Tag Archives: religion

reading today: imprecatory prayer & native iphone apps

I’ve been following the news about Wiley Drake and if you haven’t, you should too. Drake endorsed a Republican candidate (Huckabee, whose campaign has distanced itself from Drake) using church stationery and resources, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State did what it does in such situations — call for an investigation of the church’s tax-exempt status. When Wiley found out he called for his followers to engage in “imprecatory prayer”, calling for the death of various Americans United officials. Sweet. Of course, AU officials might not take it so lightly, since AU is comprised not so much of the godless like myself, as of the god-ridden (albeit of the liberal or classically US founding fathers variety). I doubt AU folks are very worried that God(s) will take Drake seriously, but it’s gotta feel a little unnerving and upsetting. Like when you complain to your boss about a coworker and then the coworker one-ups you and complains to the boss’s boss about you, and asks that you be cursed, smited, and fired, and that your kids be cursed, too.

And, Eli Jacobwitz posted about native apps for the iphone. I confess that when I first clicked-through I thought it was going to be, I don’t know, a rolodex of tribal council members, or maybe a Cherokee-language something, or a — well, you get the idea. I surrender my geek creds for that but I haven’t been reading much geek news lately. Of course, the article was about an little-n native app, but it has some good links & opinion about the wisdom of Apple’s keeping the iPhone closed.

religious in Turkey block wordpress.com

Pharyngula said it well: “Turkish ass shuts down a slice of the Internet” (well, as far as Turkey is concerned, anyway). Muslim creationist was unhappy with some critical blog commentary so he got a judge to block the entire domain.

Best comment from Pharyngula thread:

Wonder Twin powers activate. Form of A Google Bomb

getting my atheist on

Last week, I was told that I have a “god-shaped hole in my heart.” … I think I’d prefer to phrase it as he has a god-shaped figment jammed crosswise in his brain.

P.Z. Myers, Pharyngula, 2006/10/27, “A godless ramble against the ditherings of theologians

The last couple of years I’ve been pleased to see an outbreak of out-and-out criticism of religion, not just for the bad things religious folks do in the name of religion, but for the silliness and harmfulness of religion itself.

For me, the charge has been led by Richard Dawkins (most recently, The God Delusion), Sam Harris (The End of Faith), and P.Z. Myers (Pharyngula). Dawkins, Harris and Myers aren’t truly leading a charge; they’re surfing the zeitgeist. A lot of folks are ticked off about religion, but until lately, one would rarely hear us talk about it. Despite the stereotype of the proselytizing atheist, most of us don’t bother. (If only the religious folks of the world would just stop flaunting their lifestyle.)

Continue reading

Kent “Dino” Hovind arrested on tax fraud

Despite being firmly warned to not post on blogs this week but to focus on my deadline, I found this too delicious to not post:

On July 13, 2006, Kent Hovind was arrested and indicted in federal court on 58 charges. Of the charges filed, there is one count of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the due administration of the internal revenue laws, including falsifying bankruptcy documents, filing a false and frivolous lawsuit and complaints against the IRS, destroying records, and threatening to harm IRS investigators. 12 of the charges are for failing to pay employee-related taxes, totaling $473,818, and 45 charges of evading reporting requirements by making multiple cash withdrawals just under the $10,000 reporting requirement (smurfing). The withdrawals, totaling $430,500, were placed in 2001 and 2002.

Hovind has maintained his innocence. “I still don’t understand what I’m being charged for and who is charging me,” he said. [23] Magistrate Miles Davis asked Hovind if he wrote and spoke English, to which Hovind responded “To some degree”. Davis replied that the government adequately explained the allegations and the defendant understands the charges “whether you want to admit it or not.”[24] A September 5 trial date has been set for Kent Hovind and his co-defendant wife, Jo, who faces 44 charges. Hovind stated that he did not recognize the government’s right to try him on tax-fraud charges and entered a not guilty plea “under duress” when the judge offered to enter a plea for him.[25]

Alas it’s a forward of a forward so I don’t have the original cite. (update: apparently it’s from the latest updates to the wikipedia entry on Hovind)

crossposted @ sivacracy

tacky but lawful derivative liberty

Statue of Liberation Through Christ; photo by Rollin Riggs

A fundamentalist mega-church in Memphis has repurposed the Statute of Liberty. [7/5 nyt] Lucky for them the Statue is in the public domain. Shake your head at its awfulness at thestatueofliberationthroughchrist.org. Christian nationalism, indeed.

