Thursday, January 17, 2008

Will Huckabee’s Religiously Extremist Views be Recognized… by Others?

In last month’s CFI Community of Long Island's INQUIRER, we noted presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s association with the most extreme elements of the Christian Religious right.  As usual, the Mainstream Media (MSM) is behind the curve, when truly it is their DUTY to be at the forefront of presenting actual relevant news and information to the public.

Since that INQUIRER was published, a new Mike Huckabee quote has been making the rounds, and it’s not pretty.  Will the MSM notice?  Will they make this incredible extremism an issue or will they instead write another story regarding Barack Obama’s “Muslim upbringing” or Hillary Clinton’s “un-likeability”?

So what did Huckabee say?  According to CNN’s Political Ticker, in a Warren, Michigan campaign rally, he said “…the biggest momentum out of Michigan may not go to the winner, but to the story of an election eve comment from third-place Mike Huckabee, still resonating as the contest moves south.

"[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God,” Huckabee told a Warren, Michigan audience Monday night, “and that's what we need to do, is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards, rather than try to change God's standards."  (Go to

Now Huckabee will make the excuse, even though it’s no excuse, that he was only referring to was gay marriage and abortion, as if this makes it all OK.

Briefly, the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits Congress from establishing religion, or in other words, from passing laws formulated for religious reasons only.  Huckabee recognizes this fact and therefore understands that the Constitution must be amended to allow religiously-based laws.  He did say, after all, “what we need to do, is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards…”  He did not even give lip service to the real basis of making law: the Common Good.

The fact is that changing the Constitution so that our laws conform to Mike Huckabee’s version of “God’s Law” to any degree is to change the very nature of what our country was meant to be all about.  To overtly make laws to conform to “God’s Laws” is the stuff of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Islamists, Christian Reconstructionists and theocrats of all stripes.  It is religious totalitarianism, period.  This is how it begins.

Will the Mainstream Media report that a presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee wants to make the US afundamentalist Christian nation?  Will they report that he is opposed to the principles of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Paine, Ben Franklin and the Constitution itself?

Here is CNN’s take on the subject in the original article in which this story appeared: “That comment may have been music to the ears of the state’s Christian conservatives, but despite the jump in evangelical turnout, Huckabee failed to attract the same level of support he received from this voting bloc in Iowa. Evangelicals showed up – but despite a huge push by pro-Huckabee organizers, they were just as likely to support Romney as they were the former Baptist minister.”

Mike Huckabee states he wants to change the Constitution so it conforms with “God’s standards,” and all CNN has to say is that Huckabee failed to attract the same level of support he found in Iowa; they state nothing about the extremist and theocratic nature of his comments.

We must give Dan Abrams and Keith Olbermann of MSNBC some credit; they reported on this story on their TV shows on January 17, 2008; it remains to be seen whether the story will grow further.

What will it take for the Mainstream Media to objectively report on religion in America?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Double Standard of Religious Criticism

Many persons criticize Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Vic Stenger and others for their blunt treatment of religious belief and religion itself.  Indeed, the criticism comes from not only the religious, but from other non-theists as well.

Take regular CFI Community of Long Island INQUIRER contributor Dr. Massimo Pigliucci, for example.  He has criticized Dr. Dawkins in print, and the following could be found on Massimo’s blog: “Skeptical Inquirer has just published the third and last entry of my unofficial “Dawkins trilogy,” three short pieces where I take Richard to task about his views on science and religion, his idea of memetics, and, of course, the selfish gene stuff…”  (For the whole blog go to .)

The memetics and selfish gene issues, while important, are not crucial issues when debating God’s existence, or the truth or usefulness of religious beliefs.  These are issues that are of secondary interest to the topic at hand.

Even the portion of theabove noted critique of Dawkins on “Science & Religion” deals with a point that one can argue that Dawkins doesn’t really make (at least as much as Vic Stenger does); that science can “disprove” the existence of God.  In any case, whether Dawkins really argues this or not, as Dr. Pigliucci notes disproof of “God” is more of a philosophical question than a scientific one; Dawkins may be overstating the ability of science to disprove God (or maybe not) but he is not being dishonest; at the worst he has made some mistake in logic.  So note that non-theists, often being fanatics for good reasoning, healthily and securely will take exception to the shortcomings of even their heroes, like Richard Dawkins.

