Browsing the archives for the Religion category.

Hate as a Virtue, Part I


I started to write this post a few days ago, when I saw this at Washington Post. Basically, it says that people who say they hate everybody in Washington (as opposed to just the people they disagree with) overwhelmingly vote Republican.

Lots of people weighed in on why that might be true — people may not like Republicans but agree with Republican policies, for example. I propose another reason — that there is a subset of our population who believe it to be virtuous to hate everybody in Washington. To admit that maybe you don’t hate everybody in Washington is a sign of weakness, that someone is duping you. Many teabaggers, for example, will speak ill of the Republican Party even as they cheer Republican antics and vote for Republican politicians.

So as a sign of intellectual independence, they thump their chests and declare they hate everybody in Washington, because that’s what their peers expect them to say. It’s a variation of groupthink, in other words.

(To be fair, these folks have their counterparts on the Left; for example, those who continue to say that President Obama could have gotten us a single-payer healthcare system if he had just tried.)

Since then we’ve had a lot more hate fests on the Right. The Duck Dynasty nothingburger scandal reached a height of absurdity when an Illinois businessman running for Congress called the DD paterfamilias Phil Robertson the “Rosa Parks of Our Generation.”

And for a jaw-dropping argument that intolerance of his intolerance is oppression, because his intolerance is just the spice that makes life interesting, do see Mark Steyn. But keep the Pepto-Bismol handy.

The version of what Robertson said floating around on the Right is that he was just expressing what the Bible said about homosexuality and had added that it was not for him to judge. See? He’s not a bad guy. But if you look at Robertson’s actual comments, what he said was vile and, yes, judgmental. This is a cheap hatemonger’s trick; say hateful things and then add the qualifier “but it’s not up to me to judge” or “let God sort ‘em out” or some such, and that’s supposed to cancel out what you just said. This is a variation of the “I was just joking” qualifier that’s supposed to make it OK to wish someone to eat poison and die.

This takes me to my subject, which is hate as a Christian virtue. For at least a subset of Americans who self-identify as Christians, it seems their “religion” is mostly about hating people. Of course, they qualify this by saying they “hate the sin but love the sinner,” but that’s just the qualifier they tack onto hate speech aimed directly at the “sinner,” not the sin.

And, of course, if you are even halfway acquainted with the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, you would know that Jesus frequently cautioned his followers to not hate anybody, even enemies (see Matthew 5:43-48). Well, OK, you’re supposed to hate your parents for some reason (Luke 14:26), but I suspect that wasn’t meant to be taken literally.

Most of the really alarming stuff haters use to justify hating, including homosexuality and racism, is in the Old Testament, although a bit of the anti-gay stuff comes from St. Paul. However, there is data that shows Jews are one of the most liberal and tolerant religious demographics in America. According to Pew Research, 79 percent of American Jews (and 82 percent of American Buddhists, btw) think homosexuality should be accepted. By contrast, only 26 percent of Evangelicals, 24 percent of Mormons, and a whopping 12 percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses agree with that. And by more contrast, a small majority of Catholics and “mainline” Protestants put themselves in the “accept” category. So there’s no consensus among Christians on this point.

What’s really happening — and I see the same thing happening in Asian Buddhism, so I’m not just harping on Christians here — is that people drag their cultural biases and bigotries into church with them. And because they lack the moral courage to admit that, often, their biases are immoral according to what Jesus actually taught, they twist religion around to justify the biases. So you end up with Bizarro World Christianity in which not being allowed to discriminate against others is religious persecution.

Seriously, for a subset of American Christians, their religion is all about the hate, and Jesus is a big permission slip to hate, revile, and persecute whomever they wish. Put another way, hate speech isn’t hate speech if you mention the Bible or Jesus in the paragraph somewhere. You can say any vile, hateful, inflammatory thing you want, and the mere mention of Christianity along with it washes the statement of all impurity and is supposed to put you beyond criticism. And if it doesn’t, that’s religious persecution. It’s just like what happened to Rosa Parks.


