The Problem With Conservative American Christians


Ok, let’s be honest; they have several problems. Their desire to cram their religion down everyone’s throats, their constant efforts at blocking gay marriage, their high levels of hypocrisy, their constant ignoring of Jesus’ teachings about the poor, etc. But I’m going to talk about one in particular, and that’s their constant, endless whining about how oppressed they are. How, despite their religion being, by far, the mostly widely-practiced in the country, and despite how powerful they tend to be, they’re somehow still under non-stop threat from someone, somewhere, somehow.

The most recent bits of this that comes to mind are the various attempts at passing laws allowing people to discriminate against gays by saying their religion says they should. This is done under the guise of protecting Christianity from a threat that doesn’t really exist. The fascinating thing is that while Christianity isn’t even remotely under threat here in the United States, there are large parts of the world where it very much is.

Take for example Malaysia. The courts there have just ruled that the Arabic word “Allah” is reserved only for the use of Muslims. Now the word, translated into English, simply means “god”. An English-speaking Muslim might say “Allah”, but they could, and sometimes do, say “God”. But in Malaysia, only Muslims may now use the word “Allah” when referring to their god.

Now it’s worth noting that the God of Islam is the same one as the Jewish God and the Christian God. Islam venerates Moses, Abraham, Jesus and Mary. But apart from any theological ignorance that this ruling displays, it’s also very much an example of actual, real persecution against Christians. And yet, what do you want to bet that if I turned on CNN, and they actually covered this story for more than 30 seconds before breaking away to talk about their documentary series on the 1960s, they wouldn’t have a single right-wing Christian American politician on to condemn Malaysia for their actions?

That isn’t even going into the horrible levels of persecution against Christians in places like China and North Korea, or those against Christians in our greatest ally ever, ever, Saudi Arabia. There, we find two cities that non-Muslims can’t even enter, and Christians are severely limited in how they can practice their faith. Converting from Islam to Christianity, in that country, which I remind you, is an American ally, is punishable by death. I don’t recall hearing any of the right-wing Christian conservative commentators bitching about this lately.

Of course, actual oppression abroad isn’t as “sexy” as fake oppression here at home. Fighting against actual oppression won’t get you votes, for one thing. It also requires actual hard, difficult effort to fix, with sacrifices along the way (ie: if we started really putting the pressure on Saudi Arabia, one imagines problems with the oil supply). Fighting against fake oppression is way easier, because even if you lose, you win. All you have to do is win by saying, “Well, that’s our modern secular society for you! Give us money so we can continue the fight!”

Ultimately the problem with conservative American Christians, is that they care solely about restoring this country to what they view as a bucolic, 1950s-style nation. They won’t, they never can, and the nation they want us to become never existed. But they’ll continue the fight, because if there’s one thing religion is good at, it’s flying in the face of reality.

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Really, Sarah?


We all know Sarah Palin is a fucking lunatic who doesn’t understand…well, a lot of things. Let’s focus on two. She doesn’t understand justice as it is practiced in the United States, and clearly she doesn’t understand the religion she claims to believe in. Why do I say this? Because she said this:

“Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”

Well, super. First off, waterboarding is torture. We killed Japanese officers after World War II because they used it on our soldiers. The Gestapo were fans, too. So Sarah Palin is on the same side of history as the Nazis. And, no, this isn’t a Godwin case; it is, in fact, a valid comparison. Also, while not specified by her, since I doubt she would understand the distinction, when the US tortured people by using waterboarding (those last eight words were rather hard for me to type, it must be said), we used it not on people who had been convicted of terrorist acts, but simply on suspects. I’m sure Palin and her crowd don’t care.

Second, the baptism comment. Now, look, I’m not Christian. Never have been, never will be. But even I understand the symbolism behind baptism and its importance in Christian mythology. The idea that baptism, which is one of the most sacred rights to almost every Christian throughout history, is something that should be used as a form of torture is something that should anger and piss off basically every Christian out there.

But Palin isn’t a Christian, not really. She’s what Andrew Sullivan likes to call a Christianist, which I think is a pretty accurate description. She also clearly isn’t a true American, because no true American would stand for the idea of our nation being a nation of torture. Yes, I’m basically describing everyone who supports our country torturing people as unpatriotic garbage.

Franciscum Pontificem Maximum Salutate!


505px-Card._Jorge_Bergoglio_SJ,_2008

We shall see. The cardinals have picked Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to be their new pope. He’s taken the papal name Pope Francis, becoming the first pope to use that name. I wish him the best of luck. He’s inheriting quite a mess.

As for what sort of pope I think he’s likely to be, well, we do know a few things about him. He’s not big on the gays, but he made headlines washing the feet of AIDS patients. We also know that he’s apparently a very humble, decent man, who moved out of the cardinal’s residence in Argentina and into a small apartment where he cooked his own meals. He’s also a Jesuit, he’s from Argentina and, beyond that, I don’t know much about him. I hope he’s better than Benny 16.

It’s also worth noting that, despite what CNN has said twice, Francis will not be the first non-European pope. Quite apart from Peter, there were also three African popes (Victor I, Miltiades, who may have been black, and Gelasius I). Francis is the first American pope, the first Latin American pope, the first South American pope, the first Jesuit pope, the first Francis, the first New World pope…but he is not the first non-European pope.

