Does a movie deserve to be banned?

It’s a fairly stupid question to ask, but one that is sadly predictable given the state of modern journalism. We must be objective. We mustn’t take sides or show the slightest hint of bias. When Egypt bans a movie, we cannot be seen criticizing outright such an indefensible act of censorship. No, we must call Paul Krugman’s Very Serious People to the floor, so that they may have a very serious discussion and thereby reach no conclusion whatsoever. Continue reading

What Reza Aslan gets Wrong About New Atheism

I really don’t understand the fascination with Reza Aslan.

Whether or not you agree with Sam Harris’ and Bill Maher’s scathing appraisal of one of the world’s larger religions, you’d have to be blind not to see Aslan’s interest in discussing his religion on the public forum. He’s an apologist, and like any other apologist he’s made a job out of twisting himself into cognitive knots trying to convince everyone his religion is anything but anachronistic and regressive. It’s quite stunning that right-thinking liberals who wouldn’t think twice about tossing the likes of William Lane Craig into the crazy bin fawn over Aslan like he’s some monolithic warrior for social justice, defending 1.57 billion people from the tyranny of two middle-aged atheist Americans.

After the much-publicized kerfuffle between Harris and white guilt poster child Ben Affleck, Aslan is still harping on them, and people are still eating his nonsense up like it’s in short supply. Continue reading

Words are Wind

At first glance, a Mormon feminist would appear to be a kind of contradiction in terms. A feminist is someone who advocates for complete equality between the sexes, an objective to which the rigid gendered social and familial structures proposed by Joseph Smith and his successors are diametrically opposed. But that’s neither here nor there. I don’t particularly give a fig about the contradiction. That feminism is making inroads into the LDS church is a qualified good thing, as is any step taken towards liberalizing the religion.

But if you’re going to keep tabs on this sort of thing, I would discourage you from using The Huffington Post as a metric for gauging progress. Despite his complete inaction on issues that for years have been practically screaming to be resolved, Pope Francis is still the HuffPo’s golden child, his every word a great stride forward to cleaning up the Church of St. Peter. Now, they’re pulling the same crap with Dieter F. Uchtdorf and the LDS church.

Who is Dieter F. Uchtdorf, you ask? I didn’t know until today, and, going out on a limb, I am going to assume no one at the HuffPo did, either. He’s the Second Counselor of the First Presidency, which means, in simple English (of which Joseph Smith was, apparently, not overfond) that he is a high-ranking member of the church selected to assist LDS President Thomas Monson. He’s a big wheel, without a doubt, but far from the biggest the church has to offer. Continue reading

Tuam Mass Grave: How to fail at moral relativism

There’s no point leading this in.

The remains of almost 800 children were buried on the grounds of an erstwhile Church-run home for unwed mothers in Tuam, Ireland. The children died between 1925 and 1961, largely of malnutrition and infectious disease. The locals in Tuam have known about this since at least 1975, when boys playing on the grounds stumbled up on a mass grave.

The Church is dealing with this markedly unpleasant revelation in its usual way: Continue reading

Fuck Mark Creech and the holy cow he rode in on

My grandfather once imparted upon me a golden rule I’ve since tried my best to live by. He said: “If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you should probably just shut the fuck up”.

And I am truly blessed to have had a much kinder, more intelligent grandfather than did North Carolina Religious Right assclown and Christian Post columnist Mark  Creech, who recently shared with us his expert analysis of the societal effects of Hinduism and Islam:

I served as a short-term missionary to India on three different occasions and saw this principle worked-out first-hand. India’s economy has been stagnated for centuries. Though I do not mean to disparage that beautiful country, it cannot be denied the two prominent religions, Hinduism and Islam, hold the nation back. Hunger is rampant in India, but not because they don’t have enough food. Hinduism teaches that people who die come back as animals. There are plenty of cows and pigs that roam the streets freely, but no one will slaughter them, even if their child’s belly is bloated with malnutrition.

Continue reading

Marriage equality does not require a “Biblical Case”

Much ado has been made of Christian author Matthew Vines and the book that got his publisher, WaterBrook Multnomah, booted from National Religious Broadcasters.

The fiasco was sadly predictable, and there’s really no need to go into it in detail. Vines wrote a book promoting marriage equality, and was promptly thrown under the bus by his fellow Christians — you know, the ones constantly bitching and moaning that they aren’t “allowed” to spew their bigoted filth in polite company these days.

Honestly, I’m caught halfway between feeling sorry for the guy and really not giving a shit.

