Worldliness Makes Baby Jesus Cry

So the other day I was listening to Mark Driscoll’s series on James the brother of Jesus, and heard:

When he’s [James] talking about “the world” here and worldly conflict, let me give you a simple definition of what it means to be worldly: worldly means that things are put together in a way that Satan likes.

That’s all that it means. It means that things are put together, organized, brought together in a way that causes Satan to be glad and causes Jesus to grieve.

It’s when anything is put together and Satan’s, like, “That’s the way that I wanted it” and Jesus is, like, “That’s not the way that I wanted it.”

And all this time I thought the expression “X makes baby Jesus cry” was just a cheap shot at unsophisticated bible-thumpers, not something that anyone would actually say; and certainly not a prominent preacher with probably a few decorative degrees and a megachurch and such. But apparently I was wrong.

(Oh, and Pastor Mark, in case you stumble upon this: unless you’re a thirteen-year-old girl, using “to be like” as a synonym for “to say” makes baby Jesus cry.)

Why Can’t I Vote for God?

Le Chat, by Philippe Geluck
In case your French isn’t good enough to read the strip above:

“If God were democratically elected by all the faithful; if his income were taxed, and if he had to retire at age 65, I might become a believer.”

That touches on something I find odd about the Abrahamic religions: their holy texts seem to see monarchy as the highest—indeed, only—form of government. I suppose there’s a dalliance with communism in the book of Acts, but that society isn’t expected to last long. Where does the Bible, to pick the example I’m most familiar with, advocate democracy?

As King Arthur might have told Dennis, the constitutional peasant, “You don’t vote for god!” But why not?

The idea of a human doing God’s job seems ridiculous, not simply because of the limitations of flesh and blood—presumably the duties of the office involve telepathically telling peope where their keys are, or magically removing someone’s tumor, or causing an earthquake to kill a bunch of unbelievers. But presumably the office comes with the wherewithal to do these things—but also because God is usually presented as being so much better than us in every way: wiser, kinder, omniscient-er, and so on, that there can be no comparison.

Okay, so why not have an election? If God’s all he’s cracked up to be, he shouldn’t have any trouble winning an election.

Now, maybe people would vote for someone else, what with the heart of man being corrupt and his every thought being evil, the sorts of things that got caused Noah’s flood, that sort of thing. But what’s the worst that can happen? Assuming there’s an election every ten years or so, how much damage could a human do to the universe in that amount of time? Especially if the Catholics are right and there’s a celestial bureaucracy in charge of making sure things run smoothly.

It’d be the Bush years on a cosmic scale: we’d fuck up, it’d pass, we’d elect someone better (God, presumably), and we’d try our best to forget all about that other guy.

But if he’d rather remain a dictator who never shows himself, I suppose that’s his business. But I can’t help wondering what he’s hiding.

Plus, of course, that whole “supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony mere raw strength” thing.

Apologetics of the Day: God Hides to Show He Exists

So I ran out of good podcast episodes, and was listening to The Mar. 18, 2014 episode of Bryan Fischer’s Focal Point (or, as George Orwell might have put it, the Two Hours’ Hate).

He started by railing against Bill Maher. For those who missed it, Fischer, along with the rest of right-wing America, got upset at Bill Maher for pointing out that the God of the Bible, the one who drowned every single person on earth, is a psychotic mass-murderer with anger issues. Apparently you’re not supposed to call attention to that.

On his show, Fischer pointed out the logical flaw in Maher’s reasoning by saying that he deserved to be killed, and since God didn’t actually murder him right then and there, that proves that God is merciful and kind.

God allows Maher to continue living after saying these things, Fischer explained, is in order to give Maher an opportunity to repent and ask forgiveness.

