Showing posts with label Casual Christian Cruelty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Casual Christian Cruelty. Show all posts

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Feature - The March of Reason




























TGIF! If you are planning to watch a movie tonight, why not consider putting the film linked below on the schedule. It is entertaining, fast-paced and will definitely give you plenty to think and talk about with your family and friends. I've been actively following the rise of Christian fundamentalism in North America for over a decade, but I was still surprised and shocked by some of the revelations this documentary uncovers. It isn't speculation or fear-mongering. There is minimal editorializing: nearly every word in this film comes straight from the sources' mouths - whether the source is an atheist rally attendee, a Republican legislator, a famous scientist or a Christian fundamentalist. The words of Nate Phelps, estranged son of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church patriarch Fred Phelps, are particularly moving especially considering that as he spoke on the Washington mall that chilly afternoon, he knew he was being watched, judged and hated by the people who should have been closest to him - his own family.

On March 24, 2012, thousands of atheists, humanists, rationalists and social justice activists gathered on the mall in Washington DC for a first of its kind event: a Reason Rally. Estimates of the size of the Reason Rally crowd ranged from 20,000 to 30,000 people. Individuals traveled on their own time and on their own dime from all over the country to attend, to listen to rational speakers and to sound the alarm that the principle of separation of church and state is under attack.

The American Constitution is a precious treasure, the envy of the world. The First Amendment of the Constitution, which enshrines the separation between church and state, is the model for secular constitutions the world over and deserves to be imitated the world over. How sad it would be if in the birthplace of secular constitutions the very principle of secular constitutions were to be betrayed in a theocracy. But it's come close to that. Richard Dawkins, Biologist, Reason Rally speech, March 24, 2012.

Unlike the religiously-fueled, corporate-backed rally organized in the late summer of 2010 - where thousands of the approximately 85,000 attendees arrived by the busload, their travel organized and paid for by their churches - the Reason Rally was barely acknowledged by the mainstream media. Beck's scripted and stage-managed "grass roots" event enjoyed enormous media attention and prime time publicity on every major news outlet, while the Reason Rally - which actually was primarily a grass roots event - was largely ignored. Only after the event was over did a few media outlets belatedly mention that it had occurred at all. A few noted with surprise that as many as 30,000 godless Americans had gathered peacefully in one place (although they avoided actually giving publicity to any of the ideas the rally was trying to promote), while most simply stated that a rally had taken place and left it at that.

Fortunately, Scott Burdick was on hand filming, interviewing and working hard to preserve a record of this remarkable gathering. He then went home and began work on this documentary film project which would do justice not only to the rally itself, but which would help explain why this rally was so important.


American society is facing an urgently serious crisis. Radicalized Christianity is not simply a growing problem; it has been a growing problem for decades. Because of our cultural taboo against criticizing religion, Christianism has been mostly flying under the radar doing its organizing, proselytizing, infiltrating and undermining secular government and education while presenting the bland face of tradition to the world. Meanwhile, the moderate majority of Americans has been aiding and abetting religious extremism by refusing to consider that radicalization can happen at home as well as abroad.

We continued to believe that religion is mainly a beneficial part of society and that religious extremism is a very tiny fringe element of a mostly benign cultural treasure even as extreme conservatives began to trickle into higher and higher public offices. We persisted in lying to ourselves that the conservatives we voted for were fiscal conservatives who would not impose their religious beliefs on the public through the power of their elected posts. Then we stood by as these so-called fiscal conservatives began to pass bills spending wildly on corporate welfare and tax paydays for the wealthiest Americans (whose financial support they seem to universally enjoy) while restricting civil rights, limiting personal liberty (especially for women and minorities), scoffing at social justice and denying equal rights to many groups of citizens - all justified by their Christian faith.


Faith is a vice pretending to be a virtue, its lies and errors and frothy nonsense deluding us and distracting us from action. There's no salvation in wishful thinking, only inertia. Faith is the enemy of reason. It's the barren refuge of the vacuous, the fearful, the frauds, and the obstacles to accomplishment. P Z Myers, Biologist, Reason Rally speech, March 24, 2012.



The persistent belief that Christianity is a benign - even beneficial - force in society, coupled with the undeserved deference we all pay to religion, has been the key to preserving an environment in which insurgent, extremist Christian fundamentalism has flourished. We have allowed Christian conservatism to destabilize our political system, gut our social safety net and tear down the wall of separation between church and state. Acting through its political arm, the Republican party, the unholy alliance of corporatism and religion lobbied and succeeded in forcing measures through state legislatures and Congress which have increased ideological polarization in the country and widened the gap between rich and poor to a yawning chasm, while cementing in the public mind a false relationship between providing a social safety net and losing our personal liberty.

