The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

2002 September

God Squad Review XI

September 30, 2002 | Comments Off

The Squad sets the bar rather low this week in its answer to Jim of West Virginia, who says that his teenage son’s favorite show is “The Sopranos” but is “wondering if we should let him watch a show with so much violence, nudity and criminal behavior that’s not in sync with the values we teach in our home.” Their answer: “As long as your home doesn’t look like the Bada Bing Club, your son is probably safe.” Hmmm. What if it just looks like Hooters? Or Scores?

Now, I was expecting the Squad to get serious after that, and they do – I think. They suggest that the show is full of “teachable moments.” Jim should watch it with his son and “point out that treating women as sexual objects and justifying immoral and illegal behavior are only a few of many options in life.” Plus, Jim could discuss “the issue of stereotyping Italian-Americans.”

Only a few of many options in life. If what’s on the Sopranos is so out of sync with what’s taught in Jim’s home, why would he have to explain that sexism, immorality, and law-breaking aren’t the sole options, but “only a few?” And why are they considered options at all? I know “it’s all about choice,” but won’t the Squad put its foot down about anything?

I guess they do, in a sense. Their answer prioritizes sensitivity to women and Italian-Americans, which, as we all know, is far more important than eradicating that “immoral and illegal behavior” we sometimes see on The Sopranos. You know, the behavior involving bludgeoning people to death with golf clubs or metal pipes, or handcuffing them to stair railings and taunting them about how they’re about to get blown away.

Don’t get me wrong. “The Sopranos” is a great show. But sexism, racism and gratuitous violence are what makes it great. So don’t ruin your child’s enjoyment of it with a lot of sanctimonious PC twaddle.

Update: In an earlier God Squad Review, I critiqued the Squad’s attack on atheism, andlater gave some links to letters to the editor critical of the their stance. Apparently due to space limitations, Newsday didn’t publish a couple of the better letters, so here they are, from the Northeast Atheist Association and the Long Island Secular Humanists.

Vatican Approves Pornolese-Latin Mass

September 28, 2002 | Comments Off

The Vatican, September 28, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

Settling a controversy which has roiled the Catholic Church since Vatican II adopted the vernacular Mass in the 1960’s, a committee of Cardinals has authorized a new version of the rite in pornolized Latin. The new Mass was created by running the original Latin version through the Pornolizer, a computer program which translates documents into a pornographic idiom by interspersing uncommonly obscene sexual expletives throughout the body of the text. Priests adopting the new Mass will open the service by bowing before the altar and reciting the words “in nomine ‘Bust-a-Cunt’ Patris, et Clit Collector Filii, et Spiritus ‘Suck my tits dry’ Sancti.”

The move is intended to simultaneously appease traditionalists, who saw the abandonment of the Latin Mass as a sacrilege, and modernists, who favored making the rite more understandable by conducting it in the mother tongue of the congregants. “By combining Latin and Pornolese, the Church moves both backward and forward at once,” said Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. “The ancient tongue symbolizes our past, and the new one heralds the cum-laden pedophiliac bog into which we shall sink.”

The Cardinals are still grappling, however, with two issues that have arisen regarding the translation process. First, the Vatican must decide whether to Latinize the obscenities or leave them in the vernacular. One camp favors using only obscenities appearing naturally in Latin, such as “cunnilingus” and “fellatio.” Other Cardinals propose the addition of Latin suffixes to the Pornolese words, i.e., converting “clit collector” to “clittus collectorum.”

The second issue concerns the Pornolizer’s distinctively heterosexual bias. “We are a church of “boy-ballers,” not “rug-munchers,” said Ratzinger. The problem is not viewed as a major obstacle, however. “Pornolizer already spews out plenty of “cock” and “ass,” so it’s just a question of filtering out the “muffs,” “tits” and “cuntlapps,” he explained.

The ailing Pope John Paul II is said to have signed off on the Cardinals’ plan. Questions have surfaced, nonetheless, as to whether the Pontiff fully understood the proposal. An anonymous source within the Vatican reports that the Pope signaled his approval of the use of Pornolese by indicating that Portugal was one of his favorite countries.

Shark in Virgin Birth

September 27, 2002 | Comments Off

Detroit, Michigan, September 27, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

A shark in a Detroit aquarium has been blessed with a virgin birth, according to National Geographic Magazine. “This is what I intended in the first place,” said God in announcing the Second Coming. “I originally sent the Holy Ghost down to mate with a shark, but somehow he ended up with a Jew — how he confused the two, I have no idea.”

The miraculous conception represents a sharp about-face for God, who only days ago sided with the human virgin Mary against the sharks who ate Elian Gonzales’ mother. “But then I saw the shark,” he explained. “She likes it on top, on bottom, rough, gentle, doggie-style, you name it — exactly the sort of animal I wanted to have non-sex with.” An aquarium keeper, Dawn, who was near the tank at the time, confirmed that nothing untoward happened.

God noted that the new Savior will spread a gospel consistent with her holy, immaculate origins and razor-sharp rip-saw teeth. “Jawsus will preach of love, peace, submission and unfuckingly bloody, brutal and unprovoked flesh-shredding attacks,” he said. “The new Word shall be called Islam.” When advised that Islam already exists, God observed that Jawsus had a pea-sized brain and asked “is ‘Southern Baptist’ taken?”

God and the Objectivists, Part 3

September 26, 2002 | Comments Off

This is the third in series of essays exploring whether a belief in God is consistent with Objectivist principles. In parts 1 and 2 (here and here) I explored whether a belief in any sort of God was consistent with an epistemology of reason. Before I move on to today’s discussion, I want to clarify one point regarding my use of the term “reason.” Arthur Silber employs a definition of reason, supplied by Rand, as the “faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.” However, my earlier discussion was narrowly limited to one aspect of reason which does not necessarily or meaningfully involve the senses: pure, analytical reasoning, the sort of a priori analysis employed in logic and mathematics. It is the sort of reasoning that allows us to know, without venturing into the physical world, that there are no square circles, married bachelors, or omnipotent and omniscient beings. Those things simply cannot exist, because their very definitions involve contradictions.

The distinction is important in discussions of God because, as explained below, there are many crazy sorts of gods in which it would still not be, strictly speaking, “irrational” or “illogical” to believe under my narrower definition of reason. However, under Rand’s broader definition, belief in those gods would be irrational because their existence is contrary to the sense experience upon which reason acts. The difference is one of terminology rather than substance, but keeping it in mind will help avert unnecessary confusions which might arise regarding our respective viewpoints.

Metaphysics. Is a belief in God consistent with a metaphysics of objective reality? As I understand it, Objectivism holds that reality is something that is independent of the mind, and not a function of our ideas; that everything in the universe has a specific nature and identity, existing as it is does whether we like it or not; and that there is no supernatural reality, only the natural reality that we can discover through science. Is there any meaningful definition of the word “God” that is consistent with these premises?

As a preliminary matter, let’s make sure to whisk away, as we did in Part 1, all those definitions of God which, although in part empirical, involve logical contradictions. The reason that I must repeat that here is that theologians frequently disguise those sort of gods in naturalistic dress. They point to the historical evidence of Jesus or Mohammed or of the Flood as empirical “proof” of God’s existence. But you don’t have to go digging in Bethlehem or Mecca or trawl the ocean floor to dispose of those sorts of claims, if ultimately they rest upon some self-contradictory definition. If Jesus is said to be the son of God, but “God” is defined as something as impossible as a square circle, then proving the existence of Jesus proves nothing. He’s no more evidence of God than proof of tornadoes in turn-of-the-century Kansas is proof of the Wizard of Oz or the Wicked Witch of the West.

So let’s turn to some concept of God that is at least logically possible, and see whether an Objectivist could believe in it consistent with a scientific, naturalistic world view. I think this mindset quickly eliminates the lower level anthropomorphic gods. We’ve been to Mount Olympus and there’s no Zeus; we haven’t seen Thor, either, and there are scientific explanations for his thunderbolts.

Of course, gods of this sort are still empirically possible within a naturalistic framework. Zeus and Thor might just move faster than the telescopes and other instruments we use to try to detect them. They are like those elephants that surround us in every room, ducking and darting about to avoid detection when we turn around. And it is also possible, too, that we are merely brains in vats in some mad scientist’s laboratory hallucinating our very lives; that we were created five minutes ago with our memories intact; that we are growing ten times bigger every second without noticing it because everything is else is growing with us; or that the planet Neptune has a Tootsie Roll center. But the mere possibility of any one of these scenarios does not command our belief in it, and the weight of all our other experience weighs heavily against it. And as none of them rests on any positive evidence (other than the knowledge that physical laws do not specifically forbid them), we have no reason to say one is more probable than the other.

The mainstream Judeo-Christian-Islamic gods fall for the same reason. Although modern theologians try to pretend that there is a more abstract and sophisticated god at the core of each of those faiths, there is nothing to identify that god as distinctively Jewish or Christian or Muslim once you remove all of the anthropomorphic and historical trappings from it. Subtracting Christ from Christianity leaves you with inanity, or something close to it.

However, as I mentioned in Part 2, even David Hume concluded that “the cause or causes of order in the universe probably bear some remote analogy to human intelligence.” This rather vaguely-defined “cause” could arguably qualify as some sort of God; could an Objectivist reasonably agree with Hume and believe in it? The very natural laws that the Objectivist embraces evidence it to the extent that they slavishly obey mathematics; a more chaotic and unreasonable universe is certainly conceivable. And the Objectivist need not be convinced by the argument that the world would be incomprehensible were it not for the immutability of the natural laws. They would still be comprehensible during the times that they were stable, and the universe would still be perfectly comprehensible even if the laws appeared to vary from place to place.

