Monday, November 20, 2006

The Reigious Right War on Common Decency

  In Mother Jones magazine: Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) appeared at a prayer breakfast just after the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 240,000 people.  DeLay read a passage from Matthew about a non-believer: "…a fool who built his house on sand: The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, and it collapsed and was completely ruined."  Then, without comment, he righteously sat down.   

  The Religious Right (RR) has been using the last few year-ends to complain ever more stridently about a “War on Christmas” as if such a war actually existed and, if it did, that such a war was immoral.  This effort on the part of high profile pundits has filtered down to the local level – it is now not uncommon for local politicians and citizens of many typical American communities to gripe about how “radical secularists” are trying to destroy, prohibit and/or defame Christmas, Christians and Christianity.  It will be shown that these complaints are at best based on ignorance and at worst, a calculated hypocrisy.

  At the same time, the incredible arrogance of the Religious Right and their need for conformity and control inevitably has led to the most immediate result of their campaign: a “War on Common Decency.”  See Tom DeLay’s quote above for evidence of that war.  Listen to Rush Limbaugh for further confirming evidence of their contempt for decency, every day.

  Now, to provide evidence that this seemingly orchestrated campaign to make Americans believe there is a “War on Christmas” actually exists, here is what some RRers have said, including a Long Islander:

  From the Conservative Voice, By Michael l J. Gaynor: “The so-called non-existent war just reached my town.  The Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the Town of Huntington, on Long Island, New York, was targeted by a young attorney who got his name in Newsday, Long Island's notorious secular extremist newspaper, and hopefully will be boycotted by all persons who are friendly to the free exercise of religion and patronized by people like himself, since people should spend their money to support their ideas instead of contrary ones.”  (Go to ).

  I’m sure INQUIRER readers will be surprised to learn that Newsday, the same newspaper that publishes the bigoted and anti-secularist God Squad column each week, and has no corresponding secularist counterpart, is a “notorious secular extremist newspaper.”  Wait ‘til Newsday finds out that they’re secular extremists – what will Raymond Keating do?

  Of course, this brouhaha referred to, in Huntington, Long Island, home of the INQUIRER, is the result of the Religious Right’s arrogant and aggressive tactics regarding the public square – the public square that they believe they own for their own personal religious promotions, from “God Bless America” signs to Christian nativity scenes.  They are so used to ramming their beliefs down the throats of others that they are shocked when someone simply points it out, let alone takes action.

  Would the Religious Right stand on the sidelines if “secular extremists” had an “Imagine There’s No Heaven… and No Religion Too…” sign on public property to commemorate John Lennon’s death?  Answer: Don’t make me laugh!

  Mr. Gaynor’s column then proceeds to name companies that have “banned” Christmas from their retail ads and advises readers to tell these companies that they are offended by the omission.

  It would be easy to dismiss or simply ridicule Mr. Gaynor; and truly that is all he deserves, but the unethical nature of his efforts must be clearly pointed out.  He writes that readers should let companies who substitute “holiday” for “Christmas” know that they are offending shoppers with their “anti-Christan and anti-Christmas bias.”

  Imagine!  Mr. Gaynor cannot deal with the idea that someone else does not handle Christmas or the holiday season in the same precise manner as he.  It does not matter that hell would freeze over before Mr. Gaynor pays the same respect to a Muslim, Hindu, Scientologist or secular humanist…  This is the arrogance of faith at its finest.

  Bill O’Reilly of FoxNews has been one of the leaders of the “War on Christmas” myth.  In 2004 he shot this salvo:

  “Christmas under siege — the big picture.  That is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo."

  All over the country, Christmas is taking flak. In Denver this past weekend, no religious floats were permitted in the holiday parade there.  In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg unveiled the holiday tree and no Christian Christmas symbols are allowed in the public schools. Federated Department Stores, [that's] Macy's, have done away with the Christmas greeting, "Merry Christmas…"

  Secular progressives realize that America as it is now will never approve of gay marriage, partial birth abortion, euthanasia, legalized drugs, income redistribution through taxation, and many other progressive visions because of religious opposition.

  But if the secularists can destroy religion in the public arena, the brave new progressive world is a possibility.  That's what happened in Canada.”  (Go to,2933,140742,00.html .)

  Oh: Blame Canada!

