The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

2006 January

Voices of Life: Jamila A., a/k/a SmartBlkWoman of A Day in the Life

January 30, 2006 | 105 Comments

The Raving Atheist welcomes (again) Jamila A., a/k/a SmartBlkWoman of A Day in the Life as TRA’s first Voice of Life. Jamila is a twenty-two year old single mother of one who is planning on joining the military.

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Abortion is NOT Empowering!!

I have waaaay to many friends that have had abortions. Why are so many abortions performed every year when birth control is easier to find than a water fountain? When I was in college, condoms were sold right next to candy bars in the vending machines.

I hate to sound hypocritical and judgmental but I think that if you get pregnant you need to deal with the consequences of your actions and bear the child. Abortion has become the new birth control. Abortion has taken Fido’s place as man’s best friend. Now a man can lay down with a women he wouldn’t be caught dead with in the morning light, get her pregnant, and then tell her to have an abortion. Many women today, having the low self-esteem that they do for the most part can usually be easily talked into an abortion, even if in their hearts they want to keep the child.

What has so many feminists saying that abortion is “a woman’s right” when so many women are getting abortions because the man doesn’t want them to keep the baby? Or it might be their families that are against them having the baby. Do they consider the fact that society is very unfriendly towards women with children? NOPE, because you got a lot of feminists acting like “the master’s tool,” a/k/a men’s puppets.

I’ll be for real, my child’s father tried to get me to get an abortion and for a moment I thought about it but then I came to my senses and realized that this man didn’t care about the life of this child but only about his freedom. So after some thought I said to myself “fuck him”. If he didn’t want to have a child with me he shoulda bought more condoms and been more careful. I also should have been more careful ’cause now I can barely stand the man. Oh well, alls well that ends well and I rest assured that things will end well for me and my baby.

What has got feminists thinking that hopping up on a doctors table and getting your uterus vacuumed out is empowering? What has got feminists thinking that abortion is empowering when the reasons most women get abortions is because they don’t have the support system to take care of their child or the man doesn’t want to deal with their asses after he has hit it and quit it?

The year after abortion was legalized in this country the pregnancy rate went up 30% but the birth rate went down 6%. Abortion became the new birth control and folks started acting a fool cause they could always pay a few hundred bucks and get rid of the problem (a/k/a the child) later.

If you want to reduce the pregnancy rate and encourage responsibility, get rid of abortion. Men, if you lay up with a chick you betta use protection because this women could be your future “baby momma”. Ladies if you lay up with a man you betta use protection because you might give birth to a son who may end up being as triflin’ as his daddy. We need to go back to the good old days . . . you got a woman pregnant, you married her and handled your responsibilities. NO IFS, AND, OR BUTS. If this happened I can assure anyone that the pregnancy rate would go significantly down and birth control use would go significantly up.

God Squad Review CVLI I (Anti-Semitism)

January 30, 2006 | 2 Comments

What nuptials are complete without a little Jew-baiting? A Squad reader reports that at a friend’s wedding at a Baptist church, “the minister talked about the evil deeds of the Jews in history.” Being a Jew himself, the reader felt singled out, his wife and apparently the rest of the guests being Protestant. The Squad advises to tread lightly, and tattle:

There are two sources of prejudice: ignorance and evil. Our advice is to first confront — in a respectful way, of course — an offending minister/priest/rabbi /imam. After all, you may have misunderstood the message. If you receive no satisfaction, write a letter to the clergyperson with a copy to the chair of the board of trustees of the house of worship or the bishop. This will help teach the offender that prejudice hurts and won’t be silently tolerated.

Maybe these awkward moments could be avoided altogether if Jews just wore yellow stars to Christian weddings. That way the preacher would know he was in mixed company, and could avoid easily-misunderstood phrases like “Christ-killers” and “god-murderers.” But I also like the Squad’s gentle approach of taking him aside and explaining that people don’t like to be accused of deicide (even if the Bible clearly says they did it).

The follow-up letter is a good idea, too. With the rush to get to the reception, you don’t always have enough time to convince the presiding clergyman to change his ways. It’s especially hard if he’s also spewing racial and ethnic epithets, which tend to be rooted in more deeply-seated prejudices. But a tactful note will work wonders.

AAAbortion

January 29, 2006 | 6 Comments

A pro-choice advocacy website explains the reasons for opposing the latest SCOTUS nomination:

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito has emerged from an intense round of questioning from Democrats — and gushing praise from Republicans — during his time in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Opponents of Judge Alito tried to paint him as an ideologue well out of the American mainstream.

* * *

On the more contentious issue of abortion rights, though, Alito “felt less need to reassure his opponents” observed an editorialist with the Los Angeles Times. “There was plenty of lip service to the importance of ‘settled law,’ but it was easily inferred from the judge’s evasiveness that he does not consider ROE v. WADE to be as settled as other landmark Supreme Court precedents,” noted the Times.

* * *

With the likely approval of Mr. Alito, the high court looses a unique, moderating voice in the person of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Wednesday is the final day the court hears arguments for this month, and O’Connor, 75, is likely to retire if Alito is confirmed by the full Senate. Much has been written how O’Connor served as a temperate voice of moderation on the bench. That balance changes precipitously with the Alito appointment.

Actually, this is the position paper of American Atheists in support of its Stop Alito campaign. Although just last November the organization’s own blogger said that “American Atheists has no official position on abortion,” it’s hard to distinguish their rhetoric from that appearing on NARAL Pro-Choice’s site. Both appeal to the “mainstream” and call for the canonization of Mother Sandra Day, who unlike the extremists on either side of her, knows that the truth always lies exactly in the middle. Or sometimes a little beyond the middle, perhaps nearer the six month point.

Obviously, I’m in no position to complain of abortion propagandizing on an atheist website. But it’s strange to see AA prioritize that issue over church/state separation, which they don’t reach until near the end of their discussion of the confirmation hearings. You’d think it would be first on the list of an organization purporting to be the official voice of the irreligious. And given that theyre talking about abortion at all, the could at least explain why the issue should be dismissed as a purely religious one, or where precisely on the pro-choice/pro-life spectrum rational atheists should stand.

Maybe it’s that AA has changed formats and is now a humor site. How else to explain the embrace of “mainstream” opinion by a group that’s trying to purge God from the Pledge of a Allegiance? That effort is opposed by something like 106% of all Americans (although the figure was less before math was purged from the public school curriculum).

The O.Connor-worship is also a laff-riot. To be fair, Supreme Court jurisprudence on religion has ever made much sense, but I can’t say Alito would be so much worse than O’Connor on the issue. She believes religious beliefs so special that those who profess them are entitled to special exemptions from laws applicable to everyone else. In other words, churches can ignore zoning laws, Native Americans can take peyote, and Christian Scientists can deprive their children of medical care. Why shouldn’t atheists be allowed to build front yard outhouses, get high, and murder their kids too?

Knee Slapper

January 27, 2006 | 3 Comments

love the New York Post’s Weird But True round-up. The little news snippets always end with an ironic twist — and a moral. today’s offerings gave me a good chuckle:

A starving Kenyan woman placed a powerful tribal curse on God, accusing him of sending famine. She chanted, “Whoever brought this famine, let him perish,” as she beat a cooking pot with a stick.

She died in her sleep a few hours later.

Ha ha ha! Emaciated, dying primitives can be so funny, blaming the Being responsible for giving them the courage to cope with their suffering. I hope she’ll get the point by the time Satan’s three-headed dog is finished chewing what meat remains on her bones: if you worship jungle spirits instead of the one true God, you’ve got only yourself to blame.