“Bill Maher might have thought he was being hip and kind of trendy and kind of cool and all of that,” Fischer said, “but he is going to be judged for those careless words. God hopes it doesn’t come to that. God could, by all rights, take him right now and Bill Maher would have to face judgment by the end of the day. Why doesn’t He do that? Because He is patient with Bill Maher. He doesn’t want to have to do that. He wants to give Bill Maher the time to come to his senses and to come to a place of repentance

Yesterday, Fischer continued in this vein (starting around 2:31 in the podcast; dunno about the video):

[t]he reason that God doesn’t judge us the moment we commit a sin is because he is patient. He is kind, he doesn’t want to judge. He is slow to judge, but abounding — slow to anger, but abounding in loving kindness and mercy. And he is patient with all men because he wants all men to come to the knowledge of the truth. He doesn’t want any to perish. That’s his heart.

And so that’s what I explained about Bill Maher: why does God let Bill Maher get away with those kind of profane, blasphemous rants? Well, it’s because he loves him, and he’s extending patience to him and he is hoping that by giving Bill Maher enough time, he will come to the place of repentance. […] Just simply speaking Biblical truth about God’s heart toward those who are clearly his opponents, hostile to him, why he lets them get away with so much? Because he’s patient, does not want any to perish, wants all men, including Bill Maher, to come to the knowledge of the truth.

One thing I noticed is how Fischer tells us what God wants. Apparently the rule is that when God does something bad, like kill everyone in the world in a flood or fail to stop the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, you’re not allowed to say that God is a murderer, or indifferent, or like that; the “mysterious ways” rule applies. But when God does something good, like cure someone’s cancer or fail to reduce a talk show host to a pile of ashes, go ahead and talk to your heart’s content about what’s in God’s mind.

But mainly, I noticed that according to Fischer, the real reason God didn’t murder Bill Maher is because he wants Maher to “come to the knowledge of the truth”, i.e., that God exists. And so God didn’t do anything. Because what better way to show someone that you exist than by remaining hidden and not doing anything, just like a thing that doesn’t exist? That’s just logic theology.

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“Cosmos” Misrepresents Why Man Was Set on Fire, Claims Inquisition Apologist


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Every Who down in Whoville liked Cosmos a lot…
But the BillDo, who lived just north of who-cares, did NOT!

The tireless defender of all things Catholic (unless it’s things like 99% of Catholics practicing birth control, or being okay with not stoning teh gays) has spoken out against Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s and Seth McFarlane’s reboot of that show where Carl Sagan showed my generation just how beautiful our universe is.

The first episode, aired a couple of days ago, includes a segment about how Giordano Bruno was thrown in prison and finally burned at the stake by the Catholic church for imagining that the universe was infinite, with many suns and planets.

Mr. Dorkemada complains about the portrayal of the Inquisition as some sort of repressive thought-control tool wielded by an authoritarian Catholic church, and fails to stress its important work of petting puppy dogs and helping old ladies across the street. Oh, and it wasn’t really part of the Catholic church, either (emphasis added):

The ignorance is appalling. “The Catholic Church as an institution had almost nothing to do with [the Inquisition],” writes Dayton historian Thomas Madden. “One of the most enduring myths of the Inquisition,” he says, “is that it was a tool of oppression imposed on unwilling Europeans by a power-hungry Church. Nothing could be more wrong.” Because the Inquisition brought order and justice where there was none, it actually “saved uncounted thousands of innocent (and even not-so-innocent) people who would otherwise have been roasted by secular lords or mob rule.” (His emphasis.)

Bill is quoting from, but as usual can’t be bothered to link to, this article, which takes pains to distinguish the Spanish Inquisition, which he says had practically nothing to do with the Catholic church, from the Roman Inquisition, which presumably was more closely tied to Rome. Which is all fine and dandy, or would be, except that it was the Roman Inquisition that tried and executed Bruno. Take it away, Wikipedia:

Luigi Firpo lists these charges made against Bruno by the Roman Inquisition:[22]

  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith and speaking against it and its ministers;
  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about the Trinity, divinity of Christ, and Incarnation;
  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith pertaining to Jesus as Christ;
  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith regarding the virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus;
  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about both Transubstantiation and Mass;
  • claiming the existence of a plurality of worlds and their eternity;
  • believing in metempsychosis and in the transmigration of the human soul into brutes;
  • dealing in magics and divination.