So here’s a contrasting question: Are religious moderates being hypocritical when they criticize atheists for religion bashing when in fact they do far worse?

It would be hard to defend, in this argument, religious fundamentalists who see things simply and clearly in black and white and who begin at a point that is in contradiction to reality: they assume a conclusion on complete faith, which in this context means a firm belief without evidence.  How does one rationally defend that?  One does not.

But what about non-fundamentalists?  What about the largest Christian denomination in existence, the Roman Catholic Church?  What about the Pope himself?

For all the flack that Dawkins, Hitchens, et al, receive for their attacks on religion, is the Pope more inflammatory, hypocritical, dishonest and hateful toward atheists and atheism, yet is seen as a symbol of peace, unity and acceptance by many?

The Pope is easy to dispose of in this argument.  In an encyclical issued 11/30/07 and entitled “SPE SALVI,” the Pope claims that “According to the Christian faith, “redemption”—salvation—is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.”

Yes, the Pope is saying that salvation gives us hope even if we are living a miserable life.  Unfortunately he does not mention that it is the Christian religion that invented the idea of original sin in the first place which then requires the above noted redemption (and the hope/faith that one will indeed be unworthily chosen to receive this redemption) and contrarily, eternal misery if one does not “accept” this gift of salvation through an evidence-free faith; and, by the way, this faith will not make one’s actual life any better.  Thanks for almost nothing!

Is this overstating the case?  Is the Pope really saying that hoping something is true is the same as having faith that something is true?  Is he really saying that life is that bleak unless you blindly believe in something that gives you hope?

The Pope continues, “Likewise, when the First Letter of Peter exhorts Christians to be always ready to give an answer concerning the logos—the meaning and the reason—of their hope (cf. 3:15),“hope” is equivalent to “faith”.”

Well, yes, he is sort of saying that life sucks except for the possession of the hope/faith that one will be “saved.”  Well sort of, however, but not quite…

The Pope continues writing, “We see how decisively the self-understanding of the early Christians was shaped by their having received the gift of a trustworthy hope, when we compare the Christian life with life prior to faith, or with the situation of the followers of other religions.  Paul reminds the Ephesians that before their encounter with Christ they were “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). Of course he knew they had had gods, he knew they had had a religion, but their gods had proved questionable, and no hope emerged from their contradictory myths.”

Well shut my mouth!!!

Could Richard Dawkins have uttered a more atheistic and dismissive sentence than Of course he knew they had had gods, he knew they had had a religion, but their gods had proved questionable, and no hope emerged from their contradictory myths.”

The Pope does not stop here; he cannot stop here.  Since the Pope has an interest in promoting the Roman Catholic religion, and no other, he cannot simply defend the concept of faith in general; he must attack all those and all religions that do not share the Pope’s faith and defend the concept of believe without evidence in his belief only!  He must remove all hope and all happiness from everything in the world except for the Roman Catholic faith in God.  Pope Benedict XVI must turn to attacking atheism, which in the Pope’s mind, is everything but Roman Catholicism!

He writes, “The atheism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is—in its origins and aims—a type of moralism: a protest against the injustices of the world and of world history.  A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering, and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God.  A God with responsibility for such a world would not be a just God, much less a good God.  It is for the sake of morality that this God has to be contested.  Since there is no God to create justice (Ed.’s note: The Pope cannot seem to decide if non-believers don’t believe in God or think God exists but is not good.  Here’s a clue–non-believers don’t believe in God.), it seems man himself is now called to establish justice.  If in the face of this world's suffering, protest against God (Ed.’s note: He’s doing it again.) is understandable, the claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false.  It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice; rather, it is grounded in the intrinsic falsity of the claim.  A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope.

For thosewho cannot believe their eyes, the Pope is arguing that humanity’s quest for a just world is doomed not only to failure, but destined to create misery and remove all hope from the world!

How can one debate or have a reasoned conversation with someone who claims, “To protest against God in the name of justice is not helpful.  A world without God is a world without hope (cf. Eph 2:12).  Only God can create justice.  And faith gives us the certainty that he does so.”  (For the whole encyclical go to

What religious charlatan could NOT make the above claim?  Bin Laden could endorse the above statement!

All godless lovers of justice take note: you are the cause of all human misery, according to the Pope.

Now you might say, “That’s the Pope.  Most religious persons are far more moderate in their opinions of the godless.  Most people never get as nasty about atheists as Richard Dawkins gets about religion!”  Or do they?

