Friday, May 11, 2012

We Are All Connected

Everyone deserves a little bit of awesome on a Friday morning. Enjoy!


[deGrasse Tyson]
We are all connected;
To each other, biologically
To the earth, chemically
To the rest of the universe atomically

I think nature's imagination
Is so much greater than man's
She's never going to let us relax

We live in an in-between universe
Where things change all right
But according to patterns, rules,
Or as we call them, laws of nature

I'm this guy standing on a planet
Really I'm just a speck
Compared with a star, the planet is just another speck
To think about all of this
To think about the vast emptiness of space
There's billions and billions of stars
Billions and billions of specks

The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it
But the way those atoms are put together
The cosmos is also within us
We're made of star stuff
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself

Across the sea of space
The stars are other suns
We have traveled this way before
And there is much to be learned

I find it elevating and exhilarating
To discover that we live in a universe
Which permits the evolution of molecular machines
As intricate and subtle as we

[deGrasse Tyson]
I know that the molecules in my body are traceable
To phenomena in the cosmos
That makes me want to grab people in the street
And say, have you heard this??

(Richard Feynman on hand drums and chanting)

There's this tremendous mess
Of waves all over in space
Which is the light bouncing around the room
And going from one thing to the other

And it's all really there
But you gotta stop and think about it
About the complexity to really get the pleasure
And it's all really there
The inconceivable nature of nature

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bill Donahue Is Concerned About Gay Marriage

via Pharyngula.  Better to laugh than to cry, I suppose!  "(GOP), it's not you, it's - no, no it's you."

Bill Donahue, chief American Catholic (sorry Santorum), is outraged over President Obama's declaration of support for marriage equality for all.  In an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN last night, Donahue was unequivocal about where he stands:

United States Catholic Congress?
Perhaps someday, Bill.
You've got majority Christians
on your side, after all.
"I want the law to discriminate against straight people who live together — I used to call it shacking up, now it’s called cohabitation — I want the law to discriminate against all alternative lifestyles, against gays and unions." Bill Donahue on CNN.

Got that everyone? Phil proudly and publicly speaks for the "moral majority", the Christian right who so enthusiastically supported Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and the entire cast of Bible-believing theocrats who are currently running the Republican party.  He wants the law to discriminate against anyone whose life and "choices" do not pass his the Biblical sniff test.

But wait, what did Jesus have to say about abortion?  Nothing, you say?  Ok, well, what did he say about gay marriage?  Oops, nothing again!  Well, surely Jesus had something to say about a man and a woman and holy matrimony...?

Bingo!  Why yes, yes Jesus DID mention the holy bond between a man and a woman. It is the only currently relevant relationship arrangement that he did comment on: Jesus was against divorce.

Since Christians are fighting against laws
which make Jesus weep, they ought to
 criminalize people who divorce.
You first, Donahue!
""And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery." —Matthew 19:1-9.

Phil Donahue, who is divorced, is in a tizzy over gay marriage and abortion, and yet he is curiously undisturbed by divorce, the only social issue of these three that Jesus actually condemned, clearly and unequivocally. Jesus pointed out that the provision for divorce in Mosaic law was made because Moses had to accommodate the "hardness of heart" of the men of his time, but now that Jesus was there, that Mosaic law no longer applies. Old covenant/New Covenant. It's simple, really.

Except that it isn't.

So, let's try to get this straight: Christians want gay marriage and abortion outlawed because they claim that some vague prohibitions of these things appear - however ambiguously and subject to interpretation - in the Old Testament of their holy book. Bible-believers claim that this is solid Biblical law and they will do everything in their power to enforce it - not just within their own religious communities, but throughout society - by working tirelessly to write state laws that force their religion down everyone else's throat. In other words, to establish a Bible-based authoritarian theocracy - the Iran of the west, if you will.

Sure there were hundreds of "laws"
but come on, laws, schmaws.  The
Christian right will decide what is
 or isn't law now
. Got that, everyone?
But wait!  The Old Testament also laid down rules about 600+ other things, ranging from rules about food, dress, associating with people of different genders, tending animals, keeping house and countless other matters of daily life, out of which the brief, often mangled verses that modern Christians point to to condemn homosexuality and abortion are carefully cherry-picked.  Never mind those verses, modern Christians chuckle, they are obviously not meant to bind us today. Only a select few prohibitions are still in effect today, and fundamentalist Christians will decide which ones will become the law of the land, thanks very much to the Christian majority - especially you, moderates; they just could not have done it without you! - which has given them unprecedented political power.

Some Christians, Donahue presumably among them, feel A-OK - actually passionate - about persecuting GLBT people claiming their "authority" to do so is derived from the vicious teachings laid down in the Old Testament. They feel A-OK about tormenting and subjugating women too, denying them free agency and denying them the right to control what happens to their own bodies, citing the Bible as the inerrant source of their knowledge of what is the righteous treatment of women.

