear where their sympathies and pocketbooks lie. It’s Q that has been demonizing Democrats, liberals, and anyone sane by accusing them of being pedophiles who drink the blood of children, and now AiG pops up and libels secular folk as pedophiles? It’s not hard to see who they’re catering to.

Welcome to the apostolic cult

I’ve been watching the smart people at the top of the university hierarchy slowly realize that there’s still a pandemic going on, and that they should have sane policies in place to protect the students and staff — you know, the people who do the actual work of the university and interact with students, which they, fortunately for them, don’t have to do. So we have restored mask requirements in university buildings and will be imposing a vaccination requirement, all sensible, practical actions that I’m surprised took them so long to do. I’d applaud, except that it could only be interpreted as mockery because it would be a bit like giving the rich kid in the class an “A” because he drove to class in his Maserati one day. You don’t get prizes for doing the bare minimum.

Well, maybe I should praise them a little bit more because jesus fucking christ, look at Morris Area Schools, our public school district, has established as the rules for the coming school year. The school board thinks the pandemic is over!

So, no face masks, social distancing is treated with ambiguity (there isn’t going to be any social distancing), there will be no distance learning option, and oh hell no they aren’t going to require vaccinations for anyone. You may notice that there is a jarring difference in one aspect of the public school experience: the kids have to wear masks on the bus, and they have to be fairly thorough in cleaning them. That’s because the buses are regulated by state and federal laws, while once the kids are released into the schools, local control is imposed.

Here’s what you need to know to understand the basis for this lack of sense: Morris public schools are under the control of an apostolic religious cult. They pack the school board — they can do that, because they all vote as a bloc under the influence of their religious leaders — and they have undue influence because they threaten to pull all their kids out of the Morris high school and send them to another small town district, and enrollment affects state funding. It goes without saying that of course they are profoundly conservative wankers who voted for Donald Trump. They’ve also been expanding their business holdings in Morris, which is worrisome. Stevens County is darned close to becoming a theocracy, where the women are all required to wear dresses and grow their hair long and pin it up into a bun. It’s just weird and rather disturbing.

I guess we can hope they all die off thanks to COVID-19, except…why did they have to start with infecting the kids? The children don’t deserve this.

Here’s one strong response from a mother responding to the similar ineffectuality of the Chattanooga school district:

Although it won’t help to be able to opt out of an irrational pandemic response, because the threat requires communal cooperation.

Reap what you sow

Ah, the things that outrage Catholics are always fair game.

In early July, The New York Times published two articles that had seemingly little to do with one another. One covered the Entomological Society of America’s decision to stop using the terms gypsy moth and gypsy ant. The other was about a new movie by the director Paul Verhoeven featuring an affair between two 17th-century nuns. “Forgive them, Father, for they have sinned,” the article begins. “Repeatedly! Creatively! And wait until you hear what they did with that Virgin Mary statuette.”

“When I read that article in the morning over my yogurt and cranberry juice, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was just disgusting,” Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and writer, told me. He was talking about the movie, not the moths. He found it striking that the Times would deferentially cover a language shift meant to show respect for Roma people but would also print a story that relished a film scene in which a holy Catholic object is defiled. “Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice,” he wrote on Twitter, linking to an article he wrote 20 years ago that explores why some Americans still treat Catholics with suspicion or contempt. His argument, then and now, is that it’s acceptable in secular, liberal, elite circles—such as The New York Times—to make fun of Catholicism, particularly the Church’s emphasis on hierarchy, dogma, and canon law and its teachings related to sex.

I would ask, did anyone make you commit a lesbian sex act? Did they make you watch it? Did you have to sexually abuse a Virgin Mary statuette at any time in your life? Does a statue have a higher moral status than the autonomy of a human being? Why are you bothered?

Anti-Catholic prejudice would be, for instance, burning churches and denying people the right to worship there, or discriminating against Catholics in employment, or tying Catholic priests to a stake and setting them on fire, or trying to pass anti-Catholic voting laws. That isn’t happening. Save your disgust for those kinds of actions, I will share it with you.

Did you know you can buy a spider dildo or a Trump dildo or an Obama dildo? Those are not examples of bias or discrimination or harm done to their subjects. Get over it. You can venerate your “holy Catholic object”, and other people get to laugh at it.

Martin thinks this is the “last acceptable prejudice”. How silly. There are many other prejudices that are still persisting, it’s not as if all the others have vanished leaving Catholicism the last bigotry standing.

Green: Do you still think anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice?

Martin: Yes, I do. The kinds of things you read about Catholics would never be tolerated for other religions. The faith is treated as a joke. People see chastity and celibacy as a negation of sexuality, so they see it as a threat. But I often point out to people: You know people who are celibate and chaste. You know people who are single. You know aunts and uncles. You know widows. No one thinks they’re insane or disgusting or pedophiles or dangerous. But when a person chooses it freely, suddenly they become a freak.

