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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

I haven’t read anything before about it, because quite frankly one does get tired of reading about sexual abuse and the Catholic Church. But this article is well worth a read as it describes just how fucked up the church is, and the existing pope.

And when you think about the Church’s ridiculous obsession with homosexuality and abortion, articles like these just make you scratch your head.

I have a hard time respecting any of the benefits such a church could possibly have when I read something like this.

The priest at the center of a German sexual-abuse scandal that has embroiled Pope Benedict XVI continued working with children for more than 30 years, even though a German court convicted him of molesting boys.

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Quote for the day

I can’t even grasp how wrong it is that a man who murders and feels no remorse for it can say without hesitation:

“It isn’t our duty to take life, it’s our heavenly father’s.”

Complete self-delusion.

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The Party of Assholes

I am loath to blog about the worst of the worst wingnuts like Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Lynn Cheney and Glenn Beck. I mean what’s the point? Their assholeishness is hardly something so subtle that it needs a blogger (let alone thousands of them) to point out.

Nonetheless what is truly disgusting lately is the glee with which these assholes seem to treat human tragedy. Can there be any doubt after the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day how much these jerks want a terrorist attack to happen? They treated the attempt as a Christmas Day present to themselves and their ideology. They jumped right away with how Obama couldn’t keep us safe and launched a coordinated effort of historical revision regarding attacks during the Bush presidency. One wonders how much more excited they would be if this guy succeeded?

And now we have a human tragedy of catestrophic proportions. A poor country that has suffered for so many years gets kicked while it is already down with a natural disaster. And how do these guys react? What compassion do these “saviors of family values” give us? You have to know that Pat Robertson woke up to the news excited that God had finally put the nail in the coffin of this heretic country. And how about Limbaugh? Don’t give any money in aid to Haiti because we already do that through income tax. It’s not enough that you are an asshole Limbaugh, you have to try to influence others to behave like you.

What is there to say to all this? I apologize for this rant but these guys are truly evil. How else to explain their utter joy at so much tragedy around us.

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The Year of the Flood

I just finished Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood. I was surprised after I began reading it to find that it is a companion piece to Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and it includes many of the same characters and the same events only from different perspectives.

Honestly, I think Oryx and Crake is a much better book. The plot is tight whereas The Year of the Flood is really all over the place with a lot of magical coincidence (I just made that up).

One particular aspect about the book interested me quite a bit. In Oryx and Crake, we see a character try to create a perfect species. In The Year of the Flood, there is the attempt to create a perfect religion.

Atwood is taking this religion on the road with her oddly enough. The songs she wrote for the book are performed on tour by a choir. She also mentions in her acknowledgments that she has celebrated one of the feast days of the religion with her partner.

It is funny isn’t it that religion can be consciously created? You can will yourself into a new religion. I remember once when I was taking Classics in college my professor mentioned a man who had tried to adopt Greek mythology as his religion. He celebrated the right events and prayed to the appropriate gods based on what he wanted to accomplish. He found that he actually started to believe and would instinctively call out to certain gods without even thinking about it.

In The Year of the Flood a character does not believe in the religion that she is a member of, yet she continues the ritual despite that. By the end of the book we have indications that on some level she believes, and there are some events that could be construed as miracles which prove her religion.

Perhaps all religions begin this way.

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Two short observations

Pat Robertson on NPR speaking about Oral Roberts’ 1987 plea to his supporters that they donate money to his church or God would kill him:

It was unseemly. We all have a mole or a wart somewhere in our lives.

What do you mean it was unseemly? He said God told him that he was going to kill him if he didn’t raise the money. Are you insinuating that Oral Roberts was lying? Is it so common for televangelists to lie that you can use that word unseemly instead?

Second observation of the day.

A new provision being rolled into the unified House health care bill would allow young adults to stay on their parents’ health care plans until they turn 27, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Tuesday.