Christian conservatism has demonized anyone who dares to suggest that as a society we may have a duty to fulfill a social contract. By falsely equating the ideal of an American society where every man, woman and child can be guaranteed access to the tools to achieve a decent life with some sort of jack-booted nazi-socialist ideology, conservatives have succeeded in making social justice issues political kryptonite. They have demonized non-Christians (and especially non-theists) as the evil perpetrators of that imaginary ideology, forcing anyone hoping to run for public office to evince public religiosity lest he or she be tarred with the "godless, evil" brush, thus circumventing the 6th article of the Constitution which is supposed to protect candidates for public office from any religious test. They have stoked racial tensions and hammered on false linkages between race and crime, godlessness and evil, humanism and nihilism while denying the true link between gross inequality and all of social problems we face today. We are living through a civil cold war - brought about by the rampant social injustice and gross economic inequality which conservative policies have encouraged.

Atheists aren't angry because we're selfish, or bitter, or joyless. Atheists are angry because we have compassion. Atheists are angry because we have a sense of justice. Atheists are angry because we see millions of people being terribly harmed by religion, and our hearts go out to them, and we feel motivated to do something about it. Greta Christina, Writer, Reason Rally speech, March 24, 2012.



Christian fundamentalists despise America. They hate the ideals upon which the American republic was built. They dishonor the founding principles which protected this country from theocracy by establishing a secular government and barring any religion from wielding power over the civil rights of the people. They deny and try to rewrite the history of the revolution that sought to liberate this fledgling nation from the yoke of authoritarian religion thus enabling the closest thing to a truly free society ever known to humankind to be born. They have plotted and worked unceasingly to dismantle everything about America which made it a beacon of hope in the world - the Constitutional protections against authoritarianism - because everything America stands for conflicts with the authoritarian demands of their theocratic ambitions.

The greatest threat to the United States does not reside overseas. It lies in wait within our own borders, deep inside our most trusted communities.  The most determined and implacable enemy of American liberty, justice and equality is American Christian fundamentalism. We've been sleeping with the enemy for decades.
It is time to wake up, America!

I have concluded through careful, empirical analysis and much thought that somebody is looking out for me, keeping track of what I think about things, forgiving me when I do less than I ought, giving me strength to shoot for more than I think I'm capable of. I believe they know everything that I do and think and they still love me and I've concluded after careful consideration that this person keeping score is me. Mythbuster Adam Savage, Reason Rally speech, March 24, 2012.

Here is part one of The March of Reason.  I will be posting the other four parts as Friday features, but if you cannot wait to see them on this blog, the link to Scott Burdick's youtube site is below the film window. So far, only parts one and two have been uploaded there. I will be following his progress closely as he finishes the rest of the documentary and will post the remaining parts as Friday Features as they become available. Check back here to be sure not to miss them!


 

Documentary produced by Scott Burdick

Thanks to the Friendly Atheist for bringing attention to this excellent work!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Day Of Silence




























To mark this Day of Silence,  Cyndi Lauper's anthem True Colors

True Colors

You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged
Oh, I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors
Are beautiful like a rainbow

Show me a smile then,
Don't be unhappy
Can't remember when
I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I'll be there

And I'll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
Your true colors
Are beautiful like a rainbow

(Can't remember when I last saw you laughing)

If this world makes you crazy
And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I'll be there

And I'll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors
True colors are shining through

I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors
Are beautiful like a rainbow

Songwriters: Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly




Friday, April 5, 2013

Barmy Bible Study - A Lesson On Obedience and Respect

God sends two bears to tear apart 42 little children for laughing at Elisha.  That's understandable, right?

































Yesterday, I posted about the creeping danger of extremist religion delivered directly to our schoolchildren in public schools. Today, I'd like to repost a Barmy Bible Study that relates to this issue. Reasonable people ought to challenge the accepted view that religion - and religious indoctrination - is benign or even "good" for children. Instead of simply skimming over the stories and "lessons" in the Bible and ignoring the very real horrors contained within the Good Book™, I'd like to challenge NiftyReaders to read - really read - what the lessons actually mean.

This week's Barmy Bible Study features Elisha and the She-Bears (bit parts played by forty-two little children).  Our text for this evening's study can be found in the book of Kings. I will post three different versions of the passage, since it is brief. It might be interesting to compare them (you go ahead; one version is more than enough for me): 
(Note: Atheists and other haters of GOD'S HOLY WORD, scroll past the blue text)

2 Kings 2:23-24
King James Version (KJV)
23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

2 Kings 2:23-24
Darby Translation (DARBY)
23 And he went up from thence to Bethel, and as he went up by the way, there came forth little boys out of the city, and mocked him, and said to him, Go up, bald head; go up, bald head!
24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of Jehovah. And there came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and tore forty-two children of them.

(During the renaissance of fundamentalist Christianity in the early 1980's, a newer, more politically-correct and friendly Bible was developed. People needed a Bible they could understand; one that rounded off the rough edges a little, one that suggested that the "little children" might in fact have been the very kind of "youths" that so many modern Christians  fear and despise. A little gentle manipulation of the text here and there and voilĂ ! An Old Testament version massaged just enough to soften the jagged Truth™within):

2 Kings 2:23-24
New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
Elisha Is Jeered
23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead!” they said. “Go on up, you baldhead!”
24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.

