The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

2004 June

Grilled

June 30, 2004 | 8 Comments

It’s a blog rather than a cookbook, but Grill a Christian is nevertheless a tasty little snack. You can devour the entire thing in a minute or two, since the author gave up after just three posts. But don’t blame me for your indigestion:

Before we get to logic and God, let me lay down a few ground rules about theism, especially Christianity, and logic. Lets begin with Christianity. God is real. How can it be proven to you? Honestly, I can’t that is why it is by faith. But by using the rules of logic and common sense, the evidences for God are there and in such a vast amount that saying that there was no higher power is just a statement of arrogance in wanting life to be all about you and a statement that proves that your predisposed biases toward life keep you from being able to weigh the options and decide.

Having trouble inducing regurgitation? Try this:

A popular question “intellectual” detractors of Christianity often ask is, “Can God create a rock too big to pick up?” This question takes many forms but this is its basic one. I want to demonstrate that this question is flawed in its presuppositions and therefore invalid as a theological issue. Some have said that it is a yes or no question therefore does not open itself to this type of criticism, this too, is a faulty statement. To say that the nature of the question must dictate the type of answer is to limit the answer and therefore negate the purpose for asking the question. So with that said: This question is dealing with theological issues but it is presupposing things about the nature of that theology. It automatically assumes certain things on the creativity and nature of God that contradict a scriptural understanding of who God is. The fact that God would create something for man or for the challenge of picking it up is a human concept with human presuppositions about the nature of deity. Therefore this question is leading in nature and not deserving of, or possible to answer. If the question were worded differently, perhaps addressing the creativity or attributes of God it would contain some validity, otherwise, it is useless beyond those who hold anti theistic presuppositions. In conclusion, when asking a question we should always either acknowledge our own presuppositions in the question, or when responding to a question we should acknowledge and address the presuppositions of others.


Link Courtesy of Ocmpoma

Hur-Ray

June 29, 2004 | 14 Comments

The verdict of America’s religious cartoonists is in, and apparently my conjecture that God would give Ray Charles telescopic/microscopic/periscopic vision in Heaven was overly-optimistic. At best, according to Messrs. Corky and Jones, he just gets his regular sight back:

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RayGates.gif

Grim, however, are Ray’s propect’s under Marlette’s theology. He’s still blind as a bat, and ends up picking the nose of The Almighty while testing his braille face-reading skills:

rayfeel.gif

Powell, has him sightless, too, but he gets a more appreciative (and interracial) audience:

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Keefe condemns him to entertaining Ronald Reagan for eternity . . .

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. . . while Morin has him almost mistaken for the Gipper:

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God Squad Review XCIII (Prejudice)

June 28, 2004 | 6 Comments

In response to a parent whose daughter is being taunted at school because of her weight problem, the Squad asserts that they are “prejudice hunters.” They claim that”[t]hat’s what we do when we’re not praying, naming babies, doing weddings and funerals, or playing golf.” In addition to racism, anti-semitism and sexism, they assert that they’ve discovered a number of lesser-known biases, including jockism (against non-athletic kids), Sp-Edism (learning disabled), Blondism (Blondes) and fatism. All of these prejudices, the Squad says, “leave deep wounds in innocent children made in the image of God, who are convinced by these invidious assaults that they’re lower than dirt.”

Interesting, then, that in the two years that I’ve been reviewing their work I haven’t seen a single column about any of the prejudices that the Squad allegedly hunts. As for the three better-known biases, the only one they’ve ever so much as mentioned was anti-semitism — in connection with a discussion of how The Passion of the Christ was bias-free. Not a word about racism, and they’ve studiously avoided discussing the sexism that receives doctrinal approval in virtual every orthodox religion. And it’s no coincidence, of course, that homophobia doesn’t even make their list. They find it perfectly acceptable to bash gays, as they did in their just column two weeks ago.

More Symbolism

June 25, 2004 | 9 Comments

A few days after I ran this post, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, under pressure from the ACLU, agreed to remove a cross from the county’s seal. Looks like the public meeting over the vote was a pretty rowdy one; not only did the proposed cross-removal remind one speaker of Nazi Germany, but another speaker said the action would ultimately result in Jewish boys being banned from wearing yarmulkes. State-owned Jewish boys, presumably.

Now the ACLU has moved on to Virginia Beach, which has this seal:

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Anticipating the move, a few weeks ago a local columnist, Kerry Dougherty, defended the cross as “microscopic” and “nearly invisible to the naked eye.” Fair enough, although if she can’t even see it I don’t know why she’s so concerned that they’re taking it away. But she gives the game away with this observation:

Frankly, I’ve never understood hypersensitivity to religious symbols. I’m not Jewish, but I like seeing the menorah on Mount Trashmore each year. It reminds me of the story of the Maccabees and the great miracle that took place so long ago, so far away.

Those lights twinkling silently along the interstate remind those of us who sometimes forget – especially in the commercial craziness of Christmastime – that our Jewish friends are also celebrating their holidays.

Clearly, a mountaintop menorah so big it can be seen from the highway isn’t microscopic. The effect she describes is clearly proselytization — it reminds her of miracles, almost to the extent she’s ready to convert from her own over-commercialized religion. And even if it’s only ultimate effect is to remind Christians of the existence of other religions — is that really an appropriate state function?

Rubbing It In

June 24, 2004 | 7 Comments

An op-ed on last week’s dismissal of the Pledge of Allegiance case, predictably ending with the words “God Bless America.”