Maybe someone should remind them that the Statue’s French.


not exactly tempted by faith or incomplete

Then-mere Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) wrote in “Introduction to Christianity”, his “best-regarded book”:

“Just as the believer knows himself to be constantly threatened by unbelief, which he must experience as a constant temptation, so for the unbeliever, faith remains a temptation and a threat to his apparently permanently closed world,” he wrote. “In short, there is no escape from the dilemma of being a man.”

Unless you’re a woman, I guess, which is maybe why I escaped the temptations of faith.

More recently, as now-exalted-and-infallible Pope Benedict, he wrote:

While the biblical narrative does not speak of punishment, the idea is certainly present that man is somehow incomplete, driven by nature to seek in another the part that can make him whole, the idea that only in communion with the opposite sex can he become ‘complete.’

Fish without a bicycle, that’s me.

[nyt 1/29]

PZ Myers speaks for me*

David Klinghoffer @ the National Review is confused, perhaps willfully, about the Kitzmiller decision. He describes the decision thusly:

If ID is bogus because many of its theorists have religious beliefs to which the controversial critique of Darwinism lends support, then what should we say about Darwinism itself? After all, many proponents of Darwinian evolution have philosophical beliefs to which Darwin lends support.

Well, see, right there is the problem. If Klinghoffer is wondering about Kitzmiller‘s statement as to religion — a statement which Judge Jones repeatedly said he was not making — then he needs to frame his question correctly. The court did not say that ID is bogus because its theorists have religious beliefs, or because it lends support to its followers’ religious beliefs, as Klinghoffer would have it. Rather, according to the court, ID is bogus science because it is not conducted scientifically and has nothing scientific to say.

Klinghoffer was trying to frame the question in this inaccurate way so that he could then analogize to the atheism of “Darwinists”, implying an unequal favoring of atheistic godless secular humanism on the part of Judge Jones. He thus implies that the examination of the role of religion in this case was somehow inappropriate.**

Since his initial framing of the question is completely inaccurate, his follow-up analogy to “Darwinism” is completely meaningless.

I was going to thoroughly fisk every part of this really irritatingly stupid article, but PZ Myers and What Culture War have already looked into the article. In particular, I urge you to read PZ Myers’ post at all costs. In his post, he effectively rolls his eyes at the specifics of the Klinghoffer article, and then addresses the faith-science question that the Klinghoffer article so badly misconstrued. I really think I am going to print this post out and possibly frame it.

* Non-Bay Area folks may not be aware of the popular Bay Area bumper sticker, “Barbara Lee speaks for me“, which proliferated after she was the only vote against HJ Res 64.

** Okay, I couldn’t entirely resist responding to the specifics in the article. Klinghoffer seems offended that religion was brought up at all. Another instance of irony. “Intelligent design theory” was developed, not by scientists, but by religious adherents who wanted to sneak creationism back into the schools. Creationism was an avowedly religious belief, and teaching it in public schools therefore violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on establishments of religion.

Since plaintiffs alleged that ID proponents were trying to disguise their religious belief as science, the court had to evaluate it to see whether or not it was actual science (no) and if not, was it religion because that would violate the First Amendment. Courts regular evaluate the quality of science in Daubert hearings and voir dires so this is nothing new.

Religion was relevant because if it’s religion then teaching it as fact in public schools violates the First Amendment. In fact, the religious background of ID proponents was scarcely mentioned. Although the backgrounds and beliefs of the witnesses and parties was rarely discussed in the discussion, the court did rely upon statements made by the School Board, the publishers of Of Pandas and People and other relevant figures. Statements by those people expressing an intent to foster religious belief were significant evidence — exactly as they should be in an Establishment Clause case. ID followers’ stated religious beliefs and affiliations were relevant to the following determinations: 1. Evaluating the intent and knowledge of the School Board, for the Lemon test’s purpose prong; 2. Tracking the historical evolution (ahem) of the specific text Of Pandas and People to assess whether or not the text was a religious text presented deceptively to appear nonreligious; 3. Likewise, tracking the scholarly foundation and historical evolution of the “theory” and the phrase “intelligent design”, to determine whether ID truly is a legitimate scientific theory, or whether it is actually a deceptive attempt to portray a particular religious doctrine as science. (The latter, as was obvious to all.)

