All Things Happen for a Reason??? No way!

One thing that really raises my blood pressure is when theisst who believe in the traditional model of the 3-0 god assert that all things happen for a reason.  Really?  If such a god exists, this must mean he had a reason for cancer, malaria, and smallpox, along with tsunamis, earthquakes, and other “natural” disasters (are they truly natural if they are part of an omnipotent deity’s plan?).

But some people just don’t seem to get the point in abstract, but need a concrete example. So here’s one: Little Bella Bond, only a toddler, was punched in the abdomen repeatedly by her mother’s boyfriend until she died; her body was then kept refrigerated for a month before the culprit finally disposed of it.  If all things happen for a reason, and if god is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, then he must have had a reason for allowing that to happen.  Why did he not protect this child?  What prevented him, in his supposed might, from sheltering her from these vicious blows?  I have been punched in the abdomen, and it is not a pleasant experience.  Imagine the suffering of this poor, innocent, defenseless child as she was repeatedly pummeled by a grown man.

I defy anyone who believes in good, kind, and also all-knowing and all-powerful god to argue that there was a reason according to which the supposed loving almighty had to allow this to happen to little Bella.

Vyckie Garrison – Quiverfull – Our monthly meeting on July 28, 2015

Vyckie Garrison has been steadily making a name for herself by launching a website and making presentations at national secular conferences on the topic of the “Quiverfull Movement”. The website is named “No Longer Quivering” and is a support service for mostly women who have managed to “escape” from the movement.

For those who don’t recognize the phrase, Quiverfull is the name given to a non-denominational group of people that seek to live a completely “biblical” life as in the Christian bible. In practice this means that they establish their families as complete patriarchies where the husband holds all the power and the wife is expected to produce as many children as possible. The most famous family in this group are the Duggers who managed to get a reality TV show contract and have been making tons of money by exploiting their family relationships and children as they extoll the Quiverfull lifestyle. They currently have 19 children. Most recently however, they have lost their show because it was discovered that one of their older children had been abusing more than one of his younger sisters and another girl from a different family. Now I may see this as a reflection of the reality of the bible given the stories about characters like Noah, but Christian types see it as a nasty embarrassment.

At this meeting we watched two different videos. In the first “The Patriarch’s Wife”, Vyckie describes her life as a quivering wife and how her marriage represented a classical abusive relationship in which her husband was acting as an abuser by simply following the patriarchal dictates of Jesus.

In the second video titled “Fertile Ground”, Vyckie goes over the basic theology of the Quiverfull movement to show how it is built on the interpretation of the bible present in many fundamentalist sects within the Christian community. The church itself lays the foundation for giving yourself up to a vision of life which was literally life threatening to Vyckie herself and destructive of the lives of many of the women caught in the cult.

All in all, a disturbing picture of what a blind commitment to religious dogma can do to families and an encouraging story of how Vyckie is seeking to help others, like herself, who wish to escape.

Why Can’t I Own a Canadian?

Let’s be honest, the religious in this country have an awful habit of cherry-picking from the Bible in order to add authority to whatever powerfully wrong claim they are making at the time.  Faced with this idiocy, I must assume that we’ve all wanted to call them on their crap, or take their arguments to absurd levels.

Well, someone did.

In response to Dr. Laura Schlessinger, an Orthodox Jew at the time, citing homosexuality’s evil by quoting Leviticus, an unknown person wrote an incredibly snarky letter that went on to become an internet meme.

We know not who wrote this letter, and I find it irresponsible to throw in the names of commonly assumed  perpetrators, but here is the letter in full (copied and pasted from RationalWiki).

 

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Leviticus 1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Leviticus 17:19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Leviticus 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Leviticus 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?

I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? – Leviticus24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Leviticus 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted fan,

Jim

 

Hope you all enjoy the snark.

Faith vs. Fact – Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible

Jerry Coyne’s new book referenced in the title above has now been published. I have a copy and I’m reading through it in my usual style of two or three pages at a time which guarantees that I won’t remember most of it and, therefore, can be excused for reading it over and over. He is starting to go through various book tour events and one of the first was held at Politics & Prose, a famous book store in Washington, D.C. A recording of his presentation is available here and is worth a listen.

The talk runs about 35 minutes and then is followed by another 30 minutes of Q & A. His publisher/agent advised him not to talk about what was in the book, but about why he wrote it, thereby being more likely to entice audience members to buy the book since they’d be more curious about what was in it. So Jerry tried to do this although he does give away some of the contents.

