Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mormons: More Equal than the Rest of Us?

I don’t write often about non-mainstream religions and cults. I’ll do it when they make news, like when they kill themselves in a religious frenzy as is their want; or when they withhold medical assistance from their dying child. But since they have less of an impact on how science is taught in the schools, or how our freedoms are interpreted, and our government runs... I tend to not worry as much about them as I do mainstream religious denominations. However, something has come to my attention that makes me say: “What the fuck??”

TLC / The Learning Channel (as of late a rather ironic misnomer) airs a show called “Sister Wives.” This fundamentalist Mormon family living in Utah is comprised of three (possibly now four) women married to one man. They have in the neighborhood of thirteen kids. Being married to more than one woman in this country is called Bigamy. It’s illegal. Always has been.

Now personally, I don’t have real strong feelings about polygamy / bigamy. I’m not positive exactly why it is illegal, not sure who the victim is, and not entirely sure it should be illegal. It’s entirely possible that the Western marriage concept of one wife to one husband at a time is simply a religiously inspired convention. But let’s put that aside. The issue here is that polygamy is against the law and that this family is openly breaking the law of the land. They are doing so presumably to make money, and if you ask them, also to make some statement / point. I don’t give a damn what their point is.

Utah is infested with Mormons, many of whom belong to ultra-conservative offshoot sects of Mormonism that never gave up the practice of polygamy. These groups deem Brigham Young’s “Revelation from God” to stop the practice of multiple marriages a “false revelation.” Indeed, they are correct, but not for reasons they think. God didn’t hand down any instructions to old Brigham, God doesn’t exist. But the Federal government exists and it was THEIR revelation that Utah would never become a state until polygamy was abandoned by the Mormons. Miraculously, Brigham Young promptly received his instructions from God that polygamy was no longer sanctioned. Quite a coincidence.

In any state other state in the union this blatant demonstration of illegal activity would result in investigation, arrest and prosecution. But not in Utah. Oh, it’s illegal in Utah as well, but according to authorities there, there are so many polygamous families that they lack the resources to pursue them. Thus, they are ignored unless another crime, like child abuse or endangerment, raises the authorities’ antennae.

So while I would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law should my wife agree to allow me to take Jennifer Anniston as a second wife (not a likely circumstance and the mention of which will likely cause me to be on the receiving end of significant spousal ire) Mormons get special treatment. They are ostensibly exempt from prosecution, because so many of them do it, or so the authorities say. But, if the excessive number of people breaking any given law negated the possibility of prosecution, no one would ever be arrested for smoking pot.

No, what’s happening in Utah, the adopted state of a cult whose founder was a convicted conman; the land of magic underwear, and the home of millions of future god’s of their own planets - is special treatment. A blind eye to illegality because the authorities are largely Mormon. It’s like having the inmates supervising the asylum.

No law enforcement agency, mayor, chief of police, state’s attorney, judge, or state legislator ... no one who holds elected office is about to start arresting and imprisoning the thousands of illegal Mormon bigamists whose votes put them into office, and whose tax money pays their salaries.

And so, Mormon’s get a pass as they thumb their nose at the law, breed kids like promiscuous possums, and teach their brood that this is right and good, guaranteeing another generation of religious nut polygamists.

I wonder how Jen and Mrs. Hump #1 would feel about living in Provo.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Catholic Church TV Ads: Something is Missing, Here’s What It Is

Unless you’ve been very lucky, or unless the Catholic Church figured your area isn’t worth the effort from a cost benefit perspective, you’ve probably seen their slick new recruitment ads.

Stung by dwindling numbers of church going, money contributing faithful, the Church launched its “Come Home” campaign back in early February. It started in western state markets and seems to now be nation wide. There are three versions that tout the benefits of Catholicism and why lapsed Catholics ought come home.

Simple research on the internet shows that producing a 30 second TV commercial costs an average of $350,000 each. Then the airtime runs approximately $100,000 for each showing in a major market. It doesn’t take a financial genius to figure out the Church has spent millions of dollars with this slick new campaign.

