McCain Ally Hagee: Hitler Was Sent By God To Drive Jews to Israel

May 21, 2008

After all the hubbub about Obama’s pastor, John McCain’s chosen political allies are proving equally disturbing, though somehow without equal coverage.

Bruce Wilson from Talk2Action has uncovered yet more disturbing text and audio concerning John Hagee’s bizarre theological declarations. In addition to declaring that Jews have “dead souls” (whatever the heck THAT means!) this newfound sermon from Hagee declares that Adolf Hitler was sent by God to punish European Jews for not immediately going to found the state Israel, and then to drive the surviving remnant there afterwards.

Here’s Sam Stein summarizing the key parts of the sermon:

Going in and out of biblical verse, Hagee preached: “‘And they the hunters should hunt them,’ that will be the Jews. ‘From every mountain and from every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks.’ If that doesn’t describe what Hitler did in the holocaust you can’t see that.”

He goes on: “Theodore Hertzel is the father of Zionism. He was a Jew who at the turn of the 19th century said, this land is our land, God wants us to live there. So he went to the Jews of Europe and said ‘I want you to come and join me in the land of Israel.’ So few went that Hertzel went into depression. Those who came founded Israel; those who did not went through the hell of the holocaust.

“Then god sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says — Jeremiah writing — ‘They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and from the holes of the rocks,’ meaning there’s no place to hide. And that might be offensive to some people but don’t let your heart be offended. I didn’t write it, Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.”

Update: Looks like McCain has had enough of this guy: he’s now rejected Hagee’s endorsement.

Creationism is Back Out of the Closet In Expelled! Movie

April 2, 2008

Motive Marketing, the outfit that was so successful at convincing churches around the country to buy up Passion of the Christ paraphernalia like crazy, is going into full gear to promote Ben Stein’s Expelled! movie.

While their breathless emails warn of dastardly “eblasts to their [Darwinists’] people encouraging them to highjack our efforts to promote EXPELLED,” most of our side of things is just sort of watching in amusement at the sheer clumsiness of trying to promote intelligent design as a legitimate scientific alternative to evolution… while gesturing wildly at the Bible at nearly every turn.

Here’s what I mean, from one of their “please spread the word and badger lots of people into coming to this movie” emails:

STUDENT EVANGELISM: Thus far science doesn’t specifically identify the CREATOR. Once your students take their friends to see EXPELLED, the question will be “so if ID is true, then WHO is this Intelligent Designer?”. Our friends at EVANGELISM EXPLOSION are offering training to equip your students in sharing their faith.

(Am I the only one who finds evangelism “explosion” a little bit creepy, and/or gross?)

And in case you just so happen to be a pastor at a church looking to preach a sermon on the totally scientific issue of intelligent design: do they have just the powerpoint slides for you! (Yes, seriously)

You have to feel a little sorry for Intelligent Design fans who have spent so much time trying to insist that their movement is all about suppressed science, rather than trying to please Jesus.

But not that sorry.

Totally Made Up, Unilateral Blog Carnival! (And a Tiny Bit on Expelled!)

March 27, 2008

It’s time for another survey of stuff worth reading on the internet, so let’s pretend that I’m hosting some sort of esoteric Blog Carnival. Topic? ME! (And for those readers who are getting sick of Expelled musings, good news: I’ve exiled them to the end of this post)

Anyway, let’s get this thing started with a review of the home-birth-homage film “The Business of Being Born” from someone who might know a little about the subject: family practice doc Harriet Hall. Personally, I think she’s nuts to worry about all the hospital-hate in the film. Doctors are dangerous! That’s why I’m planning on going for an “all-natural” coronary artery bypass when my time comes.

Next, Ed Darrell over at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub points us towards both Cracked list of 11 Movies Saved by Historical Inaccuracy (in which we learn that Mel Gibson’s Patriot hero was, in real life, a notorious slave rapist) and Yahoo’s own similar listing of Greatest Historical Goofups (in which we learn that Mel Gibson’s Braveheart hero would have had to have sex with a three year old to make any sense). Both lists need to apologize for the ridiculousness of calling 2001: A Space Odyssey “historically” inaccurate. It’s called Science-FICTION, guys.

Over at Exploring Our Matrix, religious religion prof James F. McGrath asks “Can (the story of) Noah’s Ark Be Saved?” I’m not sure if his answer is yes or no, exactly but I’m pretty sure that whatever it is, it’s the right answer. The stories of Noah and Job cannot be reconciled any better to modern morals than they can to modern science. That doesn’t mean that we cannot learn things from them (whether believers learning about God, or even non-believers learning about believers).