I think it says a lot about the state of this country’s health insurance problems that reform involves infantilizing adults in order to get them covered. And how classist is this anyway? This is a big benefit for upper middle class families who sent their kids off to college when their kids have not yet found work that includes benefits. Baristas anyone? What about poor 27 year olds? Chances are their parents don’t have insurance either. What a bunch of crap. Full disclosure: I was on my parents’ insurance until I was 23 years old.

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With all of this talk about someone forging a Kenyan birth certificate for Obama, I was reminded of a fascinating article I read many years ago in the Guardian.

Mark Hofman was a really good forger. He conducted careful research and he chose his victims well. They were people who bought the forgeries because they wanted to believe they were real. Or in the case of the Mormon Church, the church wanted to destroy “real” documents which contradicted existing Mormon Orthodox. They made their purchases to destroy the documents. Here is an excerpt. The whole article is a great read.

The man he was describing is no ordinary murderer. Poetry and literature were the accomplices in his crimes; parchment and ink the tools of his trade. His name is Mark Hofmann and, until he was incarcerated, he was America’s greatest literary forger: a man who combined obsessive historical research, extraordinary craftsmanship and an unerring instinct for what his customers wanted. Two years ago, one of those forgeries, a masterfully-executed poem by the much-loved American poet Emily Dickinson, who died in 1886, turned up at Sotheby’s, New York, where it was sold for $21,000 to the Jones Library, in Dickinson’s home town, Amherst, Massachusetts.

“I thought: this is just extraordinary,” says Daniel Lombardo, the former curator of special collections at the Jones Library, recalling the moment when he first saw the poem in Sotheby’s catalogue for its June 1997 auction of fine books and manuscripts. “A complete poem, not a fragment of a poem. In my recollection, it had been decades since a poem came up this way.”

And part two is here.

Update: It occurred to me that an excerpt of the Mormon bit of the article might stir some interest.

Forging coins had taught him two lessons: that things have no intrinsic value, and that people will believe what they want to believe. The Church of the Latter Day Saints was the perfect victim. Since its beginnings, in 1863, it has been a religion in search of authentication. The hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of documents that Hofmann sold to the church were faith-promoting documents of the highest order. They included the earliest known Mormon artefact – a letter from the mother of the church’s founder, Joseph Smith – and the last: a letter written by Smith from jail just before he was murdered.

Hofmann’s real intention, however, was to destroy the faith he despised. Like a virus planted in a computer, he began to feed the Church of Latter Day Saints with documents that called into question some of the fundamental tenets of the faith. His most famous forgery came to be known as The White Salamander Letter. In it, Hofmann portrayed the Mormon church’s prophet, Joseph Smith, as a money-grubbing gold prospector who dabbled in black magic. Instead of angelic inspiration, he invented a diabolic, talking lizard. The Mormon Church bought the document for $250,000, and locked it away so that no one would see it.

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Today we hear another case of random yet targeted violence in the shooting at the Holocaust Museum in D.C. Random, because the perpetrator didn’t know the museum security guard who he killed. But targeted, because the perpetrator, a white supremacist, chose to kill someone at a museum which documents the genocide of millions of Jews during World War II.

And once again I am reminded of the poem “The Hangman” by Maurice Ogden. In the poem the hangman comes to town and at first he hangs a man from outside the town. The town breathes a sigh of relief. But the next day the hangman hangs someone from the town. Then another and another. Sometimes the hangman comes up with justifications like calling one of his victims an infidel. At the end there is no one left to save the narrator of the poem when he too is chosen by the hangman for death.

Should you worry about these crazy right-wing radicals who if not directly responsible for the violence are at least lending moral and financial support to the ones who are. If Operation Rescue were a Muslim charity, their accounts would have been seized a while ago.

Should you worry?

I’m not an abortion provider you might say. I’m not a Jew. I’m not gay. I’m not a black man running for president of the United States. I’m not a Latina woman nominated for the Supreme Court. I don’t need to worry.

Well you should.