  So here is O’Reilly’s thinking: The Religious Right has a special right to have the government promote their religious holidays in the manner they prefer, but it cannot and must not promote any sort of secular neutrality, or dog forbid, atheism… as if atheism has ever been promoted by a US government!

  They either truly believe that neutrality equals bias, which leads one to question their intelligence, or they know better; which leads one to question their integrity.   This writer leans towards both explanations.

  John Gibson, coincidentally also of Fox, has written the, so far, “definitive” book on the subject: The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought.

  The book description that one finds on is very informative:

  “Yes, Virginia, there is a war on Christmas. It’s the secularization of America’s favorite holiday and the ever-stronger push toward a neutered "holiday" season so that non-Christians won’t be even the slightest bit offended.

  Traditionalists get upset when they’re told—moreand more these days—that celebrating Christmas in any public way is a violation of church and state separation.  That is certainly not what the founders intended when they wrote, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

  For instance:

  * In Illinois, state government workers were forbidden from saying the words "Merry Christmas" while at work

  * In Rhode Island, local officials banned Christians from participating in a public project to decorate the lawn of City Hall

  * A New Jersey school banned even instrumental versions of traditional Christmas carols

  * Arizona school officials ruled it unconstitutional for a student to make any reference to the religious history of Christmas in a class project

  * Millions of Americans are starting to fight back against the secularist forces and against local officials who would rather surrender than be seen as politically incorrect. Gibson shows readers how they can help save Christmas from being twisted beyond recognition, with even the slightest reference to Jesus completely disappearing.

  The annual debate will be hotter than ever in 2005, and this book will be perfect for everyone who’s pro-Christmas.

  What about these “examples”?

  In the Illinois case, the Attorney General overruled a supervisor of some state employees one month after the supervisor tried to enforce a ban on “Merry Christmas.”  Yes, that’s right, Mr. Gibson’s first example of the “war” consisted of one grumpy supervisor who was quickly chastened.  (Go to 

  The banned “Christians” in Rhode Island?  An individual (whose case was eventually summarily dismissed in court) apparently had challenged the use of the lawn for display of all religious symbols (not just Christian) in a public square in Rhode Island.  It was found that many displays, including secular ones, could easily be applied for and allowed.  The court decided that religiously themed displays could not be discriminated against.

  Once again, a pathetic example!  Is this part of an orchestrated war on Christmas as Mr. Gibson and others imply?  Once again, stupidity or dishonesty are the only explanations for why this example is presented as part of a “war.”

  What about the New Jersey ban on “Christmas Carols”?

  According to MSNBC (we’re sure this is also a secular humanist front), and other news sources, the ban on religiously themed music is an acknowledgment of the growing non-Christian diversity of the public school population and the fact that Christians have no more right to have their sacred music played than do Jews, atheists or anyone else, no matter the time of year.

  Mr. Schwartzberg, whose young children are about to enter school (in Maplewood, NJ) said (bad) memories (from his own childhood in the Bible Belt) surfaced this month when the South Orange-Maplewood school district decided to ban instrumental Christmas carols at school-sponsored holiday concerts…

  Schwartzberg said a line can be drawn.

  “When students are compelled to engage in evangelical activities — even without intent or proselytizing — with the alternative being nothing except to sit out, I think that’s not appropriate.”

  A school board decides that it may be in poor taste to shove Christian music down the throatsof its substantial non-Christian student body and some spoiled Religious Right apologist seize upon the opportunity to fabricate a mythical “War on Christmas.”  Please note that all Chanukah based music was also banned.  Some war!

  How about the final teaser – Arizona school officials ruling it unconstitutional for students to make any reference to the religious history of Christmas in a class project?  After searching the web, including the website of the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona Christian defense group, nothing can be found that ties together the gist of this claim.  Perhaps it is, as the others were, an exaggeration that did not target Christmas or Christians, or it is an outright fabrication.  Duly noted on the website was an effort by the ADF to mobilize attorneys to defend Christians in public schools, but this “case” was not mentioned.  (Go to .)

  Ultimately, and with details supplied by Mr. Gibson’s own book, it becomes clear that there is indeed a coordinated effort being made centered on the public celebration of Christmas: of course, the campaign is on the part of Christian fanatics.  All the supposed anti-Christmas efforts by so-called “secular extremists” consisted of, at most, incidents in which a single or handful of well-meaning persons, usually believers themselves, thought it would be better if state-sponsored events or celebrations were more inclusive and non-sectarian.  If these persons over-reached, they were quickly chastised and curbed.  No evidence of a coordinated national campaign was documented.

