The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

2005 May

God Squad Review CXXX (Raising Interfaith Children)

May 31, 2005 | 22 Comments

An engaged interfaith couple (Reform Jew/Methodist) asks the Squad for advice on their plan to teach their children that both religions are “right,” raising them as Jewish until the age of 13 and then offering the chance to switch to Christianity. Failing to grasp that both religions are actually “wrong,” the answer builds upon the confusion of the question:

What you’re doing is good in that you are considering giving your children a real sense of identity in at least one of your religions.

It would be helpful if, as a part of this decision, only one set of religious symbols be brought into the home. Hanukkah, not Christmas, should be the only winter holiday celebrated in a home where you are trying to raise Jewish children. Passover, not Easter, should be the only spring holiday. Take your kids to the home of the grandparents who practice the “out” religion to expose them to the Christian faith.

Children in interfaith homes can be raised as proud members of one religion, but only if you help them. We don’t know how they will be able to make a faith-based decision to become Christians at age 13 if all they’ve been taught in synagogue religious school is Judaism (or conversely, how they could ever choose to be Jews if you raised them as Christians for 13 years).

We believe in choosing, but 13 is way too late in childhood to expect them to make such a momentous decision, which alters the core meaning of their identity. Conversion, which is what you’re really talking about, is a decision for adults.

You will know that your children are fully Jewish, even though you, their father, are Christian. We often see that the religion that sticks is the religion of the mother, so it seems as though you’re making the best of a difficult situation.

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight:

(1) One’s choice of religion is “momentous” and “core-altering” — but usually just a matter of parroting whatever mommy believes.

(2) The choice is so “momentous” etc. that it’s too late to make as a teen

God Squad Review CXXIX (Evil Atheist Children)

May 25, 2005 | 134 Comments

“How to keep faith when grandpa’s a vocal atheist” is the title to this week’s God Squad column. It introduces a letter from a reader whose niece is trying to raise two young children in a religious home, but is burdened by a father “who’s an atheist and talks constantly about this.” I don’t know if the Squad is responsible for composing the descriptions accompanying their work (would they ever complain about a “vocal Jew”?”), but their advice only compounds the offense:

In this case, you should give your niece the courage to raise her children with God for two reasons: 1) they are her kids, not her father’s, and 2) without God, most kids never learn that they have been put here to serve others, not just themselves.

There are many non-aggressive, morally distinguished atheists, but faith is a great help to all of us, particularly children, in creating a modest, compassionate and pious life. You say your niece’s children are young, implying that her father’s atheist beliefs won’t be a problem until they’re older, but he needs to be put in his place.

One way is to have your niece write her dad a letter explaining how he’s making her parenting much more difficult, and stating that if he can’t control himself, he will not be able to see the kids. It’s not as if she’s training them to be drug dealers. She’s giving them a faith that will help them do good works and never lose hope for salvation. This is a noble thing to teach children, and her dad should not interfere.

(1) Let’s start by considering who’s really being “vocal” and “aggressive” here. I doubt the atheist grandfather has actually constructed a building to drag the kids to every Sunday and hired someone to preach at them. Nor does he make them talk to imaginary beings at meals and before bed, or fill their heads with visions of hellfire. That’s pretty vocal and aggressive stuff. Grandpa isn’t the crazy crank in all of this. He doesn’t believe in the boogie man or monsters in the closet, either, and if the kids were frightened by any of those things he’d likely voice his opinion regarding their non-existence as well.

(2) No, the issue here isn’t the niece’s legal right to raise her children without interference. First, note that the niece didn’t write the letter. It was written by her vocal, ignorant aunt, who wants her superstitions imposed on the little ones and has written to the Squad for back-up. Not only does the aunt want to interfere, but she wants the issue aired through a national syndicated newspaper column.

Second, I’m sure if the mother was encouraging the kids to play with matches, use racial epithets or just pick their noses grandpa might say something, and the Squad wouldn’t discourage the “interference.” They’re opposed to it in this specific instance because they think atheism is bad and theism (of whatever variety) is good. Parental rights have nothing to do with it.