Don't worry kids, you will soon believe:
injustice is justice*, viciousness is righteousness
and fear is love.
The Good News™ is not for the meek!
Oh wait...
For some reason, this part of the Elisha story does not make it into the Sunday school curriculum or Sunday readings in church often enough - and, strangely, it is not mentioned at all in the wikipedia entry for Elisha, (although I am pleased to report that this Bible character is presented on wikipedia as an historical figure and the (positive) stories about him are presented as objective historical facts rather than unverifiable Biblical mythology, which is awesome) - but it really ought to feature prominently in children's Bible study. Sure, it might be frightening to a few little children, but who ever said that the Truth™ would be easy to hear? The terrifying and depressing stories in the Bible are inexplicably called the Good News™, after all. All true Bible-Believers know that terror brings comfort just as cruelty means love and death is life in Christian theology. It only takes a little early Biblical training to semi-permanently mold the human mind to this spiritual knowledge.

The story of Elisha and the She-Bears is the perfect introduction to Biblical morality for young Christians. It beautifully illustrates the character of the Biblical god, not to mention the character of Biblical leaders revered by Bible-believers. This story helps settle, once and for all, any confusion about the source from which modern conservatives derive their moral values. Most of all, it underlines in easy-to-understand terms just how important it is to respect the religious and their religious beliefs. The first four Commandments handed down by Moses are not about how human beings ought to treat one another, but about respecting the god of Israel and recognizing that all social and political power belongs in the hands of His followers. Belief is everything; moral behavior toward one's fellow human beings is secondary. Let there be no doubt what the Biblical priorities are: We don't call it Bible-based morality for nothing!

Study Questions for Elisha and the She-Bears:

1. What happened to Elisha as he approached the city of Bethel?

2. How did he react to this?

3. How does the Bible tell us that Jehovah responded to Elisha's reaction and what does his response teach us?

You know the type; always mocking the godly.
Just look at them - the arrogant bullies!
The Bible tells us that Elisha was a prophet and a servant of Elijah, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. After Elijah was taken up to heaven, Elisha was understandably elated because not only would he no longer be playing second fiddle to Elijah, but he had asked for and received a double portion of Elijah's spirit as a deathbed blessing (interestingly, Elisha later punished his own servant without mercy for the sin of greed, but I digress*). He proceeded to travel the Holy Lands letting everyone know that he was the top prophet at last. As he journeyed from town to town, Elisha was occasionally disappointed in the people he found there. When he was disappointed, he wasted no time before calling down the wrath of his god upon them.  As a "Man of God", Elisha was able to flex that power that comes with being a favored son of Jehovah, and like the god himself, Elisha never hesitated to use it mercilessly to crush those who displeased him.

Take the day he traveled to Bethel, for example. Perhaps he was feeling a little testy that day (and, come on, isn't a Man of God entitled to a grumpy day now and then?), so his reaction to the teasing of a group of little children will be entirely understandable. Here is what happened:

Elisha was approaching the gates of the city of Bethel. No doubt he was tired from his journey and feeling irritable. Perhaps his bald head was noticably shining with perspiration due to his exertions. Whatever the case may be, a group of little children from the town ran out to watch his approach and for some unknown reason began to tease and taunt him, using the timeless, sing-songing repetition that has characterized children's games for generations.

"Go on up, you baldhead! Go on up, you baldhead" they called out to him. Twice.

Now, that was clearly disrespectful. These little children, in their arrogance, were obviously mocking the Man of God. They were making fun of Elisha's bald, sweatily glistening head! They may even have been ignorantly parroting things they may have overheard their elders saying about Elisha - perhaps that he was trying too hard to emulate Elijah and might just as well ascend into heaven like his deceased mentor - we cannot know for sure why the children did what they did, and they may not, in fact, have had any motive except silly childish games, but still. Their youthful innocence and ignorance of Elisha's exalted role as God's emissary was no excuse for this rude behaviour. Nothing is ever a valid excuse for mockery of a religious figure or a religion. That is blasphemy! Blasphemers are the worst of the worst. And justice* must be seen to be done.

