Friday, June 29, 2012

Just Because...I Still Love Hillary

Obamacare Coverage

A few words from the President which distills in a few minutes just why the Affordable Care Act is so important.

Also, Mano Singham gives an excellent brief review  of some of the reasons why continuing to put up with the current "system" makes no sense at all for the vast majority of Americans.

NPR reports that many doctors welcome the Supreme Court ruling that upholds Obamacare,  but, (as expected), they are also reporting that the Roberts grenade - calling the Healthcare provisions a "tax" - will indeed be deployed by Republicans seeking to use the ACA as a weapon against the president and Democratic candidates in their election campaigns.

Memo to Republicans:  That strategy will be a loser. People like and want affordable healthcare!

Speaking of losing strategies, Mitt Romney continues to campaign on the platform that he will repeal Obamacare on Day 1 if he wins the presidential election. No coherent explanation of how this stance squares with his confused stance regarding the embarrassing reality of his own Massachusetts healthcare law - aka Romneycare. Romney has had trouble striking just the right note of criticism for Obamacare without slamming his own effort at better healthcare in Massachusetts (which, incidentally, is highly popular in Massachusetts - people like affordable healthcare!). Romney wants to cash in on the success in Massachusetts while essentially saying that what was brilliant when he did it suddenly morphs into a disaster when President Obama delivers it for the country.

Hmmm. No wonder Mitt Romney is in difficulties. Good is bad, right is wrong, justice is injustice...oh wait. Romney is a religious man. He ought to be well-used to this sort of cognitive dissonance. Perhaps he won't have such a devil of a time with this after all!

Updated to add: This alternet article, Why Justice Roberts' Opinion Could Set Alarming Precedents, by Steven Rosenfeld fleshes out the reasons behind that uneasy feeling many people had yesterday when it was apparent that Chief Justice Roberts - a deeply conservative Bush appointee - had an ulterior motive for siding with the more progressive end of the Judicial bench. The tax/election red meat is only the tip of the iceberg, unfortunately. But, of course.

Also, it is always a good time to provide a link to PNHP (Physicians for a National Health Program).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Affordable Healthcare Act Stands!

The news is good:  The Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Healthcare Act in its entirety.  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the decision for the majority, affirming the provisions for the act, including the individual health insurance mandate.

Roberts did manage to throw one big, meaty bone to the Republicans:

"The Federal Government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance. Section 5000A would therefore be unconstitutional if read as a command. The Federal Government does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance. Section 5000A is therefore constitutional, because it can reasonably be read as a tax," Roberts said in his opinion. (emphasis mine).

Look for a quick turnaround in Republican campaign strategy now as they raise the spectre of new taxation.  This will no doubt inflame the teavangelicals and the rabid fringe (Bachman, et al). Supporters of healthcare reform need to get to work immediately to counter the inevitable lies and fear tactics leading up to the November election.

But for today, let us all celebrate the fact that for the second time in recent memory, the Supreme Court has done (mostly) the right thing:  The Affordable Healthcare Act has been ruled constitutional.

Here is a brief look at what that means to Americans as individuals and for businesses.

NPR coverage.

New York Times.

I'm still on the road, but will pull together as much information as I can, and will post links to sources and analysis.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday Tonics - Hank Fox and Al Stefanelli

Still out of town, but I had to post briefly to link to two excellent FTB posts.

Hank Fox responded with his usual amazing clarity of thought and spare, straightforward writing to Ian Cromwell's call for essays elaborating on the title "Because I am an atheist". As usual, Hank has read my mind.

This ought to be passed around the blogosphere and hopefully out into other venues of mass communication. Especially this:

"…I understand the incredible human tragedy that religion represents.

Across millennia during which “hope” was measured against the willingness of an unknowable God to fix problems or provide a future of abundance for people, rather than the capabilities of hard-working, educated, compassionate humans, we Earthlings have continued to waste our vast potential, losing out on near-infinite opportunities. During that time, huge amounts of effort and wealth have been bent toward pleasing this or that capricious god, or his supposed Earthly representatives, stealing away the value of human endeavor in order to build castles of worship, create artworks of fear-driven piety, and produce – rather than textbooks for learning – mere holy books, the printed tools for brainwashing billions of hapless victims.

Through those hundreds and hundreds of years, how many have starved, or died, or lived in pain and fear and enforced ignorance while fat priests sat in literal castles, built on the backs of their enslaved fellow men? Because I’m an atheist, I can despise the malignant, manipulative human spiders who spin and maintain those enslaving webs of belief."  Hank Fox, Blue Collar Atheist.

Also this week. Al Stefanelli outdid himself with an amazing and disturbing post about the Christian apologist William Lane Craig, whose veneer of academic credentials hides a pernicious and destructive determination to obfuscate and confuse as many people as possible. Al's takedown of this notorious liar is his usual epic and well-written work.  It is well worth not only reading, but bookmarking, quoting and sending onward.

