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Friday, 21 October 2011

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Power of Doubt or Messin with Fundies

In the past two months a couple of events have kept me laughing about the silliness of those who believe without really thinking about their beliefs. A religious coworker and a Jesus door to door sales lady have given me much amusement.

A few months ago I was working in an office where one coworker kept making religious references in almost every conversation. I didn't say anything but he started assuming that I was a Christian that agreed with him. How presumptuous. After a week, it was time to end that assumption.

He started saying some creationist ideas about the Earth being only a few thousand years old. I said that I did not agree with that. The evidence shows a universe and Earth that are billions of years old. He then stated that he believed that every word in his bible was true. I asked him how he knew that it was true.

His reasons were that he believed the supernatural was true and that prophecies from the old testament foretold Jesus. The boss walked in at that moment and asked what we were discussing. I found out later from my boss that my coworker had been in trouble before for bothering people about religion. I replied that my coworker was trying to convince me that the supernatural existed. The boss laughed, letting me know that he was sympathetic to my point of view.

I replied to my coworker that the old testament prophecies were useless because the writers of the new testament had those writings available to them when they wrote the new testament. That was the simplest explaination. He said that he had never thoughtful it that way and would look this up. He never came back with another explaination.

For the next couple of weeks my coworker kept making these strange passive aggressive remarks about me going to hell when I died. I finally got tired of this one day, so it was time to teach this person a lesson, the parable of the abusive husband.

After he made his little remark, about burning in hell, I said that how could that possibly describe a loving god? That this was like a man being thought of as a good husband but he tells his wife that if she does not tell him that she loves him, then he would lock her up in the basement and torture her. How can this possibly be considered "loving"?

He made a little strangled sound, but made no reply. He never made those remarks about hell again. I thought the boss was going to high-five me.

Last Friday I was expecting a couple friends to come over. The doorbell rang and I answered it. There were two ladies in their 20s, dressed up and carrying their bibles like magic talismans. One woman started by saying "God is not responsible for natural disasters." She then quoted something from John and from Timothy. Then she started with hinting that "dark forces" caused bad things. I guess she was talking about demons and the devil. Who knows? Perhaps like Voldemart, you can't say it out loud?

I asked her if God created everthing. She answered in the affirmative, that yes he created everything. I asked the obvious "If he created everything, doesn't he also create disasters as well?"

She replied somewhat uncertainly that she had never thought of it that way. I wanted to discuss this further, but she quickly stated that it looked like I was busy with my daughter and that they must be going and they must leave now. Hopefully they won't come back. I shut the door and busted out laughing when I discovered that I had forgotten that I was wearing a set of fuzzy purple antennas that my daughter had put on me earlier.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero

I'm watching a very moving Frontline episode entitled Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero. This episode explores the emotions of the families of the victims and the survivors.

When I lost my daughter as an infant, I was handed a brochure about the stages of grief and how grief is resolved. I remember reading that about 75% of people resolve their grief by feeling that their is a god and there was a resolution for their loved one's death. I recall that the rationalization was that God's ways were mysterious or something along those lines. But 25% of people accepted that the universe is a chaotic place and shit happens, it's no ones fault when these types of things happen. This was what I felt when I lost my daughter.

The images of the falling people shown are horrifying. The couple holding hands as they jump to their deaths is a haunting one. Did they know each other? Were they strangers? Were they comforted by each other as they faced a certain death?

Rabbi Herschfield discussed how it bothered him when survivors claimed that God saved them. "What about those who died, and died a horrible, painful death? Did God cause their deaths as well? It's easy to say that God saved one, it's the easy way out. It's the easy way out for religion as well. But someone says that God saved them from death, then it's hypocrisy to not say that God caused deaths as well. That is just not a god that I can worship."

There was an interesting discussion on evil and its definition. Margot Adler defines evil as when you loose sight of others as people, they are as nothing to you. They are in the way of your goals.

There was general discussion that religion itself is responsible. Both the religious and the non-religious people interviewed recognized that religion can motivate both good and terrible things. Being absolutely sure that you are right and others are wrong can lead to terrible acts. Absolutism can blind someone to the consequences of their actions.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Don't Be a Sucker



This film created at the very end of WWII gives a very simple explaination of how a fascist political party can divide a group of people by splitting them into minorities, then setting the minorities against each other until they are all weakened. Then take a look at the current extreme right and new charasmatic Christian right in this country. You will see them in a new light. I'll give a few examples.