Pornolize This

September 25, 2002 | Comments Off

The Raving Atheist extends his eternal gratitude to La Blogatrice, Sasha Castel, for introducing him to The Pornolizer — a website that offers translations with a difference. I have long suspected that my difficulties with the Bible are merely semantic, the consequence of misinterpretation arising from a poor translation. So I plugged the Good Book into the Pornolizer in the hope of getting some new answers to old questions.

First, how did it all begin? According to Genesis 1, from the King “Fuckface” James version, like this:


1 In the titty-fucking beginning God created the muff-sniffing heaven and the earth.
2 And the asslicking earth was without form, and void; and gamahuches was upon the smooching face of the deep. And the fingerfucking Spirit of God sucked upon the face of the aardvarking waters.
3 And “Dirk Diggler” God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And “Asshole” God saw the muff sniffing light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the shafting darkness.
5 And “Big Cock” God called the light Day, and the fomping darkness he fingered Night. And the fingerfucking and the banging morning were the first day.
6 And “Cock Sucker” God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the ballbusting waters, and let it divide the blows from the motherfucks.

Is homosexuality really wrong? As explained in Leviticus 20:13, only if a heterosexual man acts as if he were raping a lesbian:


If a cuntlicking man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a fistfucking woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Does the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12: still apply? Only to mutual masturbation:


Therefore all wad pulls whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for ballbusts is the law and the fingerfucks.

And by the way, it turns out, that in the shortest passage of the Bible (John 11:35), it’s not Jesus crying over Lazarus:


Aardvarks wept.

Okay, maybe Biblical morality is superior to some of the alternatives. But if you ever tire of toeing the line and want a second opinion, just cut and paste this (http://www.biblegateway.com/cgi-bin/bible?version=KJV&passage=all&language=english) into the space provided in the upper right-hand corner of the Pornolizer site.

Land/Sea Gods in Surf/Turf Reef/Raft Rift

September 24, 2002 | Comments Off

Miami, Florida, September 24, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

A dispute has erupted between God and the Greek sea deities over whether the biblical dietary prohibitions against the consumption of shrimp, crab, lobster, other shellfish and Eli

Elephant God Announces Jew-Conversion Drive

September 23, 2002 | Comments Off

New Delhi, India, September 23, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

Stepping into the vacuum created earlier this month when Catholic and Protestant scholars announced a policy against seeking converts from Judaism, the world’s leading Hindu elephant god today declared the formation of Jews for Ganesha. The new religion is expected to enter into a fierce competition with the Southern Baptists, who have no anti-conversion policy, for the souls of world’s remaining Jews.

ELEJEW.JPG

Sporting a yarmulke, Ganesha noted Hinduism’s great empathy for the Jewish people. “We share a long, terrible history of oppression,” he explained. “The Egyptian pyramids were built by Jewish slaves, and the Taj Mahal was built by elephant slaves.” Ganesha noted that elephants are still being persecuted for their ivory, and Jews are still being persecuted for being themselves. “However, in these times elephants alone are forced to bear logs and stone upon their backs,” he added. “It is time that we once again joined together to share in all burdens.”

Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League decried the move as anti-Semitic. “Jews are already stereotyped as having horns and big noses,” he said. “With their new tusks and trunks, the misconceptions and prejudice can only increase.” Foxman also noted that the number of existing Jewish and elephant jokes will subject the new adherents to a tidal wave of ridicule, and that new ones are bound to spring up. “I can hear them already,” he said. “Why do elephant-Jews have such long trunks? Because the air doesn’t cost peanuts. How do you stop an elephant-JAP [Jewish American Princess] from charging? Take away her credit cards.”

Ganesha downplayed the risk of new jokes, noting that the multiple-subject gags suggested by Foxman were difficult to follow and barely made any sense. And in a surprise announcement, he revealed that former vice presidential candidate and future presidential contender Joseph Lieberman had volunteered to be his first convert. “The prospect of electing the first Elephant-Jewish President will be too exciting for the American people to resist,” he explained. “He’s agreed to change his name to Lie-Barbar-man, and our slogan will be “Never forget,” said Ganesha. “That, combined with the fact that Joe’s a Democrat who now looks like the Republican party emblem, will guarantee a landslide.”

ELELIEB.JPG

Political observers agreed that the new candidacy will likely be the death-knell for the presidential aspirations of upstart blogger Laurence Simon. “The Texas-Jew constituency is pretty thin as it is,” said political consultant Dick Morris. “It could turn into a bit circus if Simon picks Skippy the Kangaroo as a running mate, but the ultimate outcome will not be in doubt.”

God Squad Review X

September 23, 2002 | Comments Off

The Squad is preoccupied with death this week, both human and animal. The first letter, from Margaret, asks why Jesus wept (John 10:35) at the tomb of Lazarus. Specifically, she asks “[i]f Jesus knew that Lazarus was in Heaven and happy, why was he so sad and [why did he] eventually [bring] him back to this world?”

Actually, the relevant passages don’t say anything about Lazarus being in Heaven and happy. Indeed, the whole point of the chapter is that you don’t become alive again, here or anywhere else, unless Jesus resurrects you. So what Margaret should have asked, is why Jesus was sad if he knew that he was about to bring Lazarus back from the dead.

The Squad begins its answer by according the question the dignity it deserves, noting that “[w]e’re happy to answer any question that does not begin, ‘I hate my mother-in-law.'” By the time the laughter subsides, however, we find that the question [the one that Margaret should have asked] has been chopped into two unconnected parts: 1) why did Jesus weep and, 2) why did Jesus bring Lazarus back from the dead. The Squad is smart: they’re not going to be cornered into answering the really hard question, i.e., why did Jesus weep despite the very obviously comforting foreknowledge that he would make Lazarus rise again. Or, indeed, how any reasonably omniscient being could muster up much of any emotion about anything, having seen everything coming, over and over again, for all of eternity.

So the Squad’s answer to the question, as bifurcated, is not particularly interesting. “Jesus’ weeping perfectly shows his humanity, and Jesus’ ability to call Lazarus back from the dead perfectly shows his divinity.” Never mind that his weeping negates his divinity and his corpse-resuscitating negates his humanity. But what is interesting about the answer is that the Jewish half of the Squad, Rabbi Gellman, signed off on all of its Jesus talk. Especially since the Lazarus story is sandwiched between two episodes chronicling Jesus’ persecution by the Jews. They try to throw rocks at him in John 10:31, and by John 10:53 they’re plotting to kill him (P.S.: they succeed).

* * *

The Squad hedges its bets in responding to the next question from nine year old Robbie, who wants to know whether prayer will work on his “very sick” dog Buster. Yes, they say; it does. Sort of. They advise Robbie to pray “that God will heal Buster and make him well again,” or (and it’s a very big “or”) “[i]f God needs Buster in heaven, pray for the bravery to let Buster go.” Reassuringly, the Squad concludes that “[i]f you pray both these prayers, one of them will definitely be answered.”

Definitely. It’s nice to see the Squad employing logic for once: pray and the dog will either live or die. But wouldn’t the true miracle be if Buster did neither? If God violated the law of the excluded middle? Why not pray for that? After all, it’s miracles we need God for, not the bloody obvious stuff that happens whether we pray for it or not.

No use asking, I guess, why God would need to snatch little Robbie’s beloved Buster when there’s such a plentiful supply of ready-made dog-angels already heaped up in ASPCA dumpsters nationwide. Or, I suppose, why the Squad would recommend prayer over a vet.

Holy Wind (Part 2)

September 22, 2002 | Comments Off

Yet another Newsday reader Friday took note of the Holy Wind that honored the dead on the anniversary of 9/11:

There was no greater tribute paid this Sept.. 11 than that of Mother Nature.

She was angry. All day her vociferous and mighty winds roared through our state, knocking down trees and power lines. She was not to be ignored.

She was reverent. Greeting the president and survivors of victims at the World Trade Center site, her winds rushed through and around their hair and bodies as she blew into the air the hallowed dust of her lost sons and daughters.

She paid tribute to our heroes. Sweeping through a development in Massapequa, her forceful winds toppled trees at two lost firefighters’ homes, leaving all other trees in that development untouched.

* * *

God Bless America.

Too bad Mother Nature couldn’t have used her breath to blow those four planes off course a year before. I suspect that if I went around on the anniversary knocking down trees and power lines, blowing corpse-dust into people’s faces, and specifically targeting the homes of dead firefighters to vandalize, the authorities would not be glorifying me in letters to the editor.

Am I being too cruel? I think that that accusation would be valid if the letter-writer were merely being metaphorical or sentimental, but she’s serious. She sees actual significance in those two toppled Massapequan trees. It would be one thing if they were the only trees spared — a case for some sort of demented mercy could be made out of that. But to see a “tribute” in their destruction is just nuts, seriously nuts. And the American religious psyche is such that this sort of sloppy, gooey god-babble goes by completely unnoticed, and, worse yet, respected.

Waiting for Godkapundit

September 22, 2002 | Comments Off

godkapundit.jpg

God and the Objectivists (Part 2)

September 21, 2002 | Comments Off

Earlier in today’s Rave I noted that an Objectivist could reasonably believe in Fermat’s last theorem without understanding the proof of it, or knowing whether it had been conclusively determined that the proof was sound. After posting I noticed, much to my surprise, that Arthur Silber of the Light of Reason had posted an item yesterday wondering aloud whether the theorem had been solved, at about exactly the same time I was rushing out my post before running off to the Big Apple Blogger Bash 3 (see below). Scaaaaa-aary, as Joe Flaherty would say.

