left biblioblography: May 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Homophobia Gone Wild: Pastor Charles Worley From Throwback Mountain

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis
Have you heard about this?

"Build a great big large fence... put all the lesbians in there... Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can't get out..."

"...And you know what, in a few years, they'll die out... Do you know why? They can't reproduce."

Pastor Swirly shows the raging xenophobia that religiosity encourages. He reveals the true reason we can’t pander to these fuckwits: there’s no reasoning with the irrational.

The religious always ‘rationalize’ their goings-ons, both past and present. And we are supposed to just nod somberly and mumble some horseshit about ‘how everyone’s entitled to their opinion’, or ‘oh hey, it’s part of your religion, so it’s okay’.

It is most definitely NOT okay. But try explaining to one of these religious ass-clowns how telling a minority group of people they can’t do what the majority can do is discrimination (regardless of the whole ‘genetics vs. choice’ manure – even if it IS a choice, it’s still terroristic manipulation), and watch the vacancy glaze their eyes.

Because once the religious factor is subtracted from the equation…well, the ‘it’s just icky!’ argument is only suitable for middle school children, and not valid in any reasonable sense.

So fuck these bigots. Sign this petition – and the next time you overhear someone mouthing this egregious codswallop, read them the riot act.

Because sometimes the only way to engage the idiocy, is to shout it down and call it the garbage it is.

Till the next post, then.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

They Make ‘Em Big In Texas–And That Goes For Crazy Too…

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasistexas_idiot

This is more saddening than shocking any more. As far as Texas goes, America would probably be better off it the whole state seceded.

Texas's war on history

Don McLeroy, chairman of the Texas State Board of Education from 2007 to 2009, is a "young earth" creationist. He believes the earth is 6,000 years old, that human beings walked with dinosaurs, and that Noah's Ark had a unique, multi-level construction that allowed it to house every species of animal, including the dinosaurs.

He has a right to his beliefs, but it's his views on history that are problematic. McLeroy is part of a large and powerful movement determined to impose a thoroughly distorted, ultra-partisan, Christian nationalist version of US history on America's public school students. And he has scored stunning successes.

If you want to see a scary movie about this movement, consider taking in Scott Thurman's finely-crafted documentary Revisionaries, currently making the festival circuit, which records the antics of McLeroy and a hard right majority on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) as they revise the textbook standards that will be used in Texas (and many other states).

The first part of this documentary deals with the familiar "science wars", in which one side seeks to educate children in the sciences, and the other side proposes to "teach the controversy" in order to undermine those aspects of science that conflict with its religious convictions. But it's the second part of the movie where the horror really kicks in. As I explain in more detail in The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children, the history debate makes the science debate look genteel. While the handful of moderates on the SBOE squeals in opposition, the conservative majority lands blow after blow, passing resolutions imposing its mythological history on the nation's textbooks.

Cynthia Dunbar, a board member who has described public education as a "subtly deceptive tool of perversion", and who homeschooled her own children, emerges as a relentless ideologue. During the hearings, she yanks Thomas Jefferson from a standard according to which students are expected to "explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas … on political revolutions from 1750 to the present", and replaces him with the 13th-century theologian St Thomas Aquinas. Moderate Republican board member Bob Craig points out that the curriculum writers clearly intended for the students to study Enlightenment ideas and Jefferson in this part of the standard, not a mix of Protestant and Catholic theologians, but the resolution passes anyway.

Dunbar isn't very subtle about her agenda. In one scene, the filmmakers track her to a prayer rally in Washington, DC, where she implores Jesus to "invade" public schools.

The board goes on to remove the word "slavery" from the standards, replacing it with the more benign-seeming "Atlantic triangular trade". They insist on calling the United States a "constitutional republic" rather than a "democracy" – largely because they want students to think of their country as Republican, not Democratic. So convinced are they of the timeless superiority of American/Republican values that one of them introduces a standard asking students to "explain three pro-free-market factors contributing to European technological progress during the rise and decline of the medieval system".

Historical figures of suspect religious views (like Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin) or political tendency (like union organizer Dolores Huerta) are ruthlessly demoted or purged altogether from the study program. Meanwhile, the board majority makes room for an eclectic array of ancillary figures from the revolutionary period, such as Charles Carroll and Jonathan Trumbull. What these marginal figures have in common, other than being dusted off from high shelves and promoted by the board, is the fact that they were loud defenders of orthodox Christianity.

Even by their own admission, the board members were hopelessly unqualified to make judgments about the history. So they appointed a committee of academic "experts" to vet the standards. The committee was a model of "bipartisanship" in the modern era. For their part, the moderates on the board appointed credible historians, professors at Texas universities; one was defended by a moderate Republican board member as "a good Republican … not some kind of crazy liberal".