A sample:

"In case you don’t know, William Lane Craig is an oft-trundled-out source of Christian apology because he has a lot of books out with fancy titles and is a pseudo-academic. As a Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of  Theology in La Mirada, California, Dr. Craig spends a fair amount of time on the lecture and debate circuit, performing feats of mental gymnastics in an effort to explain some of the contradictory principles and answer some ”tough questions” that inevitably come up when one chooses to live their life according to a world view that includes magic, unicorns, giant demigods having sex with human women, wizardry, sorcery, fire-breathing half dragon-half roosters, Satyrs, human birds, bones coming up out of the ground and dancing around, UFOs, dancing and talking animals, flying people, teleportation and all the other batshittery that is in the bible." Al Stefanelli, A Voice of Reason.

Read!  Pass it on!  The internet is the last freethought medium - let's use it to save humanity.

Isn't That Just Ducky!

I am at the beach! I like the beach! I like to play at the beach!

Run, run, run, run run run runrunrunrunrunrunrunrun!!!

Oh! Hello there! Do you want to play? Hello?

Do you want to play? Let's play? Run, run run, circle, runrunrun.

Why you not play? OK, good-bye! Run run run run run runrunrunrun!

I am at the beach! I like the beach!

Isn't that just Ducky!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Now For Something Completely Different

From Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life",  The Galaxy Song!

The Galaxy Song

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the 'Milky Way'.
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
It's a hundred thousand light years side to side.
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
But out by us, it's just three thousand light years wide.
We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
We go 'round every two hundred million years,
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Biblical Courtship: Just Like Taliban Courtship, Only Better!

Libby Ann is the blogger who emerged from the Quiverfull movement somehow with her self-esteem intact and a sense of her own full worth as a human being somehow unvanquished. In her current series of posts at Love, Joy, Feminism she discusses the courtship rituals in the Quiverfull movement, particularly as they affect girls.

Weeping girl prostrates herself on altar, praying
not to lead men astray by her very existence.
Read Libby Ann's post about Christian courtship. The pervasive conviction about the necessity for policing female "purity", the enthusiastic acceptance of authority of a father and later the husband over daughters, and the belief that, without male authority figures' constant vigilance young women will descend into moral (sexual) disarray is almost indistinguishable from the attitudes of fundamentalist non-Christian religious groups in the middle east, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The acceptance among young women that this controlling behaviour is "protection" is chillingly similar to the ideas in which women in the most oppressive societies on the planet also are inculcated, through fear, oppressive social policies and even legal systems based upon misogynist "holy books".

Although the Quiverfull sect of Christianity is extreme in many ways, their philosophy around courtship and marriage  mirrors the resurgent religious fundamentalism in several other Christian sects. Purity ceremonies, at which adolescent girls are pledged to remain virgins until marriage (under the watchful gaze of their fathers or nearest adult male relative) have become ubiquitous in the evangelical Christian communities which have exploded throughout the USA.

With the current rash of laws put forward by conservative Christians limiting women's rights to bodily autonomy, reproductive freedom and equal human rights, it is impossible to ignore these similarities between the professed desires of the rising fundamentalist Christians in this country and those of their spiritual brethren among the fundamentalist religionists of other regions of the world.

In their contempt for and desire to control women, fundamentalist Christians have clearly indicated what the future USA of their dreams would be like should they succeed in forcing the country into Biblical theocracy.

Are we prepared for the consequences if we continue to continue to look the other way?  Will Christian moderates continue to pretend that the fundamentalist version of their cherished religion is different from fundamentalism elsewhere? How long will we continue to kid ourselves that "it can't happen here"?

The Duggars, famous TV Quiverfull family

Friday, June 15, 2012

Gone Fishing

On vacation until July 1. I'll be checking in each day and hopefully I will post a bit, too.  Try not to flood the blog with comments while I am gone. LOL

Letting Go of God - Part 1

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Letting Go of God - A Catholic Journey

This really looks like a great mixture of good sense and humour. This is the trailer, and I am hoping to post the entire thing in short segments over the next few weeks.

Julia Sweeney, Letting Go of God.

For anyone interested in listening to the whole thing at once (it is just over 2 hours and very good) here is a link.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Good Luck to Darth Vader Junior, Max Page!

Remember this wonderful VW ad featuring a pint-sized Darth Vader trying to magic things around his house and finally "succeeding" to his immense surprise?

The boy actor, Max Page - who also plays a character on the popular daytime soap "The Young and the Restless"- was born with a heart defect which requires surgery, which he will undergo this week.

Max, though understandably nervous about major open-heart surgery, is determined to put on the best face he can going in. But, even more admirably, Max and his family - along with the ad agency Deutsch - are using this opportunity to help raise money so that other kids with similar diagnoses can get the surgeries they need, too.

At a difficult time, a young boy - and his family and friends - still finds it inside himself to think of other kids who, like him, are facing scary health issues necessitating surgery but who, unlike him, may lack the financial resources or health insurance to get the heathcare they need.

Good luck to you, Max.  May your surgery go perfectly, your recovery run smoothly and swiftly and may you enjoy great happiness and success in your future endeavors!

The Greatest Show On Earth

I'm still struggling with several complex topics, but in the meantime:


[David Attenborough]
How could one species turn into another?

[Richard Dawkins]
How is it that we find ourselves surrounded by such complexity, such elegance?