So, mostly for holding opinions, then. But really naughty ones, apparently. So what did the nothing-to-do-with-the-Catholic-church Inquisition do?:

On January 20, 1600, Pope Clement VIII declared Bruno a heretic and the Inquisition issued a sentence of death.

Oh.

Set us straight, BillDo:

As for Bruno, he was a renegade monk who dabbled in astronomy; he was not a scientist. There is much dispute about what really happened to him. As sociologist Rodney Strong puts it, he got into trouble not for his “scientific” views, but because of his “heretical theology involving the existence of an infinite number of worlds—a work based entirely on imagination and speculation.”

In short, the science-fan show maligned the Catholic church by saying it set a man on fire for imagining the wrong things, whereas the truth is that it set a man on fire for imagining the wrong things. And they all lived happily ever after, except the ones who died in a fire.

Thank you, Catholic Crusader!

That Arizona Bill Isn’t Primarily About Homophobia

A lot of ink has been spilt lately about Arizona Senate Bill 1062 being a homophobic bill. Take, for instance, this leading paragraph from Glenn Beck’s The Blaze (emphasis added):

A debate over a proposed Arizona law that would exempt individuals and legal entities from having to cater to gay customers exploded Tuesday night on CNN when an opponent of the measure accused former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of being a “homophobe.”

But the thing is, the word “homosexual” (or any synonym or related term) does not appear in the text of the bill. The bill adds a few words to the definition of “Exercise of religion”, and expands “Person” to include people, clubs, and companies (think Chic-Fil-A or Hobby Lobby); not just churches and congregations. I’m no lawyers, but it looks to me as though the bits that come after that make it harder to pass laws that someone might claim infringe on their religious rights, and easier to sue the government.

Now, I have no doubt that this bill, if it passes, will be used to make gays’ lives miserable. But I also don’t see that at its primary thrust.

Rather, this is a bill that enshrines religious privilege. It’s a bill that says “I’m used to being on top. I’m used to being able to use “it’s my religion” as an excuse for anything I do, and I don’t like it when people challenge that.” It’s a reaction to people starting to treat religion with the respect it deserves, rather than the unearned levels of respect it has enjoyed in the past.

Maybe this was primarily intended as a gay-bashing bill. Maybe the authors realized that in 2014, you can’t just introduce a bill saying “It’s okay to hate on them queers”, and felt the need to disguse that message in some more palatable rationale. But it’s still significant that the more-palatable rationale is religion. “We’re just standing up for freedom of religion. Who would say anything against that?” Well, people who are harmed by your religion, for one. People who sympathize with people harmed by your religion, for another.

Watch Anderson Cooper’s interview with Arizona senator Al Melvin:

As Cooper’s examples illustrate, this bill would allow Arizonans to be dicks to other people in all sorts of ways, not just homophobic ones. And Melvin’s justification is that hey, it’s religion, so it needs to be coddled.

Update: The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty has expressed some objections to a similar bill in Georgia. I have no idea what the group is or what they stand for, but I like the way they put it:

While religious liberty is one of our most precious rights, it is not an automatic trump card.

Water Is Wet. Dog Bites Man. Answers in Genesis Maligns Atheists.

Terry Mortenson has a blah blah blog post, ironically posted under “Thoughts“, and favorably linked to by loser-to-science Ken Ham, that opens thusly:

Over the years the American Atheists have been having some serious problems with social behavior at their national convention. So they have developed a code of conduct for the 2014 conference. It is interesting to observe the things they tolerate (e.g., many kinds of sexual immorality) and the things they will not tolerate (e.g., lack of social etiquette). It should also be noted that Christian conventions do not need to post such a code of conduct because the attendees have been redeemed by the grace of God and gladly submit to His code of conduct in the Bible.

But in an atheist worldview, these atheists have no basis for this code. In their view there is no God and therefore no moral absolutes.