Lunatic

June 23, 2004 | 21 Comments

The Leiter Report, on the consequences of Justice Thomas’ proposal that the states are not subject to the Constitutonal prohibition against the establishment of religion:

Justice Thomas is not, to put the matter gently, a scholar. He is not engaged in scholarly debate or inquiry; he is advocating for a political revolution. On the basis of some scholarly arguments by others (not all of whom even endorse Thomas’s preferred result), he would push aside countervailing scholarly and legal considerations (including decades of precedent), and free the states from the constraints of the Establishment Clause. What would that mean?

It would mean that here in Texas–where the Governor has already called for school prayer, and has led sectarian prayers in the public schools; where the Texas Republican Party platform essentially calls for a theocracy–that we would soon have mandatory Christian prayer in the schools; religious tests for public office; religious education in the public schools; extensive state funding of religious schools and religious activities; an official state religion (Christianity); and the increased marginalization and persecution, social and legal, of atheists, Jews, Muslims, perhaps Catholics, etc.

To advocate such a result is lunatic, is it not? Or, to put the matter differently, if one thinks that it is not lunatic, then one must say openly and clearly that one thinks it would be a good thing for Texas to force my school-age children to pray to a God that doesn’t exist, in a religion they don’t practice, and so on.

* * *

So permit me to restate the point: when there are legal arguments on both sides of a question–say, whether the Establishment Clause applies to the states–to adopt the side that has repulsive moral and political consequences is lunatic. Of course, Justice Thomas does this all the time, which is why I noted that he has merely “solidified” his status on the lunatic fringe with his latest opinion.

If this has failed to convince you that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is — INDEED! — a lunatic, read this.

Hume

June 23, 2004 | Comments Off

In short, I repeat the question: Is the world, considered in general, and as it appears to us in this life, different from what a man, or such a limited being, would, beforehand, expect from a very powerful, wise, and benevolent Deity? It must be strange prejudice to assert the contrary.

David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

Fake Kabbalah Compromising True Principles of Ancient Jewish Mysticism, Say Rabbi

June 22, 2004 | 4 Comments

Los Angeles, California, June 21, 2004
Special to The Raving Atheist

A respected authority on Jewish mysticism has attacked the trendy Los Angeles Kabbalah Centre as a celebrity cult which has “no spiritual dimension whatsoever.”

Rabbi Barry Marcus, a member of the Chief Rabbi’s cabinet and minister at the Central London Synagogue, says: “There’s not a single Rabbinic authority on this planet who endorses what they’re doing; the condemnation of them is universal.”

He points out that the Zohar, the 12th-century manuscript on which modern Kabbalah teaching is based, is on sale at the Kabbalah Centre for

Democracy

June 21, 2004 | Comments Off

Following last year’s Supreme Court decision striking down the Texas anti-gay sodomy laws, various commentators — including those who allegedly supported gay rights — opined how unfortunate it was that the federal judiciary had intruded upon the democratic freedom of the citizens of a state to legislate their own morality through their duly-elected representatives. I’m wondering how many of those same pundits would agree with Justice Thomas’ suggestion, as expressed in his concurrence on the Pledge decision, that the states should also be free to enact their own official religions. Democracy is democracy, no?

Legally speaking, Thomas is probably right. As the Supreme Court pointed out that in 1845, “[t]he Constitution makes no provision for protecting the citizens of the respective states in their religious liberties . . . this is left to the state constitutions and laws” (Permoli v. Municipality No. 1 of City of New Orleans, 44 U.S. (3 How.) 589). And although there is some debate among scholars on the point (see the discussion at the Curmudgeonly Clerk), it’s doubtful that the later enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment — which extended the Bill of Rights to the states — was intended to dismantle state-sponsored religions, even though that’s how it’s been interpreted.

But I suspect that those who objected to the sodomy decision on the ground that courts shouldn’t be able to strike down laws “just because they’re silly” would sing a different tune if religious freedoms were imperiled. The right to dance around in silly hats and drink blood is far more important than the right to love without being imprisoned. Religious rights are “inalienable” and shouldn’t be subject to the majority’s whim; at the very least no one religion should be permitted to dictate its rituals to all the others. This doesn’t mean, of course, that the arbitrary tenets of the majority religion can never be enforced through the law. It’s just that the target has to be the heathen, rather than another religious sect.

Standing

June 18, 2004 | 17 Comments

It’s beyond the scope of this blog, so I won’t quibble with the Supreme Cour’s ruling on the standing issue in the Pledge of Allegiance case. In any event, whether the state should be permitted to side with a mother on the question of her child’s religious indoctrination and loan her the entire public school system to trash the father’s atheist beliefs is clearly a matter for local domestic relations tribunals — or maybe the traffic courts. But the concurring opinions on the constitutionality of the Pledge itself raise another standing issue. Did Justices Rehnquist, O’Connor and Thomas have standing to participate in the case, insofar as they’re a pack of sanctimonious, god-whoring, mouth-breathing morons who lack the mental capacity to grasp simple legal and logical principles?