At any rate, I do hope that Francis winds up being everything that a humanist like me would hope for with a pope. Time will tell. It always does. Good luck, Francis!

Papam Non Habemus


Worst troll doll ever.

Worst troll doll ever.

The world is popeless, and all the better for it. Well, not technically popeless, as there are a couple other popes out there, but the Catholic one, Pope Gollum Pope Palpatine Pope Benedict XVI, aka Joe Ratzinger, aka Joey the Rat, has stepped down from office. Yes, we’re in what Christopher Hitchens liked to describe as one of those rare times when no one on Earth is infaliable, and as you can see from the tone here, I’m not above firing a few parting shots at the bastard as he flies off to “retirement”.

And make no mistake, this seems to very much be “retirement”, since he’s going to be called Pope Emeritus, will (eventually), live at the Vatican, be called “his Holiness”, wear everything he’s worn before except the Papal Ring and those stylish red shoes, and will be served by the exact same secretary who will also be serving the new pope. That won’t help but cast a shadow of suspicion over whoever ends up seated on the throne next.

Benny 16 must be classed as a failure pope (please note, that article I linked to is written by a Catholic), in almost every way possible. He came into office hoping to restore the power of the church in Europe, and left it in tatters, with the church severely wounded in his native Germany and collapsing like a house of cards in Ireland, the last major Catholic stronghold in Northern Europe. That, of course, is nothing compared with the child rape crimes that he helped cover up as head of what used to be called the Inquisition. There he went out of his way, under the direction of John Paul II, to do everything he could in order to protect the church, and not its young victims. Of course it’s a given that he’s also furthered the church’s stand against homosexuality, female ordination, married priests and condom use, even among married people to prevent HIV transmitting from one spouse to the other.

Whomever the next pope will be (and my guess is he will be a black African, making him the fourth African to hold the office), he’s likely to continue Benedict’s efforts at dragging the church kicking and screaming back to the time of St. Augustine. One part of me says good; further alienating the church from its members in Europe, North America, Australia and, increasingly, in South America is only to the benefit of the world. But the other part thinks it’s a pity that one of the oldest organizations in the world-an organization I famously disagree with and loathe (see also here, here, and here), on every level-is unable to evolve (something that the church believes in, btw), and focus on the benefits, both temporal and spiritual, that it gives its people.

But at least Benny 16 is officially gone, and thank goodness. The man will never face trial like I want him to, but resigning is the next best thing.

The Jesus’ Wife Thing


The story of this one just won’t go away. Now the Vatican is stepping forward to say that a recently unearthed fragment of papyrus that has Jesus apparently mentioning a wife is most likely a fake. Eh.

I meant to write about this one sooner. I have no doubt that the papyrus fragment is probably actually a real bit of papyrus from the 4th century and that it does indeed mean to imply that Jesus was married. But so what? There’s no great significance here. It doesn’t prove that Jesus was married or anything like that. The only thing, in fact, that it proves is that someone, 1,700 years ago, wrote down something about Jesus having a wife. For all we know, this was an early attempt at slash fiction.

Beyond that, I really just don’t care. Jesus was almost certainly fictional, and so to me this is like arguing over whether Voldemort was married. But even if Jesus was real and if he was married, so what? It doesn’t really make a difference now does it? Christians are going to continue to believe whatever they want to believe, and I will continue to look forward to the day that Christianity, along with all the other world religions, fades away into a quaint sort of custom that’s about as widespread as, say, the Amish are today.

Religious Extremists Refuse to Play with Girls!


Earlier today, a group of religious extremists who believe women are inherently inferior and don’t deserve the same rights as men, refused to play in a championship game against another team because that team has a girl playing for them. You might wonder where these guys are from that they have this sort of attitude. Yemen, you think, or perhaps Afghanistan? Nope, it’s right here in the good ole USA. Arizona, in fact. And the religious zealots in this case aren’t Muslim, they’re Christians. Not even a weird Christian cult (well, no weirder than any other, anyhow). No, they’re Catholics.

What a pack of dumb-asses. Forfeiting your chance to see how good your baseball team really is because it means playing against a team that has eight males on the field and one female. It’s not like they’re being forced to wear condoms during the game, or listen to the girl recite Bible verses as she runs the bases. No, merely being on the same field as her is apparently a sin. At least a venal one, and possibly mortal.

These kids lost by virtue of not playing, and their stupid, backward, superstitious, sexist attitude means they’re going to lose at a whole lot more than just baseball.

Christianity in Crisis


Go have a look at Andrew Sullivan’s latest article on Christianity. It’s very fascinating, even if I do disagree with some of his fundamental points. For example:

The thirst for God is still there. How could it not be, when the profoundest human questions—Why does the universe exist rather than nothing? How did humanity come to be on this remote blue speck of a planet? What happens to us after death?—remain as pressing and mysterious as they’ve always been?

Much as I love Sully, I must disagree here. Of his three questions, we’re not sure of the first one, and we’re quite sure of the second, and the third remains what is has always been: “nothing, unless you can prove otherwise.” These questions are only really mysterious if you want them to be.