Note: This might seem like yet another post about abortion but really it’s not. I’m going to try (and fail) to make some broader points. Points about Mitt Romney, Planned Parenthood, religious freedom and beliefs, the “terrible power” of government, societal control, and so much more. I’ll try to do it with my usual grace, style and aplomb…
Is this like preaching to the choir? I wouldn’t know. I’ve said some of this before and, no doubt, I’ll say some of it again.
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Sometimes there are moments in life that are more memorable than others. Some moments stand out.
On the other hand, there are also moments you can’t remember no matter what, like where you put your car keys last night. I guess I’m going to be late to work.
I remember a moment at my latest job when the conversation turned to religion and I decided enough time had passed and I was secure enough in my position that I could out myself. I revealed my atheism.
The response was not easy to forget. My boss turned to me and said, “Can I ask you a question? Why don’t you kill people?” This from a religious person who I have come to regard as being much less ethical and moral as I am.
It’s a weird world we live in.
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This is a mid-day “I’m at the office” quiki-post spawned (heh!) by something that just ejaculated across my display during my lunch break. Condoms are only 98% effective and in this case my post burst through…
Speaker of the House John Boehner is ragin’. In fact, he was out on the floor of the House sportin’ a boner. Boehner got a boner. See what I did there? God, I’m so clever.
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Living in a small town can have its ups and downs. Besides all of the other pitfalls I’ve mentioned before, you have also got to be careful with your secrets. Unless you are in the majority, it can be unwise to reveal your political party or religious beliefs lest you be ostracized, burned at the stake or you particularly enjoy watching bricks flung through your living room window.
That means I generally keep my atheist status on the down low. There are a lot of God-fearing folk around here. Seven years ago I was even asked by a prospective employer about my religious beliefs. I diverted the question and played it off ambiguously and got the job.
That employer didn’t find out the truth until later. Mwuhahaha!
So the other day I was shooting the shit with the boss and I decided the time was right for a reveal. It was sort of a big deal since he’s very religious. But he’s also a very decent and caring guy and, I think, a critical thinker.
I started things off with a query. “If you had to guess, what do you think my religious beliefs are?” Continue reading →
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have a new Broadway musical coming out. It’s called The Book of Mormon.
To put this in context you need to know who these guys are. They are, among other things, the creators of the South Park cartoon on Comedy Central.
Something tells me that true Mormons are not going to be too thrilled with the Parker and Stone take on Mormonism.
I’m an avowed atheist, something I mention here on the blog from time to time when I feel like it is pertinent or I just feel like drawing attention to myself. (There is decidedly an element of narcissism amongst some of us who blog.)
But it was not always so. I have fond memories of growing up in the Episcopal church. There were good people in our local church and I loved them. Our priest was a young man with a wife and kids and I looked up to him. Heck, not once did he even make a move on me, not even when I was an altar boy.
Growing up in a small town, though, I had a lot of friends who were Mormons. Aside from a few odd rules, like no soda and caffeine, they were a lot like me. And we spent a lot of time at the local Mormon temple. It was probably one of the nicest buildings in town but, more importantly, it also had, by far, the nicest indoor basketball court. We shot a lot of hoops there. I don’t know why, but I never stopped to wonder why our church didn’t have cool stuff like basketball courts.
By the time I was in my early teens I was aware of quite a bit about Mormons. I knew the story about Joseph Smith and the golden plates, I knew that Jesus had visited America, and that it was common for Mormons to go on missions. Hanging out at the temple so much, we got to know a lot of the missionaries who came to our town.
My exposure to Mormonism and knowing that hands down all of the Mormons I had ever met were the nicest people I’d ever known, it seemed only natural to convert, so I began the lessons myself. All went well, including my meeting to confess certain “serious past transgressions.” I was earnest in wanting to join, so I was fully honest. They had to have a meeting about those transgressions, but apparently I passed the test. I was given the green light!
