Why the Recent Spate of “Religious Freedom” Bills May Be a Good Thing

Anybody who has been paying attention to politics recently has probably heard about the “religious freedom” bills that have been hitting a number of states recently. It’s a little mind boggling that all of them have been making it to state legislatures all at the same time, with similar language, but so far it’s been very difficult to actually track where they are coming from. Usually when bills like this are all proposed simultaneously, there is somebody not only writing the model legislation but willing to claim it. So far it’s been difficult at best to track down the origin.

Regardless, what started in Kansas has grown to a number of other states including Georgia, South Dakota, Tennessee, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Idaho, Alabama, Michigan, Maine, West Virginia, and is being considered in Utah. Most famous has been the recent veto of a bill that passed both houses of the Arizona legislature.


Go see why this might be a positive thing in a couple of ways in the full post over at Queereka.

Let Slip the Reindeer of War

Seeing as how we are post-Thanksgiving, I think it’s safe to say that the War on Christmas has begun again. I’m woefully under armored for this particular fight, having no t-shirts or jackets that actively disparage religion or Christmas in general.

In fact, I am a pretty miserable soldier in the War on Christmas. Yes, I commit the unpardonable sin of saying “happy holidays,” but there are those like Richard Beck who claim that I am actually being less blasphemous by doing so.

It’s blasphemous to post “Merry Christmas” all through a shopping mall. It’s blasphemous to slap the name of Jesus on all the Xboxs, Playstations, iPhones, and High-Def TVs. “Happy Holidays,” while still not great given that I don’t like the word “holy” being involved, is much better than “Merry Christmas.”

And the association of “Merry Christmas” with the local, state and federal governments is just as problematic. The Nativity set in the town square is just as profane and blasphemous as the “Merry Christmas” on the Xbox.

In short, while I’m very happy to have a more tolerant and liberalized shopping experience during the holiday season (out of simple civic respect I don’t want my Muslim or Jewish neighbours to be greeted with “Merry Christmas”), my deeper concern is how the “War on Christmas” panic is inherently blasphemous and idolatrous.

Leave it to Beck to ruin my fun.

Though, I have to admit, it’s a rather quiet war this year. I mean, we’ve had some early volleys with Sarah Palin’s failed book and Rick Santorum’s failed movie (point of order: what idiot thought to release a contemporary Christian film in theaters instead of direct-to-DVD?), but for the most part we haven’t been given the Full Fox Press on every retailer that didn’t address their specific holiday consistently. Maybe because it’s still Hanukkah and it could be considered anti-Israel to ignore that as long as it doesn’t conflict with December 26th?

Either way, unless Christians find some new way to weaponize The Christmas Shoes this year (a collectable card game, maybe?), I’m planning a nice, relaxing holiday season where I don’t have to worry about being berated for not paying obeisance to the cobbled together remains of somebody else’s celebration. So, here’s just some of the things I plan to do this December.

1. Listen to Holiday Music – This can include a lot of things. I’m always looking for new versions of Good King Wenceslas, since that’s my favorite carol. Of course, I’ll probably work on trying to learn the perennially beautiful White Wine in the Sun. I’m a big fan of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s A Very Scary Solstice and An Even Scarier Solstice (my favorites are “Harley got Devoured by the Undead” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth”). Otherwise, whether they’re religious or not, I love Christmas carols and will spend the next month singing them to myself and anyone who stands still long enough to listen.

2. Watching Holiday Movies – When I was growing up, I had a VHS tape that was just loaded with holiday movies. Santa Claus: the Movie, A Chipmunk Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and a number of others. I have since found digital copies of all of them seeing as I no longer own a VHS player and the tape is worn out anyway, and I make an effort to watch them all this month. I have since added a number of others. Alf’s Special Christmas is a tearjerker about love and life that shouldn’t come from a big nosed puppet Rodney Dangerfield rip-off.

The Muppets have so many Christmas specials it’s hard to watch them all (BTW: if you haven’t seen this year’s with Lady Gaga, watch it. It’s hilarious, and the gender-swapped “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt is perfect), but I try. The Muppet Christmas Carol is a must, however, and it’s something the whole family enjoys. In fact, part of the tradition is gushing with my father over how entertaining the rats are in that film.

A Claymation Christmas, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Christmas Vacation, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Die Hard. I love them all and can’t wait to be able to start watching through them this year.

