No, you are not the Bonhoeffer in this moment.

It’s so cute when the Enforcers of Tradition act like they’re the victims of the evil status quo while they take the side of the oppressors. (And by cute I mean pukeworthy.) Huckabee is up to his usual tricks

I don’t think a lot of pastors and Christian schools are going to have a choice. They’re either going to follow God, what they truly believe, or they will follow civil law. They’ll go the path of Dr. Martin Luther King, who in his brilliant essay, the Letters from a Birmingham Jail (sic), reminded us — based on what St. Augustine said — that an unjust law is no law at all.

Abusing the words of Dr. King is basically a reflex for the American Right Wing at this point. It’s like someone pushes a button, and they start talking about MLK like they would’ve been on his side. Nice try, but I fucking see you.

Huckabee isn’t the only one calling for grassroots opposition to the Supreme Court’s ruling. For months, several far-right conservative pastors — including Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd — have been referring to America’s slow embrace of marriage equality as a “Bonhoeffer moment” for opponents of LGBT rights, invoking the name of famous German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was killed for participating in an assassination attempt against Adolf Hitler.

Oh, dear. How do I say this?

Fifty years from now, opponents of gay rights—emphatically including civil marriage—will be the ones that we struggle to explain to our disbelieving, horrified grandchildren. From what I recall, sexual minorities were among the groups targeted for extermination by the Hitler regime. If Ronnie Floyd had lived in Germany at that time, he wouldn’t have sympathized with Bonhoeffer. 

But by all means, Enforcers of Tradition, keep on acting like we’re making you the oppressed underdog by letting more people get married to the people they love. Keep on embarrassing yourselves.

I’ll be the weird old lady hobbling around the neighborhood, surrounded by a gaggle of curious little kids examining my wrinkled tattoos, while I explain to them that when I was their age, same-sex couples could take care of each other for decades and never be allowed to marry. I’ll be the one who explains to them how society could be so warped and hateful. 

God remains at large and un-indicted.

I encourage you all to read Sikivu Hutchinson’s piece about the terrorist attack at Emmanuel AMEC:

While black folk are the most religiously devout group in the nation, “God”, it seems, has never had to answer, nor be called to account nor be indicted for black suffering.

[…]

Due to economic apartheid, wealth inequality and residential segregation, activist black churches are still pivotal in many communities. Yet, as an atheist I can value their role while believing that it was not–as Christians rationalize–the Charleston victims’ “time”, nor a perverse example of “God’s will” that they were slaughtered. I can value the profound fellowship that the Emanuel family displayed in welcoming the murderer into their bible study yet believe that a just god would not have allowed this parasite in their church home to begin with.

[…]

No moral god would demand forgiveness for a crime for which there has never–since the first African was stolen, chained, exploited and “imported”–been any reparations.

I can understand if offering forgiveness to the terrorist makes his victims’ families feel better. I can also understand why the idea of Hell is so appealing when we look at someone like him.

Brain Surgeon Wrong About Everything

Ben Carson is very, very afraid that Life As Christians Know It will go catapulting down the crapper if marriage equality advances. He had this to say to the Illinois Family Institute:

Speaking to the anti-LGBT group Illinois Family Institute (IFI) on Friday, Carson explained that the Bible compares the relationship between Jesus Christ and his followers to a marriage.

“Think about the implications of that,” he said. “When people come along and try to change the definition of marriage, they are directly attacking the relationship between God and his people.”

“And that’s the reason it’s so important for them to change the definition, because if you can get rid of that, you can get rid of everything else in the Bible too,” Carson warned.

[…]

In his speech to IFI on Friday, Carson opined that the “secular progressive movement” was like a “new group of mathematicians who come along and say, ‘Two plus two is five.’”

“The new ones say, ‘If it’s not five for you, you’re a mathophobe,’” he added. “We just have to continue to make it clear because they want to say that anybody who doesn’t believe what they believe is a hater.”

 

 

For someone who can put so many big words together, Dr. Carson sure sounds like a dude swimming eyeball deep in Lake Nonsense.

