Thursday, May 31, 2012

76 Things Banned in Leviticus

Here’s chapter and verse on a more-or-less comprehensive list of things banned in the Leviticus book of the bible. A decent number of them are punishable by death.

1.       Burning any yeast or honey in offerings to God (2:11)

2.       Failing to include salt in offerings to God (2:13)

3.       Eating fat (3:17)

4.       Eating blood (3:17)

5.       Failing to testify against any wrongdoing you’ve witnessed (5:1)

6.       Failing to testify against any wrongdoing you’ve been told about (5:1)

7.       Touching an unclean animal (5:2)

8.       Carelessly making an oath (5:4)

9.       Deceiving a neighbour about something trusted to them (6:2)

10.   Finding lost property and lying about it (6:3)

11.   Bringing unauthorised fire before God (10:1)

12.   Letting your hair become unkempt (10:6)

13.   Tearing your clothes (10:6)

14.   Drinking alcohol in holy places (10:9)

15.   Eating an animal which doesn’t both chew cud and has a divided hoof (11:4-7)

16.   Touching the carcass of any of the above (11:8)

17.   Eating – or touching the carcass of – any seafood without fins or scales (11:10-12)

18.   Eating – or touching the carcass of – eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat. (11:13-19)

19.   Eating – or touching the carcass of – flying insects with four legs, unless those legs are jointed (11:20-22)

20.   Eating any animal which walks on all four and has paws (11:27)

21.   Eating – or touching the carcass of – the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon (11:29)

22.   Eating – or touching the carcass of – any creature which crawls on many legs, or its belly (11:41-42)

23.   Going to church within 33 days after giving birth to a boy (12:4)

24.   Going to church within 66 days after giving birth to a girl (12:5)

25.   Having sex with your mother (18:7)

26.   Having sex with your father’s wife (18:8)

27.   Having sex with your sister (18:9)

28.   Having sex with your granddaughter (18:10)

29.   Having sex with your half-sister (18:11)

30.   Having sex with your biological aunt (18:12-13)

31.   Having sex with your uncle’s wife (18:14)

32.   Having sex with your daughter-in-law (18:15)

33.   Having sex with your sister-in-law (18:16)

34.   Having sex with a woman and also having sex with her daughter or granddaughter (18:17)

35.   Marrying your wife’s sister while your wife still lives (18:18)

36.   Having sex with a woman during her period (18:19)

37.   Having sex with your neighbour’s wife (18:20)

38.   Giving your children to be sacrificed to Molek (18:21)

39.   Having sex with a man “as one does with a woman” (18:22)

40.   Having sex with an animal (18:23)

41.   Making idols or “metal gods” (19:4)

42.   Reaping to the very edges of a field (19:9)

43.   Picking up grapes that have fallen in your  vineyard (19:10)

44.   Stealing (19:11)

45.   Lying (19:11)

46.   Swearing falsely on God’s name (19:12)

47.   Defrauding your neighbour (19:13)

48.   Holding back the wages of an employee overnight (19:13)

49.   Cursing the deaf or abusing the blind (19:14)

50.   Perverting justice, showing partiality to either the poor or the rich (19:15)

51.   Spreading slander (19:16)

52.   Doing anything to endanger a neighbour’s life (19:16)

53.   Seeking revenge or bearing a grudge (19:18)

54.   Mixing fabrics in clothing (19:19)

55.   Cross-breeding animals (19:19)

56.   Planting different seeds in the same field (19:19)

57.   Sleeping with another man’s slave (19:20)

58.   Eating fruit from a tree within four years of planting it (19:23)

59.   Practising divination or seeking omens (tut, tut astrology) (19:26)

60.   Trimming your beard (19:27)

61.   Cutting your hair at the sides (19:27)

62.   Getting tattoos (19:28)

63.   Making your daughter prostitute herself (19:29)

64.   Turning to mediums or spiritualists (19:31)

65.   Not standing in the presence of the elderly (19:32)

66.   Mistreating foreigners – “the foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born”  (19:33-34)

67.   Using dishonest weights and scales (19:35-36)

68.   Cursing your father or mother (punishable by death) (20:9)

69.   Marrying a prostitute, divorcee or widow if you are a priest (21:7,13)

70.   Entering a place where there’s a dead body as a priest (21:11)

71.   Slaughtering a cow/sheep and its young on the same day (22:28)

72.   Working on the Sabbath (23:3)

73.   Blasphemy (punishable by stoning to death) (24:14)

74.   Inflicting an injury; killing someone else’s animal; killing a person must be punished in kind (24:17-22)

75.   Selling land permanently (25:23)

76.   Selling an Israelite as a slave (25:42)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Which Terrorist Group Do You Belong To?

I don’t know about you, but I work for the Feds.  I am also a member of the Democratic party.

Millions of other Americans are too.  Millions more are members of the Republican Party.

What do these three organizations have in common?  They are all three, by definition, terrorist organizations.

Now, I know that this is something many people will greet with distain and dismissal.  “You’re crazy!  That’s the government, it can’t be a terrorist group!”  is the common refrain, I think.

But, hear me out.

Just what IS a terrorist group?  What defines it?   Wikipedia says that is a complicated issue to which over a hundred differing definitions have been assigned.  But I think what it boils down to is this:

“Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion.”

That is the very first sentence in that Wikipedia article, and I think that defines the essence of the term.  Most people tend to link terrorism to violence or the threat of violence.  Random acts of violence against civilians is also another common element people include.

But, is that all?  No, because the very first use of the term terrorism was French, and described actions by the French government!  Today, people tend to dismiss government action as terrorism and link this definition to non-state groups.

But that is the mere use of semantics to define your term to suit your political goals.