  The Religious Right’s act may finally be getting old to many Americans: while these fanatics whine about not being able to control every aspect of American life in the manner they see fit, right down to how even non-Christians celebrate the holidays, it is becoming more understood, via poll after poll, that their tolerance for pseudo-science (creationism), torture (Limbaugh calls it “blowing off steam” and Cheney calls it “a no-brainer”), lies(WMDs, Saddam-Al Qaeda connection), corruption (DeLay and friends), and disregard of the civil rights of others (habeas corpus, gays) is indeed very broad.  The Religious Right War on Common Decency continues full blast.

Monday, November 13, 2006

GOP, Elton John, Barack and more!

News item: The Texas GOP has “accused” a candidate for the Appeals Court, E. Ben Franks, of being an atheist.  They believe this means he is out of touch with the public and would fail to uphold the laws of Texas.  According to, “The Republican Party noted in its recent newsletter that Article 16, §1(a) of the Texas Constitution prescribes the oath of office for all elected or appointed officials.  The officeholder swears to faithfully execute the duties of the office and, to the best of his or her ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this state "so help me God."”

  His Republican opponent,  Bailey C. Moseley, says he thinks (but is obviously not sure) an atheist can take the oath and is bound to support the laws and Constitution of Texas.

  "I think it's pertinent," Moseley says of the allegation. "In east Texas, a person's core beliefs are important."  Yes in Texas, unless you believe in talking snakes, and a 6000 year old earth, you’re “out of touch.”

  Jeff Fisher, the state Republican Party's executive director, says there are other sources of the allegation that Frank is an atheist.  Fisher says "some people who know Franks" -- people whom Fisher did not identify -- have told him that Franks professes to be an atheist.

  Fisher says the GOP sent the newsletter to people who subscribe to the party's e-mail publications to inform them about Franks.

  Comment: Exactly how commonplace and routine must be anti-atheist bigotry be for a major political party to be so comfortable airing their bias?  Answer: Very commonplace and routine.

  What are the chances of E. Ben Franks being elected?  Answer:

  (For the whole article by Mary Alice Robbins go to: )


  News item: Ohio executed areligious cult leader Tuesday for murdering a family of five followers who were taken one at a time to a barn, bound and shot to death.  The youngest was a girl just 7 years old.

  Jeffrey Lundgren, 56, died by injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. "I profess my love for God, my family, for my children, for Kathy (his wife).  I am because you are," Lundgren said in his final statement.

  The evidence against him in the deaths of the Avery family - Dennis, 49, Cheryl, 46, Trina, 15, Rebecca, 13, and 7-year-old Karen - was compelling.

  Upset by what he saw as a lack of faith, Lundgren arranged a dinner hosted by cult members.  Afterward, he and his followers led the family members one by one - the father first, young Karen last - to their deaths while the others unknowingly cleaned up after dinner.

  Lundgren shot each victim two or three times while a running chain saw muffled the sound of the gunfire.

  Lundgren argued at his trial in 1990 that he was prophet of God and therefore not deserving of the death penalty.

  "It's not a figment of my imagination that I can in fact talk to God, that I can hear his voice," he had told the jurors.  "I am a prophet of God. I am even more than a prophet."

  Comment: What, exactly, would be the believers argument against Lundgren the “Prophet.”  That he’s not a prophet?  And how would one know that if one also believes that prophecy actually has occurred and may occur again?

  If one argues that God wouldn’t be giving such messages to anyone, then one has admitted that God can be judged by human-based standards of morality.  If one argues that humans, however, cannot create moral standards, however, then one must just “accept” what God orders, as Mr. Lundgren did.  Who is Mr. Lundgren to question God?  How can Mr. Lundgren or others tell whether God speaks tothem or not?

  The whole point of revelation is that its “truths” lie beyond reason.  To mount a coherent argument against revelation requires rejecting all of revelation itself, doesn’t it?


  News Item: (AFP) -The top US general defended the leadership of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying it is inspired by God.  "He leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country," said Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

  Comment: If this story is true, and it has not been denied, well, that changes everything!  Instead of being an unmitigated disaster, the War in Iraq is actually the work of God!  That makes everything OK!