Every time I see the ads I think about how many condoms that ad money could buy for third world AIDS ravaged nations on a bulk/wholesale basis. Or how many doses of pain medication could be given to Mother Teresa’s dying patients’ in India. Or how many mosquito nets it would buy for African’s infested with Malaria carrying mosquitoes. But I suppose the answer from the Catholic Church would be just like Jesus’ answer when Mary was criticized for given him that lube job with the expensive oils: “The poor will always be with us.”

But besides the money issue, the ads invariably evoke a feeling that something is missing. Something is being left out, omitted, and hidden. Maybe it’s just me, but every time I see theses ads, their praising of the Church’s role in creating the Bible, the good works they do, the sense of calm and comfort and family it offers, I just keep waiting for them to say something like this:

“We know that we have alienated many of our faithful by the illicit acts of our priests and those who oversee them. We understand that the responsibility is ours and ours alone and that we as your clergy are solely responsible for the pain we have caused; from the novice priest all the way to his Holiness the Pope.

We are now taking steps to unearth and expose every pervert priest, and every enabling Bishop and Cardinal. Nothing will be kept secret, no sensibilities will be spared. We will purge the church of those who have soiled its name, and defiled our beloved congregants. We will excommunicate the guilty and have them prosecuted to the fullest extent of the laws of each nation.

To those of you who have been practicing birth control against our doctrine, and/or who support abortion, it’s all good. From now on what you do with your genitals and reproductive organs is your business exclusively. It always should have been so. We are sorry for having been so fucking stupid for so fucking long.

To our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters - we now know we were wrong. We know it isn’t a choice, it’s just who you are. We know that the authors of the Bible were simply self-hating homophobic dicks. You are welcome, blessed and valued. We look forward to sanctifying your marriage unions as each state legalizes it. Heck, half the Church hierarchy is gay. The Vatican has its own leather bar.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Soon we will be announcing that this virgin birth, and original sin, and life after death, and resurrection stuff we’ve been pushing all these centuries is all a bunch of hooey. But you probably knew that already.

Come home to the Catholic Church, and be surprised by our truth, like we’ve never had the guts to tell it before.”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gay Christians: Denial, Deception or Delusion?

If there is one thing that the vast majority of heterosexual Christians agree on it’s that homosexuality is a sin. Of highly religious white Evangelicals 88% say homosexuality is a sin. 75% of Black Protestants say it’s a sin. Among Catholics the number is 64%. In all Christian denominations the higher the individual’s commitment to their religion (devoutness) the higher their intolerance for homosexuality. To say that Christianity overwhelmingly condemns homosexuality would be a gross understatement.

Thus, when my book The Atheist Camel Chronicles first came out I felt comfortable giving a signed copy to two gentlemen I befriended who sold and installed my underground dog fence. They are business partners and life partners. I had assumed that they’d share my perception of the ills of Christianity, since Christianity has had nothing good to say about them as gays.

Perhaps it’s that suppressed liberal bent in me, but I sort of expected a pat on the back from them for the chapters in the book that express my liberal perspective on homosexuality, equal rights and gay marriage. That never happened. Instead some many months later I discovered they were a little taken aback at my book’s anti-theist themes ... they both being Christians. [Note: Two lessons learned. 1- So much for stereotyping gays as freethinkers. It’s an erroneous assumption. 2- Expecting accolades for being tolerant and modernist in thought is rather, well ... pompous, condescending, self aggrandizing or something not very praise worthy].

This incident, and more recently my awareness of the larger gay Christian community, led me to question how gays can embrace a belief system that preaches against their lifestyle and sexual preference. How can they possibly reconcile their homosexuality with a scripture, a God, a clergy and congregants who see them as “not true Christians” at best and hell bound unrepentant sinners worthy of God’s condemnation and death by stoning at worst? The answers were at once surprising and yet absurdly predictable.

