Faith No More, Pt. 2: Genocide is Not Justice

If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can’t be taken on its own merits. It is intellectual bankruptcy. With faith, you don’t have to put any work into proving your case. You can “just believe.” —Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist

Blind Faith

Read Faith No More Part 1

The extent to which faith compels progressive believers to blind themselves injustice so they can pretend their own ethics are backed up by divine authority is illustrated beautifully by Nahida herself, in the article that originally started my Twitter war:

[Nahida] interprets the condemnation of Sodom through a pro-queer, feminist lens as well: “My interpretation is that it was because they were rapists, not because the people they raped where of the same sex.” The book’s message, to her, is that “even when you don’t agree with someone’s decisions, you have no right to suppress the free will that was given to them by God.” Therefore, she says, Muslim law is inherently pro-choice, and inherently against imposing one’s religious beliefs on other people.

Whether the crime of Sodom was homosexuality, rape, or mere blasphemy, there is no way to tell that story without showing up god as a malignant, unjust thug. Nahida’s supposedly pro-queer and feminist interpretation of Sodom and Gomorrah conveniently glides past the fact that according to the story, two entire cities were massacred by her god because of an attempted rape.

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Faith No More, Part 1: Why Religion is a Poor Tool for Justice

As soon as we abandon our own reason, and are content to rely upon authority, there is no end to our troubles.—Bertrand Russell

I believe, without reservation, that secularism is a far superior way to build a fair and just society than religious or spiritual thinking, no matter how well-intentioned.

Faith No More: We Care A Lot (Album Cover)That catches some people by surprise. When you’re out and open about being an atheist, they naturally think that the religious people you’re against are the cartoonish fundamentalist preachers on TV, the middle eastern theocrats that spray women in the face with acid for some crime or another against “modesty,” or child raping priests. And it’s true; I am against all of those people with a feverish passion. What catches people by surprise though, is that I’m also critical of the nice, liberal theists, the ones that I mostly agree with on issues of queer rights, feminism, poverty, racism, the environment, and so on.

And it’s true that I’m not against progressive theists in the same way that I am the fundamentalists. They are largely tolerant and decent people, and we can work together, at least in the short term. But in the long term, I think that using faith as a foundation for social justice is rot at the heart of the apple. What someone believes is important in determining what kind of person they are, but why they believe it is just as important, if not more so.

This has been sitting in my brain for a long time; it’s something that I wrestle with a lot, because criticizing religious progressives in some ways feels like kicking puppies. They are, after all, the good guys, as far as I’m concerned. I want more people in our society who support the rights of queers and women, who want people to have free medical care and free speech, and who are willing to stand up against poverty and racism.

But ultimately, I think that we’re a lot more likely to get those things if we stop trying to justify through the will of spirits and deities and prophets, and talk instead about the needs of ourselves and our communities, right here in the real world. [Read more…]

The First Amendment: Christians Only

Ed Brayton calls this quote by Bryan Fischer, the notoriously vicious Director of Issue Analysis at the American Family Association, “The Dumbest Thing Ever Said.” I don’t know if I quite go for that: it’s got some pretty stiff competition. The Reagan Administration alone provides piles and piles of political bullshit, and that only takes us up to 1988. Then you have to sift through another eight years of the George H.W. Bush years (starring Dan Quayle!), the crazed, drooling anti-Clinton paranoia of the eight years after that, and then finally the Shrub years, which may have triggered some tonic-clonic seizures as a result of all the facepalming I did in that time. Yes, the last thirty years of political culture have been heavy on the stupid, not to mention the sheer horrific. Fischer’s essay, in which he argues that Muslims—and by extension all non-Christian—have no First Amendment rights really falls more properly into that second category. The really horrifying thing is how used to hearing this sort of thing I’ve become.

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Yes, Virginia, Perversion and Christmas Do Mix

After Ted Haggard, and now this guy, it’s starting to seem positively de rigeur for Christian homophobes to have a nice, dark closet that they can hide in. And why not? Have you seen the way these people raise their kids? I’m surprised that we didn’t find out that Haggard liked to get rimmed by billy goats while dressed as Ava Gardner and watching reruns of Green Acres or something equally inventive.

If you really, really want to make sure your kid turns out to be the city’s biggest perv, Kids in Ministry International has just the thing for you. For a mere $124.95, you can get their Blood of Jesus Visual Kit. What do you get for your money? Well…..

