left biblioblography: July 2008

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Violation Of Church And State - Bowing To Mecca (And A Brief Look At Crackergate)

Cross posted @ God Is For Suckers!DivineInter-X

 A blogversation at the NGB alerted me to this (a fanato-troll there brought this up as a challenge). Apparently, Muslims are getting special treatment - in US schools.

Some public schools and universities are granting Muslim requests for prayer times, prayer rooms and ritual foot baths, prompting a debate on whether Islam is being given preferential treatment over other religions.

The University of Michigan at Dearborn is planning to build foot baths for Muslim students who wash their feet before prayer. An elementary school in San Diego created an extra recess period for Muslim pupils to pray.

Which is an incursion on SOCAS, no matter how it's spun.  While I can understand (barely) how this is going on at Dearborn (given the demographic), this gets more ridiculous:

At George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Muslim students using a "meditation space" laid out Muslim prayer rugs and separated men and women in accordance with their Islamic beliefs.

No, no, and in capitals: NO.

Because the rules for one are the rules for all. I'm all for pluralism and diversity, but as the saying goes - give 'em an inch, they'll take the whole damn ruler. And of course, as the religious always do, they see it the way they call it:

"The whole issue is to provide for a religious foundation for those who are observant while respecting separation of church and state," says Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, based in Los Angeles. Many schools accommodate the Christian and Jewish sabbaths and allow Jewish students to not take tests on religious holidays, he says.

And they allow religious jewelry and yarmulkes, so what? These are not clear intrusions into the schools - prayer mats and foot baths clearly are.

In the San Diego case, a substitute teacher at Carver Elementary School alleged that teachers were indoctrinating students into Islam. The San Diego Unified School District determined that a teacher's aide was wrong to lead Muslim students in prayer. Carver still has a special recess to allow 100 Muslim students to pray.

Should've fired the yobbo.

The ACLU, which has often sued schools for permitting prayer, says it is waiting to see what kind of policy the school settles on before deciding whether to sue. It says promoting prayers is unconstitutional.

"If you start carving out time in the school day that you would not do but for the need to let students pray, then it begins to look like what you're trying to do is to assist religion," says David Blair-Loy, legal director for the ACLU in San Diego.


Thompson says such conflicts are bound to proliferate. He and other Christians, he says, are preparing to ask for equal consideration such as a Christian prayer recess.

"What you're going to see out there is more of these kinds of cases as the Muslim community tests how far it can go in the public school system," he says. "If this can happen for Muslims, it can happen for Christians and other religions."

All this ruckus over gobbledy-gook that doesn't even work anyways. Stupid.

Belief: it's for the hopelessly romantic and the romantically hopeless.

In case anyone hasn't been keeping up with Professor Myers' latest bandwidth gorge - he started here with a newsworthy story about a student getting jacked up over a cracker (guess you'd call that Crackerjacks), and has received a voluminous amount of threats online, via email, etc. Because of course, lunatics wax exceedingly wroth when someone actually cuts through the bullshit and tells them they're smoking ideological crack.

Threads on Pharyngula have bloated to well over a thousand comments (here's one and two of them - three's more than enough to kill off a few precious hours).

That some tasteless, pasty wafer is actually (or symbolically, or whatever) a cannibalistic substitute for an imaginary friend...I'd like to say it beggars the imagination, but it beggars the intelligence, more like.

It makes me wonder if these simpletons actually see the same colors I do.

It is to plotz, sometimes.

Till the next post then.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

What Price, Vendetta?


Cross posted @ God Is For Suckers!

It is perhaps, no shock to anyone who knows me, that of all the religious hooey that alternately shocks, dismays, or provokes outrage from me, Scientology is in the top three.

I live in Mountain View, and right there on Castro Street, is one of their 'illustrious' churches. Usually, there's a very quiet member passing out literature in front of it, and there has been more than one occasion where Anonymous members donning Vendetta masks have protested it right across the street.

This is a sterling example of how religion gets a free pass in our society. Call yourself a religion, don the mask of 'religious persecution', and reap the perks.

(Having a cadre of lawyers as members probably helps, I might add.)

Now, I disagree with Michael Shermer's take on this particular ballyhoo. These people are dangerous - more so than most of the other fundies we deal with (regionally speaking of course: no doubt there's a few 'good ole boys' in various states who'd pronounce "JEBUS LUVS U!" while booting you in the ribs).