Since I was younger than 18, all I need to complete the process was my mom’s signature on some forms. That’s where a little monkey wrench was thrown into the works. She refused to sign. I cried and I was angry but there was nothing I could do. Then my mom arranged to have her boss pick me up one day and go for a ride in his bitchin’ hot rod. He even let me drive and that was one sweet car! What a clever plan tempting a young man with a hot rod.
Eventually we pulled over on the side of the road and had a discussion about his religious beliefs. It turned out that he was a born again Christian. The more we talked, the more I agreed with him, and then, through my tears while bawling like a baby, I also was born again.
Don’t worry. It didn’t stick. A year later the same thing would happen to me at my Korean girlfriend’s church. The preacher seemed to single me out and I ended up at the front of the church, kneeling while he talked only to me. Before I knew it I was bawling like a baby again. Apparently back then I really wanted some damn answers. But at least I was sincere.
None of it mattered, though. As I grew older, I was less and less interested in God until I realized one day I had become an atheist. And that’s how it has been ever since. But I still have my Book of Mormon on my shelf next to my parallel Bible, though.
And, that’s also my personal experience with Mormonism and how I came very, very close to being one myself. I now know that, nice people or not, my mom did me a favor that day.
For one thing, during the lessons and baptismal interview, the missionaries and church personnel I spoke with played things pretty close to the vest. They certainly weren’t dishing out any of the more controversial beliefs of the Mormon church. Things like the planet Kolob and stuff. I never heard anything about Kolob when receiving my lessons.
So yeah, the Mormons aren’t too happy about the new musical. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints issued this response:
The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.
Of course, the musical isn’t Parker and Stone’s first volley at Mormonism. Via the show South Park the pair has skewed all sorts of religious beliefs, including the Mormons. In an episode called “All About the Mormons” they humorously poke holes in the Joseph Smith and gold plate mythology. (If interested, you can watch the full episode on SouthParkStudios.com.)
They’ve also gone after Tom Cruise and Scientology and the “dark lord Xenu” in the episode “Trapped in the Closet.”
The episodes “Go, God. Go! Part II” and “Go God Go XII” tell the story of an atheism war. The episode “The Fantastic Easter Special” goes after the President of the Catholic League.
And yes, they take on Islam, too, in the episodes “Cartoon Wars, Part 1 & Part 2″ which takes on the issue of any depiction of the prophet Muhammad as a cartoon on a television show.
Other South Park episodes on religion include:
- The Passion of the Jew
- Red Hot Catholic Love
- Super Best Friends
- Do the Handicapped Go to Hell? / Probably
- Are You There God, It’s Me Jesus
The point here is that Mormons shouldn’t feel especially picked on. The South Park creators clearly enjoy going after all sorts of sacred cows.
I know one thing. The Mormons played a huge role in California in regards to the passage of Proposition 8. Religions increasingly see themselves playing a greater role in public discussion, policies and law making. Personally I’m against that.
Let us consider the words of one of the leaders of the LDS church. Elder Quentin L. Cook is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. According to Wikipedia, Elder Cook is the “thirteenth most senior apostle in the ranks of the Church.”
In a posting entitled “Let there be light!” on LDS.org in Nov. 2010, Elder Cook wrote:
As Church leaders, we have met with leaders of other faiths and have found that there is a common moral foundation that transcends theological differences and unites us in our aspirations for a better society.
In our increasingly unrighteous world, it is essential that values based on religious belief be part of the public discourse. Moral positions informed by a religious conscience must be accorded equal access to the public square. Under the constitutions of most countries, a religious conscience may not be given preference, but neither should it be disregarded.
I don’t know about you, but to me this sounds a lot like religious leaders saying they want a seat at the table of lawmaking and public policy. And this from a church that recently used its tax-exempt status to greatly influence the outcome of an American political election. Isn’t that one of the things our founding fathers feared the most?
When our nation’s religious leaders step up and overtly state that it is their intention to influence the political landscape, methinks we just might have a rather serious problem on our hands.
You may not have heard about it in the major news outlets, but earlier this week there was another skirmish in the battle to “defend” marriage.
On December 6, 2010, an “open letter” was signed by 26 religious “leaders.” But let us not divert from the discussion to consider the pompous sanctimony of “open letters.” Perhaps another day.
