Archive for category Monstrous Little Heathen
My friend Francis DeBernardo at New Ways Ministry has a very nice, optimistic greeting for the new Pope:
As he begins his papacy, we request that Pope Francis I make one of his top priorities the re-evaluation of the Catholic hierarchy’s approach to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues. As a cardinal in Argentina, the new pope spoke strongly against marriage equality and against the right for gay and lesbian people to adopt children. We hope that in his new office, he will have the wisdom to hear all sides of these complex issues and that he will inject pastoral messages into his statements.
Over the past several decades, under the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, our church has suffered because of the aggressively negative approach to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity that the hierarchy has taken. As a result of these condemnatory and hurtful messages, thousands upon thousands of people—both LGBT and heterosexual–have left the Catholic Church. Some have looked to other churches for a pastoral welcome, and some have given up on faith altogether.
Pope Francis I has the opportunity to repair much of this hurt and alienation by offering sincere pastoral outreach to LGBT people and their families. A welcoming gesture from the new pope in the first month of his papacy can go a long way to express God’s love for all humanity. Without such a gesture, the church will continue to lose members, as well as credibility.
Pope Francis I will need to go further than gestures, too. In the past few decades, Catholics in the United States and all over the globe have become increasingly welcoming of LGBT people. Catholics have gone to ballot boxes to ensure that LGBT people do not suffer from discrimination and violence, and that they receive equal benefits in society, including civil marriage. During that time, Catholic theologians, using modern research and evidence, have called for the Catholic Church to update its teachings and approach to sexuality, including sexual orientation, same-sex relationships, and gender identity. The Catholic Church is ready for the full acceptance of LGBT people in the church community. The only obstacle to recognition of the full dignity of LGBT people is the intransigence of the hierarchy. Through example and directive, the new pope can move the church toward full acceptance.
Somehow, I’m not holding my breath that Pope Francis I is going to open himself up to new ideas. The Church will continue to lose members and credibility, and the hierarchy will have no one to blame but itself for putting crusty old dudes like Joseph Ratzinger and Jorge Bergoglio at the top.
Queen of Peace High School in North Arlington, NJ, has asked its female students—ONLY its female students—to take a no-cursing pledge.
I went to public schools. Our administrators and teachers had bigger fish to fry.
Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, there has been a meme going around to answer the question of why the Christian God did not prevent the shooting.
“God is not allowed in schools.”
I think most of the people getting behind this meme are generally decent people who love their country and respect their fellow Americans of other religious beliefs, including none at all. With that in mind, I want to tell you how this answer looks to those of us on the outside.
You’re effectively telling us that your God could have stopped Adam Lanza from going into that school and shooting all those people, most of whom were little kids, but he chose not to intervene, because the U.S. makes public schools a secular zone.
I grew up Christian, so I know that God is supposed to be extremely powerful. The God that I was taught to believe in would not let a small thing like the First Amendment get in the way of protecting children from getting shot while they sit in their classrooms. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how my childhood church would answer the question of why God didn’t make Adam Lanza use the first bullet on himself, but they would not tell us that those children and staff were killed because of the nation’s decision to make public schools a religion-neutral zone.
To those of us who believe in no God at all, you’re saying that your God is an asshole. You’re telling us that making everyone worship Him is more important to God than saving children’s lives.
To those who believe in different gods, or different ideas of the same God, you’re telling them that they are part of the problem because they want their children to go to school in a non-sectarian environment. You are asking them to think there would be less violence in the world if they allowed your religious traditions to be honored in the public sphere, at taxpayer expense, above their own.
All that said, I think this idea is most offensive to American Christians who respect the separation of church and state, because it’s ostensibly their God that chose not to prevent Adam Lanza from killing all those people. You’re also telling them that they are contributing to the problem by not demanding that their religious traditions be honored above all others.
Most of all, the message you’re sending is that a mass murder with mostly very young victims is a good time to discuss the merits of church-state separation. This may seem fair enough, because a lot of other people are using this occasion to point out the dangers of handguns. However, there is an important difference between God and guns, which is: we don’t need to debate whether guns exist. We can all look at a gun placed in front of us, take it apart, and learn the mechanics of how that gun can be used to kill people. In this case, we all know for a fact that guns were used to enable the killing of many people in a short span of time. There is no faith involved in understanding gun-related deaths. The evidence is readily available to all of us. The existence of God, and especially the supposed role of God in this tragedy, is all a matter of dueling beliefs. So, now you’re telling us that a lot of violence could be prevented if we all started worshipping the same God and in the same way that you do, but where’s your evidence? Why should we believe you over all other faith traditions, as well as the physics of handgun technology, the biology of death by bullet wound, and the sociology and psychology of violence? I don’t doubt that your intentions are genuine, and that you really think what this country needs more than anything is more love of God. The shooting at Sandy Hook was not a crime against God nearly as much as it was a crime against human beings. If you think your religion has a monopoly on compassion for human beings, you are sorely mistaken.