From what I can discern it boils down to three thought processes. The first is simply ignoring the issue of their sexuality entirely, denial. In this gay Christian website the faithful reiterate their love of Jesus, accept him as their savior, recognize the Bible as the word of God and anticipate salvation for their devotion. They just opt to ignore the Old Testament prescriptions for stoning and the traditional ostracizing and almost universal Christian condemnation of their sexual preference and life style.

Another tact is exemplified by a gay Christian organization that goes beyond cherry picking of scriptural verse, the tried and true Christian approach to using the Bible to support ones agenda. These people actually attempt to apply new meanings to Jesus’ words to transform his reference to “eunuch” in Matthew 19 to also mean “homosexual.” Thus, not only did Jesus not specifically condemn homosexuality, they imply he actually endorsed it. This may well be the most blatant example of dishonesty or delusion I’ve ever witnessed.

They also embrace the entirely erroneous concept that that Jesus said he had come to dissolve the laws of the Old Testament.

Finally, there are the gay Christians who don’t attend church regularly, are not Bible literate and just ignore the acrimony of hetero Christians, the Bible and the Church leadership. Raised in Christian families, indoctrinated since childhood, they have taken on the identity of Christian from their parents. Never mind what the Bible and their fellow Christians say, they dismiss the homophobes as just acting independently; God makes no differentiation between gays and straights. In fact, it was God who made them gay thus he must approve. In essence they are arbitrarily redefining Christian doctrine. It’s feel good self deception.

It all boils down to the God Virus. Gays have no special immunity or antibodies for it. It doesn’t differentiate between gays and straights. Once infected with the God Virus it can disguise and distort reality. The ugly reality is that homophobia in the West is directly attributable to their God and the Judeo-Christian doctrine. The very reason for gay second class citizenship status is rooted in the Abrahamic God’s disgust for their sexual preference. But don’t bother telling that to them. Reason has always been the enemy of faith, and the faithful gay are no exception.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Christian Reconstructionism: The worst nightmare you’ve never heard of.

I’ve been following the “hearings” in Washington on the radicalization of American Muslims. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) who masterminded the event is playing the role of McCarthy rather nicely. If his goal is to arouse fear and sough the seeds of mistrust of Muslim Americans it will likely have its desired impact, especially on Christian right wingers.

I’m not suggesting that there isn’t some degree of threat from fundamentalist Muslims, home grown or immigrants, who are compelled to rally to the terrorist’s cause. We’ve seen some recent examples of American Muslims turned traitor and murderer. But to people who are attuned to the evils of religious extremism American Muslims aren’t even a blip on the threat scale. There is a real and growing threat of nightmarish proportions to which most Americans are oblivious.

There’s a movement in the US that floats under the radar of most people. Few people in the public eye speak openly of it; even if they are themselves part of the movement. It’s called Christian Reconstructionism or Dominion Theology. What is it? Imagine your worst nightmare then multiply by it one-hundred fold.

Much as the ancient Hebrews did not separate their religious tenets from their ruling power, the Christian Reconstructionists (CRs) call for a total infusion of Christianity into government, law and private life. It’s a complete return to “God” in an effort to retake and save the Nation from secularism and free thought. It makes the fear of Shariah law laughable. It is the ultimate theocracy.

Under CR all secular law would be dissolved and replaced by the 613 laws of the Hebrew Bible. This includes stoning to death of disrespectful children; elimination of all positions of power held by women; homosexuality and bisexuality would be a capital crime as would adultery, blasphemy, working on the Sabbath and practicing witchcraft.

It goes down hill from there. Death sentences include execution by burning alive.
Some of the proponents of CR call for the banning of interracial marriage; slavery would be reinstated; all other religions would be banned, including the practice of Judaism. Most social programs would be dissolved including welfare and our public school system. Apostasy from Christianity would be punishable by death. The ultimate goal is to transform the entire globe to the “Kingdom of God” on Earth. You can read much more about this @ . Or just Google “Christian Reconstructionism”

I can hear some of my readers saying: “Come on Hump, you’re being an alarmist. There have always been crazies out there, why should we worry about a few fringe religious whackos?” And they’d be right if I were raising the flag of imminent disaster. I’m not. But it is receiving support from the fringe elements of the Charismatic Christian denominations, Pentecostals and Baptists of whom a growing number of politicians are adherents.

