Someone’s priorities are really skewed.

This asshole happened:

 “This Ebola epidemic could become a global pandemic and that’s another name for plague,” said broadcaster Rick Wiles on his “Trunews” program.

“It may be the great attitude adjustment that I believe is coming,” Wiles continued. “Ebola could solve America’s problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography, and abortion.”

Someone is really, really eager for a new plague to come along and punish America for its overly accepting, pleasure-seeking, independence-oriented ways.

I don’t think it’s any accident that all the “problems” Mr. Wiles listed either pertain to enjoying sex, or refuse to put money in the church offering plate.

Of all the horrible shit that’s going on in our country, and of all the destruction we’ve wrought elsewhere in the world, there are plenty of people, like Mr. Wiles, who think the real problems are, respectively: not being Christian, fucking people of the same gender, fucking lots of people in a given stretch of time, watching other people fuck, and fucking while refusing to accept uncontrolled fertility.

We drove a wrecking ball through Afghanistan, we’ve jackhammered Iraq, we’ve failed to clean up our messes in both of those countries, we continue to enable the Israel/Palestine conflict, we waste absurd amounts of money and human productivity on punishing people for non-violent drug offenses, and we keep millions of families in poverty. Our entire nation owes its existence to genocide and slavery.

Enjoying sex and not apologizing, though? Now THAT is where this guy’s God is putting the smackdown on us.

Most people, including the vast majority of American Christians, tend to think that Wiles’s laundry list of sins ranges from “not a problem in the least” to “less of a problem than people dying of Ebola.”

And yet, there are still people who keep guys like this in business. Many of them do a lot of the same things that are supposedly bringing God’s wrath on us, but they feel bad about it, and that makes all the difference.

Book Review: Godless Americana

Friends, countryfolk, students of secularism, direct your attention this way, please. Grab your lined notebooks and pens and take a seat facing the board. It is time for the lessons you didn’t get in high school, or for that matter in college. Sikivu Hutchinson’s new book, Godless Americana, will offer you the history, sociology, psychology and social studies you’ve been missing while asking why black people in America are so invested in the supposed religion of their oppressors. Buckle your seatbelts and keep your hands inside the car, because you will travel a very long way in a short period of time.

As we have come to expect from Dr. Hutchinson, there are no sacred cows, no privilege unexamined, no prejudice left unexposed. She stands in the middle of a set of groups which encompass practically everyone in America, emphatically including several groups which count her as a member, and she calls them all out on their inequality-perpetuating shit. If you’ve followed the politics within the atheist movement at all in the past couple of years, you’ve probably noticed that even a mild criticism of the behavior of some elements in the movement will open you up to an avalanche of shit raining down on your undefended head. Godless Americana is the honey badger of intra-atheism politics, because if you are under the impression that Dr. Hutchinson and her book give the slightest fuck about the Shit Avalanche, you will soon discover that you are mistaken.

Go buy the book. Do it. Click on the picture and buy the book.

Dominant American society is full of white supremacism and patriarchy, the black community is shot through with patriarchy and heterosexism, the mainstream feminist movement is soaking in racism and classism, and the mainstream atheist movement is generously laden with the baggage of patriarchy, white supremacism and classism thanks to its roots in the emphatically inegalitarian culture that enabled its development. These issues are all related in keeping black and Latina women heavily invested in Christianity.

Of particular relevance to mainstream (white) atheist culture is Hutchinson’s exploration of a syndrome known as scientism. This is a word that tends to make atheist brains (including my own) shut down as soon as we hear it from the mouth of a religious apologist, but I urge my fellow white secularists not to let this turn them off the book. For the purposes of this review, I will draw a distinction between small-s science, as a system of investigation, and big-s Science, as a cultural institution and body of acquired knowledge. Scientism implies not an appreciation for the former, but an overreliance and unquestioning trust of the latter, without concern for its long history of unethical and abusive experimentation on marginalized people whose descendants are now understandably mistrustful of the representatives of Science. While science is a self-correcting system, scientists are only human and their work takes cues from the system of inequalities in which they grew up. For a concrete example of the problems with atheism’s enthusiasm for Science, Dr. Hutchinson surmises that if Science were to take on the question of why so many African-Americans are incarcerated, it would conclude that blacks are a deviant race and must be socially engineered. The efficacy of using hypothesis, experiment and evidence to answer a question is a separate issue from the actions of scientists, and that tension between ideal and practice has made Science a problematic institution for many African-Americans, especially women, who bore the brunt of Science’s disregard for informed consent and human dignity.