Except when a "moral majority" says it is.
Got that, sluts, homos and godless socialists?
Yet, these same Christians argue with no apparent discomfort that they are also A-OK wearing mixed fibers, eating shellfish, not stoning their children to death for disobedience and (usually) refusing to condemn a raped virgin daughter to marry the rapist (other peoples' daughters, of course, are sluts) - rules which are likewise laid down in the very same Old Testament books.  But that is different, they argue. Those rules were only meant for that time and that place. Those rules went by the wayside once Jesus came along. Out with the Old Covenant with Moses, in with the New Covenant through Jesus. Read the black text, follow the red!  Bible-belief is so simple. God is good!

Turning to the New Testament, we find that Jesus never once mentioned homosexuality. If Christians follow the red text, and abide by the New Covenant that Jesus is believed to have made with them, then Christians ought to make no judgement on homosexuality. Further, Jesus specifically stated that homosexuality can be inborn (Matthew 19:12). Indeed, by following other words directly attributable to Jesus, Christians of good conscience ought to be supporting equal rights and fighting for the protection and dignity of those who are marginalized and downtrodden in society, too.

So which will it be, Christians?  Which Testament do you plan to force onto the entire population of the United States when your ambition of a Christian theocracy is fully realized?

Bible-believers unite!
Biblical Law in the USA!
The Old Testament condemns homosexuality and demands that women he subjugated almost totally - mere chattel to be used by men for reproduction. It also demands that parents kill their children for disobedience, and it prohibits countless activities which are widely practiced by Christians today. If the religious right is following the Old Testament, then they had better get right with God and follow all of it, instead of cherry-picking. Stop eating pork and shellfish,  legislate stonings for disobedient children, force your daughters into marriage to rapists; get with the Bible-based program here!

The New Testament emphasizes charity toward the poor, protection for the weak and helpless, loving forgiveness for others, turning the other cheek and above all, refraining from judging others. Jesus said nothing ever about homosexuality (or abortion) and in fact, he affirmed that homosexuality is inborn - which spoils the Christian argument that it is a choice, thus putting them at odds with God's creation, the filthy sinners - and he condemned divorce. Christian self-named "Jesus-freaks" had better get right with Jesus and follow all of his teachings, instead of cherry-picking. Give up your money and look after the poor, accept that homosexuality is inborn and leave your judgement to God, turn the other cheek and above all, no divorce! Did you get that, Bill?

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment that you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." - Matthew 7:1-5

Bill Donahue again: "I want the law to discriminate against straight people who live together — I used to call it shacking up, now it’s called cohabitation — I want the law to discriminate against all alternative lifestyles, against gays and unions."

Gee, Bill. Personally, I want the law to discriminate against hypocritical assholes who wield the Bible as a cudgel against those they hate.

there are no gods (3/3)

Part 3 of 3. Really excellent stuff.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

President Obama Supports Marriage Equality

In an interview with ABC today, President Barack Obama became the first president of the United States to publicly declare his support for marriage rights for all citizens. It only took 44 presidents to get to the true spirit of the constitution.

Hope and change?
We're still waiting.
Thank you, Mr. President.

But, what took you so long?

I'll be watching for support of equality for all citizens - not just straight citizens with penises - in the coming months. Preferably before, not after, key votes where the monstrous majority can wield its destructive power to strip away human rights from their fellow citizens.

By the way, how is it that constitutionally guaranteed rights are permitted to be stripped from people via a simple majority vote at all? Did I miss the memo? Has our democratic republic been reduced to a simple democracy whereby a tyranny of the majority is now underway? How did this happen?

MSNBC link, Chicago Sun Times article, San Francisco Chronicle article,

Isn't That Just Ducky

Soft Ducky, warm Ducky, little ball of fur...

Happy Ducky, sleepy Ducky, Rrrr, Rrr, Rrr.

(a little comfort from Ducky on a miserable post-primary morning)

Isn't that just Ducky!

there are no gods (2/3)

A respite from the horrors of yesterday's primary results. Sit back and watch part 2 of "there are no gods".

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

North Carolina Enshrines Bigotry Into Its Constitution

Bigots of North Carolina, take a good look, this is for you (someday, it will happen!)

It looks like the religious overlords have been victorious in North Carolina. Early poll returns are pointing toward around 59% of North Carolinians in favor of a draconian and unnecessary constitutional amendment that will ban any and all domestic unions in the state unless they are traditional marriages between one man and one woman.

The amendment was redundant in one way because gay marriage is currently illegal in the state already, but this amendment will make it very much harder impossible for same-sex couples to achieve any partner rights at all. The amendment will also take away civil union rights currently enjoyed by some North Carolinians in a few counties and will also impact many other types of domestic arrangements for families.