The letter was entitled “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment” and is significant because of the broad spectrum of religious beliefs held by the signers. A press release from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sang the praises of the diversity of the signers that represented “Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Sikh communities in the United States.”
As I read the letter, I couldn’t help but wonder: Who out there watches over us atheists? Where is the leader of my flock?
Here’s the text of the letter:
Marriage is the permanent and faithful union of one man and one woman. As such, marriage is the natural basis of the family. Marriage is an institution fundamental to the well-being of all of society, not just religious communities.
As religious leaders across different faith communities, we join together and affirm our shared commitment to promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We honor the unique love between husbands and wives; the indispensible place of fathers and mothers; and the corresponding rights and dignity of all children.
Marriage thus defined is a great good in itself, and it also serves the good of others and society in innumerable ways. The preservation of the unique meaning of marriage is not a special or limited interest but serves the good of all. Therefore, we invite and encourage all people, both within and beyond our faith communities, to stand with us in promoting and protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The press release talks about the “unique meaning” of marriage and the letter speaks of the “unique love” between husbands and wives. Logically speaking, what does “uniqueness” prove? Absolutely nothing.
The letter says that marriage is something “permanent.” Ever heard of a little something called the divorce rate? Have we ever seen such a concerted effort to “defend” marriage against that?
The letter says that marriage is the “natural” basis of a family. How is that statement, beyond religious beliefs, proven in any way?
Let’s say you have a family consisting of one man, one woman, and two children. Now, let’s say one of the parents dies. So sorry, family. According to our nation’s religious leaders your family is no longer “natural.”
Personally I think the letter is an insult to anyone who ever grew up in a family without one or both of the “natural” biological parents, or one where the “permanent” marriage was ripped apart by divorce, and let us not forget everyone who was ever adopted. If we accept the argument that the act of procreation is what makes marriage “natural” then by logical extension anyone not raised by their biological parents is in an unnatural family.
Not too long ago there was a person on craigslist in the “politics” section. He was making reasoned arguments that homosexuals were “shit eaters” and “pedophiles” during the act of defending marriage. He even posted appalling pictures of scatological sexual activity (between two men) as his “proof.” How he came into possession of the image one can only wonder.
I don’t normally engage on craigslist, but I decided to take a shot. I knew it would be waste of time, though, especially for one anyone who expressed such illogical thoughts. Call it an “open letter” of my own, if you will. Here’s what I wrote:
There is a person trolling here using homosexual bashing as bait. If you can’t recognize the pure unabashed trolling for what it is then perhaps you have a problem as well. Trolls are best ignored.
Sexual orientation is NOT the act of having sex or engaging in a particular type of sexual activity. The picture of scatological sex that was posted recently falls into the category of deviant behavior, i.e., it violates our society’s cultural norms. It would be equally deviant if it was two men, two women, or a mixed-gender couple. Therefore you can’t simply show the same picture where one of the participants is female and declare, “See! Heterosexuality is sick!” It doesn’t work that way.
You can have a sexual relationship between two gay men that doesn’t involve anal sex. That doesn’t mean the men are straight.
You can have a sexual relationship between a mixed-gender couple that does involve anal sex. That doesn’t mean the people involved are homosexual.
Orientation is what you are. It is a preference. It is how you feel and what you are attracted to. It is not what you do. Or don’t do.
Naturally my post was flagged down and removed from craigslist in record time. Luckily, as the author, I was able to preserve a copy.
I had a friend named Klaus. One time he expressed this thought: “I don’t believe you can find love in another man’s hairy asshole.” Yes, Klaus was an eloquent fellow. And that opinion fit his worldview and beliefs. But I think it’s safe to say that the opinion is not universally shared. And that’s what makes freedom so special. We each get to make up our own minds.
To me, the big travesty here is a simple one. It is the fact that so many spend so much time and effort try to legally control and quarantine the actions of other people. Adults engaged in mutually consensual behavior should leave each other the fuck alone.
If you leave faith and religion out of the equation, what proof remains that supports the “defense” of marriage?