So what does an average person in the US, a so-called “religious moderate” say about atheists?

From the American Mosaic Project out of the University of Minnesota is the research paper “Atheists as “Other”: Moral Boundaries and Cultural Membership in American Society”:

“(Researchers) conclude that widespread political rejection of atheists and others who profess no religion provides a “glaring exception” to the general rule of increasing social tolerance over the last thirty years of the twentieth century...”

“Respondents had various interpretations of what atheists are like and what that label means.  Those whom we interviewed view atheists in two different ways.  Some people view atheists as problematic because they associate them with illegality, such as drug use and prostitution—that is, with immoral people who threaten respectable community from the lower end of the status hierarchy.  Others saw atheists as rampant materialists and cultural elitists that threaten common values from above—the ostentatiously wealthy who make a lifestyle out of consumption or the cultural elites who think they know better than everyone else.  Both of these themes rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individualists who are not concerned with the common good…”  (Go to

Please note that the above unfounded critiques are of atheists as persons, not simply atheism!  Yes, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens bluntly attack religious belief but “average” or “moderate” Americans impugn atheists themselves and ascribe to them all sorts of specific-to-them-only attributes that have no relation to reality.  No one bothers with evidence or facts.

Even religious moderates make the argument that “without God, all is permitted,” implying that those who do not believe have no reason for morality.  By extension they come to believe that the jails are filled with non-believers or that non-believers are selfish hedonists who care about no one else.

In contrast, from a godless standpoint, all persons, theist and non-theist alike have the same opportunity and motivation for good behavior; their innate concern for others.  Although many theists will make the magical and free-will killing assertion that God placed love and concern in our human hearts, Natural Selection offers a perfectly good alternative and well-evidenced explanation in its place.  Either way, non-theists do not see themselves as superior but only see dogma as an obstacle to human kindness prevailing.

Ultimately it is hard to see how anything that Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett or Stenger have ever said that comes even close to hatefulness and dishonesty that religious fundamentalists, the Pope, and yes, the even the average religious person commonly believes about atheists.

For it is written, “The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."  They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”  (Psalms 14:1.)

Pharmacists and Supernatural Taboos

Recently Pope Benedict XVI told Catholic pharmacists NOT to dispense products that contradict Catholic teachings, including products that prevent pregnancy, and also, ironically, products that could end the pregnancies that could have been prevented in the first place.

In his address to the 25th International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists, the pope said, "We cannot anesthetize consciences as regards, for example, the effect of certain molecules that have the goal of preventing the implantation of the embryo or shortening a person's life.”  (Go to )

Although the Pope paints this as a matter of “conscience,” the word “conscience” as the Pope uses it means almost the exact opposite as it does for most other persons.  In the Roman Catholic religion, you have a clear “conscience” when you know that what you believe coincides with what the Church/Pope demands.  If you follow your own sense of reason, compassion, logic and morals, you are NOT following your conscience, according to what my pocket Catholic Catechism says.  The Church/Pope IS the conscience of a Roman Catholic, supposedly.  The kind of restrictions being dealt with here are not moral rules but instead supernatural taboos.

So persons of reason then must consider the situation in a different light than the Pope would prefer.  Is it immoral (which is defined as whether something helps or harms well being) to dispense legal contraceptive devices or products to be used in euthanasia?

A difference of opinion is possible here (although I’d like to see the argument against condoms!)  And a person may actually come to a conclusion based on their own ability to reason and their own sense of right and wrong that actually coincides with the Pope’s demands.  A pharmacist who has reasoned it through then can refuse to do a portion of their job or find some other line of work if they so truly object.

But the pharmacy owner has rights also.  Should employers be forced to keep as employees those persons who refuse to completely perform a legal job?  If an employee asks to be relieved of certain duties that other employees willingly perform, and other potential employees would willingly perform, why continue to employ the reluctant employee?  That is a good question for an employer.

It really is simple: a religious excuse is no better than any other excuse, and in fact, it is much worse.  A logical reason is a better excuse; legality/illegality is a better excuse.  And yes, the ethics/morality of a behavior is a far better excuse than a supernatural taboo.

Religious persons are entitled to their convictions until they infringe upon the rights of others and cause others harm.  They can refuse to dispense condoms, the pill or other forbidden products; however, the employer, who might lose sales and income if he were to hire a store full of such employees, should have the right to fire them.