I’m sorry to be doing this over the phone, your father has forbidden me from seeing you in person. I’m sorry, he just cannot support your lifestyle anymore, he will not be speaking to you again, he asked me to tell you.
Ashley Miller’s father disowned her, just after Thanksgiving, because she’s dating a black guy. Her stepmother called to tell her the situation.
Your lifestyle is just not OK with him, he has bent as much as he will bend. He has bent so much and you haven’t bent at all.
I insist on clarification, “My lifestyle?”
Yes. Your father is an old Southern man, he was raised like that, he was raised to believe that races just don’t mix. It was the final straw. He loves you, he just doesn’t like you.
“So, this is entirely because he’s black?”
I told him it didn’t matter to you, that all you cared about was that someone didn’t believe in God and nothing else. But he just can’t bend anymore. You knew this would be his reaction.
I was admittedly worried he’d disapprove, but then he’d meet the boyfriend and like him and it would be fine. Also, my boyfriend isn’t even atheist.
We’ve gotten to the point in race relations in this country where we assume that acceptance of interracial relationships is a low bar to clear. We still argue about institutional issues like college admissions policies, mass incarceration, and racial profiling, but we don’t often hear about opposition to interracial romance.
However, Ms. Miller’s father is not alone in his belief that “races just don’t mix,” and he probably insists that this does not make him racist.
Take a closer look at this:
Your father is an old Southern man, he was raised like that, he was raised to believe that races just don’t mix.
That “belief” is not an evidence-based one, but it has resulted in copious, utterly unproductive misery for centuries. Races do mix, and there are a lot of people who wouldn’t exist otherwise. The entire racial group we call “Hispanic,” for example, is a result of “The gang’s all here!” reproductive interaction.
The explanation is that Ashley’s father was raised with a belief that interactions such as his daughter’s current relationship are not acceptable, and that he is addressing the conflict by cutting ties with his daughter rather than by challenging his beliefs. This belief, that racial boundaries are set in stone and some lines must not be crossed because “old Southern men” say so, is more important to him than his relationship with his only child.
This is why, whenever I hear someone support some nonsensical practice with “It’s tradition!” I am unimpressed. One might even say I’m skeptical of the idea of tradition itself. Some traditions are innocuous and fun. Some traditions are oppressive, nonsensical and break up families. The stepmother’s defense of her husband as “he was raised like that” is an appeal to tradition, and a strong example of why any idea whose main defense is that we’ve always done it that way, deserves our scrutiny, not our deference.
Alyson Miers is the author of Charlinder’s Walk.
You may have heard about the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died in Galway, Ireland on October 28th due to a preventable infection that resulted from a protracted miscarriage.
I’m at work now, so I’ll give you a quick round-up.
The most thorough coverage is from Michael Nugent.
Most of the links I just posted are from non-theist blogs, but even the post at the site dedicated to reproductive health issues frames the case as a matter of religious oppression.
The reason for that emphasis is in the answer Savita and her husband received from the hospital staff when they requested a medical termination of the non-viable pregnancy: “This is a Catholic country.”
That is not a scientifically or medically meaningful explanation. Mrs. Halappanavar was denied life-saving care because of laws based on Catholic beliefs. The fact that Savita was not Catholic did not save her from dying under Catholic rules. Of course, we all expect someone to follow the laws of the country in which they’ve decided to live. The doctors at University Hospital would not have escaped prosecution for providing an abortion simply because their patient was of a different religion than the majority of the country. That there is the problem: doctors in Ireland who care for pregnant women have to fear prosecution if they perform abortions, even to save their patients’ lives. If the law only makes sense from within a religious framework, then it is effectively forcing other people to live within someone else’s religion.
When those religion-based laws result in easily preventable deaths, one might even call it a violation of human rights. Savita could have recovered, gotten on with her life and had more babies. Instead, she was left to die of septicemia after days of horrible pain because “this is a Catholic country.”