Rachel Tabachnick states that Mary Glazier, a friend and mentor to Sarah Palin stated the following during a conference in 2008:
"There is a tipping point, at which, at which time, because of the sin of the land, the people then have to be displaced. But while this measure of wickedness is rising, the measure of faith in the church is rising. God is preparing a people to displace the ones whose sin is rising so that then they tip over and the church goes in - one is removed and the church moves in and takes the territory. Now, that does not mean that the people are removed, because God removes them from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light. They are given an opportunity to change allegiances."
Notice that Glacier is speaking of removing those who don't subscribe to either her political or religious ideology. She hedges somewhat about what happens to those who are removed, perhaps on some level she realizes how horrifying this sounds. Rachel concludes with the following discussion of elimationism:
Simply stated, the movement teaches that their spiritual warfare directly impacts the natural world. Whether one believes that these prayer warriors actually achieve these results or not, the NAR has reached millions with the message that elimination of certain people, practices, and beliefs will ultimately result in the eradication of the societal problems which plague humanity. The apostles clearly and repeatedly state that their spiritual warfare is not limited to the cosmic world but is about changing the physical world. Additionally, they teach that God is providing direct and extrabiblical instructions to the apostles and prophets of the movement, something that I will discuss at greater length in the next article in this series on the NAR's brand of "apostolic government of the church."
Rachel gives these zealots a bit more wiggle room than I would.
I plan to update this post with more examples of calls for eliminating anyone who doesn't go along with those who are pushing for government implementation of Dominion Theology.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Curiosity, An Excellent First Episode

I'm sitting here finally getting a chance to do some blogging while watching Curiosity, a new show on The Science Channel. This episode is hosted by Steven Hawking pondering if there is a god while surrounded by headlines where he is declared a heretic and he states that god is a fairytale. You can see the faint hint of a smile as he observes the headlines.

The entire episode is devoted to dispelling the god of the gaps argument. I was amazed that there was such a frank and open discussion about the question "Is there a god?" I highly recommend it. I love the conclusion.

I haven't been blogging much lately or this year. I sincerely hope to change this. There have been developments on my last story about being an atheist in the ultimate foxhole (Cheyenne Mountain), evangelical Christian chaplains and America's nuclear forces. If you think this is an explosive combination, I will be posting about an even more disturbing story. This story about a few military chaplains will be waiting for others to complete some possible legal actions before I can post anything yet.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

An Atheist in the Ultimate Foxhole

Many people like to proclaim rather ignorantly that there are no atheists in foxholes. Most of these people seem to have never done any type of military service. But occasionally you meet religious people, either active duty or former military, who subscribe to this strange notion that an atheist can't exist in a stressful situation such as a foxhole. Even my spell checker on my Evo Android phone replaced foxholes with potholes while writing this post. I had to override and force it to put foxholes in the text. Heh Heh Heh.

I spent over four years stationed at Peterson AFB, near Colorado Springs, Colorado. Colorado Springs is the home to many conservative, evangelical organizations. I was stationed there in the mid to late 80's. At that time, like now, their focus was to grow their organization and gain political power.

There were rumors passed around about previous incidents of these organizations using their power over their members stationed at Cheyenne Mountain and at various launch facilities. Apparently in the late seventies, there were several senior officers making comments about doing what god wanted rather than following their training and orders. These officers were quietly removed from their positions. With the current religiosity in the military, I'm not sure that this would happen now.

Mike Weinstein at MRFF has stated recently that 87 missile officers have complained that their commanding officer has made statements encouraging them to disobey their orders if they feel that god would want them to. This commanding officer should be courts martialled and removed from active duty. He is encouraging is officers to not follow their orders. This is extremely dangerous as we are talking about having our nation's nuclear strike capability in the hands of a mega-church.

I spent much of my time at Cheyenne Mountain AFS, familiarly known as Cheyenne Mountain, or known simply as "The Mountain". I was assigned in the Missile Warning section, where we monitored the world for incoming ballistic missiles. Cheyenne Mountain was built at the height of the cold war to provide shelter against a Soviet first strike, the ultimate foxhole against nuclear missiles.

The first time I walked through the tunnel and through the blast doors was a surreal experience. To my left was a huge stack of boxes of canned meals (before MREs), above me was the netting used to keep rocks from falling on people and equipment, and in front of me were several multistory buildings mounted on gigantic shocks. I went to my duty station which was a very small and cramped space, filled with computer equipment, completely different from the depiction shown in various television shows and movies.

Nowadays, Cheyenne Mountain has been retired from it'd missions of missile warning, space watch, and satellite tracking. I saw on a recent documentary that the facility has been turned into the alternate command center for NORAD/USNORTHCOM and some sort of secure computer facility.

General Herres was SPACECINC during most of the time I was stationed at Cheyenne Mountain. He was a great commander to work for. He was on the board for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation until his untimely death from brain cancer in 2008. Even though was a very religious man, he recognized the dangers of our nuclear capability falling in the hands of zealots. Seeing General Herres on the board encouraged me to support MRFF.

While I was stationed at Cheyenne Mountain, I had no problem as an "out in the open" non-believer. Everyone was strictly professional on the job. I think Gen. Herres had a lot to do with this. He made sure that everyone was taken care of and everyone had a chance to perform at their best. I sincerely hope that the current generation of missile warning and launch officers are as professional as we were before. The 87 officers who have made complaints about their over zealous commander have probably already tried to make official complaints or else it was made clear that doing so would be a career-killer. They are to be commended for trying to keep religious doctrines out of the silo.