Who was killed? A security guard who was just doing his job. Think of Naveed Haq who permanently wounded a 23-year old receptionist at the Jewish Federation in Seattle. Layla Bush was not Jewish. She too just needed a job. John Lotter and Marvin Thomas Nissen, in order to enact revenge on transsexual Brandon Teena, also killed 24-year-old Lisa Lambert and 19-year-old Phillip DeVine. Gay city supervisor Harvey Milk was shot along with mayor George Moscone.

You should care. You should really care.

THE HANGMAN

By Maurice Ogden

Into our town the hangman came,
smelling of gold and blood and flame.
He paced our bricks with a different air,
and built his frame on the courthouse square.

(more…)

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When evangelicals on the right call President Obama a socialist, a racist, anti-American, an abortionist, not a real American, and, echoing the former Vice President, someone who is weakening America’s defenses and making us less safe, the logical conclusion is violence. If you take these words literally you might pull the trigger to “make America safe” and/or free us from communism or to even protect us from — what some “Christian” leaders claim — Obama as the Antichrist. – Frank Schaeffer

I first heard of Frank Schaeffer listening to Fresh Air where he was promoting his book Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All — or Almost All — of It Back. He had a hilarious moment in the interview where he described that his whole family was close to the Bush’s. When George W., then governor of Texas, announced his intention run for President, Schaeffer’s mother called him frantically. She said I that she just couldn’t believe the news. She said, “Barbara is always calling me up and saying pray for George, nothing really ever works out for him”.

The top quote is from a piece called “How I (and Other “Pro-Life” Leaders) Contributed to Dr. Tiller’s Murder.” I am pretty much speechless about this act of terrorism on Dr. Tiller. Maybe I can form words later.

Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All — or Almost All — of It Back

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Circumcision should be routinely considered as a way to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections, argue US experts.

They spoke out after research found circumcision significantly cut the risk of infection with herpes and the cancer-causing human papillomavirus.

Circumcision is known to sharply reduce the risk of HIV infection.

But the study, featured in the New England Journal of Medicine, failed to convince UK experts.

Yeah, no kidding. People in Africa must think Americans are a strange people given their obsession with (pardon the following) surgically removing the foreskins of an entire continent of men.  I loved this quote from the BBC.

Dr Colm O’Mahony, a sexual health expert from the Countess of Chester Foundation Trust Hospital in Chester, said the US had an “obsession” with circumcision being the answer to controlling sexually transmitted infections.

Is there some sort of circumcision lobby of doctors who perform this procedure on (gulp) adult men? If so, can I buy stock in it? This is bordering on pathological.

Dr O’Mahony also said pushing circumcision as a solution sent the wrong message.

“It suggests that it is women who infect innocent men – let’s protect the innocent men.

“And it allows men who don’t want to change their irresponsible behaviour to continue to sleep around and not even use a condom.”

Exactly. And just a reminder that Africans aren’t falling for it.

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headline2

It’s pretty obvious that America has some serious problems. None of which have to do with gay marriage or abortion or name your own wedge issue. Alabama, Los Angeles. These daily massacres are starting to become commonplace.

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No, not really. But not implausible.

Picture and the history of South Carolina’s flag is at Wikipedia.

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A friend once told me that if I wanted to brought down from my temporary high of Barack Obama’s election and what it said about America, to just look take a look at the Department of Homeland Security’s website. It did the trick.

This is perhaps an even more potent tonic. How can you defend a country full of people like this?

Darwin still making waves 200 years later

A century and a half later, the legacy of history’s most noted naturalist continues to make headlines.

After a contentious debate, the Texas Board of Education is set to vote in March on how evolution should be taught in the state’s public schools. Last week, actor-comedian Ben Stein backed out of giving a commencement speech at the University of Vermont because of student complaints about his views challenging the theory of evolution.

The most recent Gallup poll on the issue, conducted in May, found that only 14 percent of Americans believe that humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. Forty-four percent believe that God created human beings almost overnight within the past 10,000 years, and another 36 percent believe that God guided humans’ evolution from animals over a much longer period of time.