Arthur has more about the theorem today. He seems to believe in it, despite the lingering doubts as to the soundness of the proof. So my question remains: why not, instead, continue to put the burden of proof upon those dogmatic Fermat-ists, and disbelieve the conclusion of their theorem until such time as the proof is undeniable? And when will Arthur wonder aloud, in the same way, whether the Ontological proof has been confirmed? Or, more to the point, can a person who, having a sufficient background in philosophy and modal logic, accepts the Ontological proof, be an Objectivist?

In this connection I note that the atheist Hume openly conceded, in expositing the argument from design, that “the cause or causes of order in the universe probably bear some remote analogy to human intelligence.” However, he cautioned that “this proposition be not capable of extension, variation, or more particular explication” and “affords no inference that affects human life.” In other words, we get no further insight as to whether the “cause or causes” should rightly be called a God or gods, or any insight into its other attributes or intentions. Can one be an Objectivist but accept Hume’s conclusion that whatever caused the universe was something resembling consciousness, even if it was not God? I think a lot of Objectivists would have problems letting even that camel get its nose under the tent — because it is such a very big camel.

New York City Bloggers Celebrate on Atheist Autumn Equinox

September 21, 2002 | Comments Off

New York, New York, September 21, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

Bloggers from all around New York City gathered last night to celebrate on the eve of the Atheist Autumn Equinox. According to The Raving Atheist, godlessness ran rampant at the event, which was held at The Half King on 23rd Street.

“God was conspicuously absent from the festivities,” he said. “The alcohol we were all drinking did not turn into the blood of Christ, but had its usual and expected effect upon our coherence.” He noted that The Talking Dog did not speak in tongues, even though he might have been for all that he said. Also not handling snakes or casting Wiccan spells were Blogatrice Sasha Castel, Paul Frankenstein and Mister Swill. Other notables at the party were Elizabeth Spiers of Capital Influx, whose link from the Godless Capitalist’s blog was symbolized by a heavy gauge steel chain link bolted through her head, and Randian atheist goddess Jane Galt.

God and the Objectivists

September 21, 2002 | Comments Off

Mysterious forces in the Blogosphere have asked The Raving Atheist to join in the debate over whether a person who believes in God can be an Objectivist. To answer this question, I’ll explore whether there any definitions of the word “God” which are consistent with an epistemology of reason, a metaphysics of objective reality, an ethics of self-interest, and a politics of capitalism. I’ll start with epistemology and address the others at a later date.

Epistemology. Is a belief in God consistent with reason? As I have stated in my Basic Assumptions, my position is that many of the definitions of the word “God” are self-contradictory, for the long list of purely logical arguments given there. It is no more reasonable to believe in those gods that it is to believe that 1 + 1 = 3, or that square circles exist. I agree with Arthur Silber that believing on “faith” in spite of these arguments places you in a “deuces wild” universe where nothing makes sense and anything goes.

The problem is that there are a great many definitions of God can be constructed which do not involve outright logical contradictions. If you tweak God’s omniscience so that He doesn’t know the future completely (as some Catholic theologians have done), then He can be omnipotent since He isn’t hobbled by His past knowledge of what’s going to happen. He can also be omnibenevolent, since his omnipotence doesn’t require him to step in and fix things that he didn’t see coming. All He has to is make things right, either now or in the hereafter.

Now, of course, all this means is that reason doesn’t exclude certain kinds of Gods. It doesn’t mean that a person has any reason to affirmatively believe in them. And whether most of the gods in that subcategory actually exist is an empirical, evidentiary, scientific question, which I’ll address under my discussion of metaphysics and objective reality. But there’s still one more problem, involving the limits of reason, which may leave room for certain kinds of god.

Before I discuss those gods, I’ll illustrate the problem with a series of questions arising in other contexts. First, is it reasonable for an Objectivist to believe that 72,394,023 times 90,833 times 6,404,030 equals 772,203,682,038,205,018? I haven’t done the math, so I don’t know, and neither do you unless you have a calculator with a very long display. But right now, you’re not an atheist with respect to whether the product given above is correct. You don’t disbelieve it. It may well be that the answer given is false, but at this stage it would be unreasonable to venture an answer until you worked out the math. And since we can fairly easily work out the answer, the problem really doesn’t pose a problem for the Objectivist.

Very well. Next question. Is it reasonable for an Objectivist to believe that there is a highest prime number? It seems to me, rationally speaking, that once a number gets to be very, very, big, there just has to be at least one smaller number that goes into it. Of course, those of us who remember our high school math know that there’s a fairly simple mathematical proof that there can’t be a highest prime. But I rather doubt that every Objectivist is familiar with the proof, and there may be some who would buy the argument I originally gave for there being a highest prime. Would those unfortunate souls be excluded from the Objectivist club?

Again, since the answer can be easily worked out, you would simply explain the proof to them, and only call them unreasonable if they persisted in their original theory. So, next question. Is it reasonable for an Objectivist to believe in Fermat’s Last Theorem — that X^n + Y^n = Z^n has no non-zero integer solutions for x, y and z when n > 2? Well, some mathematician allegedly proved it in 1995, and there’s supposedly almost no doubt about it, although there’s always some room for doubt with proofs of this complexity. Here, you just pretty much have to take the guy’s word for it. I think it would be unreasonable to believe the theorem is false, and possibly more reasonable to believe it’s true, even though I’ll never understand why either way.

One more question, before we get back to god. Is the game of chess, theoretically, a draw? We know that Tic-tac-toe is a draw; that can be demonstrated easily enough. However, chess is much too complex, and nobody has, or will in our lifetime, work out the solution. But I think almost anyone familiar with the game would say it has to be draw, that the advantage of the first move is too slight to be conclusive.

So back to God. I think there are some proofs of God, for example, the ontological proof as developed by Alvin Plantinga, which are just simply too complex (or poorly written, perhaps) for most of us to have any opinion about. They’re not the same as the disproof of square circles or the highest prime. They’re more like the proof of Fermat’s Theorem and whatever proof may some day arise regarding the outcome of chess. They involve modal logic and all sorts of other niceties that we just haven’t had time to master.

If you look to the end of the Why Be An Atheist essay that Arthur links, you’ll see the following conclusion:

These [God-related] Arguments from Contradiction have all been debated for centuries; theists do have responses to them. They are not as simple as they might first appear. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend using them too often. Instead, adhere to the burden of proof principle; make the theists prove their case . . . if the arguments of the theists and the agnostics fail, then atheism wins by default.

Should this same principle be applied to the truth of Fermat’s Theorem and the assumption that chess is draw? Do the contrary conclusions “win by default” unless we have conclusive proof otherwise? If not, are we not merely believing on faith?

Texas Muslims Protest X-Rated Film Defaming Prophet Muhammad’s XXX-Rated Sex Life

September 19, 2002 | 2 Comments

Houston, Texas, September 19, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

Houston area Muslims yesterday staged a protest outside a Texas movie theater that is currently showing a pornographic film called “The Sex Life of the Prophet Muhammad.” The film depicts Muhammad, the founder of Islam, having sex with ten women a night — some as young as eighteen years old.

Amanullah Khan, spokesmullah for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, decried the movie as an insult to all Muslims. “The Kadith teaches that Muhammad had the sexual prowess of thirty men,” he said. “Portraying him engaged in an all-night ten-some conveys the impression that he was pathetic, impotent figure.”

Khan also objected to scenes in which Mohammad is shown ravishing teenage girls. “The filmmakers plainly intended to imply that our prophet could not please a younger woman,” he said. “But his wife Aisha was only nine when he consummated the marriage, and only six when they were betrothed.” Khan added that since a woman’s intelligence is only half that of a man, Mohammad’s feat was equivalent to sating the lust of a four year old girl.

The film’s producer, Salvatore Gravano, defended the picture’s content. “To preserve the movie’s X rating, I was compelled to adhere to local community standards of indecency,” he said. “And this a community of ordinary, sex-crazed trench-coat exhibitionists, not psychotically homicidal serial rapists.” Gravano noted that he worked with closely with CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) during the film’s production to address some of its concerns, obtaining a Mexican snuff-clearance authorizing the sword-decapitation of four unsuspecting actresses. “But upon consultation with Dreamworks and Industrial Light and Magic, we discovered that the current technology was not sufficient to re-create all of Mohammad’s Qur’anically-charged Triple-X hyper-sexcapades.”

Sticks and Stones

September 19, 2002 | Comments Off

Reading Kathy Kinsley’s post on the non-epithet “niggardly” set The Raving Atheist to wondering why there are so few nasty religious slurs, as compared to the number of racial and ethnic ones. Most of us could reel off (even if we pretended to need a Google search to do it) at least a half-dozen derogatory names per ethnicity for Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Italians, Irish or Native Americans. But how to quickly insult a Catholic, a Protestant, a Mormon, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Scientologist? “Papist” is the only slight of that nature that comes to mind, and I doubt even the Pope would know what I meant if I called him that (though I suppose, technically, he’s the only Catholic who’s not one).