This will teach those smart-alecs to fear God!
Remember children: fear is love.
And vicious, capricious cruelty is God's love.
Remember that now, little ones...oh wait...too late!
So Elisha did what any Man of God would do: he called on Jehovah to right this appalling injustice - this unforgivable mockery of a godly man - the playful nyah-nyahing of laughing children who must surely have been little minions of Satan! You might think that the all-loving god of the Christian imagination would have gently chastised the little children, understanding that their behaviour was nothing more than a stage in the developmental path that the god himself, after all, had ordained for humanity. You might think that He would have counselled Elisha to smile patiently and go about his business as not only a Man of God, but also as a mature adult. You might think these things, but you would be wrong. Jehovah answered Elisha's call the Biblical wayand how! -->

Jehovah (aka "God") sent two ferocious bears - she-bears, naturally - which then proceeded to rip forty-two of the little children to pieces. The story goes that as the bears tore the limbs off little boys and girls and sank their massive teeth into tiny necks and torsos, Elisha continued on into the city of Bethel to spread the Good News™ of Jehovah's boundless love to the men within. Then, of course, he simply carried on his way to his next stop, Samaria. The Bible never does say how the townspeople of Bethel reacted later when they found the bloody, dismembered bodies of forty-two of their children. It moves smartly on to more important topics, obviously.

It may seem as though Elisha was indifferent to the suffering of little children whom he had condemned to terrible deaths for the "crime" of laughing at him, but we learn from this story that he did it for a good reason: disrespect for a "Man of God" - especially disbelief in the invisible and silent, unknowable and undetectable, yet omniscient and omnipotent creator god - is never to be tolerated. The One True Faith must be respected at all costs - revered by everyone, including the innocent, the ignorant and the unbelievers - and when it is not, the insult is so intolerable that anything is permitted.

Elisha stood strong against 
the little children.
Let Biblical justice be done!
In Bible studies all over Christendom, people nod in agreement and barely flicker an eyelid upon reading about the massacre of little children, because they believe in Biblical values, which are far superior to any mere humanist morality. They know that allowing little children to be torn apart by wild bears is nothing compared to the horror of allowing a Man of God to be ridiculed without dire consequences. Bible-belief lifts true Christians above the filth of mere human emotion and tender feelings for other human beings. These are the values that modern Christians strive to apply to their own lives, for the good of humanity. Those who will not bow down respectfully before the Christian religion clearly choose not to, and therefore they choose whatever they have coming to them. That's not bigotry, that's the Biblical way.

Every right-minded Christian understands that to be laughed at or mocked for one's beliefs, while it is expected, is an intolerable offense that the godly should never have to endure. As followers of the One True Faith™, righteous Christians must never be prevented from defending against insults using every weapon at their disposal.  Throughout history, of course, Christians waged wars, persecuted unbelievers and punished blasphemers mercilessly, just like Elisha and his god. But those were the good old days (whatever happened to just being able to burn heretics at the stake? That's another of our freedoms stolen by those damned liberals!). Today, right-wing Christians in the western world are prevented by secular liberal society from responding to criticism or mockery in the time-honored Biblical way, sadly, but some groups have devised ingenious ways of getting around the protection obstruction of the secular Constitution.

Whether their fellow citizens want it or not, Bible-believing Christians know that it is imperative that the United States be brought to its knees before them the one true god. Great strides have been made since the Reagan era made it clear that there were ways around the First Amendment, and Christian power in government and society has since grown enormous. Every level of government, every profession, every cultural sphere and every educational institution has been infused with the holy spirit in the form of planted emissaries of the favored Christian faith. It is time for the Christian Right to stand up even taller in defense of their faith: the criticism coming from liberals and moderates is intolerable and outrageous. It must be silenced. It is not simply free speech in a free country - it is persecution of Christians!

Turns out God and Guns is a
winning combination, after all!
Might makes right; that's the
Biblical way!
The story of Elisha and the She-Bears teaches us without ambiguity that the Biblical God is a mercilessly punishing god. To disrespect him - even unknowingly - is to bring his wrath down upon even the most vulnerable and innocent among us. Righteous, Bible-believing Christians know this Truth™and they fear it. The anger of the all-loving, all-powerful god is terrifying and there is no room for mutual understanding, acceptance of different beliefs or of ignorance. The Good News™ must be embraced by everyone - force-fed to them, if necessary - for the good of humanity.

Righteous, Bible-believing, born-again Christians will not be fooled by liberals who disguise themselves as Christians, either. So-called moderate Christians - who are too tolerant of others, who accept other people for who they are and who believe there may be many pathways to God - will never be accepted as real Christians by the true Bible-believer. Moderate, liberal Christians are like the little children who mocked the great Man of God, Elisha. They look innocent but they are false Christians, perhaps even the devil's minions and they, likewise, must be shown no mercy. It is hard Truth™, but true Christians know that they must be strong enough to do whatever is necessary to defend their beliefs. In the words of bible.org, "We need more Elishas, those who will stand fast and act in biblical ways leaving the results to the Lord." Wow. Indeed! How awesome is Biblical love!

Here is what every loving Christian parent knows: The lesson about God's righteous justice that they learn from the story of Elisha and the Bears is good for Christian children. Fear is good. We know this is true because the Bible tells us so. The Bible says it. We believe it. That settles it. However, there is always the danger that some Christians may recognise the raw, power-hungry psychological manipulation for what it is fail to accept and understand this wondrous mystery unless their beliefs are seared into their psyches through childhood indoctrination inculcated early and thoroughly. Might as well get them started in pre-school! Below you will find an example of a fun way to introduce the important message of the story of Elisha and the She-Bears to young children - use a colouring page! It's just the thing. Find your copies at any Christian supply store and start training up your children the right way today!