(3) Yes, the Squad indeed does think atheism is bad. Apparently they’ve conducted some comprehensive statistical survey and determined that “most” atheist kids are selfish and never learn to behave otherwise without god (however “god” is defined). I guess Father Tom and Rabbi Gellman have been very busy on the playgrounds over the past few decades, interviewing millions of children about their theological beliefs and tracking their conduct through adulthood. (Father Tom might even have tracked some of them into the afterlife, to see how those who rejected Jesus have fared).

(4) Religion is the “problem.” Parents who indoctrinate their children with that most arrogant form of nonsense are the ones who need to be “put in their place.”

Born Again

May 22, 2005 | 91 Comments

Took the week off to establish my new blog at The Evangelical Atheist.

Actually, he’s not me and I was just busy, but the blog looks promising. So go take a look while I power up for the coming week.

Question: Do you think T.E.A. is right that “religion was essential to the development of human society”?

Godless Ungrateful Wretch

May 16, 2005 | 15 Comments

Terminally ill Cass Brown of CancerGiggles graciously offered to die for a blog last year in my Atheist Jesus Poetry Contest. I sent him a tactful e-mail yesterday to see if he needed some Squad-style comfort:

Cass,

Could you give my readers your thoughts on the God Squad’s advice in their latest column? (reprinted below, and available here).

I could have them e-mail you Psalms if you think the Squad’s on target.

Also, why aren’t you dead yet? You promised that, unlike Jesus, you’d REALLY die. What’s the schedule?

— The Raving Atheist —

His response:

My mother-in-law reading psalms to me would be enough to make me recover. At least enough to throw her from the window.

In common with my doctors, I have no idea why I’m still here so the schedule is somewhat vague and in the not just yet, not a long time but maybe a bit longer than only a little time area.

Don’t really want the emails – some would bound to be from believers and I don’t have time to listen to their shit.

Maybe his in-law’s just not chanting them to him in the right order. Remember, it’s 23, 122, 130, 27, 121, 33, 65, 1, 107, 119, 57, 91. Which reminds me of one of Cass’ favorite jokes . . .

God Squad Review CXXVIII(Christians Persecuting Agnostics)

May 16, 2005 | 68 Comments

Last week, the Squad counseled a Christian on how “fight back” against atheist and agnostic friends who heckled him with anti-religious comments. This week, a religious reader seeks advice on how to best harass a dying agnostic relative with religious dogma:

I have a great son-in-law who, after being raised in a religious family, decided he was an agnostic. He just turned 50 and last month was diagnosed with stage-4 liver cancer. We all know what the end results will be. He has been having panic attacks trying to cope. I have been praying that the end will be pain-free but realized that what I am really hoping is that he will realize he needs faith to see him through this. How can I start him on the right path without being pushy or intrusive?

That agnostic does need faith, indeed, that Dou-Mu — perched atop her lotus throne and with four three-eyed heads and eight arms — will give him a new lease on life. But apparently that’s not the “right path” the Squad has in mind:

Start with the 23rd Psalm. Ask your son-in-law if he would object to your reading it aloud. Just read it and let the words pour out of you, without any request for a conversion. Let the words of confidence in the shepherd who will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death comfort him as those words have comforted so many millions of others who fear death. Then, if he does not object to your reading of the 23rd Psalm, move on to Psalm 122, and then on to other Psalms of comfort: 130, 27, 121, 33, 65, 1, 107, 119, 57, 91.

So it’s offensive for an agnostic to make fun of his healthy friends’ belief in this sort of afterlife nonsense, but perfectly fine to spout it at a man on his deathbed. Why would he be comforted by fairy tales he rejects? It’s certainly an attempt at conversion; the premise is that he should believe that the words from the Bible are true. If someone began reading to him from the Qu’ran or the Book of Mormon, I don’t think anyone would deny that some proselytizing was going on in the sickroom. And the rest of the Squad’s answer leaves no doubt as to the purpose of of Psalm countdown — to lead the guy up some “path”:

If he ever wants to talk about the Psalms, great. If not, just read them and sit quietly after each one. Ask him between each Psalm if he would like you to read another one. Remember, not every path up the mountain begins in childhood, and not every direction to the top is clear. The only truth is that your presence, your love and God’s healing hope will come through every cloud and every doubt.

