Tag Archives: Religion

In a world of blithering idiots …

Can it really be true that half this country is a bunch of blithering idiots? They’d have to be to believe the drivel the Republican presidential candidates put out constantly.  Look at Wednesday night’s debate, if by debate you mean “Yet another chance for grown-ass white men to lie with impunity.”

If you believed everything you heard that night, you’d think that Barack Obama is a merciless child killer (“legalized infanticide,” from Newt Gingrich). Mitt Romney said president is a godless tyrant (“attacking religious tolerance”). The worst attack on religion in history, he said. Really? After all the direct attacks against Muslims and Islam that have been so blatant over the last decade?

Kinda reminds me of my days in the gay press, when the gay boys were all up in arms because the paper I worked for wouldn’t run sex ads and actually reported on the community outside the bar culture — including lesbians! “The Lesbian Home Journal,” they called us, derisively, just because we were inclusive and not exclusive.

The candidates use these talking points like they have a basis in reality. But ask them to back ‘em up — something no one ever does during these debates, which is why you so rarely see NPR anchors moderating — and they come up with nothing. That’s because they are lies.

What kind of presidential race is this? In 2008, of course, they did all these same things, but then they denied it. No, we didn’t say Obama is a traitor. No, we didn’t say he was Muslim. No, we didn’t say he was unAmerican. We can’t control what some of our supporters say.

But now they are saying it, right out loud. No denial possible, it’s all on tape. But I don’t think they want to deny it. They’re gunning for votes from the blithering idiot crowd.

More from that debate: Newt the Historian says this is the most dangerous time the world as ever seen and that Obama is the most dangerous president as regards national security we’ve ever had, with Mitt Romney chiming in that the president has done nothing (other than take out Osama bin Laden, end the Iraq war and send military help to end Gaddhafi’s reign of terror, to name a few) to make the world safer.

Obama is shrinking the military, too, these guys say. Making us less safe (be afraid, be very afraid). Yeah, that’s kinda what happens when you end two wars. Not to mention budget cuts agreed to by Republicans in Congress.

That dreaded “Obamacare” is costing jobs! And money! Well, yeah, if you’re counting insurance executives. But in the long run, the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act will cost nearly twice the billions keeping it in place will save. A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting family, and my dad and my cousin’s husband started talking about Obama being the Worst President Ever. And my cousin chimed in that it was just horrendous that Obama would want “us” (we taxpayers) to pay to educate the poor so they can get better jobs, and, y’know, not need welfare. “They just don’t want to work,” she said. “Do you even know any poor people?” I asked. No answer.

Meanwhile, the husband started whining about “Obamacare” and how he resented paying for it. Really? And who do you think pays for it when people who have no insurance go to the emergency room for general health care? Again, no answer.

Rising gas prices, too, are the president’s fault. Interesting that when bad things happen under a Democratic administration, it’s the president’s fault. But when the same bad things happen under a Republican president, the president has no control over it.

There’s a number of factors pushing gas prices up, not the least of which is butane. Butane, you say? Yes, butane. It’s a common, and dirt cheap, additive used in gasoline — but only during colder winter months. Once it starts warming up, butane starts evaporating, and the oil companies replace it with other, much more expensive additives. There’s also the demand coming from India and China pushing the prices up, not to mention our own love affair with wasting gasoline known as spring and summer vacation time.

And there’s one other thing, along with the Republican plan to drill the hell out of everything that can be drilled. Even if if that were to provide enough oil to make a dent in the US dependence on countries that actually have enough oil to use, there’s this one tiny problem: American refineries are already running at capacity.

Rep. Allen West, Insane MF-Florida, is a black guy who hates the president.

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/#!/BuzzFeedAndrew/status/172784413564878850"]

I have a better question. Why are you driving a Hummer?

And let’s not even get started on this birth control thing. I said 40 years ago that if the conservatives manage to get Roe v. Wade overturned, they’d set their sites on contraception. Looks like they’ve decided not to wait.

Rick Santorum’s the queen of that deal. Plus he says Obama is running the country with a theology that is not based on the bible. First, I hope he’s not running the country based on any theology. That’s kinda unconstitutional. And if Little Ricky thinks his theology is not based on the bible, what does he think it’s based on? The Quran? Newt Gingrich is in on this too. The Obama administration thinks the president is superior to the pope. Hey, Newt, in the US government, he is!