To put a bow on it, what would happen if other people stopped doing portions of their jobs for various and sundry religious and/or non-religious reasons?  Exactly why should this discussion be confined to pharmacists?  Why would this discussion be confined to contraceptives?

What about butchers in supermarkets refusing to butcher pork?  Or beef?  Or meat in general?  Must the supermarket continue to employ them?

Would it be ok if police or firemen or those in a retail job refused to work on their Sabbath or some other day of the week?  Is there a rule about the length of the Sabbath or holy days – could they be 2 or 3 days long or more?  Should private employers or the State accommodate any religious or even non-religious whim?  If we accommodate Catholic pharmacists, should we accommodate Christian Identity followers who refuse to serve African Americans?  Can the government designate one religion as “ok” and another as “not ok”?

Obviously not, but sometimes the obvious is invisible to the oblivious.

Mike Huckabee & Christian Reconstructionists

For about one moment, a number of usually sensible persons thought Mike Huckabee was different.  It was said, for a moment, that Huckabee was a “nice” guy, had some integrity, and was not a panderer.

That moment’s up!

Mike Huckabee is no longer a cute Baptist Minister with a warm demeanor; he has been found to be a religious fanatic, or worse, a bigot, who not only is willfully ignorant, but blinded by his faith even in the commission of his public trust and associates with the darkest and most extreme elements of American religious fanatics.

Where do we begin?

It’s almost trivial, compared to some other issues we’ll explore, to mention that Mike Huckabee is a Creationist.  He has said that he is a bible believer, and probably a literalist, so this is not a new revelation.  It is sobering, though, to consider that an admitted Creationist and Bible literalist could be soon impacting our children’s schools nationwide.  It is also amazing to see how little grief he gets for this willful ignorance from other candidates and the media.

Why is he let off the hook?  Answer: because his Creationism is a religious belief and a nutty religious belief is off limits in a way thatnutty non-religious beliefs are not.

For a person like Huckabee, magic and science and reason and faith are one and the same.  The mind boggles.

Yet, this is the least of it.

According to CNN, “Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee refused to retract a statement he made in 1992 calling for the isolation of AIDS patients… Responding to an Associated Press questionnaire, Huckabee said steps should be taken to “isolate the carriers of this plague” during his failed run for a U.S. Senate seat from Arkansas 15 years ago.

He said he probably would not make the same statement today because of what is known about how HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is transmitted.

"I had simply made the point -- and I still believe this today -- that in the late '80s and early '90s, when we didn't know as much as we do now about AIDS, we were acting more out of political correctness than we were about the normal public health protocols that we would have acted," Huckabee told Fox News on Sunday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in 1985 that AIDS was not transmitted by casual contact…”

Well if that were the end of it, this kind of ignorance would probably be par for the course for a politician.  But it’s not.

What about gay marriage?

In February, 2007, when pressed in an interview with the Associated Press, Mike Huckabee said the historic definition of marriage has worked for so long for a reason.  “’People have a right to decide how they live their lives.  But they have to respect not changing the definition of marriage,’ said Huckabee, who served as a pastor in Baptist churches before becoming governor in 1996.”

In 2004, the year Arkansas approved a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, Huckabee said the ban was needed to quiet activists looking to rewrite the nation's social code.  But Huckabee also said it was OK to say a person's sexual preference was nobody's business, "even though it's not consistent with the Biblical norm of male and female."  Apparently it’s no one’s business until they want to get married; then it’s Mike Huckabee’s and the Religious Right’s business.

In 2006, when the Arkansas Supreme Court rejected a ban on gay foster parents that had been put in by a state board, Huckabee said through a spokeswoman: "I'm very disappointed that the court seems more interested in what's good for gay couples than what's good for children needing foster care."

Exactly how would eliminating potential foster homes be “good for children needing foster care”?  And please note the admission on Huckabee’s part that he does not want to do  “good” for gay citizens.  Of course, we suspect Huckabee’s answers reside in the bible.

Will these homophobic views come back to haunt Mike Huckabee?

Probably not; in the Republican Party most candidates, though not all, want to be seen as “tough on gays,” in the way that being tough on crime was always seen as an asset.  It’s got to be tough being a Log Cabin Republican.

Another area where Huckabee exposed a bigoted side was his passive-aggressive attack on Mitt Romney’s Mormonism.