3. Charity – I find myself more in need of charity than able to give it this year, but I still plan to work for local charities when I have the opportunity. By sheer luck, the restaurant the Dark Lord of Bakery works at got in contact with the person who runs a local battered women’s shelter, so I’m going to try to help them do fundraising for that group. I also won’t donate to the Salvation Army for obvious reasons, but I do make a point of noting how much money I would have given a bell ringer and, at the end of the season, donating that amount of a local charity, usually one that takes in homeless LGBT youth like the Zebra Coalition. And there are countless opportunities to do good all season long that I will try and avail myself of.

4. Spend Time With Loved Ones- The Sovereign of Aesthetics and the Bladed Poet are having a gathering at their home this year for us to get together, drink, sing, and play board games. So basically the same thing we do all year long, but I get to do it in a sweater, and I look amazing in sweaters. I also plan to go over there, in combination with #2 above, to show said Sovereign the Muppet/Gaga holiday special she missed. Plus I might make my family’s annual Christmas party this year, which is always fun. And for the holiday itself, it’s a big Italian meal at my parents’ house. So there will be plenty of time to socialize and enjoy the company of loved ones this year.

I could go on, but this is how I plan to fight the War on Christmas this year. More to the point, I plan on fighting it by doing basically the same things as the religious right professional martyrs do, but with no obligation to say “Merry Christmas” unless I feel like it. I encourage everyone, this holiday season, to use the greeting they feel comfortable with, accept other greetings in the spirit in which they were meant, and focus your ire on yelling at your family about health care reform, as is traditional.

Happy holidays to you all, and keep an eye out for more posts as I can.

Link Parade 6/30/13

Here’s a collection of things I wanted to talk about but don’t have a full post in me for.

1. Apparently, Ohio is also passing an abortion ban, presumably to create the jobs they keep saying is their priority. Miri has the details and is encouraging people to call John Kaisich and tell him to line-item veto that provision from the budget bill. I encourage you to go over there and get the details on how. I just did, and I don’t even think modern Republicans ever give a shit about public opinion, but it didn’t hurt me. The part that gets me, however, is this bit:

Doctors must inform patients seeking abortions exactly how much money the clinic made from abortions within the past year, and how much money the clinic stands to lose if the patient chooses not to get an abortion. In case it’s unclear, the point of this is to warn patients that there is a “conflict of interest” involved in providing abortions because clinics can make money from them. This is ridiculous because any medical procedure can make money for doctors and hospitals.

You’ll notice that with the advent of 501(c)4s and the GOP’s favorite Court ruling, Citizen’s United, that the opposite is true of them. If I were a principled Democrat in Ohio, every bill will have a proposed amendment that you cannot submit a bill in the state legislature without it saying how much you have received from the relevant special interest group and how much you stand to lose in campaign donations if the bill doesn’t pass.

2.Will Wilkinson talks about why Republicans would bother standing against immigration reform when it’s clear that even 86% of Republican voters think a “pathway to citizenship” is a good idea. And the answer is that they have a hard core base that really is dedicated to identity politics.

The energetic ideological base of the Republican Party is a nationalist, identity-politics movement for relatively well-to-do older white Americans known as the “tea party”. The tea party is interested in bald eagles, American flags, the founding fathers, Jesus Christ, fighter jets, empty libertarian rhetoric, and other markers of “authentic” American identity and supremacy. That America is “a nation of immigrants” is a stock piece of American identity politics, but the immigrants that made America America were, well, not Mexican, and spoke English, or at least Pennsylvania Dutch. Sorry Mexicans! Even if each element of immigration reform, taken in isolation, is agreed to be a good idea by a solid majority of Republican voters, Republican politicians must nevertheless avoid too-enthusiastically supporting this package of good ideas, lest they fail to project sufficient appreciation for the importance of keeping America American and putting Americans first.

This is where I think there is an element of cognitive dissonance present in a lot of GOP voters. They don’t think of themselves as hurting immigrants, they don’t want to hurt anybody, but they also want to feel more authentic, more American than somebody, and immigrants are a traditional target. They prioritize their desire to feel superior, better than, over their desire to help people who may have been raised in this country, entirely unaware that their parents brought them here illegally as babies. They aren’t entirely unfeeling toward other people, which is why they support parts of the bill, but a whole bill threatens their feeling of supremacy and that cannot happen.

3. This is the boy I wish I was when I was 13. In fact, this is the boy I wished I was when I was 13. Will Phillips has been a social justice activist since he was 10 years old. Matt Barber has questioned his motivations and suggested he’s been “brainwashed” (which is wingnut speak for “taught that other people matter”). He initially got famous for refusing to say the Pledge because he didn’t feel that we did have “liberty and justice for all.” Most recently, he spoke at the Northwest Arkansas Pride Parade. This kid is amazing and has a bright future ahead of him. Go read about him now.