Monday, 30 May 2011

For Those Who have Served



A very nice memorial for those who have served their country, no God or Jesus invocations to ruin the somber mood. Thanks Nancy.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Waiting Anxiously for the Rapture



My favorite scene in Six Feet Under. The earthquake should get the Kiwis any minute now. I will update this post periodically over the next day.

Update:
(23:05) Looks like nothing is happening in New Zealand.Wasn't this where the whole rapture supposed to start? At 6:00PM local time? Here is a handy site to check for earthquakes. I have a few apps on my ipod, but so far not a peep. I feel so sorry for the deluded fools who got sucked in by this rich conman, Harold Camping. Who by the way has approximately $72 million dollars in the bank. A great site for info. Harold Camping's face bookpage.

(23:40) What about the astronauts on the space station? I don't think any earthquake is going to get them.
 
(12:10) l'm going to bed now it's late. No Rapture yet. Damn, I guess we're stuck with the Christians now.

(13:03 Saturday the 21st) No rapture yet. Perhaps its only the godly US republican Christians who are going to heaven. We have two hours to go until the East Coast gets hit. So far no unusual earthquake activity yet.

(14:54) Hey a live  streaming rapture party .

(16:05) I was talking to my sister in Louisiana, no rapture there. They were having a party and no sign of earthquakes.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

It's Positively Clear



It's positively clear who runs Lancaster, CA.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Lucky Friday the 13th

I have always ignored the Friday the 13th superstition. In fact I received some very good news today. A skin biopsy was not melanoma. Whew, what a relief.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Lancaster's Prayer Problem








Click on the above images to get a readable page.

I saw the above article a couple of days ago in our local paper, The Antelope Valley Press. I was going to make a few comments about how Mayor Parris is so concerned about his own religious views not being allowed as official policy, but sure seems to be eager enough to trample all over Lancaster citizens religious rights. I was going to comment about the list of "approved" churches in the Antelope Valley being the only ones to participate. But reporter, Bob Wilson beat me to it.

Dave Dionne, president of the Antelope Valley Freethinkers posted this article from yesterday on the AVF meetup site. Thanks Dave.
City Officials Admit Violating Prayer Policy

By: Bob Wilson

LOS ANGELES - Lancaster officials on Tuesday acknowledged in federal court that the city twice violated its policy governing the selection of persons scheduled to offer invocations at City Council meetings.
I just knew this was going to happen.
They also acknowledged the city's prayer policy was authored by Vice Mayor Ron Smith, not City Attorney David McEwen.

The acknowledgments were part of testimony elicited by Roger Jon Diamond, an attorney representing two women who have sued Lancaster over its policy on invocational prayers.
It appears the city is not too interested in what it's lawyers think. Actually, Mayor Paris has stated publicly that he knows all about church-state separation issues and he is sure he will prevail in court. Never mind that even though he is a lawyer, he is an ambulance chaser and not a constitutional lawyer. I guess the Dunning-Kruger effect happens in the law profession as well.
The city's policy, adopted in August 2009, asserts intent to provide equal opportunity for representatives of all faiths to say prayers calling for divine guidance for the council at the beginning of its public meetings.
Really, all faiths are treated equally? The evidence and testimony shows that this is not true.
A decision on whether U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer will issue an injunction barring the city from allowing such prayers or, in the alternative, will issue a declaration stating at least one of those prayers was unconstitutional is pending.

The policy was the City Council's response to an April 2009 demand by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California that Lancaster officials put a stop to prayers being routinely offered in the name of Jesus Christ.

The lawsuit's plaintiffs, Shelley Rubin of Los Angeles and Maureen Feller of Lancaster, are seeking an injunction requiring the city to end its practice of allowing ministers and other church representatives from naming specific deities such as Jesus Christ when offering prayers at the beginning of government meetings.

If they fail to obtain an injunction, the plaintiffs are asking Judge Fischer to at least issue a declaratory judgment stating that an April 2010 invocation given by Bishop Henry Hearns was in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the California constitution.

In his prayer, Hearns closed with, "In the precious, holy and righteous and matchless name of Jesus, I pray this prayer. Amen and amen."
Why does the city council need to have public prayers before their meeting? Don't theyget enough in their places of worship? I have always thought that public piety is a show of insecurity. If you need to be reminded constantly of what you believe in, then your beliefs must be very fragile to begin with.
The bishop's recitation of the prayer was displayed on a screen in Fischer's courtroom along with other invocations offered at Lancaster meetings.

Diamond told Fischer the city's prayer policy is a smokescreen meant to obscure its efforts to promulgate Christianity.

"Basically, the city is pushing an agenda of aligning itself with Christianity," Diamond said, pointing to a January 2010 address where Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris told a group of Christian ministers, "We're growing a Christian community, and don't let anybody shy away from that."
In a previous post, I covered the Mayor's mingling of his religion with city business. He was caught using public money to pay for the meeting with local church leaders. He was caught lying about it, and had to reimburse the city out of his own pocket.
Even if the city is not taking a pro-Christian stance intentionally, it is failing to adhere to its own policy concerning how and when people are permitted to offer such prayers, he said.