Intelligent design is a sham theory devised to get around the First Amendment’s prohibition of state establishment of religion, so that some religious adherents might have the opportunity to indoctrinate children in their particular religious belief. What I find interesting is how persons ostensibly dedicated both to the law and to a religion which forbids bearing false witness — such as Phillip E. Johnson, Boalt Professor of Law — rationalize to themselves this elaborate deception. Do they really believe in a science with less support among scientists than, say, psychic abilities and UFOs? Or have they adopted for themselves an ends-justify-the-means philosophy which says that God won’t mind a little lying if it spreads the Gospel? Very strange.

best commentary on right-wing frothing about Paul Mirecki

Love this quote on the right-wing frothing about Prof. Mirecki’s email [from The Panda’s Thumb]:

[T]hey hate “Hate Crime” legislation, driven to rabid frothing at the mere mention of “politically correct” language. They are such fierce opponents (they say) of limits to free speech intended particularly to block racist speech; the term “PC” in the mouths of the far right is an epithet. …

However, … we see that a minor slight of the American religious right by an obscure professor has provoked an event of international outrage.

If you don’t already know about the Paul Mirecki Incident, this is the short summary: Mirecki, a University of Kansas professor of Religious Studies, designed a course on “intelligent design as mythology” in response to the brouhaha about intelligent design “theory” in Kansas primary schools. He then sent an email to a closed list, discussing the course, and including this opinionated line:

The fundies want it all taught in a science class, but this will be a nice slap in their big fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category “mythology.”

and signing the email “Doing my part to piss of [sic] the religious right, Evil Dr. P.”

The religious right were indeed pissed off: Dr. Mirecki was physically assaulted shortly after this incident, and political and religious readers freaked out. (I previously quoted a Kansas State Senator whose response to the Incident was: “We have to set a standard that it’s not culturally acceptable to mock Christianity in America.”)

update 12/21: PZ Myers didn’t like the general commentary (or lack thereof) on Panda’s Thumb and points instead to evolve thought (more and more) and orcinus. Some quite pointed commentary on PT’s failure to strongly defend someone who wasn’t wholly politically correct on the topic of religion:

The Panda’s Thumb is a great resource for science and focused critiques of creationism, and everyone should keep reading it, but we should also be clear on what it is not. It is not ever going to address the root causes of creationism in our country: the virulent, pathological brands of fundamentalism that are growing in our midst. That would be…rude.


a variety of exciting carnivals to read:

for more … blog carnival index and the über carnival site

potential evidence for intelligent design

questionable authority reviews a pro-‘intelligent design theory’ entry that describes a future history of the fabulous medical and scientific breakthroughs generated by ‘intelligent design theory’ and the abandonment of ‘Darwinism’. While the whole post is highly recommended, it was one of the commentors who really tickled my fancy. Responding to the future history’s assertion that ‘Darwinist’ scientists ignore ‘junk DNA’*, commentator Stephen Stralka adds:

It also occurs to me that no matter how much functionality we ultimately discover in junk DNA, none of it will be any better evidence for ID than what we currently know about DNA.

The kind of thing that would be evidence of design would be if the junk DNA turned out to contain stuff like copyright notices and license agreements.

Or copy protection. DRM-protected genomes that prevent unauthorized replications, derivative works, jumping genes & species hopping diseases? Or maybe when you have a baby, a rootkit installs itself on the parents’ reproductive organs, preventing them from further replications. I do indeed see a great future for ‘intelligent design theory’.

(Another commenter followed up:

Oh, man. “If you agree to the terms of this pregnancy, click Agree. Otherwise, click Abort.”