Then we have Hemant at Friendly Atheist who sees Jesus everywhere he looks. Fair warning though: be prepared to squint.

To pad out my fake Carnival, I’ll also note Bug Girl’s submission to the all-too-real 83rd Skeptic’s Circle/Carnival. The title is simply irresistible: Pubic Lice: “Sea monkeys in your pants” Speaks for itself, right?

Finally, if you want to know more about my sense of humor, here’s Exhibit A: new internet sensations FAIL blog and Stuff White People Like.

Oh, and in case you yourself had PHAILed to notice it, that big honking graphic over on the top right goes to Expelled Exposed, the soon-to-be official National Center for Science Education response to that expelled movie thingy everyone has been going on and on about. I highly recommend other bloggers doing something similarly prominent to get the word out: feel free to steal my graphic if you’re lazy.

It’s also worth noting that, for some unknown reason, this teensy blog is actually the or at least amongst the top results when you search for information on the film, which is pretty odd, because I almost never post about the darn thing. While I’m flattered, Internet, I can’t help but think that other science sites should be up there instead.

Finally, as I noted over at Skepchick, what is probably one of the most crucial Google search terms in this little PR war, “expelled movie,” didn’t have a single critical, pro-science site on the all-important first page of results. But then, lo and behold, the very day after I complain about it, Phil Plait and I break into the big time! Somehow, I have gained the power to move digital mountains.


Everyone’s a Critic… But Not Necessarily a Good One: A Response to Recent Apologia on Salvation

March 20, 2008

My recent missive on the Christian doctrine of sin and salvation has attracted quite a number of readers, but nowhere near as many critical comments as I would have expected. That’s too bad, as always: I really do like and appreciate people that have something to say in return. I’m not opinionated because I think the world lacks ready access to my brilliance, or because I’m positive my ideas are flawless: I’m opinionated because I know that those opinions are worthless unless put to the test of other critical minds. You, the reader, can do a better job of weeding out my weaker rhetorical wanderings than I could ever do myself. To live, to learn, is to engage.

That said, there are the sorts of critical comments that just don’t help further that ideal.

The most recent, by Ward from Venison Tickle, exemplifies everything that’s frustrating about content-free Christian apologetics, and its all rounded out by an appalling attempt at special pleading that you simply have to read to believe. And I figured it would be quite worthwhile to highlight a bit of my back and forth with Ward as an illustration of the very problem I’ve been talking about. Ward in quotes, my responses… not in them:

I’m always interested to read the points of view of the jaded, the disconcerted, the disheartened, the downfallen, the ambivalent, the indifferent, those who claim they once believed, those who made false professions of faith or simply those who try to rationalize faith down to a science when it is not one.

That’s strange, because you don’t sound interested, you sound sort of sarcastically pissed off and bitter…

Read the rest of this entry »

Christian Salvation Makes No Sense: The Muddle of Good Cop/Bad Cop Morality

March 18, 2008

I’ve often been asked why I am not a believer, particularly in light of the fact that I used to be one (a Christian one at that). Why, when I have plenty of nice things to say about believers, do I rarely have anything similarly nice to say about specific religious beliefs?

Why it is that, in addition to simply having no reason to believe, I no longer find Christian doctrines especially sensible or compelling in their own right? Well, let me spell it out!

Today my subject is the Christian concept of salvation.

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Today’s Wit and Wisdom from Vox Day: “Women Ruin Everything” Edition

March 11, 2008

If you aren’t reading WorldNetDaily’s own Vox Day (Theodore Beale), then apparently you didn’t know that invisible angels and demons are constantly fighting it out all around us, and Vox is leading the charge for the forces of good. Satan’s latest tool to ruin America? Infecting important professions like science with women in order to destroy them:

Women love education; it’s the actual application they don’t particularly like. Whereas the first thought of a woman who enjoys the idea of painting is to take an art appreciation class, a similarly interested man is more likely to just pick up a paintbrush and paint something – usually a naked woman.