His concern about marriage equality appears to be as follows: Christians’ love of Christ is like a marriage, so, if same-sex couples are also allowed to get married, then Christians will begin to view their relationship with God in a different manner, and that would ruin everything they hold dear.

(Note: Openly gay people are not included in Dr. Carson’s definition of Christianity.)

Not only will the destruction of Christians’ love of Christ be a consequence of the gay marriage agenda, it is the mere opening of Pandora’s Box. We’re opening with the relatively warm-and-fuzzy act of marriage equality so we can later move on to destroying EVERYTHING about the Bible.

In order to prevent Christians’ relationship with Jesus from changing—meaning, in order to prevent the destruction of the fabric of the universe—the legal definition of marriage must be the same as it is in the Bible.

So, let’s review the way the Bible says marriage is supposed to be:

I think you all knew this would happen.

They misspelled “polygyny.”

Whereas, if two consenting adults of the same gender get married, that ruins everything for True Christians.

The Bible also calculates that pi=3. Now we have these blasphemous people called “math teachers” asking us to believe that pi is 3.141592653589793238 etc. Everything was so much easier and cleaner before we began to stray from the eternal wisdom of the Good Book.

 

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. 

Richard Mourdock joins the rest of the fish in the barrel.

This shit keeps happening. First we had Todd Akin saying a “legitimate rape” can’t establish a pregnancy, so there’s no such thing as a rape exception for abortion law. Then we had Roger Rivard telling us how “some girls rape easy,” and we can’t trust a young woman who reports a rape. Now we have Richard Mourdock explaining very earnestly how there can be no rape exception because pregnancy by rape is God’s intention. We have all these Republican Congressional candidates saying these horrifying things about rape, pregnancy and women’s reproductive freedom, and they all think that if they just explain themselves a little harder, then we’ll see they’re decent guys who don’t hate women at all.

They are mistaken. Their further explanations merely dig them deeper into that hole.

Indiana candidate Mourdock has put himself in the national spotlight with this business:

Mourdock was asked during the final minutes of a debate whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.

He replied: “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that’s something God intended to happen.”

In case you’re wondering if the quote is missing some context, here’s the full paragraph:
“I struggled with myself for a long time but I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.”

Chris Stedman, Gnu Atheism, and the Use of Quotation Marks

You may have seen the excerpt on Salon from Chris Stedman’s new book, Faitheist, in which he complains about how other atheists are such meanies.

(No, really: that is what’s going on in the book.)

Ophelia Benson read the excerpt so the rest of us wouldn’t have to, and she found that he puts a lot of energy into making himself seem as extravagantly humble as possible. If the phrase “extravagantly humble” sounds like an oxymoron, that should tell you something about the tone of the book.

While he’s at it, he gives us an anecdote of an encounter he had which seems rather…implausible. Ophelia describes it thus:

I’m reminded of Kingsley Amis, reading a novel he hated, constantly saying as he read, “No she didn’t, no they weren’t, no he didn’t, no it wasn’t like that.” I don’t believe a word of that paragraph. I don’t believe he remembers any brooch or tan corduroy vest – or their ages – or what they said – and certainly not that they said what he quotes.

I went and read the full text, and she’s not exaggerating. I will quote some passages, in sequential order:

I had never heard the word “faitheist” before, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t a compliment.

I blushed and ran my hands through my short hair — a nervous habit — and cleared my throat, asking if it was intended to be an insult.

“Yes,” he said without inflection. “There’s nothing worse than a ‘faitheist.’”

*blogger runs knitting needle through long, thick, incandescently shiny mane*

You want us to think about your hair? Show us something remarkable.

More importantly, I find it extremely difficult to believe that this other dude actually said those words. The jury’s still out on whether the no-inflection dude even exists.

Though I was disheartened by the event, I went to the post-panel reception, held at one of the panelists’ apartments, because I hoped that if I spoke with more of the group members I’d find some people who shared my opinions or learn a bit more about why they believed differently than I did. Also, as a thrifty graduate student, free dinner and drinks were hard to pass up!