I think that the reality is much simpler.  Anyone who uses terror to influence a population, a group or an organization (whether a non-state organization or a government) is guilty of terrorism, because, simply, they are using fear as a weapon.  It doesn’t matter if your target is a company whose environmental policies you wish to influence (animal testing, for instance) as you break into their labs and smash equipment and free those animals, or a government you wish to influence in its foreign policy, or the members of a political party you wish to frighten into voting for you instead of your opponent.

Environmentalists have used non-lethal violence against property to influence companies to stop using animals for testing.  Islamist extremists use violence to stop the US government from backing Israel so single-mindedly, and the Republicans and the Democrats use those same Islamic terrorists like the old wives’ tales used the boogie man to frighten children into being good to convince the American people to give up their civil rights and liberties in the name of safety.  (That’s where the government comes in, too - Google the Patriot Act and read up on the civil rights you used to take for granted that no longer exist.)

Personally, I think the Democrats use the tactic less than the Republicans do as a political party.  Mostly, they use it as the Party in power, expanding the power of the government and limiting our liberties and rights.  (I wonder how they justify that, given how often the power shifts between parties in this country.)  The Republicans are a bit less subtle about it - they directly and blatantly use fear to frighten their base into going to the polls to vote Republican.

The government, as a separate entity from the two political parties, uses fear to expand its power.

I know that this is deliberately inflammatory, accusing the three most powerful groups in this country of terrorism at a time when we are supposed to be in a “war” with Islamic terrorist groups.  But given that definition, many people around the world would accuse us of just that, and would include violence as part of that accusation.

The American people aren’t exactly stupid, I believe, in spite of how they are often characterized by many, given the results of recent elections.  They have simply been hoodwinked by people with money, power and virtual exclusive use of the media to do it.

But the internet is a powerful tool the people can use for their (our) own uses in educating each other and banding together as a population to force our will on our government and other powerful institutions when they displease us.

It is time for us to begin to educate ourselves about how our political system is hoodwinking us into giving up our precious civil liberties, our Constitutional rights and our freedoms just for an illusion of safety.

Don’t let them get away with it!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Rule of Law

The United States is the first country to be founded, from the ground up, on the rule of law.  Other countries, such as England, have flirted with the rule of law and have finally come around to seeing the light, but they just pasted that rule on top of an existing feudal framework which still allows some autocratic privileges to remain, rotting in the body politic.
Americans have prided themselves on this fact, even while fighting a rearguard action against the forces of oligarchy and autocracy as they whittle away at our hard won protections and civil rights.
But the worst thing we do to those protections is self inflicted, and could be easily fixed.
Blame some of these observations on my white suburban upbringing, where everything was peaceful, cops were our friends, protecting us from the forces of darkness and evil, and obeying the law was something you did because it was just the right thing to do.
Americans have complained for years about the lack of respect for the law, it is a big fear mongering item in the right wing playbook.  But there is some validity to the observation that many Americans just pay lip service to the law and will do just about anything they can get away with while nobody is looking.
I have a private theory as to why that may be, at least in part.
What is the closest contact most Americans have with the law?  It is one’s city government.  Specifically, that would be the Library, City Hall (where they issue permits, etc.) and the local police department (whether city or county).
There are two issues which I think have an impact on how Americans see the law.
First is the city government as a whole.  There are, if one reads the news with an eye out for it, plenty of examples of corrupt local government.  City officials acting with impunity in ways that often violate well known strictures of law which are often known to people through word of mouth.  This breeds contempt for the law through association with the corrupt officials who write and pass that law.
Second, is the police department.
I see two disturbing trends.  One I’ve seen develop since I was a kid and the other is more obvious in the press today than its been in the past.
First, the press is publicizing more and more examples of police brutality.  Of police acting contrary to the law and basically, getting away with it.  Even with more and more people carrying cell phones, the situation isn’t getting better - the cops are just confiscating the cell phones and charging folks with violating wire tapping laws!
Uh, yeah, wiretapping.  Like recording the sound of a video is exactly like wiretapping your phone.
The other is traffic law enforcement.  Yep, that’s the local cop riding around town in his police cruiser, handing around tickets for traffic violations.  Before I go on, think about this:  
When was the last time you got a ticket from a cop on the beat for an illegal lane change?  Not using your blinker when turning?  Or maybe following too closely to the car in front of you?
Or was the last ticket you got issued by a speed camera?  Or a red light camera?  Or a cop sitting there with a laser gun or watching a stop sign?
Do cops even cruise looking for violators anymore?  I think they just sit at traffic lights or stop signs, or sit just over the hill with that laser or radar gun waiting to nail you for speeding.
Meanwhile, folks are riding around, cutting others off, not using turn signals, tailgating the slow folks, making right turns on red without stopping and other dangerous activities with no cops watching, and nobody giving out tickets for that bad behavior.
So all those people behaving badly behind the wheel begin to get the notion that they can violate the law with impunity, as long as they slow down for the speed camera and stop at lights with cameras.
Maybe it’s just me, but I see more and more folks on the road behaving like jackasses, doing things they’d never in the world do to you to your face, and I’ve almost never seen a cop pull someone over for it.
I have seen cops ignore red light runners - more than once, and that was before widespread red light cameras here.
I think that these combined trends are damaging to Americans’ view of their government, their distrust for government and their growing disrespect for the rule of law.
The fact that the Republican Party is trying hard to get the 1% out of paying taxes isn’t helping, either.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Demon Test!