While it is not an immediate threat keep this in mind:

- In 2000 the Republican Party of Texas declared that it "affirms that the United States is a Christian nation."

- In 2004 CR leaders in congress introduced a bill in both houses (HR 3788 and S 2082) called The Constitution Restoration Act of 2004. The bill intended to limit the U.S. Supreme Court and federal courts’ ability to hear and rule on cases involving “expressions of religious faith by elected or appointed officials.”

Among the sponsors of the bill were Rep. Robert Aderholt (Alabama), Rep. Michael Pence (Indiana), Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, Sen. Zell Miller (Georgia), Sen. Sam Brownback (Kansas), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina).

- James DeWeese a county court judge from Ohio who has three times attempted to defy court rulings banning his posting of the Ten Commandments in his court room calling them the “Rule of Law” is an avowed CR. In fact Roy Moore, a Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, was the initiator of the Constitution Restoration Act of 2004.

- The Washington DC secret Christian organization known as The Fellowship Foundation, AKA “the Family” AKA the “C Street” folks is a far right religious group who calls among its members many high ranking Congressmen and Senators. They sponsor the annual National Prayer Breakfast, are activists in breaking down the “Wall of Separation” between church and state, and hold strong Christian Reconstructionist positions.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. While the likes of Pat Robertson, Billy Graham and their ilk are open theocratic advocates, it’s the elected officials who will not readily identify their extremist religious views that we have to be wary of. You can be assured that every time you hear an elected official speak of “the US as a Christian Nation”; “bringing God back into our country“; “the devout Christianity of our Founding Fathers”; “the term ‘Wall of Separation’ is not in the Constitution”; and other key phrases that their objectives are suspect at best, theocratically motivated at worst.

The nightmares produced by our subconscious can be intense, but none are as hideous as the concept of a nation guided by Christian Reconstructionist politicians and judges. The zombies from the Night of the Living Dead may want to eat your brain, but at least they don’t want to enslave your mind and body.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Predictable and Transparent Christians - an invaluable resource

An atheist facebook friend suggested that I read The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity by Hyam MacCoby, a Talmudic scholar. I went to and began to peruse some of the many reader reviews both good and bad.

I am well aware that amazon reader reviews are no guarantee of a book’s value. But when it comes to books that are critical of religion I have developed an almost fool proof way of using reviews to guide my purchasing decision.

The following is an excerpt from a 1 star review of MacCoby’s book penned by a Christian. I found it invaluable.

It would be easier to believe the "scholarship" of a book like this were it not for the blatant bias of the author."

"It uses similar logic to those who find by random out of context selection of verses the Bible a champion of suicide. [i.e.] 1) Judas hanged himself. 2) Go thou and do likewise. 3) what thou doest, do quickly. All [are] verses found in the Bible, but hardly the message really found there."

"You would be better off reading Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell, a skeptic who became convinced, rather than a proponent of a point of view slanting "evidence" to fit his viewpoint. Don't waste your money.”

Read that last sentence again. Note the assumption made by this Christian reviewer - a "skeptic who became convinced (became a believer)" is by definition less likely to "slant evidence" to fit his viewpoint and agenda than someone who doesn't hold Christian belief. What’s the basis for that inference? By my experience there is none. It's simply the Christian reviewer’s prejudice toward non-Christians.
It’s the hallmark of desperate Christian apologists to extol the virtues of those "skeptics who became believers," as though they hold a special ability to convince thinking people to abandon their intellect and reason and fall dumbly into mindless superstition. They roll out the Lee Strobels, C.S. Lewis' and McDowells and put them on pedestals because their self-professed (and often phony) conversion to religiosity justifies and strengthens their own beliefs. It seems avid religionists, conspiracy theorists and the deluded love company and what better company to be in than those who "once were lost and now are found” as the song goes.