Julia Sweeney, Unsaved

January 25, 2006 | 1 Comment

I knew the bad atheists would ruin Julia Sweeney’s mind:

Oh — I’ve been thinking about this. While I was listening to the Alito Senate hearings, he said, “No one is above or below the law.” And I was musing on that phrase, no one being above or below the law. I hadn’t heard that before. Then it dawned on me: fetuses! That’s what he probably means. Unborn fetuses are below the law in his opinion. Oh — that’s a good one. The Anti-Choice Senators and politicians probably all wink-winked over that — no more questions, sir! We know where you stand.

She’s probably reading too much into that particular phrase, but yes, he stands with all those anti-choice crisis pregnancy volunteers who encourage women to let their born fetuses be adopted. Adopted like Sweeney’s daughter.

Pie, Anyone?

January 25, 2006 | 26 Comments

“Little baby poop is appropriate conversation to discuss with anyone who will listen, grown folk crap is nasty!” observes SmarkBlkWoman. She’s right. Dinner-table chat about Pampers and potty-training is cute –but start talking about the last steaming slab of feces left behind by your spouse, or the foot-long bowel movement you saw clogging the toilet at McDonald’s, and suddenly nobody wants dessert.

With religion it’s no different. Little Mary at the bedside saying her prayers for mommy and daddy and Spot is adorable. And only the crankiest spoil-sport atheist could object to a class of kindergartners mouthing the words “under God.” But see what happens at a cocktail party if you begin proclaiming some grown-up dogma, like blasphemers boiling in the Blood of the Lamb. You’ll find that the usual “respect” for faith will be replaced by a toothpick to your eye.

Hope for the Godless Future

January 24, 2006 | 4 Comments

I have been informed that another potential atheist has entered the world, born to TRA guest blogger PurpleCar. Ominously, however, he emerged on the Night of January 16th — the name of Ayn Rand’s most famous play. But insofar as Capricorns are cold-minded and willing to sacrifice themselves, he probably won’t fall for her selfish superstition.

Voices of Theism: Jamila A., a/k/a SmartBlkWoman of A Day in the Life

January 24, 2006 | 77 Comments

The Raving Atheist welcomes Jamila A., a/k/a SmartBlkWoman of A Day in the Life as TRA’s third Voice of Theism. Jamila is a twenty-two year old single mother of one who is planning on joining the military.

I ask that my readers exercise tolerance when responding. Before commenting, please read the definition of “tolerance” set forth in the New York Daily News column regarding this site.


MY HEART AND MY HEAD

I’m not a religious person. I would call myself incredibly spiritual though. As of lately however it seems as if this fella named Jesus has been beckoning to me and telling me that Christianity is the way. I feel as if I should follow him, that is what my heart tells me to do, but I’m scared.

In all honesty the idea of faith scares me. When I think of the faithful I think of folks swearing up and down that they believe there is a God but they can’t tell you why or even how they came to that conclusion. The very idea of believing in something that I can’t see, taste, touch, hear, or smell has always seemed crazy to me. Yet, I think that for the most part I have always believed there was a God. Why have I believed that? Because my heart always told me that “this” can’t be it. There has to be something more than this thing called life where we are born, we live and then we die.

I dipped and dabbled with atheism for a while because I refused to accept what my heart was telling me. I then studied Buddhism for a while. I have bought various religious books over the years and for some reason or another none of them ever stuck with me. So I have been a wanderer as far as faith is concerning. If faith were a boyfriend I would be considered a slut because I always ended up cheating on my faith sooner or later. Yet in certain areas such a love, I have been one of the most faithful people I know. I can’t quite understand it myself so I must conclude that religious faith and relationship type faith have little to do with each other.

I’m beginning to ramble, so let me get to my point. My heart wants to believe in something and that something seems to me to be Jesus. However, I am becoming more and more the type of person that has to be able to accept an idea with my head as well as my heart. I have always been the type of person to challenge widely held ideas and I am highly intelligent and an intellectual, if I do say so myself ( and I do say so). At the end of the day, what this taught me about myself was that I had no deeply held convictions of my own. I stood for nothing and I continued to fall for anything. I put my faith into people and things that I should not have. I don’t want to be that person anymore.

My conclusion. I have to accept Christianity ( if I do accept it) with my head and my heart. I have to be able to know explain what I believe and more importantly I have to know why I believe what I believe. This is going to be a battle that I must use my head and my heart so that in the end I will come to a conclusion that I do not waver from. I want to find the truth. I purchased the following books at Amazon.com and at Borders over the last few weeks. The Origin of Satan and Adam, Eve, and the Serpent by Elaine Pagels. I purchased The Apocrypha and Pseudephigrapha of the Old Testament Volumes One and Two and The Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew and Know Why You Believe by Paul E. Little. I bought these books because I wanted to know ALL about Christianity, not just the stuff they tell you in Sunday school. I want to know how the current bible came to be and why.

So I hope that God is patient with me and that I am patient with myself as I follow the path to wherever it leads me. I truly believe God works in mysterious ways and the events of this past year have been Gods way of showing me that. I’ve finally accepted that I don’t have control over everything and I am finally accepting that God’s way of doing things is better than mine.

Additional reading at Jamila’s blog: I Think I Wanna Be A Jew.

God Hates Freds

January 23, 2006 | 29 Comments

If you thought I was mean, just look at the message Fred Phelps sent to “the Sodomite West Virginians, the real Brokeback Mountaineers”:

W[estboro] B[apist] [C]hurch will picket Sago Baptist Church in Tallmansville — Sunday, April 2 — for blasphemously misrepresenting the sovereign, predestined providences of The Almighty in the Sago Mine matter. When God punishes a nation with death-dealing lightning bolts, hurricanes, and IEDs, it slanders the Great King to utter maudlin preacher-lies in vain attempts to gloss over God’s condign wrath so as to avoid repentance.

Fred is of course actually making a lot of sense here (if some common Christian premises are accepted), but I’ve gone over that issue in the last couple of God Squad reviews and won’t revisit it here.

Instead, I’ll note that cranky as some atheists are, I don’t think they’d taunt mourners in a Church with “Your Prayers Didn’t Work — Ha Ha Ha” signs. They might post about doing it, as a joke, but wouldn’t do anything that would create a significant possibly that their words would ultimately reach the victims and hurt their feeliings. If they did, it wouldn’t be long before Bill O’Reilly pilloried them as typical representatives of the secular-atheist conspiracy.

Christianity, however, won’t take much of a hit from Fred’s antics, because he’ll be dismissed as an an isolated, unrepresentative crackpot. In a sense, his conduct will be excused by a combination of his religiosity and his craziness. The religiosity wilil make him seem sincere, and immunize much of the content of what he’s saying from criticism (which, as noted, isn’t theologically unusual). The craziness will relieve him of moral responsibility, because people like him really can’t help saying what they do.

How come I can’t catch a break like that? It seems to me that I’m regarded as so sane that I must know what I am saying is mean, so I get no points for morality. Similarly, it’s assumed that I couldn’t mean what I say, so I’m judged as insincere as well. In sum, there’s an assumption that I’m worse than people than Phelps because I “should know better.”

But isn’t all this precisely what makes me better? Knowing the difference between right and wrong, nice and mean, true and lies, and conforming my words and conduct to make sure I’m properly understood and that no one gets hurt? Sanity and kindness should count for something. I should be regarded as much, much better than someone who’s exploiting a tragedy just to show that his beliefs about theology are intellectually and morally superior to all others.