Rehnquist’s opinion begins by rambling on interminably about the importance of voluntary public god-talk by a number of non-elementary students named Washington, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt and Eisenhower. Eventually he concedes, though, that “[t]o the millions of people who regularly recite the Pledge . . . “under God” might mean . . . that God has guided the destiny of the United States . . . or that the United States exists under God’s authority.” Nonetheless, he concludes that “I do not believe that the phrase “under God” in the Pledge converts its recital into a “religious exercise”:

Instead, it is a declaration of belief in allegiance and loyalty to the United States flag and the Republic that it represents. The phrase “under God” is in no sense a prayer, nor an endorsement of any religion, but a simple recognition of the fact noted [by Congress in adding “under god” to the Pledge]: “From the time of our earliest history our peoples and our institutions have reflected the traditional concept that our Nation was founded on a fundamental belief in God.” Reciting the Pledge, or listening to others recite it, is a patriotic exercise, not a religious one; participants promise fidelity to our flag and our Nation, not to any particular God, faith, or church.

So it’s a simple patriotic recognition that everyone believes that God rules America. Justice O’Connor elaborates:

Facially religious references can serve other valuable purposes in public life as well. Twenty years ago, I wrote that such references “serve, in the only ways reasonably possible in our culture, the legitimate secular purposes of solemnizing public occasions, expressing confidence in the future, and encouraging the recognition of what is worthy of appreciation in society.” For centuries, we have marked important occasions or pronouncements with references to God and invocations of divine assistance. Such references can serve to solemnize an occasion instead of to invoke divine provenance. The reasonable observer discussed above, fully aware of our national history and the origins of such practices, would not perceive these acknowledgments as signifying a government endorsement of any specific religion, or even of religion over non-religion.

The relevant observers to the Pledge are the children led in saying it, and they’re not going to be fully aware of this supposed national history in which “facially religious references” constitute this thing called secular solemnization. They’re going to think that god means god, which is certainly an endorsement of religion over non-religion. And which, in any event, was exactly what was intended by all those historical “references to God and invocations of divine assistance.” Moreover, every reasonable observer of the recent history of the Pledge controversy knows that the only reason that there’s a controversy at all is that the Pledge supporters want to keep god in the public schools. O’Connor then makes a few observations relevant to what kind of religion the Pledge promotes:

I know of no religion that incorporates the Pledge into its canon, nor one that would count the Pledge as a meaningful expression of religious faith. Even if taken literally, the phrase is merely descriptive; it purports only to identify the United States as a Nation subject to divine authority. That cannot be seen as a serious invocation of God or as an expression of individual submission to divine authority.

Is that really what all those amicus briefs from religious organizations said — that they want to keep the Pledge as it is because it trivializes their canons? And do they all agree that a religion isn’t “serious” or “meaningful” unless it purports to command individual rather than universal submission to god? Presumably it would be acceptable to declare Jesus as our national savior so long as no suggestion was made that He’s our personal one as well. O’Connor has an answer to that one, although it doesn’t depend on the national/individual distinction. Rather, the dividing line shifts to monotheism versus atheism and polytheism:

[The Pledge] does not refer to a nation “under Jesus” or “under Vishnu,” but instead acknowledges religion in a general way: a simple reference to a generic “God.” Of course, some religions– Buddhism, for instance–are not based upon a belief in a separate Supreme Being. But one would be hard pressed to imagine a brief solemnizing reference to religion that would adequately encompass every religious belief expressed by any citizen of this Nation. The phrase “under God,” conceived and added at a time when our national religious diversity was neither as robust nor as well recognized as it is now, represents a tolerable attempt to acknowledge religion and to invoke its solemnizing power without favoring any individual religious sect or belief system.

So the whole point of the Establishment Clause is to find a way to favor religion over non-religion, without offending any particular sect other than the ones that the Catholics thought were silly in 1952. O’Connor then tries to explain why expressly acknowledging god is actually less religious than remaining silent:

Of course, a ceremony cannot avoid Establishment Clause scrutiny simply by avoiding an explicit mention of God. See Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985) (invalidating Alabama statute providing moment of silence for meditation or voluntary prayer). But the brevity of a reference to religion or to God in a ceremonial exercise can be important for several reasons. First, it tends to confirm that the reference is being used to acknowledge religion or to solemnize an event rather than to endorse religion in any way. Second, it makes it easier for those participants who wish to “opt out” of language they find offensive to do so without having to reject the ceremony entirely. And third, it tends to limit the ability of government to express a preference for one religious sect over another.

So saying “under god” quickly communicates to children that religion isn’t being endorsed, a conclusion they would apparently jump to quickly if just told to shut up and think about whatever they wanted for a minute. And the explicit mention of God makes it easier for the kids to get “offended” by what they might misperceive as endorsement, a misunderstand that might not occur if nothing at all was being said. Plus, the government can no longer endorse a particular sect – everybody knows that silence unambiguously and exclusively refers to the theology of Jack Chick. O’Connor concludes with the reassurance that she hasn’t really been talking about religion at all:

Any coercion that persuades an onlooker to participate in an act of ceremonial deism is inconsequential, as an Establishment Clause matter, because such acts are simply not religious in character. As a result, symbolic references to religion that qualify as instances of ceremonial deism will pass the coercion test as well as the endorsement test. This is not to say, however, that government could overtly coerce a person to participate in an act of ceremonial deism. Our cardinal freedom is one of belief; leaders in this Nation cannot force us to proclaim our allegiance to any creed, whether it be religious, philosophic, or political. That principle found eloquent expression in a case involving the Pledge itself, even before it contained the words to which respondent now objects. See West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642 (1943) (Jackson, J.). The compulsion of which Justice Jackson was concerned, however, was of the direct sort–the Constitution does not guarantee citizens a right entirely to avoid ideas with which they disagree. It would betray its own principles if it did; no robust democracy insulates its citizens from views that they might find novel or even inflammatory.