This post is a blatant rip-off of Ed Brayton's Dispatches from the Culture Wars today:

I’m not sure how the existence of an online test to tell whether you’re possessed by a demon, especially one owned by Christian fraud Bob Larson, has escaped my attention. But this is funny stuff. Yes, for the low price of $9.95, you can find out if are demon-possessed.
Taking the Demon Test® may be the most important spiritual decision you make. This Test is the result of more than 30 years of research and thousands of hours in personal ministry with troubled souls. Through this vast experience we have been able to design this test so that we may quickly determine an individual’s spiritual condition.
If you are concerned about your test score, we highly recommend that you schedule personal one-on-one time with Bob Larson. You may choose a one-hour Encounter Session or a full or half-day Intensive Session. These sessions are held during Bob’s on-the-road seminars (please click here to review Bob’s current schedule) or at our Center for Spiritual Freedom in Phoenix Arizona.
In one hour you can begin living the life you’ve always wanted. Let Bob Larson, the man who has dealt with more demons than anyone on the planet, show you how to overcome every obstacle of every day. Stop the cycles of failure, poverty and sickness. Break family curses at the ROOT! Discover why you are the way you are and immediately change destructive habits. If you have demons, you’ll be delivered. If you have issues, they’ll be uncovered. If you have infirmities, the healing will begin. No pastor, priest, or counselor has dwelt with more spiritually bound people sad seen them set free. This isn’t counseling. This isn’t therapy. This is intervention to get answers NOW! Your lifetime of suffering can end. Your torment can stop. The job you need, the relationships you desire will be within your reach. The choice is simple–stay stuck or move on to spiritual fulfillment and success in every area of life. Get free, stay free, and live free!
If you’re laughing right now, you’re obviously possessed by the demon of rationality. 
This is me again.  I only copied the first part of it, because I want you to go to his blog and read the rest - it's hilarious!
Of course, the worst part of this is that the man's rip-off scam is perfectly legal.  And you can bet there are folks stupid enough and gullible enough to fall for it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The President's job.

I went to college a long time ago.  Longer than I like to contemplate.  But I have an advantage many don’t - I work for an employer for whom I can put into practice what I learned while earning my degree, which was in Public Administration.
Granted, I’m not a high level manager, I’ve never stood before Congress, nor negotiated with the Unions.  But after thirty-seven+ years watching those things happen from the inside, I’ve got a pretty good idea how this government works.  My degree included such esoteric subjects as economics and the economics of non-profit organizations.
No, I’m not an economist, nor do I play one on TV!
But I do remember much of the basics of those classes and my experience tells me how these things mesh with how the government works.  I’ve watched these things happen from the inside, and I know how the government handles money and how that involves the general economy.
Governor Romney has based much of his campaign on his business experience.  The Republicans have, since before Reagan, played the businessman card, saying that government should be run like a business and have always pushed the idea that the government shouldn’t spend more than it takes in.
The problem with this is that for the last ten years, this country has gone along with Republican theories about lowering taxes on the rich and such, and have, instead of seeing our debts getting lower, seen them get higher and higher. We’ve watched while the Republicans have brought this country to the brink of disaster time after time, even while causing us to lose our prime credit rating for the first time ever!
Meanwhile sensible economists who propose sensible policies that will indeed, make this country’s economy get better have sat by and watched while Washington fiddles during the “burning” of the economy.
Wrong, wrong, wrong!
Obama has it right.  A President isn’t there to make a profit.  He’s there to run a government whose purpose for existing is to ensure for the General Welfare of the whole country.  Not just the rich folk.  And the way out of this recession is to spend our way out.

Disgusting misogyny on the left, too.

I don't think I've written anything on this blog about the truly disgusting misogyny that the Republican Party has been engaged in (over the last year especially), but I know that I've linked to numerous articles on my Facebook page on the subject, both in the mainstream media and on FreeThought Blogs.

Today, though, I've seen something that disgusts me as much, if not more.

On Alternet, which usually hits the right wing a lot, they've linked to an attack by Hustler magazine on a conservative commentator, S.E. Cupp, reported by the online magazine, International Business Times.

The attack, disguised as a political commentary opposing her conservative views, culminates with a Photoshopped image of Ms. Cupp with a penis in her mouth.

Now, anybody who knows me understands that I can get enraged by this kind of attack.  It is NOT a political attack.  Let me say that again:  This is NOT a political attack!

It is an attack on Ms. Cupp as a woman who comments on politics in an attempt to shut her up through marginalizing her by portraying her as a sex object.  It is the oldest, meanest, lowest form of attack known to man in his age-old attempts to dominate women and keep them out of public affairs.  It is unworthy of a left leaning organization, especially, but it is wrong, repulsive and outright loathsome whenever it is used.

I want to emphasize that I don't care what Hustler Magazine's political persuasion is.  I understand that they have historically taken a left leaning track.  They are still wrong.  Indeed, they are exceptionally wrong for that very reason!

Ms. Cupp may not be a person with whom I would politically agree (understatement of the century), but here, that matters not.  What matters is that Hustler has attacked a person - a well known woman of the opposing political persuasion of theirs - and done it in the most objectionable manner possible, which completely negates anything they may have wanted to say about her political stances.

Once again, I will emphasize - this kind of a personal attack is wrong.  An Ad Hominem attack is not only always wrong, but is a particularly bad logical fallacy.  It is always out of place, no matter who engages in it, and it cheapens the political discourse whenever it is used.

Hustler magazine is no longer credible as a commentator of political matters - if they ever were.

Alternet has linked to a petition against Hustler Magazine.  I urge you to go and sign it.

I sure will.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

More on Religious Harm.

A comment was made on Facebook today about a post I made the other day entitled, “Religion Hurts”.  The comment was:

“It can be used that way, yes. Just remember, those who use religion as a weapon would simply use something else if it did not exist.”