Under questioning by Diamond, City Clerk Geri Bryan acknowledged that her written declaration that the city's policy had been unerringly followed was incorrect.

Instead of selecting a person at random to give the first invocation after city voters approved a referendum in support of the council's policy, Bryan said she invited Hearns to lead the prayer at the suggestion of Paul Chappell, pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church.

Chappell was supposed to give the April 27 invocation but ultimately could not, so Chappell asked that she invite Hearns to give a prayer in his stead, Bryan testified.
Another case of Lancaster Baptist Church running the city council. They get first dibs on the city's invocation, in direct contrast to the city's official policy of a random choice of religious leader.
When asked how a Los Angeles-based member of the Sikh religion council came to offer the first invocation after the filing of the lawsuit against the city, Bryan said she was asked by City Manager Mark Bozigian to find a Jew, Muslim or Sikh to offer the prayer.

When asked if that move was contradictory to the city's prayer policy, Bryan said, "It is."

She found the Sikh minister through a contact provided by a member of the city's Planning Commission, she said.
Yeah, when pressed, the city needed to look for "some Jew, Muslim, or Sikh"as a token minority when it became obvious that the invocations were given only by Christians..
When called as a witness, Parris said his use of the word "We" in the phrase "We're growing a Christian community" was intended to refer to efforts by himself and the ministers present at the January 2010 address and not to efforts by himself and others at City Hall.

Parris also said the comment was made "at a private meeting with the ministerial association that I paid for."

Supporting the growth of a Christian community "is not an official city position," Parris said.
I guess it's not now since the Mayor was caught red handed paying for the meeting with city money and had to pay it back once the truth came out.
The comment was made at a time "when Muslims were threatening one of our councilwomen," the mayor said.
Muslims threatening the council woman? As I recall, she was posting highly inflammatory comments on Facebook and was slammed back by the Muslim community. I guess she could dish it out but couldn't take it.
Arguing for the city, attorney Alison Burns said previous federal cases have determined that prayers at the beginning of government meetings are constitutional.

Burns also said that as long as persons giving the prayers neither exploit the opportunity in an attempt to convert others nor disparage the faith or beliefs of others, the city cannot impose prior restraints on the language of those praying.

"The city has and is complying with the policy," Burns said. "The policy is now being followed to the letter."

Past errors should not be used as a basis for issuing an injunction against the rule, she said.

Instead, the city should be, at most, directed by the court to follow the rule, Burns said.

"If any (past) invocation did not follow (the city's) policy, it should not form a future restriction on the city of Lancaster," she said.
So the city council should not be accountable for not following city policy?
The city can ask those who offer invocations to adhere to its policy, but it cannot retract the words of those who fail to do so, Burns said.
Then perhaps they should have followed official city policy to stay out of trouble. This is what happens when they ignore the city's attorney.
Diamond said the city's policy of allowing numerous prayer-givers the chance to possibly offend listeners of different religions was not a defense.

"This is not an isolated slip-up. They have a history of this sort of conduct over a long period of time," Diamond said. "The practice and custom in Lancaster is to violate the establishment (of religion) clause."

Diamond asked Fischer to provide the same ruling that was issued in a state-court case he won against the city of Burbank when it was allowing sectarian prayers in the name of Jesus Christ.

Fischer told Diamond she was not bound to follow decisions reached in state courts, including the one against Burbank.

"There is no (previous federal) case exactly on point" that serves as a precedent for the Lancaster lawsuit, "so we are swimming in new waters here," Diamond told Fischer. "It will be up to the court" to set the precedent, he said.

The judge agreed, noting that a precedent "would make my job easier."

"I will do the best I can," she said, noting that she had a prior matter on which to rule before turning her attention to Rubin v. Lancaster.
Hopefully, the judge will throw out Lancaster City council prayers. The city council behaved exactly like I predicted they would act. The whole selecting random religious leaders was a smokescreen and was deliberately ignored, so that the city council's favorite church, the huge mega church compound Lancaster Baptist, could continue to give the invocation. Lancaster Baptist Church is very active in Lancaster politics and giving the invocation week after week is a reminder to the city council of their political clout in Lancaster.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Rock Beyond Belief Application Submitted Again



The application packet for Rock Beyond Belief has been submitted again. Good luck Justin. I hope this time it actually happens.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Get Ready for the Rapture



I saw this van on my drive home from work today. The van has lately been located at the corner of Avenue H and Division Street in Lancaster, CA. I wonder what the person in the van is going to do on May 22nd. Did the person sell all of their worldly goods and quit their job?