Huckabee asked this question in a NY Times interview: “Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?”

According to Mormon scripture this is correct; but what was the point of asking?  Answer: to point out how Mormons are heretics, meaning Romney is a heretic, and of course, as every Christian fundamentalist knows, heretics are not capable of being President.

Once again, this may help Huckabee with some voters and indeed his poll numbers continued to increase after this little episode.  This and other anti-Mormon attacks forced Romney to give a speech where Romney promised not only that he would not take orders from the Mormon Church but that he instead would force a broad form of Christianity down everyone’s throat.  Thanks Mitt and Mike!

Unbelievably all of the above will probably mean little in the nomination process to most Republican voters, but there are some issues that may indeed come back to haunt Huckabee.

As governor of Arkansas, Huckabee took interest in the case of a convicted rapist, Wayne Dumond.  Huckabee began to believe that Dumond was railroaded and deserving of sympathy and ultimately release before his sentence expired.  Why did Huckabee take an interest in this particular convict?

The answer is twofold; one reason was that Dumond had raped a distant relative of President Bill Clinton, and this irrelevant fact had convinced many Religious Right fanatics such as Huckabee’s Baptist minister friend Jay Cole, and the NY Post’s Steve Dunleavy that Dumon was railroaded and innocent!

The other reason was no better: serial rapist Dumond claimed a religious conversion in prison and that he had become a “born-again” Christian.

Instead of commuting his sentence, which would have been an obvious ploy subject to criticism, Huckabee instead pressured the appointees of the Parole Board to release Dumond; Huckabee asked them to do his dirty work.  They complied.

Huckabee now denies he applied the pressure; however, ALL of the members of the Parole Board claim he did, including those who voted for and against the parole.  In addition, recently disclosed statements and letters from Huckabee at the time exposed his desire to see Dumond go free, indicating Huckabee thought that Dumond got a raw deal, not unlike his radical minister friend Jay Cole believed.  Worst of all, publicly disclosed at the time of the decision, Huckabee had meetings with and received letters from multiple rape victims of Wayne Dumond, including the Clinton distant relative whose rape landed Dumond in jail, who warned Huckabee in person not to have Dumond released!  Huckabee ignored the personal pleas from these victims and pressured for his release anyway.  They had no effect on Huckabee; Huckabee is evidence impervious.

In other words, because of Right-wing paranoia about Bill Clinton and unconscionable favoritism towards “born-again” Christians, Wayne Dumond was indeed paroled, and subsequently raped and murdered one, if not two more women.

Dumond was convicted of one subsequent rape/murder after his release but died in prison before he could be tried for the second murder.

Imagine: releasing a rapist despite warnings from MULTIPLE victims because of truly asinine political partisanship and religious favoritism leading to the rapes and murders of two innocentwomen!  So, what else could possibly be even worse with presidential candidate Mike Huckabee?

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee attended a fundraiser for himself in December 2007, and it was held at the Houston, Texas home of a self-proclaimed Christian Restorationist, Dr. Steven Hotze, a person others would describe as a Christian Reconstructionist.

As an aside, Dr.Hotze has also been cited by Quackwatch as spreading dubious medical information to the public (for his own profit as it turns out.)

Dr. Hotze has long advocated, as do all Christian Reconstructionists, that the government should enforce biblical law.  Many Reconstructionists apparently believe this means re-instituting slavery, executing homosexuals, adulterers, practicing Jews, Muslims, Hindus and non-fundamentalist Christians such as Catholics or Episcopalians (go to  According to "Talk To Action," Hotze has said, "There is no neutrality.  Civil government will either reflect biblical Christianity or it will reflect anti-Christian positions."  ( .)

Hotze also signed a Manifesto that endorsed the following: "We affirm that the laws of man must be based upon the laws of God.  We deny that the laws of man have any inherent authority of their own or that their ultimate authority is rightly derived from or created by man."

Doesn't this imply that an endorser does not recognize the laws of the United States?  Of course, all of this is the opposite of the American idea that a government derives its authority from the consent of the governed.

Why is Mike Huckabee having a fundraiser at the home of a person such as this?  Why would such a person support Huckabee?

Would some other candidate get away with associating with such an extremist—if he were not a religious extremist?

If it has not become apparent already, the active endorsement of a staunch extreme American Taliban-like Christian such as Dr. Steven Hotze should make one wonder; is Minister Mike Huckabee on a mission to make our laws conform to the only authority he and they actually recognize; the God of the Bible?

