Random thoughts, dubious rants, curiosities and worthy citations on the media, politics, marketing, music, inanity, and animals, among other things. Words and pictures and stuff, mostly from south central Wisconsin USA
There are somewhere around 13% of US citizens that identify as atheists or nonthiests... people who do not believe in a god or other supreme deity or what have you. Closer to 16% claim no religious affiliation. And well over half think religion shouldn't play a roll in politics. Of those who do hold a religious affiliation, only about one third see their church membership as being conservative. (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life).
Of course, given that the Republican Senate caucus sees 41% as a controlling majority these days, I guess it stands to reason that the religious right wing zealots would freak out that staffers in the Obama administration would have the unmitigated gall to meet with a group of nontheist -- atheist -- "don't buy into a god thing" leaders. Because those godless people are haters, don't you know.
"It is one thing for Administration to meet with groups of varying viewpoints,
but it is quite another for a senior official to sit down with activists
representing some of the most hate-filled, anti-religious groups in the nation,"
says In God We Trust's Chairman Bishop Council Nedd.
And, to be fair, guys like the good Bishop know hate when they see it. Hell, they have brought hate to an art form. They own the franchise rights to hating gays, hating a woman's right to control her own body, hating people who have a god that isn't their god, hating people who say stuff like "Jesus was an Ethiopian (aka Black), hating contraception, hating sex ed in schools, and probably hating competing forms of hate. I think they invented self-loathing too... gotta give bonus props for that one.
So what's on the minds of those anti-god, atheistic haters that the religious right haters hate so much? ABC's Jake Tapper reports...
[Sean Faircloth, executive director of the Secular Coalition of America] said they would address three items: "religiously based child abuse
issues, so-called faith-healing" and religious child care being exempt
from some health and safety laws; the "pervasive" religious atmosphere
in the military and ways in which troops "with non-theistic views are
made to feel unwelcome"; and faith-based initiatives.
Hmmm. OK. So they want to talk about people who let their kids suffer and die by withholding basic medical treatment so as to let "god's will" take it's course. Yeah, that would appear to be a needless tragedy and therefore kind of a problem in the 21st Century... worth discussing. And these heathen haters want to talk about that unspoken "Go Our God, the Godliest God of All, or Go Home" military policy. This appears to be a reasonable issue for consideration, given the Constitution does seem to have provisions for both freedom of and from religion. And then there are those so-called "faith-based" initiatives that some might call cash giveaways to religious organizations. But, wait; don't those programs help people? (Sounds like socialism... insert drama sting here... but let's overlook that for now.) It appears reasonable to think that secular organizations should be able to administer some of that faith-funneled money too. Maybe they can call themselves names like The Church of Common Sense, if that will make it easier.
For a bunch of people who call themselves Christians, these buffoons really give Christianity a bad name. I remain convinced that the vast majority of people who identify as Christian are good, decent, and tolerant people. (And the Pew study seems to back that up.) But these few hardliners seem to want to speak for everybody... loudly and hatefully. Isn't that always the way? (Oddly, as we've learned, they also follow a "Do as I say, not as I do" kind of policy, but that too is for another time.)
Presuming there was a Jesus, and he was as loving and giving and selfless as he is made out to be, I have to think this crap makes him kind of mad... the way some people throw his name around and attach it to shit totally inconsistent with everything he stood for. Reminds me of a great t-shirt I saw.
It's a rare day when Bill Kristol is the person making some reasoned sense on FOX News Sunday...
Jeez. What happened to Hume to turn him into such a hack? Way back in his ABC News days, he was actually a pretty decent journalist. Now he just lets verbal diarrhea flow from his mouth and just looks and sounds like a fool. Did he have some sort of bran trauma? Maybe it's just the intoxicating effects of Rupert's money. Either way, sad.
I was baptized Methodist. Neither of my parents had a really good reason why they chose that brand of Christianity back in the late 1950s. It must not have been too solid a connection, because when I was about nine years old, they switched to the local Presbyterian church. (In the hotel business, I think they call that "reflagging.") The reason? The people were nicer, and it was the place known as The Village Church, as it was located in the center of our town.