[Bill Nye]
The genes of you and me
They're all made of DNA
We're all made of the same chemicals
DNA - we're all made of DNA

Only the fittest survive
And that is the key
Natural Selection
That is the key

We are surrounded by endless forms
Most beautiful, most wonderful
Evolution - the greatest show on Earth

There is grandeur in this view of life
Evolution - the greatest show on Earth

The history of life can be thought of
As a many branched tree
The five kingdoms of life
were established early on

Protists- amoeba like creatures
And animals

We find ourselves perched on one tiny twig
In the midst of a blossoming tree of life


We are surrounded by millions of other species
Walking, flying, burrowing, stalking, chasing, fleeing,

Animals strive to reach this one ultimate goal
To ensure the survival of the next generation
This one ultimate goal
To pass on their genes
That is what life is all about


As we look back on the history of life
We see a picture of never ending,
ever rejuvinating novelty

Those animals may seem to us to be very remote,
strange, even fantastic

But all of us alive today
Owe our very existence to them

Monday, June 11, 2012

565 Million Years...or More

Balm for a weary mind.

I'm off to the dentist with a broken tooth. I hope this video will sooth you as much as it calms me!

Mistaken Point

Parks Canada

The Drook, Portugal Cove South

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Garden Of Your Mind

via pbsdigitalstudios

Did you ever think about growing things in the garden of your mind?

It's good to be curious about many things.

You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind!

(via def shepherd)

Even Stevphen - Islam vs. Christianity

Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert (with Jon Stewart, briefly) demonstrate 
the inherent similarities and shared stupidities of theism..

Friday, June 8, 2012

Thank Gods It's FreyaDay!

Good Evening, Humans.

It has been a long, busy week. A hot, busy, tiring and long week.

Yes, let's have a refreshing beverage. Well, you go ahead. I will just take a little cat nap.

It has been a long busy week.

Thank gods it's FreyaDay!

Voter Suppression Threatens The Republic

Wait!  Don't skip this post because you've been registered to vote forever and are pretty sure it doesn't apply to you. Even if you think you are registered to vote. Even if you have been voting for decades, please take a moment to ensure that you are, in fact, still registered to vote.

Recent news about Republican attempts to suppress the vote highlights just how important it is for citizens to pay attention to what those in power are doing.  Voter suppression has become the most egregious of the tactics in a campaign pockmarked with slimy pits of lies, disinformation and outright intimidation.

It is not just imperative that Americans "get out the vote" this year, but it is now necessary to ensure that citizens' legal right to vote is protected from a campaign to disenfranchise even longtime voters with no reason to think their voter registration would be problematic. Seniors, disabled citizens who do not and cannot have a driver's license, and millions of poor working Americans - for whom acquiring the notarized documentation, filling out the legal paperwork, paying fees and taking time away from their jobs to file for government IDs present insurmountable hurdles - all face potential disenfranchisement in the upcoming election.

Republicans continue to argue disingenuously that they are protecting voter rights by placing more and more roadblocks in the way of the poor, the elderly and the disabled because, they claim, they are protecting us all from potential voter fraud. Repeated studies and investigations into voter fraud have proven that it is exceedingly rare, and that the threat that potential voter fraud poses to the electoral process is minimal. Conversely, the potential for harm to the democratic process resulting from voter suppression practices is very high. In third world countries, American observers stand by to ensure that evidence of voter intimidation and suppression can be recorded and publicized. Who is watching out for the same thing in the USA?

This is a democratic Republic and it is the right and the duty of citizens to protect our own rights and freedoms. Knowledge is power, but action is even more powerful. Let's start paying attention, spreading the word, and mobilizing our fellow citizens to hold our government representatives accountable when they overstep the bounds and try to impede our right to vote.

First stop: knowledge.  To wit:

ACLU on voter suppression:

"During the 2011 legislative sessions, states across the country passed measures to make it harder for Americans – particularly African-Americans, the elderly, students and people with disabilities – to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. Over thirty states considered laws that would require voters to present government-issued photo ID in order to vote. Studies suggest that up to 11 percent of American citizens lack such ID, and would be required to navigate the administrative burdens to obtain it or forego the right to vote entirely."

Rolling Stone   Ari Berman's excellent article on Florida's purge of voter rolls to suppress Democratic vote:

"Imagine this: a Republican governor in a crucial battleground state instructs his secretary of state to purge the voting rolls of hundreds of thousands of allegedly ineligible voters. The move disenfranchises thousands of legally registered voters, who happen to be overwhelmingly black and Hispanic Democrats. The number of voters prevented from casting a ballot exceeds the margin of victory in the razor-thin election, which ends up determining the next President of the United States.

If this scenario sounds familiar, that’s because it happened in Florida in 2000. And twelve years later, just months before another presidential election, history is repeating itself."

CBS  Lucy Madison reports of mass mailings and robo-calls falsely telling voters that they should not or could not vote in the June 5 Wisconsin recall election.

"(CBS News) As voters head to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, reports out of the state suggest that robocalls are being placed informing voters, falsely, they don't have to vote if they signed the recall petition.

There have also been reports of mailings going out to voters telling them they can't vote unless they did so in 2010, and of people going door-to-door telling voters they don't have to go to the polls if they signed the recall petition, both of which are also untrue."

