Tag Archives: religion

public school & religious cultural center field trip

My partner sent me this article about the furor over a public school field trip to a local Muslim community center.

Folks seem to be upset because a few kids participated in religious observances / prayer. Personally I’m not too bothered by that — it appears to be voluntary participation at the event, and likely the field trip itself was voluntary. Prayers should not be sponsored by the school, but kids are free at school to engage in non-sponsored religious rituals should they choose; so why not on a field trip?

But what I am bothered by is the below paragraph, which doesn’t seem to have excited much controversy:

The 10-minute video, which weaves the words of a narrator and video of activities at the center, says that during the field trip, girls and women were instructed to stay at the back of the room during the prayer service — as per Muslim custom — and the boys were allowed to stand side by side with mosque members during prayers.

Letting kids see folks at religious observances, and learn about said religion, is one thing. Encouraging them, or requiring them, to participate in sex discrimination is quite another. wtf?!? Seriously, there are all sorts of institutions that are sexist and racist in practice. We ought not be taking kids to them. Find a Muslim cultural center that does not practice sex discrimination, or keep the kids out of the religious chambers in this center. Similarly if you have to cover a girl’s hair to take her into a Church of Christ cultural center, or make her wear a dress to visit an Orthodox Jewish facility — this is the definition of gender discrimination. And this religious-based sex discrimination is the imposition of religious practices and beliefs, not the voluntary prayer. I say again, wtf?

Let’s just picture the teasing between the kids about this enforced gender division, and how the individual kids felt to be sent to the front of the room or the back of the room based on gender.

Participating in prayers, voluntarily, is not illegal. Being discriminated against on the basis of your gender is illegal.

I say again, wtf?!?

"nothing of this sort will happen in the future"

матрациFacebook has deleted “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!”, a user-created page, and apologized to the Pakistani government which had blocked Facebook. A Pakistani minister said Facebook had assured them that “nothing of this sort will happen in the future”.

Yeah, good luck with that. And fuck you, Facebook. How about not knuckling under to paternalistic theocratic states that block Internet access for millions of people?

See:
* Huffington Post, 5/31; hat tip to boston-atheists mailing list.
* comicsalliance.com
* and, yes, wikipedia

You can’t see http://www.facebook.com/pages/Everybody-Draw-Mohammed-Day/121369914543425?ref=ts..plz which redirects you to facebook, nor can I find a cache of the site on Google or on the Internet Archive.

unidentified flying pasta monster

oh, sure, there are lots of interesting goings-on in the world of copyright / IP / info / intellectual freedom / privacy / tech law / policy / librarianship / etc.

plus of course the endlessly fascinating polling data on the various elections. (i’m voting YES on questions 2 and 3 in massachusetts: ban dog racing and (sort of) decriminalize mary jane.) (could sarah palin be any more freakin’ clueless about science? dozens of nobel laureates think not.)

but i can only be dragged online to post by evidence of copy-editor cluelessness:

“a noodle monster”??? Come on! This is the flying spaghetti monster !!! Pastafarianism is, like, one of the biggest new religions in centuries! Waaay bigger than LDS despite their legions of black-nametagged youthful proselytizers.

oh well — the article (on mad scientist cooking experiments) was fun despite this glaring impiety.

(hat tip to michele, as ever)

gassing muslim children in Ohio “not a hate crime”

Apparently, Dayton, Ohio, officials think that tossing pepper spray* into a mosque nursery, filled with infants and directly in the face of their ten-year-old babysitter, is nothing more than a random chance chemical irritant attack. Certainly not a hate crime. In fact, it was probably motivated by love — James Dobson-style “tough love” for those youthful infidels. It should be called a “love crime” but our politically correct bureaucrats would never consider tracking crimes of love.

* a pepper-spray-ish substance, anyway

By some bizarre coincidence it happened after the DVD “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” was mailed to local homes and inserted as an ad in the Dayton Daily News and 70 other newspapers in the midwest. It’s weird how coincidences happen like that, but it certainly doesn’t suggest the mosque was targeted after locals were inundated with anti-Muslim information.