Rock Beyond Belief Summary



Excellent video detailing Justin Griffith's struggle to get the same support from the base for the Rock Beyond Belief event that the Christian event received.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

New Look to the Blog

I've decided to give this blog a makeover. I'm now using Blogger's new templates and I like the look better. I've also included the link to Mojoey's huge atheist blog list.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Crazy Witch Hunters Will be at Harvard Conference


On April Fools Day, appropriately enough, The Social Transformation Conference will be held at Harvard University. The people speaking at this event are Christian Dominionists who are hiding behind a facade of benign language to get this conference hosted at Harvard University. They use the following language to appear tolerant of diversity and open to varying views:
Social transformation can be defined as the process of large scale change for an environment where a shift occurs in the consciousness, in attitudes and values of a community or society (whether local, state, national or global). Scientific discoveries can cause social transformation as can religious movements (such as the great awakening of New England) or governmental policy (such as the end of apartheid in South Africa). Faith-Based Social Transformation is the process of positively changing an environment for the better using faith-based principles. This includes efforts to positively influence a nation’s culture by working to improve the values-based systems and ethical mindsets in its key strategic fronts, spheres or “mountains” — business, government, education, media, arts & entertainment, religion and family.
Notice the last statement. Sounds familiar doesn't it. This is the nice version of what these people are pushing. Instead of the usual spiritual warrior phrases of seizing the "spheres or mountains" and having dominion over society (every knee SHALL bow), they want you to think that they are merely striving for improvement.

Bruce Wilson at Talk2Action has a hilarious video on YouTube showing some of these "faith based" speakers in their native habitat of speaking in tongues, anointing with oil, casting out demons, and faith healing.



This would be hilarious except for the very real damage these attitudes and beliefs are having in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. The BBC and Channel 4 in Britain showed a horrifying documentary of children being accused of being witches and either being abandoned or murdered. The lucky ones ended up in the Stepping Stones safe compound. These same pastors at this conference mentor the same pastors in Africa who are encouraging and participating in these child killings.

Here is a review of the documentary Saving Africa's Witch Children. Parts of the documentary are still on YouTube.

Bits of the film were almost unbearable to watch: four- and five-year-old children, terrified out of their wits during church excommunications; young children horribly scarred by the beatings and torture that are used to extract "confessions" of their Satanic allegiance; the utterly empty eyes of a five-year-old girl called Mary who had been abandoned after her mother died and she was blamed for causing the death by a local preacher. The only saving grace was the presence of Gary Foxcroft and his Nigerian colleagues, who run a local charity, Stepping Stones, to look after the traumatised victims of these poisonous superstitions. Those confronted with their cruelty are not ashamed but adamant that they have done the right thing. "I want to kill that small girl," declared a grinning man, when Gary attempted to reunite one foundling with her mother. As her neighbour waved his machete, chuckling, the little girl's features smeared into utter terror. She knew he meant it.

Here is another review.

Located in southeastern Nigeria, Akwa Ibom State claims to have more churches per square mile than any other place on the planet.

But a dark side exists to the pious surface: A virulent strain of Christian Pentecostalism, blended with native beliefs, inspires hysteria when bad fortune or illness befalls the area, with preachers and families branding children witches.

The United Nations Children's Fund estimates that tens of thousands of innocent children have been targeted throughout Africa, including 15,000 in Akwa Ibom State alone.

Directed by Mags Gavan and Joost van der Valk and narrated by Sophie Okonedo (“Hotel Rwanda”), Saving Africa's Witch Children exposes the grimly appalling treatment of children deemed witches, and chronicles the work of two men who have devoted their lives to helping those ostracized by their communities.

and

To the superstitious in Africa, no event has a natural, causal or scientific reason. Any tragedy – disease, miscarriage, unemployment or death in the family – is considered the work of witches.

And defenseless children, sometimes as young as three months, can be scapegoated and subjected to horrifying punishments. The lucky are merely ostracized by their families and left to fend for their own, while others are tortured through a myriad of methods, from being set afire to having nails driven into their skulls, or simply murdered.

and finally

Says Foxcroft, “It is an absolute scandal. Any Christian would be absolutely outraged that they are taking the teachings of Christ to exploit and abuse innocent children.” The documentary includes footage of children from Foxcroft’s shelter being threatened by angry locals. He adds, “It’s really difficult not to lose your temper when you’re just in the face of pure bloody hatred, and then they say, ‘Oh, I’m a Christian.’ ”

Gavan and van der Valk expose the work of “Bishop” Sunday Ulup-Aya, who charges families up to a year’s salary – in Nigeria, many survive on just a dollar a day – to “exorcise” children suspected of witchcraft, feeding them a toxin he calls a “poison destroyer,” which consists of alcohol, African mercury and his own blood. If families cannot pay his fee, he holds their children captive.

Saving Africa's Witch Children also reveals the disturbing activities of one of Nigeria’s wealthiest evangelical priestesses, Helen Ukpabio of Liberty Church, who has created books and films decrying witchcraft.

Here is the update to the original documentary.



This is the horror that these assholes wish to bring to the US.

Update:
There is an editorial in the Harvard student paper, The Harvard Crimson, expressing concern that these people are presenting a conference where no opposing views are allowed.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Rapture Ready Local Mom



A local woman tried to kill her two daughters and herself because she thought that the "Tribulation" was starting. Perhaps someone should ask these people if this is the message they really mean to tell people.