Raw Story offers a disturbing national roundup of stories from numerous states whose Republican governments are pulling out all the stops to disenfranchise voters. One excerpt (from LAWeekly):

"In a brazen attempt to steal this fall's election, Florida's Republican lawmakers have outlawed voting on Sunday, an African-American tradition. Indeed, across the United States, from Montana to Maine and Texas to Tennessee, 41 states have recently passed or introduced laws to restrict voter registration and early voting, and generally limit suffrage.

It's the greatest show of racially fueled political chicanery since turn-of-the-century laws banned scores of African-Americans from casting ballots. More than 5 million voters — largely nonwhite — could be kept from the polls, according to New York University's Brennan Center for Justice:

'State governments across the country enacted an array of new laws that could make it significantly harder for as many as 5 million eligible Americans to vote. Some states require voters to show government-issued photo identification, often of a type that as many as one in ten voters do not have. Other states have cut back on early voting, a hugely popular innovation used by millions of Americans. Still others made it much more difficult for citizens to register to vote, a prerequisite for voting'. "

Don't be caught off guard by voter suppression tactics. Go online and be sure that your voter registration is secure and that you will not be disenfranchised this November.  Here are some handy links to information and resources:

FAQs About Voting, Smart Voter (League of Women Voters).

USA Gov. page on voting information, including a link to voter registration deadlines by state and easy-to-navigate information links to answers for frequently asked questions about voting, registration, voting from overseas, working on elections and trouble-shooting.

USA Gov Resources for voters

Brennan Center of Justice Election 2012, information for voters and resources for assistance with barriers to your right to vote.

Here is a 2008 video about voter suppression tactics which is depressingly prescient - it is a brief but thorough overview of the methods and traps used to suppress the legitimate right of American citizens to vote. Please watch and share:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Atheist/Secular Blogathon 2012 Coming Soon!

Jen McCreight, (Blag Hag) has done a blogathon for the past three years to raise money for the Secular Student Alliance.  For 24 hours, she posts a new blog post every 30 minutes, with no pre-writing or auto-posting allowed. Caffeine-fueled, crazy, funny and sometimes amazing, an exhaustion-propelled blogathon can be a fun-filled experience for everyone!

This year, Jen has snagged some victims organized more participants!  There is a schedule of featured bloggers here, but I can tell you that Dale McGowan, author of Parenting Beyond Belief (not to mention awesome blogger at The Meming of Life) has just posted that he is in!

Other bloggers on the roster include: Greta Christina (Greta Christina's Blog), Hank Fox (Blue Collar Atheist), Al Stefanelli (Al Stefanelli), and Natalie Reed (Sincerely, Natalie Reed)!

The Blogathon participants are hoping to raise plenty of funds to continue the growth of the Secular Student Alliance, which is one of the few organizations available to high school and college students as an alternative to the numerous religious organizations which dot campuses across the nation.

cru?  WTF does that mean?
Oh well, it's definitely not a group with
an agenda - look how hip this logo is!
One such powerful, secretively-funded and agenda-driven religious group is Campus Crusade for Christ. Campus Crusade for Christ has recently changed its name in what they claimed was a bid not to hide its explicitly Christian religious agenda but to remove the word "Crusade" which they seemed to have only recently discovered that some people find objectionable. The fact that this change coincides with an increase in the number of secular student groups attempting to be recognized on campuses - and the fact that secular and atheist student groups are often denied official recognition based upon a college's professed policy of not endorsing a religious viewpoint (blithely ignoring both that secular organizations are not religious and most colleges currently have long lists of recognized religiously affiliated groups on campus - my irony-meter just went past bust) definitely had nothing to do with it! The new name "CRU" retains the core of "crusade" while hiding the Christ, which suits this organization just fine because it is not at all deceptive or contradictory. Hiding the fundamentalist religious agenda behind a banal "it's all about hip, youthful, community fun" public face is the Campus Crusade modus operandi, and the stylishly meaningless new logo fits right in with their cool, aw shucks, honest-to-godliness stealth strategy.

Openly and honestly secular,
promoting freethinking and
freedom of and from religion.
In spite of continued opposition, the Secular Student Alliance is growing!  Compared to Campus Crusade for Christ's $500 million annual budget, the SSA's annual budget of less than $1 million makes it hard to compete, and yet they are growing.

The reason why is simple: young people are turning away from the manipulative clutches of religion in higher numbers than ever.  Help SSA out in their effort to provide options for freethinking youth. Read freethinker bloggers (several suggested blogs linked to the right), donate to Secular Student Alliance so that they can meet or exceed the projected goals shown below and most of all...

Enjoy the blogathon!

Let's keep the growth of REASON going!