This is straight from atheist bingo, right next to the one about atheists eating babies. The idea that you need an invisible father figure to tell you whom not to stick your baby-making bits into has been around since before this selfsame invisible father figure created the world 6,000 years ago. But these days, it’s usually considered ever so slightly gauche to so blatant about it.

Can we put the immoral atheist, along with the lazy Mexican and the hook-nosed Jew, in some box marked “Bogus stereotypes: do not use”, and padlock the box and then encase it in cement and dump it in the ocean?

Apparently not.

Anyway, Mortenson continues:

In a related news item, the University of Virginia hosted a conference on February 10, 2014, involving top leaders of six secular colleges and universities to discuss the topic of sexual misconduct among college students. This is a vexing problem. Research shows that 20% of college women at secular schools have been sexually assaulted, but only 12% of the victims report the incident. But given the depravity of man and that these schools are dominated by evolutionary thinking that destroys any basis for moral absolutes, this behavior is not surprising.

My first thought was that while it’s appalling that 20% of women at these schools have been assaulted, and shameful that 88% of such assaults go unreported, Mortenson gives us no reason to think that Christian schools are any better. After all, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the ongoing Catholic pedophilia scandal is that if you got raped, it’s probably your fault for looking attractive and slutty and stuff, and that God hates people who rock the boat.

So if 20% of women at secular schools have been assaulted, what’s the figure for Christian schools, where demon evolution isn’t taught?

Let’s bear in mind also that in the past week or so, we’ve had the story of Bob Jones University shutting down an investigation about sexual assaults on campus, which certainly looks as though the investigators were about to uncover something that would make the school look very bad.

There was also the story of Patrick Henry College (“God’s Harvard”) blowing off allegations of sexual abuse.

And just for good measure, we’ve had the news of Archbishop Roger Mahony withholding information from police in an investigation into sexual abuse.

Mortenson can rail about evilution allowing child rape, but it doesn’t seem as though God’s law is much better.

If I have to choose between the tribe that says it’s not okay to rape women and also allows two men to have consensual anal sex in the privacy of their hotel room; or the tribe that pretends that rape doesn’t exist, and if it does exist, it’s the victim’s fault; then I know which one I’m going with.

The Monetary War on Smut Marches On

CBS affiliate WTVR reports on an important development in the Utah front on the War on Smut:

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KUTV) – An Orem, Utah mom is not happy with a mall window display she calls “pornography.” The PacSun store in Orem refused to take the offending shirts off display. So she bought every last t-shirt to force the store into making a change.

Judy Cox spent $567 on t-shirts she will admittedly never wear and hopes no one will.

See, the way it works in America, land of capitalism, is that if you buy up all copies of a mass-produced product, like a T-shirt, that makes that product go away forever. That’s just Economics 101, right?

I don't know that this was one of the offending shirts. But it could be.

I don’t know that this was one of the offending shirts. But it could be.

Now, some of you might have noticed a teensy flaw in her plan: that there’s a slight chance that the store might just buy more of these ungodly, vapor-inducing T-shirts, and then where will Judy Cox be? (On the fainting couch, I’m guessing.) Of course, there’s no way she could have foreseen such a development.

The manager said you could buy them, but the store would just replace them. Since the store had 19 shirts, at $27.98 a piece, the purchase wasn’t cheap. Nearly $600 later Cox left, but it was not the end. If the store gets a new shipment this mom says she’ll go back and buy them out again.

Okay, so maybe she’s not that clueless:

Cox said she planned to return all the shirts once the city manager ruled on whether the graphic shirts can be legally displayed. She said she notified the store and PacSun corporate offices of her intentions to essentially hold the shirts hostage.

Maybe PacSun can refuse to refund her, on the grounds that the shirts can no longer be sold to someone with a religious-nut allergy.