Of course, this will sound to equalitarians and their sympathizers like nothing more than male whining, but it’s nothing of the sort. Because they are the intellectual driving force of humanity, men will be fine. They will simply continue to do what they have always done and pursue the same challenges they have always pursued, focused on the realities of success rather than its superficial attributes. It is the institutions they are exiting, voluntarily and involuntarily, that will be destroyed instead. It is written that “women ruin everything”; having destroyed the liberal arts, the classics and the pseudo-sciences, it is now abundantly clear that the more rigorous sciences are next on the equalitarians’ destructive agenda. And so, in the not-too-distant future, two plus two will finally be determined to equal five if a women feels that it should, or at least it will as long as she happens to feel that way. (emphasis added)

Thus ends today’s lesson.

And please, ladies. If you question the wisdom, remember: Vox drives a turbo Porsche sportscar. So, secretly, you admire and adore him anyway.

Bonus: Orac, in his own 100% laudatory celebration of Vox, points out another of Vox’s notable insights: suggesting that we could use the Holocaust as a model for peacefully rounding up illegal immigrants.

I’m Not Gay Bashing, I’m Just a Coward: Oklahoma’s Sally Kerns Caught on Tape

March 10, 2008

Seems like everyone’s been talking about Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kerns and her little tirade against homosexuality. Kerns believed she was speaking to a small group of like-minded supporters, but when the audio got leaked, she instantly became a national embarrassment:

Kerns has complained that her remarks are edited and taken out of context:

I am totally against hate speech. Always have been and always will be. What you heard on YouTube was from a talk I gave on the aggressive movement to fund homosexuals and pro-homosexual candidates across the country and here in Oklahoma now that an openly homosexual is running for a statewide seat. The account given on YouTube took my words out of context and omitted other parts stringing certain words together to make it appear I was engaging in hate speech. I was not and would never do such a thing. The YouTube account is a blatant misrepresentation of my talk.

Now, the remarks clearly do seem to be edited, but as far as I can tell, edited mostly to highlight hateful, ridiculous claim after claim rather than to substantively distort her remarks. It’s quite clear from the video, rather than disguised, that she is railing against “homosexual candidates”: what she doesn’t seem to understand is that this is precisely what people find to be hateful in the first place. Notice also that she doesn’t actually give any examples of things that were distorted or taken out of context. And then there’s the usual “I didn’t say that… I stand by what I said” two-step:

I said nothing that wasn’t true. The homosexual agenda is real, the movement is aggressive, and it is a very real threat to the sacred institution of marriage and the traditional family unit. They are actively seeking to remove conservatives from the political arena. My talk was to a Republican group and I was speaking about the homosexual agenda to defeat conservative Republicans. They want to silence anyone who does not approve their lifestyle. They want their freedom but don’t want those who disagree to have their freedom.

Notice how supporting this or that candidate is all of a sudden an attempt to “silence” people or deny them their freedom. Again, no actual examples are given as to how anyone is silenced or denied any of their freedom. Meanwhile, this is the very woman trying to censor any books from school libraries that mention gay people in a positive light. As with the Intelligent Design film Expelled!, talking about “freedom of speech” here is simply an attempt to change the subject: restating that someone has the right to say something is not an answer to the question of whether you agree with it or support it, or whether it has merit. The fact that someone is free to speak does not mean that voting them out of office is silencing their views. It’s judging them and responding to them.

But what’s truly pathetic is the way she tries to hide behind her religion in excusing her opinions in her media responses. The fact that someone believes that their bigotry is endorsed by a holy text doesn’t make you one iota less morally responsible for holding those views. People who believe that they are acting under orders do not suddenly become blameless for carrying them out, and certainly not with the sort of passion this woman demonstrates. The Bible doesn’t contain any of the psuedo-scientific nonsense she peddles about gay life-expectancy: that stuff was actively made up and promoted by activists trying to demean and attack gay people.

If you’re going to hate on gays, fine. But the fact that you think you have God on your side is irrelevant to whether or not you deserve condemnation, nor does it magically transform your bigotry into “facts.”

Update: Ed Brayton at Dispatches posts a powerful statement from one of the victims of Oklahoma City bombings speaking out against Kerns’ bigotry.  One obvious quibble with it is that McVeigh was not in any demonstrable sense a Christian extremist motivated by religion, as the author seems to imply.  But other than that, it’s really a quite brilliant and very appropriate response.

Repent Your Divorce Now: Get Back Together or Face Denying God His Due!

February 26, 2008

According to Christian theology, everyone is a sinner. So why, in so many conservative churches, are homosexuals treated as especially unworthy of things like communion or open leadership participation in church activities? The answer, and not a theologically irrational one, is that gay people are unrepentant of their alleged sin: they won’t admit that homosexual sex and relationships are wrong, and so cannot be taken seriously as congregants, at least to a church for whom the sinfulness of homosexuality is doctrine. Homosexuals can’t stop being sinful because, supposedly, no one can: but they can at least try to repent by taking actions to avoid “sin” and not trying to justify it. Fair enough.