So it’s the duty of a robust democracy to expose children to “inflammatory” god-talk through state-sponsored public exercises, which aren’t coercive because they’re only inflammatory ceremonial deism.

Rehnquist and O’Connor also each imply that atheists are merely “hecklers”, although Newdow gets a couple of patronizing pats on the head for being “sincere” and “well-intentioned.” It’s Justice Thomas who holds the most obnoxious view, however, even though he starts out on the right foot:

[P]ledging allegiance is “to declare a belief ” that now includes that this is “one Nation under God.” It is difficult to see how this does not entail an affirmation that God exists. Whether or not we classify affirming the existence of God as a “formal religious exercise” akin to prayer, it must present the same or similar constitutional problems.

To be sure, such an affirmation is not a prayer, and I admit that this might be a significant distinction. But the Court has squarely held that the government cannot require a person to “declare his belief in God.”

I conclude that, as a matter of our precedent, the Pledge policy is unconstitutional.

But Thomas finds “questionable” the court’s precedent forbidding the state governments to take a position on theology, and suggests the law be changed to permit them to establish and thus endorse official religions. And even if that doesn’t happen, he believes the court should not consider a religion to be impermissibly “established” unless direct legal compulsion is involved. Under this view he concludes that the Pledge does not establish religion, because no student is legally required to recite it and the only coercion comes from “peer pressure” — even though the Pledge is required by state statute and initiated and led by a state employee. So could the teachers lead the class in a tribute to Jesus or Vishnu, as long as no particular student was forced to participate? Thomas says yes:

To be sure, I find much to commend the view that the Establishment Clause “bar[s] governmental preferences for particular religious faiths.” But the position I suggest today is consistent with this. Legal compulsion is an inherent component of “preferences” in this context.

Oz

June 17, 2004 | Comments Off

I am writing this because people I love have died.

Amos Oz, My Michael, 1968

Interesting

June 17, 2004 | 18 Comments

Eugene Volokh links to a survey which reveals that over 60 per cent of American adults believe in the literal, word-for-word truth of the Biblical accounts of the six day creation of the universe and Noah’s ark. The Professor’s sole commentary on the matter consists of the introductory sentence: “Interesting recent poll . . . .”

I find it interesting that Volokh finds the results “interesting.” It’s interesting is that the ordinarily garrulous Professor never states what exactly he means by “interesting,” or in what regard he finds the findings interesting.

That so many citizens of this modern Western democracy still believe in such insane fairy tale skygod babytalk claptrap is actually frightening, revolting and saddening. I suppose Volokh avoided those adjectives because he thought “interesting” was neutral. Now, I know he believes that the government should remain neutral – and in fact accord stupid beliefs a form of preferential equality if they’re cloaked in God-talk – but his post wasn’t a treatise on Constitutional law. He was just reporting poll results, and he’s not the government. Whatever restrictions might apply to state-sponsored commentary on faith don’t apply to university professors. So why not say what’s so interesting?

And when you think about it, “interesting” really isn’t such a neutral word.
It’s an interesting word. The implication is that the poll results aren’t uninteresting or boring or routine. In other words, they’re not the results that one would expect. So why not tell us what you’d expect that a presumably sane populace would believe?

Walker

June 16, 2004 | Comments Off

Now in these dread latter days of the old violent beloved U.S.A. and of the Christ-forgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world I came to myself in a grove of young pines and the question came to me: has it happened at last?

Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins, 1971

Turban Ban (Part 2)

June 16, 2004 | 12 Comments

“When will public officials learn that constitutional rights should supersede a dress code?” whines a New York Newsday editorial in urging that the New York City Transit Department reverse its decision to reassign a Sikh subway motorman who refused to replace his turban with a department-issued cap. “In the clash between appearance and religious freedom, the latter must prevail.”

The Transit dress code permits train operators to wear the Metropolitan Transportation Authority baseball cap only, although a temporary exception was made for employees wishing to wear Mets or Yankees caps during the 2000 Subway Series. Pointing out that an administrative law judge recently recommended that the New York Police Department reinstate a Sikh traffic agent who had resigned rather than shave his beard and discard his turban, the Newsday editors conclude that “there’s nothing about wearing a turban that compromises personal or public safety.”

I agree. But neither is there anything about wearing a beret, a feathered headdress, a propeller beanie or a short-handled toilet plunger that compromises personal or public safety. However, there is something about all those things that, like the turban, violate the dress code — they’re not Metropolitan Transportation Authority baseball caps.

The dress code may be silly and unnecessary, but so is the Sikh’s turban and religion. There’s no reason that silly religious reasons should automatically prevail over a silly dress code, unless whatever silly reasons might compel one to wear other silly non-religious headwear are also permitted to prevail over the code. Either ditch the rules altogether or enforce them equally against all silly reasons. If it’s kept, and exceptions are to be made, make them for sensible reasons relating to physical comfort.

Calling the choice of head-covering a “constitutional right,” while dramatic, resolves nothing. Free speech too is a “constitutional right,” but no one would argue that every attempt at personal or philosophical self-expression through dress should trump generally-applicable work rules. And if anything is unconstitutional, it’s the favoring of religious desires over non-religious ones.

Ferdinand

June 15, 2004 | 3 Comments

Fiat justitia et pereat mundus.
(Let justice be done, though the world perish.)