God Squad Review CVLI (Problem of Evil; Problem of Migraines)

January 23, 2006 | 4 Comments

The problem of evil again surfaces at the Squad, with a reader asking why an omnibenevolent, omnipotent and omniscient being wouldn’t stop bad things from happening if he saw them coming. The reader also notes that the Bible describes “numerous occasions of horrific slaughter committed by the Judeo-Christian God,” and quotes God’s scriptural admission that He “creates evil” (Isaiah 45:7). Oblivious to much of what it has just been asked, the Squad offers this unresponsive jumble of ideas:

The solution is that God knows everything except what we will do next. God has, the German philosopher Liebniz was correct in stating, created the “best of all possible worlds,” and this requires that we be given freedom of will. We can choose whether to follow God’s commandments, or we can choose to reject the truth and live lives of sin and suffering.

This freedom is essential to making the world perfect and is a self-imposed limitation on God’s power. God could, of course, make us all automatons who only do good because we would have no freedom to do evil, but this would make us and the world less perfect. God wants us to grow to follow God freely and in love. The cost of this freedom is our ability to wreak havoc on the Earth and each other, but freedom requires that risk for the ultimate spiritual perfection of humanity. The natural evil in the world (hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.) is not really evil, since it is the result of the natural functioning of a living planet.

Note that the Squad doesn’t respond to the most troublesome charge: that God Himself creates evil and commits atrocities. Even if He doesn’t know what we are going to do next, he’s certainly in control of His own actions. Plaguing us with grasshoppers and murdering our first-borns isnt’ something that preserves our free will — those things affirmatively defeat it. Natural disasters similarly interfere with our free will, rather than augment it. To blithely claim that they’re the “natural functioning of a living planet” doesn’t explain why God doesn’t stop them.

Their answer isn’t even satisfactory to explain human evil. A psycho who runs around killing babies and children deprives his victims of free will — they lose their existence and thus become less free than even automatons. So since there’s going to be a loss of free will anyway, it seems a better state of affairs would be to be to simply have a world of happy automatons. Or God could just eliminate the psychos (who are largely automatons anyway) and leave only us nice people who, although free, are likely to elect to eschew evil.

Furthermore, I don’t see how depriving humans of evil-doing capabilities altogether would be a serious limitation on their free will. I feel free enough right now even though I lack the ability to shoot nuclear weapons out of my eyes, so taking away the rest of my destructive powers and tendencies wouldn’t be so bad. I could just exercise my free will in selecting among an infinite number of nice things to do. And if in fact God is incapable of evil (disregarding all of that alleged Biblical naughtiness), why isn’t He considered a free will-lacking automaton? I thought He was supposed to be the freest thing around.

There’s also a problem with their excuse that He doesn’t know what we’re going to do next. Even if our free will makes us less predictable, it doesn’t stop Him from stepping in after he sees us misbehaving and preventing or mitigating much of the damage. Plus, He knows what we’re thinking in the present, and can estimate the probabilities of us acting on our worst urges. Even without being a mindreader, I think I’d call 911 if I saw a pedophile in a clown suit driving off in car after packing the trunk with chloroform and electrical tape.

Plus, the Squad has devoted column after column to explaining the power of prayer to spur God’s intervention. True, in their book that intervention is usually just the “courage to cope,”i.e., a psychological sedative to ease the pain. But if He can do that, it makes sense that he can do more. If I’m tied to a tree at 3:00 a.m. with Jed and Zeke going at me with a blowtorch and a meatsaw, a little adrenaline rush won’t do me much good. I mean, either untie my hands, give the hillbillies strokes, or just shut down my whole freakin’ nervous system.

* * *

In the second letter to the Squad, a reader asks if it’s appropriate to pray to God for relief from something as trifling as a migraine headache. You know, one of those “natural evils” they were talking about in response to the first letter. You don’t have to be omniscient to predict their response:

One difference between the God of philosophers and the God of the Bible or Quran is that the God of philosophers is purely transcendent — removed from contact with earthlings — and is creator of the universe, nothing more. The God of the Abrahamic faiths, however, is both creator of the universe and your personal rock and support through the pains and vicissitudes of life. The God of faith loves you, cares for you, wants the best for you and is ready to heal you. That healing may or may not take away physical pain; it may heal you by helping you live through it. Either way, you should feel comfortable that you are not wasting God’s time or addressing God inappropriately by praying about your migraines.

Okay, I can see someone being happy about living through a headache rather than dying from it. But if I’m tied to a tree at 3:00 a.m. with Jed and Zeke going at me with a blowtorch and a meatsaw . . .

Buh Bye

January 21, 2006 | 8 Comments

Atheist blogger Lauren of Feministe sings her swan song, leaving the site in the capable Christian hands of Jill. Hopefully, Lauren will fill the blog-shaped hole in her heart by leaving post-sized comments on Jill’s entries and trolling elsewhere. If not her voice will be missed — I know that nothing was more important to me than her opinion.

Judging Jill

January 20, 2006 | 31 Comments

Jill of Feministe takes aim at crisis pregnancy centers, asserting that their “very purpose . . . is to lie, mislead and coerce women” out of having abortions. To illustrate this point she highlights the experience of two women, Nichole Embry and “Danielle.” Nichole’s boyfriend wanted her to abort, but she was having nightmares about it; the CPC counselor told her that the decision would affect her entire life and that the pain “doesn’t go away.” Danielle too, was being pressured by her boyfriend (and mother) to abort even though it was “against her values.” When Danielle said that she might nevertheless terminate the pregnancy if her boyfriend insisted, the registered diagnostic medical sonographer at the CPC showed her an ultrasound image of her uterus on a television screen, played the fetal heartbeat on an audio speaker, and asked Danielle if she “would feel [she] killed [her] baby because of him.” Jill’s reaction:

Christ. Now, I deeply believe that if a woman wants to give birth and doesn’t want to have an abortion, it’s coercive and wrong for her family or boyfriend or whoever to pressure her. These two women seem fairly certain of what they want to do, and they should be supported in their choice. But telling them that abortion is universally painful and the psychological effects don’t ever go away, or that she’s contemplating killing her baby, is highly inappropriate. It would be equally inappropriate for a counselor to try and convince her to have an abortion when she clearly doesn’t want it, and I’m sure these “pro-lifers” would agree — yet they don’t see the hypocrisy in their own actions.

I don’t see the hypocrisy in their actions, either. There is none. The counselors believe that abortion is wrong, very wrong, and that women should be convinced of its wrongness and dissuaded from aborting. So of course they believe that it is fine to talk women out of abortion, but morally repugnant to talk them into it. It’s no more inconsistent than arguing that people should be talked out of infanticide but not into it.

Jill’s criticism makes no sense whatsoever in the context that she presents it, as the counselors in her examplewere supporting the women in their original choices. But more fundamentally, her analysis is flawed because her morality penalizes only the criticism of conduct — i.e., simple persuasion — rather than conduct itself. The only “wrong” in Jill’s ethical universe is trying to persuade someone not to act upon their original or existing desires, to express disapproval of what they “clearly want,” regardless of what those desires or wants may be.

And so one of Jill’s chief complaints against CPC’s is that they “lay down black-and-white judgments.” The argument collapses upon itself. For Jill herself is asserting, as a black-and-white matter, that lying, misleading and coercing women out of abortions is a bad thing. And she is making a value judgment that on the spectrum of morality, lying, misleading and coercing are worse than killing. If not, why doesnt’ she just say, “if you don’t like CPCs, don’t go to one?”