I walked in and instantly removed my shoes. The apartment was beautiful; the ceiling-to-floor windows allowed for a stunning view of Chicago’s orange-and-white-lit skyline. The living room was impeccably clean. I scanned the crowd; I was easily the youngest person there and unfashionably underdressed (nothing new there). Looking down at my feet, I noticed there was a hole in each of my socks.

I sympathize with the impulse to go for the free drinks and dinner, I really do. It wasn’t too long ago that I was white-collar poor and wondering when I’d have health coverage again. However, the attention he gives to the fabulous apartment, contrasted with his own worn-out socks, is no accident. The trope of young, eager, struggling Chris Stedman up against the older, wealthier, more cynical New Atheists is a major theme in this piece.

I sat down on the couch, carefully balancing a mint julep in one hand and a plate of hors d’oeuvres I couldn’t name in the other, intensely aware of how out of place I must have seemed. Next to me on the couch were a woman in her mid-40s with a shimmering peacock brooch and a man in his late 30s wearing a denim shirt and a tan corduroy vest. I introduced myself and asked what they’d thought of the panel. They raved: “Wasn’t it wonderful how intelligent the panelists were and how wickedly they’d exposed the frauds of religion? Weren’t they right that we must all focus our energy on bringing about the demise of religious myths?”

Ophelia Benson does not believe that Stedman actually remembers the details of the peacock brooch or the denim shirt and tan vest. I suppose it’s possible that these two people at the party were dressed that way, and that Stedman remembers it, but it’s also no accident that the peacock is an obvious symbol of pride. The dialogue, unfortunately, drains the paragraph of credibility. I do not believe for a second that anyone at that party actually said those lines. Why not, you ask? Because no one talks that way in an unscripted conversation.

I paused, debating whether I should say anything. My “Minnesota Nice” inclination warned me to let it be, but I had to say something. So I started small, asking them to consider that diversity of thought and background fosters an environment where discourse thrives, where ideas are exchanged, and where we learn from one another.

I was stonewalled: “We have the superior perspective; everyone else is lost,” said the woman with a flick of her hand that suggested she was swatting at an invisible mosquito.

No. No, she did not say that. I’ve hung out with atheists of the outspoken, confrontational variety that Stedman abhors. I’ve attended appearances by PZ Myers, for example, and had some fabulous conversations with the other attendees. They’re not all nice people, in fact some are raging assholes, but their speech is not unnatural.

Our conversation continued, and I offered up petitions that the positive contributions of religious people be considered with equal weight alongside the negative.

“I understand what you’re saying,” I said, trying to weigh my words carefully, “but how can we discount the role religious beliefs played in motivating the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi?”

“Oh, I get it,” the man jumped in with a sneer. “You’re one of those atheists.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant, but it didn’t sound like a good thing. I shifted my weight from one side to another — another nervous habit — and picked at an hors d’oeuvre that I thought might be some kind of cheese.

“What do you mean, ‘one of those atheists?’”

“You’re not a real atheist. We’ve got a name for people like you. You’re a ‘faitheist.’”

It is extremely unlikely that this conversation actually happened. “We’ve got a name for people like you”? No. This is, at best, exaggeration.

Leaving my Loyola class the day after my first atheist event, I stepped out into the cool, windy Chicago afternoon and thought back to my conversation with the man who had called me a “faitheist.” The bird-brooched woman had abandoned our discussion quickly, saying she didn’t want to waste her time. The man and I had moved to the hall, grabbing more food and another drink on the way.

“Take Islam,” he had said, leaning into a doorframe while I clutched my beer a little too tightly, the condensation running down my forearm to meet with the sweat that had just reached my elbow. “Now that’s a violent faith. And don’t try to tell me it’s not, because I’ve read the Koran.”

I thought of my friend Sayira, one of the most compassionate people I knew. Sayira was a young woman who was motivated by her Muslim faith to work for the economically disadvantaged.