We will pray for him.

?

Just pray? The new Pope just waived the five-year waiting period for canonization of the old one, so John Paul II needs to perform two posthumous cancer-healing miracles in a jiffy. Why not try to convince the agnostic that he’s been selected for the honor? Is it any more crazy than trying to convince him he’s about to take a walk with a shepherd through the valley of death?

Goons

May 14, 2005 | 12 Comments

He calls them the Goon Squad: Austin Cline last week on Father Tom and Rabbi Marc.

Shit on It

May 14, 2005 | 34 Comments

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, on why the Muslim scriptures shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet:

Disrespect for the Holy Quran is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, tolerated by the United States. We honor the sacred books of all the world’s great religions. Disrespect for the Holy Quran is abhorrent to us all.

.

All of us? Yeah, I know diplomats have to say this kind of crap of keep the savages at bay. Who knows, they might even start killing people over getting that stupid book wet. Oh, that’s what they’re already doing. Just like that book we all respect tells them to.

Bewildered

May 14, 2005 | 5 Comments

Is there something wrong with erecting a bronze statute of the housewife witch Samantha Stephens of Bewitched in Salem, Massachusetts — the town best known for hanging 19 of its citizens for witchcraft in 1692? John Carr, a former member of the Salem Historic District Commission, says “[i]t’s like TV Land going to Auschwitz and proposing to erect a statue of Colonel Klink.”

We hereby interrupt this atheism to point out a number of structural problems with Mr. Carr’s analogy:

(1) Witches were the victims in Salem. Nazis were the oppressors at Auschwitz. TV Land would either have to erect a statue of a Jew at Auschwitz (or a witch-hunter at Salem), for the analogy to make sense.

(2) Samantha Stephens was not hanged or otherwise oppressed in Bewitched, and was not alive in 1692. Assuming TV Land does erect a corresponding statute at Auschwitz, it would have to be one of a Jew living happily in the suburbs in the year 2220 or so.

(3) Col. Klink presided over an American prisoner of war camp in Germany, not a concentration camp. So his counterpart at Salem wouldn’t really be a witch-hunter, but whatever town official was charged with the internment of the forces attempting to liberate the witches.

(4) Werner Klemperer, who portrayed Colonel Klink in Hogan’s Heroes, was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. To match that credential, TV Land would have to erect a statute of an escaped accused witch who portrayed a sitcom witch-hunter.

I’d be more than happy to launch into a tirade about the role of Christian superstition in bringing about Salem and Auschwitz, once Mr. Carr supplies a less distracting analogy. While he’s at it, he might also have a chat with with the people running the Salem Witch Museum. Although the merchandise at their site consists primarily of books and videos regarding the witch trials, they chose to feature these hats on the home page of their online store:

c10.jpg

Uh . . . what’s that a picture of on the hat on the right? Isn’t it a bit like putting a Der St

God Squad Review CXXVII (Atheist Persecution of Christians)

May 12, 2005 | 71 Comments

Another poor, persecuted Christian seeks solace from the Squad:

I’m a faithful Christian but I also understand that mine is not the only faith in the world. I don’t try to force my beliefs on others. I believe in the triumvirate of inappropriate topics for social discussion (politics, religion and gossip). I have several dear friends who are atheist and/or agnostic and frequently criticize my faith through jabs and sarcasm. I’m a teacher with a master’s degree. I’m getting more uncomfortable turning the other cheek. What is the appropriate response? And why are my friends criticizing something that’s very dear to me?

It’s terrible when your dear friends criticize your imaginary ones, isn’t it? After all, those invisible beings are also “dear” to you, and they’re entitled the utmost respect no matter what quasi-cannibalistic, self-sacrificial activities they may promote. I’m sure that if your atheist friends regaled with you of their adventures skipping down the Yellow Brick Road in the Land of Oz with Santa Claus, you wouldn’t think them the least bit cuckoo-in-the-head. You might suspect they were being sarcastic, of course (because of course bricks are red, not yellow), but to express even that degree of skepticism would be disrespectful.