Another consequence of this amendment will be that now only married women will receive protections from domestic abuse under the law. Women in civil unions and their children will no longer be protected by state laws governing domestic violence and abuse, child support and so forth.

Of course, the real targets were LGBT people, but as always with the Christian right, if they can take down a few women as collateral damage while hitting their main targets with a kill shot, so much the better in their view. Keep the gays and the women down where they belong.

This sickening bigotry is entirely based on religious ideology.  It is unconstitutional and it is illegal.  It is also unAmerican.  It is tyranny of the majority.

Religious power in this country has reached a tipping point.  It is obscenely, unconstitutionally abusive. When a few religious tzars dictate the law of the land, the country has bowed to authoritarian, theological fascism. Will the moderate, progressive spirit ever recover in the United States?

As a gesture of defiance and hope, I raise my fist in solidarity with the 40%+ of  horrified progressives in North Carolina.

I'm looking at you, North Carolina

North Carolina Votes Today

New York Times story. Daily Beast article.

There is not too much that I could write that hasn't already been written about the vote today in North Carolina. Def Shepherd (link to the right) has written eloquently, passionately and sometimes angrily on this topic over the past couple of months, finishing up yesterday with this 11th hour thoughtful post yesterday.  If the ballot initiative banning any unions other than one between one man and one woman is approved tonight, then North Carolina will have banned not only gay marriage but also many other forms of domestic unions and civil unions. The draconian measure would change marriage rights for current partnerships as well as prevent any future legal partnerships if they do not meet the narrow, religious standard set by the initiative's proponents.

Let's call this vote what it
really is: a push by religion
to dehumanize some people.
It is time for people to speak out - loudly - against this blatant discrimination. This egregious denial of civil rights to people based upon religious ideology is unconstitutional and it is unAmerican.

Why do these Christian zealots hate America so much?

It is time for people to speak out. It is time for people of good conscience in this country to stand up to the tyranny of the religious majority and declare that in a democratic republic, the rights and freedoms of all people are to be respected.

No, freedom of religion does NOT mean that any religion can force other people to live by its ideology. Religious freedom means the adherents of that religion are free to obey their religion's ideology, not that they can enshrine their religion into law in order to take away the freedom of others.

The opinion polls leading up to the NC primary were not encouraging. But hopefully, there has been more movement in the direction of love and decency than those polls have indicated. Tonight, we will see.

Please view the video below.  I warn you - it is heartbreaking.

Please share it as far and wide as you can.

RIP Maurice Sendak

The New York Times reports that Maurice Sendak, legendary author of children's stories including Where the Wild Things Are, died this morning at the age of 83.

The insight that Sendak expressed in his work was fresh and revolutionary:

“Grown-ups desperately need to feel safe, and then they project onto the kids. But what none of us seem to realize is how smart kids are." Maurice Sendak

I think the genre of Children's Literature was vastly enriched by Maurice Sendak, but I could not say this any better than his friend and editor, Ursula Nordstrom:

“You may not be Tolstoy,” Ms. Nordstrom once wrote to Mr. Sendak after he expressed self-doubt, “but Tolstoy wasn’t Sendak, either. You have a vast and beautiful genius.” Ursula Nordstrom, Harper & Row.

Stephen Colbert interviewed Maurice Sendak for his program The Colbert Report. The interview was aired in two parts.  You can view the first part here. Below, you will find the second part. Colbert is his usual hilarious deadpan self, but Sendak will charm you with his sincerity, his humor and his ability to more than match Colbert for wit and timing.

Do stick it out till the end - Maurice Sendak has the last word and he is marvelous (sorry ebook aficionados!).

RIP Mr. Sendak. The world of Children's Books has lost a shining star.

there are no gods (1/3)

Brief, succinct, powerful. From TheraminTrees, "there are no gods"

"A dialogue with only one participant is a monologue."

I'm posting this video today because I like the timing, as well. The author/speaker refers to the very Bible stories which were the subjects of my first two Barmy Bible Studies - the stories of Abraham and Noah. These stories, which are so popular for scaring teaching little children, are a window into the twisted world of theistic "morality".  It is likely that many future atheists begin their journey out of the horror of religious belief when they are told these stories.

TheraminTrees has a uniquely clear, easy to understand way of explaining how it was that so many freethinkers made the journey from theism to atheism.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Top Ten Creationism Countdown!

It's a rainy Monday morning, and I am recovering from the weekend trip for the graduation.  I've got nothing (yet!). Lucky for us, there is always something excellent out there on the interweb!

Watch and learn!  I did!