(More on Christian Reconstructionism; for the “Manifesto” go to For the “42 Article” got to

For more on Dr. Steven Hotze and his alternative medical practice go to .)

Sorry for Beating the Dead Horse: or the War on Hats!

Believe it or not, this newsletter makes an active effort to not be uniformly negative; in other words, an effort is made to illuminate the positive aspects of a naturalistic, secular and humanistic approach to life and not merely bash superstition.  The problem is, it’s too easy and too obvious and too necessary to bash superstition to not do it.

From Adnkronos International comes a story that would make the Onion proud; in fact, the story is so “Onion-like,” full confidence in its veracity must be reserved:

“Women have been banned from wearing boots and hats on the streets of Tehran.

Police chief, General Ahmad Radan, announced the ban on Wednesday saying that boots could only be worn if they were covered by pants.

"If boots are not covered by pants that fall to the ankles, they show the female shape and that is therefore in contradiction with Islamic dress code” said Radan.

Iranian women can no longer leave home with their pants pushed inside their boots and they can no longer wear hats without a veil.

"A hat is not an adequate substitute for a veil or a hijab," he said."  If someone really wants to wear a hat, they can put it on the veil."  (Go to

Ridiculous, right?  Can’t be true, right?

Well, Reuters subsequently reported the following:

“Iranian police detained 28 young men and women wearing "inappropriate and repulsive" clothing and confiscated alcohol at a party in a northeastern city, an Iranian news agency reported on Monday…

"The police officers arrested 18 girls and 10 boys with inappropriate and repulsive clothing in the house," he said…

Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005, promising a return to the values of the 1979 Islamic revolution, hardliners have pressed for tighter controls on "immoral behavior".

The authorities this month launched a winter campaign against women wearing tight trousers tucked into long boots and other "improper dress" suchas short overcoats and hats instead of scarves.”  (Go to

Hats instead of scarves!  What is Iran coming to?  At least the President of Iran is on the case. 

Lest anyone think that this kind of fanaticism or hypocrisy or insanity is limited to one stream of religious belief, one only needs to turn the page in a newspaper.

How about a brawl between priests, fighting in and about the legendary birth place of the Lord himself, Jesus Christ?

According to AFP:

“Seven people were injured on Thursday when Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests came to blows in a dispute over how to clean the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Following the Christmas celebrations, Greek Orthodox priests set up ladders to clean the walls and ceilings of their part of the church, which is built over the site where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born.

But the ladders encroached on space controlled by Armenian priests, according to photographers who said angry words ensued and blows quickly followed.

For a quarter of an hour bearded and robed priests laid into each other with fists, brooms and iron rods while the photographers who had come to take pictures of the annual cleaning ceremony recorded the whole event.

"As usual the cleaning of the church afer Christmas is a cause of problems," Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh told AFP, adding that he has offered to help ease tensions.

"For the two years that I have been here everything went more or less calmly," he said. "It's all finished now."

The Church of the Nativity, like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, is shared by various branches of Christianity, each of which controls and jealously guards a part of the holy site.

The Church of the Nativity is built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was born in a stable more than 2,000 years ago after Mary and Joseph were turned away by an inn.

A dozen unarmed Palestinian policemen were sent to try to separate the priests, but two of them were also injured in the unholy melee.”  (Go to

The BBC added:

“Palestinian police formed a human cordon to separate the battling dark-robed and bearded priests and deacons, said to number about 80, so that cleaning could continue.”  (Go to

Thank goodness the Palestinians were there to restore peace to the legendary place of the birth of the “Prince of Peace,” and Lord to all the combatants, Jesus.

And darn it for it being so easy to bash religion.



Bush: Faith Is the Key to AIDS Fight

How oblivious is President Bush to the realities of the world?

On November 30, 2007, the eve of World AIDS Day, at the Calvary United Methodist Church the President stressed the role of faith-based groups in the fight against AIDS.

Bush had just asked Congress for an additional $15 billion to fight AIDS and announced plans to visit the sub-Saharan Africa to see the programs at work.

After meeting with representatives of faith-based religious and community groups at the church he said, “Faith-based groups like these are the foot soldiers in the armies of compassion.”

Is this true?