According to the Dayton Daily on Monday (9/29), a cop still had to determine if a crime even happened. Three days after the attack incident, which took place Friday 9/26. There’s no need to rush because, you know, who even knows if a crime took place? I mean, so often people sneak up to open windows where religious minorities have gathered and spray cans of noxious substances directly into the faces of children. Heck it happens all the time that cans like that just happen to fall into people’s hands when they’re standing by open windows, and they’re so startled they just accidentally press the button, and somebody’s gonna get sprayed. By accident. Or out of love. Or whatever, but certainly not out of any malicious motive. And if you’re standing by an open window of a mosque and a can falls into your hand — by accident — what the heck else is going to happen?

Dayton Daily News 9/27 via daily kos via pharyngula

faith-based damages

So this flight attendant is suing a televangelist who assaulted her, and in addition to emotional damages and hemorrhoids, the flight attendant is claiming she is owed damages for loss of faith. Broadsheet, Salon.com, 8/8.

Obviously the First Amendment is going to pose real problems for the plaintiff — American courts establishing a monetary value on religious faith (and loss thereof) seems to pose a real Establishment Clause problem. Entanglement, preferencing religion over non-religion — a fun case.

But if by some miracle this plaintiff prevails on this claim, can we children of fundies get damages for having faith imposed on us as children?

back to mormons and forced “marriage”

[Warren] Jeffs was convicted last year in Utah of forcing a 14-year-old girl into marriage with an older cousin.

I’m sick of these quotes that just talk about “marriage” and accept the use of that word.

If you are “forced” into “marriage” you are not married: you have been kidnapped (restrained against your will) and forced to engage in a marriage ceremony, but your marriage is not lawful and valid because there was no consent.

Will the defenders of marriage against homosexuals please stand up and take back your frickin’ word against these people who want to define it to include nonconsensual behaviors like kidnapping and rape?

This sentence or one like it was widely quoted in the media. One source is wtop, which has the new information that a large number of the teenage women/girls in the compound were currently pregnant or had previously given birth. I have no idea any more where I got this link from.

In case all this is not completely, crystal-clear, note the caption on the picture of Warren Jeffs’ father, Rulon Jeffs: “FLDS founding patriarch Rulon Jeffs with his last two wives — sisters Edna and Mary Fischer — on their wedding day. He received the pair as a 90th birthday present.” (emphasis added)

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Expelled without a license

Word on the street is starting to trickle in that the popular music was not licensed:

* John Lennon’s “Imagine” was definitely used without permission. The Lennon estate + EMI are suing. (See Reuters, 4/23 (link from pharyngula); the NYT, 4/24; and Paste Magazine. (I can just picture the graphic on The Daily Show: “Ono you di’n’t!”)

* I’m also hearing that The Killers (“Personal Jesus”) didn’t authorize. (See comments on earlier posts.) … And now I’m hearing that they did authorize, but were duped into doing so. See the playlist.

Updates as available.

4/28 update: It looks to me as if copyright infringement was at least anticipated and planned for, and the case that the copyright infringement was an intentional gambit by Premise Media to inspire litigation is considerably stronger: Check out this press release by Premise. They’re trumpeting the litigation, and note that they reference it as litigation by the “beloved Yoko Ono.” Tapping into popular dislike of Yoko Ono — which had significant racist and sexist over-, under-, and in-the-middle-tones — Premise Media continues to demonstrate that they are a class act. Their behavior reflects on the religion they profess and promote, of course.

Other discussions on the issue:
* metamagician
* Lippard Blog

Expelled copyright infringement, cont’d

update 4/16: Both a commenter here and also P.Z. Myers have reported that Expelled filmmakers Premise filed on Monday a DJ (“declaratory judgment”) motion on XVIVO‘s copyright claims against them — i.e., asked a judge to look at the evidence & say that they are not infringing. Premise v. XVIVO, N.D. Tex., 4/14/2008.

Here are links to the PDFs of the
* complaint , and
* the statement of interested parties.
And may I just note that PACER is a pain in the ass?

Also via that same post @ pharyngula, Sarah S @ ERV reports that they copied not just the XVIVO video but other sources as well. Quel surprise.

Previous posts:
* Copyright claims against Expelled
* “Expelled” music licensed or not?

Thoughts on reading the complaint below the fold:
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the bear stearns of organized pedophilia

It’s a bit dicey to find anything funny in the sexual slavery / prostitution ring known as the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, aka, the Mormon child abuse cult). Bill Maher managed to do it by pointing out the discrepancy between society’s treatment of misbehavior by “cults” and misbehavior by “religions”.

If you can stomach it, watch the video at Crooks and Liars. It’s funny but only if you can laugh at the really fucked up things that infuriate you and make you despair of the world.