Except that he’s missing about 5 screens’ worth of finely printed legal verbiage about restrictions on the pregnancy and abortion process. Luckily Frontline has got it covered.)

* According to the ‘future history of intelligent design’, ‘Darwinian’ scientists don’t do research on ‘junk DNA’. really? in this future history, will my partner’s dissertation & ongoing postdoc work on various aspects of gene regulation turn out to have all just been a terrible and poorly-compensated decade-long dream?

religious use of copyright, again

a little interest of mine: religious texts and copyright.

  • Michael Geist covers a Canadian copyright case by the Watch Tower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses) suing a website for posting religious texts. [link via boingboing]
  • Scientologists do this all the time: Operation Clambake has its own response to copyright issues. A few cites: Religious Technology Center v. Netcom On-Line communication Services, Inc., 923 F.Supp. 1231 (N.D. Cal. 1995); Religious Technology Center v. F.A.C.T.Net, Inc., 901 F.Supp. 1519 (D.Col. 1995).
  • Worldwide Church of God sued Philadelphia Church of God, 227 F.3d 1110 (9th Cir. 2000), for distributing the WCG founders’ earlier, racist works after WCG had disavowed them.

more later …

ID advocate admits it ‘has no content’

”I’m not pushing to have [ID] taught as an ‘alternative’ to Darwin, and neither are they,” he says in response to one question about Discovery’s agenda. ”What’s being pushed is to have Darwinism critiqued, to teach there’s a controversy. Intelligent design itself does not have any content.”

The evolution of George Gilder Boston Globe, 7/27 [linked from pharyngula]

It’s refreshing to see an ID advocate admit that there is no content to intelligent design.

As for their claim that they all they want to do is teach the controversy — great. Teach the controversy. Teach scientific controversies in science class. Since there’s no content to ID, there’s no scientific controversy. So what kind of controversy is it? It’s a political & social controversy. Political & social controversies absolutely should be taught in schools, in history, social science, current issues type classes. Heck, even comparative religion classes — why not? I’d love to see kids learning about other political & social controversies about children’s education: the controversy over sex ed, for instance, and how right-wingers want to teach abstinence & sexual ethics instead of sexual and reproductive healthcare. Or hey, how about we ‘teach the controversy’ regarding going to war on disputed evidence?

owning photographs

In the fourth & final entry in Salon.com’s series on ‘ex-gay’ therapy ministries [‘True confessions‘], the writer describes how one ex-ex-gay’s attempt to control photographs of him is thwarted by copyright:

On the front page of the Exodus International Web site is a photograph of several dozen men and women. The allegedly changed homosexuals, or newly minted ex-gays, are beaming at the camera, apparently celebrating their newfound freedom from homosexuality. Standing in the center of the photograph is 29-year-old Shawn O’Donnell, who was enrolled in Exodus programs on and off for 10 years.

Exodus is the umbrella organization, information clearinghouse and referral service for “ex-gay ministries.”

The only problem with the Exodus photo is that O’Donnell is still gay.

Recently, O’Donnell asked Exodus president Alan Chambers to take his photo off the Exodus Web site. But Chambers, O’Donnell says, told him that Exodus owns the picture and it still signifies that people can change. “I said, ‘How can you say that is true when I know there are at least three people in that picture who have not changed?'” Exodus did not return my calls seeking comment about the photo.

This is a common misconception: people think they ‘own’ the photographs taken of them. In fact, no, they may own the prints of the photographs. But the photographer holds (‘owns’) the copyright, as the ‘author’ of the work. This FAQ written for photographers gives an idea of how photographers interpret copyright:

Even if one were to purchase an original portrait that was specially commissioned, the purchaser would only be able to frame and display the work. Unless the parties otherwise agree, the artist owns the copyright and the work cannot be copied or reproduced. Thus, without permission, the subject of the portrait cannot even make a holiday card from the painting.

Thus, some photofinishing labs (like Wal-Mart) have taken to refusing to duplicate photos that look ‘professional’ unless the holder has permission from the photographer. [See 5/30 story in sandiego.com; related commentary & links Ex Cathedra 6/8; Derivative Work 6/17]

what does it mean to hold a religious “belief”?