— Ferdinand I
Submitted by Eva

Blues Brothers

June 15, 2004 | 12 Comments

Not a week in the grave and Ray’s back to performing. But it looks like I was wrong about death improving his bodily condition. From his question, it seems Mr. Charles is suffering from either deafness or short-term memory loss:

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I guess they had to carve his vital statistics on the side of his piano so he’d remember he’s dead. Old St. Peter and his white beard seem to be on vacation, but a youthful, hip, White-But-Soulful Jesus (with wings) is around to humor the new admission. If either of them gets the blues, they can always look down from on high at the spectacle unfolding in the next cartoon and get a laugh trying to figure out exactly what it’s supposed to mean:

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Can anyone tell me? Is it supposed to be something like this, or was the cartoonist actually serious?

God Squad Update

June 14, 2004 | 1 Comment

Link to God Squad column supporting evil stupid filthy homophobic Catholic grandmother’s decision to hate and snub her lesbian granddaughter based upon primitive skygod babytalk superstitions now available online here.

Renew

June 14, 2004 | 20 Comments

Will another atheist revive the Pledge of Allegiance controversy within the next five years?

Nothing

June 14, 2004 | 1 Comment

The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.

V.S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River, 1979

Wusses

June 14, 2004 | 29 Comments

The Supreme Court just totally wussed out on the Pledge of Allegiance case. It held that because atheist Michael Newdow didn’t have sufficient custodial rights over his daughter, he didn’t have standing to challenge her school’s policy of reciting “under God” in the Pledge (the “Roe” in Roe v Wade had standing even though she gave birth before it was decided and never had an abortion, but no matter). So the practice stands.

And probably forever. I doubt another atheist with the passion of Newdow is going to come around for a long time and most atheist organizations don’t want to touch the issue by themselves because they think it generates too much ill-will. Plus — even though the issue wasn’t before them — three of the Justices (Rehnquist, O’Connor and Thomas) decided to weigh in on the core issue anyway, issuing opinions that the Pledge was okay as currently written. Presumably those decisions will carry substantial weight with whatever district or appellate courts ever consider the matter again.

Since the case was technically dismissed on a technicality, look for the God lobby to continue their drive for a Consitutional amendment this election season “just to be safe.”

God Squad Review XCII (Lesbian Love)

June 14, 2004 | 3 Comments

A 78-year old grandmother loves her granddaughter “with all her heart.” The granddaughter has a companion who is a “lovely person” that the whole family is “very fond” of. And the granddaughter and her companion love each other so much that they’ve bought a house in Maryland. Not only that, but they’re about to have a “commitment ceremony” to which granny has been invited.

So what is grandma’s question for the Squad? What dress to wear? What flowers to bring? What gift to buy to best express her eternal, overflowing love to her beloved flesh and blood and the love of her life? No — whether to go at all, because she’s a practicing Catholic and her granddaughter’s faggotism “goes against everything in my faith and upbringing.”

Dealing with this sort of malignant, hateful, divisive evil is a no-brainer for the Squad. After all, they note, “Tom’s brother Jerry was gay and died of AIDS in 1995.” Moreover, “[m]any of our closest friends are gay and Marc’s PhD adviser and many of his most revered teachers are also gay.” So, after commending the granddaughter for her courage in coming out, they tell the grandmother she must have courage too:

Your courage is also needed to tell her, with equal love, that you cannot accept the choices she has made. . . . The key to preserving your relationship with your granddaughter is a humility that softens your courageous affirmation of the ethics of your faith

That’s right: courageously hate her with equal love.

“Fuck you” was my initial response to the Squad’s answer, but then I read their plea that “[t]he second virtue we must all have if this deep spiritual and moral thinking about gay marriage is not to descend into bitter vituperation is humility.” Yes, all of us– whether we are on the side of those who are being unilaterally condemned for their love and denied their basic human rights, or on the side of those who are doing the condemning and denying.

So I calmly and humbly surveyed the Squad’s “deep spiritual and moral thinking about gay marriage.” It’s the usual double-talk (my comments interspersed in boldface):

Homosexuality and lesbianism are close calls for us. They’re examples of love between two consenting adults who often, if not always are genetically predetermined to have these urges.

Close call? More like case closed. But they go on . . .

On the other hand, same-sex unions undermine the traditional notions of the family that have been accepted by virtually every culture in every age, even cultures that have had no exposure to the negative teachings about homosexuality found in all three Abrahamic faiths. It is not just an arbitrary decision that the best way to raise children is in a family with both male and female role models.

I won’t go into other social practices which, up until last century, were accepted “by virtually every culture in every age,” other than to say that old is not necessarily good. I don’t know what data the Squad is relying on to conclude that children are better off with both male and female role models, and they certainly don’t cite any statistics which establish that gay couples make worse parents or that the children of gay couples are maladjusted. I suspect that what they’re really relying on is evidence about children who were raised by one person (and thus had a single-sex role model) because their heterosexual parents hated each other and split up. Broken homes may hurt children, but there’s no evidence that the gender of feuding parents is relevant.

Or maybe they’re just concerned that children who lack both male and female roles models will turn into fags.

It is, to say this with extreme humility but sufficient courage to make the point, the truth. It’s not just that heterosexual marriages are the norm in the Bible and therefore they are right. It’s that they are right and therefore they are the norm in the Bible. This doesn’t mean that the Bible cannot be wrong.

All sorts of interesting marriages are the norm in the Bible, and the Squad doesn’t discuss whether executing gays is the norm in the Bible because it’s right. But I’ll stay away from these points in view of the concession that the Bible could be wrong.