College Graduations

via xkcd  (

I couldn't resist.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Class of 2012

In honor of my daughter, graduating today with her degree in physics and philosophy. 

You challenged yourself. 

You took the road less traveled.

You learned how very capable and talented and awesome you are.

Congratulations, Niftydottir,  I am so proud of you.

Friday, May 4, 2012

God Will Forgive You - But I Won't

Lyle Lovett, "God will forgive you (but I won't)".  (via AJ Milne at Pharyngula)

Lyle Lovett's song is the perfect introduction for the point of today's post.  No offense to Mr. Lovett, mind you, because his song is beautiful, thoughtful and heartbreakingly honest, even though it is built on a popular delusion. Like most Christians, the songwriter describes a psychological split where he offloads emotions he cannot reconcile right now onto another part of himself - his god part - while he owns up to the paramount emotion that he is experiencing.  He channels his pain and anger into the song, while constantly reminding the object of his thwarted affections that there is a part of himself that already forgives.

To acknowledge one's negative (potentially destructive) feelings, express them harmlessly (through art) and allow the budding of positive resolution of those feelings in a way that one can handle is one of the highest forms of human moral behaviour. In religious believers, this expression of one's humanity is often achieved by appealing to the god idea, which is really only the ideation of a more powerful self. It is his humanity that makes Lovett's song beautiful and sad and - ultimately - forgiving.

Lyle Lovett's sincere song acknowledging his very human inability to forgive and forget immediately after a heartbreak contrasts pretty strongly with the reality of the Christian notion of "forgiveness". The demonstrably untrue idea that Christians "love the sinner, hate the sin" is one that is tossed around as a 'given' in the current culture of extreme religiosity.  It is this notion that is trotted out to quash any fears that a religious basis is a dangerous one for any society. The Christian notion of forgiveness is also the foundation for the false claim of Christian 'tolerance', and the laws which undue reverence for this claim have been passed, through which the fears of oppressed minorities are realized.

The truth is that all too many Christians experience the god/self split quite differently from what Lyle Lovett describes in his song. Few Christians are willing or able to own up to their feelings of rage and hatred for people different from themselves by whom they feel threatened.  Yet, they are psychologically uncomfortable with the knowledge that they do feel this type of hatred, rage and desire to punish, harm or destroy those whose very existence make them feel threatened. In order to maintain hir sense that s/he is a good person - a True Christian™ - the believer offloads hir hatred and rage onto the god part, instead.

P.Z. Myers posted a fine example of this true Christian behaviour this morning.  As an outspoken atheist and a critic of the harm religion causes in society, Dr. Myers is a frequent target of hate mail from True Christians™. Here is an excerpt from one such letter he received.

"God doesn’t love you
A lot of Christians are big on forgiveness, I’m not. God fucking hates your guts. He is sitting up there just watching you, watching you with bated breath, with a stopwatch just waiting until you finally croak in 30 or 40 or however many years, and then he will do a little jig before going down to the Pearly Gares and giving Peter the day off, and he will bring you up to the Gates, and make you think that you’re going to make it in, and then PUNK’D! Into hell, where Beelzebub and Lucifer and Leviathan and Hitler will take turns kicking you right in the wiener for all eternity. Have fun, asshole..."via Pharyngula.

As revolting as this is, what is more frightening is the knowledge that it is a foundational belief of Christians that their god wills punishment and eternal torture for all who they feel are against them. What is more frightening is that, like Abraham in this week's Barmy Bible Study many Christians believe that they can know the will of their unknowable, invisible, silent god - and they act upon their interpretations of this will.  One needs only to peruse the Bible, the Christian blueprint for morality based upon "God's word" to see that it would take very little for a determined group of Christians to begin a serious push for the elimination of groups of others who trouble them.

The Bible lays out justifications for murder and genocide which Christians comfortably accommodate and see as righteous and godly. Christians believe that they can feel and know in their hearts what their god wills, which means that there is no objective way to counteract their beliefs with reality. There is no way to protect people from the danger of Christian oppression because the source of the Christian justification for their actions is a psychological one - literally voices in peoples' heads and feelings in their hearts - and this religion has been granted unmatched privilege and power to influence and control society.

Christians believe that gay marriage should be prevented, because they know that oppression of LGBT people is righteous and good in God's eyes. They know that women's rights must be restricted because the Bible tells them that women are inferior, evil, temptresses who must be controlled for the survival of society. They know that brown people all over the world are like those who threatened the Chosen People in the Bible, so cruel measures - even war and genocide - can be taken to destroy them, with their god's blessing.