Thorsday Tonic - A Wave of Reason

When you are studying any matter
Or considering any philosophy
Ask yourself only: what are the facts,
And what is the truth that the facts bear out

Science is more than a body of knowledge
It's a way of thinking
A way of skeptically interrogating the universe

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions
To be skeptical of those in authority
Then we're up for grabs

In all of science we're looking for a balance
between data and theory

You don't have to delude yourself
With Iron age fairy tales

The same spiritual fulfillment
That people find in religion
Can be found in science
By coming to know, if you will, the mind of God

The real world, as it actually is,
Is not evil, it's remarkable
And the way to understand the physical world
is to use science

There is a new wave of reason
Sweeping across America, Britain, Europe, Australia
South America, the Middle East and Africa
There is a new wave of reason
Where superstition had a firm hold

Teach a man to reason
And he'll think for a lifetime

Cosmology brings us face to face with the deepest mysteries
With questions that were once treated only
in religion and myth

The desire to be connected with the cosmos
Reflects a profound reality
But we are connected; not in the trivial ways
That Astrology promises, but in the deepest ways

I can't believe the special stories that have been made up
About our relationship to the universe at large
Look at what's out there; it isn't in proportion

Never let yourself be diverted
By what you wish to believe
But look only and surely
At what are the facts

Enjoy the fantasy, the fun, the stories
But make sure that there's a clear sharp line
Drawn on the floor
To do otherwise is to embrace madness

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Barmy Bible Study - Show Them No Mercy

Crusader doing God's Holy Work

It's that time of the week again - the night we all look forward to: Wednesday Night Barmy Bible Study!
Yes, I know we missed our bi-monthly Bible Study last Wednesday, but sometimes it takes a little time to recover from the horror  properly appreciate the goodness in holy scripture. Let's just get down to the business of wondering at the awesomeness of the Lord, shall we?

In honor of this week's Good News, we will depart a little from the usual Bible class structure of choosing a specific story and discussing it. Let's study a small sampling of the dozens of passages in the Bible wherein God/Yahweh/Jehovah promises his worshippers land, riches and all sort of success, and orders them to utterly destroy anyone and anything which gets in their way.

Deuteronomy 7: 1-6  Driving Out the Nations
1When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. 5This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. 6For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
Joshua - "saintly man and great leader"
doing God's holy work.

Deuteronomy 20: 10-18
10When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. 12If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. 15This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.
16However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. 18Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.

1 Samuel 15: 3
Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'"

Joshua 10: 40-41
40So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded. 41Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. 42All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.

Joshua fought the battle of Jericho,
And the walls came tumbling down!
God is good!
Study Questions for Show Them No Mercy

1. What did Yahweh/Jehovah/God command the Israelites to do?

2. Why did God order them to do this?

3. How does the Bible teach us that the Israelites reacted to these commands and what does their reaction teach us?

Something that believers all know - but which those who do not believe that the Bible is the inerrant, literal word of God fail to understand - is that God chose one small group of people, out of all His creation, to be his especially chosen favorite people.  Just as the Hebrews had chosen Yahweh out of all the gods in the ancient pantheon of the desert region to be their one special God, the Bible says that Yahweh returned the favor. The Bible doesn't say that the other peoples in the region were privy to this unilateral decision by the Hebrews until the Hebrews descended upon them en masse expecting to take over their lands, their possessions and their women, as they believed their god had promised they could do. When the Amalekites, Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, et al continued to faithfully worship the gods of their ancestors equally to Yahweh - and in some case, with even greater fervor than they had worshipped Yahweh who was to them, after all, only a minor war god in the ancient pantheon - the newly promoted Lord, God of Israel was angered.

So, scripture says that the God of Israel commanded the Israelites to invade these lands, kill all the people and livestock, destroy everything that is sacred to these ill-favored wretches and then claim the lands for themselves. One might think that an all-loving, all-powerful god could be expected to love all of the people He created equally - or at least would be able to hand over the Promised Lands to his Chosen people without harming the other people who did not make the "favored people"  cut (rapture them? uncreate them? surely nothing would be impossible for the omnipotent One?) - but one would be wrong.
Nobody can see, hear, touch or feel God
but we know in our hearts that 

He wants exactly what we want!
The _?_ god is an awesome god!

The Lord, God of Israel was a jealous god. Just because those other
people had not received the memo that the Hebrews had chosen Yahweh for special One True God™ status, they unwittingly had signed their own death warrants. It was their own fault! Nothing would do but that they be wiped from the face of the earth and the Hebrews were just the people to do it! Amazingly, not only did the Hebrews know in their hearts what God wanted them to do, but they also managed to do every bit of the invading, killing, raping and plundering by themselves, too!  Of course, they knew in their hearts that they had the Lord, God of Israel rooting for them, but they did it all themselves - with His silent, invisible blessing. Praise God!

This is one of the great things about the Bible to which non-believers should really pay more attention. Of all the peoples on the planet, God decided to elevate one group over all the others for no particular reason. That happily blessed group just happens to be Christians!  Well, at first it was the Jews, but now Christians have their own Testament which clearly teaches that there is a New Covenant and in this new deal, Christians are the ones! Well, God is the One and Only, of course (and He is very, very powerful, so don't cross Christians Him if you know what is good for you!), but since He cannot be seen nor heard nor felt nor...well, Christians are His ambassadors on earth and speak for Him - they know in their hearts what God wants, so whatever Christians say, goes. Capice?