I don’t consider single people to be freaks, but remember…your religion is the one (among many) that worships virginity. You go the other way and think that not having sex makes you special and holy.

But nice of Martin to bring up freely chosen identities that ostracize one. You know, like homosexuality, a “moral disorder”.

To chose someone of the same sex for one’s sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the Creator’s sexual design. Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent.

As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one’s own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. The Church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood.

Or being transgender, which “annihilates nature”.

The process of identifying sexual identity is made more difficult by the fictitious constract known as “gender neuter” or “third gender”, which has the effect of obscuring the fact that a person’s sex is a structural determinant of male or female identity. Efforts to go beyond the constitutive male-female sexual difference, such as the ideas of “intersex” or “transgender”, lead to a masculinity or feminity that is ambiguous, even though (in a self-contradictory way), these concepts themselves actually presuppose the very sexual difference that they propose to negate or supersede. This oscillation between male and female becomes, at the end of the day, only a ‘provocative’ display against so-called ‘traditional frameworks’, and one which, in fact, ignores the suffering of those who have to live situations of sexual indeterminacy. Similar theories aim to annihilate the concept of ‘nature’, (that is, everything we have been given as a pre-existing foundation of our being and action in the world), while at the same time implicitly reaffirming its existence.

Or that abortion is an unforgivable sin.

Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.

From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.

I know people who are homosexuals, or transgender, or have had an abortion, and I don’t think they’re insane or disgusting or dangerous (or pedophiles, for that matter — where did that come from? Are priests always obsessed with pedophilia?). Yet the Catholic Church thinks they are disordered or insane or evil.

People who live in glass cathedrals and try to control the lives of other people probably shouldn’t be throwing stones. I don’t know how they live with the hypocrisy.

So many layers…who would have thought AiG could be this sophisticated?

Look at this cartoon. Look at it!

The multi-dimensional wrongness blew my mind. But you know I’m going to have to take it apart, no matter what demons from the pain dimension respond to my provocation.

Let’s start at the top. The Frankenstein’s-monster-headed person is complaining about the hypocrisy of groups imposing their beliefs on others. As examples, he cites:

  • Transgender laws for restrooms: Transgender activists aren’t imposing their beliefs on anyone, they just want the right to pee in private, as I’m sure those Christians also would like. It’s the anti-trans people and Christian lobbyists who want to impose chromosome checks or genital checks or who knows what else on people’s privilege of being able to enter a personal private space for personal private activities.
  • Gay couples suing bakers: Again, these are gay people who just want to buy a cake, like everyone else, who are being denied a common privilege by Christians using the excuse that it’s against their religion to treat one group of citizens differently than another group of citizens.
  • Evolution taught as fact: Right. Because it is. We’d just like to teach the best available explanations with the best available evidence; it’s Christians who have leapt into the fray insisting that we teach bad explanations with no credible evidence to students. I’m afraid that’s what we’re supposed to do in a science class, and it is not acceptable to insert your religious biases and opinions into these kinds of classes. You’ll notice that scientists are not imposing their beliefs on what you get to teach in Sunday school, it’s always the reverse, Christians trying to dictate the content of science classes.
  • Feminist activists marching: How dare women expect equal rights?

What makes this cartoon particularly twisted is that they’re the ones causing problems for everyone else by insisting we must obey their freaky weird rules about gender, sexuality, and science, and all of the things they’re complaining about are people resisting their dominion.

The caption is also fascinating. I agree that standing for a particular belief is obviously in conflict with other beliefs that are in opposition. This idea does put the cartoon in an interesting light, because it means that believing that the things listed are bad makes their opposition clear. So this creepy blockheaded Christian is against equal rights for transgender human beings, is against gay couples loving each other, is against science, and is against women having the same rights as men.. Fine. He just has to acknowledge that opposing those things requires that he impose his beliefs — not his facts, not his evidence — on others.

That last sentence is a killer. The implication is that Jesus stands with their beliefs, not with the oppressed transgender or gay people, and not with the nature of the universe. Yet there are many Christians who are pro-trans rights and gay rights, and who want their kids taught good science, and see no conflict between that and their mythical savior who served the poor and oppressed. Funny how that works, isn’t it? It’s almost as though blockheaded Christians are kind of ridiculous for appropriating that particular figurehead.

Oooh, I seem to have worked my way through the puzzle box. A mysterious man suddenly stands in front of me. “Hey, you don’t look like Jesus! Who are you?”

Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some. Angels to others.

My kind of guy. Let’s go.