*Justice is injustice. Injustice is justice. The Bible is always right. This is Biblical logic. Get used to it. 'We need more Elishas' and, if the Christian right gets its wish this election, we will have them at long last. We could soon be enjoying a far more Biblically correct America. Praise God!

Class dismissed.

The child who coloured this page added a nice touch when he drew in the spurting blood.
This boy shows righteous promise! A future Elisha, perhaps?


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Teach Your Children Right!


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






























(Reposting this after reading recently on Butterflies and Wheels that this situation is accelerating. Previously posted in June, 2012):

Two recent FreeThoughtBlogs posts have brought attention to the improper use of public schools by fundamentalist 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 what their deliberately kid-friendly name implies: a club for harmless fun and a sense of belonging, in the spirit of the Good News Bears. These parents either do not realise or do not want to realise that the raison d'ĂȘtre 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 dominionist 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 every child.

Telling ourselves that one powerful religious group really cannot take over like that or 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 merely 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. The 2001 case heard by the SCOTUS is where the freedom from religion part should have been upheld – but the court has 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.



Sunday, March 31, 2013

The War on Easter!

Thank goddess, Christians are constitutionally protected from having to participate in pagan rituals!




























Mark your calendars, NiftyReaders. Today, I agree wholeheartedly with a fundamentalist Christian argument. According to online sources for Christian correctness, Christians have a big problem with Easter. The problem is that Easter is not Christian enough. In fact, Easter is not Christian or Biblically endorsed at all.


Hot cross buns?
Abominations!
Now let’s go to the other scriptures authorizing Easter. This presents a problem. There are NONE! There are absolutely no verses, anywhere in the Bible, that authorize or endorse the keeping of Easter celebration! The Bible says nothing about Lent, eggs and egg hunts, baskets of candy, etc., although it does mention hot cross buns and sunrise services as abominations, which God condemns. (The True Origin of Easter, the Reformed Church of God.org)

The name “Easter” has its roots in ancient polytheistic religions (paganism). On this, all scholars agree. This name is never used in the original Scriptures, nor is it ever associated biblically with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For these reasons, we prefer to use the term “Resurrection Sunday” rather than “Easter” when referring to the annual Christian remembrance of Christ's resurrection. (What is the origin of Easter? ChristianAnswers.org)

Oh, those pagans with their "Happy Easter/Happy Holidays"! Unbelievers have been distracting Christians from the true meaning of Christianity's most important holidays for too long! Easter is all about springtime, flowers budding, bunnies, chicks and sex. So unChristian!  Resurrection Sunday is about the story of a dead man who disappeared from his tomb and is believed to have risen from the dead after a horrific execution. That's more like it! Ask any Christian, he will tell you: holidays don't get much more joyful than that!

Coloring eggs? 
That's a no-no, Christians!
For these reasons, I would prefer that Christians use the term "Resurrection Sunday" rather than Easter, too. It makes perfect sense for Christians - who happily profess to be washed in the blood of Jesus, after all - to name their own holiday something more appropriate to what it really is about. I enthusiastically support their right to begin calling their holy day by this name forthwith. Keep the Resurrection in Resurrection Sunday!

And while we are on the subject, why do devout Christians allow the secularists to win on Good Friday, too? Why accept the politically correct - and frankly much too bland - "Good Friday"?  Christians, call it what it is!  It is Crucifixion Friday! It is high time that Christians admit to the rest of the world - loud and proud - that their holiday is about blood, torture and a terrible death, not the Easter Bunny, jellybeans and a chocolate coma!

And about those Easter Eggs. No, no, no, Christians. Do you have any idea of the depraved history of these pagan symbols? Easter eggs are pagan symbols of a fertility goddess! ChristianAnswers can fill you in:

Most children and families who color or hide Easter eggs as part of their Resurrection Sunday tradition have no knowledge of the origin of these traditions. Easter egg activities have become a part of Western culture. Many would be surprised and even dismayed to learn where the traditions originated.
“The egg was a sacred symbol among the Babylonians. They believed an old fable about an egg of wondrous size which was supposed to have fallen from heaven into the Euphrates River. From this marvelous egg - according to the ancient story - the Goddess Astarte (Easter) [Semiramis], was hatched. And so the egg came to symbolize the Goddess Easter.”
Sneaky... but they're still eggs.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The idea of a mystic egg spread from Babylon to many parts of the world. In Rome, the mystic egg preceded processions in honor of the Mother Goddess Roman. The egg was part of the sacred ceremonies of the Mysteries of Bacchus. The Druids used the egg as their sacred emblem. In Northern Europe, China and Japan the eggs were colored for their sacred festivals.
The egg was also a symbol of fertility; Semiramis (Easter) was the goddess of Fertility. The Easter egg is a symbol of the pagan Mother Goddess, and it even bears one of her names.