Christians doing God's holy work.
(Sabra-Shatila Massacre)
Of course, since Christians co-opted the Jewish Bible Old Testament, too, they still politely refer to the Jews as the "chosen people"... for now. Besides, Christians need the cooperation of the Jews in order to take over the Promised Land in time for the second coming of Christ!  Shhh, no, that is not shamelessly using the Jewish people for Christian ends.  God has clearly given the OK to any means necessary to bring about the glorious destiny of His Chosen People - lying, stealing, cheating, murdering - everything is permitted, even ordered, by God within the sacred pages of the Good Book™. When Christians have total dominion over the earth - as they believe that God has promised - then the Jews will have the same chance as everyone else to fall on their knees and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Then, they will truly be the chosen people...because they will be Christians!  You see? The Christian god is an awesome god!  Of course, if they refuse to bow down to the true Chosen people (Christians), well then one only has to read Deuteronomy 20 to know what God commands Christians to do with people who refuse to accept their His holy word, submit humbly to forced labor and hand over everything they love and value.

Jews doing God's holy work.
(Gaza Massacre, December 2008)
Some people may argue that just as the Christians cobbled together a New Testament to justify their claim to the status of the newly chosen people of God through the blood of Jesus Christ, so did other religious groups. Mohammed dictated the sacred Koran which clearly shows that Islam is the one true faith and Muslims are the chosen people of God. Likewise, the Mormons produced a sacred Testament - the Book of Mormon - which establishes that they are the chosen people of God.  Indeed, just as the Jewish Bible justified the ancient invasions, massacres, rapes and plundering by God's chosen people - the Israelites, and the Old and New Testaments justified the invasions, massacres*, rapes and plundering by God's chosen people - the Christians, so the Koran justifies invasions, massacres, rapes and plundering by God's chosen people - the Muslims and the Book of Mormon justifies violence, massacres, rapes and plundering by God's chosen people - the Mormons.

Muslims doing God's holy work
(Nigeria, Christmas Day Massacre)
Except that all of those other religions and all their made-up "sacred scriptures" are simply dead wrong. Christians believe they are commanded by God to take righteous dominion over the world. They believe they are commanded by God to utterly destroy any and all who stand in the way of them in fulfilling this Great Commission. Non-believers will get one chance to accept the Christian dogma and submit to life under Christian rule, but if they refuse to submit, Bible-believing Christians will have no choice but to annihilate them all. Christians always want others to choose life, but if non-believers refuse to bow down to Christian supremacy, then unfortunately yet inescapably the non-believers will have chosen death.

How do we know this?  The Bible tells us so.

Class dismissed.


* Bonus points for the use of "I came like a thief!" a favorite self-referential passage of dominionist Christians when describing their long-term stealth strategy to infiltrate every avenue of world power.

Oh, Wisconsin!

Money rules, AMIRITE?

Last night's results have left me too dispirited to write much today. Instead, I will throw out a bunch of links to decent coverage and a few which can help fill in the history which has led to this outcome.

Walker Survives Wisconsin Recall Election, Central Wisconsin hub.

Wisconsin Recall Vote Exit Polls: How Different Groups Voted, The New York Times.

On Wisconsin, The Conventional Wisdom is Mostly Wrong, Jamelle Bouie, The Washington Post.

Three Reasons Why the Left Lost Wisconsin, Andy Kroll, Mother Jones.

The Dark Money Behind the Wisconsin Recall Election.  Gavin Aronsen, Mother Jones.

Turning Our Backs on Unions, Joe Nocera, The New York Times.

"The result is that today unions represent 12 percent of the work force. “Draw one line on a graph charting the decline in union membership, then superimpose a second line charting the decline in middle-class income share,” writes Noah, “and you will find that the two lines are nearly identical.” Richard Freeman, a Harvard economist, has estimated that the decline of unions explains about 20 percent of the income gap.
This makes perfect sense, of course. Company managements don’t pay workers any more than they have to — look, for instance, at Walmart, one of the most virulently antiunion companies in the country. In their heyday, unions represented a countervailing force that could extract money for its workers that helped keep them in the middle class. Noah notes that a JPMorgan economist calculated that the majority of increased corporate profits between 2000 and 2007 were the result of “reductions in wages and benefits.” That makes sense, too. At the same time labor has been in decline, the power of shareholders has been on the rise."

When Unions are Strong, Americans Enjoy the Fruits of Their Labor, David Morris, Defending The Public Good.  A good, brief history of the labor union movement, and discussion of how the decline of the movement has not only harmed American workers, but there is now a targeted effort being made to erase the history of labor unionism and the kind of gross social, economic and political inequities which made it necessary:

"Republicans are not only targeting labor studies professors.  They are attempting to expunge the already regrettably rare places in the United States where labor history and unions are viewed in a positive light.  The New York Times reports that Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LePage has demanded a 36 foot-wide mural on the Department of Labor’s building be removed.  “The three-year-old mural has 11 panels showing scenes of Maine workers, including colonial-era shoemaking apprentices, lumberjacks, a “Rosie the Riveter” in a shipyard and a 1986 paper mill strike. Taken together, his administration deems these scenes too one-sided in favor of unions.”  Reporter Steven Greenhouse adds, “Mr. LePage has also ordered that the Labor Department’s seven conference rooms be renamed. One is named after César Chávez, the farmworkers’ leader; one after Rose Schneiderman, a leader of the New York Women’s Trade Union League a century ago; and one after Frances Perkins, who became the nation’s first female labor secretary in 1933 and is buried in Maine.”