This is another place where I have a bit of sympathy: I don’t like to see Muslims tarred with the terrorist brush, either, but that’s not what that man was doing, assuming he even said what Stedman quotes, which is still implausible. I have Muslim co-workers who are lovely people, and I’m aware of the Muslim emphasis on charity, but charity does not negate violence. Individuals can be wonderful, but that’s a separate issue from what their religion asks of them. Individuals can be totally peaceful, decent and generous, and the religion in which they count themselves can still be responsible for an outsize proportion of the world’s violence. I have no doubt that Sayira is awesome. Stedman’s position doesn’t become any more coherent when he contrasts Mr. Does-He-Actually-Talk-That-Way with Sayira, this one Muslim young lady who’s a wonderful person.

When you put words between quotation marks, you are showing the reader what came out of a person’s mouth, verbatim, in real time. The punctuation is not simply decorative. If you want to use quotes in a snarky manner to show us what you think the person really means to say, then first we need to see the words themselves. The dialogue that Stedman quotes in this excerpt is credible only if you’re willing to believe that confrontational atheists are humorless, emotionally deficient, socially crippled freaks with dazzling vocabularies. Those are not the speech patterns of normal people. In a novel, dialogue like that would look absurd. In a memoir, it’s preposterous. It makes the entire encounter look like a fabrication.

MOAR take-downs of Stedman’s ridiculousness!

Larry Moran’s post

PZ Myers’s post

Crommunist’s post

Jamila Bey Caught in the Commission of Journalism

Hemant Mehta shows us this incident in which the Rev. William Owens of the Coalition of African-American Pastors made the mistake of opening up the topic of “Biblical marriage” in front of an audience which included Jamila Bey. The press conference was supposed to be about CAAP’s opposition to marriage equality. Rev. Owens is a consultant to NOM. He acts like he isn’t accustomed to actually answering questions.

Bey: Reverend, What is God’s position on polygamy?

Owens: [Glares] Well, I think you know that. This is not about polygamy. This is about same-sex marriage.

Bey: This is about your — I need you to define for me, please, the Biblical definition of marriage–

Owens: The Biblical definition of marriage is a marriage between a man and a woman. And I’m not going to–

Bey: But Reverend–

Owens: I’m not going to get on another track!

Bey: … Talk to me about Abraham’s marriage.

Owens: Madam. Next question! Next question.

Bey: Reverend, what is God’s position on polygamy?

Owens: Next question!

Bey: Reverend, what is God’s position on polygamy?

Owens: Are you, are you going to stand there and just demand that I answer your question? This is not about polygamy. This is about same-sex marriage… and I will NOT do any different.

Bey: Reverend, you said that you would answer questions about Biblical marriage.

Owens: [To security] Would you have this lady removed?

Look at that again: “Are you going to stand there and just demand that I answer your question?” Why, yes, Rev. Owens! It’s called being a journalist. If you bring up “Biblical marriage,” as if the Bible is a helpful guide to well-adjusted family life, then you should be prepared for someone to ask about polygamy. This is especially important given how much energy the anti-equality side puts into comparing SSM to polygamy, or sounding the alarm that marriage equality will put us on a slippery slope to polygamy, bestiality and state-sanctioned incest. In light of the environment which the pro-patriarchy side has created, one should know better than to bring out the Good Book as a defense of enforced heterosexual monogamy. The Reverend just walked right into it.

American Nuns > Vatican

I think it’s time for a new schism.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization which involves 80% of U.S. Catholic sisters, is having the hammer brought down on it by the Vatican for not being a pack of bigoted assholes. I wish that were an exaggeration:

The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Yeah, I’ll bet they say things like, “A mother of four should not be left to die of pregnancy-related causes.”

The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.

Yep. Women who support universal health care need to STFU, while old guys in fancy robes, who would rather let Americans die by the millions of preventable causes than tolerate birth control coverage, are the “authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Oh, yes. Oh fucking yes. The nuns care too much about alleviating poverty, and not enough about demonizing gays or attacking women who think they get to control their reproduction.

Oddly enough, I don’t even recall Jesus saying anything about homosexuality or abortion. This is the guy who hung out with a bunch of single men and a woman of ill-repute. He did, however, have some strong opinions about how we treat the poor.