My reply was that this was a poor excuse, and the commenter came back to say that it was:

“ explanation of human nature. What we need to overcome is not the symptom, but the disease.”

I’ll take this in two parts.

First, it is a poor excuse, and an excuse is all it is.  It says that being enraged over religions’ damage to society is useless because mankind is so ethically challenged that we are doomed to violence and evil, so, geez, guys, just chill.

I refuse to accept such poor rationalization.

When the Roman Catholic Church took power in the 4th century, it began a campaign (using the power of the State, which it had as the official religion of the Empire) to replace the old traditional religions with itself.  The first thing it did was to begin to consolidate itself with the Council of Nicea, where it basically set the creed and declared all other forms of christianity heretic.

Then it turned its attention outward to its main rivals, the older Greek and Roman religions, which it began to denigrate by naming them “pagan”.


“However another etymology theory wants pagan as deriving from Greek παγος which means hill, mount-top or cliff, coming from the very same root of Αρειος Παγος (the “Hill of Ares”). This interpretation is based on the assumption that the παγος was in a particular separate position compared to the rest of the city, and this particularly because of the characteristics of the landscape: higher and secluded.
This was a place where families of the rural area used to gather either for religious purposes or to escape from invasions and ransacks so often happening in those days – thus with time this became the centre of villages’ life. As this soon developed into an unplanned usual urban layout choice Pagus began to be used to identify the village and its surrounding area and Pagans its inhabitant, partly also to distinguish them from the soldiers.
As Christianity broadened, Pagans were named the idolaters, partly because the villagers of the rural areas were the most reluctant to conversion and the very last to abandon their creed and also because the only one way to escape from the persecution of the Christian Roman Empire was to retire in small countryside village and keep lurking and practising (sic) the ancient cults, sacrifices and rituals.”

These old traditions were outlawed, their temples destroyed and churches build over the ruins.  Priests were killed or forced to convert and “pagan” literature destroyed.

Among the destruction were philosophical schools, literature and teachers, which were termed of the devil, thus evil.  It didn’t take long before the only schools in Europe were run by the church.  To be sure, there were places where the old literature was kept and studied by those protected by the powerful who could hold off the tide of destruction.

But, these schools were not places where the old philosophical treatises were read and taught to eager students.  The knowledge was forbidden by the church and was dangerous to the unprotected.  In many places, the old literature was kept only because the parchment it was written on was valuable and could be scraped of the old writings and re-covered with christian writings.

This is how a long thought lost treatise on mathematics by Archimedes was found by x-ray some years ago.  Known about through being referred to by other mathematicians of his and later ages, no copies of it were known to exist.  As old documents were being x-rayed as part of a program using that new technology, it was discovered underneath a christian song.

It was a sensation at the time, as it was considered an important part of the history of mankind’s discovery of that discipline.  Destroyed by a monk, probably ignorant of its contents through a lack of knowledge of greek, it was vandalized for the value of the parchment it was written on.

For a thousand years, the RCC prevented the teaching of philosophy except in the most stringent of places and circumstances, until the Crusades began bringing many old Greek and Roman documents back from the Holy Land, where the Muslims had been keeping them safe and passing on that knowledge.

Just think of what could have been produced in that thousand years!  The Greeks and Romans had, for centuries before christ, examined ethics and morality and how society should use these thoughts and ideas for improvement.  If philosophers had had that thousand years to further examine and study those ideas without the negative influence of religion holding it back, how much further could we have come?  What would have kept us from improving our governmental, economic and social mores to better ourselves and advance quickly to where we are today as far as human rights and the social contract against violence are concerned?

Of course, there aren’t any guarantees, but the chance to reduce the possible reasons for violence and mayhem should not be passed over lightly.  To make the excuse that it would have happened anyway is to ignore the differences in society that would have been in place had religion never been there to halt mankind’s advances in science, philosophy and technology.

Second, while the harm religion does is a symptom, and yes, we do need to get rid of religion, one cannot excuse its worst affects on society while attempting to convince people that it is a bad influence.

In fact, it is that bad influence and the terrible consequences of superstition and fantasy on society and government that are the most powerful weapons we have to show people on the edge of de-conversion how harmful it can be.

I keep asking if they're crazy...

...but I think the answer is obvious.

Now they're suggesting that we build a fence with barbed wire on top and lock up all the gays?  We're supposed to just air drop food to them, and since they're gay, they won't reproduce, so they'll die off.

Why is it that every doggone time these fools open their mouths, they're wrong?

People who are gay are often...bisexual.  That means that some of the locked-up-gays will reproduce - and they'll most likely produce straight kids!  So, we'll end up locking up perfectly innocent kids because their parents are gay/bisexual.  Yeah, that makes sense, cause the fundies only give a damn about the kids till they're born anyway, and since their parents are gay, they'll teach their kids to be gay, too.

F'ing morons.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A consolation prize!

I got busy and never got another post done tonight - so as a consolation prize, here are some pictures of our trip through Wyoming, especially Pipestone National Park, where Native Americans get their pipestone, which can be obtained nowhere else in the world.

This is Pipestone National Park 

 This is what the vast American Prairie looked like before we turned it into the breadbasket of the world.  Most of that is waist high, some of it taller.

Wyoming.  We stayed in a rented house in the middle of this beautiful valley one night.  The motel overbooked us and didn't have the room we booked.  So we got this wonderful place to stay.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Religion hurts.

“So, tell me, what harm does it do for someone to believe in an invisible being if he/she isn’t hurting anybody?”

A common defense of faith - what harm does it do?  “Most people don’t go around stoning people to death or bombing abortion clinics, that’s for extremists.”