Lean Left links to this comment from Jay on The Dawn Treader (I couldn’t actually find the original but the link’s there for others to try). I liked this argument, and wonder: would this actually make sense to some people on the fence about how to think about science versus religion & ID?

But, back to the actual topic of the thread, epistemology, I have some thoughts on that too. Let’s assume there *is* no obvious natural explanation for a phenomenon. How do you proceed? You guys are right that the argument that “science might come up with an explanation later” is unfalsifiable and lame. I think a better argument is that invoking God is ad hoc and not very parsimonious. You are quick to invoke Him here because you want to believe.

Put yourself in a scenario where you would naturally be skeptical, be as honest as possible, and tell me that you would invoke God as quickly as you are now doing. You come home and your wife is gone. You worry, you call the police, the days pass, weeks pass, years pass. Finally, a detective closes the investigation and declares “God took her”. Whuh? God? You would demand that he reconsider that she might have been murdered. Or maybe you would assume she wasn’t happy with your marriage and she left. Or amnesia? A mafia hit based on mistaken identity, and a perfect cover-up. A tiger escaped from a zoo, ate her, bones and all, and returned to the zoo undetected. A troupe of psychotic clowns dismembered and made furniture out of her corpse. And so on, less and less plausible, but still technically possible. You wouldn’t say, “yeah, you’re probably right, God did it”, you would demand the exclusion of every natural explanation. Are you honestly subjecting your arguments to this same rigor before you invoke God?

I am certainly not denying that God exists, I am asking you whether you are pursuing scientific truth or just looking for any evidence of God. If this were a few hundred years ago, would you be halting scientific inquiry by arguing that thunderstorms are God throwing things? A few hundred years from now, is someone going to be using your argument as an example of how hastily invoking God obfuscates the truth?

… Can I leave well enough alone? No, I can’t. I like this illustration. It illustrates well that, when it comes to real things, things that are undeniable — like a missing person — people instinctively turn to, not religion, but science — the pursuit of knowledge. Sure, there may also be prayer. But given a choice between prayer and talking to a detective about the matter, who would actually choose prayer? On some level, people know which one is real — and which one is a hopeful fantasy. No matter what they identify as their “beliefs”.

Consider what happens when someone dies. People who profess a belief in heaven often console themselves by saying, “I’ll see her in the next world,” “We’ll be together again someday,” etc. That is, I’m sure, very comforting as a recitation. But I suspect that people don’t really believe it. Because the mourning process for people who ostensibly believe in a soul and an afterlife is pretty much exactly the same as it is for people who don’t claim to hold such beliefs. Grieving for a death feels different than grieving for someone you know you’ll never see again, but who (as far as you know) still lives. Because on some level people know what death is; and their “beliefs” in doctrines like the immortal soul and an afterlife look more like exercises in wishful thinking.

Defining “Belief”

What does this say about religious beliefs? I might describe a spectrum of different kinds of “beliefs”, ranging from beliefs on which one bases one’s actions; and beliefs in which one indulges as an intellectual exercise or an unquestioned but not particularly deeply felt assumption. Belief in an “immortal soul” and an “afterlife” start to look more like the latter than the former, if you consider the sorts of actions described in the two examples above.

This strikes me as right, somehow, even though it only addresses some kinds of displays of religious faith. There are plenty of other kinds of examples which it doesn’t explain: What about the millions of people who have risked or lost their lives for their religious beliefs? Sure, many of them had no choice and were merely victims of someone else’s “religious” war; or were coerced into fighting for someone else’s “religious” war. Still, some uncountably large number of people have died in religious wars. I suspect a lot of interesting explanations, psychological and economic, can account for their behavior in a way that still leaves unresolved the fundamental paradox that people behave inconsistently with their claimed beliefs when their loved one’s life is lost or in danger.

Also, obviously, people act on their religious belief in non-life-threatening situations: going to church, praying, etc. That seems pretty distinguishable, psychologically, from the threatened-life situation.