Wingnuts: Grapple With Your Own Theodicy and Leave Me Out of It

abortion, Religion, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Amy Sullivan, truly the David Brooks of religion writing, thinks that liberals are misreading Richard Mourdock’s position on abortion.

Take a look again at Mourdock’s words: “I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And…even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” The key word here is “it.” I think it’s pretty clear that Mourdock is referring to a life that is conceived by a rape. He is not arguing that rape is the something that God intended to happen.

I understood him perfectly well and I still think it’s outrageous. This goon is saying that women must be forced to carry a pregnancy to term even in cases of rape. I think that’s barbaric and cruel.

Amy wants this to be about theology –

This is a fairly common theological belief, the understanding of God as an active, interventionist. It’s also not limited to conservative Christians. There are liberal Christians who also argue that things work out the way they’re supposed to. Some of them are in my own family, and I think they’re wrong. But it is one way of grappling with the problem of theodicy, trying to understand why God would allow bad things to happen.

And they can grapple with it all they like; just do the grappling with their own bodies, thanks much.

Sullivan goes on to explain the theological arguments about things being intended by God, as if any of us who were sent to Sunday School at least a dozen times didn’t already know them.

And I say that the next time Richard Mourdock gets pregnant from rape and chooses to carry the baby to term because he thinks it’s god’s will, I’m just peachy with that. Whatever floats his boat. But this theo-idiot is planning to force everyone else to live by his conscience and not our own. And, y’know, to a lot of us that looks like good old-fashion oppression.

Most religion looks ridiculous to outsiders. If Mourdock can somehow reconcile in his own head that God did not intend the rape but did intend the conception, that’s not any of my concern — as long as it stays in his own head.

Despite the assertions of many liberal writers I read and otherwise admire, I don’t think that politicians like Mourdock oppose rape exceptions because they hate women or want to control women. I think they’re totally oblivious and insensitive and can’t for a moment place themselves in the shoes of a woman who becomes pregnant from a rape. I think most don’t particularly care that their policy decisions can impact what control a woman does or doesn’t have over her own body. But if Mourdock believes that God creates all life and that to end a life created by God is murder, then all abortion is murder, regardless of the circumstances in which a pregnancy came about.

In other words, Sullivan is making a distinction between actively hating women and being “oblivious and insensitive” to our individuality and humanity. I don’t really see the difference. A man who is incapable of perceiving women as human beings in their own right, who cannot empathize with them or respect that their perspectives are just as valid as his, is what we call a “misogynist.” There is a spectrum of misogynist attitudes that goes from garden-variety sexist pigs to psychopathic serial killers, but it’s a difference in degree, not in kind.

And I oppose this creep Mourdock not because I disrespect his religion but because he disrespects mine. He also disrespects my humanity. I find that annoying.

As you can see from an old post, Amy Sullivan has a long-standing pattern of finding distinctions with no differences. Her shtick for years has been that liberals are mean to proper religious folk because we misunderstand them. Well, I doubt one fundamentalist in a million understands a dadblamed thing about my religion, and that doesn’t bother me in the least as long as they leave me alone about it.

The real issue is that from the earliest days of our Republic conservative Christians have tried to use government to impose their beliefs on everyone else, establishment clause notwithstanding, and they must be opposed. Period. What their theological rationalizations are is irrelevant to me.


The Limits of “Conscience”

Health Care, Religion, science

The wingnuts are screeching that we must allow Catholic bishops to dictate the nation’s health insurance policies, because otherwise we are violating their religious conscience. As one non-Catholic explained,

As Americans–Catholics and Baptists alike–we are in absolute agreement on the inviolable freedom of conscience, a right recognized and guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution to every American citizen.

“Religious exemptions” are being granted to pharmacists who don’t want to fill birth control prescriptions. As Mistermix wrote,

Tebow and his only begotten son Bieber help us if this keeps up, because we’re going to have a medical profession full of delicate conscientious objectors whose heartfelt beliefs keep them from doing their goddam job. Where does this idiocy end? If you’re a Jehovah’s Witness, whose religion forbids blood transfusions, and you want to become a trauma surgeon, will some federal judge support your right to let your patients bleed to death?