I mean no disrespect to my late mother, especially on this the 27th anniversary of her death, but she was always brand conscious. Frankly the Village Church had a better social brand in the Village of Northbrook. So that's where we went, and where i was confirmed. And it was the last church I was a member of, with the relationship ending in 1974.
Perhaps this "church as brand choice" is partly why I claim no religious affiliation and instead identify as agnostic at best. A much bigger factor is the high level of hypocrisy that seems the be so pervasive in organized religion. Nowhere is that more apparent that the highly selective reading of the Bible as convenient support for things loathed, feared or misunderstood. Throw in the wealth of scientific evidence that is at odds with much of the Old Testament and, unfortunately, the world's best selling book really does belong in the fiction section.
That's not to say religion doesn't serve an important moral and social role. Churches offer support, guidance and fellowship that are genuinely important to some people. Many do great things in their communities, filling the gaps left by underfunded governments and uncaring people. Nevertheless, I just can't buy into the smiting and the water-into-wine and the did-it-in-seven-days creationism explanation. It's mostly, to me, a bunch of bull dukey.
Still, the number of people going to church regularly, and the number of people who say that religion is an important part of their lives, remains reasonably steady over the past decade. And that's great. I mean, honestly, if people can find strength from going to church, more power to them. For me, I don't feel the need the go to a church and rely on an interpretation of an interpretation of an interpretation of a holy book to help me out. I consider myself a spiritual person without the need for all the claptrap, hypocrisy, branded denigration of others not in the sect, and sanctimonious judgment of others.
Seems that I am not alone. Organized religion is losing it's relevance among Americans, according to Gallup...
PRINCETON, NJ -- Two-thirds of U.S. adults today perceive that the
influence of religion in American life is waning, while just 27%
believe it is rising. This represents a sharp decline in the image of
religion compared with only three years ago, when 50% thought its
influence was on an upswing, and marks one of the weakest readings on
the influence of religion in Gallup's five-decade history of asking the
To inject politics...
Given this historical context, it is possible that the recent decline
in perceptions that religion is increasing in influence is partially a
result of the decline of Republican political strength throughout
President George W. Bush's second term, a trend that was punctuated by
the election of Democrat Barack Obama last month.
Here, I think that religious fundamentalists, who are every bit as extreme in their views as the Muslim extremists they condemn, are partially at fault. To say that we are a nation founded on Christ, which is about as wrong as possible, doesn't sit too well with people who find religious tolerance to be a valuable social asset. Politicking from the pulpit and requiring religious litmus tests of candidates and judicial appointees defies our Constitutional foundation. Throw in the rank hypocrisy of sex scandals and the way the Republican Party has played Christian fundamentalists for suckers, and you don't have to look much further to understand why both the Republican party and religion itself are falling in perceived influence among U.S. citizens.
So here I sit, on Christmas, seemingly panning Christianity. But that's not it at all. I think that the vast majority of people who identify as Christian follow the basic teachings of Christ. They try to be good people. They look to be kind and helpful to those in need. They care about their neighbors. It's only when leaders, both political and religious, decide to marshal their followers for motivations that aren't all that Christ-like do things go astray. That's how we end up sadly witnessing poor people voting against things most potentially of benefit to... poor people. It's why Congress passes a health care bill that first and foremost looks after big for-profit insurance companies. It's why people will part with money to smooth talking preachers yet will continue to vote down bond issues to fund new school buildings or materials.
Mine is a minority view, to be sure. But I think we'd be a lot better off if people were a lot less religious and a lot more spiritual. One's organized. The other is personal. I like to think for myself, so I'll continue to opt for the latter.
That said, Merry Christmas. Most people have moved it at least half-way to a secular celebration anyway, and I'm all for a good celebration.
I'm not usually a fan of the opinions expressed in the Wall Street Journal. Its conservative voice is often at odds with the progressive agenda to which I subscribe. But not always.