  And isn’t it comforting to know that this is how the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCoS) thinks?  Who needs military intelligence?

  Truly if God inspires President Bush (who refers to him as his ‘higher Father’), Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and the Chairman of the JCoS, then our troubles are over!

  Of course; unless God does not exist…

  News item: In an interview with New Yorker editor, Sen. Barack Obama addressed the topic of religion saying, "It's not 'faith' if you are absolutely certain," and noted that he didn't believe his lack of "faith" would hurt him a national election.  He added, "Evolution is more grounded in my experience than angels."

  Comment: It’s sad but his (or anyone else’s) support for a more scientific approach to reality may cost votes at the ballot box.


  Item: (AP, HOUSTON (Nov. 10, 2006) Michael Lord and Gary Lackey, a gay couple requesting bids for a landscaping job at their new house, received a polite - and, well, honest - e-mail from Sabrina Farber, a co-owner of Garden Guy: "I need to tell you that we cannot meet with you because we choose not to work for homosexuals."

  Stunned, Lackey forwarded the e-mail to 200 friends, asking them not to patronize Garden Guy and urging them to pass the word on to friends and family.  "I'm still shocked by the ignorance that exists in today's society," Lackey said in his e-mail.  And word was indeed passed on - as fast as the Web could carry it.

  Within days, the e-mail had been forwarded to thousands of people around the world, and quickly became the subject of heated and often ugly debates on the Internet.  Because of the furor, a professional association of landscapers created a nondiscrimination policy.

  But Farber said she and her husband have also gotten hundreds of calls and messages offering encouragement and have been touched by that.  "We just cried.  We have been through so much," Farber said.  "We become accidental crusaders for Christ."

  Comment: Yes, you read it here: Discriminating against gay couples is “crusading for Christ.”  That makes it ok.


  Item: (AP) Sir Elton John thinks all religions should be banned because they turn people into "really hateful lemmings... I would ban religion completely, even though there are some wonderful things about it," the British singer said in an interview with the Observer newspaper on Sunday.  "Religion has always tried to turn hatred toward gay people.  It turns people into hateful lemmings and it is not really compassionate."  The singer, who tied the knot with long-term partner David Furnish in a civil ceremony last year, said he admired the teachings of Jesus Christ, but disliked religious bodies.  "The reality is that organized religion doesn't seem to work," he added.

  The 59-year-old singer, who has sold an estimated 200 million records, is no stranger to controversy.  In 2000, he hit out at the "ignorance" of the Roman Catholic Church after a priest said homosexuals were engaged in "a lifestyle that can never respond to the deepest longings of the human heart."  Since then he has received blanket media coverage for a series of high-profile outbursts.

  Comment: As bad as many forms of religion are, you cannot outlaw religion; freedom of the mind to believe in even the most ridiculous things, including Zeus, Poseiden, Xenu, Virgin births, revelations from a god, Vishnu, raising the dead, a world-wide flood, a 6 thousand year old earth, and so on, is the most fundamental right of all human rights.

  However, this freedom allows for another thing which is what Elton John should concentrate on: freedom to CRITICIZE religion.  This is the freedom that is the typically FIRST victim of religious intolerance.

  Throughout history religious dissent has rarely been tolerated.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Ted Haggard

"At the end of the day, this comes down to bringing Jesus into politics," he says. "Right now, it's not Ted Haggard on trial.  It's Jesus.  This is about the God he represents.  When you make yourself a public figure and you fall, you bring the perception of your God with you."  -- David Kuo, author of “Tempting Faith.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Kuo himself does not follow where his own logic should take him.

As has been reported in the last month, Rev. Ted Haggard has been accused by a self-described mail prostitute of having a three year homosexual affair while using illegal drugs, including methamphetamine (a.k.a. “speed”).

Oh yes, Rev. Haggard is a vociferous opponent actively campaigning against gay marriage in Colorado, as well as preaching to his large congregation that faith can answer any problem.

The accuser did “fail” a “lie detection test” and this fact has been widely reported in the media.  At the same time, the Reverend Haggard has admitted by the drugs and that he has indeed met this accuser at a hotel for a “message.”

What is one to believe regarding the facts?