Here’s another from Newt. He blasts Obama for apologizing to Afghanistan for the accidental burning of Qurans “on a day when an Afghan soldier murdered two American soldiers.” Apparently, we’re supposed to behave abysmally and never apologize for being ignorant assholes because that would be “surrendering.” Or taking the high road.

And it’s not just presidential candidates going all out. In Virginia, they tried to require “transvaginal” ultrasound — that’s one with penetration — before a woman could have an abortion. Now why would they want to do that? Think about it.

Virginia and other states are pushing this “personhood” thing too — that a fetus is a “person.” Yeah, and so is a corporation. Just let me know when one dies for the country. But a fetus — y’know, if birth control and sex education were a little better here (and sex education is another thing these bozos hate) then there just wouldn’t be that many abortions. And remember — making abortion illegal (or making a fetus a person) won’t stop abortions. It’ll just make ‘em more dangerous.

See, these Republican creepos are vindictive bastards. They’re gonna punish you — torture you — if you don’t fall in line and worship at their altar. Especially if you are anything but the straight white Christian guys they are. Are you listening, Mitt Romney? You too, Newt and Little Ricky. The evangelistas you’re after don’t really see you as any more Christian than they do Mitt. So it really doesn’t matter how many letters Cardinal Dolan writes urging the Catholic bishops to push for some kind of conscience act, allowing people to not do anything if it violates their Christian beliefs (somehow I’m betting that no other beliefs will count in this), you’re still gonna be a heathen.

Just like the rest of us.

I suspect they’ll keep going. They’ll keep calling us names, vile and vicious names, and tell us we do the same. Really? Show me a Democratic presidential candidate who’s said the equivalent of any of the above. Show me a Democratic state senator who’s done the equivalent of refusing to honor the Girl Scouts because he thinks they’re the operative arm of Planned Parenthood, supporting abortion and homosexuality. Show me a liberal religious sect that is in Africa persuading governments to impose the death penalty on Christians. And, oh yeah, the Obama administration demanded that Iran reverse the death penalty on that Christian pastor — not that demanding Iran do anything ever works. I suppose you think Obama should bomb them for it? Oh wait, but you’ve already said that if we keep Obama in office, we’ll be using nuclear weapons in no time. Mmm. Project much?

And to answer my own question, yeah, it indeed appears that half the country is a bunch of blithering idiots. With no shortage of monsters ready and willing to take advantage of that.

Knowledge is power

Turns out, Americans don’t know much about their religion. That’s not much of a surprise. Americans don’t know much about anything when it comes right down it. But when atheists and agnostics know more about your religion than you do, Houston, we have a problem.

Of course, the religious amongst us will just say their religion is based on faith, not knowledge. And therein lies the problem. Too often, the disconnect between the religious and the rest of us has been written off to a conflict between science and religion — evolution, the age of the earth. But that’s not it at all.

The conflict is between knowledge and mythology. The more we know about the world we live in, the more we understand about the religions that have permeated our history, the less we need to rely on myths to make us comfortable. It’s also why we can lay claim to spirituality without buying into the dogma of religion, but that’s another post at another time.

Some of the religionists amongst us spend a lot of time trying to bend science to “prove” their beliefs. Take a recent study that “proved” a 63 mph wind blowing for 12 hours could have parted the Red Sea (it’s a Moses story, for the uninformed), although at some place where the sea was shallow enough for it to happen. I have my doubts about a tropical storm force wind staying in one place long enough — and blowing in the exact right direction long enough — to make that work, but that’s neither here nor there. My point is this — who cares? The seriously religions aren’t gonna like it because it takes away their miracle. All it really proves, if you accept the basic premise, is that a story in the Old Testament could have happened.

Lots of stories in various religious books could have happened, and no doubt many of them did — although, given the time between when they might have happened and when they were written down, the details might be somewhat different. That’s how myths are. And, over time, they also tend to attract a supernatural component.

All this comes from the release the results of a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s 32-question quiz. And here’s what it found:

It’s not Bible-belt Southerners who scored highest — they came at the bottom.

Those who believe the Bible is the literal word of God did slightly worse than average, while those who say it is not the word of God scored slightly better.

Barely half of all Catholics know that when they take communion, the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ, according to Catholic doctrine.

And only about one in three know that a public school teacher is allowed to teach a comparative religion class – although nine out of 10 know that teacher isn’t allowed by the Supreme Court to lead a class in prayer.

Goes right along with the higher teen pregnancy and divorce rates in conservative states, doesn’t it? Or the complete lack of understanding of American history and the Constitution of the teabaggers who claim to base their insanity on both.