4. TW: cults, murder, homophobia. “Lord” Pete Moses is the leader of a Judaism-based cult. And he has just been found guilty of murdering two of his followers, one of which was a 4-year-old boy who was killed because Moses thought he was gay. At the very least he will be going to jail, the sick fuck. Sentencing is next Friday.

5. If you have small children, you should fill out this form saying you would be interested in getting them this awesome toy to teach your youngsters about evolution. Even if you don’t have kids you should fill it out. This is not buying the product, they are gauging interest in it, and filling out the initial form will not ask you for credit card information, but will give you an opportunity to give comments.

6. If you remember me talking about Joe Klein and how he apparently doesn’t understand that atheists help people, there have been multiple updates. First, Klein himself tried to weasel his way out of his comments by claiming that he only meant organized atheist groups, which is still incorrect. Now Time has come out with its own statement, and basically they’re supporting Klein, which is why I highly suggest that you contact Time and let them know that this is utterly unacceptable, that inaccurate reporting has no excuse, and that you intend to cancel your subscription if you have one.

On a side note, I was helping my friend with her baby yesterday. Funny how Joe Klein wasn’t there to help.

7. This baby duck was born with a deformed leg. So, rather than give him a peg leg or letting him suffer, science has found a solution. Using a 3D printer, people made a mold for a silicone prosthetic leg and foot for Buttercup. All the feels for this one.

8. I was torn about this for a whole 3 seconds before recognizing the problems with it. Basically, it’s a website that is encouraging a movement for “Christian Domestic Discipline” which we are told is a consensual arrangement that includes male domination and punishments like spanking.

Christian Domestic Discipline is not BDSM. It is not a game. While we do not deny its sometimes erotic nature, it is ultimately not for erotic purposes. It is often much different than the domestic discipline you will find outside of the Christian faith.

The thing is, it sounds a lot like BDSM. However, my experience has taught me that I can’t trust that Christianists aren’t lying when they say stuff like “consensual”, and there is a question of whether a lifetime’s worth of being told that this is the natural order of things leaves a person in a position to meaningfully consent or not. However, giving the women involved in this the benefit of the doubt, I see nothing on their website about wives who want to exit this “consensual” arrangement, or merely drop that aspect of it without getting a divorce. I also see no mention of safe words and very little in the way of safety instructions to keep husbands from going too far (I suppose god will stop them?), which means it is very, very, very not BDSM. Essentially, as a Dom/sub relationship with a religious play component, this could be really hot. As a lifestyle with no escape routes, no safety instructions, and no apparent care for the lives of women who get into this other than value paternalistic nonsense, it sounds both dangerous and abusive, despite claims that it is not (because saying that something is not abusive/racist/homophobic/otherwise awful totes makes it true).

9. #4 on this Fred Clark link list. Just go read it.

I think that’s everything for now. Oh, if you haven’t, please go vote on my new tagline. It’ll only take a second and be really helpful.

Confronting the “Best Arguments”

Most people are pretty sure they’re right. Not necessarily about everything, but there are a few things they feel absolutely confident about. I know that I feel free damn confident about most of the stuff that goes up here, and when I’m not I will say so. However, there are two implications to this confidence: either I am really, truly amazing and right about everything I believe, or I am wrong about some things and haven’t heard the right argument yet.

It’s the latter that I find people banking more more and more. Let’s look at some examples:

What are marriage advocates to do? How can marriage—a thorough defense of which requires deep theological reflection or the complex natural law web of anthropological, historical, social, and scientific ideas contained in [Robert George’s] What is Marriage—compete with “all you need is love”? – Eric Teetsel, “On Winning the Marriage Debate


Not for Hitchens the rich cross-cultural fertilization of the Levant by Helenistic, Jewish, and Manichaean thought. Not for Hitchens the transformation of a Jewish heretic into a religion that Nietzsche called “Platonism for the masses.” Not for Hitchens the fascinating theological fissures in the New Testament between Jewish, Gnostic, and Pauline doctrines. – Curtis White, “Christopher Hitchens’ lies do atheism no favors


“Either this group is completely ignorant of arguments for and against God’s existence or they’re ignorant of the best theistic scholarship.” – Anugrah Kumar, quoting William Lane Craig, “Christian Philosopher William Lane Craig Calls Atheist Hotline a ‘Wrong Number’” (warning that the Christian Post is particularly annoying with its ads, with video ads that keep restarting if you pause or mute them)

We often see this regarding religious or theistic arguments, but it’s becoming quite popular among people who continue to put forward bad arguments: simply claim that the person who doesn’t buy into them hasn’t heard all the really good reasons why we should buy into what they’re saying. I think it’s a variation on The Courtier’s Reply.