Because, as you say, you never force your beliefs on others. Other than through the ballot box. God forbid (as He apparently does), that you would consider the opinions of others before casting your vote — a vigorous public debate on those “inappropriate topics” is unhealthy for society, particularly criticism of religion or anything done in its name. Let’s not try to be influenced by the people we actually know; leave that to politicians skilled in pandering to every “faith community” that invites them to the pulpit.

Wise move, though, writing to the Squad. Certainly they wouldn’t attempt to impose their views on others, outside of using their nationally syndicated column that you chose to air your gossip about your mean atheist friends. True, they do occasionally express an opinion on how God hates gay marriage (they’re against tattoos, too), but that doesn’t disrespect anyone, does it? And certainly they would never mock religious belief, even thought Rabbi Gellman pretty much believes that Jesus was a con man and Father Tom thinks the Rabbi’s going to hell for doubting.

But on to the Squad’s own thoughts about the matter:

The last acceptable prejudice in our society is the prejudice against people who take their faith seriously. We think this anti-religious prejudice is influenced by several factors.

(1) It’s not “prejudice”, in the sense that the atheists are prejudging the intelligence or morality of believers on the basis of some irrelevant, superficial characteristic such as skin color. They’re simply judging them

State-Imposed Orthodoxy on Stain Divinities Restored

May 9, 2005 | 13 Comments

Chicago, Illinois, May 9, 2005
Special to The Raving Atheist

Illinois has officially adopted the position that the Virgin Mary is a stain on the wall of an expressway underpass.

Citing safety concerns, Chicago had covered the image with brown paint on Friday. State officials reversed that order over the weekend, however, permitting two car wash employees to remove the paint with a degreaser. A police spokesman said that the directive was originally intended to remove only the words “Big Lie,” which had been written on the image in shoe polish by a man who asserted that the smudge was a graven image in violation of the Second Commandment.

The man, Victor Gonzalez of Chicago, was charged with the misdemeanor of criminal damage to state-supported property. Authorities condemned his views as “ludicrous” and “insincere,” noting that the True Messiah’s mother was not a “false God” within the meaning of the Old Testament prohibition. Officials also asserted that the New Testament clearly superceded any inconsistent, outdated and/or Jewish scriptural edicts. According to a high-ranking source, police have concluded that Gonzalez is an atheist trying to escape punishment by feigning an insane non-belief in stain divinities.

Although the two women who removed the paint did so without express authorization, the district attorney said they could not legally be charged with any offense. “The painting of the stain was a facially unconstitutional suppression of state-endorsed Catholicism, and the women acted in an appropriate manner to correct the blasphemy,” said an office spokesman. The spokesman cited a 1999 precedent in New York, in which a man, Dennis Heiner, splashed white paint over a dung-laden portrait of the Virgin Mary in the Brooklyn Museum. Concluding that the act was “was a crime committed not out of hate but out of love for the Virgin Mary,” the judge fined Heiner $250 but refused to impose a prison sentence.

What’s the Matter with Kansas?

May 7, 2005 | 57 Comments

Liz Lenton at CityScapeThree challenges the truth of evolution, pointing out that those challenging the truth of evolution in Kansas haven’t really evolved.

What’s the Matter with Kansas?

May 7, 2005 | Comments Off

Liz Lenton at CityScapeThree challenges the truth of evolution, pointing out that those challenging the truth of evolution in Kansas haven’t really evolved.

Man Arrested on Sanity Charge For Disputing Divinity of Stain on Expressway Underpass

May 7, 2005 | 27 Comments

Chicago, Illinois, May 7, 2005
Special to The Raving Atheist

A man was arrested for allegedly scrawling “Big Lie” over a stain on an expressway underpass that some believed was an image of the Virgin Mary, according to MSNBC.

Authorities then painted over the stain because it had been defaced, police spokesman David Banks said Friday.

Authorities charged Victor Gonzalez, 37, of Chicago with not being insane, a misdemeanor. Witnesses had seen him painting the image, Banks said.