The main theme running throughout Godless Americana is that while investment in theistic religion is erroneous and itself a driving force in many social problems, the fact remains that secular society is inadequate to meet the needs of many African-Americans and Latinos, which is why these groups are so much more invested in Christianity than whites. It is in answer to the question of how atheism can become more diverse and relevant that it is in the atheist movement’s interest to focus more on social justice issues, particularly those concerned with poverty, incarceration and sexual violence, and less on church-state separation. It is also because addressing these inequalities is the right thing to do. If the atheist/skeptic/humanist movement wants to do good in the world, then it must take interest in the concerns of people outside of those who are already educated in physical sciences and can afford to attend conferences. If you find yourself tearing your skeptical hair out over the question of how the movement can attract more people of minority racial groups, and/or attract more women—and these are not separate and discrete groups—then a great place to start is to read Godless Americana. It’s a much better deal than paying for all those history and sociology classes, but be careful about reading it on mass transit: you might miss your stop.

 

Disclaimer: This here blogger received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I have received no other compensation and have no financial stake in the book’s success. 

“Make more babies! But don’t let them read Harry Potter!”

What in the shit is this?

A library in Columbia, SC has been showing the Harry Potter movies this month. This has drawn some protests, I’d like to say from the usual suspects, but these folks are actually…special.

Asking supporters to call and email Lexington County Council members demanding they put an end to the Witch-a-thon and decrease the library’s funding, Columbia Christians for Life indicated that any council member who disagrees should be voted out of office. The group backed up their demands and proved God’s apparent dislike for the Potter series by including several Bible verses from Deuteronomy and other Old Testament books:

“There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire (which, in the Harry Potter series, could be accomplished by a simple shield charm), or that useth divination (one of Harry’s least favorite classes at Hogwarts), or an observer of times (sounds like Hermione’s time-turner), or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer (such as Gilderoy Lockhart), or a consulter with familiar spirits (hopefully fire whiskey), or a wizard, or a necromancer.”

Something tells me the general voting populace is not going to share their priorities.

What I wonder is how Columbia Christians for Life, which you can tell by the name is an anti-abortion group, got so interested in protesting Harry Potter movies. As Ashley Miller shows us, their website is covered in spittle-flecked pronouncements about how abortion is sending America to Hell in a handbasket. (I’m not even exaggerating.) Harry Potter doesn’t say anything about abortion. If anything, you’d think the forced-birth set would appreciate the fact that Harry’s favorite family are the Weasleys, who seem to be in the camp of “babies are awesome so let’s have lots of them.”

I guess it makes sense if they view fertility less as building families and more as making lots of little Warriors for Christ, which, based on their website, appears to be their angle. They want you to make more babies, but don’t show them anything as left-leaning as Harry Potter, which has a nuanced view of authority figures and shows women doing interesting things with their lives. Nothing but Left Behind books for Columbia Christians for Life kiddies.

I’ll know I’ve made it when library systems start banning my books. If Columbia Christians for Boring Lives think Harry Potter is offensive, I’ll introduce them to Charlinder. Wait until you hear his thoughts on the Immaculate Conception. We won’t even get started on Gentiola.

I would like to see some Christians defending Jessica Ahlquist.

We have an overall summary of the case brought to our attention by 16-year-old Jessica Ahlquist via Friendly Atheist. With me so far? Church/state separation issue, prayer banner displayed in public school, clearly unconstitutional, no surprise that the judge ruled against the school? Right? Right, so, THAT happened, and now that the case has been decided, a lot of people in Cranston, RI are not happy with Jessica. In fact, they are extremely upset with her, and they’re making sure she knows it.

Greta Christina gives her analysis of the backlash at Alternet. She draws from these two basic observations: 1) this was a clear, simple question of church/state separation from the beginning, and no one should be surprised that the judge ruled against the school, and 2) and yet people are totally enraged at Jessica for her role in this case.

Some edited highlights are below the jump. This shit ain’t pretty, folks.

Continue reading

Florida Family Association wants TV to be just as hateful as what’s in their heads.

Whenever a group has “Family” in its name, it has to be a hate group. There’s just no way around it. You may have heard about corporations such as Lowe’s pulling out of advertising on All-American Muslim because the Florida Family Association is pressuring them. Dodai Stewart went and read the FFA’s website so that we don’t have to, and here is what the assclams have to say:

Clearly this program is attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad and to influence them to believe that being concerned about the jihad threat would somehow victimize these nice people in this show.

They complained to Lowe’s about advertising on the show because, of all things, TLC is showing the lives of Muslims who aren’t trying to blow shit up. They think it’s a threat to American liberties to show non-violent, non-threatening TV. They think it’s a problem when a show discourages bigotry.

We wouldn’t want to celebrate the family values of people who use a different name for God, after all.

