Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Possibly my very last Freshwater post, maybe

Last Friday the referee in the John Freshwater termination hearing released his recommendation that Freshwater should be fired (here) and last night the Mount Vernon School Board voted 4 to 1 to terminate his contract (here).  The one dissenting vote was from Steve Thompson, a vocal supporter and fund raiser for John Freshwater, who didn't recuse himself but did complain about Paula Barone not recusing herself.  The hearing cost the school district about $900,000.

Now the excitement is all over unless Freshwater decides to appeal the decision, or, maybe I should say; if the grandstanders and theocracy advocates don't push him into another appeal.  It seems to me that John Freshwater has, from the beginning, been pushed in directions that were not in his best interest by people who used him to fulfill their own agendas.  I don't mean to absolve Freshwater of responsibility.  The fact that he tried to conceal his actions is clear evidence that he knew he was breaking the rules, but with media-whore, bully, Dave Daubenmire and ignorant clown of a lawyer R. Kelly Hamilton in his corner, not to mention all the fundies who always want to try evolution in the court of public opinion, he was doomed from the start.

This fiasco was predicated on the fundy belief that their religious opinions should supersede legal and moral codes.  From the very beginning supporters were incorporating creationist, Christian nation rhetoric that made it clear that they intended the hearing to be a referendum on the incorporation of religious dogma  in public education instead of a simple determination of guilt or innocence.  If their goal was to siphon off $900,000 of taxpayers' money that should have been spent on kids' education;  if their goal was to bankrupt the teacher they professed to be supporting;  if their goal was to prove that the court of public opinion is always trumped by real courts, they were very successful.  However, if their goal was to prove that their fundy beliefs were true, they failed, and they did a hell of a lot of damage in the process.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More About the Pope's Trip

At times, during the visit, you could cut the sexual tension with a knife.

The Pope Met the Queen

QEII officially welcomed the Pope in Edinburgh.  The Pope wore the official trappings of the Catholic Church.  The Queen wore a hat from the Hogwart School.

The Pope Went to Britain

The Pope arrived in the UK on Thursday with his armored car and plenty of security to protect him from police officers with arrest warrants.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

The other day, as I drove toward our county seat, about 15 mi. from my house, I was marvelling at the interesting signs that regularly are present along the way.  Of course election time is usually the most interesting but on an average weekend I can usually find at least a couple of things to ponder.

I first pass a church whose marquee, until a couple of days ago had, "God is the start of wisdom," written on it.  This is a modification of what it said a couple of weeks earlier, which was, "Fear of God is the start of wisdom".  The original message was apparently too irrational for even the deluded fundies. Or, maybe the sign was changed because, according to their book, God made a tree that would give wisdom to anyone who ate the fruit, but if Eve had really feared God, she wouldn't have eaten the fruit and wisdom would never have started.

My favorite message on that marquee was a while back.  It said, "There can be no America without God."  I'd really like to see someone try to prove that.  It seems to me that, even by the most conservative Xian estimate of the age of the earth, there were people living here who knew nothing about their god for 5000 years, and they were doing just fine until Europeans showed up.

Up the road from the church is a farm market.  Below the farm market sign is one that says "Jesus is Lord."   I'm guessing you won't find a lot of kosher food there.  Oh! It also has "Elect Ron Paul" written in huge letters on the building's side.  I'm guessing you won't find a lot of democrats there, either.

Further up the road is a modest private home that one day had a sign that said "Impeach the imposter!"  All I could think when I saw it was: that delusional person's vote counts the same as mine.  I went back later to take a picture, but the sign was gone.  Perhaps, it was only there while the residents hosted a tea party.

A few miles on, at the outskirts of Mount Vernon, there was a large portable sign that stood next to the road for about the whole first year of the Freshwater fiasco.  It read; "If the bible goes the student should follow."  Those were the good old days, when the bible was gone and the student's family had yet to been driven out of town.

The last special sign sits in front of what looks like a typical ranch house, on a lawn that seems never to get mowed.  The sign consists of a Xian cross tilted toward the road at about 30 degrees from verticle.  Nailed to cross is a white depiction of an amputated human hand with blood running from its palm where the nail pierces it.  I'll bet the neighbors love what it does to their property values.  Other signs near the cross identify the building as a house of worship whose name seems to change frequently.  Most recently, these signs said something about Mogen David Tabernacle. Maybe they worship sugary wine.

Going back the other way, heading home from a motorcycle ride today, I noticed the church marquee held the question, "Where is your journey taking you?"  I was going home, thanks for asking.  As I was about a half a block my house, I noticed a bumper sticker on the back of a neighbor's car.  It was one of those that says "Coexist" spelled out in symbols of various world religions.  It reminded me that things aren't so bad.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

That Doggone Christian Nation Stuff

This post was supposed to come out on the 4th of July, but it never quite got finished. I was probably too busy playing with sparklers and singing patriotic airs.