Relevant transcript below the fold.

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Scientific American fisks Expelled

Scientific American‘s reviews of “Expelled”, the creationist movie with Ben Stein, are the best yet: the one by John Rennie is particularly helpful. It dissects the rhetorical tricks, and fills in the facts that were left out of the film’s assertions about punitive action taken towards experts. Expelled Exposed, from the NCSE, is developing point-by-point rebuttals of the assertions in the film. (Their tagline is: “Flunked, Not Expelled”.)

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“dangerous even for children to know of atheism”

That’s a paraphrase of what an Illinois state Rep. Monique Davis told a man who was protesting the state of Illinois’ $1M grant to a church. Read more at Eric Zorn’s Chicago Tribune blog.

link from an David S-J on an atheist mailing list

4/11 update: Rep. Davis apologized, sort of, after being excoriated in the media for days. [link from pharyngula]

“Expelled” music licensed or not?

Josh Timonen wrote a detailed synopsis of the movie “Expelled”, the creationist film that tries to argue that creationist views are “unfairly” excluded from the academy.

What piqued my interest about this particular post (there have been hundreds by now about how bad the movie is, the deceptiveness of the filmmakers, P.Z. Myers’ being prevented from attending, the NCSE’s excellent “Expelled, Exposed” website, and so on) was that Timonen noted the proliferation of popular commercial music, including John Lennon’s “Imagine”, and a song from “The Killers”; maybe others. Timonen says:

Either Expelled has a disproportionately-large music budget (for how bad of a film it is), or they are using songs they haven’t paid for in their Director’s Cut private screenings (that may be changed before the official nationwide release). John Lennon’s “Imagine” is played (original version) over B&W scenes of what looked like communist China, with a parade of soldiers. The lyrics to the song were subtitled on the bottom of the screen. I think I remember a shot of Stalin saluting somewhere in here as well. The part of the song played was of course “…and no religion too…”, implying that no religion equals communist China. Does Yoko know about this? I doubt she’d be pleased.

The excellent “Mad Hot Ballroom Dancing” got dinged for a lot of money for a lot less music use than this. Could the Expelled filmmakers really not have known they needed to license music? Did they have a giant music budget? Are they relying on fair use? Maybe one could make a fair use case for using “Imagine” to illustrate communist China, although it seems a bit of a stretch to me since the point of the film isn’t China or John Lennon, or even atheism per se.

I’ll be interested to see what happens when it’s officially released. Same music? And what’s the story with the licensing? Does Yoko Ono not control the Lennon estate? Would she really license the music for that purpose? Questions, questions.

Supposedly, the film also includes animations of cellular functions. There have been lots of such animations made in the last few years. P.Z. Myers of Pharyngula described one such animation out of Harvard and XVIVO being edited and used without in creationist lecture tours. What’s the licensing on these, I wonder? Studio Daily describes the animation process and says they can’t provide it, because it belongs to Harvard & XVIVO; there’s a version at Harvard’s MCB website. These were funded by the HHMI and the licensing notes the copyright to Robert Lue & Alain Viel, Harvard University, and says “For educational use only. The use, duplication, or distribution of this material for any commercial purpose is strictly prohibited.” Well, creationist lectures are arguably “educational”, at least in the broadest possible sense, but editing it to create a derivative work — that seems a bit different.

parents pray; kid dies

These Wisconsin parents prayed while their kid lapsed into a diabetic coma and died. So, Madeline Neumann was born to parents who let her die only eleven years later. Her parents think she may be resurrected yet.

I usually think of religion as inherently funny, but it’s also stupidity, and stupidity is dangerous and not particularly funny.

link from pharyngula

geyser of icy particles

I just love the imagery in these descriptions of Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, in Friday’s NYT 3/13:

Cassini Gets a Cool Shower From an Ice-Spewing Moon

Then again, no other 310-mile-wide ice-ball moon in the solar system has a geyser of icy particles shooting out of its south pole.

Geysers of ice. Truly, this world is more wondrous than dreams could ever be.

… That some folks think this is somehow not enough to contemplate, by itself, but that they also have to concoct something even more amazing — makes me sad. Icy geysers draw out the reverent in me. Adding, “… this is proof of the magnificence of God who is even more awesome” is just sad, like an emotionally damaged person who can’t hear of someone else’s success without trying to talk about their own.

atheist’s creed

i like this atheist’s creed pretty well. it was posted at pharyngula and i suspect that pz myers wrote it.