Disputing Claims of High Levels of Religious “Belief” in the US

Now, in the US we regularly see statistics that show that we have unbelievably high rates of “believers” in “God”, “angels”, the “power of prayer”, and the like. Unbelievably high rates of people who “believe” in creationism or intelligent design or teach the controversy. And these statistics, because they are about “beliefs”, rely on self-reporting.

But there’s another way to analyze “beliefs”, and that’s by looking at observed behavior. Because people generally behave in accordance with their beliefs.

Consider our belief in the sun rising tomorrow, versus our belief in whether or not it will rain. We’re pretty damn sure the sun will rise tomorrow. So if we’re going for a pre-dawn walk we don’t take flashlights with us. We’re not quite as sure that it won’t rain, and so we might prepare for both contingencies: bring an umbrella just in case. We act on strong beliefs (rising sun) differently than we do on uncertain beliefs (no rain).

So you could look at people’s behaviors to ascertain the level of “belief” in a proposition. I suspect that such an analysis would turn up a practically complete “belief” in the proposition that the sun will rise tomorrow. I also predict that such an analysis would turn up a much lower level of “belief” in the local meteorologist’s “prophecy” about tomorrow’s weather — based on people bringing along their own choices of weather gear, despite what the weather forecast says.

If you applied that method to evaluating the high levels of religious “belief” in this country, I suspect that you would find out the levels are not nearly as high as people claim.

The beliefs in “gods”, “afterlives”, immortal “souls”, and the efficacy of “prayer” which such apologists describe ought to have a significant and observable impact in the daily lives of believers. I’m not saying that we should see the effects of answered prayers! (The lack of statistical data showing the efficacy of “prayer” is answer enough to answer any questions about that.) But you ought to be able to see really different patterns in behavior from people who have these beliefs when confronted with life-threatening situations. What they’re claiming is, really, quite incredible. We don’t live a finite, usually less than a hundred years’ time? There’s a hell? And a heaven? There’s an omnipotent, omniscient being? Or a First Creator? An omnipotent being might choose to answer our prayerful petitions? These are, as Christians say, incredible life-changing doctrines.

So why aren’t people’s lives being changed by their belief in these doctrines? When it matters, when it comes down to a choice that might affect an outcome, people’s lives don’t seem very affected. For the most part, these unbelievably high levels of believing people don’t put their money where their mouth is in these matters. If you look at who and how many people really do put their money etc., it might turn out to be a few low percent — some of the Christian Scientists, a few other fundamentalists, some other obvious kooks … I would be really surprised to see the number look anything like the claimed high levels of “believers” that we see now.

Which suggests to me that self-reported statistics about “beliefs” are not very helpful. So the statistics that 90% of Americans believe in “God” or “angels” or the “power of prayer”, or whatever, land right in the same pile as the highly dubious data generated from self-reported levels of church attendance. (Self-reported, and for that matter, pastoral-reported, levels of church attendance are much higher than levels generated by counting heads and cars.)

enough procrastination and pleasant speculations.

derivative works on intelligent design

two great tastes that taste great together: (critiquing) intelligent design, and derivative works.

Ernie Miller rewrote Pastor Niemöller’s classic work for the modern era of attacks on science:

First they came after biology
and I did not speak out
because I was not a biologist

Then they came after geology
and I did not speak out
because I was not a geologist

Then they came after astronomy
and I did not speak out
because I was not an astronomer

They they came after my discipline
and there was no one left
to speak out for my discipline.

First, I love this; what an excellent point. The sooner all rationalists figure out that ID is an attack on reason, education, and the scientific method, the better.

But I can’t help but note that, viewed in light of the annoying Dr. Seuss case, Prof. Miller’s re-worked version probably falls on the wrong side of the infamous parody/satire distinction. And Siva has republished it! (The original poem seems to have been written in 1938 & so barring complications of international publication, renewal, etc., I presume it is still under copyright.) Clearly the seemingly straight & narrow path of copyright balance leads directly to Flamboyant Copyright Anarchy! Truly, we are all casual copyright infringers now.

New Yorker on ID: the Unseen Urban Planner

The New Yorker has an article evaluating the <cough cough> science of intelligent design.