True, absolutely true.  But in answer to the moderate theist who asks those questions, ask this:

  • “When was the last time you protested to your State legislator when they got ready to pass a draconian law that infringed on someone’s rights?”  
  • “Have you ever written a letter to your State Senator telling him/her that you are in favor of equal protection under the law?”  
  • “Have you ever protested the passing of a TRAP law intended to do an end run around Roe v. Wade?” 
  • “Do you support the misogynistic application of laws that have nothing to do with abortion to charge women with murder for having a miscarriage as if they attempted to perform an illegal abortion?”
  • “Have you protested the new draconian forced ultrasound laws?”
  • “Have you ever told your State Senators (or the Federal ones, either, for that matter) that you support Planned Parenthood and do not want its funding to be curtailed?”

If not, then you are part of the problem.  YOU are allowing these and other unAmerican activities to flourish and spread and YOU are not doing your part to stop this madness.

It is the failure of the majority (who polls show over and over again to not support the Republican social agenda) to make their views known that allows these miserable thugs to get away with their shenanigans.  They are passing laws that undermine the legal standing of women everywhere in the US.  Laws that make women second class citizens.

And their statements among themselves and to the press as well often make the religious characterization of their actions clear. The motivation of turning this country into a theocracy is as clear as a hot summer day in Death Valley.

When people believe in impossible things, there isn’t a reality check.  You can’t compare their goals with reality to see if their promises ever come true.  When people like that start making decisions about reality based on fantasy facts made up almost two millennia ago, the results aren’t often pretty, and rarely meet the true needs of the society involved.

Mississippi is just now passing laws to stop abortions in their State.  A State legislator has bragged that they’ve managed to do it without challenging Roe vs.Wade in court, and they’re making no bones about the motivation being religious.  Prior to that SCOTUS ruling, death by botched back alley abortions was one of the leading causes of death for women in this country.  The incidence of women being treated for the consequences of back alley abortions are already on the rise, thanks to the recent spate of anti-abortion laws passed in the last year.

Moving on.  How about foreign policy?  How about our insanely one-track policy of supporting Israel, no matter how wrong headed or just plain stupid or criminal their actions may be?  A policy informed by End-Times beliefs of right wing fanatics who want to help bring about the final Armageddon in the so called “Holy Land”?

A sane, sensible policy on the part of the US would stop the insanity in the Middle East in a short time and would help to undermine the reasons the Islamic terror groups use to oppose us and recruit new suicide bombers.  But we cannot be seen to stop “supporting Israel”, no matter how stupid, racist or insane their policies may be or we may incur the wrath of the Abrahamic god.

How about the issue of prostitution?  It is illegal in this country in all but one State, mainly on account of religious objections, as the christian bible portrays prostitutes as “fallen women”.  This has the affect of marginalizing those who practice it, exposing them to the depravations of the criminal element and denying them the protections afforded their sisters and brothers in Europe, where it is legal, protected and policed.

Need I go on?  I could.  There are a lot of areas where “christian values” are contrary to the general social values of the population of this country - drugs being another area where we have been victimized by adherence to an insane drug war (there’s that “war” thing again) that has drained trillions of dollars and millions of lives from helping to raise the productivity of this country.

And so it goes.   “Doesn’t hurt anybody”?  It hurts plenty. It costs this country an insane amount of money each year vainly enforcing impossible laws making illegal many activities, substances, and associations which would otherwise be unremarkable and a normal part of society.  It has had the affect of brutalizing our police forces and turning them from a respected form of employment to a feared, clannish and brutal club used to  marginalize large parts of the population, destroying families, neighborhoods, and countless lives.

“Doesn’t hurt anybody”?  It is destroying the social fabric of this country.

Good sense strikes - finally!

Yesterday, the NAACP Board of Directors voted to back gay marriage.

If I was a religious man, I'd be crying "Alleluia!" right about now.  This is the perfect "marriage" between two movements, both devoted to full equality for all Americans.

The full resolution, which former NAACP senior vice president Maxim Thorne wrote was passed with only two members of the 64-member board opposed, states:

The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the "political, education, social and economic equality" of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment.

That last could eventually mean the inclusion of non-religious folk into that "marriage" - it's a day I'll work towards vigorously.

Our Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law by limiting the powers of the government, not by specifically enumerating all our rights.  The right of all people of whatever sexual orientation to form whatever relationship they wish with whomever they wish - regardless of either party's sexual orientation - is a right that is guaranteed under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution which reads:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Fourteenth Amendment (quoted in part) extends those limitations to the States:

Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Emphasis mine.

The day will come when a court of these United States will rule that the denial of marriage rights to people on the basis of their sexual orientation is contrary to these two parts of our Constitution.

I hope that day comes soon.

Throw the bum OUT!

Andy Gipson should be hounded out of office.

Any public official proposing actions that are so out of bounds according to the Constitution as he has does not deserve to stay a moment longer in an office serving a country whose basic Constitutional principles he no longer believes in.

I would also go so far as to say that no person who believes that a religious scripture is a law which comes before the one his office is designed to bring into existence should remain in that office.

Any person who takes actions (not words, but actions) towards making a religious theocracy in this country a reality is committing treason.  No action designed to place another system of government over the one we have now is legal.  NONE. Those who would use hyperbole and fear to put the people of this country against the government that WE own are committing acts which are unAmerican and treasonous.

I would urge every person who lives in the great State of Mississippi to begin today - to call, visit, email, tweet, and post on Facebook pages of their legislator in that great State to begin impeachment proceedings against Andy Gipson.

He shouldn't remain in office another day.

Hypocrisy is the Handmaiden of Fascism.