We visited family in Louisiana at the end of last year and ran across two signs along Interstate 10. One sign was located in Orange, Texas and the other near Laccasine, Louisiana. The WeCanKnow people have a donation link on their web page. Why? If the world is ending, why do they need donations? I hope the the people who follow them (like this mom) don't try to end their lives and those of their families before this date.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Fighting Science Denialists



You tell them Rep. Markey.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Update on an Old Story

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted via email by Chaplain Robert Nay. He wanted to discuss this particular story. Shortly after I started this blog in 2008, I came across a story about religious harassment towards a Jewish chaplain. The website, truthout, posted a story about Chaplain Jeff Goldman who alleged anti-Semitic harassment at the hands of his fellow Christian chaplains as well as his immediate superior officer in his chain of command.

He told Jason Leopold that at a mandatory meeting, Nazi uniforms and swastikas were displayed, and anti-Semitic comments were made. He named Chaplain Robert Nay as one of the perpetrators of this mess. He also alleged that another Jewish chaplain, Chaplain Lapp told him to ignore all of this and that he would have to work with the bigots. Jason Leopold interviewed Rabbi Lapp who told him that sure there were a few problems with certain Chaplains, but that Rabbi Goldman would have to learn to work with them.

Chaplain Nay wrote that many details of the story were incorrect and wanted to correct any errors from the original story from truthout. I asked him if he would answer a few questions. He agreed. I also searched the internet for any hints of links to neo-nazi and white supremacy sites. I found none, not even a hint of Christian supremacy at all. I checked out his thesis for his master's degree, and an interview. Other than some nonsense about the latest "spiritual fitness" craze that seems to be the latest fad in the chaplain corps, there is nothing remotely controversial in his past writings.

Here are my questions and his answers:

Anna,
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Below are my answers to your questions. Thank you again.
Chaplain (LTC) Robert Nay

1) What was your working relationship with Rabbi Goldman? Very professional. We both were Captains in a Corps Support Group.

2) What was your impression of the working environment of non-Christian chaplains at Ft Stewart? Commanders and Chaplains were very sensitive to non-Christian chaplains and provided for the free exercise of all faith groups.

3) Rabbi Lapp is quoted in the article that he was aware of anti-Semitic remarks directed towards Rabbi Goldman by yourself and others. These allegations were supported by the Army's own investigation. What happened? I never saw the army investigation and I am not aware of any anti-Semitic comments made at Fort Stewart.

4) What happened at the mandatory interfaith prayer breakfast in 2001 where the Nazi uniforms and swastikas were displayed? It was reported that inappropriate jokes were made and no one made any attempt to stop it.
First, the interfaith prayer breakfast was not mandatory. Second, there were not any Nazi uniforms or swastikas at the prayer breakfast. There were historical U.S. uniforms. I did not hear any inappropriate jokes at the prayer breakfast.


5) What has been the reaction of people that know you to the story?
At the time, it was very embarrassing that a Chaplain went AWOL at a time of war.


6) What are you doing now? Other than the letter to the Jewish Voice, what are you doing to explain what happened? And why after 3 years did you contact me to explain your version on the events that happened? Have you offered you version of events to Mr. Leopold? He writes that you hung up on him when he called you for comment. Several years ago, the head of Public Affairs for the U.S. Army told us that we have a right to correct falsehoods in the media and in blogs. Since that time I approached those who ran the article from Truthout.org. News agencies such as Salon have removed Jason’s articles in the past because of his questionable sources. Jason has every right to conduct his research and provide the facts and his analysis. I respect those news agencies that have provided my unedited comments or have removed his false article. The reason why I contacted you, is that your blog is being used by spam to bring an old false article to the top of the search engine. Jason’s article brings a very embarrassing moment for Rabbi Goldman, but also a very painful moment for me and this is why. My life has been devoted to remembering the victims of the Holocaust.

7) Do you think the Public Affairs office at Ft Stewart did you a favor by declining to comment on the matter? Do you think it hurt or helped matters by not talking to Jason Leopold? I cannot comment what Fort Stewart did or didn’t do. I can tell you that Jason never called me. My question to Jason and others who initially ran with the story is where is the law suit you said was in the works? The fact that it has been almost ten years since Rabbi Goldman went AWOL, and over three years since Jason’s article there is no law suit because there is no case. Rabbi Goldman went AWOL because he ran from the new Hamon. Proof that he didn’t care about the victims of the Holocaust and when it came to defending them again, he ran.

8) I will be checking out your story with others who are familiar with it. I will also have their comments as well in the story, but I will place your answers as they are in my post. Will this make you uncomfortable? I will also give you a chance to rebut anyone as well. Thank you for posting my answers.

I was getting ready to to post the above story, as Robert Nay seemed a pleasant enough fellow via email. But then I received a strange email from him. Since I don't post emails without permission from the author, I will paraphrase his email. After first stating he thought that everyone regardless of religious viewpoint should be treated the same, he went on a rant stating that Muslim extremists and secular humanists were in cahoots trying to destroy the United States.