No doubt there are many religious groups that are helpful and committed to fighting the spread of AIDS but the $15 billion coming from a secular source, the US government, makes most faith-based efforts seem puny in comparison.

But NOT puny are the efforts by the faith-based to actually spread AIDS that make the President seem naïve and uninformed.

Maputo Archbishop Francisco Chimoio in the country of Mozambique was instrumental in ending that country’s 16 year civil war and has earned some respect.  Archbishop Chimoio is NOT a fringe extremist – he is in the mainstream of the Roman Catholic Church, the world’s largest Christian denomination.  His country’s population which is 17% Catholic, however, is now suffering under the scourge of AIDS, with over 16% infected in this country of 19million.

But this is his advice regarding the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS: “Condoms are not sure because I know that there are two countries in Europe, they are making condoms with the virus on purpose," refusing to name the countries.

"They want to finish with the African people.  This is the programme.  They want to colonise until up to now.  If we are not careful we will finish in one century's time."

Of course, imagine how utterly depraved the Archbishop must assume that Europeans are if he truly believes that they are deliberately spreading AIDS among Africans!  This should not be a matter of casual conversation in a BBC interview—it’s a crime against humanity the Bishop is alleging!  Why wouldn’t the Bishop name names in such an atrocity as this?  Is he a coward or does he know he is lying?  Either way, he is certainly not the moral leader he pretends to be.

Of course, it’s all nonsense; the Bishop probably knows this but he is also so out of touch with reality that he believes that this is what one should expect of secularized Europe and that his unsupported claims are reasonable and believable to his flock.  He could actually be lying, sincere  and crazy at the same time.

(For the BBC story go to

And what about the President, and his touting of the role of faith-based groups in the fight against AIDS?  If a secular group were trying to discourage people from using condoms knowing people would die because of it, would he be silent?  Perhaps, if only to mollify Catholic voters…

So while President Bush is about to spend $15 billion to fight AIDS, at the same time, the Roman Catholic Church is working to undermine the effort.

Maybe these “faith-based foot soldiers” are fighting on the other side.



Mitt Romney - the un-Kennedy

It may be argued that the greatest speech ever given by a presidential candidate in defense of freedom of religion was the speech by John F. Kennedy on September 12, 1960, to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association.

Rather than merely assert this, you can decide for yourself from this excerpt:

“… because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured--perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this.  So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again--not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me--but what kind of America I believe in.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

(For the whole speech go to

Of course, one could hardly ask a candidate to more clearly define their stand on an issue.  This speech may represent the “Gold Standard” for all future candidates on the subject.

Now consider how times have changed: in the past, a religiously incorrect candidate, which a Catholic would be back then on the national scene, sought to reassure voters that their supernatural beliefs or religious leaders would not affect their performance in government.

Nowadays, many “values” voters almost prefer that their elected officials obey their clerics, as long as their clerics are fairly fundamentalist, anti-science and their morals primitive and paternalistic.  What voters care about now is whether a candidate is a religious heretic, or worse, a non-believer!  They care not whether the candidate’s supernatural beliefs might cause human suffering; they care about whether those beliefs are the “True” beliefs, and if they lead to policies that cause misery, it’s no problem as long as they are not heretical or, worse, skeptical.

It is in this context that Mitt Romney, a Mormon candidate for the Republic presidential nomination gave his speech to a crowd at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University in Texas on December 6, 2007.

Romney at first affirmed that “no authorities of my church… will ever exert influence on presidential decisions.”  Ironically, although this is in line with Kennedy’s viewpoint, this is not what the most distrustful Republican primary voters cared to hear; no one was worried about this.  Those voters, consisting of Protestant Evangelicals and other fundamentalists, have little issue with Romney on actual policy, if one overlooks his history of flip-flopping to meet electoral needs.  If Romney did obey his church on most matters, they’d actually be happy.  In other words, Romney put out a fire that had never really started.

But then, instead of addressing those who believe he is not a Christian and who would not vote for him because of that, he attacked common enemies: secularists and secularism.

“In John Adams' words: "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. … Our Constitution," he said, "was made for a moral and religious people."  (Ed.’s note: Adams was a Unitarian and disbelieved in the divinity of Jesus.  His definition of morality may not have had a supernatural aspect.)

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.  Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God.  Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

Given our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty,some wonder whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate's religion that are appropriate.  I believe there  are.  And I'll answer them today… If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest.  A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.