The conservatives, on the other hand, appointed Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries, a group that seeks to "reclaim America for Christ" and is "dedicated to helping to restore America to its Bible-based foundations through preaching, teaching, and writing on America's Christian heritage and on Christian discipleship and revival". They also appointed pseudo-historian David Barton, the former vice-chairman of the Texas GOP and founder of the Black Robe Regiment. The latter, sinister-sounding organisation is an association of "concerned patriots" whose goal is to "restore the American Church in her capacity as the Body of Christ, ambassador for Christ, moral teacher of America and the world, and overseer of all principalities and governing officials, as was rightfully established long ago".

Barton is known for fabricating quotes from America's founders, or taking them out of context to build his case that America was established as a so-called "Christian nation". And here's the gruesome kicker: the Texas board actually ignored advice from its own, balanced committee whenever it contradicted the agenda of the far-right majority.

Sometimes, the most important characters in a story are the ones who don't show up. In the Texas battle over history, the heroes who went missing were the kind of people and organizations that might have defended the teaching of history in the way that the scientists mobilized to defend the teaching of biology. The scientists are reasonably well-organized. When creationism rears its paleolithic head in state legislatures or on school boards, it faces the opposition of organizations such as the National Association of Biology Teachers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Center for Science Education, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, and others.

Defenders of biological sciences can also fall back on court rulings such as Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District and Edwards v Aguillard, which prohibit teaching of creationism. They also have a wealth of popular treatments of scientific issues to draw upon, such as explanations of evolutionary theory by Richard Dawkins and other scientists.

History, however, is often left to fend for itself.

To be fair, in the Texas proceedings, some historians and activists made valiant attempts to contain the damage. Kathy Miller, spokesperson for the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based research and advocacy group, was allocated several minutes for her impassioned defense of religious and political neutrality in public education. Professor Steven K Green, director of Willamette's Center for Religion, Law, and Democracy, used his five minutes in front of the board to remind them that "the supreme court has forbidden public schools from 'seeking to impress upon students the importance of particular religious values through curriculum.'" The board majority smiled and looked away.

So, where are history's defenders?

Part of the problem here has to do with a common fallacy about history. We think of history as a "soft" subject. We know that it always involves some degree of interpretation, that the "narratives" are always "contested", and that the answers are never so obviously right or wrong as they are in science. We also know that there have been leftwing versions of the history that are just as distorting as the rightwing propaganda served up by McLeroy and friends. But it's plain wrong to think that we can only throw our hands in the air and conclude that history is whatever anyone chooses to say it is.

Some academics have gotten too used to speaking only with one another. Many could do a more forceful job of seeking to protect the public from disinformation. When I was researching my book, I came across plenty of academic historians who were dismissive about David Barton in private; but few were willing to go public, or to invest the effort in refuting him in detail.

Barton recently came out with another piece of propaganda, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson. To their credit, a pair of professors who identify themselves as conservative Christians, Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter, have stepped forward to debunk Barton's latest exercise in their book, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President. But that hasn't stopped Barton's book from becoming a bestseller.

Maybe, we find it easy to underestimate the harm that bad history can do. McLeroy and his cohorts desperately want students to be taught that America is beyond criticism. It's greatness, they believe, stems from the values, principles, and methods of America's conservatives, and the only safe path to the future is to suppress or eliminate whatever does not conform to their image of a purified America. These "revisionaries" are far from the vision of the US bequeathed by the same founders whom the far right claims to revere.

The "glory of the people of America" as James Madison actually said, is that they broke free from the "blind veneration" of the ways of the past and learned how to draw on the "lessons of their own experience" in order to build the world anew.

The real issue here, as I see it, is that instead of laughing these assholes out the door, most people are too polite, nod, and burble some nonsense about how everyone’s ‘entitled to their opinion’ or somesuch thing. And of course, most crazy people take refuge behind religion to hide their illnesses and/or gain acceptance.

And while I am all for the open marketplace of ideas, these aren’t ideas: these are hidebound screeds that others are forcing upon the general populace. These are people that are polluting the tabula rasa of our children. Our children risk the chance of becoming polluted with the garbage these snake-oil peddlers are peddling. Sadly, because they hide behind religion, they cannot be brought to court for fraud, which is what should be done.

Till the next post, then.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Good News And Bad News On The Homophobic Front This Week: The Religious Are Surely Losing Ground.

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasisfox-nation-on-obama-gay-marriage

The bad news is that North Carolina has reinforced the backward-assed stereotyped image the South has developed since it got its ass kicked back in the Civil War, by shoving religious discriminatory practices into law. 

A snippet says it all;

"We are not anti-gay; we are pro-marriage," said Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman of the group. "And the point -- the whole point -- is simply that you don't rewrite the nature of God's design for marriage based on the demands of a group of adults."

By the very definition and nature of their second-hand shepherd’s storybook, they most certainly are anti-gay. And then they have the chutzpah to hide behind their imaginary buddy (hey, psst – yeah, you! We can see you…because there’s NOBODY THERE, you delusional freaks!).