Jill particularly doesn’t like that CPCs try to make women feel guilty by convincing them that abortion is an “evil, shameful thing.” But that is the nature of judgment itself, evoke guilt or pride in conduct. Presumably Jill believes that the CPC volunteers should be made to feel guilty for persuading women to view abortion exactly they do; under her own theory, however, she may not do that. And insofar as Jill believes that absent a compelling reason, the procedure should be criminalized after approximately six months, I assume she wants women to feel that abortion is evil and shameful after thatpoint. So the notion that passing judgment, or creating guilt, is some independent moral wrong, is nonsensical. All that matters is the nature of the conduct under review.

But let us suspend reason and for the moment accept Jill’s premise that the morality of the abortion decision hinges solely upon whether the woman wants it. Even then, what is so special about the status of her desire at the instant she presents herself at the clinic door? No person arrives at her position on abortion in a vacuum — at some earlier point in her life she was “coerced” into believing as she does. Why would it be wrong for the CPC counselor at some later time to correct what she believes to be an immoral belief, and thus make that what the woman wants?

Suppose, for example, that the woman had been pro-choice her entire life but was swayed in the other direction only a week before by watching a television show about fetal sonograms. Jill would certainly respect that woman’s expressed desires at the time she entered the clinic. So what would it matter if instead the woman was persuaded by a video of that same program ten minutes after walking into the clinic? Would the decision to keep the child be any less her desire, merely because she arrived at it a week later? I also assume Jill would respect the desire of a lifelong Catholic to give birth — would it matter to her if the conversion had taken place only day before, or if the woman were simply “converted” to the pro-life position (by religious or non-religious reasons) by clinic volunteers?

The sin here, apparently, is that clinics fail to respect what Jill terms “the personal autonomy of others.” In other words, presenting women with moral arguments in an attempt to persuade them somehow turns them into mindless robots (at least if pro-life arguments are employed). But if, indeed, a woman is a full moral agent she is perfectly capable of arguing back, or walking out of the clinic if she doesn’t like what she hears. I’m sure that most of the moral agents that Jill knows are aware that getting an abortion at Planned Parenthood in twenty-first century America is as easy as sticking a coin into a gumball machine, and wouldn’t have much difficulty extracting themselves from a CPC if indeed they would ever make the “mistake” of entering one in the first place.

What Jill really means, perhaps, is that the sort of women who go to CPCs are helpless, vulnerable, undecided and uninformed. That’s hardly the same thing as autonomous. If that is the case, they are better off being tipped over to the side of life at a CPC than possibly being “comforted” and “reassured” down the road of death elsewhere by allegedly “neutral” counseling. In any event, if Jill truly believes that the abortion decision itself is morally neutral, she shouldn’t care about the ultimate outcome. And if she does believe that giving birth is in some instances the “wrong” choice she should support her claims with data regarding the grave harm that CPCs have caused. There aren’t a lot of “I hate my baby” organizations out there.

For my part, I see no problem with a CPC volunteer “violating” a woman’s personal autonomy by seeking to change her mind about abortion even where she is “fairly certain” about the choice. My friend Ashli has successfully counseled women who desperately desired to abort, who had made appointments to do so (see here and here). I defy anyone to read those stories and explain how what she did is anything short of morally spectacular, much less evil.

No, I do not believe that CPC volunteers to should lie to women about their medical condition and condemn any who do. Jill concludes from a NARAL report that this is a common practice; I have never seen it, and I invite you to find a center near you, volunteer, do your own investigation, and put and end to such evil. But I cannot say I am in the least disturbed by the fact that volunteers give warnings, forcefully stated, of the potential psychological effects of the practice. I do not doubt for an instant that a woman may have an abortion without a trace of remorse or other psychological disturbance. But the sad fact of the human condition is that a person can commit virtually any wrong without guilt, and very purpose of such warnings is to instill it, especially in matters of life and death.

Planned Parenthood Calls for Investigation of Little Girl’s Life

January 19, 2006 | 48 Comments

New York, New York, January 19, 2006
Special to The Raving Atheist

As state officials probed the bureaucratic failures that led to the death of seven year old Nixzmary Brown, Planned Parenthood demanded an investigation of the circumstances surrounding her non-abortion and birth.

“Why was this unwanted child ever permitted to live?” asked the organization’s national spokewoman, Gloria Michels. “Nixzmary endured a short, brutal and completely worthless existence, one which could have been avoided had there not been a breakdown in the system of reproductive healthcare access and education.”

Despite signs of earlier abuse that were obvious to caseworkers, neighbors and teachers, Nixzmary was beaten to death by her stepfather last week in a Brooklyn apartment. Observers said that she could have enjoyed a happy, productive life had social service authorities intervened in a timely manner. Michels insisted, however, that the child’s suffering could been prevented altogether had Nixzmary been properly aborted in 1999. Michels also noted that there are thousands of children currently suffering from Downs syndrome and other defects that might have easily been treated with a simple vacuum aspiration.

What’s in a Name?

January 18, 2006 | 10 Comments

With all the people in the world named “Jesus” at birth, you wouldn’t think it would be such a big deal for someone later in life to seek to legally change his name to the full name of that alleged deity. After all, girls named “Mary” have pretty much accomplished that — like Cher, Charro and Beyonce, the Mother of God doesn’t have a last name. And in any event, the last name “Christ” isn’t so uncommon. As I noted here, a New York recently did grant a man’s petition to change his name to Jesus Christ. The law certainly doesn’t care; unless you’re trying to evade creditors, what you call yourself is your own business. Who would object?

Blogger Tim Murphy, for one. He got quite upset when he read that a Mr. Peter Robert Phillips wanted to officially be known Jesus Christ. No matter that Mr. Phillips already owned property and had a US Passport, Social Security card, District of Columbia drivers license issued under that name, and just wanted his West Virginia drivers license to match. Murphy thought the guy should be legally barred from calling himself JC — because he “examined both Protestant and Catholic bibles and found they [did] not support [Phillips’] claim that they allow for use of the name Jesus Christ.” He also discovered that paragraph 2143 of Catholic catechism states that “The gift of a name belongs to the order of trust and intimacy” and “The Lord’s name is Holy” and concludes that “[f]or this reason man must not abuse it.”

Now, Phillips himself relied on Mark 9:38:42, which talks about people performing miracles in Christ’s name. Perhaps it’s a stretch, but that’s irrelevant — a person’s legal right to do anything can’t rest upon Biblical interpretation or Catholic dogma. Apparently realizing this, Murphy turned to Constitutional interpretation. He concluded, interestingly, that going by Christ’s name falls under the “fighting words” exception to free speech.

Murphy’s line of reasoning is fascinating. He relies on the celebrated case of Cohen v California, in which the Supreme Court upheld a man’s right to wear a jacket bearing the words “fuck the draft” in a courthouse full of women and children. How does that help Murphy’s argument, you ask? Well, the court did discuss the “fighting words” exception, noting that it applies to “personally abusive epithets which, when addressed to the ordinary citizen, are, as a matter of common knowledge, likely to provoke violent reaction.” So Murphy argues that saying “Jesus” is worse than saying “fuck”:

[The law] could clearly prevent the use of obscenities such as cunt, motherfucker, etc. or derogatory terms like nigger, kike or wasp to be used as persons’ names . . . [so certainly it could] prevent the name revered by a third of the world’s population to satisfied the vanity of an individual [like Phillips].