“We cannot tolerate the defacement of stains caused by salt run-off, when some people delusionally imagine them to be the Mother of God,” Banks explained. “Such conduct would only be permitted in a world not gone completely mad.”

The authorities who painted over the stain were not arrested. “Everyone crazy person knows that an all-powerful virgin underpass stain would prefer to be obliterated with paint rather than address accusations that she is a big lie,” Banks said. “Of course, had the authorities used a disrespectful shade of paint, they would have been quickly incarcerated.”

Banks also stated that security concerns required the painting of the stain. “In a madhouse, there’s nothing dangerous about letting children flock under an underpass to light candles and leave flowers,” he said.

underpassstain.jpg

“But we were concerned that they might start acting rationally if confronted with the suggestion that their lunatic belief regarding the stain was in error.”

Through his lawyer, Gonzalez insisted that he was merely defending the honor of the real Virgin Mary, who is a Caucasian chemical smudge on a third floor hospital window pane in Milton, Massachusetts. Banks countered that the suspect was feigning insanity to beat the sanity rap.

God Answers Prayers, Helps Woman Commit Fraud

May 5, 2005 | 48 Comments

Albuquerque, New Mexico, May 5, 2005
Special to The Raving Atheist

God helped an engaged murdered woman turn her mysterious disappearance into a scam, according to the pastor of “Runaway Bride” Jennifer Wilbanks.

“Sure, we were all disappointed, maybe a little embarrassed, but you know what, if you remember all the interviews yesterday we were praying, ‘At this point let her be a runaway bride,'” said the Rev. Alan Jones, who was to perform the wedding. “So God was faithful. Jennifer’s alive and we’re all thankful for that.”

Wilbanks was raped and bludgeoned to death by kidnappers two weeks ago and discarded in a Dunkin’ Donuts dumpster. Anticipating the entreaties of her congregation, however, God simultaneously helped her fake the abduction. “I wasn’t sure which outcome I liked more, so I decided to leave it up to a prayer-vote,” God said. “Nearly 60% favored the runaway bride option over the rape/murder, so I led hundreds of law enforcement personnel and volunteers on a wild goose chase.”

God said He didn’t bother creating scenarios involving Wilbanks trapped in an abandoned warehouse elevator or wandering the desert with amnesia because each of those possibilities received less than 1% of the prayers. Only .04% voted that Jennifer simply get married without first disappearing. God noted that he decided to democratize the outcome-selection process in part because of the heavy criticism he faced in 2003 for rejecting the prayers of Laci Peterson’s mother-in-law that the legless, headless corpse that washed ashore in San Franscisco be changed into a different pregnant woman.

Link, Concept via Debbie

UPDATE: Josh at Parshablog points out that the story above involves a tefilat shav of the sort condemned by the Mishna at the end of Brachot.

Now I know what Cleopatra the trapeze artist felt like during the chanting sequence at the wedding banquet in Freaks.

At the Bookstore

May 4, 2005 | 16 Comments

I entrust all my reading decisions to the highly educated staff of Borders Bookstore. Browsing through the religion aisle yesterday, I noticed that they had deemed only two of the hundreds of offerings worthy of their coveted recommendations:

Borders1.jpg

What could they be? I took a peek:

Borders2.jpg

Naturally. The Borders professionals know truth when they see it. But how could they top, or even equal, this selection? I was prepared for somewhat of a letdown, but even so . . .

Borders3.jpg

Meanwhile, over in the science section they were recommending Steven Hawkings’ The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time and Raven Spiritwalker’s Magick Potion Book.

So Help Me God

May 3, 2005 | 80 Comments

“I don’t know about God.”

So said CBS commentator Andy Rooney, balking at the demand that he back up his testimony as a trial witness with an oath to tell the truth, “so help me God.”

Perhaps he was making too big a deal over a few little words. It’s not really the sort of thing that gets my blood up. Bill O’Reilly thought he was being ridiculous. A commentor over at Wizbang thought he was being “disrespectful towards other people’s beliefs and the court.”