I replied with the following email.
Hi Bob

Sorry to be so late getting back to you, but to be honest, your last email has me a bit perplexed. I would be happy to take up your invitation should I be in the Fort Lee area.

"Personally I believe that the chaplaincy is perhaps a very visible representation of the freedom and toleration we have in our country. We have many different faith groups working along side one another, respecting the differences yet not forcing no one to compromise.

I agree with the above completely, but your next paragraph is somewhat confusing.

"In contrast to this, I believe that our current enemy with the war on terror who believes in only one faith with no toleration of others, or those who do not allow any faith but the faith of secular humanism, both of these enemies, foreign and domestic do not believe in freedom and toleration."

You seem to be equating non-religious humanists with murderous Islamic bomber cultists. Why? Is it because the secular humanists are non-religious or is it because they are humanists?

I would think that as a chaplain that you would remember that many religious groups have a basis in humanism. In Christianity, this is reflected in such denominations such as the Quakers and other such groups that are works based. This is also reflected in the sermon on the mount and the story of the loaves and the fishes in the Bible.

Humanism is simply the position that people are more important than dogma or ideology.

Or are you claiming that simply being non-religious makes someone an enemy of the state? Or is it the label "secular"? Because remember, someone can also be for a secular government and be religious as well. The founding fathers are an excellent example of a group of men ranging from the nearly non-religious like Jefferson to highly religious men getting together to create a secular government (i.e. a government not run or controlled by a religion).

And what about other groups that are explicitly "secular humanist" like Humanistic Judaism? When some of my relatives go to temple at a Humanistic Jewish Synagogue are they enemies of the state as well? And what about the 10 percent of the US population and 21 percent of the Armed Forces that identifies as non-religious, are they enemies as well?

You sound like a nice guy, but I sincerely hope that you don't get seduced by the easy answers and scapegoating that is found in conspiracy theories. My husband watched a friend get involved with a sovereign citizen group, stopped paying his taxes, go to prison, get out of prison, and ended up alone in a run down house surrounded by books and magazines all espousing conspiracy thinking. It seems once you succumb to that sort of thinking, all conspiracies seem believable.

Sincerely,

Anna
He then replied with an email sort of taking back some of what he had said earlier, but then trying to say that he has been persecuted in the past. WTF? White, male, Evangelical Christian chaplain officer in the Army and he thinks he is persecuted ? I replied with the following.
Hi Bob

I plan to update my blog this weekend. What do you mean that "secular humanist have taken over the public square"? The public square usually means public property (owned by the taxpayers), not private property open to the public. Government owned property should always be neutral towards religion and it should not promote one belief system over another.

If one religion can place their message in the public square, then all other beliefs and opinions can as well. In other words, if a courthouse posts the 10 commandments (which version?), then competing ideas can be posted as well. Perhaps it would be better for religious ideas to remain in the private square rather than being endorsed by the government in the public square.

Are you aware that the term "secular humanism" simply means a philosophy of humanism motivated by care for others instead of religious values or motivations? Someone can be considered a secular humanist and be religious as well. Now there are organizations such as The Council for Secular Humanism that advocate a moral non-religious stance. You say that you have endured persecution at the hands of secular humanists. Who has done this? What organization has done this?

Telling me that some secular humanist has somehow persecuted you sounds very improbable to me. You are in an organization where you are a member of the majority gender, majority race, and majority religion. You are in a position of authority within that organization as well. What happened? We in the non-religious community are fairly serious about calling out those members who are acting like jerks.

Now, MRFF has received many complaints about military superiors trying to coerce their subordinates into adopting the superior's beliefs. 96% of those complaints come from Christians. These complaints allege that the complainants (mostly mainline Christians) are having problems with other Christians, mainly from evangelical and charismatic denominations, not from the non-Christians. They are being told and judged as not being the right sort of Christian.

While I have had someone at a previous job place religious pamphlets on my desk and threaten to shoot me if I did not become a Christian. Luckily my boss stood up for me and the guy was transferred. I did not want him fired and later showing up at my door for revenge. This is not persecution but the actions of a bully and a bigot.

When I went through Air Force Officer Training school, we had a system of merits and demerits which could cancel each other out. You needed 5 merits to get off base privileges. I found out that if you went to Christian religious services, you could earn those merits. Non-Christian services did not count. There was not even an option of attending Unitarian services.

I went to a Methodist service with my roommate and mentioned this when I was there. There was also the chance of earning more merits for attending bible study, which I did. Needless to say, the chaplain ended up being a bit irritated by my questions. These questions were chosen because they would cause more questions and because they could not be answered easily. The chaplain asked why I was there and I answered that I was there because I both love to discuss theology and because of the merits. He told me he would give me the merits without church attendance. He seemed like an okay guy. I think he was uncomfortable with the whole merits for church attendance thing.