 

“I’m Rick Perry, and I fail at not parodying myself.”

Oh, now really.

Aside from the bald-faced lying like a cheap rug—no, Rick Perry, nobody is stopping you from openly celebrating Christmas! Just don’t do it in your capacity as a taxpayer-salaried public servant!—there’s the very not-subtle juxtaposition of “gays serving openly in the military” with the (fabricated) liberal encroachments on Christians’ freedom to worship. Once again cross-pollinating the Christian persecution complex with the majoritarian-American sense of entitlement, he’s transparently pitting his fellow travelers against The Rainbow Menace, making gay rights antithetical to freedom of religion.

I know that there are some people who will lap that shit up. The meme of gays as the enemy of Christians isn’t yet dead, but it’s putting him on the wrong side of history. For the younger generations—that is to say, those who will still be voting after Rick Perry and the rest of the GOP Clown Car bunch are dead—if you pit equality of civil rights for gays against Christianity, more and more people will chose the gays. Record numbers of Millennials are losing their religion because their churches have nothing to offer but hate.

Besides all that, it’s a crappy video. I could have chosen better background music. I do like the jacket, though. It’s very Jake Gyllenhaal meets Heath Ledger.

 

The religion of Macy’s is “Thou Shalt Not Suck at Turning a Profit.”

Is this the new front in the War on Christmas? Are we now taking the battle to vicious, soulless corporations who heartlessly force their employees to do their jobs?

A week ago, a Macy’s employee spotted a transgender woman going into the women’s dressing room, and decided to stop her and inform her that she wasn’t really a woman. The company promptly fired her, but now the employee has enlisted the help of a hatemongering conservative organization and is claiming that Macy’s discriminated against her religious beliefs by denying her the right to harass whichever customer she chooses.

Johnson says she told a manager, “I’ve made my choice the other day … I refuse to comply with this policy.” Since she was incapable of complying with company rules, Macy’s fired her. Johnson went to the Liberty Counsel, a conservative organization that’s called GLBT rights “a radical agenda,” then filed a complaint with the federal employment commission. When asked for a response, Macy’s said it doesn’t “comment on personnel matters,” adding, “At Macy’s, we recognize and appreciate the diversity of our customers and associates.”

Johnson says that by mandating that all employees appreciate the diversity of Macy’s customers, the store is forcing her to violate her Christian beliefs.

Right. Here we have the overinflated sense of entitlement multiplied by the persecution complex which American Christians have raised to an art form.

That said, I also think that, Liberty Counsel notwithstanding, most American Christians, including the ones who agree with Natalie Johnson’s rather reductive view of gender, would agree that if you cannot perform your work duties as your employer requires, you can work somewhere else.

You are entitled to your beliefs. You are entitled to practice your religion, but only within bounds that do not encroach on someone else’s beliefs. You are not entitled to have your employer bend its policies around your beliefs. You are not entitled to force customers to live according to the rules of your religion.

Your customers do not have to follow your religion. Your employer does not have to follow your religion. The imperative of a major retailer such as Macy’s is to turn a profit by selling goods, and they accomplish that goal by providing good customer service. If you do not provide good customer service, they will not employ you. No one is entitled to draw a paycheck for a job they refuse to do. I could go to my supervisors today and tell them that duplication of efforts is a violation of my religious beliefs, and rather than re-arrange our department’s workflow so that I never have to deal with duplicate invoices, they’d fire me and hire someone who isn’t too devout to get the job done.

If allowing a transgirl into the woman’s dressing room is a violation of your Christian beliefs, then you can go find a job that doesn’t involve dressing rooms. Meanwhile, Macy’s will employ someone who serves all customers so that they will purchase goods. Problem solved on both sides.

 

If you don’t want to be called racist, then don’t pull racist shit.

Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church has been given the smackdown by their denomination’s governing body and will just have to find other ways to promote the unity of their church body.

Did the church itself change its mind on the issue? Not really.

Stepp said the Sandy Valley Conference of Free Will Baptists declared the vote on Thompson’s resolution null and void during a meeting on Saturday.

The former pastor of Gulnare got the church members to pass a resolution that says, “We don’t have a problem with those people, we just don’t want them marrying our girls!” and the Sandy Valley Conference effectively took the matter out of their hands. It doesn’t matter if they’ve changed their minds, it doesn’t matter whether the sudden uproar from all four corners of the Earth has persuaded them that cross-racial marriage should not be considered a bad thing, and it doesn’t matter whether they’ve considered that the resolution they’d passed was a really crappy message to send to their church secretary about his family. In this case, it’s not their decision. Their church WILL NOT bar interracial couples from church membership, as long as they’re a member of the Sandy Valley Conference.