I took Pew’s 15-question quiz and missed one, the last one. I’m ashamed to say it was a question that covered both American history and religion. But I didn’t know the answer. It put me in the second highest group — a very small one.

The respondents to that quiz fell into the typical bell curve — the vast majority falling someplace in the middle. But for people who claim to be religious, it seems to me the bell curve should be broken, especially in America, one of the most religious of the developed nations. Six in ten Americans say religion is very important in their lives, but far fewer have any real knowledge of even their own religion, let alone any of the others.

I dare say we’d find similar results if we had the teabaggers take something like the citizenship test, proving that those who cry the loudest rarely know what they’re talking about. But they’re willing to apply “second amendment remedies” to get what they want.

That’s even more shameful than my missing one question on Pew’s quiz.

The Christians who came to the new world were a humorous lot, locked into the dour and hopeless life view of the Calvinists — all work and no play. Ever. Theirs was a predetermined world — and a predetermined life. Work, work hard, and maybe you’ll get into heaven. That dogma was the root of many early mental collapses — the guilt, the worry.

It’s easy to understand why many of our founders, not willing to complete devoid themselves of a belief in god, called themselves deists. They believed in god, but not the insane dogma that came with the territory of the Christians who preceded them.

But even when the country began to move away from the colorless world of the Calvinists, it still brought with it the same attitudes about work, which eventually brought a new wave of mental exhaustion, particularly among women, in the 19th Century as the industrial revolution took away many of the menial “jobs” women did in the home just because they needed to be done. Soap making, candle making, those sorts of thing — they all gradually became automated, and women, still under the Calvinist drive to work work work, found themselves with no work and serious depression.

Barbara Ehrenreich, in “Bright-sided,” suggests that this state of the mind gave birth to the positive thinking movement (it was called “New Thought” when Mary Baker Eddy and Phineas Quimby came up with it) and eventually to the new agey idea that we control our own destinies and can create our own reality by the power of our minds.

Ehrenreich doesn’t buy it. I do, to a certain extent — we can certainly control how we react to and deal with life’s uncertainties, and that will determine our state of mind. But I agree with her that the proponents of things like “The Secret” are selling psychological snake oil to deluded people who haven’t been able to navigate the complexities of this modern life.

But more to my point, and I do have one (I think), it seems to me that the very religious among us — who have no clue where they came from and what their religion actually is — as well as the teabagging constitutionalists — who couldn’t tell you a single thing about what’s in the document other than the 2nd Amendment and certainly are clueless about the ideas of the founders — have sucombed to their own version of “New Thought.”

And it’s this. They believe they have no need to understand the world around them or the world they come from, or even what may be coming in the future. Where “The Secret” tells us that we can have what we want just by believing we can, the religious right and the tea baggers believe it is, now, just because they say it is. We saw that throughout the Bush administration. It’s why these folks have no need for facts. The facts don’t matter — whatever they believe is truth, and nothing can dissuade them from it. And eventually, you’ll believe it to. Repetition works wonders, you know.

Except that in the real world — not the fantasy world these folks inhabit — only the truth, supported by the facts, is the truth. And eventually, as the truth tends to do, it will come around and bite them in the ass.

Unfortunately, before that can happen, they’ll have plenty of time to come to the real truth on their own, which they won’t, and that means we’ll all suffer for it.

Apollo doesn’t ride across the sky in a flaming chariot every day, bringing light. Atlas doesn’t hold the world on his shoulders. Athena didn’t burst forth from Zeus’ head, although given that Athena is a symbol of wisdom, it’s an interesting thought. The Persian despot Zahhak did not have two vipers growing from his shoulders that grew back their heads whenever they were beheaded. The earth isn’t flat. The sun and the planets do not revolve around the earth. We can build machines that fly.

Knowledge. It kills myths. And it will, eventually, kill the myths that power the right. We just have to survive the process.

Superstitious minds

Witches have all but bogged down the court system of the Central African Republic. It’s what happens when a population is steeped in superstition. Graeme Wood writes in The Atlantic that 40 percent of all the cases heard in CAR courts are witchcraft case. Compare that to drug cases in the United States, which make up about 12 percent of all cases.

Superstition is an awfully powerful thing. Here in the United States, we had our own tussle with witchcraft. Remember Salem? That, of course, was nothing compared with the Roman Catholic Church’s Inquisition.