Three Big Reasons For the Decline of Labor Unions, David Macaray, counterpunch:

"Many businesses manage to keep unions out by providing their employees with comparable wages and benefits. Even though union wages are still significantly higher, across the board, than non-union wages, many companies are able to keep out unions by providing compensation and benefits (vacations, pensions, health insurance) that compare favorably to those of union shops, thus obviating the need for organizing.
What hurts most in these cases is that the people ("free riders") receiving these comparable wages and benefits think they’re making it on their own, without having to rely on a union. In truth, without the existence of unions, there’s no telling how low base wages for unskilled blue-collar work would fall, with nothing to prop them up except the federal minimum wage."**

Growing Economic Inequality Endangers Our Future, NPR interview with Joseph E. Stiglitz, author of The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future.

How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?  Paul Grugman, The New York Times:

"So here’s what I think economists have to do. First, they have to face up to the inconvenient reality that financial markets fall far short of perfection, that they are subject to extraordinary delusions and the madness of crowds. Second, they have to admit — and this will be very hard for the people who giggled and whispered over Keynes — that Keynesian economics remains the best framework we have for making sense of recessions and depressions. Third, they’ll have to do their best to incorporate the realities of finance into macroeconomics."

Plutocracy, Paralysis, Perplexity, Paul Grugman, The New York Times:

"For the past century, political polarization has closely tracked income inequality, and there’s every reason to believe that the relationship is causal. Specifically, money buys power, and the increasing wealth of a tiny minority has effectively bought the allegiance of one of our two major political parties, in the process destroying any prospect for cooperation."

Wisconsin, You Blew It. Greg Laden, (the X Blog), doesn't pull any punches. He is angry:

"A while back, about the time protesters were occupying the Wisconsin State House, I mentioned that while I fully supported the recall of Walker, I also thought the voters of Wisconsin had to take a certain amount of responsibility. They did elect the guy, after all. It was their fault, collectively, that he was in office.
People got mad at me and told me I should say things like that. The people of Wisconsin were victims, they didn’t mean to put an evil Democracy-hating crook in the state house. They needed our support, not our admonition.
But guess what. I was right."

**Apparently, Cheeseheads were too busy playing "Screw your neighbor" to realize they have been had. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Teach Your Children Well

A little girl at "Jesus Camp" expresses her "joy" in the Christian gospel while other children look on uncertainly.

Two recent FreeThoughtBlogs posts reminded me that I haven't posted often enough recently about the improper use of public schools by religious groups to indoctrinate children into their terrifying "faiths". One would think that the public discussions of Jesus Camp, and the disturbing videos which came out about it, would have alerted concerned parents to the danger of letting religion have a free pass to indoctrinate their youngsters, but apparently not.  Religion is given a pass once more.  Actually, religion is not just given a pass but is still presumed to be, on the whole, a positive and good thing for children, even by parents who would be horrified if they knew the true intentions of religious proselytizers who have targeted their children for training as warriors for Jesus.

Both Ophelia Benson and PZ Myers posted this morning about the Good News Club, an explicitly Christian evangelical initiative of a group which calls itself the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), whose number and influence in schools and communities has been growing at an alarming rate.  A recent article in the Guardian by Katherine Stewart (author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children) has broken the story that the clubs, emboldened by the protection of a bad 2001 Supreme Court decision, are no longer bothering to even pretend that their real agenda is not proselytizing and grooming Christian warriors:

The CEF has been teaching the story of the Amalekites at least since 1973. In its earlier curriculum materials, CEF was euphemistic about the bloodshed, saying simply that "the Amalekites were completely defeated." In the most recent version of the curriculum, however, the group is quite eager to drive the message home to its elementary school students. The first thing the curriculum makes clear is that if God gives instructions to kill a group of people, you must kill every last one:

"You are to go and completely destroy the Amalekites (AM-uh-leck-ites) – people, animals, every living thing. Nothing shall be left."

"That was pretty clear, wasn't it?" the manual tells the teachers to say to the kids.

The Slaughter of the Amalekites
Asking if Saul would "pass the test" of obedience, the text points to Saul's failure to annihilate every last Amalekite, posing the rhetorical question:

"If you are asked to do something, how much of it do you need to do before you can say, 'I did it!'?"

"If only Saul had been willing to seek God for strength to obey!" the lesson concludes.

Even more important, the Good News Club wants the children to know, the Amalakites were targeted for destruction on account of their religion, or lack of it. The instruction manual reads:

"The Amalekites had heard about Israel's true and living God many years before, but they refused to believe in him. The Amalekites refused to believe in God and God had promised punishment." Katherine Stewart, The Guardian.