Do you hear that? Fables! Fertility! A Mother Goddess! The horror! Now, do you see why no true Christian should ever be caught dead dyeing eggs or participating in Easter egg hunts? Instead of an almighty (yet silent and invisible) creator god, the humble egg has been universally celebrated as a symbol of fertility and new life for thousands of years only because those people chose not to know any better. Dozens of cultures who observed the natural world around them, recognized the natural cycle of birth, life and death and celebrated the life-giving sunlight, moon cycle (reproductive cycle) and motherhood in the form of goddess worship were clearly unChristian, evil and pagan.

Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies, jellybeans and marshmallow chicks are all very seductive. They seem like delicious innocent fun, but they are not. They are dangerous temptations down the road to unbelief. They suggest natural sources of life and, with those eggs and chicks and hens and such, they are also suggestive of all of the necessary and naturally-occurring components of reproduction. They suggest that the plants and animals on the earth - including human beings - are actually born, live and die without the aid or interference of any deity. Of course, throbbing, pulsing, thriving, living reality cannot compete with the power of fervent, mystical religious belief (right? amirite?), but why should Christians risk it?

And just in case you didn't catch the recurring motif of feminine power in those evil, pagan myths, just look what else this Easter/Eastre "holiday" is all about (according to ChristianAnswers):

Nice try, Christians, but no.
... this adulterous and idolatrous woman gave birth to an illegitimate son, she claimed that this son, Tammuz by name, was Nimrod reborn.” Semiramis “claimed that her son was supernaturally conceived [no human father] and that he was the promised seed, the 'savior'” - promised by God in Genesis 3:15. “However, not only was the child worshipped, but the woman, the MOTHER, was also worshipped as much (or more) than the son!” Nimrod deified as the god of the sun and father of creation. Semiramis became the goddess of the moon, fertility, etc.

The woman, the MOTHER (!!1eleventy1!) was worshipped! If ever there was proof that Easter is an unChristian festival, this creation of a female god is it. Any mythology that pays respect to women - let alone that elevates one to goddess status - autonomous, powerful and life-giving - is a mythology that is antithetical to everything that patriarchal Christianity stands for.

And come on, look at that silly fable! It cannot hold a candle to the 100% true, God-breathed, divine message in the Bible describing the singular Truth of Christianity: An innocent and immaculate young virgin miraculously gave birth to a son. The Bible claims that this son, Jesus by name, was the son of God, conceived of the Holy Spirit (no human father) and that he was the promised Messiah - the "savior" promised by God in Genesis 3:15. Not only is the child, Jesus, worshipped as he should be, but his mother, Mary is also paid deference as only the Mother of God deserves to be.

Now, that is a story that has the ring of ultimate Truth™!

In the old fables of the Mystery cults, their 'savior' Tammuz, was worshipped with various rites at the Spring season. According to the legends, after he was slain [killed by a wild boar], he went into the underworld. But through the weeping of his mother… he mystically revived in the springing forth of the vegetation - in Spring! Each year a spring festival dramatically represented this supposed 'resurrection'...

Nope.
In the old holy scriptures of the One True Faith, the Christian savior, Jesus Christ, is worshipped with various rites at the spring season. According to the inerrant word of the Bible, after he was slain (killed by Roman occupiers), he died and descended into hell. But according to the will of his father, he mystically revived - bringing "new life" to the world - in Spring! Each spring, during holy days, worshippers dramatically re-enact the utterly unverifiable story totally true Biblical account of this real resurrection.

Thus, a terrible false religion developed with its sun and moon worship, priests, astrology, demonic worship, worship of stars associated with their gods, idolatry, mysterious rites, human sacrifice, and more. Frankly, the practices which went on were so horrible that it is not fitting for me to speak of them here.

Exactly.  We will speak no more about it. The Christian religion with its divine Son worship, priests, mysticism, belief in angels and demons, worship of holy shrines associated with visions of their gods, angels and saints, mysterious rites and liturgical human sacrifice ritual is so much more than this terrible false religion from which Easter has sprung. For one thing, Christians add ritual cannibalism after the ritual human sacrifice! Frankly, these practices are so obviously correct, righteous and good, that it is not fitting for any Christian to participate in anything else. The source of that whole springtime/ new life/ bunnies and eggs/ ickily feminine, fertility cultish, Eastery thing is a terrible, false religion. What kind of a legitimate spring/rebirth festival elevates a MOTHER over a son? Definitely not a Christian festival!

Easter is clearly an evil pagan festival which Christians ought to decry.