What’s unfair is that conservative churches are packed with divorcées, many of them remarried. And at this very moment, the Republican party is preparing to try and elect John McCain, who divorced his first wife and mother of his children to re-marry a 25 year-old heiress. Though it may be hard to believe, I’m really not trying to cast a veil of illegitimacy over McCain for that: he and his wife may well have fallen out of love, may have had sexual incompatibilities, and/or may even have ultimately saved their friendship by divorce (his ex-wife and children all seem well adjusted, speak well of him, and remain close). Sometimes ending a failing marriage (no matter who the failure is) and falling in love with someone young, invigorating, and new is the right choice for everyone involved. I’m just using McCain as an example of something that many people seem perfectly willing to tolerate in their party, in their churches: places where the same group of people would not tolerate open, practicing homosexuals.

It’s just that if we apply the same logic to divorce we applied to homosexuality, then the logical conclusion is that most divorcées are unrepentant sinners. And if they really wanted to repent, then the conclusion is obvious: they should cease their ongoing adultery and remarry, including attending to the usual marital duties.

There isn’t a lot of theological room for wiggling here. Jesus, for instance, pretty clearly identifies divorce as an Israelite perversion based on the “hard hearts” of Jews, who were traditionally much more de facto tolerant of divorce. He says, flat out, that what God makes one flesh, let no man separate (though in one of the Gospels he is then said to cripple/contradict this grand, seemingly absolute principle of god-joined flesh by adding the weaselly caveat that a man can divorce his wife over unfaithfulness.). He unflinchingly calls divorce a form of adultery, a sin so serious that it, unlike homosexuality, made one of God’s Top Ten lists of things that he really really hates.

So, at least for those that claim to draw their objection to homosexual acts from the Bible, I’m not seeing a way around this, even with the “unfaithful wife” escape hatch added. I breathlessly await James Dobson to call upon John McCain to repent of his divorce, leave his current wife Cindy, with whom he shares only an adultery, and return to his original god-glued partner, Carol.

P.S. Make no mistake: I think divorce is almost always traumatic and bad, and there are many reasons to try to avoid casual marriage and rushing into divorce. But it is a bad thing that exists to prevent worse things: ongoing abuse, marriages based on long-lasting resentment and frustration, and so on.

Woman Kicked Off Bus for Reading Bible Aloud. Lightbox Effect Makes Things Bigger.

January 1, 2008

A Seventh-Day Adventist was recently asked to leave a bus in Fort Worth Texas after she refused to stop reading her Bible aloud to her children. It’s probably not possible to get a real sense of who’s right and who’s wrong here: it all depends on whether the bus driver really was enforcing a noise ordinance fairly and equally, or whether there was some discriminatory malice. The details matter. As best as I can read the situation, the woman certainly seems like she had more on her mind than simply reading to her children (she mentions that other passengers encouraged her readings, which certainly sounds more like it was a public show than merely a private reading to kids that got too loud), and may well have been capable of instigating a scene. But who knows?

The included video reveals that the Liberty Legal Institute, a conservative First Amendment organization, is now involved with the case. The bus company’s case is presented by a quick press release citing the noise ordinance. This is balanced against the woman and LLI’s much more detailed side of the story, which is of course tinged with their own rhetorical take on things. Chances of getting the full and unbiased picture here seem low.

Still, I’m on the side of the woman here unless some further evidence comes in. Unless loud reading is really demonstratively dangerous to other passengers or the driver, I’m not sure what justification the (government-run?) bus company has to be so jumpy about even speech that is deliberately annoying and invasive to other passengers. And for all we know, the driver did in fact specifically ask her to stop reading the Bible aloud period, rather than requesting that she do it more quietly.

It’s not an easy issue, because there certainly are safety issues on buses that might require operators to be especially mindful of preventing fights amongst passengers and so forth. Still, the burden is really on the bus company here, and it’s only because they probably cannot give their full account of their side of the story (for legal reasons, since they have less of an ideological axe to grind and so are primarily trying to be careful and avoid costly litigation by saying too much publicly) that I’ll hold off on faulting them for now.