Contrary to all appearances, I have no pressing personal or ideological incentive to expand the list. It is ridicule enough for me to simply describe the relevant religious belief, or to quote, verbatim, from the applicable Holy Scripture. And I can be plenty nasty without resorting to name-calling. But that is precisely why I am surprised religious slurs are not more plentiful. The only legitimate reason to hate people is for what they believe, not for some irrelevant, incidental, genetically-determined, physical characteristics over which they have no control.

As I noted in yesterday’s Rave, faith-based beliefs receive a general immunity from criticism in this tolerance-obsessed culture even when they involve objectionable moral doctrines rather than just crazy theological dogmas. But that can’t be the explanation for the paucity of religious invective. Tolerance is a relatively recent phenomenon and the use of racial slurs (and invention of new ones) still persists among those inclined to use them.

Ah, for several paragraphs the words kike, hebe, hymie, sheeny and yid have been echoing in your head in apparent refutation of my thesis. (And even Jew if hissed in a sufficiently contemptuous tone). But those are more properly categorized as racial rather than religious slurs, expressing hatred of Jews as race rather than Judaism as a religion.

(And ah, the debates I have had over that one. It is racist, I have been chastised, to view Jews as a race — one of the most amusingly self-contradictory arguments around. No, I am told, Jews are defined only by their common beliefs (as if they agreed about anything). Okay, they do have some beliefs in common: regarding the genetic parentage required to make one a Jew and beliefs discouraging proselytizing or marrying outside the tribe).

Turning the hose on myself, I enjoy a similar form of immunity for a different reason. As George H. Smith has pointed out, the word “atheist” itself has historically been used as slur, sort of an imputation of degeneracy, as in “goddamned atheist” or “godless atheist.” And I’ve seen plenty of the most militant church/state separation advocates heatedly (and dishonestly) deny that they are advocating atheism, as if there was something wrong with that. But most atheists, obviously, see nothing wrong with the only label that describes exactly what their philosophical position is. They don’t bridle at it the way many Jews would at being called a “Jew” (again, with the contemptuous tone). In fact, the more contemptuously the word “atheist” is pronounced, the more we enjoy hearing it — it is a provocation to the sort of debate we enjoy. As to the remaining available slurs — infidel, pagan, heathen — most atheists embrace also them, with good humor, as badges of honor (the biggest atheist website is www.infidels.org).

Bigot on Wheels

September 18, 2002 | Comments Off

Atheists frequently observe that no moral principles can be derived from atheism, any more than they can be derived from a belief in the non-existence of unicorns. So although I know that what I believe (or disbelieve) is true, in an abstract philosophical sense, I sometimes wonder why it matters. Reading about Christopher Reeve’s criticism of the Catholic-led opposition to cloning (in yesterday’s VodkaPundit) reminded me of some of the reasons.

Like Woody Allen, I don’t want to achieve immortality through fame, but through not dying. Cloning is my best chance at that, the same as it is Reeve’s best chance of walking again. But put the words “Catholic bashing” and “cloning” and “Reeve” into Google in a few days time and you’ll understand why he’ll never walk and I’ll die. They won’t go after Reeve personally, but he has enough liberal Hollywood friends to serve as punching-bag surrogates. The debate will shift from the merits of cloning to the bigotry of its advocates.

And they’ll get away with it. It is impolite to criticize religious people for “what they believe” — the mere fact that they do believe somehow makes those beliefs sacred. To mock, as I frequently do, the delusional sky-god baby-talk that is the staple of modern Catholic theology is beyond rude — it is “intolerant,” it is “bigoted,” it is “prejudiced,” it is “bashing.” Attacks on moral beliefs cloaked in religious garb are received with the same righteous indignation.

No matter that the Pope believes in crying statutes, stigmata, and the miracle of Fatima — the latter quite literally and personally, as he is convinced that the Virgin Mary hovered over a tree 85 years ago to warn three children of the 1981 attempt on his life, and then arrived on the scene just in time to guide the bullet through his body safely. No matter than the Pope believes
that his suffering from hip replacement surgery during the Church-declared “Year of the Family” in 1994 was divinely imposed to demonstrate that “the family is threatened, the family is under attack.” Never mind that most people would slide down their subway seat to avoid a crackpot engaged in banter about ghosts and goblins and black helicopters — suggest to them that the Pope is doing the same thing and they bridle at the comparison.

So the Church’s political agenda gets a free ride on the coat-tails of an insane, unquestioned theology and is immune from ordinary and necessary criticism. You cannot fault people for merely following the tenets of their religion, obeying their God. The Catholic dogma regarding gays and women and everyone else is justified by the mere fact that it is promulgated. Occasionally an attempt is made to justify a practice by an appeal to “the dignity of man,” as if that assessment did anything but repeat the conclusion itself.

And cloning offends “the dignity of man.” Forget the prospect of the countless medical cures, the suffering ended and the lives saved, and trust the man who believes in the miraculous healing power of the waters of Lourdes. A few weeks back a doctor from the French lab that first identified the AIDS virus met with the Pope to prescribe a papaya-based treatment for his Holiness’s Parkinson’s syndrome, and, incidentally, to beg the Pope to relax the Church’s AIDS-spreading ban on condoms. The press naturally played up the fruit angle because, well, papayas are funny and the Pope is a sweet old man.

Not that atheism would dictate a particular position on cloning. Some aspects of the practice are obviously open to debate, but atheists are open to debate. And their starting point is not from some insane, closed faith in things unseen, but in an analysis of the available evidence, and a consideration to the relative risks and benefits to humanity.

In the comments to the Vodkapundit piece it is suggested that the needs of our aging, ailing electorate might provide the impetus for some pro-cloning legislation. I’m not so optimistic. As Justice Scalia recently noted, “for the believing Christian, death is no big deal.” There is going to be a lot resistance from those who degrade and cheapen this life in favor of the next. Perhaps this year’s pedophilia scandal has stripped the bark off some of those bastards, but memory is short and soon the anger will give way to platitudes of redemption, renewal, rebirth, and reaffirmation. And they’ll continue to pat the Christopher Reeves of the world on the head, expressing their phony and patronizing sympathy.

Feminists Applaud New Gender-Neutral Bible Translation

September 17, 2002 | Comments Off

Colorado Springs, Colorado, September 17, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

Feminists nationwide are applauding the decision of the International Bible Society to publish a completely gender-neutral version of the Bible by 2005. The new edition, to be known as Today’s New International Version, will rival the New Living Translation, a partially gender-neutral version published in 1996.

Lesbian feminist Andrea Dworkin stated that she was “ecstatic” about the proposed changes, and reflected upon how much her life had changed since the publication of the original, more inclusive version. “My blood used to boil when I read Leviticus 20:13 in the old King James Version with its sexist decree that “[i]f a man also lie with mankind . . . both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death” she noted. “But then the NLT version came out and declared that ‘[t]he penalty for homosexual acts is death to both parties.’ I realized right then that true freedom subsists in the right to stoned to death by an angry, bloodthirsty, non-phallogocentric mob.”

DWORKS1.JPG

Dworkin
Deprivileged ………………..Empowered

Feminist Gloria Steinem said that she looked forward to the upcoming changes to Deuteronomy. “My granddaughters were so jealous when my grandson Ken was stoned for disrespectfulness,” she noted. “They’re just as sassy, but Deuteronomy 21:18-21 applies only to ‘sons.'” Steinem also said that she intends to institute a “Stone Your Offspring at Work Day” once the new Bible hits the shelves.

A spokesperson for the Society noted that the updated translation will also replace all gender-specific names with androgynous substitutes. “The serpent in Genesis will now tempt Pat and Chris with the apple, and when they realize that they are naked they still won’t know what they are,” s/he said. “But that won’t stop them from bearing Robin and Kerry.”

The proposal has come under fire, however, from some conservative Christian Groups. Pat Robertson of the Christian Coalition said that the new version will distort the meaning of the Bible, and that “it will be impossible to tell who’s stoning, raping, blinding, burning, maiming and sodomizing who.” He noted that “if God had intended his Word to be gender-neutral, Mahershalalhashbaz and Berodachbaladan would have begat Merodachbaladan and Chushanrishathaim, not Zaphnathpaaneah and Zorobabel.” Robertson also stated that if he wants to be stoned he will just gather firewood on the Sabbath, professing that he “wouldn’t know how to even begin to go about menstruating.”

In a related move, Harper Collins announced that it would release a new creed and ethnicity-neutral translation of Mein Kampf. “We noticed that sales were flagging everywhere, except for upstate New York and 49 other states,” said Harper President Barbara Holman. “Because we suspected that some of our readers might be sensitive to some sort of perceived bias, all persons will be identified by the fictional ethnic appellation ‘Slobovian.'” Holman added that the new version will allow persons of all faiths to appreciate Hitler’s admonition to “exterminate all pushy, greedy, hook-nosed, curly-haired, swarthy, beanie-wearing, matzo-breathed, Christ-killing Zionist Slobovians.”

Holy Wind

September 16, 2002 | Comments Off

A letter to today’s Newsday promotes a conception of omnipotence and omniscience similar to that promulgated by the God Squad (below) in their most recent column:

On the first anniversary of Sept. 11, did you notice the wind? It blew so hard it dried our tears. The wind blew all day from morning to night, so as not to miss one prayer that was said. The biggest of gusts carried our prayers toward the heavens and into the hands of God.

A year late and a quite a few dollars short, no? But aside from that, does this mean that God’s not listening on windless days?