Most amusing (and insightful) quote (from discussion of Behe’s “irreducible complexity” argument):

It’s true that when you confront biologists with a particular complex structure like the flagellum they sometimes have a hard time saying which part appeared before which other parts. But then it can be hard, with any complex historical process, to reconstruct the exact order in which events occurred, especially when, as in evolution, the addition of new parts encourages the modification of old ones. When you’re looking at a bustling urban street, for example, you probably can’t tell which shop went into business first. This is partly because many businesses now depend on each other and partly because new shops trigger changes in old ones (the new sushi place draws twenty-somethings who demand wireless Internet at the café next door). But it would be a little rash to conclude that all the shops must have begun business on the same day or that some Unseen Urban Planner had carefully determined just which business went where.

where is the heavenly response?

on may 17th, it will have been a whole year since Mass. started providing same-sex marriage licenses, and i’m still waiting for the quick and appropriate heavenly response. maybe the very cold weather here in mass., which seems unseasonable to me, is the heavenly response? my same-sex semi-lawfully wed spouse & i will keep a close eye out tomorrow for further developments.



update: 5/19: nope, no apocalypse / heavenly wrath yet.

raise your hands if you’re glad you’re not raising a kid in kansas

I’m just so sorry for the kids in Kansas, because their education is being screwed up by a bunch of not-quite-as-fully-evolved-as-the-rest-of-us folks with their heads up their nether regions. [The Kansas state board of education is holding hearings again on whether & how evolution should be taught in schools, and to what extent the religious convictions of some folks should inspire and guide criticism of scientific knowledge.]

Science education should be education about science. Period. If a person’s religious beliefs cause her to question evolution, geology, dinosaurs, or whether pi = 3.14…, then by all means, she can screw up her own kids’ minds & teach them whatever bogus facts she wants, at home. But don’t screw up the education of an entire states’ worth of kids. Geez.

Some part of me almost manages to feel sorry for the leaders of this initiative. They have built their house on the sand of fairy tale history rather than on a rock of faith. Consequently, when the fairy tale history butts up against actual history, their entire religious faith is shaken. I’m not religious — I’ve been an atheist for more than half my life now — but even I can appreciate that there’s something deeply sad about someone whose claim to a deep religious faith can be shaken by, well, scientific knowledge.

I said almost sorry. Mostly I’m just really POd at these people for being such bozos & inflicting their own pathologies & fears on the rest of the world. Retrograde jerks.

[cnn 5/5/; AP/kansas city star 5/7] And just because I love ’em, a link to the National Center for Science Education, who do great work.

And check out this great cover from a recent issue of Nature:
Nature Magazine April 2005 cover with a warning about evolution

defense of marriage

The Christian Right and the Sanctity of Marriage

As we all know, the Christian Right has now made defense of the institution of marriage, as defined as a union of a man and woman, not only its top political priority, but the very touchstone of Christian moral responsibility.

I’ve always found this rather ironic, since the Protestant Reformation, to which most Christian Right leaders continue to swear fealty, made one of its own touchstones the derogation of marriage as a purely religious, as opposed to civic, obligation. Virtually all of the leaders of the Reformation denounced the idea of marriage as a scripturally-sanctioned church sacrament, holding that baptism and the Eucharist were the only valid sacraments. Luther called marriage “a secular and outward thing,”which he did not mean as a compliment. Calvin treated marriage as a “union of pious persons,” and while he did consider marriage a “covenant,” he used the same term for virtually every significant human relationship.

More tellingly, throughout Protestant Europe, from the earliest days, one of the most common “reforms” was the liberalization of divorce laws. And even today, in America, conservative Protestants have the highest divorce rates of any faith community, or un-faith community.

My point is not to accuse today’s conservative Christians of hypocrisy, though there’s room for that; it’s that the Christian Right has made a habit of confusing secular cultural conservatism–the simple and understandable impulse to resist unsettling change–with fidelity to their own religious traditions. “Defending marriage” is far down the list of concerns, historically, of the Reformation tradition, and indeed, that tradition has done far more to loosen the bonds of matrimony, for good or for ill, and to “de-sanctify” the institution, than all the gays and lesbians who have ever lived.

NewDonkey.com 11/19 [link from mike]