In Mississippi, GOP state Rep. Andy Gipson posted a message on his Facebook page which calls for putting gays and lesbians to death.
On May 10, Gipson made the following post:
“Been a lot of press on Obama’s opinion on “homosexual marriage.” The only opinion that counts is God’s: see Romans 1:26-28 and Leviticus 20:13. Anyway you slice it, it is sin. Not to mention horrific social policy.”
Later on in the thread, Gipson posts a comment about how homosexuality is “unnatural” and causes “disease.”

According to Leviticus 20:13, “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
And, apparently, he’s not made any apologies for it and has if anything, doubled down on it.
This is, to date, the very worst examples of cherry picking one’s religious beliefs - or, as it is known in the religious world, “cafeteria christianity.”  Much has been written in the atheistic blogosphere lately about this, ranging from serious, outraged posts outlining all the commandments in the Old Testament that these cafeteria christians have rejected to amusing, yet cutting satirical pieces excoriating them for the parts they conveniently ignore, yet never talk about.
Lets be very clear here.
If you are one of those people who think gays (which, by the way, includes lesbians) are an abomination, unnatural and just plain icky, and you base your opinions on the bible, you’d damn well better be one of those fundies who think that selling your daughter into slavery is ok.
Because if you don’t, you are a hypocrite.
Andy Gipson is a hypocrite, because he hasn’t promoted putting apostate christians to death, nor does he still support slavery, nor stoning adulterers to death, nor stoning people who work on Saturday (NOT SUNDAY - that’s the work of a later Pope, and isn’t the traditional Sabbath the Ten Commandments refer to!) nor killing teens who are disrespectful of their parents.
All of this, and more, is commanded in the Old Testament, yet, inexplicably, the ONLY Old Testament command christians deign to obey is the one about homosexuality!  (Besides the Ten.)
Even worse than the hypocrisy is the thought that it would be ok, in the modern 21st century America, for the GOVERNMENT to be able to execute its citizens, in violation of every principle men and women have fought and died to preserve in our Constitution, just because of a personal characteristic!  I don’t know who really made the statement about fascism (there seems to be some disagreement as to authorship) coming to America carrying a cross and being wrapped in the flag, but, dang it, THAT should be engraved above the doors of every courthouse in the US!
It’s wrong, it’s unAmerican, and it should be treated as treason.
Even Republican pollsters are telling them that they are on the wrong side of history, and are urging them to modify their views to just give up the fight if they still want to be electable.
See how damaging religion is?  If it weren’t for the bronze age biases inherent in the judeo-christian-islamic triad, none of this would be an issue, as the old world Mediterranean civilizations never had any issues with the homosexual lifestyle, in fact, often embraced it as a part of the culture.
Another post will be more about the damage religion causes, not just to parts of society, but to the whole shooting match.
Stay tuned.  First, I have to go see either The Avengers or Battleship.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Universe from Nothing by Lawrence Krause

Yesterday, our monthly discussion group met at my home, and we had a great turnout!  We had something like seventeen or eighteen folks show up, with some returns from past meetings and at least three newbies!  Orion, of course, was delighted to meet new folks and greet some old friends.

Our subject this month was  talk Lawrence Krause gave at the AAI conference in 2009, entitled Universe from Nothing.  It is hosted on YouTube.

Very highly recommended.  The group seemed to fully enjoy it!

Orion was happy to police the floor of stray food.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More of my favorite pictures!

Ok, here are some of my favorite pictures:

 Portland, Oregon!

Grasshopper Porn!

 Shed Roof, German Farm

 Orb Weaver

No, it's not a caterpillar - it's a fiddle fern!

 Baltimore Oriole - mid-flight!


Sea Gull over the Tidal Basin, Washington, DC

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Took a break today

Didn't have time for a post today, so I'll just amuse you with a picture or two.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gnu Atheists - Why so openly critical of Religion?

PZ Myers once gave his definition of "gnu" atheism:

The Gnu Atheism is a positive movement that emphasizes the truth of a claim as paramount; it is our number one value. 

Remember that, we'll come back to it later.

Another well known figure, Bart Ehrman, released a book, Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, on March 22nd, 2010.  He has written other books that clearly show not only that the bible is not the book we think it is, but has been added to, taken from, changed and altered to the point that even the experts don't know what is original and what isn't.

Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them) 

Not only do these books tell us how false and unreliable the bible is as a source for truth, but they clearly show that the clergy KNOWS it is false, yet continues to foist its mythology on the world as truth, indeed, as the only true route to an eternal life after death in a paradise to avoid eternal torture.

I don't know about you, but having been raised in the great and sovereign State of Texas, my parents taught me to revere the truth - largely by ensuring that avoidance of it was painful!  I was also taught to use my brain in ever more creative ways to think, to be sure that things I was being told were not some kind of fiction.  (Alas, that last was NOT obtained from the Texas school system, but a private school!)

So it wasn't hard, once I realized I no longer believed in a deity, to find that I was thinking much like the new atheists, with a strong aversion to belief systems based on untruth.  My upbringing in Texas exposed me to an equally strong aversion to confidence men (or women), because that old game is based upon lies and subtle misdirection to completely fool someone into falling for a false story designed to deprive them of, at least, their money.

But the situation is worse than that, much worse.

Constantine made the Christian Church the official State religion of the Roman Empire in 324 CE.  In other words, for the last 1,688 years, the RCC (or its splinters) have oppressed, lied to, imprisoned, burned at the stake, meddled in the political affairs of, stolen money from millions of people and used a false, partially forged collection of documents of uncertain origin and virtually unknown authorship to perpetrate the longest and most successful confidence game in the history of the world.