I’ve encountered this before with theists and when I ask them to actually present those really good arguments, I will generally get a form of Pascal’s Wager. Occasionally I will get the Kalam Cosmological Argument and very rarely anything different. Unfortunately, both Pascal and Kalam are very easily debunked. In fact, I took a look at Craig’s ReasonableFaith.org (which is not as cool as a reasonable conversation, let me tell you) and it’s almost all Pascal and Kalam. You don’t have to believe me, go check it out yourself. I fact, if you check out his “The New Atheism and Five Arguments for God,” (for example) you can see that he brings up Kalam, but also the Thomstic Cosmological argument, the Moral Argument, the Teleological Argument (which is by far the most ridiculous and easy to argue against, as far as I’m concerned), and the ever absurd Ontological Argument, which is really just such a joke on the face of it that I’m going to assume it was developed by Dr. Frank-n-furter. Though I will point out that he forgot the Argument from Tigers.

I’ve looked at that site for a while now and see very little that isn’t a variation on these five, so I can’t help but ask Dr. Craig…where are you hiding these “best arguments”? Because the ones you presented are all childishly simple and only really convincing to people who want to agree with the premise.

Oh, and there’s the very popular “it’s a mystery“. That works for a lot of things.

Going to the Teetsel piece, we see basically the same argument being made for conservative principles. The problem is that people just don’t understand the wealth of thought and philosophy that goes into being a conservative, and are instead distracted by pop culture and celebrities. Liberalism, according to Teetsel, is the result of an abandonment of thought to shiny entertainment.

This is even more absurd than the Ontological argument. Teetsel is trying to tell us that the ideology that aligns itself with people who think somebody rose from the dead (several people, actually), the ideology that consistently denies the findings of science, the ideology that has never been right about a social issue since the founding of this country (and not too often before), is the thinking person’s option?

As David Sessions points out in this article for Patrol,

So Teetsel can’t pretend that the gay rights movement won simply by circumventing an intellectual debate. They had the intellectual debate when the religious right so took its own position for granted that it thought it didn’t need to argue; when the right finally started playing catch-up, even the most sophisticated versions of its ideas were too far outside the mainstream for a secular democracy. The right didn’t lose because of the “packaging” of its ideas, it lost because those ideas themselves were defeated in battle. (Similarly, Romney lost the election not because he didn’t get the conservative message across, but precisely because he did.)

This is also a lot like Penny Nance’s preposterous assertion on Mike Huckabee’s show that conservatives on college campuses are being “bullied” because they can’t explain their opposition to things like same-sex marriage. The sad truth is that they are able to articulate their positions just fine.

So, here’s the deal: we’ve heard your arguments, and they suck. I’m sorry, I don’t know if you’re just really invested in these things being true that you miss the obvious flaws in what you’re saying or what, but these arguments are truly awful. Fortunately, you don’t have to feel awful for having had them: you can change your mind. In fact, that would be great.

But if there are arguments that you’re hiding from me, ones that suddenly make it plausible that a wizard who lives on a cloud is up there mucking about with our lives, or that magically makes welfare queens a reality, or that convinces me that I’m a bad person for a propensity to not only be attracted to men but also act on it, now’s the time to break them out. Seriously, I don’t know what you guys are waiting for. Isn’t it time, after all this joking around, to break out the real “best arguments”? These are the gag arguments, right?


Punish the Girl First

Very few things frustrate me more than one person having to suffer for the crimes of others. Part of the reason why I have a problem with Christianity is that it is based, primarily, on the idea that one person can suffer in exchange for another and, further, that this is good.

In this case, the person suffering is 12-year-old Maddy Blythe who was previously allowed to play football on her middle school team. However, administrators at Strong Rock Christian School seem to be very afraid of her magical girl powers to create “lustful thoughts” in the boys on the team. So instead of the boys having to control themselves, she has been cut from the team.

Now, keep in mind, I am not really entirely on board with the “teach the boys to control themselves” idea in this case since the concern isn’t even for their behavior, it’s for their thoughts. Yes, they should learn about how not to give into those thoughts on an unwilling person, but this bullshit thought-policing does nothing but cause these boys to be steeped in shame on an incredibly regular basis since it doesn’t take a whole lot to give a 12 year old lustful thoughts. But, as Darrel Ray points out quite often, sexual control leads to control in other aspects of life, and religious organizations like Strong Rock love to control people. Make them afraid of their entirely natural and uncontrollable thoughts, then give them a cure for the made up disease in the form of obedience.