What a potty mouth! For a Catholic blogger, anyway. If you’re having trouble following why fuck is okay and Jesus, cunt and wasp are not, you’ll be equally puzzled by his discussion of how the state’s right to keep certain words off license plates should apply to the license you tuck away in your wallet. But what’s really bothering Murphy becomes apparent later in the post:

[There are] various situations where people have gone to lengths to avoid offending the public . . . A recent newspaper story stated: “In April students at the all women Smith College in North Hampton, Massachusetts, voted to replace all the female pronouns in the student constitution with gender neutral pronouns. Although men are not admitted to Smith, many students apparently believe that using “she” and “her” is inappropriate for students who are admitted as females, but later identified themselves as transgender. [I also note] that recently, while at a training program . . . the media reported that sheets were draped over several paintings in the hotel because in the painting was depicted a confederate battle flag in order to avoid offending people by showing the image of the confederate flag.

Murphy also cites to an anonymous internet which reported that “70 faculty members at Georgetown sent letters of protest in regards to Cardinal Francis Arinze’s commencement speech, in which he remarked that the family is ‘mocked by homosexuality.'”

In other words, because private citizens engage in self-censorship or criticize people that Murphy likes, the law should crack down speech that Murphy doesn’t like.

Which is precisely what the law did in the case of Mr. Peter Robert Phillips. You see, Tim Murphy isn’t really a blogger. He’s a Senior Judge in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and all of the language quoted above is take verbatim from his 2003 Opinion and Order denying Phillips’ name change application.

Murphy’s decision was, of course, reversed last May, with the matter for some reason remanded for a hearing. The appellate decision (reproduced here) is outrageous in its own way, failing to chastise the Murphy in the least for his blatant trampling of a crackpot’s clear legal rights.

God Squad Review CLV

January 16, 2006 | 12 Comments

How does anyone know what’s “right” when it comes to religion? That’s the question from a Squad reader who has been at the brink of death due to cancer and wants to go to heaven — but is concerned about all those who say that their faith is the only path to salvation. Should she listen to them? The Squad gives a definitive, thundering yes-no-maybe:

Sometimes, the religious message of love is entrusted to hateful people. Sometimes, communities of faith that teach the value of welcoming the seeker and the stranger, instead become communities of exclusion.

However, just as you wouldn’t condemn all of medicine over the presence of some quack doctors, so we urge you not to condemn all organized religion because of a few spiritually limited representatives. As we’ve often said in our column, the “one-wayers,” those who believe that only those in their church will be saved, may be right! Perhaps there is just one way up the mountain and they have found it. But we don’t think they’re right, and we don’t believe God would give all the truth to just one denomination in one religion. Only after we die and approach the pearly gates will we all be able to sort things out.

* * *

Don’t give up. The place where diamonds are found is mostly filled with dirt.

Actually, as I’ve pointed out before, half of the Squad doesn’t believe there are many paths up the mountain. Father Tom is a “one-wayer.” They’ve expressly admitted that he believes that Christ-belief is essential to getting into heaven.

That belief is certainly clearer than anything else they say about the subject. Why wouldn’t a perfect God give all the truth to one denomination — is it preferable to sprinkle a combination of lies and truth in every religion so no one can be sure of anything? And are they suggesting that we listen to the hateful, exclusionary people anyway just in case they’re right? By that logic, are they urging us to go to the quack doctors as well? If I’m reading their closing line correctly, it also seems they’re suggesting we explore the filthiest religions because diamond are found in dirty holes.

Though it hardly seems possible, their answer to the next question makes even less sense. A parent has written in to say that her Jewish daughter is about to marry a Catholic man, and that the couple has decided to compromise with respect to childrearing. Although she wants to raise the kids Jewish, his parents oppose that. Accordingly, they’ve decided that “there will be no religion in their house — just the two them respecting each other.” The Squad concludes as follows:

Children can be raised without any religion, but they can’t be raised in a lie. The truth of what your daughter is about to enter through marriage is that you will have Catholic grandchildren (even though, technically, they will be fully Jewish, and if they ever decide to reaffiliate as Jews, they won’t need to convert back to Judaism).

If your daughter is really willing to give up on bequeathing her Judaism to her children, she can go ahead and get married. If she knows she’ll resent being forced to raise her children as nothings or as Catholics, she should break off the engagement and find a Jewish guy and a marriage that will not begin with two strikes against it.

I would critique this answer if I had some idea of what the Squad means, but I don’t. First, what is the “lie” the children will be raised in? Catholicism, Judaism, or atheism? Are they saying that it’s a lie to believe that the children with be “nothings” when in fact they’ll be Catholic? And why will the children be Catholic? Is it some sort of genetic thing (which appears to be their basis for saying the children are “technically” Jewish)? Given that they don’t believe that God gives all the truth to just one denomination, I don’t see how they’re in a position to call any mixture of belief or nonbelief a “lie.”

Shafted

January 15, 2006 | 5 Comments

My treatment of the Sago miners’ plight last week was received with accusations of insensitivity. But at least I resisted dedicating an obituary cartoon to the tragedy — no decent person would do that, right?

Guess again. In the first one, the miners are about to be as surprised as we were to find out that they’re all dead:

Minersheaven2.jpg

In the next, Mr. Death gets to do some mining. But what happens if he gets trapped, too? And note that there are only eight skulls. Apparently four of them forgot to accept Jesus:

deathminers.bmp

At least in this one, the miners are treated like celebrities — they get to share their God-given talents with the world forever:

MinerJesus.jpg

I think this cartoonist forgot the three-day rule. If two famous deaths don’t happen within that time of each other, you have to draw separate cartoons for them:

RosaMiners.jpg

Hajj Pilgrimage Nabs Honors as Safest Devil-Stoning Event

January 13, 2006 | 12 Comments

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 13, 2006
Special to The Raving Atheist

J.D. Powerhouse & Associates has awarded the annual hajj devil-stoning pilgrimage its highest overall ranking in the Religious Stampede Safety category.

The Power Circle Excellence Award honors hajj’s safety record over a seventeen-year span, during which time only seven stampedes resulted mass fatalities. J.D. Powerhouse spokesman Ken Braddock noted that just 345 pilgrim corpses were loaded into refrigerated trucks in this week’s outing, up only slightly up from the 244 crushed to death in 2004 and significantly lower that 1,426 trampled in 1990.

In the ritual, all the pilgrims must pass “pillars” called al-Jamarat, which represent the devil and which the faithful pelt with stones to purge themselves of sin. “Considering that they’re hurling rocks at the most powerful evil being in the universe, it’s a wonder they’re not all dead,”said Braddock. Joining in the accolades, officials from Iran, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Macedonia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Africa and Thailand boasted that none of their citizens perished lemming-like under the sea of writhing, crazed humanity.

Moreover, Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki insisted the event was “completely safe” and that no deaths should be attributed to the stampede itself. “This was fate destined by God,” he said. “Some of the pilgrims were undisciplined and hasty to finish the ritual as soon as possible.” J.D. Powerhouse said that it was considering a proposal to exclude self-inflicted casualties, and hinted that if it did hajj might snatch the All Categories Lifetime Achievement Award away from the Ford Pinto.

Muslims Demand School Holiday to Celebrate Child-Killing

January 12, 2006 | 15 Comments

New York, New York, January 12, 2006
Special to The Raving Atheist

Muslim parents expressed outrage yesterday that New York state scheduled critical reading exams on Eid ul-Adha — a holiday commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his own son for God. In Islamic practice the observance is second in sacredness only to Choppa ul Bee-atch, which celebrates a man’s right to behead a talkative wife.

Some questioned whether educational objectives were furthered by canceling tests to promote child slaughter. Muslim leaders, however, condemned school officials for insensitivity. Noting that the Jewish holiday of Passover celebrates the mass murder of first-borns by the avenging angel of death, Syed Jamil Mohsin demanded equal treatment for Muslim massacres. Mohsin said that it would be a tragedy if his son was off answering math questions on a day that a sonorous, disembodied voice beckoned him to drive a knife through the child’s chest for no apparent reason.