Anyway ... as far as the "message(s)" found in the Bible - its message has been interpreted in hundreds of different ways. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone when I say that my multiple readings of the Bible reinforced my non-belief . Its message disgusted me in its irrationality, contradictions, absurdly illogical admonishments, myth presented as scientific "fact," obsession with death, and its grotesque examples of god endorsed baseness, threat, intolerance and violence. The fact that the Christian reviewer drew an entirely different message from the Bible is precisely the point of MacCoby’s work. But that is totally lost on him.

There are a number of 1 star and 5 star reviews for this book that were well reasoned. So well reasoned that I was on the fence as to whether or not I would buy this work. But this reviewer’s almost palatable anger and his warning away predicated on his own prejudice and personal agenda has convinced me to make the purchase and assess it for myself. For that, I thank him.

Bottom line: when considering a book critical of their religion let the angry Christian reviewer guide your purchase. They rarely steer you right.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

We have a religious hypocrite for President, and I hope he’s re-elected

The National Prayer Breakfast is an event held annually in Washington and sponsored by Christian evangelical fanatics in government, most notably “The Family” aka The K Street gang. That club is comprised of Republican politicians who see their political role as spreading the word of Jesus.

President Obama attended his first Prayer Breakfast in 2009. There he gave a speech that was ecumenical in nature, non-religious and clearly intended to be healing and inspiring without being overtly religious. Here is a very brief extract from his 2009 address to the attendees. :

“... far too often, we have seen faith wielded as a tool to divide us from one another – as an excuse for prejudice and intolerance. Wars have been waged. Innocents have been slaughtered. For centuries, entire religions have been persecuted, all in the name of perceived righteousness.”

“There is no doubt that the very nature of faith means that some of our beliefs will never be the same. We read from different texts. We follow different edicts. We subscribe to different accounts of how we came to be here and where we're going next – and some subscribe to no faith at all.”

Two years later President Obama had a different message. This year, in early February, he discarded his designer suit and donned his hair shirt. He took off his hand made cordovan oxfords opting instead for Jesus sandals. And he carried in his hand not the torch of freedom, but a shepherd’s crook and a Bible. Here are some extracts from his 2011 address to the attendees;

"I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace him as my Lord and savior."

"My Christian faith, then, has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years, all the more so when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time,"

"When I wake in the morning, I wait on the Lord, and I ask him to give me the strength to do right by our country and its people, and when I go to bed at night, I wait on the Lord, and I ask him to forgive me my sins and look after my family and the American people and make me an instrument of his will."

So what’s happened here? Has the President become born again Xtian over the past two years? Has he come to Jesus, seen the Light? Hell no, he’s too intelligent for that nonsense. The bottom line is he has been stung by criticism for his lack of public religiosity and by the continued undertone of rumors of his Islamic belief which is still accepted as fact by millions of the faithful.

Most Christians see atheists as unworthy to hold office. The Pew Forum survey of 2009 showed Christians would sooner vote for a homosexual or Muslim for president than for an atheist. And we all know how a very large number of Christians feel about those two groups. It wasn’t all that long ago that George Bush Senior referred to atheists as "... not patriots and possibly not even Americans.­" That perspectiv­e is shared by many Christians.
Obama’s new found religious fervor is a product of the criticism and doubts cast by religionists; it’s a way for him to blunt the Muslim accusation nonsense, but it's also a way for him to establish he isn't a non-believ­er, either of which would be the kiss of death in 2012. Am I disappoint­ed he doesn't just out himself; just admit he’s agnostic; declare that religion is fine for some but isn’t important to him, of which I am largely convinced is the fact based on subtleties of things said and promises made (and broken) before his election ? Yes, I am disappointed. Yes, it’s hypocrisy.

But the religious virus is so deep in this country that for him to continue to stone wall the demand for declaring his Christianity would be political suicide. He has to play the game lest that famous "Christian love and tolerance" guarantee him to be a one term President.

I’m a realist. I'd rather see him dance the dance, play the game and sell his dignity and credibility to satisfy the Christian majority than to be counted out of the race before it begins and watch a real K Street Gang member take the presidency. If that makes me a hypocrite as well, I can live with it for the next six years.