Religious moderates who continue to urge that progressives respect and tolerate the dangerous extremism that has been growing in the west do so not only at the risk of imperiling their non-white or unbelieving neighbors (among many groups under threat), but at the risk of losing their own freedom and safety. Do moderates imagine that after the extremists finish with the people on their original hit list, their fundamentalist fervor will not then be turned against their moderate brethren? Fundamentalists already have begun to point out just how vast the differences are between the True Believers and those liberal or progressive Christians.  There is nothing new under the sun. I hope that religious moderates who are enabling Christian extremists in order to protect their own privilege have paid attention to history. Just food for thought.

Thank Gods It's FreyaDay!

Good morning, Humans.  It is another overcast FreyaDay.

I will just rest my eyes for a moment, but then I will spring into action and start the day.

I will just rest my legs for a moment. And my back. And my head.

What do you mean you need to sit down at the computer to write? It's FreyaDay!

I will just rest my eyes for a moment, and then you can have your desk back.

Thank gods it's FreyaDay!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Isn't That Just Ducky!

Hello there! I have just come in from my walk. I was playing outside!

It was hot outside. Where did the mudpuddles and snow go?

Now I am hot and tired and I need a nap, but I want to play some more!

Isn't that just Ducky!

Thorsday Tonic - GU Universe Episode 2

Sit back and enjoy some awesome inspiration on a Thorsday morning!

GU Universe:  The Heritage of Life, Episode 2  (Episode 1 can be found here)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Barmy Bible Study - Abraham and Isaac: A Tale of Unconditional Love

Raising adoring eyes to the heavens, Abraham prepares to slaughter Isaac. Now, that's what I call love!

It's Wednesday night, again!  That's right, time for Barmy Bible Study!

This week in Barmy Bible Study we will discuss the story of Abraham and Isaac. Our text for tonight will be Genesis, 22:1-18 (New International Version):

(Note: Atheists and other haters of GOD'S HOLY WORD, scroll past the blue text)

Genesis 22

Abraham Tested

 1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
   “Here I am,” he replied.

 2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

   “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

   “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

   “Here I am,” he replied.

 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

 15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed,[c] because you have obeyed me.”

This delightful demonstration of fatherly devotion has been a Sunday School favorite for generations.  Christians believe that little children can learn valuable lessons about unconditional love from the story of the father who was willing to murder his own child, and the Heavenly Father who commanded him to do it.

Study Questions for Abraham and Isaac:

1. What did God command Abraham to do?

2. Why did God command Abraham to do this?

3. How does the Bible tell us that Abraham reacted to this command and what does his reaction teach us?

The Biblical god, Yahweh, was one among many ancient middle eastern gods. At some point in history, not long before the Hebrew Bible was set down on scrolls, a sect of Jews had split away from the polytheism of the region. Although most other people in ancient Israel were still worshipping Canaanite gods, the Hebrews selected Yahweh, (but not his consort, the goddess Asherah), an Edomite warrior god, for singular status. Thus monotheism was born.

Monotheism was a very useful concept in the ancient world, just as it is today. When two people had a dispute, they could fight each other and the stronger might win the dispute, but if they were of relatively equal strength, each could point to hir favorite god and claim that the god demands that the dispute be settled in hir favor. But the mythology confirms that not one of the gods could ever be counted on to reliably settle an argument with hir fellow deities - Athena and Aphrodite or Thor and Loki seemed inclined to continue to duke it out forever. The ancient Hebrews solved this problem by elevating one of their gods to special, singular status and - voila! Their god was bigger than all the other peoples' gods!  Finally, the buck stopped there. After choosing Yahweh as their supreme deity, the Hebrews began referring to themselves as the "chosen" people.

Still, even the top god - the god of gods - can feel a little lonely and jealous from time to time, especially when the other gods are always basking in the fragrant smoke wafting up to the heavens from the burning flesh of children! The Bible tells us that while human sacrifice was still practiced during Abraham's day among populations that worshipped the numerous other gods mentioned in scripture, the people who worshipped Yahweh had evolved a more humane moral conscience. Instead of sacrificing virgin children to appease Yahweh's capricious temper like his rivals' worshippers did, the Hebrews had switched over to spilling the blood of lambs, kids and calves and then burning the slaughtered animals instead. Anyone can see how much better that was and it was usually very pleasing to Yahweh.

It is a burnt offering to the Lord: it is a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord. Exodus 29:18

Not good enough, Abraham.
At some point, however, Yahweh needed to know if, in fact, his followers loved him as much as those other gods' followers loved them. The Bible tells us that after finally sending a son, Isaac, to Abraham, Yahweh began to wonder if Abraham might start to love Isaac more than he loved his god.  Because of these perfectly understandable feelings of insecurity,  God decided to test Abraham's love. And what could be more natural than demanding a human sacrifice? After all, the other gods did that all the time. And, since it was Isaac whom the god feared Abraham might be coming to love more, it makes perfect sense that Yahweh commanded Abraham to prove his devotion by slitting the throat of his only legitimate son and burning him to death on a sacrificial altar.