Absolutely not!
Christians ought to take a stand against this tawdry commercialization of Christianity's most glorious holiday and simply refuse to partake in it. Perhaps they could demand that retailers post Happy Resurrection Sunday signs in their stores. Insist that schools and businesses should be closed out of respect for Crucifixion Friday. Fight for the power to teach schoolchildren the Good News™- whether they are Christian or not - through faith-building activities. Why shouldn't they be able to put on an annual Passion Play in public schools? What little boy wouldn't love to portray the crucified Jesus? What little girl hasn't dreamed of being cast as the Blessed Virgin grieving over the broken body of her murdered son? Even the littlest Christians can partake in the spirit-filled fun by baking Resurrection Cookies with Mom. As Mom reads the appropriate scriptures, the little ones can beat nuts into pieces with a wooden spoon and imagine they are breaking the bones of their long-suffering savior†. Godly, wholesome, fearsome fun. Now, that is the way to celebrate Easter Joy Resurrection Sunday!

One might wonder if there is a better way for Christians to celebrate Jesus Christ's resurrection, the most important of all Christian holy days. In retrospect, it seems obvious that it would have been a better witness to the world if Christians had not attempted to “Christianize” pagan celebrations* - adopting the name “Easter” (Ishtar/Semiramis) in remembrance of Christ. Jesus has been obscured by painted eggs and bunnies. Attention has been shifted away from spiritual truth and toward materialism (clothing, products and candies with the wrong symbolism). Stores merchandise the name of Easter (not “Resurrection Sunday”) and sell goods that have nothing to do with Christ's death and resurrection.

I couldn't agree more. Leave that pagan Easter business to the heathens, Christians! Resurrection Sunday belongs to you and Easter belongs to the rest of us. You glorify divine capital punishment, substitutionary atonement and human sacrifice - we prefer bunnies, eggs and chocolate. You keep the Crucifixion in Crucifixion Friday and the Resurrection in Resurrection Sunday and we will keep the Easter in Easter. Sounds fair to me.


† Read the Resurrection Cookie link. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.
Can I get an "Amen" to this, brothers and sisters?

That's right, Easter Bunny, just keep on hopping right out of the Christian calendar. 
And you can take your abominable eggs with you!











Monday, September 17, 2012

Christian Nation Or Christian Insurgency?




(Thanks to Left Hemispheres for posting this video)

The Thinking Atheist produced this brief and informative video clearly explaining that, far from establishing the United States as a Christian nation, the founding fathers did something revolutionary - they founded a secular nation where freedom of religious belief would be protected for individual citizens while individual citizens would also be protected from religious oppression by churches seeking to impose their religious dogma on the entire population. By protecting individual religious freedom rather than church power, the Constitution protects all people from being forced to follow the religious beliefs of whatever the majority religion is wherever they reside.

Contrary to right-wing propaganda, European nations based upon Christianity were the norm in the late 18th century, not something new and special that the USA brought to the world, thus (according to right-wing myth) securing "God's blessing" on America. Religious oppression by explicitly religious rulers and governments - backed by religious majorities - was also the norm until the United States embarked on its amazing and courageous journey to secular nationhood. And the journey certainly required courage, because the churches fought against the budding new Republic from the very beginning. It was the effort to create a "more perfect union" of states whose citizens would be free from religious and class tyranny - imperfectly executed though it has been - which has been the inspiration for people all over the world for generations. It is an inspiring story precisely because of how difficult it was to wrest power from the churches and to maintain a secular government which is prevented by the Constitution from oppressing people if their religious beliefs do not match those of the majority. The idea of a government by the people - free from religious control - is the single most important thing that sets the USA apart from other countries. In short, it is the separation of church and state that forms the base for that much-vaunted American Exceptionalism!

The truth is that one of the most important driving principles behind the formation of the United States was the recognition by most of the founding fathers that the establishment of separation between church and state would be crucial to the American dream of finally and decisively escaping the ideologically-driven brutality and  class inequality of the Old World. Ironically, early settlers who had fled to the New World to escape religious persecution in Europe had begun to create little microcosms of European religious communities from the moment they set foot on North American soil. Almost from the beginning, formerly oppressed minorities began to persecute people who did not share their religious beliefs. Instead of learning from their own experiences of the war, strife and vicious oppression that religious majorities and religious rulers had used in the rest of the world to consolidate power and control people, many early settlers set up exactly the same kinds of communities in the colonies - grabbing their own chance to be the powerful religion in their newly established "Christian" enclaves.

Wisely, the founding fathers recognized that no new or greater nation could ever be built in America unless those old patterns of church power and persecution could be prevented from usurping the shared governance of the people or from taking away the religious freedom of the American citizen. They fought hard to establish a secular nation in which all 'men' might be equal - and might all have the best chance for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If one religion were to be established as the state religion, then immediately the liberty and happiness of persons outside that religion would be compromised and (as history has shown) their lives would soon be in danger, too. Powerful religions take no prisoners; the constant refrain has been "convert or die".  The founding fathers saw, as many Enlightenment thinkers also understood, that a state religion virtually guarantees sectarian strife, cruel oppression of minorities, extremist insurgencies and holy wars.