Perhaps the gay community is correct in asserting that the clear condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible is just the result of an ancient prejudice that we should be rid of in our enlightened age. We don’t think so. The univocal judgment of human cultures around the world and over time, the disturbing levels of promiscuity, particularly in the homosexual community, and the need of children to have role models of their own sex, all lead us to affirm what our faith also teaches.

Other than slipping in the promiscuity issue for the first time, the Squad repeats its prior arguments. But heterosexual men and woman, even married ones, can be promiscuous, and at least one of the Abrahamic faiths permits its members to have in excess of 50 wives apiece. I suspect gays would be less promiscuous if they were permitted the security that a lifelong commitment that marriage encourages. And the charge is irrelevant in the context of the example raised by the letter. The grandmother doesn’t claim that her granddaughter is promiscuous, only that she’s settled into a home with her lover and wants to make their commitment official.

Civil unions that grant simple legal equity to gay couples must be considered.

This is a rather strange and sudden turn-around. All that the granddaughter was planning, after all, was a commitment ceremony.

Civil unions don’t provide “simple legal equity” because they deny gays over 1,000 benefits afforded to straight couples. And why the Squad is calling for any equity at all is beyond me, given their stance that homosexuality is immoral and that gays are promiscuous and make terrible parents. And again, the Bible calls for gays to be executed, not to be joined in civil unions.

But as to the spiritual sanctification of gay marriage, we must demur, and we must hope that the gay community can understand that although their holiness as persons made in the image of God is secure, the choices they’ve made in their lives are a fair field for criticism.

Up to this point that Squad was only talking about the legal sanctification of gay marriage, not the religious sanctification. No one is proposing that filthy bigoted hate-religions be compelled to perform gay marriages.

I hope that the Squad understands that their choices, too, are a fair field for criticism. Father Tom, God gave you Parkinson’s disease for your unnatural celibacy and for condemning your gay brother.

Moreover, just as those who choose to live in same-sex unions must not be the objects of calumny, so too, those who reject these unions must not have to bear the unjust slander of being called “homophobes.”

Fuck you, homophobes.

Note: For the first time in my experience in writing nearly 100 God Squad Reviews, their Newsday column is not available online. I don’t know whether this was just an oversight, a technical problem, or an editorial decision. I’ll supply the link once (and if) it becomes available elsewhere.
Update: Link to column now available.

Fishy

June 12, 2004 | 2 Comments

“Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color,” said Don Hirschberg in a letter to Ann Landers. If that’s the case, the godless must be praying out west:

Bald is a hair color in Montana. Montana’s Web site lists “bald” as an option when applying online for a fishing license.

“It’s always been there, but before when you applied for a license at a sporting goods store, the person filling out the license just checked the appropriate box,” said Rich Olsen, general manager of the state’s site, Discovering Montana.

You also can choose to declare your shiny pate on your driver’s license.

“It’s a newer option, along with other hair colors, such as sandy,” said Patrick McJannet, manager of field operations for the state Motor Vehicle Division.

This is obviously a Christian plot to rob atheism of one of its most potent arguments/lame slogans. Now all they’ve got to do is define health as a disease, and silence as a language, and we’re done.

Bubble Boy

June 12, 2004 | Comments Off

“Oh, um, it’s okay, Pushpop. Your religion is all lies.”

— Jimmy (Jake Gyllenhaal), in the movie Bubble Boy (2001)

A Forum?

June 11, 2004 | 18 Comments

It occurred to me while setting up the ‘Quote of the Day’ (and I was told [ok prompted] to do it a while back ago but like a typical female, I forgot) that maybe a forum would be of good use here. Looking at the logs for RA there are a lot of repeat visitors.

If you think you’d be interested in participating in a discussion forum that bashes Theists, please voice your opinion here and if RA says it’s alright, I’ll set one up. But I’d hate to do all that work and have no one use it.

-Chris

Testing Quote of the Day

June 11, 2004 | 8 Comments

“Remember there is a big difference between kneeling down and bending over” – Frank Zappa

Ray of Light

June 11, 2004 | 4 Comments

In most versions of the afterlife, we merely regain whatever abilities we lost on Earth. But this cartoonist seems to believe that we, or at least Ray Charles, get even more than we had:

rcharlesfin.gif

The Devil Made Me Do It

June 10, 2004 | 2 Comments

“God wants me to do it” is the premise underlying mosts religious freedom lawsuits. The theory is treated with fawning respect by the courts — whether they uphold or dismiss the action– because, as we all know, “men may believe what they cannot prove.” But you get laughed off if you claim Satan made you do it, as the plaintiff in Mayo v. Satan and His Staff, 54 F.R.D. 282 (W.D.Pa. 1971) long ago discovered:

Weber, District Judge:

Plaintiff, alleging jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C.

Regained

June 9, 2004 | 14 Comments

The nature of bodily resurrection after death is a hot topic among theological scholars, particularly those who haven’t peeked into a year-old coffin. But what happens to the mind? The nation’s religious cartoonists are at odds over the question, at least with respect to former President Ronald Reagan. They all agree that the body he got is about 70 to 80 years old — but did the Gipper shake off any of the ravages of Alzheimers? Englehart says yes:

englehart.jpg

So perhaps he’ll respond to a few unanswered questions about Iran-Contra. But maybe not — Harville and Heller seem to think he’s digressed to age 4:

harville.jpg

heller.jpg

McCoy and Marlette believe he’s still deluded . . .

mccoy.jpg

marlette.jpg

. . . but Ariail and Wells think he’s just joking:

arial.jpg

wells.jpg

Whether he’s serious or not about tearing down the gate, I have to admit I just don’t get the joke. It’s almost like they’re suggesting that Heaven is an oppressive, authoritarian, Communist state.