A core precept is Fair Game - put forth by the Mighty Profit Enron Hubbard:

In 1965 Hubbard formulated the "Fair Game Law", which states how to deal with people who interfere with Scientology's activities. These problematic people, called suppressive persons, could be considered "fair game" for retaliation:

A Suppressive Person or Group becomes fair game. By FAIR GAME is meant, may not be further protected by the codes and disciplines or the rights of a Scientologist.

Later in December of that year, Hubbard reissued the Fair Game policy with additional clarifications to define the scope of Fair Game. He made it clear that the policy applied to non-Scientologists as well. He declared:

The homes, property, places and abodes of persons who have been active in attempting to: suppress Scientology or Scientologists are all beyond any protection of Scientology Ethics, unless absolved by later Ethics or an amnesty ... this Policy Letter extends to suppressive non-Scientology wives and husbands and parents, or other family members or hostile groups or even close friends.

Hubbard made it clear elsewhere in his writings that the policy would be applied to external organizations, including governments, that were guilty of having interfered with Scientology's activities. He told Scientologists:

If the Internal Revenue Service (in refusing the FCDC [Founding Church of Scientology, Washington DC] non-profit status) continues to act up or if the FDA does sue we can of course Comm Ev [Committee of Evidence] them and if found guilty, label and publish them as a Suppressive Group and fair game ... [N]one is fair game until he or she declares against us.

The policy was further extended in an October 1967 Policy Letter (HCOPL 18 Oct 67 Issue IV, Penalties for Lower Conditions), where Hubbard defined the "penalties" for an individual deemed to be in a "Condition of Enemy":

ENEMY — SP Order. Fair game. May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.

When a man named Peter Goodwin in Hampshire, England purchased a high-level Scientology course for £250 and resold it to friends for £50, Hubbard personally issued an Ethics order which "withdrew any future help from Goodwin and his associates, (presumably for eternity), and threatened the most dire retaliations."

If you read further down the link, you will find that Hubbard back-pedaled a bit, changing stances as circumstances warranted. But I've no doubt there's more than a few Scienmythologists who'd have any SP's head on a plate if they could.

ABC News has this report:

Over the past few months, Anonymous has picketed and protested at Scientology centers around the world from Australia and Atlanta to Brussels and Boston. They've also hacked into the church's Web site, posted numerous videos on YouTube criticizing the church and have been accused of harassing church officials.

Now the church is fighting back with its own public relations onslaught, releasing a recent video titled "Anonymous Exposed," which identifies individual it said were members of the group and accuses them of being accessories to criminal acts that include death threats and destruction of property.

"We wanted people who were unaware of what's going on to know about the criminal acts permitted by their leaders," church spokeswoman Karin Pouw told ABCNEWS.com, adding that the church is working with federal and local law enforcement. "[The video] summarizes our position."

Anonymous (members), of course, deny many of these allegations:

"Anonymous contains all kinds of individuals, academics, college students, members of law enforcement, media professionals and blue collar workers," a 25-year-old member of Anonymous with a computer science background told ABCNEWS.com in an e-mail, on the condition that he remain unidentified. "We are united by a mind-set, not by a membership card… We have no leaders and adhere to the true definition of a collective."

Responding to claims made in the church's video and statements from Church of Scientology leaders equating Anonymous with domestic terrorists, the Anonymous member wrote:

"Anonymous does not support, encourage or condone threats of violence in our campaign against Scientology. The 'bomb threat' video was reported to the FBI and to the media as soon as it was seen on YouTube. They were both told that this video was not produced by Anonymous."

So of course, Hubbardologists have made the usual spurious claims. Cries of 'persecution!', etc. Denial-of-service attacks launched at their websites. Then again, cry me a frelling river. Weren't these the same assholes who launched a 24 year attack on the IRS, using 'terrorist' tactics until they became tax-exempt? Yes, they were.

Boo-fucking-hoo, then. Turnabout's fair play, as the saying goes.

Once again, some UFOologists dive under that ridiculous umbrella of protection that is provided via government sanction, proclaiming an argumentum ad numerum as sufficient grounds to protect them against criticism no matter how rightful that critique might be, giving them a degree of cart blanch that non-religious aren't allowed to have.

In short, the nutters among us get more privilege. More protection. More say.

It is to cringe.

Till the next post, then.



Sunday, July 13, 2008

Atheism And Communism - Who Really Did Start The Trend?


Cross posted @ God Is For Suckers!

It's a familiar trope, one that we've all heard at one point in time or another: that atheism is synonymous with communism.

It's trotted out with such regularity, that I imagine the religious blogger (most of whom live in their own little unexplored worlds) probably physically flinches when the conversation explodes into vitriol.