  • Crown of Thorns
  • One Crucifixion Nail
  • Cat of Nine Tails Whip
  • Tabernacle Felt Set
  • Life-size Latex Heart Model
  • Kids Discover Magazine on Blood
  • Scarlet Cord with Tassels
  • Cardboard Ark of the Covenant
  • Cardboard Brazen Altar
  • Instructions to Make High Priest Costume
  • Instructions to Make a Temple Veil
  • Chef’s cap for High Priest’s Crown
  • Judge’s Gavel
  • Simplicity Patterns for Bible costumes

With stuff like this, the parents should be happy if giving blowjobs for a nickel apiece in the back room of the Mine Shaft is the oddest thing their darling little angel winds up doing. I mean, I remember getting my first flogger, and it sure wasn’t a present from mom and dad.

The best thing, though, is the accessory they offer: The Sacrifice Lamb.

Sacrifice Lamb

Adorable, isn’t he? The Sacrifice Lamb “stands 15″ tall so it is nearly life-size of a new-born lamb.” Even better, it’s made to fit perfectly on the altar that comes with the Visual Kit, so that your darlings can practice their Holy Butchering techniques. (I suppose it would be “too Jewish” for them to include something on proper Kosher slaughtering methods.)

Christianity: for when your kid absolutely, positively has to be a closet case by 16.

Jesus loves you…

but He absolutely adores atheists. Why? Because they're the only people who don't ask Him to take sides in a war, particularly a war based on religious beliefs. Do you want to know who is His favorite atheist? Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason. Too tired at the end of your 12-hour day as a corporate lackey to read anything more than a catalog? Then go to the website of The Sun Magazine to read an excerpt from Bethany Saltman's interview with Harris. If you're too tired to click on the link, allow me to give you an example of why you should read this interview. In answer to Saltman's question, Isn't religion a natural outgrowth of human nature? Harris gives this reply:

It almost certainly is. But everything we do is a natural outgrowth of human nature. Genocide is. Rape is. No one would ever think that this makes genocide or rape a necessary feature of a civilized society. Even if you had a detailed story about the essential purpose religion has served for the past fifty thousand years, even if you could prove that humanity would not have survived without believing in a creator God, that would not mean that it's a good idea to believe in a creator God now, in the twenty-first-century world that has been shattered into separate moral communities on the basis of religious ideas.

Sy Safransky, editor of The Sun Magazine will even allow you to get a free trial copy of the magazine, just in case you feel as though you cannot give up those Grande Mocha Frappucino's to pay for the subscription. (Maybe next week?) Or, while getting that daily dose of caffeine and sugar, you can visit Sam Harris at his website www.samharris.org.

Guest Post: On September 11, almost one hundred fifty years ago

“…And the first thing a principle does—if it really is a principleis to kill somebody.”
From Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers

In his post Welcome to the Dungeon, Chris included an excerpt from Mistress Matisse’s account of her encounter with two young men from the Church of Latter Day Saints. Her description of those two nervous missionaries reminded me of the experiences of a friend, a non-Mormon, who lived in Utah for a year. After she arrived in a suburb of Salt Lake City, she quickly learned that the black slacks, white shirt and tie was the required male dress code for card carrying members of the LDS. Yes, the LDS does require membership cards.

My friend also told me about certain events in the history of the Mormon Church that are deserving of remembrance. In a few days, numerous memorial services will be held to commemorate the five year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. Those who lost their lives on that day should be remembered in services that are solemn and respectful. For those who think that these services are the perfect setting for patriotic fervor, I would recommend that they remember another massacre which occurred in September, almost one hundred fifty years ago.

September 11 is the date of the Mountain Meadows Massacre which took place in Utah in 1857. At the end of a five day siege, Mormon militia and some members of the Pauiete Indian tribe killed 120 unarmed men, women and children. The victims were farming families known as the Baker/Francher party, traveling from Arkansas to California. Only seventeen children under the age of six survived. What was the cause of the massacre? In the summer of 1857 troops of the U.S. Army were marching towards Utah, and the Mormons feared that the persecution which they had experienced in the previous decades was about to resume. In 1838 the Mormons had been driven out of the state of Missouri, and six years later, Joseph Smith, one of the Mormon founders, and a few of his followers were murdered by a crowd in southern Illinois. After Smith’s martyrdom, the Mormon Church added the following language to the initiation ceremonies, and it was not removed until 1927:

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Welcome to the Dungeon

What happens when you're a sex worker awaiting a new client, and two gay-looking guys with bibles show up to save your soul?  Mistress Matisse describes it for you:

And then as my eyes adjusted from the relative dimness of the house to the glare of the sun, I got a good look at them. Two young white men, rather slim, wearing dark slacks and long-sleeved white shirts and neckties. And gold name badges.