First of all, it is not widely known that there is much scientific skepticism regarding “lie detector tests.”

CSICOP, a project of the Center for Inquiry reports:

“The secret of the polygraph-the polygraphers' own shameless deception-is that their machine is no more capable of assessing truth telling than were the priests of ancient Rome standing knee-deep in chicken parts.  Nonetheless, the polygrapher tries to persuade the unwitting subject that their measurements indicate when a lie is being told.  The subject, nervously strapped in a chair, is often convinced by the aura surrounding this cheap parlor trick, and is then putty in the hands of the polygrapher, who launches into an intrusive, illegal, and wide-ranging inquisition.  The subject is told, from time to time, that the machine is indicating "deception" (it isn't, of course), and he is continuously urged to "clarify" his answers, by providing more and more personal information.  At some point (it's completely arbitrary and up to the judgment of the polygrapher), the test is stopped and the polygrapher renders a subjective assessment of "deceptive response."  Even J. Edgar Hoover knew this was senseless.  He banned the polygraph test from within the ranks of the FBI as a waste of time….  The truth is this: The polygraph is a ruse, carefully constructed as a tool of intimidation, and used as an excuse to conduct an illegal inquisition under psychologically and physically unpleasant circumstances.  Spies know how to beat it, and no court in the land permits submission of polygraphs, even to exonerate the accused.”  (Go to .)

Therefore it would seem to then go to the likelihood of the stories presented: the accuser’s and the accused.

Buying “speed” is no routine matter: it is one of the most addictive and dangerous drugs available and only illegally.  Furthermore, how did it come to pass that the drug was purchased from or in cooperation with a self-confessed male prostitute?  It is often claimed that “speed” and male (or female) prostitutes are often intertwined.  Drugs and prostitution DO have a relationship.

What may be concluded is that the accuser’s over-all story is more likely, but that it does not yet rise to the level of certainty that would be needed to convict a person in a court of law.  But it would be fair to conclude, and many will claim, that Rev. Haggard has some deep problems.

But many will not mention Rev. Haggard’s biggest problem: he like so many others, live in a world that denies reality.  Rev. Haggard lives in a world of denial.

Is the Bible really inerrant and without contradiction?  Is the earth and universe really 6000 years old?  Was Jesus really God?  Is homosexuality really immoral?  Is Rev. Haggard’s moral system really absolute?

The overwhelmingly likely answer is “no” to all the above about which Rev. Haggard is absolutely certain.

In fact it is easy to find contradictions within the Bible: one cannot for instance reconcile the key chronology of the crucifixion of Jesus nor the text of the sign placed on his cross by the Romans as obvious examples.

Further, there is no scientific evidence that points to a young earth; none whatsoever.

There is also no way to determine the “divinity” of a person, particularly one who is long dead, such as Jesus.  Any suggestions?

As far as morality goes, is there really a need for a moral system that does not relate morality to harm or help to others, but instead is based on supposed offenses taken by an invisible omnipotent and omniscient deity who created everything in the first place, including the human nature that some will claim leads to those very offenses?

And finally, on what basis does Rev. Haggard and all the other absolutists expect others to buy into their moral system and follow their leadership when it is clear that they are clueless?

Rev. Haggard’s absolute certainty about everything in life must be called what it is: delusional.  Although he called Richard Dawkins “arrogant” and “elitist” in an interview that Dawkins had with Haggard, (go to ) the plain truth is that there is nothing more arrogant than certainty or believing that one has been created in the image of a God.

Religious apologists such as David Kuo decry the mixing of religion and politics, and of hypocrisy; but will not deal with the facts: if the literalists and absolutists are wrong in the certainty, then indeed, the moderate interpretation is even more suspect.  It takes chutzpah to “compromise” or make judgments about the Word of God, does it not?  Who is David Kuo or anyone else to question or modify it – unless it cannot be proven to be the Word of God after all?  Agnosticism would seem to be the only approach with integrity and a failure to believe based on lack of evidence, or atheism, completely reasonable.

Although not all persons who claim certainty about the inerrancy, absolutism and accuracy of their Biblical belief system turn to illicit sexual affairs and drugs, they are also delusional.  The tragedy is their living of their only known and verifiable life in pursuit of a heaven there is no reason to believe follows.

This, of course, will NEVER be reported in the mainstream media, as obvious as it is.