Yeah, maybe he was being ridiculous. Making a big deal out of nothing. But keep in mind who started the whole thing, who the aggressor was. The real Big Baby here was the judge, who insisted on the oath in the first place. It was a Big Deal to her, obviously, or she would have dispensed with the formality.

It used to be an even Bigger Deal for the courts. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story thought it appropriate that “[i]nfidels and pagans were banished from the halls of justice as unworthy of credit.” Until 1961 states could require an oath to God as a condition to holding public office, and two state Constitutions still contain the technical ban on atheist testimony.

What if Rooney had demanded that the judge first swear an oath to Oz or Ganesh before he’d follow her instructions? I think certainly she’d think that was a Big Deal. She wouldn’t just go along with it to be “respectful” to some idiot superstition. And what if he had made an even bigger deal of things, say, by kidnapping the judge, strip searching her, and imprisoning her until she admitted that there was no God? That’s what happened to this atheist — in 1987! — when she declined to say “so help me God” as part of the the juror’s oath required by Texas law.

Ridiculous? I’d say.

God Squad Review CXXVII (Internet Porn)

May 2, 2005 | 30 Comments

The sex-savvy Squad struts its stuff this week, in response to a woman who feels “degraded and betrayed” because her husband frequents internet porn sites. They seem to know even more about the subject than I do (of course, I only know what people tell me about it):

The most damaging aspect of porn is that it separates love and sex. It makes sex just a bodily function rather than a deep spiritual, physical and loving gift. Pornography also demeans and degrades women by turning them into sex objects. It’s hard to figure how your husband can reconcile the image of women he sees on porn sites with the image of you he should carry in his heart.

I have to assume that the Rabbi half of the Squad is writing all of this, because the celibacy vows that Father Hartman took separated not just his love, but his life from sex. Presumably so he wouldn’t be distracted from his efforts to defend a Church which demeans and degrades woman by excluding them from its hierarchy (not that promoting superstition would be a wise career choice anyway).

As to the part about reconciling etc., I don’t see why those internet ladies can’t just join the image he carries of his wife in his heart in a frisky little bubble bath frolic. Fantasizing about Jesus casting a warm, approving spiritual gaze from the closet just isn’t going to do it for him. Is that what she is thinking about? Hardly.

Pornography is also highly addictive, so even if you can convince your husband that not “all the guys do it,” he may have trouble breaking his habit. Viewing porn can also lead viewers to porn chat rooms and eventually into adultery.

Porn chat rooms?!?!? What’s this?? Are they a premium, membership only feature of those sites or something? Are they saying that after a guy splatters his keyboard with a jizwad of warm spunk, he runs off to discuss the experience with other men? Why, that’s sounds even better than cuddling! How come none of my friends ever told me about this resource? Do I have to learn everything from the God Squad?

No . . . wait. Those porn chat rooms lead to adultery. So they must be filled with hot, horny women, the kind who only date men who hang out on internet porn sites all day! Tell me more! Tell me more!

We don’t want to sound like prudes, but we believe strongly that there’s nothing spiritually redeeming about porn, even though it’s a hugely popular cultural cancer. It’s a huge source of income for hotel chains and a major reason for the growth of the Internet.

Few things, however hugely popular, are redeeming if they’re cancers. But I never knew that internet porn cancer was such a profit center for hotel chains. Is it really? I know hotels make money off cable TV porn, and adultery, but do people really leave the comfort of their basements to pay $5 a minute connection charge in a Holiday Inn? I guess Paris Hilton was pretty popular online for a while, but I doubt her daddy’s chain profited much from her, seeing as how she was a free download.

And I thought that websites like mine were the reason for he popularity and growth of the internet. Am I being upstaged by sites which people in with filth and profanity? Those cocksucking whoremastering cunting fuckhouse bastards!

Anyway, in closing the Squad offers a cure for the cancer:

Still, you have a right to feel degraded and betrayed. You should demand a meeting with a trusted counselor to explore your husband’s need for porn and affirm your need for love and trust.

Attention ladies and gentlemen: the Trusted Porn Counselor chat room is now open in the comments section!

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