School chancellor Joel Klein apologized for the oversight. “Whether it’s the Incan practice of burying their children alive or the Hawaiian rite of hurling them into volcanos, we respect religious diversity,” he said. “Although we suspended alternate side of the street parking rules to honor of the infanticidal orgy, somehow we forgot to take the tests off the calendar.” Klein suggested that in the future all child-killing holidays be combined for observance on January 22, the secular celebration of legalized baby killing.

Making Up

January 11, 2006 | 11 Comments

The Penthouse Letters, like all pornography, are founded upon lies. They’re made up. There’s no real humanity behind them. They do not describe true relationships. They’re nothing but the expression of the basest fantasies of the lonely, paid hacks who churn them out.

So whatever I else I may say about the God Squad, they at least deserve credit for entertaining the problems of actual people and attempting to resolve them to the best of their limited abilities. They invite questions from their readers and provide post office and e-mail addresses for that purpose. They would never engage in the dishonesty of making up the letters and pretending to their readership that they were authentic. That would be an unforgivable fraud — particularly considering all the money they receive from their nationally syndicated column, not to mention the $12,500 they get per appearance.

What’s particularly touching is the individual attention they give to each letter, no matter how similar it may seem to others they have received in the past. This struck me when reading the second letter in their column last week, which reminded me of a column I reviewed in October 2004. With the assistance of the Wayback Machine I was able to retrieve the full text of the the earlier Squad entry. The similarities are striking, demonstrating that no matter how different from each other we all may seem at times we’re all ultimately confronted by the same challenges. Here’s a line-by-line comparison (the earlier letter is in boldface):

I am Jewish and have been dating a Catholic man for about five months.
I’m Jewish and have been dating a Catholic man for about five months.

Neither of us is very religious, but I’ve always followed Jewish traditions.
Neither of us is very religious. However, I’ve always followed the Jewish traditions.

I attend synagogue on the High Holy Days and was a bat mitzvah at 13.
I attend temple on the high holidays and have been bat mitzvahed.

My boyfriend celebrates Christmas, Easter, etc., but doesn’t attend church. However, his family is religious.
My boyfriend celebrates the Christian holidays but does not attend church, though his family is religious.

As our relationship grows more serious, my boyfriend’s not being Jewish has been bothering me a lot.
As our relationship grows more serious, the fact that my boyfriend is not Jewish is beginning to concern me.

We’ve discussed it and he said that if we have children, he’d like to bring them up not necessarily in either religion but just enriching them with traditions and cultures of both.
We did discuss this issue, and he said that if we get married and have children together, he’d like to bring them up not necessarily practicing either faith but enriching them with the traditions and cultures of both.

Then, when they’re old enough to decide for themselves, they could choose what faith to practice — if any.
Then, when they’re old enough to decide for themselves, they could decide which faith they’d like like to practice — if any.

At first, I agreed, as it sounded fair, but now it’s bothering me. For example, I can’t imagine not being able to have a bris or bar or bat mitzvah for my children. I’m also nervous that when they’re older, they might choose to be Catholic. I’m in love with this man, but now I’m questioning whether we should continue our relationship due to this serious issue. What do you think?
At first, I agreed to this, as it sounded like a fair compromise, but now it bothers me.

Originally, I thought the latest letter might simply be a reprint, but if the Squad were doing that they would clearly label it as such rather than try to pass it off as something new. Additionally, there are small but significant difference in the wording of the letters. So obviously they were written by two completely different readers — otherwise we’d have to assume that the Squad deliberately made the changes to the first letter, or fabricated both, as part of a campaign of deception. Any suspicions I might have had disappeared once I noted that the original letter-writer was very attached to Jewish ceremonies and was “nervous” about her children choosing Catholicism, a fear that did not consume the first writer. Also, she uses contractions more than than the other woman. Those are the kind of little details that you just can’t invent.

Plus, the Squad gives two different answers. If they were trying to save time by making stuff up they wouldn’t go to to all that trouble. Here’s their answer to the first letter:

The only thing worse than having a tough choice in your life is having a tough choice and not facing it. We’re proud of your courageous honesty in facing a problem that may destroy an otherwise perfect love.

What we do when counseling interfaith couples contemplating marriage is to learn the “ruler rule.” We ask the couples to rank their likes and dislikes and their values and beliefs on a scale of 1 to 12, with 1 being ” don’t care at all” and 12 being, “This is at the very core of my being.”

We practice with favorite ice cream flavors (usually ranked down around 1) to favorite sports teams (usually low on the list for women and up near 12 for men).

Our point in graphing all these different likes and dislikes is to help couples see what they have in common and what they value differently. In general, the simple and obvious truth in solid relationships and marriages is that the person with the higher-ranked belief or preference ought to have his or her way.

Of course, sensitivity to the loser in the ruler rule is important, but it’s hard to avoid the simple justice of a person who cares less giving way to a person who cares more.

You and your boyfriend need to figure out where you both really rank religion in the ruler rule. If you’re a 10 or 11 and he’s a 3 or 4 (which is our guess), then you ought to be able to raise your kids as Jews because religion means more to you.

However, if after understanding exactly what it means to your boyfriend to celebrate Easter and Christmas you discover he’s really more religious than you, then you should raise the kids as Catholics.

If neither of you can face being the loser in the ruler rule, then, sadly but inescapably, your relationship should end.

We consider his suggestion that you raise your kids as both Jewish and Catholic, or as nothing until they’re old enough to choose to be spiritual, a parenting cop-out. You wouldn’t let your kids decide on their own bedtime, so why make them decide about their own religion? Parents have a simple and inescapable obligation to teach their children their street address — and their religious address.

You have an obligation to give your children the religious roots that nurtured and shaped both you and your boyfriend. Though conversion is always possible, a person has the right to emerge from childhood able to walk into a church or a synagogue and feel at home in one or the other place.

One final word about making promises about raising children in a religion that is not your own, particularly if you’re the mother who promised to raise your children in your husband’s faith: This is a bad promise, no matter who makes it, because you just can’t know how you’ll feel until you are actually faced with denying your child a baptism or a bris, a first communion or a bar mitzvah.

You’re making this promise when you are not yet engaged and you’re childless. What you promise now you may not be able to emotionally or spiritually deliver. The best way out of problems is through them, not around them, and we’re proud that you’re willing to go through this dilemma now.

And here’s their response to the second letter. Note that because the reader didn’t suggest she was considering breaking off the relationship, the Squad limits its advice to the childrearing issues:

From the book of the prophet Jagger, we read, “You can’t always get what you want.” You want this guy to be Jewish, and he isn’t. The next move is yours. You can have a tree and a menorah, a basket of colored eggs and a plate of matzoh, but once you go beyond and beneath the surface of religious rituals and customs, you find the hard truth: Jesus cannot be the messiah and not be the messiah.

A choice must be made, and that choice cannot be made by your children. It must be made by you and your future husband. You must educate your children, and you can’t educate them in both a church school and a synagogue religious school.

Having conflicting religious symbols in the home is confusing to a child, who basically wants an answer to a very simple question: “What am I?” It’s your responsibility as a parent to make the answer to that question a one-word reply. We both pray that the word that will describe the religious identity of your child is not “nothing.”

I was a bit harsh on the Squad when I critiqued their first column, but now I see their point. Yes, perhaps it’s somewhat odd for basically non-religious parents to require a definite answer to the “what am I” question, but by definition anything is better than nothing. And while talking bushes and water-into-wine make perfect sense, a Jew believing in Jesus is just impossible Either He’s the eternal-life-giving messiah or not. It doesn’t matter which position you take, or if it’s dictated to you by others, so long as you understand that there’s no in-between. To claim otherwise would just be making stuff up.