See, I don’t care if there is a “Biblical case” for marriage equality, because we don’t need a “Biblical case” to pass laws in this country. What matters is there is a secular case for marriage equality, and that it trumps whatever you find in your precious collection of Iron Age scrivenings.

Ultimately, Vines is on the right side of this issue, and I’m thankful for that. If his book wins people over to the cause (honestly, I have my doubts, but good on him for at least trying) then we are probably the better for it. But the purity troll in me still feels uneasy about the whole thing. If you live in a secular society, you do so with the implicit understanding that you don’t get to legislate your personal religious beliefs, whatever they may be. Whether or not the God of the Bible would support same-sex marriage should be a non-starter for anyone, no matter what they believe. We simply shouldn’t care.

I certainly don’t.

Gay conversion therapy false advertising?

Writing for The New York Times, “third year law student” Jacob M. Vitter provided to one and all his solution to ending gay conversion therapy for good:

Despite the nearly universal consensus — including the professional associations that represent America’s pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, school counselors, social workers and marriage and family therapists — that “conversion” or “reparative” therapy is ineffective, harmful or both, its practitioners, many of them affiliated with religious groups, continue to advertise messages like “change is possible.”

Under commercial law, this is the very definition of a deceptive trade practice. Victims could sue practitioners for damages in state courts. With support from the Southern Poverty Law Center, several former patients did just that in 2012, seeking damages under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act from an “ex-gay” group called Jonah (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing). The plaintiffs cited Jonah’s false promise that it could “cure” their homosexuality — for which it charged $100 per individual therapy session. Last July, a state judge refused Jonah’s request to throw out the case, which could soon go to trial.

Lawsuits? Sounds like a conflict of interest to me…

If suggesting the mere possibility of results in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary is enough to justify a false advertising suit, then what’s stopping skeptics from suing the snot of out every acupuncturist, chiropractor, and Mona Vie peddler in the lower 48? Couldn’t we do the same to preachers who promote prosperity doctrine, or the power of prayer? Can’t the same rationale apply to any peddler of woo?

 

 

Oh, sweet irony…

God Lives Here

According to Gallup’s most recent polling, a majority of Americans believe human beings were created by God in their present form less than 10,000 years ago. In a move of profound irony, Dr. Gopikrishna Deshpande of Auburn University has suggested such fervent religious belief has a biological basis, and may be an evolutionary adaptation.

The group [Dr. Deshpande and NIH researchers] found differences in brain interactions that involved the theory of mind, or ToM, brain network, which underlies the ability to relate between one’s personal beliefs, intents and desires with those of others. Individuals with stronger ToM activity were found to be more religious. Deshpande says this supports the hypothesis that development of ToM abilities in humans during evolution may have given rise to religion in human societies.

“Religious belief is a unique human attribute observed across different cultures in the world, even in those cultures which evolved independently, such as Mayans in Central America and aboriginals in Australia,” said Deshpande, who is also a researcher at Auburn’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging Research Center. “This has led scientists to speculate that there must be a biological basis for the evolution of religion in human societies.”

I’ll bet Ken Ham didn’t see that one coming.

One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests…

…or so said Thomas Paine, at any rate.

Eastside Catholic High School of Sammammish, WA, would disagree with the sentiment, I think. They recently fired Vice Principal Mark Zmuda, who is gay, for the horrible crime of marrying someone he loves.

In the spirit of Pope Francis I’s shoulder-shrugging-and-oh-so-tolerant “who am I to judge” quip–in which he essentially said he has no problem with gays… as long as they don’t act gay–Zmuda was mercifully given the chance to keep his job, if he divorced his husband. Zmuda, for some reason, refused, and was promptly shitcanned. Continue reading

Wasn’t one Cameron enough?

Well, it would appear Candace Cameron has finally come full circle. Like her big brother and fellow failed actor Kirk, she’s now taken to spouting nonsensical drivel to anyone willing to listen.

The HuffPo–a fine purveyor of drivel–graciously lent her a soapbox from which to speak on a topic near and dear to her: the inferiority of her sex.

“I am not a passive person, but I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work.”

“First Peter 3:1 says, ‘In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.'”

“It is very difficult to have two heads of authority,” she told HuffPost Live. “It doesn’t work in military, it doesn’t work — I mean, you have one president, you know what I’m saying?”

No, I don’t know what Candace is saying here, and I doubt she does either. Not only does she fail to comprehend checks and balances between the three branches of government, she doesn’t seem to realize the president is not appointed on the basis of their sex… at least not on paper.

Candace: smarter people than you have tried, and failed, to rationalize their adherence to antiquated Iron Age morals. Go back to being a forgettable speck of embarrassing 90’s nostalgia.