We may be closer to that than you realize. Charles Pierce points to the measles epidemic in Indiana and notes a connection to religion:

The state health authorities in Indiana have released a list of possible places where the victims of the outbreak may have contracted the disease. Several of them, including the College Park Church in Indianapolis and a basketball tournament for homeschooled children, are intriguing because of the cross-pollination between fundamentalist Christianity and the anti-vaccination movement. In 2005, a young Indiana woman came home from a mission trip to Romania and kicked off another measles outbreak within the congregation of her church. …

…In 1985, across the border in Illinois, there was a measles outbreak at Principia College, a Christian Science institution. There were 112 confirmed cases and three deaths associated with that outbreak. Between that episode and 1994, there were four large-scale measles outbreaks at Christian Science institutions around St. Louis. By the way, Principia College still maintains a religious exemption from the requirements of Illinois law mandating proof of vaccination.Instead, Principia students can present an “accommodation form” stating their religious objections to vaccination.

And, never fear, a number of states are considering bills that would exempt school children from vaccinations if their parents object for “philosophical” reasons.

I don’t know if anyone has died in the current Indiana outbreak, but all but two of the cases reported have occurred in anti-vaccination families.

A lot of us geezers caught measles when we were kids, and recovered in a few days. But it tends to be harder for adults, and the disease can be fatal. And then there’s German measles, which causes horrific birth defects when a pregnant woman is infected. Are the whackjobs going to start that up again?

I believe a lot of states have allowed Christian Scientists to slide on the vaccination thing, but since there are so few of them it didn’t cause that much of a problem. I’m reading that now about 10 percent of families with small children are refusing or delaying at least some vaccinations, if not all of them, believing the shots are dangerous. Like the diseases they prevent aren’t?

I believe most states hold parents responsible if a child dies from a curable disease and the parents refused to seek medical help on religious grounds. So there’s a limit to “conscience.” You can refuse medical care for yourself, but not for your minor child. But the vaccination issue points to how interdependent we really are, and how a decision made for oneself could impact a lot of other people. And, IMO, where lives are on the line, your “conscience” has to take a back seat to reality.

This is getting ridiculous. So I’m pushing back on the notion that “religious conscience” trumps all other considerations. My modest proposal is that at the very least, anyone who has not received all recommended vaccinations must be required to wear some kind of ID badge or bracelet, so the rest of us know to keep our distance from them. I suspect a lot of folks will quickly decide that maybe vaccines aren’t so bad after all.


Florida Primary

Mittens, n00t, Religion, Republican Party

Nate is giving Mittens a 97 percent chance of winning the Florida primary today, so it’s all over but the votin’. The establishment, faced with a choice between Mittens and Newt, have now congealed around Mittens. Barring an intervention by God, Mittens will be the nominee.

However, word is that Newt is crazy/deluded/narcissistic enough to keep campaigning. I hope so; Mittens is such a crashing bore.

Speaking of the Great Gas-Passing Orifice — Newt’s latest contribution to our nation’s political discourse is another doozy –

The transcript, via Think Progress

GINGRICH: Now, I think we need to have a government that respects our religions. I’m a little bit tired about respecting every religion on the planet. I’d like them to respect our religion.

And what religion would that be, Newt? The Church of Asshattery? But you see why I would be sooo disappointed if Newt drops out now.

Newt says President Obama and Mittens have been waging a “war against religion,” most recently for not permitting the Catholic bishops to dictate the reproductive choices of their non-Catholic employees. Apparently this violates the bishops’ “freedom” to force their beliefs on people who don’t agree with them.


Christian Conservative Dirty Tricks

Religion, Republican Party

You may have heard that over the weekend a group of more than 100 Christian conservatives met to discuss their choices for the Republican presidential nomination. And you may have heard that the group voted to endorse Rick Santorum.

Today some of the attendees say the ballots were rigged.

A civil war is breaking out among evangelical leaders over allegations of a rigged election and ballot stuffing at a Saturday gathering of religious and social conservatives. …

… in back-and-forth emails, Protestant fundamentalist leaders who attended – most of them backing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to be the anti-Romney candidate — are accusing Catholic participants of conniving to rig the vote.