Oh . . . now I get it.

Monks Running E-Business Inspire Stories About The Irony of Monks Running E-Business

June 8, 2004 | 4 Comments

Sparta, Wisconsin, June 7, 2004
Special to The Raving Atheist

The irony of an ancient order of monks running a modern, profitable e-commerce venture has inspired countless breathless news stories about how very ironic it is for monks to run a modern profitable e-commerce venture. According to Richard Hoskins, director of the National Press Association, the nation’s editors and reporters decided that the story of cut-rate printer cartridge e-tailer LaserMonks should receive and endless stream of uncritical, fawning publicity focusing on how cute and neat it is for ordinarily sheltered religious types to engage in twenty-first century, internet-based capitalism.

The NPA directed ABCNews.com reporter Barbara Pinto to be sure to start her article with the words “[i]n a monastery nestled deep in the hills of western Wisconsin, six Catholic monks spend hours a day in prayer and contemplation — chanting in Latin from hundred-year old books, and studying the Bible.” Said Hoskins: “We thought that would really set the reader up for a shock went it was revealed that the monks were engaged in a multi-million dollar printer supply operation.” Hoskins added that Pinto was told that it would be good idea to say how LaserMonks’ website has adorable features like a place to submit prayer requests, and to quote company’s president as modestly attributing his success to God. “I actually got him to say “We have been blessed,” boasted Pinto. “And since he said it with a sly smile, I mentioned that too.” Similar stories on the LaserMonks have appear in USA Today and The Pioneer Press.

Following LaserMonk’s example, a New York Catholic group has started a real estate business called PropertyBishops.com. “We know that competing in the cut-throat Manhattan market won’t be easy,” said the company’s President, Edward Cardinal Egan. “However, with God’s help, prayers, and a little uncritical, fawning media coverage we hope to one day be the City’s largest private landowner, as we have been for over fifty years.” Egan added, with a smile, that any politician who wished to be elected had better stop by his Cathedral on St. Patrick’s Day, kiss his pinky ring, call him Your Eminence and shine his shoes with their tongues.

[Link via PurpleCar]

Patriotism

June 7, 2004 | 8 Comments

Illinois radio talk show host Scott Thomas, on patriotism:

Let me be clear on this. I do not think you can fully be a true American patriot without first loving the God who blesses this nation. Sure, an atheist can fly a flag, pledge allegiance (without mentioning God), even fight and die for our country . . . all legitimate patriotic acts.

But, without recognizing the God who makes this country possible, can you fully be a patriot? Without God, there is no free United States, because freedom, even the freedom to not believe in Him, comes from and is ordained by God Himself.

Etc. Read the annotated version by atheist blogger Josh Rhoderick at The Turnspit Daily.

God Squad Review XCI

June 7, 2004 | 10 Comments

Death is on the Squad’s mind this week, as they address the finer points of religious burial in their responses to three separate letters. The first is from a Catholic couple that wants to be cremated because they don’t like “the whole funeral parlor deal” and think cremation would be cheaper and easier on their family. After noting that the Church dropped its ban on cremation in 1963, the Squad continues:

Orthodox Christians remain staunchly opposed to cremation. Cremation is still against Jewish law because it interferes with the natural process of decomposition (“from dust to dust”). Sometimes cremation puts mourners, both Catholic and Jewish, in a bind. The deceased wanted to be cremated, but the surviving family wants to bury them in a grave where the family can visit and pay their respects. A solution to this is to cremate the body and then bury the remains in a grave.

Note that the solution doesn’t actually address the religious concerns of Orthodox Christian and Jews. The Christians are still left with nothing to be resurrected (presumably their objection, although the Squad doesn’t bother to mention it), and the Jews go from dust to ashes. The mourners do get to talk to a box full of cinders, though.

The second letter is from a Lutheran who wants to tattoo his name in hieroglyphics with Egyptian gods on each side. The Squad repeats their stand (previously discussed here and here) that “God owns our bodies and therefore ‘body art’ is less a form of artistic self-expression than the desecration of a human body that God alone owns,” again failing to explain why make-up and clothes are permitted. Then, returning to their death theme, Squad notes that “Judaism is firm on this view, forbidding the burial of anyone with a tattoo, although this law is violated routinely.”

It seems to me that cremation would also be the solution here, fire being the ultimate tattoo-remover. And I bet Jews would readily waive their objection to cremating a Lutheran, given how many Jews Luther had burned.

The final letter is from a Catholic/Jewish couple that can’t be buried together because Catholic cemeteries don’t accept Jews and vice versa. The Squad’s response shows how trivial they consider the selection of one’s (allegedly) most deeply held spiritual beliefs: “If one of you would consider a deathbed conversion, then it would be possible to bury the spouse who dies first in his or her sacred ground, followed by future burial of the other spouse alongside.” That’s right – faithfully practice your old religion until you’re about to die, and then dump it at the last second to get a grave next to your beloved. I can see how God — whether it turns out to be the one you converted to or converted away from — is going love that.

New York Governor Declares Kosher Emergency

June 4, 2004 | 12 Comments

New York, New York, June 4, 2004
Special to The Raving Atheist

Amid confirmed reports that the state’s water and wig supply were in violation of Orthodox Jewish law, Governor George Pataki last night declared New York to be in a state of Kosher Emergency. His executive order immediately vested the New York Divison of Kosher Law Enforcement with permanent supervisory authority over all of the state’s public utilities, hair, and head-coverings. The proclamation expands upon similar emergency legislation drafted last year to protect consumers from unscrupulous merchants who mislabeled as “kosher” food which failed to meet strict Orthodox Kashrut standards.