God Squad Review IX

September 16, 2002 | Comments Off

The Squad endangers the welfare of children in its answer to the first letter, from Maureen of Central Islip, whose 16-year-old brother has a drug problem that’s affecting his relationships and schoolwork. Should she rat him out? Purporting to direct her to some “ancient and holy wisdom,” the Squad points to “God’s advice” in Leviticus 19:16 – which, under the Squad’s interpretation, permits one to be a tattle-tale to prevent harm to another.

I don’t quibble so much with the advice as with the source. Leviticus is no place for children, and Chapter 19 is no exception. It’s almost as dirty as Dawn Olsen’s blog. If little Maureen begins paging through that chapter for further insights, she’ll learn that a man who rapes an engaged slave gets off by sacrificing a ram, but the slave gets punished (Leviticus 19:20-22). And although she’ll be relieved that verse 19:29 directs her parents to “not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore,” she might well wonder what it is about parental psychological make-up that would make such an admonition necessary.

The Squad abandons God-command morality in its answer to the second letter from Rich, who’s wondering whether his wedding vows will “count” if he and his hiking-loving fianc

Statue of Atheist Leader Weeps Tears of Blood

September 15, 2002 | 1 Comment

Parsippany, New Jersey, September 15, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

Thousand of non-believers have flocked to the New Jersey town of Parsippany, where a statue of the late atheist advocate Madalyn Murray O’Hair was reported to have been shedding tears of blood.

American Atheists President Ellen Johnson hailed the discovery as a non-miracle that disproved the existence of God. “For years, the Catholics have pointed to blood-weeping statues of the Virgin Mary as evidence of a Supreme Being,” she noted. “All of those incidents were later determined to have been frauds, but this is the real thing, and it proves the truth of atheism.”

ohairmary.jpg

Murdered Atheist Leader


Non-Miraculous.

The statue was erected in front AA headquarters after O’Hair’s body, dismembered and stuffed into a plastic drum, was discovered buried beneath a Texas ranch. “If there were a God, this statue would not be bleeding from the eyes,” said Johnson. “Indeed, it would not even have a head, and would be gushing blood from its neck, arm and leg stumps. Plainly, no omnipotent or omniscient being had anything to do with whatever is going on here.”

AA spokesman Ron Barrier insisted that there was a completely natural, non-theistic explanation for the bloody tears. “Last night, I filled an eyedropper with red ink and squirted it onto the statue’s face,” he confessed. “So unless you’re all going to start claiming that I’m God, no divine intervention of any sort could possibly be inferred from this pathetic display . . . go home.”

Burn them All

September 13, 2002 | Comments Off

Off the Kuff takes a somewhat different approach than I did to the controversy over the teenage witch who was suspended by a Texas high school for wearing a pentacle necklace. He slyly re-writes the story, substituting a crucifix for the pentacle, to illustrate (I think) how much more quickly we would perceive the injustice if the Wiccan shoe (if they wear shoes) were on the Christian foot.

My first instinct (one I have followed in the past) was to pursue a similar angle — to attack the arrogant Christians for their pretense of superiority — but I rejected it because it still gives the dispute a dignity that it simply does not deserve. While it properly deflates the Christians, it elevates the Wiccans to the status of noble martyrs crusading for our cherished religious freedom. And so the original point, that Christianity is just as silly as Wicca, quickly evolves into something quite different. Atheism gives way to a mindless, benevolent agnosticism; the religions in question are no longer equally silly, but simply equal; and we’re well on the road to “celebrating” our treasured “faith traditions” instead of condemning them for the nasty, pernicious, anti-intellectual cons that they are. We graciously recognize that Christianity, too, once seemed as odd to most as Wicca does to some, as if that were some sort of argument in favor of the truth of either.

So I don’t celebrate religious freedom. To me it’s the freedom to be uncritical, superstitious, to believe in something simply because you have the right to believe in it. And while I believe that a broad, generalized freedom of speech and expression is a necessity, the notion that religious speech, that religious expression, are entitled to special respect and treatment is wrongheaded madness. I view the Wiccan spreading her anti-knowledge in the same light as the mobster pleading the fifth — both are exercising some “cherished” constitutional right but there’s nothing admirable about what either is doing. The fact that I have the right to strip naked, coat myself with peanut butter and roll around in sawdust doesn’t mean that I should do it, or be praised for doing so.

Let’s go back into the classroom. I want to wear a Yankees’ cap, a propeller beanie, and a red-putty nose. All at once. Why? Because I love baseball, helicopters and clowns. I’m headed for the principal’s office, obviously, and the school has every right to put me there. But show up with a yarmulke on top of a turban and red dot in the middle of my forehead, well, that’s an entirely different matter. No secular interest in real things can purchase the rights available to a religious interest in delusions.

Ah, you say, but the Christians and Wiccans are serious about their beliefs in a way Bozo the propeller-wearing baseball fan could not possibly be. I agree, but that is hardly a distinction that cuts in their favor. They are precisely what Bozo would be if he were serious.

Speaking of Salem, Justice Brandeis once noted that “men feared witches and burned women.” Well, now the witches are really here and we have a chance to get it right. Let’s burn them, along with the Christians.

God Eyed in 9/11 Lottery Fix

September 13, 2002 | Comments Off

Albany, New York, September 13, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

The New York State Attorney General is probing allegations that God rigged the September 11th New York lottery drawing, after the numbers 9-1-1 were selected as the evening game’s winners winners on the anniversary of the World Trade Center attack.

God denied the charges.

“Not my racket,” he said. “I got Johnny Nails [Jesus] past-posting fifty dimes a night at the track so all the chalks and dogs are locks. Plus, he shys for me with a ten-point vig and Wings [Mary] is banking bailouts at twenty — we’re juicing squares coming and going.” God also noted that he has some major action beating spreads on shaved hoops and a tout service on the side, so what motherless fuck thinks he needs to churn with the fleas on some two-bit sucker’s game?

Shhhhhhh

September 12, 2002 | Comments Off

Abu Bubba Bo Bob of Amish Tech Support noted yesterday that a significant percentage of his blogroll either spouted scripture or fell silent to commemorate 9/11. The Raving Atheist’s link list is relatively free of Bible thumpers, but of few of them did pull that “moment [or day] of silence” scam. Well, they’re not fooling me. I know they were praying, along with most of the rest of blogdom.

First, I don’t buy the excuses. “The event defies words.” “I’m too angry to express myself civilly.” “Words would merely cheapen the memory.” “No words would be adequate to express my feelings.” Really? Then how come so many of your September 10th posts expressed exactly what you felt, in innumerable words, purporting to explain why you wouldn’t be posting the next day? And wasn’t the very reason that half of you started your blogs to talk about 9/11? And isn’t that what you’ve been talking incessantly about for past year?

Second, everybody knows what a “moment of silence” is about. They get litigated quite a bit in the public school context. Marvin E. Frankel best described the charade:

It is the frequent assertion, solemnly accepted by a number of judges and scholars, that such [moment of silence] laws are. . . neutral as respects religion. They merely require, it is said, that the students at a set time be respectfully silent in unison, thinking or doing whatever they please. The phoniness of this demeans the proponents while it rankles others. Everyone who remembers the schoolhouse knows that there are countless minutes during the day when a silent prayer is possible. Nevertheless, legal scholarship reports, as if it mattered, that the laws compelling communal silence leave students free to do silently whatever they please: some “may use the moment of silence to pray; others may use it to meditate, daydream, plot mischief, or ogle their favorite classmate” . . . [But] [t]here are no indications of pressure for moment-of-silence laws on behalf of daydreamers, plotters of mischief, or oglers. It is comforting, in any event, that most courts have seen the moment-of-silence laws for the degrading legal ruses that they are and held them unconstitutional.

***

If you belong to the dominant majority, it may take a small feat of imagination to empathize with the insult to minorities. It should not be an excessive strain, however, to envision the growing adherents of Islam requiring in or about 2090 A.D. (if they still say “A.D.”) that everyone in school face east in a kneeling posture five times daily, bending forward periodically head to ground. No need to pray or do any other special thing. Is that too extreme to be a fair analogy? I think not. The requirement of respectful silence in the classroom for the atheist or Buddhist or even the Jew, while Christians go about the silent prayers for which the scene is composed, seems close enough for a fair argument.


(“Religion In Public Life–Reasons For Minimal Access,” 60 George Washington Law Review 633, 641-42, March 1992).

Of course, no legal issue arises with the voluntary silence of a privately-run blog, but my point isn’t that it’s unconstitutional, but that it’s prayer.

Yes, I know you were just showing respect, paying tribute, being sentimental, etc. But the ritual of silence-as-respect in the public square is inextricable, to me, from the God-talk that inevitably surrounds it. It is simply the “Amen” that follows every politician’s long-winded invocation of the Almighty.

Speaking of which, I’m always amused at how careful national politicians are to purge any mention of Jesus from their God-laden memorial speeches (see the President’s speech last night, for example). The justification, of course, is that in our multicultural society such sectarian references would offend the non-Christians, so only the Ceremonial Deity of the Pledge may be mentioned. An uproar would have ensued from Jewish, Muslim and Hindu quarters had Bush declared that “we do know that Jesus has placed us together in this moment to grieve together” instead of God, but from my atheistic perspective the difference between the fictional Jesus, Allah and Ganesha is trivial compared to the difference been belief and non-belief. The usual justification is accommodation of the God-believing majority (“We are a religious people, whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being,” as Justice Douglas infamously declared), but, well, the Christians are a majority and there are more atheists than Jews, Muslims, Hindus and “other” combined. Yet the attitude is that it’s petty for an atheist to complain, the same attitude that lets the nationally-syndicated God Squad get away with saying that non-believers have no reason to live without the ADL or CAIR calling for a boycott of the newspapers that carry their column.