Yesterday, in a surprising show of support, the WSJ carried about as well-articulated and direct an argument for gay marriage equality as any I have come across. Some of the writer's key passages are worth highlighting:
suggestion that marriages between people of different sexes may somehow
be threatened by marriages of people of the same sex does not withstand
discussion. It is difficult to the point of impossibility to envision
two love-struck heterosexuals contemplating marriage to decide against
it because gays and lesbians also have the right to marry; it is
equally hard to envision a couple whose marriage is troubled basing the
decision of whether to divorce on whether their gay neighbors are
married or living in a domestic partnership. ::: ...the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians is as much a
God-given characteristic as the color of their skin or the sexual
orientation of their straight brothers and sisters. It is also a
condition that, like race, has historically been subject to abusive and
often violent discrimination. It is precisely where a minority's basic
human rights are abridged that our Constitution's promise of due
process and equal protection is most vital. ::: Several states -- including Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts,
New Hampshire and Vermont -- have individually repealed their bans on
same-sex marriage as inconsistent with a decent respect for human
rights and a rational view of the communal value of marriage for all
individuals. But basic constitutional rights cannot depend on the
willingness of the electorate in any given state to end discrimination.
If we were prepared to consign minority rights to a majority vote,
there would be no need for a constitution. ::: There are those who sincerely believe that homosexuality is
inconsistent with their religion -- and the First Amendment guarantees
their freedom of belief. However, the same First Amendment, as well as
the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses, preclude the enshrinement
of their religious-based disapproval in state law.
The opinion was authored by David Bois, who with Ted Olson has brought a lawsuit asking the courts to now declare unconstitutional
California's Proposition 8 limitation of marriage to people of the
There will always be people who will not escape their own narrow-mindedness, find homosexuality abhorrent, and be steadfastly against gay marriage equality. If you look hard enough, especially in rural and southern areas, and among people of lesser education, you can still find people who show visible disgust and disdain for interracial couples. Things don't change overnight. But they do change.
As people become more informed, think more for themselves, and are exposed to the world beyond stereotypes, eventually gay marriage will be as common and acceptable an institution as traditional marriage. I just hope it is in my lifetime.
[Thanks to my good friend Dan for the link to the piece.]
Heathen that I am, I am reluctant to rely on Evangelical Christian explanations for much. But fortunately we have Betty Bowers, America's BEST Christian to explain what is and is not OK as far as marriage goes... according to the Bible.
[mad props to Joe My God and intrepid reader Eric for this faith-based explanation.]
AUGUSTA, Maine -- Maine's governor signed a freshly passed bill
Wednesday approving gay marriage, making it the fifth state to approve
the practice and moving New England closer to allowing it throughout
New Hampshire legislators were also poised to send a gay marriage
bill to their governor, who hasn't indicated whether he'll sign it. If
he does, Rhode Island would be the region's sole holdout.
The Maine Senate voted 21-13, with one absent, for a bill that
authorizes marriage between any two people rather than between one man
and one woman, as state law currently allows. The House had passed the
Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, who hadn't previously indicated how
he would handle the bill, signed it shortly afterward. In the past, he
said he opposed gay marriage but supported civil unions, which provide
many benefits of marriage.
I find it to be a real credit to Governor Baldacci's sense of the big picture that he quickly signed the bill into law, even though he had hoped to stop short at the inferior "separate but equal" concept of civil unions. He went along with what the people wanted, as demonstrated by their elected legislative representatives. Good on him.
Republican Sen. Debra Plowman of Hampden argued that the bill was being passed "at the expense of the people of faith."
"You are making a decision that is not well-founded," warned Plowman.
How's that, Senator Plowman? How will this change anything -- anything -- in how "people of faith" view, practice, and enjoy marriage (and it's companion, divorce)?
But Senate Majority Leader Philip Bartlett II said the bill does not compel religious institutions to recognize gay marriage.
"We respect religious liberties. ... This is long overdue," said Bartlett, D-Gorham.
Exactly. It changes nothing for people in terms of opposing religious factions. Well, almost nothing. It does strike a blow to their endeavors to impose their beliefs on the overall population. But that's why the United States Constitution gives us all the right to follow our own religious beliefs, even if those beliefs are secular.
Fairness and equality... what a concept. Thank you, people of Mane.
Normally, I don't like to drive any traffic to websites operated by crazy people, as it is either endorsing bad policy, encouraging idiots, or, in this case, giving the site the false impression that people support them. In this case, I have to make an exception.