The Roman Catholic Church invented black magick, dontcha know. They did.  A German inquisitor named Heinrich Kramer wrote a treatise in 1486 called Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Malefactoresses — bad girls, or witches in the parlance of the day) that explained what it all was.  Of course, Kramer himself was denounced by the Inquisition four years after his tome was published, because, apparently, the torture he recommended went beyond even what the church was will to do, and he failed to stick to established demonology.

Even so, Malleus Maleficarum was pretty much the handbook for witchhunters for nearly two centuries after its first publication. The book was republished 36 times between 1487 and 1669.

Sound familiar? Think about it just a little — the church started this madness, this Inquisition, but even when it determined one of its staunchest adherents had gone a little too far, it was too late. Things got way out of hand, way fast.

Kramer musta been a kind of Republican prototype, because he was awfully obsessed with sex. That and bad girls.

All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable.

I could think of a reason or two he might come to that insatiable idea, but he probably wouldn’t agree any more than men do these days.

But anyway, Gutenberg having done his thing just 30 years before Kramer wrote his book, it took off like wildfire. Between that and the medieval press, which was a little like Faux News, witchhunting quickly became a very popular pasttime. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Catholic Church was a little ticked off about the Protestant Reformation at the time, or that scary activities like astronomy, philosophy and medicine were pulling Europe out of the Dark Ages. And we know what conservatives are like in times of change.

Now before you get all excited, I’m not saying that there’s a direct correlation between conservatives and the crazy people who found witches under ever thatch roofed home that housed a bad girl. But you gotta admit, there were some similarities.

This being the time leading up to the Enlightenment, which those scary activities aforementioned were integral in, there was naturally a hard push against any kind of progress because, well, change is very frightening, especially to people who, for whatever reasons, can’t see that their lives pretty much suck and progress might actually help them. Or, of course, the fat cats who run the place, like the church and the corporations which, incidentally, got their start in the 14th century.

But change happened anyway, culminating with a couple of very famous revolutions that put the kibbosh on another bunch of fat cats, the monarchy.

And then started the swing back the other way, bringing us to where we are now. And while we may have done in the power of the monarchies for the most part, the church and the corporations have grown stronger.

The Catholic Church still has its problems with Protestants, of course, but they’ve joined forces on the superstitions that hinder growth and progress. Used to be that Christians believed that Jews had horns and such, and while they don’t really think that much any more, they still believe their way is the only right way. Evangelicals talk a lot about being supportive of Jews and Israel, but they’re not telling the whole truth. The only reason — and I really mean that — that they’ve got this Holy Land obsession is Armageddon. They’re actually looking forward to that, although I suspect, if the Rapture really does happen, they’ll be awfully surprised at who stays and who goes.

Well, there is that whole Jesus Christ thing too, I suppose. But it’s the end of days that really gets ‘em going.

Superstition. I’m not talking about not walking under ladders or wearing your lucky socks every time you go out on the baseball diamond. Religionists like to claim that superstitions are just “old wives tales” (back to Kramer and his thing about women), but really, an awful lot of their own belief fall smack dab in the middle of category superstition.

Superstitions are just beliefs based on nothing — no knowledge, no reason, no experience. Like maybe that same-sex marriage will destroy heterosexual marriage or Barack Obama is a Muslim socialist.

Fear causes superstitions just like fear caused the Inquisition. There are plenty of causes of fear, too, but in these cases it almost always boils down to one thing. Fear that you may be wrong.

I ask myself every day, sometimes several times a day, “What if I’m wrong?” The difference is that I’m not afraid of it. I’ve been wrong many, many times in my lifetime, and no doubt I’ll be wrong a couple of times more before it’s over. But witchhunters, and conservatives, can’t bear that thought. And the best way to make sure you never have to face the possibility you might be wrong is to destroy what might be right.

It’s not even a conscious thing, or at least it rarely is. The 19th century Democrats concept of “Manifest Destiny” — wherein it was the destiny of the white people of the United States to own the whole continent, never mind that it was already occupied — was a completely unconscious manifestation of the superstition that Europeans were vastly superior to every one else. Interestingly enough, that idea fell out of favor around the time of the Civil War. But it’s still here — Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, all pushing the idea that it’s our destiny to promote democracy around the world.

All while they worked tirelessly to destroy it, because really, what could prove them all more wrong that a true, strong democracy? Where would the church be in that? The corporations? And maybe monarchies weren’t such a bad idea after all.

Superstition. It’s not always what we think it is. And sometimes, it’s the exact opposite.