Hey, I myself have been accused of being a 'Neo-Marxist' on occasion. Me, a red-blooded American capitalist. Then of course, in an effort at 'Turnabout is fair play', the religious blogger will inevitably march out all the outrages of an 'atheistic' government - Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc. Y'all know the drill.

(As if the concept of a stern cosmic overseer ever kept anybody in check. Gimmee a break!)

They always skip over the real black eye, the French Revolution. There's no getting around that one, folks. No amount of apology. It's up to us to make sure that sort of event never occurs again.

The rest of it's all apples-to-oranges. Stalin relied on Tsarist absolutism. Mao had the big idea that everything should get bulldozed, and start again. And etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Nobody did it in the 'name of atheism'.

But who got it all started? Where did it all begin?

That old whore, Christianity, that's who. Dropped another squalling infantile concept into our laps.

Read on:

Christian Communism is a form of religious communism centered around Christianity. It is a theological and political theory based upon the view that the teachings of Jesus Christ compel Christians to support communism as the ideal social system. Although there is no universal agreement on the exact date when Christian communism was founded, many Christian communists assert that evidence from the Bible suggests that the first Christians, including the Apostles, created their own small communist society in the years following Jesus' death and resurrection. As such, many advocates of Christian communism argue that it was taught by Jesus and practiced by the Apostles themselves.

Share and share alike. As I told a secular Democratic Socialist Jew in 2006, "Communism's a great idea, if people knew how to share."

Christian communism can be seen as a radical form of Christian socialism. Also, due to the fact that many Christian communists have formed independent stateless communes in the past, there is also a link between Christian communism and Christian anarchism. Christian communists may or may not agree with various parts of Marxism. They certainly do not agree with the atheist views of most Marxists, but they do agree with some of the economic aspects of Marxist theory, such as the idea that capitalism exploits the working class by extracting surplus value from the workers in the form of profits. Christian communists also share some of the political goals of Marxists, for example replacing capitalism with socialism, which should in turn be followed by communism at a later point in the future. However, Christian communists sometimes disagree with Marxists (and particularly with Leninists) on the way a socialist or communist society should be organized. In general, Christian communism evolved independently of Marxism, and most Christian communists share the conclusions but not the underlying premises of Marxist communists.

So, where did it all start? Yep, you guessed it: the New Testament:

Christian communists trace the origins of their practice to the New Testament book Acts of the Apostles at chapter 2 and verses 42, 44, and 45:

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and in fellowship [...] 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. (King James Version)

The theme is reiterated in Acts 4:32-37:

32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet. (King James Version)

Anyone who's actually read the wholly bibble, can find all sorts of anti-capitalist propaganda, say like, "It is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom,", or the exhortation of the merchant to sell everything and come follow. It's everywhere in that allegedly 'good' book.

And save this up your sleeve, the next time some mumbo-jumbo mumbler starts in about the 'Pilgrims founding this country in search of religious freedom' (which is a daft load of shit, since New Amsterdam preceded the 'fated landing' in 1626, and the Spaniards had colonized most of the West coast prior to their arrival. Hey, they were nutters, England wanted to see the back of them, receding):

The Plymouth Colony, traditionally identified as the first American settlement, was established by pilgrims who had travelled from Europe in order to flee religious persecution and search for a place to worship as they saw fit. The social and legal systems of the colony were thus closely tied to their religious beliefs.

In this highly religious, close-knit community, communist-like principles were tested by the settlers. In 1621, William Bradford, primary drafter of the Mayflower Compact, was selected as governor of the group and served in that capacity for the next 30 years. During that time, Bradford kept a journal which is now known as Of Plymouth Plantation, the single most complete authority for the story of the Pilgrims and the early years of the Colony they founded.


Due to all of the troubles that resulted from the Plymouth communist-like economy (lack of production and general discontent), Bradford relates the decision to stop the communal living and contrasts it to the successful capitalist-like economy that was ultimately practiced at Plymouth (and eventually became the standard economy practiced by the United States):

The Diggers in 1649 tried it as well in England.

And interestingly enough, those wild and wooly Mor(m)ons:

In the 1800s the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, colloquially called Mormons, practiced a voluntary form of Christian socialism in Orderville, Utah under Prophet Brigham Young. Although the Church never called this practice "socialism", the United Order( also known as the Law of Consecration) was an attempt to base income on family situation and need on a voluntary basis or covenant (see also Mormon beliefs on free agency), thereby going against centuries of thinking that expounded the establishment of economic equality through force. The Church has formally stated that the United Order and communism are, in reality, exact opposites:

"Communism and all other similarisms bear no relationship whatever to the United Order. They are merely the clumsy counterfeits which Satan always devises of the Gospel plan [...]. The United Order leaves every man free to choose his own religion as his conscience directs. Communism destroys man's God-given free agency; the United Order glorifies it. Latter-day Saints cannot be true to their faith and lend aid, encouragement, or sympathy to any of these false philosophies [...]." ("Message of the First Presidency," 112th Annual Conference, April 6, 1942.)