Sisters, you all are so much cooler than your church. Break away from those ridiculous bigots. Start your own religion: the Church of Actually Giving a Shit About Humanity. All the Catholics who are horrified at the Church for their homophobia, misogyny and support of child-raping priests but who keep making noises about “social justice” and “ritual” will have a better place to give their money and time. The ones who want their religion to be more focused on persecuting gays, letting pregnant women die, and preaching against using condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, can fend for themselves.

You’re better than they are, and they’re not even trying to hide how threatened they are by that. Let those assholes rot.

Puah Institute, what is that I don’t even.

You may have heard about the medical conference in Israel that’s banning women from speaking at the event? Specifically, the gynecology-focused conference where women aren’t allowed to speak on stage?

The annual Innovations in Gynecology and Halacha conference of the Puah Institute for Medicine and Halacha is scheduled for Wednesday. Some 1,000 men and women are expected to attend the conference, which is geared to the Modern Orthodox and haredi Orthodox communities. Male and female participants are separated by dividers in the conference hall.

The conference has been held for the last 12 years, but this marks the first time that the absence of female speakers has become an issue. Women do not serve as speakers, according to the organization, in order to insure the participation of the haredi Orthodox, who are generally wary of medical advancements in fertility treatments.

Their rationale is this:

1. Haredi don’t like to see women speak to male audiences.

2. Haredi are ambivalent about fertility treatments.

3. The Puah Institute wants Haredi doctors to attend this conference and learn about advancements in fertility treatments, therefore,

4. Women must be strictly separated from men at the Gynecology & Halacha Conference.

Notice that no one is trying to keep women from seeing men speak on stage. It’s fine for female doctors to sit in the audience while men make presentations. It’s the question of male doctors watching presentations by female doctors on stage that’s a problem.

Am I missing something here? If letting women show themselves in public is such a problem for Haredi men, then…maybe, Haredi men should not be gynecologists? Think about this for a second: if it’s “immodest” for a man to see a woman speaking on stage about medical advancements, then how is it the least bit acceptable for a man to put his hands on the private parts of a woman whom he may have just met that day?

It occurs to me that if Haredi men followed through on their “modesty” requirements and just left gynecology to female doctors, this conference wouldn’t be an issue.

(Yes, I know: when they talk about “modesty,” they’re really talking about keeping women in the kitchen, which means female doctors are only tolerated because of secular pressures.)

All that said, though, the controversy is totally worth the trouble, owing to this hilarious fauxpology from Puah:

“We are sorry that instead of appreciating the great advances we have merited to see in women’s health in general, and in particular within the religious sector, as a result of our conferences, there are cynical, aggressive elements who try to block us by using the prevailing public ambience,” the organization said on its website. “These elements are riding on the back of the Puah Institute in order to advance their personal agenda.”

Shorter version: “You bitches are just JEALOUS! Waaaaah!”

 

It’s like Phyllis Schlafly let her cat dance on her keyboard!

According to ThinkProgress, Crazy-Eyes Bachmann is the first occupant of the GOP Clown Car to sign onto the FAMiLY LEADER pledge (no, I am not making up that random non-capitalization), a little manifesto for The Handmaid’s Tale with a wee side of V for Vendetta theocracy.

I have found a copy of the full text of the pledge, and I’ve read it so you don’t have to. Here are some selected highlights!

Faithful monogamy is at the very heart of a designed and purposeful order – as conveyed by Jewish and Christian Scripture, by Classical Philosophers, by Natural Law, and by the American Founders – upon which our concepts of Creator-endowed human rights, racial justice and gender equality all depend.

Yeah, that same Jewish and Christian scripture that portrayed powerful patriarchs with multiple wives and hordes of concubines. “Natural Law” just means they want more juicy sperm-meets-egg goodness. The “American Founders” would have to be some weird secret society I’ve never heard of, as our Founding Fathers weren’t really concerned with “family” “values.” We’ll see what these idiots mean by “racial justice” and “gender equality” in just a moment.

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