You might think that Abraham would have been paralysed with horror at this commandment and might even have refused to obey it, but you would be wrong. Abraham was a godly man who loved Yahweh.  He was a True Believer™, which meant there was nothing he would not do to demonstrate his loyal devotion - murder, lie, cheat, steal, rape, pillage; everything is permissible when God commands it and whatever God commands must be obeyed, if one is a True Believer who loves God. Abraham did not hesitate. He packed up his donkey, slaves, some firewood and Isaac and set off for Moriah with confidence and, apparently, without a flicker of uncertainty. He lied to the slaves as he left them to take Isaac up the mountain to his doom, and because he was a loving father, he soothingly lied to Isaac when the boy asked where the sacrificial lamb was.

"God will provide" said Abraham, and indeed he had perfect confidence that this would be so. He knew that God had provided for him in the past - hadn't Yahweh finally given him Isaac? - and no doubt he would provide a great reward for the filicide that Abraham was about to so willingly commit. Besides, compared to the glorious works of God, a sign of devotion seems like so little to ask of a filthy sinner. Anyway, as the Bible explains, Yahweh did not really intend to let Abraham go through with the murder. He was just looking for a little love, that's all.

Really excellent advice,
but unfortunately
Bible-believers rarely follow it.
The Bible story of Abraham sets the bar pretty high for most Christians (also the other "people of the book"- I'm looking at you, Muslims and Jews), but millions of the faithful throughout history have valiantly striven ever since to match his devotion to God. Sadly for Yahweh, most fail, because their fatally flawed humanity renders them incapable of the ruthless sociopathy required of a True Believer. Abraham's unquestioning, uncritical willingness to gut and burn his own child is an example of godliness to which all true Bible-believers aspire. For although no one has ever seen God (John 1:18), the idea of the almighty deity is an awesome idea. Indeed, it is an idea which has inspired rare godly men to do unthinkable things for several millennia. The problems of God's invisibility and the unknowability of His will are nothing but a mirage when compared to the certainty of a True Believer. Just as the Bible-believer does not have to see God to know He is there, so s/he does not have to hear God to know what He commands.

Abraham knew what God commanded of him, and he set off immediately and apparently without a qualm to commit a murder. He knew that what he was preparing to do was righteous, godly and just, because it was God's (unknowable, invisible) will. Filled with the joy of knowing God's love in his life, Abraham was ready, willing and able to plunge a dagger into the body of a child to prove his obedience and devotion to God. Even when it turned out that God was only testing him by demanding the blood of Isaac, Abraham did not chastise the deity. Instead, he pulled a ram out of the bushes, plunged his dagger into it instead and offered it as a burnt offering in praise and glory to God.  

Now that's unconditional love!

Class dismissed.

For the LORD your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the LORD your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth. Deuteronomy 6:15.  Understandable, amirite?

Evolu- er Variation! Yeah, That's It!

via Pharyngula: Potholer and Hovind Come Together!

Would you like a quick, easy-to-understand explanation of speciation? Potholer is your man!

This brief, funny video explains everything (even Kent Hovind!)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tuesday Tonic - Save the Rich!

Sit back and enjoy a bit of awesome on a Tuesday morning.

Garfunkel and Oates:  Save the Rich  (language may be NSFW)

"Save the rich, it's so easy to do!
Just let yourself be ignorant to what's been done to you.
Save the rich, by doing nothing at all
deny all sense and logic and just think really small
You should think really small
Or just don't think at all
and save the rich."

Tuesday Tonic - Sex With Ducks!

Sit back and enjoy a little musical awesomeness on this Tuesday morning.

Garfunkel and Oates:  Sex With Ducks

EDIT:  Unfortunately, this video seems to have been taken off YouTube some time since I tucked it away in my "awesome stuff" folder. Please see above for another great video by these two talented young women. 

EDIT 2:  Well, hooray!  Looks like the video is up again!  A daily double of Garfunkel and Oates.

Wait, Consent Means WHAT?

The future of American women?

Individual freedom and the right to bodily autonomy - the principles behind our understanding of consent - were the principles upon which many of us assume the Supreme Court's Roe v Wade decision was based, although the case itself was focused on a citizen's right to privacy around making decisions concerning her bodily autonomy and medical care.  Laws which deny a woman the right to bodily autonomy - including laws that deny a woman the right to control what happens to her own body in favor of giving any potential fetus the "right" to use her body against her will or without her consent - are an unconstitutional denial of individual freedom because they relegate a woman to a legal status that is less than human. The legal precedent that a woman actually has the right to consent to the risks and responsibilities of pregnancy, and an equal right to decline consent to those risks and responsibilities was thought to be finally established. But since Roe v Wade was argued as a case for privacy, it has never been a guarantee of women's reproductive rights. It has always been vulnerable to attack, either through court challenges or through legislation which has chipped away at it.