There is nothing good about this situation. All you see is kids being abused for being in the first case a girl, and then in the boys for being on the edge of puberty. When I first read this I was angry, but the more I think about the enforcing of purity myths and the inevitable pain that will be suffered by any child who buys into this claptrap, the more nauseated I get.

Strong Rock Christian School is harming children with this policy. They’re taking one girl who not only enjoys football, but is reportedly very good at it, and telling her that she must be the one to be punished because the administration can’t trust the boys. The boys on the team are being told that they can’t be trusted because they might be thinking things that haven’t been approved by Jesus, and their very thoughts can send them spiraling into the very depths of hell. On top of that, they are being told that if they do have a problem, it’s not their job to fix it, it’s somebody else’s job to make things easier for them.

There are no good lessons here. There is no hidden meaning that makes this anything other than fanatical devotion to absurdity and unthinking obedience to social structures that undoubtedly give all or most power to the people making these decisions. It’s sick, it’s sad, and I feel for these kids. I recommend going to the Let Her Play Facebook page and showing your support.

Ex-Gay Ministry Will Soon Be Ex-Ministry

I admit, I can’t believe that I actually just typed that headline. Living in Orlando, Exodus has quite a footprint. I mean, they are often overshadowed by theme parks, but they spend their time at the University and if you’re aware of them, they really are everywhere.

What I find fascinating and what has been bothering me at the same time is the journey of Alan Chambers, the president of the organization. He came out as gay in January of 2012, then by July had announced that Exodus would no longer be involved in promoting ex-gay therapy. I spent a lot of time railing against Chambers, but I had to give him props for choosing the lives of people who he realized he was driving to suicide over his need to share with everybody how much the ghosts of Jewish carpenters disapprove of them. His apology for criticizing the It Gets Better campaign was much more honest and cogent than anything you would see from the likes of Tony Perkins or Bryan Fischer.

When it comes to kids killing themselves, I can’t justify criticizing a campaign that, at its deepest core, is most about saving the lives of LGBT kids.  I care MORE about a kid choosing life than whether or not he or she embraces a gay identity. Life comes first. [emphasis mine]

For once, a member of the religious right uses “choose life” to mean people who are out of the womb. I think that’s nearly unprecedented.


Thus begins my first post for Queereka. For the complete article, just follow the link to learn more about Exodus International closing its doors.

Fighting From the Inside

Have you ever met a person who was part of a group that did terrible things, and when you asked them why they would want to be a part of that they tell you, “I’m trying to change things from the inside”?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what that means and if it’s really possible. One thing I can say for sure, though, is that you can’t change things on the inside unless you’re subverting the bad behavior. Let’s look at some examples.

Rabbi Ari Hart, an Orthodox rabbi, wakes every morning and says the following prayer: “Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has not made me a woman.” This is the prayer he’s expected to say in the mornings, the prayer that is written in his holy book. Unsurprisingly, Hart is a little uncomfortable about this, and writes about his discomfort at HuffPo. (h/t Rebecca’s Dystopia)

These difficult, even painful blessings are a part of a series of otherwise beautiful meditations thanking God for the everyday gifts of sight, clothes and freedom. Those other blessings roll easily off my tongue, the praise genuine and sincere. But for years I’ve struggled with praising God for not making me a woman. And I’m not the only Orthodox rabbi who struggles with it.

Ok, that’s good. Orthodox rabbis should struggle with that. It’s a stupid thing to say, let alone say every morning. It re-enforces that there is something wrong with being a woman and glorifies the people who established societies where it is true. In fact, this should be a very brief struggle, one followed by no longer saying that particular line.

But, of course, Hart eventually decides that he will say it anyway. He spends some time talking about the advantages he gets as a man (which is a good thing), but then comes up with some lame excuse about how saying this every day reminds him of that.

This blessing calls me to recommit to building a world where inequality and oppression do not exist. It calls me to recommit each day to building a world where saying “thank you God for not making me a woman” will disappear, not because it is offensive, but because it is meaningless.