Planned Parenthood Offers Free Abortions to Miners’ Widows

January 10, 2006 | 17 Comments

Tallmansville, West Virginia, January 7, 2006
Special to The Unaborted Atheist

Continuing its policy of compassion to disaster victims, Planned Parenthood is offering free abortions to the widows of the twelve men who died following an explosion at the Sago Mine in Tallmansville, West Virginia.

Together with the National Abortion Federation, Planned Parenthood made similar offers to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the evacuees of Hurricane Katrina.

A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman noted that access to reproductive services is especially important to those families whose sole income came from mining employment. “The financial pressures occasioned by the loss of the primary wage-earner should not be compounded by the burden of another child,” said Gloria Michels. “In this time of tragedy, we respect the need of women to make the right choice to bring closure to economically unfeasible pregnancies.”

Michels dismissed critics who questioned the sensitivity of the abortion program. “We understand the confusion of women who might imagine a resemblance to a departed spouse in an ultrasound of a second trimester fetus,” she said. “We will not attempt to unfairly influence their decisions by subjecting them to misleading three-dimensional images of the products of conception.”

The organization also announced it would provide reduced-cost contraception to the widows who are not pregnant. “The termination of a monogamous marital union does not eliminate a woman’s basic human needs,” said Michels. “While we honor those who might defer their physical comfort for a number of weeks, we also respect those who choose to seek immediate relief in the wake of this catastrophe.”

Confidential counseling and reproductive services will also be made available to the daughters of the deceased miners. “Young women between the ages of 11 and 17 often find it difficult to confide in a parent, particularly a grieving parent,” said Michel. “Whether making the difficult decision to abort a grandchild or avoiding sexually transmitted diseases at a petting zoo, our unbiased counselors are here to help.”

Jerk

January 9, 2006 | 73 Comments

Some jerk who apparently wanted to give the godless a bad name wrote a nasty letter to a Connecticut newspaper last Friday. Fortunately, another reader set him straight:


I’m more disturbed by the letter titled “False miner story extra false because of God.” The letter writer is apparently an atheist. He takes issue with the fact that so many people put their faith in God during this tragedy and belittles them for doing so. He then uses the sad outcome of this disaster to imply that God does not exist. I’m disturbed that the writer would use such a tragic loss of human life to defend his atheistic agenda.

In defense of God, I saw plenty of evidence that he was involved in this tragedy. One miner miraculously survived. Hundreds of people in West Virginia came together to help one another, which is the cornerstone of Christian teaching. To say that God was “misidentified as a key participant in their rescue” is ignorant.

Due to the paper’s intrusive registration process, I didn’t read the atheist’s letter. No loss, because it’s probably even more sickening than it sounds. Why do respectable publications give such crackpots a forum in the first place?

God Squad Review CLIV

January 8, 2006 | 23 Comments

A 49 year old woman has lost her job to corporate downsizing, and feels that God has abandoned her because her prayers for help have remained unanswered. The Squad offers its usual, useless spin:

You may have been abandoned by your employer, but you have not been abandoned by God. God does not find us jobs. God gives us courage to face unemployment with a positive plan to find work again.

In case she wasn’t depressed enough about the job loss, the Squad also frightens her with the spectre of other hardships to come:

God does not promise us all a life of health. God promises us courage to walk through even the valley of the shadow of death. God is always there for you. God always loves you, and God always believes in your gifts, which God gave you in a measure that no other person can duplicate.

I bet the person who got her job can duplicate her gifts, else she wouldn’t have been fired. Or maybe not –because as the Squad notes, there’s no justice in the world:

Also, we feel certain that God is not punishing you for your sins. If that were the case, Osama bin Laden would be dead.

And six million Jews would be alive. But there’s a phrase for that:

What you’re experiencing is what Jewish tradition calls “sufferings of love.” These are sufferings that deepen our wisdom and teach us we are stronger and more resilient than we ever believed.

Unless they just make us weaker and kill us. Time to rub this point in a little:

We understand your panic and fear. Even Jesus on the cross asked, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Sometimes, our faith is tested. In the book of Job, we read how a devout, wealthy, influential man lost almost everything. Job’s friends said it must be his fault, but somehow he wouldn’t accept that criticism and labored in isolation with a vision that God would not punish him needlessly.

So the worst that could happen is that the lady might be stricken with the sort of pain, panic and fear that even a God couldn’t stand. That’s real comforting. It also makes me wonder why Jesus didn’t take solace in Job’s story during his faith-test, or, being God, consider how well things turned out for Him in the New Testament.

Note also that the Squad has retreated from its certainty, a few lines back, that God is not punishing the woman. Now, as with Job, He’s just not punishing her needlessly.

* * *

real people with real problems. On Wednesday, I’ll have very special post about the refreshing candor and honesty they bring to each and every column.

Hasadistic

January 7, 2006 | 22 Comments

Your tax dollars at work:

Mayor Bloomberg intervened yesterday in a holy war between the city Health Department and Hasidic leaders who are battling over a controversial mouth-to-penis circumcision practice that health officials claim infected five infants with herpes — one fatally.

Bloomberg agreed to negotiate with rabbinical leaders after they marched out of a meeting with Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden last week.

“It was an open and frank dialogue,” said a Bloomberg spokesman.

A source who attended the meeting with the mayor said, “It’s still at an impasse,” although he noted that yesterday’s sit-down was not as heated as the earlier meeting.

In a sane world, grown men who chew the foreskins off little babies, infect them with diseases and kill them don’t get to arrogantly walk out of meetings with health officials. They don’t get to create impasses with powerful mayors. In fact, they don’t get to meet with health officials or mayors. They’re dragged out of their beds at 4 a.m. by police officers, locked up in prison for life and, if they ever get out, forced to register as sex offenders until they die.

Empathy

January 5, 2006 | 57 Comments

The chief criticism of my post about the West Virginia mining tragedy seems to be that it demonstrated a lack of empathy. But if empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and judge how he or she might feel, I think iit’s my critics who lack that quality.

Yes, I’m the real victim here.

I’ve explained it all before, but no one seems to have taken the time to understand what I did. So I’ll take you through it, step by step.

Imagine that you’re The Raving Atheist trying to think of a post last Tuesday night. Bleak news about the miners dominates the television coverage. They’ve found one guy dead, so it doesn’tt look good for the rest. And of course, everybody is praying for a miracle, led by the President of the United States. But you know you’re not going to go anywhere near that angle. It would just be too cruel, because all the evidence points to the likelihood of twelve dead men.

But then what happens? A miracle! They’re all alive! (Not really, but we’ll come to that later).

Do you honestly think I wasn’t elated to hear that news? To witness the delivery of those poor, sad working people from the depths of despair to the height of relief? Of course I was! Did it bother me knowing, with 100% certainty, that all church-going folk were going to proclaim it a “miracle”? Or that that single word would be the headline of virtually every daily paper in America the next morning? Of course not! All I wanted to do was share in the joy.

What better way to celebrate (given the nature of my blog) than to write a post pretending to be disappointed that an apparent miracle had occurred and deprived me of an opportunity to gloat about the futility of prayer? I knew that it would make the believers among my readers happy: it would give them the opportunity to gloat back about the power of prayer. Additionally, they’d get to patronize the poor bitter frustrated atheist and wish him a “better luck next time” on his pathetic agenda. Plus, the atheists among you would be happy with the self-parodying aspect of the story. And don’t any of you pretend otherwise.

