Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Criticizing the Extremists - Good or Bad?

Moderate believers often criticize atheists (and others, I suppose) for going after the extremists of their religion.  Even if they don't commit the No True Scotsman fallacy, they seem to suggest that only their kinder, gentler brand of [insert religion here] should be discussed.  After all, the fringes are irrelevant, aren't they?

As long as they don't bring up Stalin, we should be happy to return the favor.  Right?

Well.... we atheists were pretty quiet until 9/11/2001.  We thought the same thing about the extremists.  They were a little nutty but harmless, and after all they're a teensy minority.  Then 19 people changed the world.

Meanwhile, in January of 2001, a fundamentalist Christian president busily installed his fundy pals in executive branch offices.  The few of us who paid attention were quite worried about the future of our democracy.  Fundamentalist Christian comprise over 20 percent of Americans but are a huge and well-organized voting bloc that propels Republicans into office and takes office themselves.

Again, as long as they were merely being used by their puppeteers to put the oligarchical overlords into positions of power, they weren't a threat to religious freedom.  They only threatened good sense and good government. We'd survived bad government before, so what's the big whoop?

The big whoop is that secularism is under attack.  We are going after our attackers, not the bystanders.  If the bystanders don't like being swept into the umbrella designation of their religion, perhaps they should be the ones fighting the fundies.

We can't live in a society where fundamentalists have the power to change science curricula, take over government agencies, take over the military, or impose their religion on the rest of us in any way.  We can live in a society where the moderates go about their individual lives without causing anyone else any trouble.

Perhaps the moderates should be telling the fundies to stop denying evolution .... and geology and cosmology.  They should be telling the fundies to get out of government and stop grabbing political power.  They should tell them to take the commandment about telling lies more seriously, like stop calling America a "Christian Nation" or quoting the Declaration of Independence instead of the Constitution.

But they don't do it, so it's up to us.  We have more to lose.  The moderates are bit lazy, which is why they're moderates.  Being a fundy is hard work.  They have to go to church more than once a week, and read the Bible (at least the convenient parts) and worry about which of their neighbors they should hate.  They are complacent about the damage fundies can do.

American Christians feel superior to Islamic believers, which is a mistake.  Islamic moderates probably didn't use to worry about what fundamentalists would do if they took control.  How many Iranians in the 1970s expected to be suppressed after the Shah was deposed?  How many Egyptians are happy about the Muslim Brotherhood taking power now?

So... it's too bad that moderates feel they are unfairly maligned when reasonable people take issue with fundamentalists.  We're not the ones that created a messed up tangle of religious division.  We're the ones who struggled to get free from it.

But don't take my word for it, read this Washington Post blog op-ed:  It isn't just Islamic Fundamentalists...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bragging about child abuse? Pastor claims to have converted a kid by punching him

In other news:

Bullying Kids for Jesus:

A pastor at the Bible Baptist Church in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey is coming under fire after his church posted a video of him claiming to have converted a “smart aleck” youth by “punching him in the chest as hard as I could.”

Pastor Eric Dammann begins by saying that he met a young man in Calgary named “Ben,” who was “a nice kid, but one of those — he was a real smart aleck. He was a bright kid, which didn’t help things — made him more dangerous.”

“We were outside one day at youth group,” Dammann continues, “and he was just trying to push my buttons. He was just kind of not taking the Lord serious [sic].”

“So I walked over to him and went BAM! Punched him in the chest as hard as I could. I crumpled the kid. I just crumpled him.”

“Then I leaned over and said, ‘Ben, when are you going to stop playing games with God?’ I led that man to the Lord right there,” he concludes.

Isn't that charming? Here's the video where he brags about it:

Friday, January 9, 2015

Cartoonists Respond to the Charlie Hebdo Atrocity

I've seen a few of these around the web, but the best are all on this round-up:


How anyone could worship a god that can't take a joke is beyond me. Shouldn't Mohammed be able to brush off insults?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Child Abuse and Religion... Again.

Every time I think I've heard it all from religious nuts something new comes up.

This time the story comes from Florida, but the news is all about Charlie Hebdo, so I thought I'd pass it on.  On a quieter news day this would be the top story.

This man threw his 5-year-old daughter to her death from a highway bridge, and he doesn't want a court-appointed lawyer.  He wants to leave it "in God's hands."

The judge tried to get clarification... did he want to represent himself?  No, he wanted to leave it in God's hands.

On the one hand, I want to think he is suicidal and will off himself in prison, thus removing the legal process.  On the other hand, I want him to have a court appointed attorney who can at least get him a psychiatric evaluation.

And on the third hand I want to strangle him myself.

... and this just in:  his divorce attorney called 911 to report that the girl could be in danger.  She said he was delusional, and guess what kinds of delusions he was having?  Yep.  Religious ones, and naturally, religion gets a pass on this.

Genevieve Torres called 911 Wednesday to say her client, John Jonchuck, was acting strange. Deputies went out to talk with Jonchuck but said there was no evidence the child was in danger.

The 25-year-old father was at Torres' office in Lutz on a child paternity case. His daughter Phoebe was with him. The 5 year old quietly colored a picture and played.

"I called 911 immediately when he left the office and told them where he was going so someone could meet him there," she said.

In a 911 call, she told the operator, "He’s out of his mind and he has a minor child with him driving to a church now and I should’ve kept the child.”

According to police reports, Jonchuck asked his attorney to translate a Swedish bible during the meeting and even said he was “God.” He said he was headed to St. Paul Catholic Church in Tampa to talk with a member of the clergy.

“It was enough for me to say this is not usual behavior. This is, I use the word delusional. He was delusional and he had a 5-year-old girl with him. And I just thought you know—somebody had to take care of that little girl," she said.
Father Bill Swengros says Jonchuck showed up at the church with Phoebe.

"He seemed just like a typical dad, a 25-year-old dad with his daughter," said Father Bill.

He said he had his childcare workers watch Phoebe so he could talk to her dad privately.
Father Bill said she seemed well-adjusted.

"What impressed me about her actually was that she seemed very intelligent and very confident in herself."

He said Johnchuck himself seemed "off," and that Johnchuck claimed he was having a spiritual experience and wanted to be baptized immediately.

"His mind was racing in a lot of different directions but there wasn't anything that would suggest he was a danger to himself or his daughter," he said.

Deputies found Jonchuck at church, but according to their report he never threatened to harm his daughter or himself.
Jonchuck told deputies he was there because God spoke to him and gave him new clarity in his life. That wasn’t enough for Torres.

“I decided to call child protective services,” she said.

She called the child abuse hotline, where the attorney was also told the behavior did not legally meet criteria to investigate the case as child abuse