Glenn Beck says America should be about believing in God. Do you think he’s right about that?
What do you think was most important to the “founding fathers?” Freedom? Individual rights vs. the state? Or that we must have a belief in God and laws based on the same?
Which document, do you think, was intended to have more sway over our daily lives?
The other day I was flipping through channels and I saw television commentator Glenn Beck on the FOX News Channel hosting some kind of TV show. The studio audience seemed to be comprised mostly of young people. With Beck on stage was a man who would offer up comments regarding things that Beck said. I wish I could find a link to this show but I tried and was not successful.
I admit, I’m not a regular watcher of Beck. But I was momentarily curious. What were my impressions of the man? I have to admit the way he talked was really off-putting. His tone was histrionic and what he had to say seemed to me to be quite full of puffery. That’s just my opinion.
On this particular occasion he was frothing at the mouth about God and the Declaration of Independence. I’ll admit the obvious right up front. Beck is correct. That document clearly talks about a “creator” and so forth.
So what does that mean? That we’re supposed to be a “Christian nation?” That’s what Beck wants you to think. Be a critical thinker, though, and don’t take his word for it. Dig a little deeper.
The purpose of the Declaration of Independence: To announce and explain separation from Great Britain.
The purpose of the Constitution: A national constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation.
Again I ask, which document do you think is supposed to hold more sway over our laws and how we live our lives?
Beck is correct that the Declaration of Independence mentions a “creator.” But what is he leaving out? What you don’t hear him spouting off about all the time is that the Constitution is strangely silent on the subject of God.
The following words do not appear in the original United States Constitution: God, creator, maker, Christ, Christianity, and religion*. Search the text for yourself and see!
The word “religious” does show up one single time, but it’s not exactly a powerful statement that the founding fathers wanted religion entwined with government. In fact, it says the exact opposite:
From Article VI. “… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
To my simple mind, this disconnect raises an immediate and important question: If the founding fathers were so concerned about God, why did they fail to broach the subject even a single time in the Constitution? The document that they intended to be the very foundation for our country?
I can see why Beck prefers to avoid bringing attention to this sort of thing. But that doesn’t stop him from appearing on stage with an “expert” and declaring that the word “creator” in a different document means that we’re supposed to be a Christian nation.
In fact, the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from the God disconnect between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is that the authors of the Constitution deliberately went out of their way to keep God out. I mean, what else? You think they forgot? I don’t think so. They seemed to put an awful lot of thought into the Constitution. I find it hard to imagine that they would forget about God unless it was deliberate.
All the puffery and histrionics in the world can’t get around the fact that God is missing from the Constitution and that the founding fathers didn’t want religious beliefs to dictate who could hold office.
One last point: What is “freedom of religion?” That comes from the First Amendment which prohibits the federal government from making a law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This was later expanded to state and local governments by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Now for a geometrical proof regarding the “free exercise” of religion:
- The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion in the United States.
- This guarantees every American the right to choose their own religious beliefs (or even have none at all).
- By definition and as required by the Constitution, therefore the United States is not a “Christian” nation.
If every American has the right to believe what they want about God and religion, how can there be any requirement that we are a Christian nation? Such a requirement, even if it did exist, would be a direct violation of the Constitution. We’re all free to worship trees or be atheists or be whatever we want to be. It just so happens that most of us are Christians, but that is not a requirement of being an American. According to the Constitution you don’t have to believe in God at all if you don’t want.
That’s not the way Beck wants it, though. Beck believes that a belief in God is a requirement to being a good American. If so, what happens then? Can religious beliefs other than the most popular be legally discriminated against? Can you be excluded from housing based on having the “wrong” belief? Turned away from a job? Jailed? Burned at the stake? Where are these lines, how are they drawn, and who is going to be deciding how every American’s beliefs will be evaluated and legally acted upon?
By the way, Thomas Jefferson was the first to advocate the concept of the separation of church and state in this letter.
Beck is wrong. God does not belong in politics. God has nothing to do with being an American.
Related reading: You don’t have the Constitution for that
* Except for the First Amendment. The word “religion” does appear there.