An atheist’s creed

I believe in time,
matter, and energy,
which make up the whole of the world.

I believe in reason, evidence and the human mind,
the only tools we have;
they are the product of natural forces
in a majestic but impersonal universe,
grander and richer than we can imagine,
a source of endless opportunities for discovery.

I believe in the power of doubt;
I do not seek out reassurances,
but embrace the question,
and strive to challenge my own beliefs.v

I accept human mortality.

We have but one life,
brief and full of struggle,
leavened with love and community,
learning and exploration,
beauty and the creation of
new life, new art, and new ideas.

I rejoice in this life that I have,
and in the grandeur of a world that preceded me,
and an earth that will abide without me.

The post was in response to a sad illustration by someone who thinks that atheists are sad people and that atheism is depressing. In response, Myers titled his post: “Actually, it’s theists who believe in nothing, quite fervently”, which is a nice point that unfortunately didn’t get followed up on in the post itself. But it’s such an elegantly expressed truth: Theists believe in non-existent things, or no-things; theists believe in nothing, and that belief in nothing crowds out so much of what there is in the world.

stupid religious tricks

Full Moon Investigations, a Scottish “paranormal group”, is trying to get their government to “pardon” people convicted under Scotland’s anti-witchcraft laws. These include Helen Duncan, a Scottish woman imprisoned in 1944 for conducting a séance in which she revealed information about the progress of the war (a sunken battleship) that the government had decided to keep secret.

I’m all in favor of eliminating state imprisonment for fake crimes, like practicing religion or pretending to practice religion. But what is a “paranormal group”? Do they investigate paranormal phenomena? This is very curious.

Also, how did the Scottish medium know that the battleship was sunk? Did she continue to claim that she knew it through her paranormal practice? Did she have a contact with the Scottish military? Did she happen to have personal experience? Or did she just guess it, getting it right through the law of averages?

BBC 2/28; Scott Horton at Harper’s, 2/29; and BoingBoing 3/3

death by religion, part # in-the-hundreds-of-millions

I haven’t heard any recent updates about Fawza Falih Muhammad Ali, the woman sentenced to death for witchcraft. A Saudi Arabian court issued the death penalty in 2005 for a woman who allegedly made a man impotent, through witchcraft, among other sins. According to Human Rights Watch, she was beaten until she signed (by placing her fingerprints) a confession to witchcraft — a confession she couldn’t even read, because she’s illiterate.

Now, there are some bass-ackwards-ass judges in every country, and you might think maybe she got a one-off nutter. Or, that the “modernizing” country of Saudi Arabia might let this go on at the lower levels of its “courts” but surely they step in and right this kind of wrong at the appellate level. Right? Of course, you’d be wrong, because although her case was heard by an appeal court, their decision was reversed by another court, which felt that her witchcraft was such a serious sin that her death would be in the public interest. Witchcraft that causes impotence — what could be more of a threat to the public safety than that?

It is truly astonishing to me that religion apologists tote up the supposed benefits of belief in their faith against this kind of obscenity. “I feel better because I fantasize about seeing my dead relatives when I die” versus “killing an innocent woman for a vicious, sexist delusion” (multiplied times millions, because let’s not forget the Inquisition, 9/11, the Troubles in Ireland, and all the other deaths attributable directly towards religious delusions) — yeah, that’s Creationist Math, all right.

Further reading:
* Human Rights Watch, Feb. 14, 2008
* HRW Letter to King Abdullah, Feb. 13, 2008
* Heba Saleh, BBC News, Feb. 14, 2008
* Lester Haines, The Register, Feb. 14, 2008

on the sexiness of testosterone and unquestioned assumptions

Last weekend I was listening to a program on “Testosterone” on “This American Life” (archive) and, predictably, my interest in the topic was equaled or surpassed by my exasperation and annoyance at its handling. “This American Life” is a one-hour show, that aims to do something rather cool: Shed some light on a topic by telling several different stories related to the topic. But at the end of this nuanced hour, all I wanted to do at the end of it is say, “Jesus, it’s more complicated than that.”

First of all, on some level, the mere existence of a show on this topic annoyed me. Testosterone is just so over-exposed. Testosterone is a sexy hormone, and by that, I don’t mean that it is a sex hormone or that it is responsible for the sex drive. I mean that people love talking about it, thinking about it, writing about it, and attributing all sorts of amazing qualities to it.