Ground Zero Heroes

September 12, 2002 | Comments Off

Kathy Kinsley has kindly forwarded me this photographic proof of Jesus’ presence at Ground Zero. And look who was helping him — Quetzalcoatl!

Islamic Redevelopment Project

September 12, 2002 | Comments Off

WTCBeforeAfter.JPG

Before (9/11/01)___________________________________________After (9/11/02)

God Protects the Woolworth Building, 9/11/01

September 11, 2002 | Comments Off

WTC.JPG

(View from roof of Raving Atheist’s building, 9:36 a.m.)

God Lets 9/11 Victims Speak to Families

September 11, 2002 | Comments Off

New York, New York, September 11, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

Touched by thousands of memorial ceremonies glorifying Him, God today permitted the relatives of those killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack to speak to their departed loved ones through television psychic medium John Edward.

“I was so excited,” said former Cantor Fitzgerald broker Peter Callahan. “There was so much I wanted to say on my final desperate phone call to my wife that day, but it was cut short when I was vaporized,” he said. “But now she knows that I want her to acknowledge an older male relative who passed, possibly an uncle or a brother-in-law, with a ‘B’ in his name.” Callahan also told her of a “big connection” to the number 2, maybe February or the second day of another month, and a piece of jewelry, either a necklace or a bracelet.

George Burton was talking to his wife over a cell phone when his plane, American Airlines Flight 11, crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center . “At the time, Mohammed Atta [the lead hijacker] was taunting us with all the details of Al-Qaeda attacks planned for October 2002, identifying every single building, bridge, tunnel and monument that they would hit — facts that are burned into my memory to this very day,” he said. “So I was so relieved when I got this chance, despite having ‘crossed over,’ to ask my wife to acknowledge a cousin on her father’s side, and something to do with a yellow robe or shirt.”

On United Flight 93 last September 11, Todd Beamer was speaking with an Airfone operator shortly before the plane spiraled into a field in Shanksville , Pennsylvania . “I never got to say goodbye to my wife Lisa,” he said. “So when God let me come through to her today, the first thing I had her acknowledge was something to do with tee shirts, caps, mugs, books, audio tapes, Larry King, Connie Chung, Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric.” Beamer said he was also able to clarify his last words to the operator, which, due to the poor quality of the connection, were misquoted as “Let’s roll.”

In a related development, the Todd M. Beamer Foundation announced that it would file a petition tomorrow seeking trademark protection for the phrase “Ass-Holes.”

Nation Turns to God at One-Year, Nine-Day Anniversary of Danny Almonte Little League Scandal

September 10, 2002 | Comments Off

September 10, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

September 10th has taken on religious significance around the nation, as Americans turn to God at countless memorials commemorating the one-year, nine day anniversary of Little League Baseball’s annulment of the Rolando Paulino All-Stars third-place World Series finish. “When it was first confirmed that Danny Almonte was 14, not 12, I went into a state of shock for a little over a week” said Lisa Pabst of New York. “But it wasn’t until around September 10, 2001, that the reality of Danny’s age finally sank in for me and most Americans, and we all turned to God to help us overcome our loss of faith and innocence.”

Since September 10th of last year, America has undergone a healing experience that many attribute to divine grace. “I could sense God’s comforting presence the very next day,” said John Monsey of Connecticut. “Of course, there were setbacks, like when George Harrison died in November, but then God totally turned things around by saving those nine miners over the summer.”

For many, the trauma of September 10 was intensified by an article posted on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s website shortly before Danny’s true age was revealed. Many lost faith after reading the following passages, which directly linked the credibility of Almonte with the veracity of the Bible:

Despite extreme efforts to poke holes in this team [the Rolando Paulino All-Stars], they just keep rolling along. This is very reminiscent of educated scholars, scientists, and politicians throughout history who have tried to refute the second coming of our savior Jesus Christ. From evolution to the environment, Christ has continually survived and will always overcome attempts to poke holes in His validity and the need for His love to us.

So, just as the Bronx Baby Bombers have survived attempts by private investigators to poke holes in eligibility, take a moment today to consider how the Bible has survived attack after attack regarding its validity. To survive as many investigations as it has, it can be nothing else except the absolute truth.

“When I re-read that on September 10, my heart sank,” said Pam Wilcox of California. But she, too, says that the events following September 10th have renewed her faith in God. “Even one day later, things seemed to get a little better,” she said. “That’s when I realized that Danny was getting closer to actually being 14, and that soon enough God would turn that lie into the truth,” she added. “And we’re already halfway there . . . so it can’t be long before all the lies in the Bible become true, too.”

Wiccan Teen Defends Right to Be Beaten Up for Aggressively Silly and Obviously Made-Up Religion

September 10, 2002 | 53 Comments

Waxahachie, Texas, September 10, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

High school freshman Rebecca Moreno is challenging a dress code which prohibits her from wearing a decorative Wiccan pentacle necklace to class, according to the Dallas Morning News. The Waxahachie, Texas teen is not merely trying to make fashion statement, however — she’s vindicating her constitutional right to be beaten up for half-pretending to believe in an unctuously silly religion that is even more obviously made-up than the Christianity of her peers.

“Please compare me to the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz so that I can sanctimoniously, yet tolerantly and patiently, chide you for promoting a negative stereotype of witches,” said Rebecca. “Of course witches don’t have green skin and wart-covered noses — we look just like ordinary, everyday people,” she explained. Rebecca then noted that although Wiccans do employ “magick” and cast spells, only natural energy is harnessed, and their system of ethics prohibits them from using it for evil purposes, or even for good ones without the subject’s permission.

“I have a big problem with that,” said classmate Todd Martin, pounding Rebecca’s head against a cafeteria table. “First, she’s asking us to abandon the historical, time-honored depiction of a completely fictional hag-like character just because her newly-invented religion wants to co-opt and misuse the word ‘witch,'” said Todd. “They might as well call themselves ‘Pillsbury Dough Boys,’ and complain about being stereotyped as short, pudgy and formless,” he added. “And then they misspell ‘magic’ in that precious, annoying way so they’ll have a word to describe powers they know they don’t have. Believe me, I’d be beating her a lot harder if she didn’t act like she was almost serious about this crap sometimes.”

Rebecca insisted, between blows, that Wicca is legitimate neo-pagan Earth-based religion with ancient roots in pre-Christian Europe. “Wiccans were worshipping the Goddess and the God long before the advent of Christ,” she stated. “Like my mother before me, my children and grandchildren will learn to recite the Wiccan Rede.”

“No, the Bible is what’s ancient,” countered Todd. “A lot more ancient than ‘Wicca for Beginners’ — copyright 1993. And that politically correct, women’s’ lib “Goddess and God” stuff just proves that it’s from the early 70’s, late ’60’s, at best,” he noted. Todd also asked how come Rebecca’s mother had only first learned of the allegedly centuries-old tradition three months ago from a biker’s girlfriend at a tattoo parlor. “That’s when she gave up Tarot and began hanging around with friends with joke names like Emerald Dragonfly and Silver Wolf Raven Hawk, and started with all that “merry meet” and “blessed be” nonsense,” he said. “It almost makes me respect Quanzaa.”

Rebecca opined that most of her classmates’ hostility stemmed from their confusion of Wicca with Satanism. “Satan is a superstitious Christian concept which we reject . . . we don’t even subscribe to the notion of absolute evil.” However, Todd pointed out that claiming that you don’t believe in the devil while calling yourself a witch was more than a little disingenuous. “It’s when she says stuff like that, that I suspect she’s doing all this mostly just to mock Christianity,” he said.

Another student, Susan Mitchell, agreed. “Why doesn’t she just come right out and make fun of us for being Christians?” asked. “Instead she goes around with that pentacle hanging down where a crucifix should be, trying to imply some sort of equality between a long-established, respected, hard-to-directly-refute made-up religion and her cartoonish, made-up witch scam. It’s really just being fresh, but if she wants to have the living crap kicked out her ever day, I guess I have to respect her right to do so.”

Sorry, Sanjay

September 9, 2002 | Comments Off

In Saturday’s Rave (“Interfaith Rape Marred by Bias, Police Say”), The Raving Atheist recklessly maligned the reputation of a young California man, Sanjay Nair, by suggesting that he might be guilty of a hate rape against a Muslim girl. In fact, the Palo Alto District Attorney has now dropped the hate charge in view of the discovery that Nair is a “typically sexually aggressive and violent person” who also sexually assaulted two other women. I apologize to Mr. Nair for my unwarranted attack upon his motives and character.

God Squad Review VIII

September 9, 2002 | Comments Off

The Squad’s topic this week, predictably, is 9/11. The discussion is initiated by Melissa of Manhasset, whose brother was killed at the World Trade Center. She declares that all of the upcoming anniversary memorials are meaningless “because my brother isn’t here and won’t be coming back,” and concludes by asking, rhetorically, “[w]hat difference will any memorial event make this year or for the next 100 . . . [e]ach Sept. 11, I’ll just be asking God to help me get through it.”

In response to this non-question, the Squad offers a non-answer to a completely different question, assuring us that they will not be among the “chorus of people filling the airwaves next week with their versions of what 9/11 really means.” Though it hardly seems possible, the Squad’s reasons for not answering the question are even more incoherent than any of the religious prattle you’ll be hearing over the next few days:

“We know that 9/11 means different things to different people.”