I do have a confession though: one of the main reasons I wanted to blog about this story was just to mention the bizarre stock graphic of a Bible on the cbs webpage. If you click it, you are granted a slightly larger image of the same random Bible picture. You know, just in case you wanted to examine the fine grain of the leather cover more closely!

These sorts of things amuse me mostly because, as a sometime webpage scribe myself, I always empathize the person who was tasked with not only digging around for this pointless, space filling graphic, but also for implementing the “lightbox” technology to make it slightly larger on demand.

Constitution Founded on the Bible? Nope, & Not Even the Declaration

January 1, 2008

I recently covered the utterly laughable claim that American jurisprudence is founded in the Ten Commandments. A series of must read posts from Ed Brayton at Dispatches and Jonathan Rowe over at Positive Liberty today takes on the equally silly claim that the Bible was a core inspiration for the Constitution and other American political/philosophical innovations.

In an age where many “Christian Nation” advocates and even Republican Presidential candidates like Mike Huckabee are claiming that the nation needs to be “taken back for Christ,” it’s really quite worth it to highlight the deep misconceptions many have about whether it ever belonged to Christ in the first place.

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The Ten Commandments are Not the Basis of Anything: Huckabee Edition

December 24, 2007

Pretty much the best way to tell if someone is truly full of it is if they insist that the Ten Commandments are the basis of the American legal system and philosophy. As countless skeptical folks have tried to explain, this argument is so patently absurd that you really have to wonder if the people claiming it have actually even read the “Ten Commandment”s in the first place. Ed Brayton over at Dispatches takes on the latest example of this claim: from a Presidential candidate no less. As he notes, as seems obvious, and yet as no theocratic activist seems to ever acknowledge, of the standard ten, only two would even be constitutional in the U.S., and even those two (against murder and theft) are common universals in nearly every society in recorded history.

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Christopher Hitchens eviscerates Mitt Romney on Live Interwebz

December 7, 2007

I’ve alluded many times to my fairly low opinion of Christopher Hitchens as a thinker, but there’s simply no denying that he’s a great writer. And when habitually great writing meets the phenomenon of “even a stopped clock is right twice a day” the result is a masterful piece of well deserved character assassination. Mitt Romney’s recent speech on religion, at times both bland and bizarre, is the target of Hitchens’ latest Slate piece. As ever, Hitchens is delightfully nasty and unfair, which is to say that I enjoyed reading it more than I learned much from it. David Brooks has a far more balanced take on things, but as with just about everything Brooks has ever written, it’s no fun.

Meanwhile, it is nice to see how far we’ve come that Romney is actually facing some open and hard questions on his attitudes towards non-believers, and not even from any one side of the political spectrum: Ramesh Ponnuru at the National Review makes the point without caveats. Predictable old K-Lo, on the other hand, endorses a sneeringly dishonest bit of spin trying and failing to wave away the idea that Romney’s idealized country club America might not like atheists.

Oh, the horror! Unfortunately for this spin, the first part of the sentence is usually omitted: “Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me.”

Are we to believe that atheists, agnostics, Satanists, and the other sundry non-believers supposedly shunned by Romney here are opponents of religious freedom? I think not. That was as much of a shout-out to those fringe segments of our society as this speech could reasonably have been expected to include.

I mean, try to follow that warped logic. If you think that Mitt wasn’t patting atheists on the head by not mentioning them at all except to imply that they were all out to destroy good Christian society, then you must be an enemy of religious freedom, right? Right? It’s like claiming that saying “any good person, any atheist, is a friend of mine” is some sort of special compliment for Christians to be proud of. In fact, it rather coyly tells us nothing at all whether the speaker even considers Christians to be good people, and if you go on to argue that Christians are doing evil things or that being good requires non-belief… well.

As to whether Mitt is going to clarify his stance on the atheist issue anytime during the Republican primary… I think skepticism is probably warranted:

A spokesman for the Mitt Romney campaign is thus far refusing to say whether Romney sees any positive role in America for atheists and other non-believers, after Election Central inquired about the topic yesterday.


Finally, it’s worth yet again noting the surprising winner of the President or Presidential candidate most likely to provide fair and respectful mentions of atheists is and remains… George W Bush, who has many times seen fit to include “and people with no faith at all” in his list of good Americans, regardless of how outrageous they still might find the rest of the ideas he’s pushing at the time. No sitting President that I’ve ever observed has been as, well, religious about including such language in his public addresses, and it’s particularly laudable given how politically counter-productive it is. I suspect that this sort of unexpectedly kind consideration for non-believers comes from having a close personal/professional relationship with one.