The latest measure was prompted by two recent rabbinical rulings. The first concerned the purity of human hair wigs, which Orthodox women must wear to hide their own hair in the interests of modesty. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, The leader of a Lithuanian Torah Jewry faction, last month declared that Indian human hair wigs could have been cut in a Hindu temple — part of a sacrificial rite that Jews would consider idolatrous. One strand in a human-hair wig would render it unfit, he ruled. The rabbi’s edict caused a panic in Miami beach, where women were crying hysterically and publicly immolating wigs costing thousands of dollars.

A second scare has been roiling the Orthodox community in New York, where organisms known as copepods have been found in New York’s unfiltered tap water. Although tiny and harmless, copepods are crustaceans. And eating crustaceans — shrimp, crabs, or any other creature with an external shell — is against Jewish law. According to the New York Times, some of New York’s hardware stores have experienced a rush on water filters. Rabbi Abraham Zimmerman, of the Orthodox Satmar sect, has called upon the City to help make the water kosher, but the Department of Environmental Protection has refused on the ground that the copepods provide health benefits.

State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, whose office runs the Kosher Law division, vowed to combat the new wave of anti-Semitism with forceful action. “Unless we act swiftly, New York’s drains could be clogged Hindu demons fornicating with mini-lobsters,” he said. Spitzer ordered that all wigs be made from synthetic materials, already favored in the Orthodox community because they are heavy, sweaty, clearly fake and minimize feminine allure. Spitzer further proposed that, once restored to their appropriately stinking state, the women could be shaved, fitted with collars and placed on leashes. With regard to the water problem, Spitzer directed the erection of separate Kosher and non-Kosher water fountains and the segregation of all restaurants into Jewish and non-Jewish sections.

[Links via Debbie]

Militancy

June 2, 2004 | 8 Comments

My favorite weak atheist, Julian Baggini (see here and here) addresses one of the most popular anti-atheist canards:

One of the most serious charges laid against atheism is that it is responsible for some of the worst horrors of the 20th century, including the Nazi concentration camps and Stalin’s gulags. The godless regimes of fascism and communism could only commit such atrocities because they were godless. How should atheists respond to this charge?

He concludes that the Holocaust resulted from an “anti-semitic tradition in German Protestantism” and that “Nazi doctrines themselves were also at odds with the kind of rational naturalism of traditional atheism.” But I think Baggini needs to be involuntarily institutionalized and re-educated for some of the conclusions he draws about the communist experience:

[A]theists can consistently distance themselves from the terrors of Stalin by simply point out that Soviet communism is not even a logical extension of Marxist communism, let alone a logical extension of core atheist values, which are not communist at all. However, although this defense is certainly enough to justify a ‘not guilty’ verdict in the court of history, the Soviet experience does point to two dangers of atheism. The first of these is a too-zealous militancy. It is one thing to disagree with religion and quite another to think that the best way to counter it is by oppression and making atheism the official state credo. What happened in Soviet Russia is one of the reasons why I personally dislike militant atheism. When I heard someone recently say that they really thought religious belief was some kind of mental illness and that they looked forward to a time in the future when religious believers would be treated, I could see an example of how militant atheism can lead to totalitarian expression.

The notion that the state must, or even can, remain “neutral” towards religion is a myth. State agnosticism, apart from being as much a militant position as anything else, is useless because social policy can’t be formulated without distinguishing between sense and nonsense. The state should routinely rejects, as false, religious doctrine whenever attempts are made to introduce it into the public schools, hospitals and other institutions. The “official state credo” towards creationism and faith healing must be atheism, not some mushy “who knows, anything goes” tolerance.

No one, of course, should be incarcerated or institutionalized for merely expressing their religious (or political or other) beliefs. But the exercise of those beliefs need not be tolerated when they cause harm. And mental illness need not be ignored merely because it takes the form of religious expression.

God Squad Review LXC

June 1, 2004 | 7 Comments

A bum who got dumped by his wife after he demeaned and ignored her for twenty years asks the Squad how to get her back. He’s helpless by himself, and needs her to cook, sew, clean, do the laundry, pay the bills, mow the lawn, rake the leaves, shovel the snow, and put out the garbage. The Squad attributes his predicament to “karma,” which, they say “refers to the results or consequences of our actions.” Specifically, they offer the profound insight that “[y]our disregard for the sacrifices of your wife on your behalf caused her pain, so she left you, which has caused you pain — a perfect example of karma.”

Being the “God” Squad guess they’re compelled to shoehorn some sort of theology into every answer. But it’s not clear here why the Priest-Rabbi team has elected to explain things in terms of Hindu theology, particularly a doctrine that primarily related to consequences after death. Moreover, they don’t explain how the wondrous cosmic law has brought justice to the wife. How did karma reward her for twenty years of selflessly cooking, sewing, laundering, bill-paying, mowing, raking, shoveling and garbage putting-outing? She got ignored, demeaned, suffered pain and, apparently, was driven out of her own house.

The Squad also introduces the stick doctrine, noting that “[s]ticks in a bundle are unbreakable . . . [s]ticks alone can be broken by a child . . . [y]ou’re a stick alone, and you are broken.” They claim that this an old Jewish saying “which, remarkably, is also a saying of the Masai tribe in Africa”

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