“We know that 9/11 was the beginning of a great struggle against terror that has not reached its climax, so to suggest meanings that may be swept aside in the months and years ahead would be foolish.”

“Words lead us astray. Words postulate meanings that may be false the moment they’re uttered, or may become true only by living our way into the words.”

The remainder of the column is devoted to explaining why it’s good to turn to religion for the answers that 9/11 poses, even though religion may, as demonstrated above, refuse to give any answers and offer only nonsensical reasons for its refusal to do so. In a conclusion worthy of all that preceded it, the Squad informs Melissa that “we can’t tell you how God will get you through each Sept. 11 . . . but we can tell you the one thing we know: Your asking the question is enough.”

To summarize: Even though the Squad can’t answer a question you never asked about how God will get you through each Sept. 11, the one thing they know is that it’s enough to ask a question about what difference a 9/11 memorial will make. All clear now?

No More Jesus for Jews (Part III)

September 8, 2002 | Comments Off

In two earlier Raves (here and here) I discussed the American Catholic Bishop’s recently- announced policy condemning attempts to convert Jews. On Thursday, a group of Catholic and Protestant scholars issued a similar statement, entitled “A Sacred Obligation: Rethinking Christian Faith in Relation to Judaism and the Jewish People.” Once again, the anti-conversion policy is not based upon some general, generous “live and let live principle,” but upon the narrow theological notion that the Jews have their own separate, equally-valid covenant with God that exempts them — and only them — from asking Jesus’ permission to get into heaven. And again, although the statement explains why efforts to convert are not necessary, it does not really say why they must be renounced, or why Jesus is not the preferred route.

Graciously, point 8 of the statement (it’s a ten-point statement) acknowledges that “[t]he New Testament contains passages that have frequently generated negative attitudes toward Jews and Judaism.” The authors don’t give examples, but in case you’re wondering, here they are. Since these passages might present “distorted images of Judaism” and encourage “hostility toward Jews,” their use “in the context of worship” is discouraged. Whether the passages are true outside the context of worship is not explored.

Naturally, the authors don’t even allude to those passages which undercut the very premise of the new policy. There is simply no Jewish carve-out in the Bible. As Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). And if that is not clear enough, just remember that “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5) and that “[n]either is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

In sum, it doesn’t look like theology is the best way out of this conundrum. Atheism, anyone?

Interfaith Rape Marred by Bias, Police Say

September 7, 2002 | Comments Off

Palo Alto, California, September 7, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

An ordinary non-consensual sexual encounter between a 15-year-old Muslim girl and an 18-year-old Hindu boy may have been tainted by religious discrimination, reports the Palo Alto, California Mercury Times. If further investigation confirms that the couple’s unilaterally-authorized lovemaking was, in fact, a faith-based penile initiative, the perpetrator could be subject to enhanced penalties under the state’s “hate rape” laws.

Police found the unnamed girl’s crumpled, bruise-covered body in the basement bathroom of a drug store last Friday night. “Upon being drenched by a geyser of blood cascading from the victim’s semi-disemboweled vagina, we perceived that there may have been a permission-related misunderstanding between the parties,” said detective Ken Richards. However, police then questioned the boy, Sanjay Nair, who revealed that several weeks before he had been discussing comparative theology with the victim. “During the course of that conversation, the suspect opined that the Hindu god Rama seemed more peaceful that Allah,” said Richards. “Right then, we knew there could be only one motive: hate.”

Richards recalled a similar incident last Saturday, in which a charred, headless, limbless torso was found in the trunk of an automobile belonging to Palo Alto resident James Reddings. At first, police dismissed the matter as an ordinary business dispute. “But then, we made a horrifying discovery,” explained Richards. “Caked to the underside of the rear bumper was a circumcised penis.” After a lengthy interrogation, Reddings confessed that he had never inquired of the victim whether his faith forbade driving on the Sabbath. “I have come across some pretty gruesome crime scenes in my twenty-five years as cop, but never one so permeated with the stench of disrespect.”

District Attorney Susan Horwath said she intends to prosecute to fullest extent of the law. “The death penalty would be a slap on the wrist in a case such as this,” she said. “Once the jury learns the true facts of this atrocity, I am confident that they will impose mandatory sensitivity training as well.”

Reddings’ attorney decried the proposed sentence as cruel and unusual. “Not only will my client have to read about the Holocaust, but he will be forced to publicly recite the Anti-Defamation League’s World of Difference (TM) Anti-Prejudice Pledge, said Mark Weinstein. “It is truly a fate worse than death.”

ADL spokesman Abraham Foxman disagreed. “No punishment is too severe for creed-based insensitivity.” Foxman added that his organization is seeking to expand the scope of the hate crime laws to cover masturbation committed by a Jew for Jesus, which he said was “by definition a sexual assault by a self-hating Jew.” Foxman also called for hate crime prosecution of any atheist engaging in sexual intercourse with a person of faith.

Thought for the Day

September 6, 2002 | Comments Off

Breaking a long-standing tradition, the BBC Radio 4 “Today” program last month permitted an atheist, Professor Richard Dawkins, to deliver its “Thought for the Day” — a privilege formerly reserved to the clergy. However, the BBC’s board of governors has now vetoed a request by various secular associations to air non-religious voices on “Thought” on a regular basis.

Shrinking as usual from unpleasant controversies of this kind, The Raving Atheist will not criticize the BBC’s carefully-considered decision. Nor will I endorse, approve of, acclaim or heartily applaud while jumping up and down with glee, the following harsh words from Polly Toynbee on the subject in today’s Guardian, which are so very contrary to the spirit of mutual respect and ecumenism that I strive to maintain:

No, the governors have decided that creationist fruitcakes have “thoughts” of more depth and resonance than moral philosophers who lack the requisite superstition. Maybe the competition would be too daunting. Woolly homilies from carefully selected moderate pulpits might sound a little weak when challenged by hard thought. Nor might their emotions stand comparison with poets or secular writers.

* * *

This is about confronting religion at a time when it threatens global Armageddon. It is there in the born-again Christian fundamentalism demanded of every US politician, turning them all into “crusaders.” It drives on the murderous Islamic jihadists. It makes mad the biblical land-grabbing Israeli settlers. It threatens nuclear nemesis between the Hindus and Muslims along the India-Pakistan border. It still hurls pipebombs on the Ulster streets. The Falun Gong are killed for it, extremist Sikhs die for it too. The Pope kills millions through his reckless spreading of Aids. When absolute God-given righteousness beckons, blood flows and women are in chains.

* * *

What has any of this got to do with Thought for the Day, where none of the above “revealed” religions is allowed to proclaim that their unique prophet or God as the only way, truth and life? The danger is that the slot’s polite Gods are used to excuse the inexcusable happening all over the world in the name of religion. Undue deference is paid to religious sensibility when militant secularism is what should be spread with, yes, missionary zeal. Thought for the Day takes all this lethal passion and sanitises it into a Disneyfied, love-thy-neighbour, greetings card of niceness. But religion is not nice, it kills: it is toxic in the places where people really believe it. It only becomes civilised when it loses all temporal power in a multicultural, secular society. Only then, as its followers dwindle, does it turn into a gentle talisman of cultural tradition, a mode of meditation with little literal belief in ancient miracles or long dead warlords.

* * *

Everywhere reason is under threat as a sponginess of thought blurs the line between the real and the fantastical. Psychic stuff, alternative therapies, auras, telepathies, crystals, self-obsessed mysticism is gaining ground, often passing uncriticised by those who know the difference between the proven and nonsense, but fear giving offence. It matters because once people lose sight of how to separate hard fact from wild hypothesis, they get worse at navigating a noisy world of junk information. It matters that people know how to estimate risk, how to strip away panic and calculate odds in the latest scare. They need to know that coincidence is not magic and how to tell probability from extreme improbability.

* * *

Most insulting is the idea that morality comes only from the rulebook of an external God: the Godless are without moral compass. Yet morality is plainly inborn in every child as soon it cries, “Unfair!” It is this presumptuous arrogance that underpins religion’s claim to a monopoly on ethics.

Correction

September 6, 2002 | Comments Off

In yesterday’s Rave, I misidentified one of the organizations interviewed about faith based initiatives as the South Florida Veterinary Society for the Study of Razor-Inflicted Injuries to the Cartoid Arteries of Goats, Sheep, Roosters, Chickens and Turtles. The actual name is South Florida Veterinary Society for the Study of Razor-Inflicted Injuries to the Cartoid Arteries of Goats, Dogs, Snakes, Turkeys, Rams, Canaries, Doves, Parrots, Peacocks, Possums, Sheep, Roosters, Chickens and Turtles. I apologize to the SFVSFTSORIITTCAOGDSTRCDPPPSRCAT for the error.

‘Faith Based’ Funding Abuses Unlikely, Say Experts

September 5, 2002 | Comments Off

Washington, D.C., September 5, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

With the White House pushing to ease regulations governing the funding of “faith based” social programs, concerns have mounted over the blurring of church/state lines and the use of public monies for religious purposes. According to the Washington Post, the head of President Bush’s Office of Faith Based Initiatives, James Towey, has stated that a religious group may increase its chances of receiving federal funds by simply changing its name — for example, calling a church a “renewal center” or replacing the name “St. John’s Shelter” with just “John’s Shelter.” However, most secular social service providers interviewed said it was doubtful that their religious counterparts would abuse the program in such a manner.