A group of bigoted wingnuts pooled their money to produce a television spot that might be alarming to thinking people if it didn't seem to be a parody of bad issue advertising. On first look, the fake lightening and poorly delivered lines scream Saturday Night Live. But, no, it's meant to be straight (pun only partially intended) effort from the creepy National Organization for Marriage.
The NOM is ever so afraid of the gays, don't you know. Gay marriage will apparently be the downfall of the institution of marriage. Unfortunately for the NOMers, their attempt to make any sense of their untenable position was totally overshadowed by their laughable inability to defend their position. This reached its pinnacle yesterday when the audition tapes for the spot's casting were leaked. This development not only showed that the people portrayed as real Americans were actors, but that they were really, really bad actors. (I'm guessing their casting call went to non-union actors from local church theater groups.)
Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle has a great take on this...
My favorite part has got to be the lightning.
The fake lightning, that is, flashing just off to the side, a cheap 'n' cheesy special effect that momentarily lights up the actors' faces in the most sweetly melodramatic way as they stand there against the dark 'n' stormy backdrop like devout Christian zombies, delivering delightfully weird and wooden lines about being openly terrified of those openly terrifying gay married people. ::: The ads emphasize how the gays are moving closer to Christian homes, businesses, schools and genitalia, and many terrified citizens with souls the size of marbles clearly don't know what to do or how to protect their children -- or their crotches -- from the onslaught because, oh my God, I think I just saw two men kissing on the mouth! Help me, Jesus!
But something is different. Unlike the comparatively sophisticated Proposition 8 ads funded by huge amounts of Mormon "panic cash" here in California, these low-budget spots reek of something else, something a bit more briny and stale and, yes, ultimately enlightening.
Morford goes on to explain that that "something else" is desperation. He's right. The divide between the inclusionary and exclusionary, the tollerant and the intollerant are coming down. All kinds of polls show that while the country is split over gay marriage, this is a generational issue. As time marches on, more enlightened younger citizens will eventually overtake older, more socially ignorant citizens who just don't seem to get it. This is not unlike the movement to give women the right to vote or to allow inter-racial marriage.
Interestingly, the NOM site doesn't mention a thing that I can find about divorce. Seems to me that nothing kills a marriage more than... divorce. Maybe they'll get on that after they turn back homosexuality. I won't hold my breath.
UPDATE: Although the casting tape video got yanked from YouTube, it does live on in this clip from the Rachael Maddow show on MSNBC, beginning at about the 2:10 mark...
Calling those people "actors" is, indeed, very generous. Very, very generous.
I am NOT making light of pedophilia. I am, however, ridiculing the "Our Christian values are better than your sick, twisted ungodly values" Focus on the Family and the pedophiles they allegedly employ.
Seems the guy who is the voice of FOTF's Spanish Bible verse recordings found out -- the hard way -- that sometimes cops pose as 15-year-old girls to trap pedophiles.
A man who narrates Christian CDs has been arrested on suspicion of using the Internet to arrange sex with a teenage girl.
Juan Alberto Ovalle, 42, thought he was corresponding with a
girl under the age of 15, but instead it was undercover officers with
the Jefferson County district attorney's office, according to court
Ovalle works for a Spanish-speaking arm of the Colorado
Springs Christian group Focus on the Family and narrates Biblical text
for CDs, according to Internet websites that sell the products.
"We're shocked," said Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman with Focus
They're "shocked." Really? "Shocked?" I'm not. This is becoming kind of a regular thing these days over on the way religious right. Although mostly it's married men who are discovered to be closet cases, usually while in the company of a prostitute and/or ingesting some kind of illegal substance or something.
Now, why is that?
UPDATE: The arrest affidavit is not likely to be read in one of his Bible recordings.
When, years ago, Kodak used the song that scores this television ad from Swedish fashion house Björn Borg, the refrain's urge to show one's true colors was pretty much about creative expression. This time, it takes on a completely different meaning.
A lot of people, primarily Catholics but others who hide behind faith as a reason for unwarranted and hateful homophobia will likely portend to take great offense at what the clothier has to say. Me? I like it and wish more American companies would grow a spine and stand up for equality for all in the face of hate fueled by fundies and ignoramuses alike.
Kudos to the Björn Borg marketing folks for producing this spot and their ownership for having the balls to run it.