Every US Independence Day Hobby Lobby, a company that blatantly prostitutes its Xian religious views to sell craft supplies, puts out a full page ad in news papers to promote their errant belief that the US is a Xian nation. The 2010 version can be viewed here. I have some problems with this as you might guess.

First, there are the quotes:

George Washington- “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.” This is probably the most legitimate quote presented as evidence. It was part of a speech announcing a national day of thanksgiving.

John Adams- “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” Let me first say while I was researching these quotes I discovered that the theocracy folks love this quote; a huge number of their websites came up when I googled it. All of those sites conveniently left out the sentence that goes between the first and second sentence, which is, “Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.” The omitted sentence hints at the real context; it was from a letter to the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts (11 October 1798) and was basically a lecture on behaving in a civil and moral manner, rather than an advocacy of any religion

Thomas Jefferson- “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” This quote also is not about advocating for religion as the Hobby Lobby would like us to believe. It was part of a speech to the government of Virginia arguing that slavery was immoral. It should also be noted that in Jefferson’s hand written version neither god nor the associated pronouns were capitalized.

Benjamin Franklin- “I've lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing Proofs I see of this Truth — That God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that except the Lord build the House they labor in vain who build it.” Today, it’s hard to imagine that there was a time when Ben Franklin was not highly respected, but at the time of the Constitutional Convention (27 June 1787) when this speech was given he was neither respected nor trusted. Franklin had just returned to America, having been Ambassador to France from 1776 through 1785. Most of the members of the Constitutional Convention felt that he was completely out of touch with the American people and they suspected that his long association with the French aristocracy had turned him into an advocate for monarchy and Catholic theocracy. Comments like the above just reinforced their suspicions.

So, there you go. The quotes presented to support the argument that America was intended to be a Xian nation are not particularly good evidence. More importantly, however, is that not a single one of the quotes either mentions or alludes to Christianity. Believing in a god does not equal being a Xian. Of the four men quoted, only one of them, John Adams, declared himself to be a member of an organized religion, and that was Unitarianism, not Christianity. Furthermore, even if all four of these Founding Fathers had identified themselves as Xian, it still doesn’t mean that they wanted it connected to the government.

Bear in mind that, unlike today when the opposite seems to be true, one of the founding principles of the Baptist Church in America was the separation of church and state. “A wall of separation” was not first coined by Jefferson, as some believe, but by Baptist leader Roger Williams, and Baptists and other evangelical churches were strong campaigners for Jefferson for president after he assured them that he would keep church and state separate. So there!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Spiritual But Not Religious? Danger, Will Robinson!

I just read an article on CNN’s website; “Are there dangers in being 'spiritual but not religious'?” Apparently, it is “trendy” to say that one is spiritual but not religious, which as I understand it, is an assertion that the SBNR person feels free to pick and chose from various religious traditions those things that best reflect their own beliefs, without being tied down to the dogma of a single religion. It seems to me that this is a step in the right direction, if it steers the individual away from blind religious fundamentalism and closer to rejecting religion all together, but it still sounds like most of them are inclined to imbue philosophical writing with mystical, magical powers that don’t really exist.

The article asks (but doesn’t really answer) the question “Are there dangers in this?” As a slightly outspoken atheist (and observer of more outspoken ones), I can answer; yes. That is, narrow-minded religion bullies may try to get you fired from your job, driven out of your community, or even get you killed. However, none of the above was mentioned in the article.

Not surprisingly, Jesuit Priest, James Martin, who arguably has zero experience outside of organized religion, doesn’t like it and thinks it’s driven by egotism. "Being spiritual but not religious can lead to complacency and self-centeredness," says Martin. "If it's just you and God in your room, and a religious community makes no demands on you, why help the poor?" Gee, I don’t know, Father. Maybe you should get out of your church and ask some of the many, many non-religious people who are out helping the poor. Or, alternately, maybe you could talk to all the conservative Xian tea-baggers who prefer to spend their spare time advocating for the elimination of all government help for the poor. And do I have to point out all the complacency and self-centeredness that has had the Catholic church in the headlines recently?

The bottom line is that the dangers in being spiritual but not religious are that those people aren’t under the thumbs of purveyors of organized religion and could ultimately realize that the rigid, dogmatic demands of said religions are pure hogwash. Then they may point out to other people, maybe via, oh, I don’t know, a blog, that Catholic priests want to control everyone else’s bedroom although they can’t control their own, and fundy protestants want to quote-mine the Bible to legitimize the advocacy of bigotry and intolerance, and Islamic fundies just want to kill everyone who disagrees with them. Or maybe the danger is that the SBNR folks will miss out on all the fun of spending eternity with the aforementioned religious groups.