Called 'doing the right thing for all the wrong reasons', as the homily goes.

Was there a communist theocracy? Why, yes there was!

Early in the Protestant Reformation in 1524, Thomas Müntzer, a German pastor and contemporary of Martin Luther, attempted to establish a communist theocracy in Mühlhausen, Thuringia. Müntzer was an ardent proponent of the use of force and revolutionary methods in order to establish a classless society where all would share their goods - his war cry was "let not your sword grow cold from blood." Because Luther had recently begun the non-violent revolution against the Catholic establishment, Müntzer and his supporters looked to him for support of their fledgling movement. But due to the many atrocities that were committed, often in Luther's name, by the peasantry in the revolution - the Peasants' War in 1524 to 1525 - Luther, although sympathetic to their cause, was extremely at odds with their violent methods and severely admonished them for this in his "Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants" (1525). Eventually, Müntzer and Luther parted paths over this disagreement and Müntzer ultimately established his communist theocracy in Mühlhausen during the Peasants' War. This communist government was short lived. The ecclesiastical and secular governments eventually joined forces against the rebels and put an end to the revolutionary government with Müntzer's execution by beheading, in May 1525. Before he died, Müntzer recanted and accepted the Roman Catholic mass. His head and body were displayed as a warning to all those who might again preach treasonous doctrines.

There's more reading in the link provided.

Now, I am a proponent of socialist medicine, inasmuch as I don't think health care should be based on pay scale. And I'm all for giving shelter to the homeless. But that's about the extent of it. Luxuries versus privileges, all that. You want extra? You should work for it.

I think that's enough info to beleaguer the more bombastic of the bible-thumpers. So, another flash-card up our collective sleeves.

That, dear readers, is my nickel's worth. Flip it heads or tails, sock it away for a rainy day, or spend it wisely.

Till the next post then.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Soup's On!

Cross posted @ God Is For Suckers!primordial-soup

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. - John Adams

We've all heard this particular refrain: "Why doesn't/can't evolution explain the origins of life?"

The answer is yet to be found. And we can always retreat to our own canard, that the detractor is mixing disciplines, can't we?

Short answer is: no, we can't.

Evolution is a multi-faceted discipline that overlaps a multitude of fields. It is essentially, everywhere. It draws on a plethora of other disciplines as well. The theory of evolution draws specific ire from the religious inasmuch as it adapts to the environment around it, and changes, which in the eyes of the credulous, appears to be weak. Ironic, that this formula seems to retrofit much like natural selection, which is at its core.

But here's the crux of it: abiogenesis is linked (directly or indirectly) to evolution.

The proviso is that yes, evolution provides the naturalistic explanation of how we got from point A to point B, but the error (for those diametrically opposed to the ToE) is in assuming that a source is required for validity.

As an analogy, Einstein didn't require a 'source' for light to exist. Newton didn't require a 'source' for the infamous apple to bonk him on the head. These things already were, and needed an explanation.

Evolution is an explanation of how we came about, how we are today. It's logical - it's been proven thousands of times (or more), and will continue to prove itself.

This post is inspired by something said by PZ Meyers here, and an excellent link to the Panda's Thumb on this particular subject.

There are myriad tracks of investigation, which include evidence of photosynthesis found earlier than expected, and here is an unusual bit of news, which gives new meaning to 'diamond in the rough'.

And there's been a whole lot more going on since Stanley-Urey's famous experiment (which in its entirety, simply showed that it could be done).

So the best bet is to shower the ignorant with the facts, and watch as they fum-fah, or retreat, or go into some obvious denial.

Beginning of course, with the RNA World hypothesis. Or maybe the Iron-Sulfur world. Or even Bubbles. (Yeah, bubbles! Sounds like an eye-roller, until you dig into it). Personally, I rather like the clay/crystals theorem, but am a tad wary, as some hereafterian may very well latch onto this in a bout of allegorical frenzy ("Look, how'd they KNOW that!?!?").

So next time you hear that hoary old chestnut, best to just hit them with the facts. Bit o' advice, is all

Till the next post, then.