One way or another, the
Republican Party will find
a way to control those sluts!
From the moment Roe v Wade was decided, the religious right began working to overturn it. Outraged that women had at last been granted the right to choose if and when to be pregnant -  a right which conflicted with the patriarchal order which demands that men have complete authority over women - the "moral majority" began a campaign of slut-shaming, raising the specter- never far beneath the surface in any misogynist culture - that uncontrolled women would engage in wildly promiscuous and "irresponsible" sex and darkly warning that the new law would bring about the downfall of American civil society  However, when this tactic initially only gained traction within the most conservative and misogynistic segments of society, conservatives realized that the problem was that a majority of Americans in the late 1970's actually respected a woman's right to choose - and that most Americans believed that the consensual sexual activity of women was no more society's business than the consensual sexual activity of men.

Religious conservatives soon zeroed in on "consent" as a potentially malleable concept that they might be able to use to drive a wedge between women and their human rights, thereby setting the stage to put women back in their traditional place.  In order to overcome the legal issue of consent, religious and political conservatives began working tirelessly - using tactics including slut-shaming, abstinence-only purity campaigns inserted into public schools, and falsely equating microscopic blastocysts with full term babies - to entrench the notion that recreational sex involving the conscious avoidance of pregnancy is shameful and that only marital sex which welcomes the prospect of conception should be recognized and supported by society. Their aim was to increase public acceptance of explicitly Christian sexual mores in order to garner voter support for their social agenda. The ultimate goal was to get this explicitly Christian theology enshrined into law: that whenever a woman has consented to sex, she has automatically consented to pregnancy, too.
That's right, ladies, when you consent to sex, you consent to
pregnancy. And when you don't consent to sex, you
consent to pregnancy, too! You and your uteri are in a perpetual
state of consent to pregnancy! Ain't patriarchy grand?

Eventually, extreme conservatives began to worry that exceptions for rape and incest could possibly become a loophole through which some lying women could escape unwanted pregnancy, leading to the push for the elimination of exceptions for rape and incest as legal justifications for abortion. Building on the false premise that a conceptus is equal to a full-term baby, conservatives argued that a fertilized egg, no matter how it came into existence, is an innocent life deserving of protection. Completely ignoring the question of whether a woman who has been raped is deserving of society's protection and adroitly sidestepping Roe v Wade, forced-birth groups wrote bills denying abortion rights to women even in the case of rape or incest which their political arm, the Republican party, sponsored in state legislatures. In one giant leap of cruel imagination, conservatives managed to establish as a serious idea that even when a woman does not consent to sex, her consent to pregnancy should be automatic in the eyes of the law.

Lest there be any doubt about the intentions of the religious conservatives and their hired guns in the state and federal legislatures to render the legal notion of female consent completely irrelevant and completely powerless, forced-birth organizations created "personhood bills" which they instructed their Republican lackeys to sponsor and pass in various states. "Personhood" bills, if signed into law, would confer the full rights of a "person" - a deliberately vague term, but generally considered to be equal to a live-born child - to all fertilized ova. Such laws would criminalize most forms of female-controlled contraception, emergency contraception, assisted reproduction and, of course, all abortions. They would also open the door to state-sponsored invasion of women's privacy and health care rights since legally protected "persons" could potentially be "murdered" before a conception is discovered to have taken place. Furthermore, such laws would criminalize anyone who attempted to help a woman abort the conceptus "person" either by performing a surgical procedure, providing medical abortifacents, or driving a woman across state lines to obtain an abortion in a non-"Personhood" state.
Got that, gals?

"Personhood" laws are the holy grail of the forced-birth movement and the ultimate goal of religious conservatives. If passed, such laws would strip women of all bodily autonomy in matters of reproduction. Women would be denied female-controlled birth control, they would be denied emergency birth control if their partner's birth control fails or he refuses to use it and they would be denied abortions - even if they are impregnated by rape and even if their health or lives are endangered by a pregnancy. In short, thanks to the twisted culture of "life" pushed so ruthlessly onto them by religious conservatives, women would be compelled to sacrifice their happiness, risk their health and even lose their lives because a single-celled conceptus has been granted a right to occupy her body which supersedes all of her rights including her humanity, her dignity and her right to life.