This is the most pathetic excuse for this sort of behavior I have ever seen. Hart seems to think his position as a spiritual leader is meaningless already, that the people who attend his synagogue don’t actually listen to him. If he wants that particular prayer to disappear, he should take a bit of responsibility and make it disappear, at least in his prayers. It’s not some super-secret double fakeout where saying, “thank god I’m not a woman” actually means we should pay attention to gender inequality. It’s an artifact of an uneducated and backward time and place where patriarchal jackwagons solidified their power by designing a society where being anything other than them was a sign of impurity that could be used to keep superstitious mobs from working together.

Hart makes a point of how he’s trying to subvert the meaning of this prayer, but he’s not actually doing anything subversive. He’s just going along to get along and smiling to himself on the inside because he’s bucking the system in the laziest and least effective way possible: by silently thinking something he’s not supposed to.

We can also apply this to the Catholic Church. I know a lot of people who still attend Church and still support the Vatican, at least financially. The people who Timmy Dolan tried to have arrested last week were all believers who clearly disagree with the red hatted scum. There are a lot of Catholics that I know that are trying to change things in the Church, but the question becomes: how?

Seriously, how do you change an organization that has been used to getting their way for centuries? One that doesn’t even have the decency to be embarrassed about hiding child rape? Seriously, look at George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sidney, answering an inquiry about coverup of child rape in the Australian Church. He throws out excuse after excuse, apologizes to nobody in particular, and even engages in some victim blaming according to some reports. Since there is still some speculation on whether this was said or not, I’m waiting on the transcript to post, but several people who were present Tweeted that Pell had said, “Some of the victims themselves aren’t entirely blameless,” and blamed the media for “25 years of hostility” toward the Church.

Regardless, I have to ask how one fights that from within? The Church’s power stems from money and the perception of numbers. Even though most Catholics disagree with Rome on a number of issues, the fact that there are still butts in seats gives them an outsized amount of power compared to their actual influence. Similarly, if you bother to drop cash into the collection plate, you’re paying the moving costs of pedophile priests and PR firm fees, so why bother even showing up?

Another example: The Boy Scouts. There are several people I know who are Eagle Scouts and remain a part of the organization despite the discriminatory nature of it. Even with the tepid, illogical, and universally infuriating decision to allow gay scouts but not gay scout leaders or atheist anything, it’s pretty clear that the impetus for change in the BSA is as much a reaction to outside pressure as inside.

Unlike the Church and Rabbi Hart’s synagogue, though, it seems that there are people who actually can and are doing something in the BSA. According to Dante at Surviving the World, who is very passionate about this, there have been councils operating under their own non-discrimination policies for a while. There are Scouts who have worked their way through the ranks to be able to vote on national policy. There are people on the inside that can do things in a way that simply can’t be done in the Church. While it seems like a lot of work for what was ultimately a very small thing (though was huge for every queer scout out there, despite the right way spending the past few weeks calling them all rapists and perverts), we often have to work hard for small victories.

So, what’s the difference? What makes the effort of rogue BSA chapters different from the efforts of Ari Hart? The answer, quite simply, is subversion.

The BSA chapters that Dante mentions are actively opposing the national council’s rule. They recognize that there is a behavior they are supposed to engage in, but they refuse to because they consider it reprehensible. Hart, on the other hand, has decided to do what he always does and just hope that somebody braver than he will force his faith to change, or that it miraculously will on its own for no good reason, as if power just fades on its own.

The BSA is changing because people are challenging the system. Hart will likely die thanking god for not having a vagina (or being trans*) every morning for the rest of his life. The Church is unlikely to change in my lifetime because the cash continues to roll in from parishioners who think they’re doing awful things but still pass off their required 10%.

You can change things from the inside of organizations, but it has to be uncomfortable. There is no easy way to tell the people in power that they are wrong. It requires you to challenge their authority, to fight them actively and visibly. If you can hide what you’re doing, it won’t be effective. Fighting means being loud, being noticed, and being counted. Otherwise, how can anyone tell the difference between being against something and being part of it?

Various and Whateverthehell

Since I’ve been so busy, it’s time to just have a quick link roundup to cover everything I’ve wanted to talk about.

Miss America Chavez (designed by Jamie McKelvie, personal work 2013)

Absolutely beautiful comic about somebody who’s girlfriend is transitioning. For only a few panels with a bunny and a frog and a bear, this is really touching.

– More from the annals of “Feminism is already working on men’s rights issues.”

– A young man in Toronto is sexually assaulted by four women, and Rosie DiManno of The Star insults him. This lowlife seems to think that most men would love to be non-consensually ganged up on by four women. Look also for the fat shaming, slut shaming, and homophobia embedded in her assumptions about the perpetrators.