Nearly everyone in that era believed in a god and belonged to a religion, but the genius of Thomas Jefferson and the other founding fathers was that they prevented any one of them from being declared the United States' national religion, thus enabling slow but steady progress in education, technology and economics to proceed relatively free from sectarian strife and religious tribalism. But at the core, nearly every religion is based upon a "one true religion" belief which is the foundation of the assertion of the "divine right" to govern that is always used by ambitious religious leaders to justify their insistence upon special status and power in society.  When taken to its logical conclusion, a belief that theirs is the "one true faith" means that its adherents must ultimately conclude that the only righteous course is to convert everyone else to their religion - or eliminate them. The language of "choice" is used in this context to assuage any discomfort the rank and file may have about waging a ruthless campaign to eliminate other religions (and in the process, usually the people who faithfully follow these other religions): if non-believers will not "choose" to convert, then they can be dismissed as willfully evil and eliminated as enemies of the one true god. This has been the moral basis for religious ambition and oppression for thousands of years.

Not so fast, non-Christian Americans!
The GOP says that only Christians
are protected by the Constitution!
The constitution of the United States of America guarantees that individual people have the right to practice whatever religion they choose (or no religion at all). The state is prevented by the First Amendment from stopping people who wish to form a church or to follow the rules and regulations set out by their particular brand of religion. The state is also prevented from establishing one favored religion whose teachings would influence public life, laws and rules of civic and social engagement, because to do so would infringe upon the individual freedom of citizens to choose and practice their own religion. The only way this is possible is because the First Amendment (and the "no religious test" language in Article 6 of the Constitution) also prevents the establishment of a national religion. If a nation and its laws are based on one religion, then clearly the ability of people of other faiths to practice their religion and to avoid breaking their own religious laws will be reduced or even eliminated. This is why individuals, not churches, are protected by the United States' Constitution.

An individual has the inalienable right to freedom of religion including freedom from the oppression of other religions which would interfere with individual freedom. Neither Biblical law, nor Sharia law, nor Halakhah law can be imposed by Christians, Muslims or Jews on people who do not share their faith or who do not choose to follow those religious practices. Not via government, not via private business, not in any way is it legal to impose one set of religious beliefs on the public. Religious practice and belief is a private individual freedom. The Constitution guarantees it and, although it has been under constant attack by religious people from the day it was signed into law, the separation of church and state is quite possibly the only flimsy firewall which has (usually) prevented sectarian strife from exploding in the USA at various times in our history as it has done in every country lacking a Constitutional protection of individual religious liberty.

The idea that the American government or legal system is or should be based upon the Bible - or any holy book - is not only utterly contrary to the founding principles of the country, but it is also inimitable to individual liberty and sectarian peace. A "Christian nation" will mean a nation where non-Christians are second-class citizens, directly challenging the promise of equality in the founding documents. A "Christian nation" will be a nation where, after this brief period of uneasily ecumenical Christian unity which is the final strategy culminating a 200+ years battle to become the established religion, the hundreds of Christian sects will splinter and squabble over whose version of Christianity, in fact, is the true American Christianity. Freed of the founding fathers' restrictions on religious influence in government, the only thing the Christian sects will remain united on is the righteousness of imposing Christianity - some version of it, at least - upon the non-Christians in their midst. Oppressing minority religions and sectarian infighting is something with which the world is sadly all too familiar and it is a very real threat to America if the GOP succeeds in fulfilling the agenda of the Christian right-wing.

The principle of separation of church and state, laid out in the Constitution and supported repeatedly by the founders' writings, is the singular amazing idea which made this country exceptional. Freedom from overt religious rule lifted the United States out of the constant, grinding religious conflicts which have historically torn other nations apart.  In pushing so relentlessly for the destruction of the wall of separation between church and state, the Christian right - and its political arm, the Republican party - will undoubtedly make life miserable for millions of Americans who do not agree with them, and they would be completely fine with that. What conservative Christian Republicans may not expect or even intend to do by voting God's Own Party into power, is that they could literally destroy the United States itself, unintentionally thwarting even their own ambition to control what had been the greatest country on earth.


Further Reading (List courtesy of The Thinking Atheist):

http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=America_as_a_Christian_nation

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Americas-True-History-of-Re...

http://www.alternet.org/story/155985/5_reasons_america_is_not_--_and_has_neve...

http://www.salon.com/2009/04/14/christian_nation/

http://www.nobeliefs.com/Tripoli.htm

http://www.christianpost.com/news/us-not-a-christian-nation-but-fertile-groun...

http://atheism.about.com/od/americachristiannation/a/AmericaChristianNation.htm

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/The_United_States_as_a_Christian_nation

http://www.opposingviews.com/i/religion/christianity/atheists-constitution-pr...

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/08/opinion/08iht-edmeach.1.7800100.html

http://www.treasury.gov/about/education/Pages/in-god-we-trust.aspx