This is irritating and tiresome. We’re in the 21st century already: this is a non-debate.

The good news is, that our first black president has ‘flip-flopped’ on the issue.

President Obama today announced that he now supports same-sex marriage, reversing his longstanding opposition amid growing pressure from the Democratic base and even his own vice president.

In an interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts, the president described his thought process as an "evolution" that led him to this decision, based on conversations with his staff members, openly gay and lesbian service members, and his wife and daughters.

"I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that 'don't ask, don't tell' is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married," Obama told Roberts in an interview to appear on ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday.

I find this to be worth some cautious celebration. Obama is still a Christian, after all: and he has vacillated on this issue; pro gay marriage in 1996, against it in 2004, and changing stances between 2009 and the present.

One of the worst litmus tests of our society, is that elected officials commit political suicide if they change their minds on an issue. This is almost tantamount (for them) to being caught making out with a gay person after strenuously pursuing anti-homosexual rhetoric and legislation. It is considered hypocrisy of the highest order.

Changing one’s mind after weighing the facts and evidence should be allowable, and usually it is. Scientists do it regularly. Any rational person would agree to these premises. But politicians? Sorry, not allowed.  

Somehow, sheer bull-headedness seem to be hallmarks of both the religious and the political: and if ever the twain intertwine, it becomes a Gordian knot that has only one solution.

Till the next post, then.


Saturday, May 05, 2012

Kidnapped For Christ–More Proof The Religious Are Delusional

Cross-posted @ the Atheist Oasis

The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing, that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called reverend. – Christopher Hitchens, on Jerry Falwell.

Here’s more proof that Christians are among the weirdest wackjobs around:

Crazy Church In Pennsylvania Kidnaps Teens To Teach Them A Lesson

There are some parts of the country that are filled with religious centers.  It almost seems like the churches outnumber the residents.  Members of these communities check their day jobs at the door of the church as they walk in.  Sometimes they check their sanity at the door too.
This was most clearly the case in Middletown, Pennsylvania at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God.  Members of this particular church decided it would be a great idea to kidnap the teenagers--at gunpoint--and take them to their pastors house.  The would be assailants then pretended to assault the pastor.  At no point did the children know what was going on, and many of them left the exercise traumatized and bruised.     
The ramifications could be huge for the church.  False imprisonment of a minor can carry a 10 year prison sentence.
I have had the privilege of driving through the great town of Middletown, PA.  It is a very nice place.  That being said, there isn't a a whole lot to do for entertainment in Middletown.  I guess they have resorted to kidnapping children for fun. 
Ok, maybe it wasn't for "fun," but the excuse the church gives is weak.  They claim the exercise is used to show the kids what it is like to be a persecuted Christian missionary.
They probably could have gotten their point across the legal way by just showing the youth group the film "The Passion of the Christ."  Eh, the legal way is too boring for the folks of Glad Tidings.  They go hard.

One would think the church, when confronted with the legal ramifications of their actions, would apologize profusely for their actions.  Nope.  The pastor of Glad Tidings, Andrew Jordan, says he will continue the exercise despite complaints.  Rest assured, Andrew does however promise to get parental permission next time.  I'm sure the justice system of Pennsylvania will feel much better now.

I hope somebody talks some sense into the good people of Good Tidings.  What they are doing is a terrible idea and it could land someone behind bars if they aren't careful.  Having a system of faith is great, but there is a certain degree of common sense that is lacking among a large portion of the religious population.  We need to start putting the rule of law, and our American values of freedom and fairness back in the forefront of our decision-making.

Accurate though it may be, if you read between the lines, it gets even more infuriating.

One would think the church, when confronted with the legal ramifications of their actions, would apologize profusely for their actions.

Wait, nobody was arrested? Of course not: it turns out one of the main wackjobs is a cop:

WHTM also reported the man who "kidnapped" the teens was an off-duty cop, using a real, but unloaded, gun.

And what does the witch-doctor-in-charge say?

In the midst of potential legal ramifications, Andrew Jordan, the church's pastor, told WHPTV he will still continue to carry out this lesson, but he will ask for parental permission.

It is a sad state of affairs for any country, that the only time people get a free pass on this sort of behavior, is when they hide beneath the umbrella of the delusional. Had it been anyone else besides a religious cult doing this, we would be able to hear the bars of the cell slam shut on them.

But instead the populace sings paeans to this poop: oh, to believe, to bathe in the self-indulgences of belief as if it were bubble bath; to become all warm and squishy inside at the thought of societally approved mental masturbation.

It is to weep, at the idiocy of others.

(As an aside, I searched assiduously for the video for the episode Pier Pressure, where George Bluth Sr. used a one armed man to scare the shit out of his pre-pubescent kids to ‘teach them a lesson’, but could only come up with the video above: I felt, however, that it was still quite illustratory.)

Till the next post, then.