“I just don’t see it,” said Edward “Cardinal” Egan, Executive Director of New York City’s Early Childhood Sexual Development Center. Mr. Egan, who says his nickname derives from his love of birds, said that the Catholic Church recently began leasing storage space in the Center’s new headquarters — located in the American Stained Glass and Candle Museum at Fifth Avenue and Fifty-first Street — and was the most honorable organization he had ever dealt with. Additionally, the President of the Center,Karol Wojtyla, noted that his organization had a similar experience leasing space to the Church at the new not-for-profit hospice it operates in Lourdes, France.

Ochan’ni Lele, head of the newly-formed South Florida Veterinary Society for the Study of Razor-Inflicted Injuries to the Cartoid Arteries of Goats, Sheep, Roosters, Chickens and Turtles, concurred that there was little prospect of fraud by religious groups. “My identical twin brother was a Santeria priest who used to operate a church on these very premises . . . and after the Society received a large federal grant enabling it to take over the space, the landlord told us that he was the most honest person he had ever known.” David Koresh, Jr., Director of the National Fire and Firearm Safety Association, said he had a similar experience when he obtained $3,000,000 in federal funds to relocate his organization to the compound formerly leased by his father’s Branch Davidian church.

According to Sun Myung Moon, President of the recently-formed nonprofit Baseball Fan Club for Eligible Single Persons, duplicity is beyond the ken of the average cleric. “When a large number of our members wanted to get married simultaneously in Yankee Stadium, the minister who presided insisted on buying a ticket to enter the facility,” he noted.

The head of a private commercial enterprise in Utah also expressed doubts over the likelihood of faith based fraud. Thomas Monson, CEO of the recently-incorporated Salt Lake City Playboy Club, praised the integrity of the church whose headquarters his company recently purchased for $1.00. “One of our officers used to engage in orgies with multiple female sex partners,” he said. “But now, due to the positive influence of the church during the sale negotiations, he has married them.”

Dangerous Satanic “Hurt Back” Doctrine Condemned by Prison Officials

September 4, 2002 | Comments Off

Lexington, Kentucky, September 4, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

The Kentucky Department of Corrections has suspended satanic worship services at its Green River prison after learning that the sect adheres to a bizarre doctrine that poses a serious threat to the safety of inmates. CNN reports that Kentucky officials were tipped off to the problem by Texas prison authorities, who had reviewed the Satanic Bible and determined that it promulgates a unique and dangerous religious principle not found in any other holy text. According to Donald Kaspar, chaplain for the Texas system, “one of their [the Satanists] tenets is . . . if somebody hurts you, hurt them back.”

Leading theologians confirmed that the newly-discovered Satanist concept was without precedent in the annals of religion scripture. “Nothing in the Holy Bible could even remotely be interpreted as endorsing this strange hurt-you/hurt-them-back theory,” said Patrick Morris, Professor of Religious Studies at Notre Dame. “And the implications of it are absurd,” he added. “I mean, if someone cut off your foot, you’d have to cut off theirs. That, in turn, could lead to a hand for a hand, a chin for chin, a mouth for a mouth, a nose for a nose, a bridge of a nose for a bridge of a nose

Bias Eyed in Church Vandalism

September 3, 2002 | Comments Off

Bayside, New York, September 3, 2002
Special to The Raving Atheist

The defacement of a Catholic church in Queens is being investigated as a bias crime, according to the New York City Police Department. The Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church in Bayside was found covered in anti-Catholic graffiti early Sunday morning, reported NYPD sources. Much of the writing, spray-painted across the front of the church, referred to the sex scandal in the priesthood and twice mentioned Cardinal Bernard Law, the Boston archbishop who knowingly reassigned pedophiles to unsuspecting parishes.

Cardinal Edward Egan of New York immediately decried the incident as an attack upon all Catholics. “Rarely before have I seen such vicious, reprehensible, bigoted and factually accurate hate speech desecrating a church,” he said. “This sacrilege, replete with offensive, prejudiced, stereotypical and fully corroborated anti-clerical smears, must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Cardinal Egan added that he had not seen such hateful, repugnant and legally incontestable slurs directed at the Church outside of Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Verified Complaint, and Defendants’ Response to Plaintiffs’ Third Set of Interrogatories, in O’Reilly v Diocese of Bridgeport, 98 Civ. 1502. “Indeed, the language was so obscene that it contained words that I have never so much as uttered, other than when I swore to their complete and absolute truth in a deposition,” Egan noted. “This is precisely the reason the Hate Crime Laws were enacted — to protect us from being persecuted merely for what we believe, and for what we actually and undeniably do.”

Sex in the Cathedral (Part IV) (Update)

September 3, 2002 | Comments Off

Sex in the Cathedral (Part IV) (Update)

In my last Rave on the St. Pat’s sex incident, I expressed uncertainty over whether the FCC was still investigating given the Catholic League’s withdrawal of its complaint. According to yesterday’s New York Post, the matter has not been dropped.

God Squad Review VII

September 2, 2002 | Comments Off

The Squad this week settles a dispute, between “Phyllis” and her friends, over whether Jews believe in an afterlife. Their answer: Yes, Phyllis, there is a heaven and a hell, but “most Jews never hear about either because most rabbis don’t ever talk about them.” The Squad explains that “this lack of emphasis on the afterlife in Judaism is primarily the result of the religion’s ‘this-worldly’ orientation . . . [w]e are meant to do what we can in this life and in this world, and then let what happens after death happen according to God’s inscrutable will.”

The Raving Atheist is unsettled by several aspects of this exchange. First, I don’t know anyone named Phyllis who is under 50 (it hasn’t made any of the top 40 most popular girls’ names lists since the 1940s, and Cloris Leachman’s grating, draining neurotic portrayal of a character with that name has probably doomed it for the next few generations) — isn’t that sort of late in life to first be learning about the most basic tenets of your faith? And isn’t what happens to a person for all eternity something that would merit at least a passing mention in Hebrew school or the synagogue?

Second, Phyllis frames the debate thusly: “They say Jews don’t believe in heaven and hell . . . I say we do.” Now, I suppose that what actually happens after death presents an empirical question, but can’t what “we believe” be determined by examining the contents of our own heads? And, given the fact that “most rabbis don’t ever talk about” heaven and hell, wouldn’t it be accurate to say that most Jews have no belief regarding them?

Finally, the Squad’s answer is at odds with some of the reasons it gave last week for the necessity of God-belief. Then, the Squad argued that without God 1) life would be meaningless because there would be no hope for an afterlife; and 2) there would be no reason to do good in this life (presumably because of the lack of a posthumous system of rewards and punishments). So how can life be meaningful to Jews — and what incentive do they have to do good — if “most” of them never hear of heaven or hell, or don’t know whether to believe in them? And assuming they do discover what Judaism teaches about the afterlife, how can the prospect of it guide what they do in this life if God’s will regarding their ultimate fate is “inscrutable”? It seems to me that Jews are in the same position that the Squad rather cruelly suggested atheists were in their last column: they have “no reason to get out of bed in the morning and no reason to believe that life has an edge over death, hope an edge over despair and love an edge over hate.”

The Squad’s attack on atheism did provoke a number of angry letters to Newsday from non-believers here, here, here and here. The last-listed letter was from a reader identified only as “Ron Barrier, Staten Island.” I don’t know if Newsday was being coy or ignorant in identifying him that way, but Mr. Barrier is the National Spokesman for American Atheists.

Skakel Withdraws Jesus Analogy in Leniency Bid

September 1, 2002 | 1 Comment

Convicted murderer Michael Skakel yesterday petitioned a Connecticut court to permit him to withdraw his pre-sentencing Jesus analogy in favor of a self-comparison to the feathered serpent God Quetzalcoatl. The move came amid dissatisfaction over the to twenty-years-to-life sentence imposed last Thursday after Skakel protested being imprisoned like “God’s child.” Courtroom observers concurred that Skakel had over-Jesussed the judge by arguing that he should not be penalized for “walking around the world telling people that he loved them” like Jesus, and then revealing that “the good lord tells me to tell you that in 2000 years this place hasn’t changed a bit, that you still want to let Barrabas go”– an allusion to the thief who Pontius Pilate released instead of Jesus.

Legal experts hailed the analogy switch as a shrewd move. “He’s looking at five-to-seven now, tops,” said criminal defense attorney Mark Weinstein. “Comparing himself to Jesus was an in-your-face move that probably turned the judge off,” he explained. “Suggesting that you’re God’s kid is like saying, ‘go ahead, screw me, and watch my daddy condemn you to eternal damnation.'” In contrast, Weinstein noted, Quetzalcoatl is known as the most compassionate of the Aztec deities. “For years, demons tempted Quetzalcoatl to commit murder and human sacrifice, but he declined,” noted Weinstein. “Also, Quetzalcoatl threw himself on a funeral pyre, where his ashes rose to the heavens as a flock of birds carrying his heart to the star Venus . . . it’s almost romantic.” Weinstein said that even today Quetzalcoatl demands only one human sacrifice a year.

The prosecutor is expected to counter by announcing himself to be Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god who rides about on a mouse. “Ganesha is the destroyer of vanity, selfishness and pride — precisely the qualities Skakel has demonstrated by comparing himself to gods,” said Weinstein. “It probably won’t work, though, because the prosecutor will leave himself open to the exact same objection,” he added. Nevertheless, Weinstein stated that there was an outside chance that the Ganesha ploy might result in an increased sentence for Skakel. “If the judge declares herself to be Bast, the Egyptian Cat goddess, Ganesha could offer her the mouse in exchange for 25-to-life.”

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