If you’ve followed Jerry on his “Why Evolution Is True” website for any length of time, you are probably familiar with his arguments about the incompatibility of science and religion. The book goes into more detail on some of his points and is an easy read so far. The position he takes is that science and religion make competing claims about the nature of reality even if religion also delves into issues of meaning and purpose. It’s the religious claims about reality that are most invidious because they are never supported by any evidence at all; they are simply assertions. There is no way to detect or correct errors within religion itself. It has no tools, no tested process by which to ascertain which of those claims, if any, is true. Hence, we have thousands of religions each making claims denied by some other religion. Science on the other hand, has a highly refined and thoroughly vetted system for searching out and identifying what is likely to be true. Hence, there is only one science, not American science or Chinese science or German science, etc. There is just the one system and it has succeeded in spectacular ways.

Jerry knows his book will be controversial and draw all sorts of challenges and complaints. His first presentation at the University Club of Chicago a couple of weeks ago gave him a taste when the wealthy old white men who make up the club invited him in to talk about his book. They were not amused. I wonder how they managed to invite him in the first place?

Back to Politics and Prose. The Q & A is also worth listening to primarily because of two people who wanted to make speeches instead of ask a question. The first is a nurse who claims that her work with patients relied heavily upon her faith and without said faith she fears she wouldn’t be successful in caring for others. Jerry points out that the word she should be using is ‘confidence’ rather than faith. She has confidence in her skills and those of her co-workers based on training, experience and knowledge. She misattributes this sense of confidence to a religious faith that really seems to play no real part. She is unconvinced.

The second is a fellow who describes himself as a rabbi and wants to lecture Jerry on how he needs to study religion even more since he doesn’t really understand his Jewish heritage. Too bad that Jerry didn’t talk at length about what was actually in his book. The rabbi falls into the trap of claiming that you have to read every single book on religion before you can criticize it. The correct reply of course, is for the rabbi to read every science book and then come back to talk.

These two speech makers take up a chunk of the Q & A time and Jerry has to be a little testy with them given the total number of people wanting to actually ask a question during the time available. It always amazes me when people try to use a Q & A to launch their own presentation instead as though their perspective is so important that they can impose it on the entire audience without permission or invitation. Jerry will likely need to practice his skills at telling people to shut up and sit down. I don’t think he enjoys doing that, but he doesn’t want to listen to the rants either.

 

A Matter of Grave Concern

A couple of days ago in my ethics class, the topic of children’s rights came up.  I asked if parents have absolute power over their kids, or if children have rights which the state should, when necessary, intervene to protect.  As an example, I pointed out that some parents don’t believe in blood transfusions, and would rather let their children die.  This, of course, tends to be on religious grounds, with Jehovah’s Witnesses being the primary offenders.  Well, it turned out that one of my female students happens to be a JW, and I think she mentioned previously that she is pregnant, but that may or may not be the case.  At any rate, she stated that she does not believe in transfusions, and would not allow her child to have one.  Class ended, but at our next session, other students wanted to pick up the discussion.  I am cognizant of the fact that in my official capacity, I am a “state actor,” and have to be careful how I respond to matters of religion (this is NOT to say that I respect silly beliefs, but that I respect limitations placed on my by the first amendment).  So I tried the Socratic approach — asking her where her beliefs come from.  Well, the bible, of course.  But how do you know which parts of the bible to follow — doesn’t the bible say that women should cover their hair?  Well, some parts of the bible have been superceded.  How do you know which ones?  Well, of course, the Watchtower society makes that decision.

About this time, one of the more naive students asked her what biblical passage prohibits blood transfusions (and it really doesn’t anyway — the biblical authors knew nothing about blood transfusion or other modern medical procedures).  She looked up the passage, and the little naif immediately said, “Oh, I guess I can respect that!”

RESPECT it?  How does one respect delusional nonsense that can, and has, led to the death of a child?  This idea that we have to respect religious nonsense has got to go.  It is one thing to respect a person’s humanity, but not all ideas are the same.  Some are just not respectable.  If the JW student in question lost a child because she refused it a blood transfusion, I don’t know if she would be guilty of murder because it was not out of malice, but certainly of manslaughter or something similar.  As for the jerks at the Watchtower Society, they should spend the rest of their lives in jail for the harm they have wrought.  This isn’t merely hypothetical: children have actually died because they were refused blood transfusions.  I say “they were refused” because as minors, they cannot make such decisions for themselves, and this is clearly a case where parents are so dangerously delusional they are in no position to speak for their children.