“The problem is, there are a number of fundamental people on both the left and the right extremes,” said Michael Zimmerman, founder of the Clergy Letter Project, which seeks to find common ground between scientists and the clergy.

Yeah, those extreme scientists. Who do they think they are explaining the world, finding cures for diseases and all. I sure wouldn’t want to be in a room with one of those crazies.

Evolution is only contentious because American fundamentalists make it so. There are plenty of religious countries around the world where you don’t see these statistics.

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I’ve always thought religious extremism was really the same all over the world if you swap out the religion with another. Pete Sessions (R-TX):

“Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban,” Sessions said during a meeting yesterday with Hotline editors. “And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person’s entire processes. And these Taliban — I’m not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban. No, that’s not what we’re saying. I’m saying an example of how you go about [sic] is to change a person from their messaging to their operations to their frontline message. And we need to understand that insurgency may be required when the other side, the House leadership, does not follow the same commands, which we entered the game with.” […]

When pressed to clarify, Sessions said he was not comparing the House Republican caucus to the Taliban, the Muslim fundamentalist group. “I simply said one can see that there’s a model out there for insurgency,” Sessions said before being interrupted by an aide.

Via  ThinkProgress.

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Via SeattlePI:

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Still snowed in

I’m loving staying at home. Watched Alexander Nevsky last night. Great film.

In today’s news I notice that the Pope is going on about his favorite target: the gays. Christ, that guy thinks about sex a lot. Which I suppose is understandably since he’s supposed to not be having any, but really? Isn’t Christmas just two days away? You’d think he’d have plenty to talk about in regard to the birth of Jesus Christ. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Gay groups and activists have reacted angrily after Pope Benedict XVI said that mankind needed to be saved from a destructive blurring of gender.

Speaking on Monday, Pope Benedict said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was as important as protecting the environment.

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One of our holiday traditions is seeing The Tudor Choir at Christmas. The music of this choral group speaks for itself. Embedding has been disabled, but if  you’d like to get a taste of it click here.

This year the Tudor Choir is doing a few concerts in the area including Christmas Carols at the Blessed Sacrament Church in the University District on December 27th, which I’ll be at. You can actually get into this concert for free since it is at a church, but I always buy tickets because I feel guilty. I’m not exactly religious but I love early music.

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Mormons surprise me

Here’s an article from the Salt Lake City Tribune about how the LDS is fighting to get gay marriage banned in California.

The LDS Church’s campaign to pass Proposition 8 represents its most vigorous and widespread political involvement since the late 1970s, when it helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. It even departs from earlier efforts on behalf of traditional marriage, in which members felt more free to decide their level of involvement.

This time, LDS leaders have tapped every resource, including the church’s built-in phone trees, e-mail lists and members’ willingness to volunteer and donate money. Many California members consider it a directive from God and have pressured others to participate. Some leaders and members see it as a test of faith and loyalty.

Why am I surprised by this? I have had relatively large contact with Mormons both in high school and later when I worked various jobs in California. Honestly the Mormons I met were some of the nicest people I’ve ever come in contact with. In high school they were the smartest kids and usually very popular. On the other hand they weren’t mean like many of the other popular kids.

Call me biased but when I read about fundamentalist Christians in America I get scared. I’ve never felt that way about Mormons. My impression is that they are not trying to take over the country in the same way the Focus on the Family fundies do.

So I admit I am perplexed by this latest effort in California. Why would a marginalized group support the marginalization of another group? It just doesn’t make sense to me and it doesn’t fit in with the kindness that I have witnessed from Mormons over the years. It is sad for me to think about this church in this new way.

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McCain supporters ask this question to the guy giving out Obama/Islam bumper stickers.

The strategy is not working guys. You’re going to have to talk about the issues.

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Really, what hope do we have of defending ourselves from a terrorist attack if the evil doers out there can infiltrate the Catholic church as apparently happened in 1982.