These fundamentalist Christian proselytizing vehicles won the right to insert themselves into public schools under the deceptive and insidious ruling (one of the few majority opinions authored by the conservative Clarence Thomas) in 2001. In that decision (Good News Club vs Milford Central School), the Supreme Court Justice disingenuously agreed with the CEF defense that the clubs were not religious in nature at all, but were merely clubs performing the laudable function of “teaching of morals and character development from a particular viewpoint”. Nothing to worry about there, right? But, wait. Here is the CEF viewpoint, straight from their "About Us" webpage:

Jesus Camps and Good News Clubs:
nothing but good, harmless fun!
"Child Evangelism Fellowship® (CEF®) is a Bible-centered, worldwide organization that is dedicated to seeing every child reached with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, discipled and established in a local church."

Many parents uncritically accept these clubs as being harmlessly what their deliberately kid-friendly name implies: a club for fun and belonging, in the spirit of the Good News Bears. They either do not realise or do not want to realise that the raison d'être of Good News Clubs is to convert children and turn them into Christian evangelicals.  These clubs are designed to pull in children under false pretenses (in many cases offering after-school care which is almost irresistible to parents who are struggling with poorly paid jobs and a lack of affordable child-care which is becoming a national crisis) and then convert them to fundamentalist Christianity. The benign-sounding name, the lure of a fun-sounding "club" and the fact that the children are often strongly encouraged to join by respected authorities (the schools) are all part of an insidious strategy to gain access to children without the truly informed consent of their parents and, obviously, of the children themselves. School acceptance of these clubs, mandated by the Supreme Court, means that both children and their parents are deceived into thinking that the secular, public schools endorse these religious clubs - and that there is no deeper agenda - which is one of the main reasons why the CEF fought so hard and so dishonestly to get them into public schools in the first place.

The Christian church has long used childhood indoctrination to ensure that obedient and thoroughly cowed legions of believers continue to swell their ranks, providing them with the power of numbers, financial wealth and, of course, warriors willing to die for their god/church/divinely appointed rulers. It has always been in the interest of those who hold power to have a large faith following, and religion has provided both the means and the ends.

"Knock down all doors, all the barriers,
to all 65,000 public elementary schools in America
 and take the Gospel to this open mission field now!
Not later, now!"

(CEF  national convention keynote speech, 2010)
There was empirical evidence behind the oft-quoted assertion of St. Francis Xavier (one of the first Jesuits, a Catholic order of priests famed as educators): "Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man (alternatively: "and I care not who has him thereafter"). The well-educated, observant and intelligent Jesuits had noticed that people who are thoroughly indoctrinated in religious dogma in early childhood retain those beliefs throughout life, while people in whom religious belief has not been inculcated early are more difficult to convert - and to control. They realized, though they did not have the language to describe it yet, that the psychological impact of early indoctrination - particularly indoctrination based upon fear and confusion - usually lasts a lifetime.

Young children have no defenses against deliberate indoctrination. When they are taught to fear a god through stories which illustrate the god's relentlessly violent and implacably unforgiving reaction - not to lying, stealing and murdering which the Biblical god often condones and even orders, but to disbelief and disobedience - they learn the lesson through fear and they learn it well.  The Biblical god is a terrifyingly powerful "awesome" god and the one "sin" He will never forgive is lack of belief. The children are primed first with the "fun" and then the stories are told, gradually leading to the point when the children are tearfully, fearfully professing "belief".

Research has shown that one of the most powerful human motivators is fear, and one of the most difficult psychological challenges to overcome is irrational fear, especially fear that has taken root in the mind at an early age. Religious proselytizers know this, and this is why they are so insistent upon childhood indoctrination. Children are vulnerable to lifelong damage from the powerful emotional appeal of fear and guilt-based religious proselytizing.  They cannot "unthink" terrible thoughts which have been planted in their minds early. They cannot "unfeel" the horror and the fear that is elicited in their psyches through early Bible instruction.

Religious eschatology - and the terrifying images it evokes - is nothing less than psychological abuse of children. Yet, not only are parents permitted to subject their own children to these horrors, but religious groups are being permitted to sneak their fundamentalist religious indoctrination into public and private schools where they can prey on other peoples' children as well. In fact, gaining access to the children of parents who would not voluntarily subject their children to this violent, misanthropic and destructive theology is precisely the purpose of the Good News Club.

What we don't want to know
may seriously harm the USA.
The CEF is an explicitly evangelical, explicitly fundamentalist, explicitly and unapologetically Christian group and by continuing to be willfully blind to their purpose, parents are participating in the indoctrination of their children into extremist religion, whether they want to admit it to themselves or not. It is vital that more people speak out about this strategy of the religious right. They have already insinuated themselves into thousands of public schools in the USA and around the world, and they do not intend to stop until they have converted everyone.

Telling ourselves that one powerful religious group really cannot take over like that; kidding ourselves that the first amendment will protect people from religious tyranny is being willfully blind, deaf and dumb. As we have seen with the concurrent (and not coincidental) strategy of powerful groups to get issues affecting minorities' Constitutional rights onto ballots so that they can be put to a majority vote, the longterm objectives of the conservative right wing have been carefully and patiently planned. There is a real danger that the majority can use its power and clout to force their view on the minority until the power is so nearly total that complete annihilation of opposing viewpoints is achieved. That is where the freedom from religion part should have come in – if the court had not also been swayed by the power of the Christian majority. The issue is now urgent.

PZ's post    Ophelia's post, Kill Them All, Children.