Think about the Vatican for a moment.  It's been around for almost all of the period of the existence of the RCC, at least since Constantine made it official.  According to the World Fact Book, it is small, less than half of a square kilometer.  That is .7 times the size of the Mall In Washington DC.  It has no natural resources, no arable land, no export industry.  Its government is a theocracy, and suffrage is limited to cardinals over 80 years old. It is, therefore, a dictatorship, with executive power invested in the Pope, granting him virtually limitless power.  Its population varies, but averages a bit over 800.  None of them are reported to have HIV, and all of them are reported to be literate.  It has 5,120 telephone lines in use.  Its budget is around 350 million dollars per annum.

Sounds pretty modest, huh?  Not much to see on paper.

But in person, ah!  It is a major tourist destination, and the target of religious pilgrims from around the world.  Its churches are filled with fine art worth billions of dollars, and one can only imagine the value of the gilt on the architecture alone.  That architecture was built by some of the finest minds in the world, the value of which is virtually incapable of enumeration.  It has been collecting this art and architecture for 1688 years on the backs of millions of Catholics who have often tithed themselves into poverty.  In spite of the official position of the RCC that priests are supposed to be bound by a vow of poverty, the clergy in that city live in an opulence once known only to kings.  (Yes, I know, it isn't THEIRS, but the Church's, so officially, they ARE poor.  But they use it like it is theirs, they control it as if it were theirs, so the distinction is minimal.)  In reality, the accumulation of wealth in that .44 sq. kilometer is probably the greatest per square foot in the entire world, given the period of time they've had to accumulate it.

All collected through the fiction that the money was being given to God for God's work.  Millions of people, over the last 1,688 years, have given of their hard earned money on the word of the RCC that it would literally buy their way into heaven.

And that is only in Vatican City, the Holy See.  Around the world, the RCC has been collecting property, much of the oldest by force of arms, for that same period.  Some of it is located in some of the most valuable real estate areas, while, admittedly, much of it is in poor rural areas.  Collectively, the value of the real estate alone is worth untold billions, maybe trillions of dollars, not to count the furnishings, which are again, often quite valuable and rare art.

In many countries, churches are not taxed, so all of that real estate is tax free, and does not add to the tax revenues of the countries involved, no matter how poor.  This amounts to probably more billions PER YEAR, so the savings (or loss to society) accumulates annually, resulting in countries with little left for such fripperies as education.

This state of affairs has been going on for 1,688 years.  Leaving aside the political implications, the economic affect of this theft is staggering.  The policies of the RCC (and truthfully, many of its splinter groups, too) have resulted in grinding poverty for many more millions in the developing world, as the insistence of the RCC on banning contraceptives and condoms has resulted in huge families that the poor are mostly unable to properly feed in the numbers that result from those policies.  On top of the tithes, is it any wonder that they are poor?

Now, back to PZ Myers.  His definition of the gnu atheists is that we are sticklers for the truth.  That is true.  We are, therefore, sternly opposed to organizations that publicly proclaim and teach what amount to lies.  But these are, as we have seen, not mere lies that equate to social white lies, or even equal to that favorite of the Ten Commandments, giving false witness before a magistrate.  No, these lies are, literally, something much more complex, since they support, defend and propagate the greatest, longest and most pernicious confidence game the world has ever seen.  A game that has killed, oppressed, stolen from and ground into poverty millions of people over as many as forty or more generations, based on nothing but fiction.

You should surprised that more people aren't angry.

(This article was published two years ago on Secular Perspectives)

Predictions, Prognostications, Skeptics and Politics, revisited

Last year, in a fit of insanity, I made some predictions.  First, though, I posted this disclaimer:
Being a humanist and a religious skeptic, among other more colorful epithets I've undoubtedly been called over the years, especially by my kids, I am rightfully reluctant to suddenly declare myself a Political Prognosticator.
My career with the Feds has prepared me to do any number of esoteric and sleep-inducing things, but being a PP is not one of them, so I will let that be my disclaimer for this piece.
Then, after some explanations for my insanity and how I was thinking, I made the following predictions:

  • There will be no jobs bill.
  • There will be no major economic bills passed at all, unless they can, like in the debt ceiling crisis, make the Democrats cave.
  • They will continue to pass meaningless bills to show their constituencies that they are pursuing their conservative agenda, but are being stymied by those evil socialists in Congress and the White House who are trying so hard to destroy this country "unless you send a conservative back to Congress - preferably me."
  • All in the interests of preventing Obama from being re-elected.
  • Because nobody else in this town will say it, I will.  They are mean spirited, low down, evil minded wealthy jerks who are only focused on getting what their masters want:
  • A Kleptocracy, well leavened with a theocratic yeast, blown to oversized proportions.

So, how am I doing so far?

RePost - Hold Yer Horses, Pardner!

This post is a repost of one I published on the blog Secular Perspectives back in March of last year, in response to a post by Don Wharton, entitled "The End of Religion?"  In it, I cited a christian web site which seeks to awaken christian awareness of the changing demographics of the US.

Here 'tis:

Don has written a great essay regarding the "end" of religion.  He is rightly skeptical of the methodology of the report he is remarking about.  When scientists trained in one area get involved in another they are not trained in - without expert consultants in the area they are not trained in - one should definitely see red flags all over the place.

But hold your horses, pardner!  That study isn't the only place this idea is coming from.  This has been around for at least ten years.