It’s so easy to pick on Santorum, but if he doesn’t want me throwing shit at him, then he should retire.
Dude, I mean…WTF? Seriously? You saw fit to write this down on a piece of paper and allow it to follow a book to press?
Santorum thinks the modern day world could learn a thing or two from what happened centuries ago.
“Today we are facing a threat to the very foundation our founders laid,” writes Santorum. “That threat does not come from an alien force but from those who are willing and determined to abandon the concept of God-given rights. Like the royalty during the Revolution, today’s elites wish to return to the pre-Revolutionary paradigm in which they, through governmental force, allocate rights and responsibilities.”
If you would use the power of government to force women to make babies they don’t want, you don’t get to complain about the government allocating rights and responsibilities.
And about that “pursuit of happiness” thing? Santorum gives it an edit.
“Did God give us the right to pursue a good time? Don’t get me wrong—happiness is a wonderful emotion and a state to be desired. But is that what our founders really intended to be the pursuit of our country and its people—to be happy? Let’s put it this way: How would you like your tombstone to read, ‘Here lies [your name]. He/she was happy’? Count me out! Isn’t life supposed to be more significant than that? Let’s face it—many of life’s pleasures are not even good for us, as my waistline constantly reminds me.”
I think I just shed a few IQ points from reading that.
Does anyone else notice how the first question about “God” somehow morphs into the second question about “our founders”? Are we talking about what God gives us permission to do, or what our nation’s founders intended? It’s creepy and weird to conflate the two.
To answer your larger question: if you don’t find pleasure in the things that make your life significant, then in my opinion, you need to seek significance in other things. If significance is in opposition to happiness, then something has gone wrong.
For example, this may be strange in a writer, but I find pleasure in revising my book after getting feedback from an editor. There is real satisfaction in hunting down extraneous punctuation and trimming clumsy sentences. You might want to think about that, Santorum. I don’t think you’re using a ghostwriter, so perhaps you could hire a better editor.
One last thing: I don’t ever want to hear about Santorum’s waistline again.
Alyson Miers is the author of Charlinder’s Walk.
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.”
“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.”
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!
Someone made this happen, and Paula Kirby (who was until quite recently someone I respected) Tweeted it around:
So then Ophelia Benson showed it off on her blog so that we could point and laugh.
For those who have no idea what this is about: there’s been some assholery going around the atheist movement over the past year-and-change. Only now is the assholery leading to actual upheaval. This is one of those things that have been puked up due to the motion sickness of the rug getting pulled out from under them.
This is probably not the effect that the “artist” intended: I want to jump in there and assist Jen and Greta with whatever it is they’re doing on monkey-face. I want to kneel at Rebecca’s feet. I want to learn the wise ways of Ophelia. I want to have a beer with Richard and PZ.
These are just the sensations coming up from looking at this picture.
I see from the context that this little collage was intended to ridicule the FTB/Skepchick alliance, but the effect is that they all seem like an awesome bunch of people. If you’re trying to ridicule, it helps to make the object of your derision actually look ridiculous.
Look, whoever went and shot the guard at the FRC headquarters today?
There is not enough “folks, don’t do that” in the WORLD.
istrict of Columbia police are investigating a shooting at the headquarters of the Family Research Council that injured a security guard Wednesday morning.
The alleged shooter, whose name was not released to media by mid-afternoon, entered the conservative group’s downtown Washington building and opened fire. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier called the guard a hero for subduing the shooter who allegedly expressed disagreement with FRC’s views. Investigators have not determined a motive.
“We don’t know enough about him or his circumstances to determine what his connection is to this group [the research council] or his mental state, or what he was doing or thinking of doing,” said James McJunkin, the head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “So we’re going to try to sort this all out, pull the evidence together, do all the interviews we can.”
As much as we loathe FRC’s politics, I think we can all agree that shooting a security guard is all kinds of Not Acceptable? It should also be noted that the security guard may or may not share the FRC’s views and has no power within the organization. Not that it would be okay if he did agree with the org. Just that all you’re accomplishing by shooting this guy is to put him off work and possibly land him with a load of medical bills, which will likely cause a lot of trouble for his family.
I’m glad there weren’t any more casualties than that. I’m glad the guard is alive.
(Furthermore, as a person who lives in the DC area: will you please not contribute to our homicide rate? Thanks a bunch.)