Keep that contraception out
of those sluts' hands!
The Republican Party, which has degenerated to little more than the political arm of the conservative religious right, has been striving relentlessly to ensure that women will be legally forced to bear all of the negative physical, social and most of the financial repercussions for any unplanned pregnancy, while the churches themselves underline and enforce the subordinate and inferior position of women in the culture. Through tireless efforts to withhold access to contraception from women, the religious right ensures that reproductive control remains primarily in the hands of men. Thanks to ideologically-driven appointments to the FDA and the business interests of both drug companies and the medical establishment, only male-controlled methods of reliable contraception are available without a prescription, forcing women to navigate (and pay for) "care" from layers of medical and pharmacy gatekeepers before they are permitted to obtain reliable female-controlled contraception.

Religious patriarchy allows society to label unplanned pregnancy a "women's issue" in spite of the fact that it takes both a man and a woman - both failing to use effective contraception - to create an unplanned pregnancy. The fact that society allows unplanned pregnancy to be framed as a women's issue reveals the depth of the unconscious misogyny which lays the responsibility for - and the consequences of - an unplanned pregnancy squarely in the woman's lap, while little thought - and almost no censure - is directed toward the "guilt", the "promiscuity" or the "irresponsibility" of the man involved.

The old joke about keeping women
barefoot and pregnant?
Not so funny anymore.
More insidiously, when pregnancy and the laws restricting women's rights over when and if they will become pregnant is framed as a women's issue, conservatives ensure that half the population at least may ignore the very real danger to women's health and safety. Few men pay attention when women's rights are being stripped away because the phrase "women's issue" is unconsciously received as a signal that the subject is unimportant and less than men's other concerns. Even men who love the women in their lives are lulled into a false sense of "nothing to worry about" as their wives, their sisters and their daughters are slowly but surely reduced to the legal status of walking wombs compelled under threat of criminal prosecution to gestate the offspring of any man who succeeds in impregnating them - whether by mutual and loving consent, by accidental failure of birth control or by force.

In this way, the religious patriarchy ensures both that women cannot control their own reproduction completely (since women - even abstinent women - can be, and often are, the victims of forced impregnation) and that no man - not even a rapist - needs to accept the decision of a mere woman on the question of whether or not he can use her body to reproduce. That is because the "right to life" of a conceptus is, in fact, really just an extension of men's rights. A conceptus is always some man's potential offspring, and at its core, religious teaching is all about enshrining the right of every man to reproduce. If women are allowed the freedom to choose, some men would almost certainly have difficulty finding a willing mate with whom to procreate. Religions which enforce the authority of men over women and which restrict the freedom and choices of women therefore speak to the root of cultural misogyny - men's fear of the potential power of women to control their (men's) ability to reproduce. "Right to life" is actually the trojan horse by which male rights over women are being inserted directly into women's uteri. That's right. It's a great big legal 'fuck you, women'!

While religions pay lip service to condemning male brutality and offer assurances on how a "godly man" behaves, they strenuously resist efforts to enact laws which could increase rape prosecutions or extend protections for women against sexual assault, citing concerns about - you can guess - men's rights. The ultimate social priority of religion is to confirm and enforce the authority of men over women. To that end, religious conservatives - and their men in government - are willing to grant even rapists and abusers privileges over women, to safeguard the authority of "godly" men. In short, in order to protect the privilege of all men, themselves included of course, even "godly" men who profess to abhor rape willingly award rapists and abusers the right to reproduce using women's bodies against their will. As always, there is no thought spared for the humanity of the women who would be sacrificed to this Christian ideology. At best, they are dismissed as the "blessed" recipients of a "gift from God".

This is already a real thing in
the conservative Christian world
In the Republican vision of the future - as in the past it idealizes - "freedom" and "rights" will only fully belong to men and to the potential offspring of men, while women will be, at best, reduced once again to second-class citizenship, and, at worst, returned to sexual and reproductive slavery. Political, financial and social oppression of women, reproductive slavery and viciously misogynistic church-mandated rules of correct behavior and dress (for women only) are the unceasing reality for millions of women in theocracies around the world.  All of these forms of oppression of women are rooted in the desire of these conservative societies to control the sexuality and reproductive freedom of their women. Almost without exception, societies based upon religious laws which both deny women fully human status and hold them accountable for the sexual activity of both genders strictly limit female freedom and impose exaggerated requirements for modest dress on their women and girls.  If a Christian theocracy is successfully installed by conservatives in the United States, ever-deepening oppression will become the inevitable future for women and girls here.

Religious conservatives want Roe v Wade overturned because they oppose the principles of individual freedom and the right to bodily autonomy for women upon which the decision was based.  That denial of those rights would relegate women to less than human status is exactly the point. Second-class status for women would be a feature, not a bug, for Christian conservatives since the Bible commands that women are not equal but subordinate to men. Bible-based religion asserts that man is the original human and woman, taken from man, is less than human. This is the reality of Bible-based governance. It seems like a nightmare from the dark ages, or some dystopian futuristic novel, but this is really happening right now in the land of the free and the home of the brave.