An actual religious site,, has a remarkable series of web pages, organized like powerpoint slides, that illustrate their alarm regarding a long term decline in church attendance.  The url for that series is:

It is entitled "Twelve Surprising Facts About the American Church".  Here are the titles of those slides:

1. The percentage of people that attend a Christian church each weekend is far below what pollsters report.
2. The percentage of people attending a Christian church each weekend decreased significantly from 1990-2000.
3. Christian church attendance is between 1 ½ and 2 times higher in the South and the Midwest than it is in the West and the Northeast.
4. Only one state [Hawaii] saw an increase in the percentage attending church from 1990-2000. [California, Connecticut, Georgia, and Washington were close to keeping up with population growth.]
5. The percentage that attends church on any given weekend is declining in over two thirds of the counties in the United States. [Among the states with the highest percentages of declining counties were Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Carolina.]
6. Evangelicals, mainliners, and Catholics are strongest in very different regions of the country.
7. Churches with 50–299 people in attendance are shrinking, while the smallest churches and larger churches are growing.
8. Established churches, from 40–180 years old, on average decline in attendance.
9. The increase in the number of churches is about one eighth of what is needed to keep up with population growth.
10. The church-planting rate has been declining throughout the history of our country.
11. Existing churches are plateauing and new church growth provides less than half of the growth necessary to keep up with population growth.
12. If the present trends continue, the percentage of the population that attends church in 2050 will be almost half of what it is today.

In addition, another web site,, which is a wonderful site with tons and tons of fascinating information about all different religions.  Their "About Us" page says the following:

"We are a multi-faith group. As of 2010-DEC, we consist of one Atheist, Agnostic, Christian, Wiccan and Zen Buddhist. Thus, the OCRT staff lack agreement on almost all theological matters, such as belief in a supreme being, the nature of God, interpretation of the Bible and other holy texts, whether life after death exists, what form the afterlife may take, etc."

They go on to state their beliefs in list form, a remarkable statement by itself.

My point here is to show that their purpose is informational, with no religious agenda.  Under the heading of "Religious information and Practices", they have a page entitled, "How many North Americans attend religious services (and how many lie about going)?"  The url is:

Their page reports an interesting phenomenon, that the "reported" numbers of religious folks attending services is vastly over-reported, by as much as 100%.  The page is definitely worth a look and taking some time to understand their points, which are several.  As a matter of fact, I recommend the entire site for information regarding just about any religion, as their reporting has no overt agenda of either support or attack, and seems fairly, well, fair.

The upshot of this is to say that while Don and others are certainly right to be skeptical over the conclusions of a study of questionable methodology, that doesn't mean that their conclusions are wrong, but just may simply be wrong from the standpoint of the length of time until the end, or at least the end of a major religious influence on society, culture and politics. (which, of course, may be different in different countries and areas of the world.)

You want to talk about social issues? Ok, bring it on!

Desperate to talk about anything at all to detract from the recovery of the economy in spite of everything they could do to sabotage it, the Republicans have resorted to their old fallback:  social issues.

It's been a reliable foil - rile the base with all sorts of alarming predictions about the sexual revolution, women's rights, gay rights, abortion, socialism, communism or the oldest of all, racial equality - and sit back and watch the votes roll in!  There's only one problem, and that is demographics.  As time has rolled past, election year after election year, the older more reliable Republican conservatives are dying off.  The younger generation, those under 30, are remarkably more liberal and tolerant of all of those old Republican bugaboos, and in many cases, actually support a more liberal position.  Fewer than 30% of that generation are in any way conservative, and even fewer are true right wing believers.

The issue of gay marriage is a good indicator - in decades past, Americans opposed gay marriage by over 60% to 40%, in recent years, that number has almost reversed itself, overall.  Polls showing a rising amount of support for liberal causes, reduction of military spending, gay marriage, women's rights, abortion and contraceptive use are indicative of the increasing liberal proclivities of the American public.

But, the Republicans, living on another planet as they do, still believe that their socially conservative initiatives enjoy a vast majority of support, and haven't stopped to read the handwriting on the walls along the highway to this election.

I believe they are in for a huge surprise.

Not only do many Americans see through Republican faux outrage at social issues, but oppose Republican positions on those issues by, in some cases, significant majorities.  They also see through the Republican strategy of, State by State, laying off public sector workers while decrying the high unemployment rate among that sector while blaming the whole thing on Obama.

Look, guys, there may be a substantial number of clueless, ignorant American voters, but there are enough of us with a clue to toss your sorry butts back to the rural outback where you belong.

And good riddance!

Monday, May 14, 2012

What about the boss?

News is breaking about the Chief of Staff of the Florida Governor, Steve MacNamara, who is resigning after getting caught steering no-bid contracts to friends.

In the Senate, MacNamara steered a $5.5 million contract with Spider Data Systems for a software platform to improve public access to state budgets. The developer of the patented system, Anna Mattson, was a partner of lobbyist Jim Eaton, also a close friend of MacNamara’s. He also handed over a project to shift the Senate’s computer system from mainframe computers to another longtime acquaintance, Abe Uccello, at a cost of $380,000.
In the governor’s office, MacNamara overruled an agency head and allowed the film commissioner, whom he previously had helped get a job in the state Senate, to travel to the Sundance film festival. He was also accused of attempting to influence contracting outcomes and a controversial decision to allow barrel racing to be considered a parimutuel sport.
On Thursday, an ethics complaint filed against MacNamara accused him of using his staff time and state e-mail to apply for a job at a Catholic liberal arts college in Montana, where he had hoped to move after leaving the governor’s office. Public-records requests by The Herald/Times made to the governor’s office omitted the letter from MacNamara’s state e-mail account to the woman heading the presidential search effort for Carroll College in Helena.

And yet, the Governor himself previously ran a medical company tagged with the largest fine for Medicare fraud in American history, and once in office, signed legislation that steered State drug tests on poor folk to his wife's drug testing company.

What is wrong with these people?