Holy shit, it’s a pair of Mormons!

I was standing there wearing: a very short (like, it barely covers my butt), very tight, black spaghetti-strap PVC dress that gives me tons of cleavage, a waist cincher, thigh-high shiny black high-heeled boots, my hair teased up like mad, and vampire-red lipstick. And there were these two Mormon boys, who look just barely old enough to shave, clutching their notebooks in perspiring palms, looking back at me. I must have looked like either their wet dream or their worst nightmare, depending in how devout they were.

We stared at each other in mutual confusion for an instant. And then I came to my senses and said, “Oh! Oh, no, no – go away please!” and closed the door swiftly.

It was half hilarious and half mortifying. I imagined them walking away from my house, shaking their heads and jotting down a note next to my address: Hell-bound floozy lives here. Clearly beyond any hope of salvation.

I love fucking with Mormons and other religous fanatics out to save me from hell. Oh, to have been a fly on that wall.

To Billy Sunday, by Carl Sandburg

Billy Sunday: Nov. 19, 1863 - Nov. 6, 1935

Billy Sunday: Nov. 19, 1863 – Nov. 6, 1935

Billy Sunday was a well-known fundamentalist in the early 1900’s, famed not only for his crusading against liquor (and for Prohibition), but for also becoming as rich as Croesus in the process. His sermons were of the classic “fire and brimstone” variety. Carl Sandburg wrote his own fire and brimstone sermon against Sunday and his firey moralizing. Originally titled “To a Contemporary Bunkshooter” with references to Sunday removed to avoid libel, it was only printed in its original form after both men had passed on. In his way, Sunday is stronger than ever, thanks to the modern-day versions of him who have carried his legacy deep, deep into the halls of power; if there is one overwhelming threat to our freedom today, it is the glee with which the wall between Church and State is being demolished, and how some refuse to acknowledge its validity at all. The portrait Sandburg paints of a conman in preacher’s clothing hasn’t faded one bit in the ninety years since it was written. If anything, now that the charlatans run the place, it’s more important to remember what they are.

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Unitarian Jihad

Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle has posted a manifesto from a terrifying… I mean, very frightening… well, actually, kinda sweet but boring new group of religious militants, the Unitarian Jihad. Beware!

We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.

Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for “balance” by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We will appear in public places and require people to shake hands with each other. (Sister Hand Grenade of Love suggested that we institute a terror regime of mandatory hugging, but her motion was not formally introduced because of lack of a quorum.) We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public. Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons.

By the way, according to this, my name in the Unitarian Jihad is The Katana of Forgiveness.

Dream-House Jesus

jcdollIf the sanctified, soon-to-be-beatified corpse of Pope John Paul II isn’t cute and cuddly enough for you, the Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company will soon release a Barbie-sized doll of Jesus “Son of God, Bee-Yotch!” Christ that not only takes the image of the Christian Messiah, but will also quote Scripture at the push of a button:

Also part of the series are Barbie-size Moses, David and Virgin Mary dolls, being developed by the Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co. in Valencia, which already markets a teddy bear that sings “Jesus Loves Me.”

“It’s been on my heart to do these for at least three or four years,” said the company’s founder and executive officer David Socha. “We are targeting the inspirational market, to do good things for children, something that adds to their quality of life and doesn’t corrupt their minds. Our company has always created very conservative products.”

I can’t help but think of some unintended consequences of this approach. For instance: how long will Mary remain a Virgin? Everyone I know who had dolls or “action figures” wound up at some point making little orgies with them. Will Mary and Esther wind up consummating a forbidden love together? Will Jesus take up with that hussy Barbie in her famed Malibu Beach House of Sin? Or will he go the other way and cruise WeHo with Ken?

Maybe none of the above. Perhaps doll-Jesus will convince Barb and the rest to give up their wicked ways and come to the Lord. Time will tell.

Barbie on the Cross