– A Christian school has decided that a married lesbian couple needs to get a divorce in order for their child to keep going to that school. Why they would want to send their kid to such a backward place, I have no idea, but since this is in Mpumalanga, South Africa, I’m sure there are other factors involved.

– Speaking of schools being the absolute worst, a Polk County high school (which is less than an hour from me) has expelled a student for a science experiment that created a small bang and some smoke but didn’t hurt anyone. JT writes about it and suggests how you can write a polite and well considered email to the school administrator explaining why this is an overreaction. Also read the comments in which they ask whether the school’s football players are expelled for breaking the school’s policy against hitting other students every time they tackle somebody.

“Angering the pope” should be an euphemism for masturbation now. Like “choking the bishop”, really.

– Researchers at IBM have made a movie by manipulating atoms on a copper surface and filming it. This is really, really awesome.

Ok, enough procrastinating. Back to work.

National Day of Reason

So, wow, been crazy busy with deadlines here for work and still am, but I think it’s time that we take a moment to celebrate today’s National Day of Reason.

First, it’s good to see that there are cities that are issuing official proclamations of this celebration. My favorite has been one of my most beloved towns, Dunedin, FL. I already love this city, which I call the most Scottish city in all of Florida due to it having three different bagpipe and drum corps (city, high school, and even middle school where kids have to be told they need to learn other instruments due to an overabundance of bagpipers) and throwing the best Celtic festival and Highland Games in the state. Seeing their city counsel make this proclamation to celebrate human ingenuity and achievement is truly heartwarming.

I should also mention that they have several local breweries, one of which makes the best red ale I have ever had. Kristycat will back me up on this.

Now, many people have noticed that this year the Day of Reason is also on the National Day of Prayer, which also gets plenty of proclamations from cities, states, and the nation. However, I would like to point to a heartening message that I hope others will emulate in the future.

Kol Hadash, a Humanistic Jewish congregation, is calling for prayer, but they are also saying that prayer is not nearly enough, and actions are necessary.

“Prayer may be wishing for change, but action makes it happen,” says Rabbi Adam Chalom. “We’re taking this opportunity on May 2 to change the world for the better by choosing to ACT.”

Kol Hadash is inviting everyone in the community to participate and to celebrate your good deeds. No matter how big or small, let us know how you are choosing to ACT to make a difference. Post a picture on Kol Hadash’s Facebook page, or Tweet your good deed on Twitter with #choosetoACT and tell us how you helped another. Sharing your actions can inspire others to take action too!

I can support this line of thinking. Celebrate human good and accomplishment. Combine it with prayer if you must, but I think JT hit the metaphor perfectly when he compared attributing the results of a combination of prayer and hard work to the prayer is a lot like giving credit for your cleanliness to singing in the shower rather than soap and water.

That being said, I think Kol Hadash is doing a good thing by encouraging people not just to do good things, but to share them. Talking about the things we do makes those things seem less impossibly huge. It puts a human face to the struggles that we engage in, and makes ideology manifest.

I want to end this by comparing the Kol Hadash and the Dunedin example to Joseph Farah, the unhinged proprietor of the WorldNetDaily, where all debunked conspiracy theories and martyr complexes go to be grotesquely resurrected like Solomon Grundy envisioned by Lon Chaney Sr. Farah is not, in this article, talking about the National Day of Prayer, but is instead talking about his call for prayer and fasting on 9/11 this year (an entirely original idea that has never been done before ever by anyone) because that will “heal the nation”.

It’s II Chronicles 7:14…“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”… He’s waiting for His people who are called by His name to humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways. Then and only then will He hear our cries, forgive our sin and heal our land.

In other words, He is waiting to perform a miracle for us if we put all our faith in Him and not in our own worldly works.

Emphasis above mine. As you can see, while cities like Dunedin and congregations like Kol Hadash are encouraging people to actual good works, to actually make the world a better place, we have con artists like Farah who actively disparage them, and encourage his followers to feel good about doing absolutely nothing. Not only doing absolutely nothing, but doing the same absolute nothing that has not actually created the paradise that Farah keeps saying is right around the bend if people just not eat for a day.

I should mention that this whole scheme is a way of building his email list.

Click the button below to register your support for the 9/11/13 DAY OF PRAYER AND FASTING. Notice: You will also be signed up for WND’s free emails so you can keep up to date with developments about this effort, breaking news and special offers from WND. You may change your email preferences at any time.