They said they were conned into leaving after the second ballot on Saturday. They said pro-Santorum participants held a third ballot which Mr. Santorum won with more than 70 percent of the vote — far higher than the nine-vote margin he won on the first ballot.

Steve Benen points out that both Gingrich and Santorum are Catholic (Newt being a convert). Still, it shows us that the Religious Right ain’t the political juggernaut it used to be.

It also shows us that the word “evangelical” is now being stretched to cover conservative Catholics as well as a subset of protestantism, which certainly didn’t use to be the case.

And WWJD? Live in Canada, one suspects.


Texas vs. the First Amendment

Obama Administration, Religion, The Constitution

Once again demonstrating they don’t know the Bill of Rights from Longhorn Pie, the state of Texas has approved this vanity plate design:

Of course, to be in constitutional compliance Texas would have to offer plates for people who are not Christian. I’m betting a few live in Texas. I’m proposing the following designs:

Of course, actually putting one of the alternative plates on one’s car would no doubt incite some born-again yahoo to slash one’s tires.

To Texas’s credit, it nixed a Confederate flag plate proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I understand the Sons are suing.


They Can Do That?

Cordoba House, Religion

According to the New York Post — not the most reliable source — ConEd is using dirty tricks to evict the Park 51 developer from its section of the old Burlington Coat Factory in lower Manhattan.

The old coat factory occupied what is actually two different properties. Park 51 owns one property and ConEd the other part. The Park 51 developers have been renting ConEd’s part and wants to buy it, and then knock the structures on both properties down to build their Islamic community center. Here’s what the Post says –

But the plan hit a major obstacle in August when Con Ed raised the rent from $2,750 a month, a rate set in 1972, to $47,437 a month, retroactive to July 31, 2008, The Post has learned.

They can do that? They must have found one mother of a loophole in the rental agreement.

When the mosque failed to fork over the $1.7 million, the utility fired off a letter demanding the money by Oct. 4 and threatening to evict.

Park51 principals responded with a lawsuit to stop the increase, calling Con Ed’s rent demands “outrageous.”

That’s just wrong. Somebody got to somebody.

The rented section is the area being used for prayers. The other part is being used for community events, such as a recent photography exhibit.


The Jack Boot of Conservative Correctness

Religion, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

During its coverage of the U.S. Open Golf Tournament, MSNBC left the words “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance and righties went on the warpath.

The sports coverage opened with a brief, and unabashedly patriotic, clip that toggled back and forth between soldiers engaged in a flag-raising ceremony and school children reciting the pledge. After the children recited “one nation” the clip toggled to the flag-raising soldiers, and when it came back to the children it picked up where they said “with liberty and justice for all.”

The words skipped were “under God, indivisible,” which by wingnut logic would suggest NBC is both anti-God and pro-secession.

A normal person wouldn’t read anything into some skipped words, since the action of the film had moved away while the children were reciting. But then there are wingnuts. The network apologized a couple of hours later, but complaining has not stopped.

No one may violate the sacred boundaries of conservative correctness and get away unscathed.

I found it interesting that the various rightie sites still complaining didn’t clarify whether they felt insulted on religious or patriotic grounds. I take it they haven’t thought about it real hard themselves. To them, the pledge is more of a tribal totem than an expression of anything meaningful.

It’s a historical fact that “under God” was not part of the original pledge, which was written in 1892. “Under God” was added in 1952 by President Eisenhower. It’s also historical fact that earlier in the 20th century, Jehovah’s Witnesses endured considerable persecution because they refused to say the pledge, on the grounds that it violated their religious beliefs to say a pledge to any flag.

Some other Christians object to saying the pledge as well, saying it violates what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount:

Mat 5.33-37 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ {or} ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”

And, of course, atheists have rights, and there are a lot of religions in the world that don’t recognize the God of monotheism. Leaving out the “God” part, or even refusing to say the pledge at all, ought to be a matter of personal conscience. Things are different in Wingnut World, however. The wingnuts may pay lip-service to a God-given right to free speech, but God help you if you try to exercise that right.