So I wrote that post. To make everyone happy. Even happier than they already were upon hearing the good news.

But what happens then? The unthinkable! My computer freezes, and by the time I’m able to post I discover that there’s been a terrible misunderstanding and the miners are all actually dead!

So again, imagine you’re me. Not only are you depressed by the dreadful news, but you’ve got a perfectly good post that you can no longer use. You’re far worse off than other bloggers, who can at least assuage their pain with sympathetic platitudes about how their thoughts (and prayers) are with the families of the deceased.

And remember, I spent nearly an hour writing the thing. I know Steve G has fixated on this point as evidence of my insincerity, but the fact is that it was another, very real circumstance which added to my pain. No, I obviously didn’t feel as badly as those who were directly affected by the tragedy, but I was certainly worse off than those commentators who were at the same distance from the events as I was. It was an hour (nearly) spent in anticipation of making others happy, and now in view of superceding events I realized it would have quite the opposite effect. Plus, it was going to be my post for the day and I suddenly had nothing.

Think of what I must have gone through in deciding to use the post. Q the Enchanter has rightly described it as a form of courage. I was well aware of how shabby I would look if I presented the piece in any form whatsoever, and of the opprobrium that would be likely be heaped upon me by my readers — and, worse yet, the praise I would receive from those I detest.

Catholics (I think) describe the highest form of charity as good works which are performed anonymously, with no expectation reward or recognition. What I did tops even that. I contributed the post with the near-certain knowledge that I would be vilified, perceived as lacking a conscience or perhaps missing a piece of my brain, the piece that controls the sort of basic human decency that stops you from doing things like what I did. And I did it all for something which only barely qualifies, if at all, as charity — stimulating a discussion. It’s easy to be a Jesus or a Mother Teresa or a Martin Luther King, Jr. when you know your cause is a recognizably worthy one that no one would think of denigrating you for. It quite another to pursue a lowly goal in a manner almost certain to damage your reputation.

Could you have done that? Have you ever experienced the sickening, sinking feeling of pressing the “publish” button on a highly questionable post, not quite knowing how people will react by expecting the worst? It’s an mortifying combination of fear, insecurity and self-loathing. You have no idea whether you’ll figure out a convincing way to justify what you did, and know that more than likely the excuses will only make you look worse.

The number for the Sago Mine Fund is 1-800-811-0441. I’ve given $25. I think the world with my posts and my donation is better off than it was without either — and certainly better than your comments and criticisms unaccompanied by any donations. I know that sounds self-aggrandizing and manipulative, but again, I don’t care. I know I’m better than you. Prove me wrong.

Mission Accomplished

January 5, 2006 | 37 Comments

Razorkiss has bestowed upon me a Scornful Skeptic Award for my post yesterday:

What an unadulterated, swilling stream of drivel-mouthed bile. I wouldn’t countenance that sort of comment on anyone. Anyone at all. It’s sick, it’s morally repugnant, and it’s an absolutely reprehensible thing to say.

You, sir, (and I use that term loosely) have truly “earned” your “award.” I refuse to call it “misguided”, or anything of the sort. IIt’s simply repugnant, and a discredit to anyone calling themselves an atheist. I can respect a person, regardless of their beliefs — I can’t, however, respect someone making a morally abhorrent comment like that.

What possesses people to heap scorn on an already painful situation?

Probably the exact same thing that possesses people, like Razorkiss, to urge others to “take a few looks” at such bile — an attempt to prove one’s moral superiority in some way. However, I think I accomplished that goal more effectively than he did. As I noted, my intent was to shame myself into behaving better for the rest of the year and discourage others from engaging in such Randroid atheist behavior (hello, Francois!). Also, as I indictated, the original post took me nearly an hour and I hate to waste time.

Razorkiss, on the other hand, seems to have been motivated by sheer voyeurism. It’s really not so hard to point to a bloody car wreck and say “that’s terrible” or to point to Jeffrey Dahmer and say “he’s bad.” What’s harder is to escape from a car wreck, or, being Jeffrey Dahmer, to repent and set an example for others.

I also think Razorkiss overstates my depravity. The parody reproduced in yesterday’s post would have been quite funny had the twelve miners survived. Although it refers to an “original” post which supposedly would have mocked the deaths of the miners, I certainly never would have posted something like that. I guess I did something close to it by posting the parody after it turned out that the miners were dead, but it’s not quite the same. Plus, as I noted, it would have been a disagreeable waste of time to just delete a post to which I had devoted nearly an hour.

Reviewing the comments to yesterday’s post, it seems to me that (1) the bad atheists are exposing themselves as such, (2) the good atheists are distancing themselves from bad atheism and (3) the theists have been fortified in their beliefs. So nobody should be complaining.

Miraculous

January 4, 2006 | 62 Comments

Miraculously, my computer froze at about 1 a.m. so I was prevented from posting the following until now:

Atheistic Satire Ruined by “Miner” Miracle

Tallmansville, West Virginia, January 4, 2006
Special to The Raving Atheist

A hilarious atheistic satire highlighting the futility of prayer had to be scrapped late Tuesday night when twelve West Virginia miners miraculously failed to suffocate to death as expected.

The Raving Atheist reports that the announcement of the miners’ rescue came just as he had completed a highly entertaining news parody mocking President Bush for declaring that “Americans all across our country were praying for the miners” and suggesting that the men might be rescued in good condition.

“It was heart-breaking,” said TRA. “Up to the minute of their rescue it looked completely hopeless — but the next thing you know one of the wives is saying “Miracles happen in West Virginia and today we got one” and all the godidiots are singing “How Great Thou Art.”

TRA said the discovery of twelve corpses would have been particularly funny to those who read his original piece, which was going to predict a “miracle” similar to the one credited for the survival of nine men from a flooded mine in Quecreek, Pennsylvania in 2002. “The idea was that because of the suicide of Bob Long — the engineer who actually saved the first set of miners with global positioning technology but was then shunned by them for getting a cut of their Disney deal — God would be forced to respond to the prayers of the latest victims completely on His own,” he said. “And then I was going to launch into this whole thing about how Bush’s offer of federal help was unnecessary and insulting to God because all we have to do is look up at the sky and beg.”

TRA took solace in the fact that one dead body was found, but said it wasn’t enough to save the parody. “Maybe if five or six of them had died, I could have done a bit about how the survivors’ families were gloating about the selective ‘miracle’ that spared only the rigtheous,” he said. “But it wasn’t to be.”

“Nearly a whole hour wasted,” TRA said. “Is there no God?”

I regularly receive e-mails from people telling me that my site has only strengthened their faith in God by showing them what misanthropic, mean-spirited, self-aggrandizing bastards atheists are. I went ahead and posted this anyway, despite the unfortunate turn of events — in part because I think it might be a good thing if people saw the fruits of a certain kind of atheist mindset, in part because it might spur me into doing some sort of penance for the rest of the year, and in part because I hated the idea of nearly a whole hour having gone to waste. Which side of the atheist/theist debate do you think this post helps most, and, if it’s your own, why are you complaining?

Help Wanted

January 3, 2006 | 3 Comments

If you or someone you know can help out with the request below, please do so:

I’m a reporter doing a story about African American women who identify (openly or not) as atheist. Have you ever felt that you need to hide your identity? Do your friends and family support your beliefs? How do you deal with those who would try to convert you? If you would like to talk about these issues, please send me an e-mail with your name and how best to reach you at writinglady@gmail.com. Thanks!

The article is for publication in Skepchick Magazine.

P.S.: Star Jones, your secret is safe with us. Unburden yourself.

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