The late Pope John Paul was wounded by a knife-wielding priest in 1982, a year after he was shot in St Peter’s Square, but the injury was kept secret, his former top aide says in a documentary film.

A crazed ultra-conservative Spanish priest, Juan Fernandez Krohn, lunged at the pope with a dagger and was knocked to the ground by police and arrested. The fact that the knife actually reached the pope and cut him was not known until now.

“I can now reveal that the Holy Father was wounded. When we got back to the room (in the Fatima sanctuary complex) there was blood,” Dziwisz says in the documentary.

Truly fascinating. They’re everywhere.

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Via Matt Yglesias.

I’m not sure I understand what the purpose of this sign is. Do they think they are going to bring parishioners to the pews with that kind of sign? Most people go to church because they find it uplifting.

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As a graduate of University of California, I’m quite pleased that UC has refused to allow credit to college preparatory courses that do not prepare you for college. Why a parent would want to handicap their child’s education and future because of religious ideology is a mystery. Maybe they worry that their religious instruction just doesn’t stand up to critical thinking.

A federal judge says the University of California can deny course credit to applicants from Christian high schools whose textbooks declare the Bible infallible and reject evolution.

Rejecting claims of religious discrimination and stifling of free expression, U.S. District Judge James Otero of Los Angeles said UC’s review committees cited legitimate reasons for rejecting the texts – not because they contained religious viewpoints, but because they omitted important topics in science and history and failed to teach critical thinking.

Gee, maybe the Christians would have won the lawsuit if they actually had the ability to critically think, you know, present an argument based on observable facts.

But Otero said in March that the university has approved many courses containing religious material and viewpoints, including some that use such texts as “Chemistry for Christian Schools” and “Biology: God’s Living Creation,” or that include scientific discussions of creationism as well as evolution.

UC denies credit to courses that rely largely or entirely on material stressing supernatural over historic or scientific explanations, though it has approved such texts as supplemental reading, the judge said.

For example, in Friday’s ruling, he upheld the university’s rejection of a history course called Christianity’s Influence on America. According to a UC professor on the course review committee, the primary text, published by Bob Jones University, “instructs that the Bible is the unerring source for analysis of historical events” and evaluates historical figures based on their religious motivations.

Another rejected text, “Biology for Christian Schools,” declares on the first page that “if (scientific) conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong,” Otero said.

Via Balloon Juice.

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Damn straight. Solving the AIDS crisis via circumcision is like removing your tonsils so you won’t get the flu. We hear a lot about the ignorance of Africans in regards to AIDS. Well the elders of this village are contradicting that. They know better.

Elders from Kenya’s Luo community in western Kenya have refused to endorse a plan to promote male circumcision to curb the spread of HIV/Aids.

Traditionally, the Luo community does not practice circumcision, unlike some other Kenyan communities.

About 2.5 million of 32 million Kenyans are currently living with HIV/Aids.

A high prevalence of HIV/Aids has been recorded among the Luo community and experts blame this on cultural practices, such as the practice of wife inheritance.

According to the custom, a widow is remarried by a brother-in-law or a suitor chosen by village elders.

Policy

The BBC’s Muliro Telewa in Kisumu says the elders are not convinced that circumcision lowers the risk of infection.

The elders are afraid that some men will think that being circumcised is an alternative to using condoms, which will put them at a higher risk of infection, our correspondent says.

I take that back; the elders are brilliant!

I just have this horrible idea that years from now when some of these men start to realize the effects of adult circumcision, they’re going to be pretty mad at the people who maimed them in the name of religion disguised as science. I would be.

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Evolution

Here’s a shout out to a great post on the wordpress blog Later On. Anyone interested in evolution, creationism or science should take a look.

“Ask and it shall be given,” as Jesus said. You have asked (repeatedly) for transitional forms in the fossil record, and more and more are found. These provide strong evidence of Evolution, which I assume you will now accept.

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The Young Turks.

Via Politico.

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