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The Republican Shuffle

Following hot on the heels (ahem) of Larry Craig, another Republican politician got caught seeking a little bathroom action, leading to more denials and resignations etc. My partner Michele has dubbed this “the Republican shuffle”. (She’s good with naming things. You should see some of her reagent names. <g>)

For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to just jot down sex scandals of hypocrites. They’re coming fast & furious and this is just what I can remember or noted in the past few weeks.

2007 ongoing – the DC Madam Scandal. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey clients include:
* David Vitter (Republican Sen. from Louisiana) – dressed in diapers !!!
* Randall Tobias (Republican official; “AIDS czar”; administrator of US Agency for International Development) – resigned April 27, 2007

February:
* Feb. 27: Zachary Daubenmire, son of David Daubenmire (founder of “Pass the Salt Ministries” and “Minutemen United”) convicted of possession of child porn. [
Columbus Dispatch
, Feb. 27, 2007.]

June:
* Gary Aldridge, Baptist minister in Montgomery, Alabama, died of “accidental mechanical asphyxia” — he “was found hogtied and wearing two complete wet suits, including a face mask, diving gloves and slippers, rubberized underwear, and a head mask, according to an autopsy report. Investigators determined that Rev. Gary Aldridge’s death was not caused by foul play and that the 51-year-old pastor of Montgomery’s Thorington Road Baptist Church …” [Dead Reverend’s Rubber Fetish, Smoking Gun]

July:
* Glenn Murphy: Head of Young Republican National Federation; Republican county chairman from Indiana; sexually assaulted another (male) [YR 2007/7/29]
* Tommy Tester, Virginia Southern Baptist minister, caught urinating in front of children at a car wash, with an open bottle of vodka & empty oxycodone bottles in his car. [WBIR 7/31]

August & ongoing:
* Larry Craig – US Senator and Mitt Romney campaign exec caught seeking some glory-hole action.

October:
* Joey DiFatta, running for state office in Louisiana, also caught toe-tapping in a public restroom [nola blog]
* Oral Roberts University president forced to resign – Richard Roberts’ wife Lindsay was accused of having sexual relations w/ a 16yo boy; Richard was accused of mismanaging funds to lead an extravagant lifestyle [NYT 10/18]
* Donald Fleischman, 37yo Republican Chairman of Brown County, Wisconsin, faces criminal charges for fondling a 16yo boy & plying him with beer & pot. [Green Bay Press Gazette]
* Richard Mellon Scaife, right-wing mega-magnate & bankroller of hate politics, has to get a divorce after his wife caught him frolicking with hookers. [pharyngula 10/22]

November:
* Jehovah’s Witnesses settles NINE lawsuits over child sex abuse by multiple J-dub pastors. These were covered up by the J-dub hierarchy. Abusers include: Frederick McLean, a church administrator (“ministerial servant”); James Henderson, a J-dub “elder” and “Presiding Overseer”, whose abuses were known by the church and other elders; Alvin Heard, another member who was “disfellowshipped” from one church but, with full knowledge, admitted to other churches where he molested again; Larry Kelley, a children’s entertainer in Texas; Timothy Silva, who taught “adolescent book studies” at a J-dub congregation in California even after the church knew of his problem; and three others — eight total alleged abusers whose misdeeds were enabled by Jehovah’s Witness official-dom. [msnbc 11/21]

Also in 2007:
* Brand-spanking-new creationist museum: one of the video spokespeople turned out to have been a porn star
* Bob Allen: Republican Florida legislator solicited undercover cop for blow-job

2008:
* In Christian school founder extorts sex from student’s parent – Here we have someone who is unusually ethical compared to many of these people: Instead of trying to extort sex from children, LaVern Jordan, founder and “spiritual backbone” of the Parkway Christian School, simply tried to extort sex from their parents. He told one mom that he wanted to fuck her, and thought for waiving the fee of $300/week that he should get to do that “several times”. He later offered to give her child credit for classes he had failed, again tying it to sex.

I know I missed a lot. But seriously. What is wrong with these people? Lying, hurting other people, hurting themselves — why? Because their morality is founded on irrationality or politics or both, and not on simple, obvious ethical points like do no harm to others, sub-clauses consensuality and honesty.

Christian freaks.