If an adult wishes to be a fool, let her.  But the idea that she can force her deadly nonsense on her helpless child is outrageous.

FFRF repeats its request to the Elkington Middle School

As most of you know, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) wrote to the Grand Rapids School District in response to our notification that a poster advertising a “prayer time” in a classroom at the Elkington Middle School was on display in the hallway of the school. The poster identified a teacher and a classroom where the meeting would be held prior to the start of classes every Monday morning. Since the poster did not note that the meeting was neither sponsored or endorsed by the school district, it represented a church/state violation. It was also not clear that the teacher didn’t not actively participate or direct the meeting and this would further suggest a church/state violation. The School District had an attorney from the Twin Cities respond to FFRF and assure them that the poster would be corrected and that the teacher had no active role in the group.

A few weeks later at our monthly meeting, we learned that the poster was still on display with only a piece of paper tapped over the teacher’s name and none of the other requested changes. A photo of the poster was available and I forwarded this along with the other information suggesting the prayer meeting was still presenting a church/state problem. The FFRF attorney who had written the original letter to the School District has now sent a follow up letter noting that promised changes had not been made. He also noted that the School District’s mention of the Equal Access Act (EAA) raised further concerns since the EAA only applies to secondary schools and in Minnesota only the grades 7 through 12 are deemed secondary. Since the Middle School has children in the 5th and 6th grades, he asked for assurances that children of that age were not directly involved in the group as organizers or directors of the group. They would not be considered covered by the EAA.

We are now awaiting a second response from the School District and I will post that response as soon as we get it from FFRF. The failure of the School District to make sure that they were in compliance with the law suggests that they are not taking the problem seriously and may not have informed the teacher about his proper role and the limitations placed on teachers acting on religious beliefs while at the school and acting as an agent of the government.

Stay tuned.

Taking RFRA to its logical conclusion

From Daily Kos, we have an example of a Christian business man determining what sign he wants to put on the door or window of his shop so that he can freely exercise his religion in the operation of his business. Please note that there is no mention of LGBT discrimination in his notice. So he is not going to discriminate against gays so that’s not what the RFRA is about. He’s just going to follow his bible and demonstrate that he is an equal opportunity bigot against just about anyone.

They Had it Coming

Most readers of this blog follow current events very closely, and are therefore aware of the shit storm Governor Mike Pence of Indiana unleashed for himself.  Since most of us are aware, I will not rehash all the details, but it is clear that Indiana’s so-called “religious freedom restoration act” was designed to give legal sanction to anti-LGBT bigotry.  But attitudes in this country have changed, and Pence and others who supported the law are deservedly catching hell.  The RFRA in Indiana is not about religious freedom, it is about allowing conservative Christians to legally discriminate.  It is interesting that Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas was prepared to sign a similar bill in his state, but balked when the CEO of Wal-Mart (among many others) voiced opposition to the bill. Finally, big business is using its power to promote the general welfare.

At any rate, I am posting this simply to provide a venue for anyone who might want to discuss the Indiana law or any related issues.  What does everyone think?

Duck Dynasty Dips**t

Phil Robertson is a bearded waste of flesh disguised as a cuddly Southern patriarch by the A&E show “Duck Dynasty.”  Fanatically Christian, Robertson has come under fire for the foul (foul/fowl pun not intended) comments he has made in the past about Muslims and gays, but I think his most recent comments take the cake.

Warning, these comments are graphic.

“Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot ’em. And they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?’ ”

He continues with:

“Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if this was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head. Have a nice day.’ If it happened to them, they probably would say, ‘Something about this just ain’t right.’ ”

These comments were made at a prayer breakfast in Florida (it’s time to let that state go) about the supposed need for religious rules.  The problem is that all this does is prove that Robertson is a psychopath.  Seriously, what kind of man thinks about this kind of stuff?  It’s horrible; Salon, the Huffington Post, and Patheos have all slammed him for these horrendous comment, but Breitbart came to his defense, insisting that he was just making a parable (though they consented that it was extreme) and that the attacks on him are “ignorant” and “bigoted.”

Seriously, decent people slamming this scum for commenting on the torture of a man, the murder of his wife, and the rape and murders of his daughters are bigoted for being good people?  And what kind of mind-fucked asshole decides that his parable needs child rape to make a point!?

To put it more plainly: if you need to bring up rape–whether it be of a man, woman or child–to make your point, then your point is wrong.