Ted Cruz Introduces Pointless Grandstanding Act of 2014

Ted Cruz (R-Teabaggistan) and Mike Lee (R-Do you really need to ask?) yesterday
introduced a bill that they call the State Marriage Defense Act to, um, slow down the spread of gay marriage or something. As their press release says (emphasis added):

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, today introduced S. 2024, the State Marriage Defense Act, which respects the definition of marriage held by the people of each state and protects states from the federal government’s efforts to force any other definition upon them. The bill will ensure the federal government gives the same deference to the 33 states that define marriage as the union between one man and one woman as it does to the 17 states that have chosen to recognize same-sex unions.

This comes on the same date that a federal judge declared Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Great timing.

I’m not sure how this is supposed to work: the federal government is already out of the marriage-defining business; it leaves that up to the states.
So let’s say Bob and Tom have been living in Alabama for years. One day, they go up to Massachusetts and get married. The federal government needs to decide whether they’re married for purposes of federal benefits, e.g., health insurance, or to see whether they’re allowed to file a joint tax return.

Under the present system, the federal government asks, “Were these two people legally married by a state, following that state’s laws, and in accordance with that state’s definition of marriage?” In this case, yes, Massachusetts, and so Bob and Tom are married for federal purposes.

If Cruz’s bill were to pass, I don’t see how anything would change. Would Georgia say that not only does it not recognize a Massachusetts marriage, but that the federal government isn’t allowed to, either? Are Georgia’s right to define marriage somehow better than Massachusetts’s?

Of course, it’s possible—plausible, even—that I’m barking up the wrong tree, and that this should really be renamed the Get Ted Cruz’s Name in the Papers Act of 2014.

On one hand, I figure I shouldn’t feed the trolls. On the other hand, the east coast has had so much snow lately that there’s a salt shortage; so we need all the conservative tears of poutrage we can get.

The Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye Debate

I watched the debate between Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and Ken Ham, director of Answers in Genesis, the outfit that runs the creation museum in Kentucky.

When I heard that Nye had agreed to the debate, I thought it was a bad idea, for all the usual reasons, and in particular that it would give creationism too much credibility: if you put Neil DeGrasse Tyson on stage with someone who thinks we can travel to mars by growing pixie wings, the latter has a lot more to gain than the former. Pixie-wing-guy gets to brag that he discussed issues with a prominent scientist, whereas Tyson has to admit that he wasn’t allowed to laugh pixiw-wing man out of the room.

And so it was last night. A man who basically believes that, as Robin Ince put it, “Magic Man done it!” got to share a stage with a man who has mountains of real-world evidence behind his assertions.

Having said that, it didn’t turn out as badly as I feared. Not so much because Nye did well, though for the most part he did. Rather, because Ken Ham did a pretty good job of explaining what young-earth creationism is: it has nothing to do with evidence (he said in the Q&A that there was nothing that could change his mind) and everything to do with believing a particular interpretation of the Bible.

It’s traditional to say that no one’s mind is ever changed by such debates, but that’s not always the case. I don’t know how many people were on the fence last night. But if any of them didn’t know what creationism was before, they do now. As stealth-creationist Casey Luskin puts it:

People will walk away from this debate thinking, “Ken Ham has the Bible, Bill Nye has scientific evidence.”

I haven’t done an extensive search, but the consensus seems to be that Nye won the evening. Yes, that’s what you’d expect from sites like Pharyngula or Friendly Atheist or Daily Kos, but Uncommon Descent, Evolution News & Views seem to agree as well. Charisma News doesn’t have any comments, gloating or otherwise. The Blaze’s comments seem about evenly split between “Ham won” and “Nye won”; given its readership, I would’ve expected it to tilt much farther toward Ham’s side.

I’m also surprised at how big a deal this was. I’ve seen plenty of these sorts of debates over the years, but typically they don’t interest anyone except the sorts of wonks who actually follow this stuff. But this one was streamed live on CNN, and covered in the Washington Post and on NPR. So it’s possible that a lot of people who haven’t thought much about creationism have now been introduced to it, and hopefully shown that it’s not science, not even close.

See also

All the etcetera that's fit to read.