Regardless, I’m happy to see that there are people out there who are making a difference. I can’t seem to find who coined the phrase “Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer,” I know I read the name a few days ago, but I think it applies to Farah’s little stunt and to the efforts of Kol Hadash. If we’re going to make the world a better place, it needs to be through the work we do, through the effort we make, and through the kindnesses we show to one another.

PA Couple Murders Second Child By Faith

CN: Child abuse resulting in death, failure of the justice system

I wasn’t going to write about this. It makes me too angry. I want to scream and rage, I want to Hulk the fuck out and smash the church this couple attends. I want to make broad, sweeping statements that are emotionally satisfying but I know aren’t correct because they will make me feel better. And it’s taking everything in me to not do the last one, so I may fail, but please know that I am attempting it.

That being said, it’s because I’m so angry that my brain won’t stop thinking about this until I write down what I’m thinking.

What I’m thinking is that these parents have been allowed to murder two of their children because it was done initially in the name of faith, when they should have never been told that blind adherence without evidence is a virtue in the first place.

I am referring to Herbert and Catherine Schaible, a couple who, in 2009, were convicted of manslaughter charges for praying over their sick child instead of bringing them to the doctor. Rather than get something closer to the maximum penality of 17 years in prison, they were given 10 months years probation and made to promise, really promise, that they would take their children to the doctor in the future. They didn’t and now their 8 month old son has also died.

This is where we point out that their church teaches that going to doctors shows insufficient faith. “It is a definite sin to trust in medical help and pills; and it is real faith to trust on the Name of Jesus for healing,” says their sermon on healing and medicine.

The problem is not now, nor was it four years ago, that this couple didn’t love their children. They absolutely loved their children. They loved their children so much that they wouldn’t risk those children’s immortal souls to eternal torture, and instead watched while they both died horrible, painful deaths. That must have been the hardest thing both of them had ever done, twice, calling out to the heavens for god to heal their children and watching them be ripped away after suffering.

And that’s the problem. These parents were convinced that it’s a good thing to put your trust in an unknowable thing rather than knowable medicine. They bought into the idea that faith, any faith, is automatically good. They genuinely believed in a number of irrational things: 1) that there is a being who definitely takes an active interest in our lives and actively manipulates the universe based on requests from humans, 2) that this same being dislikes human medicine, and 3) that even if propositions 1 and 2 were true, that this being would somehow be worthy of worship.

Make no mistake, this is a couple who were so twisted by their faith that they saw what they believed to be god take their two year old boy from them for no good reason, then continued to worship that same being to the point where they watched another of their children die rather than offend it.

Here’s where I point out that I’m not saying that everybody of faith is irrational. Quite the opposite, I think most people of faith are highly rational when it comes to things like this, because they choose to ignore the dictates of their faith and behave in a fashion that matches the evidence of the world around them. Or they believe in a faith that doesn’t buy into this.

The interpretation of the Bible that the Schaibles church gives is no less valid than any other one. The difference is that most people choose to ignore those things, or at least have the decency to engage in a virtual Cirque du Soleil of theological backflips to demonstrate why that’s not really what’s being said there.

What I’m saying is that if you are going to have faith in an unproven creator, then I still expect you to put that aside when it comes time to make a decision that really matters. Whether it’s climate change, science education, child bearing, or child rearing, if your faith contradicts reason or human decency, I expect you to set it aside. If a person refuses to, I will blame not only them, but the bad ideas that informed their behavior, because people are not good or evil in a vacuum. They are guided by their cultures and the decisions they make are made based on the values they are taught to hold dear. If those values raise the will of a creator being above the health and well-being of children, you end up with people like this couple.

It boils down to this: if I am correct and there is no deity, then two children just died for nothing. If I’m incorrect and this is one who demands that medicine be ignored in favor of prayer, that deity should receive nothing but scorn and disapprobation from every human being with even a shred of decency. I know that I have a lot of friends and readers who are moderate believers, but even if we disagree on whether there is a supernatural, I think we can agree that the homicidal creature worshiped by the Schaibles is either a fiction or a monster, and deserves praise in neither case.


Just want to point out that part of the problem is that the PA legal code has things like this in it (h/t Friendly Atheist, emphasis theirs):

If, upon investigation, the county agency determines that a child has not been provided needed medical or surgical care because of seriously held religious beliefs of the child’s parents, guardian or person responsible for the child’s welfare, which beliefs are consistent with those of a bona fide religion, the child will not be deemed to be physically or mentally abused.

You might also want to look at the multi-part expose that Libby Anne is doing on the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and how they go to great lengths to prevent any laws that would stop child abuse.