There are some for whom these commitments are not enough.  They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it's more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts.  That I will not do.  I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it.  My faith is the faith of my fathers.  I will be true to them and to my beliefs…

Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.  There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked.  What do I believe about Jesus Christ?  I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind.   Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.  (Ed.’s note: Wasn’t abolition and integration commonly depicted as anti-Christian in this country?  And by the Mormon Church in particular?)

We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason.  No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion.  But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning.  They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God.  Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life.  It's as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism.  They are wrong.  (Ed.’s note: Yup, religious neutrality is a religion in and of itself, and in THIS case, apparently, it’s a bad thing.  All other religions, except for this new “Religion of Secularism,” are good and included according to Romney.)

The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square.  We are a nation "under God" and in God, we do indeed trust.

We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders in ceremony and word.  He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places.  Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests.  I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'

Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: Does he share these American values — the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another and a steadfast commitment to liberty…

They're the firm ground on which Americans of different faiths meet and stand as a nation, united…

Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government…(End of excerpt portion.)

At this point, Romney’s strategy is crystal clear: change the issue and scapegoat the secular.

Also, do NOT explain Mormonism to the typical Christian – the less they know about Mormonism, the better.  Instead, emphasize Jesus and attack non-believers and secularism.  It is truly a brilliant ploy that should fool no one, but probably will fool many, including many in the media.

Romney, ironically, then went on to cite evidence of the pernicious affect of religion and governance:

“Today's generations of Americans have always known religious liberty.  Perhaps we forget the long and arduous path our nation's forebears took to achieve it.  They came here from England to seek freedom of religion.  But upon finding it for themselves, they at first denied it to others.  Because of their diverse beliefs, Ann Hutchinson was exiled from Massachusetts Bay, Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, and two centuries later, Brigham Young set out for the West.  Americans were unable to accommodate their commitment to their own faith with an appreciation for the convictions of others to different faiths.  In this, they were very much like those of the European nations they had left.

It was in Philadelphia that our founding fathers defined a revolutionary vision of liberty, grounded on self evident truths about the equality of all, and the inalienable rights with which each is endowed by his Creator.  (Ed.’s note: The Creator referred to in the Declaration of Independence was not Jesus, since Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, did NOT believe in the divinity of Christ.)

We cherish these sacred rights, and secure them in our Constitutional order.  (Ed.’s note: The old ‘bait and switch’!  First he quoted the Declaration and then he makes it seem as though he is talking about the foundation of our country’s laws, the Constitution!)

Foremost do we protect religious liberty, not as a matter of policy but as a matter of right.  There will be no established church, and we are guaranteed the free exercise of our religion.

I'm not sure that we fully appreciate the profound implications of our tradition of religious liberty.  I've visited many of the magnificent cathedrals in Europe.  They are so inspired, so grand and so empty.  Raised up over generations, long ago, so many of the cathedrals now stand as the postcard backdrop to societies just too busy or too 'enlightened' to venture inside and kneel in prayer.  The establishment of state religions in Europe did no favor to Europe's churches.  And though you will find many people of strong faith there, the churches themselves seem to be withering away.

Infinitely worse is the other extreme, the creed of conversion by conquest: violent jihad, murder as martyrdom, killing Christians, Jews, and Muslims with equal indifference.  These radical Islamists do their preaching not by reason or example, but in the coercion of minds and the shedding of blood.  We face no greater danger today than theocratic tyranny, and the boundless suffering these states and groups could inflict if given the chance.

In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day.  And you can be — You can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me.  And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: We do not insist on a single strain of religion — rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith.  (End of excerpts.)

But apparently “we” do NOT welcome even a peep of disbelief.

That a presidential candidate could so blatantly ostracize a whole class of law-abiding and patriotic Americans – non-believers – as a tactic to gain votes is an awful commentary on the candidate, and on the voters.

This final portion of the speech is also a commentary on the total inability to reason on the part of Romney and his target; religious fundamentalists.  Here Romney recites the evils of mixing religion and governance in detail while ignoring the proven American solution—separation.

Although he quotes John Adams, he ignores James Madison, the Father of the Constitution and author of the First Amendment who wrote, “Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed,as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together.”  (For this quote and more go to .)

Yes, Romney knows the consequences of mixing faith and the state and instead of “perfect separation” as counseled by the great James Madison, Romney claims only to be a friend to “any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty.”

Thanks for nothing.