For some vivid examples of what’s wrong with America, read the comments at Newsbusters. They seem to think that not saying the pledge as they want it said is an act of treason, and that NBC somehow violated their First Amendment freedom of religion by changing the words of the pledge.

This led me to reflect awhile on the way civilization has allowed even the extremely stupid to survive to adulthood and reproduce, which means advanced human societies are all doomed to self-destruct under the weight of idiocy. Oh, well.


Don’t Blame Jesus or Muhammad for This

Middle East, Religion

By now you’ve heard that violent mobs in Afghanistan have slaughtered several people in retaliation for the burning of a Q’ran by the not reverent Terry Jones of the hilariously misnamed Dove World Outreach Center in Florida.

How disgusted am I? Let me count the ways …

I can’t think of a proper word for randomly slaughtering westerners because of what some whackjob in Florida did to a book. Evil, unjust, barbaric, inexcusable. If we were talking about some Stone Age tribe living in isolation in the Amazon somewhere I might just chalk it up to ignorance, but nobody else gets off the hook for this. If one is educated enough to know that the earth is not flat, one should be able to understand that not all westerners are to blame for the actions of one.

Of course, our native Islamophobes like Pam Geller and Peter King are no less bigoted. Lizard brains, the lot of them.

And once again demonstrating that he doesn’t know the Sermon on the Mount from the Yellow Pages, the not reverend Jones is demanding retribution for the slaughter that his actions touched off. After all kinds of people begged him to not act out and burn a Q’ran because it would set back whatever it is his country is doing in Afghanistan, this jerk burns a Q’ran anyway. It’s beyond disgusting.

At least one rightie blogger — I’m sure there are more — is saying that Jones is not responsible for the massacre. And I understand the argument; rational people don’t kill other, innocent, people, because they share some kind of loose racial or national association with assholes who did something insulting to one’s religion.

At the same time, however, rational people don’t go ahead and pull some stupid publicity stunt after it’s been exhaustively explained to them that the consequences could be genuinely horrific and harmful to their country.

In other words, if we hadn’t already been through this with Jones, it might have been argued that he didn’t realize what the consequences of his acts might be. But he was told.

In America, Jones’s right to burn any book he wants to burn is pretty much absolute. Even if 99.9 percent of his fellow countrypersons want to smack him for what he did, we can’t do it without getting jail time. This may be incomprehensible to many people living in the Middle East, and they don’t seem to be in a mood to listen to explanations. We can only hope there are some cooler heads among the Afghanis, and that the cooler heads may prevail.

But Jones is likely to continue to burn Q’rans as long as he can get attention for doing so. Perhaps the argument could be made that Jones’s stunt amounts to yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater, and he could be placed under some restraining order to burn no more Q’rans. That would likely set off more Q’ran burning by other dimwits in protest of the violation of Jones’s rights, however, so even that could backfire.

Sometimes we really are all at the mercy of the stupid and sociopathic among us.

Anyway — I’m no expert in Islam, but my understanding is that the mob violence in Afghanistan really isn’t justified by anything Muhammad taught. And Jones apparently uses the Gospel as toilet paper. So don’t blame Jesus or Muhammad for this. And in the absence of religion, a true fanatic will always find something else to be fanatic about.

See also: “This attack is different.”


Someone at Fox News Needs Bible Lessons

Obama Administration, Religion

This is too funny.

President Obama misquoted a familiar Bible verse during a faith-based address at the National Prayer Breakfast.

“Those who wait on the Lord will soar on wings like eagles, and they will run and not be weary, and they will walk and not faint,” the president said during a speech to several thousand people at the breakfast.

But the actual passage, from Isaiah 40:31, states: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

I guess some people insist on keeping God’s Word in the original Elizabethan English.*

(*Some pinheads think there may be an earlier version –

– obviously, this is some nefarious liberal plot.)

Several commenters have identified the Obama quote as the New International Version, although I don’t think it matches the NIV word for word.

Particularly after the Bill O’Reilly idiocy with the tides and the moon, Steve Benen suggests that Fox News just stay completely away from theology. Oh, but where’s the fun in that?

Update: I’d say someone at Weasel Zippers needs Bible lessons, too.

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