But I don't consider my self persecuted. I can work and carry on with my life without fear of getting put in prison or killed. My husband and myself are giving a friend of a former foster child of our a home until she graduates from high school. She was nearly killed by her brother because she is gay. He is a highly religious conservative evangelical christian who attempted to hurt his younger sister by running her over with his truck. It has taken her nearly a year to get over the trauma. She doesn't consider herself persecuted either. We have simply run into jerks and bigots.

As far as MRFF claiming conspiracy theories, I don't really think so. MRFF is simply trying to get the Armed Services to follow their own rules regarding religious coercion. The problems seem to be coming from senior officers and chaplains from a couple of endorsing agencies.

These agencies such as The Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches do not have college educated chaplains and they seem to regard military units as mission fields. These chaplains come from heavily charismatic denominations affiliated with the New Apostolic Reformation movement. Far from being some secretive conspiracy, this is a large religious movement with about 500 million adherents worldwide. Most members of this movement would probably be appalled with the behavior of some of their leaders such as Jim Ammerman. He leads The Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches and preaches hate and anti-government conspiracy theories. Check him out and you will see full on crazy.

Sorry for the long letter, but wanted you to see where I am coming from and some background information.

Thanks,

Anna
I have not heard back from Chaplain Nay, perhaps he does not have a good reply to my letter. Interesting.

Update:

I can easily see why others may have a problem working with Chaplain Nay. He seems to have a habit of saying offensive statements towards others. He came across at first as a nice enough fellow, but after a few emails, started with accusing nonbelievers of trying to destroy the United States. Then he started with the "persecution" attitude. I think that Christians who really are persecuted in parts of the world would see him as a whiny brat. I'm sure he would embarass them deeply.

I was contacted via email by Jason Leopold from Truthout. Look for more details to come out of this story.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

A Scorching Case of Burning Bush



Looks like someone needs a tube of Vagisil.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A Resolution for the New Year

Happy New Year dear readers. I have decided on a resolution regarding this blog; I will post quite a bit more frequently. Unfortunately, last year was a year full of ups and downs. On the plus side, we had a newly adopted daughter to take care of. On the minus side, we lost my mother-in-law due to severe heart disease at the end of the year. I also have been working a few stories via email, with most of the details kept confidential. Perhaps when the stories are ready, I'll be able to provide a few more details.

The result of all this chaos was the neglect of this blog, and the lack of my participation in the local freethinkers group. This year I plan to be much more active in this blog.

Monday, 3 January 2011

A Poor Little Sheep?

"We are poor little sheep that have lost our way. Baa Baa Baa." At least for women according to a religious group allowed access at the Air Force Academy. MRFF and truthout have been covering an ongoing scandal at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado involving a cultish fundamentalist group on campus.

Lauren Baas was a cadet (until her graduation last year) at the Academy and joined the Cadets for Christ run by Don Warrick and his wife Anna. According to Jean Baas, Lauren's mother, Lauren totally changed once she joined Cadets for Christ. Cadets for Christ members believe that women are "sheep" and men are the women's "shepherds". Lauren even allowed the cult to select a husband two years her junior to marry. Wow.

Here is a photograph of a cookbook given to Lauren by her "shepherds".

Baa Baa Sisterhood Cookbook



But I have a few questions. Lauren Baas is an intelligent college age woman who formally had ambitions and plans for a vibrant and productive life. Why would she fall for the love bombing and authoritarian structure of a cult? How could an intelligent woman fall for such transparent nonsense?

When I was about 13, I went to a Sunday School at my neighbor's church. Unknown to my parents, this church was a hard core Church of God. This church was really a cult and the churches collapsed during the nineties. Even at that age, I realized that there was something not right about this church. I kept questioning what they were teaching. When it was realized by the Sunday School teacher that I was not buying what was being taught, I was asked not to come back. I guess they wanted unquestioning obedience, which I was not going to give them.

Why did Lauren fall for such nonsense? Well for one thing, the environment at the AFA is extremely stressful. This is why religious groups place a priority on evangelizing at military training bases and service academies.

The cadets are usually away from home for the first time, with older cadets and instructors providing a role model for them to emulate. If these senior cadets and instructors insinuate that acquiring a similar religious viewpoint would advance their careers, then some cadets will pretend a religiosity they don't have in order to fit in and make life easier. Others like a lonely Lauren Baas succumb to the "love bombing" of a campus cult-like group.

When I attended the Air Force Officer Training School in the early eighties, one obtained merits to offset demerits by going to a Christian church and bible study. Since I'm fascinated by religion, even though I don't believe in it, I decided to go to the Methodist service my roommate did. I openly stated in a friendly manner that I was there only for the 5 merits that I would earn. Unlike my roommate, I also attended the bible study to get even more merits. I enjoyed asking uncomfortable questions of the Christians. I did this in a friendly and questioning manner. After seeing a couple of officer trainees seriously considering my questions, the Methodist Chaplain offered me 5 merits a week not to attend. I still smile when I recall the story.

But I was not a lonely, frightened young woman who did not know how to resist cultists. I grew up in a family that openly questioned religious matters and was raised not to believe things without questioning them. Also the religious environment of the Air Force was not nearly as evangelical as it is today.