On the one hand, I don’t think they actually have to worry about any interracial couples trying to join their church any time soon. The message has already been sent that the church environment will not be a welcoming one. On the other hand, at least their current pastor has his head screwed on tight w/r/t race relations.

The response to having All the Internet gape in horror at them has been thus:

[Pastor Stacy Stepp] said he told church members on Sunday about the decision and proposed a resolution to promote “peace, love and harmony.”

Stepp said about 30 people who attended church services voted on a new resolution that welcomes “believers into our fellowship regardless of race, creed or color.”

Where were those 30 people, I wonder, when the anti-interracial-couples resolution was passed 9-6?

I would like to note that the new resolution is not exactly a reversal of the previous one. In spirit, yes, but in letter, not really. Former Pastor Thompson would probably argue that he’s not racist, and the effect of the resolution was not racist, because it wouldn’t have stopped people of color from joining the church—just as long as they’re not married to white people.

Realistically, if you actually believe that all racial groups are human first and foremost, and that all groups are equally good and worthy, and that it’s the variation between individuals that really means something, and that no one group needs to be protected from contamination by another, then you should have no problem with people of different colors getting married and having mixed-race kids together. And if you have no problem with their families, then you should not have any problem attending church with them.

However, the new resolution is about welcoming believers. It doesn’t say anything about their spouses. It shows that the church has been reprimanded, but not that it’s thinking differently.

 

Review: Moral Combat

Coming to the end of Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics and the Values Wars by Sikivu Hutchinson, I am forcibly reminded of PZ Myers’s endorsement of The Greatest Show On Earth, by Richard Dawkins.

There are no more excuses. None.

Perhaps it’s a bad sign that I can’t think of a better comparison than a recent biology-focused tome by Prof. Dawkins, but bear with me a few minutes.

While Prof. Dawkins chose an ambitious but uncomplicated project of establishing in layman-friendly terms the reality of Darwinian natural selection, Dr. Hutchinson’s book takes place at a very different degree of sociological difficulty. She places herself between the black church, the larger white-supremacist and patriarchal society, and the developing atheist movement, and she schools them all. There are few people left uncriticized by her scholarship, only some largely invisible and unheard slivers of society left uninstructed to unpack some invisible baggage.

When it is finished, there are no more excuses. None. There should be no more hand-waving away the need for a wider range of voices in the freethinking movement, no more man-splaining and white-splaining about what issues should “really” be the focus of skepticism and atheism, and no more clueless hand-wringing over why there aren’t more women or more people of color involved in outspoken atheism. There are no more excuses for failure to comprehend these concerns, no more assuming that skepticism begins with the Big Bang and ends with Bigfoot. Outside of the New Atheism, there should be no more telling the godless that for the sake of harmony we should simply stop being so noisy about our non-belief. There should be no more pointing to disadvantaged groups’ reliance on religion as evidence of its veracity. There should be no more attempts to silence atheism with the presupposition that religion maintains a more ethical, just and civil society regardless of its explanatory power. These are the questions that live at the intersection of sexism, racism, economic injustice and religion in America, and if you just sit down for a while and prepare yourself to unlearn some party lines, Dr. Hutchinson will make everything clear.

There will be some ideas expressed in her book with which you disagree, and some connections explored with which you were previously unfamiliar, and that is only more reason to become acquainted with these concerns. Fear not the expanse of an overly ambitious tome, for Dr. Hutchinson’s writing covers an astonishing breadth and depth of research and insight in a remarkably modest word count. There is no more need for multi-megabyte Internet explosions of privileged obliviousness over godless demographic issues. Here are the answers to your questions.

 

The parallel is really quite fascinating.

Because Richard Dawkins declined an offer to debate the existence of God with William Lane Craig, Premier Christian Radio is putting his (Dawkins’s, that is) name on buses:

The new advert reads: “There’s probably no Dawkins. Now stop worrying and enjoy Oct 25th at the Sheldonian Theatre.”

This, of course, is a paraphrase of the 2009 atheist advertising campaign, which put “There’s probably no God” on bus sides. Where the heathens put “God,” PCR puts, “Dawkins.” Hmm. Interesting. Of course I realize the context is different, but…you do know how this looks, right, PCR? It’s kind of like you think we worship Prof. Dawkins, or something. We don’t even always agree with him.

The reason why Prof. Dawkins is uninterested in debating is basically that the event would look good on their resume, not so much on his. Meanwhile,

Prof Craig said the poster campaign “leaves a shred of hope that he may turn up”.

He thinks Prof. Dawkins will change his mind because they’re using his name to advertise the event? Yeah, I don’t think so.