When I think things can't get any more absurd I only have to wait for Pat Robertson to open his mouth. Get out the guillotines.
Former Republican presidential candidate and longtime television preacher Pat Robertson implied on “The 700 Club” Wednesday that LGBT people are covertly out to destroy the family, the church and the state, in the vein of the Illuminati of the French revolutionary war.
“It has been said that those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to live them again,” he says in footage snipped and published online by Right Wing Watch.
“You go back in history to the French Revolution, you find there was a thrust, uh, spurred by the, uh, writings of a group called the Illuminati, to destroy the family, to destroy the state, to destroy capitalism, to destroy the church,” Robertson continues. “And it was lived out in the blood of the French Revolution.”
So, what exactly does that have to do with LGBT people? Robertson doesn’t quite make the connection, and instead explains: “We have here a debate over same sex marriage. But is it really just about marriage? Or does it go far beyond that? They’re destroying the traditional family and building a country without God.”
See? Totally the same thing as the French revolutionaries.
This.As we've often noted here, most of the time, when conservatives say "freedom," they really mean privilege. This trait isn't limited to social and authoritarian conservatives, but it's often more noticeable with them. Theocrats in particular are less likely (at least among their own) to hide their true beliefs about their own superiority and desire to control others.
Fred Clark of slacktivist has written a fair number of characteristically thoughtful pieces on the anti-choice abortion movement. Earlier this month, he received some pushback for a characterization of abortion opponents:
Last week we looked at an incident involving an evangelical college that fired a woman for having sex outside of marriage — offering her former job to the man she slept with. Examining San Diego Christian College’s double-standard, and the affirmation of that double standard in Christianity Today’s reporting on the incident, I wrote this:
Given the chance to choose between “saving babies” and controlling women, both the magazine and the college instinctively opt for controlling women.
Women who have sex must be punished. …
To defend this, Clark quoted a Right Wing Watch piece on a radio segment with Pat Fagan, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council run by Tony Perkins. (FRC's members can be labeled "conservative Christians," although I'd put it more strongly and call them right-wing theocrats.) In the segment, Fagan discussed an article he wrote on Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), the U.S. Supreme Court case that "established the right of unmarried people to possess contraception on the same basis as married couples and, by implication, the right of unmarried couples to engage in potentially nonprocreative sexual intercourse." Fagan wrote that "Future generations may rank this as the single most destructive decision in the history of the Court." In the radio segment (audio at the link), he said:
The court decided that single people have the right to contraceptives. What’s that got to do with marriage? Everything, because what the Supreme Court essentially said is single people have the right to engage in sexual intercourse. Well, societies have always forbidden that, there were laws against it. Now sure, single people are inclined to push the fences and jump over them, particularly if they are in love with each other and going onto marriage, but they always knew they were doing wrong. In this case the Supreme Court said, take those fences away they can do whatever they like, and they didn’t address at all what status children had, what status the commons had, by commons I mean the rest of the United States, have they got any standing in this case? They just said no, singles have the right to contraceptives we mean singles have the right to have sex outside of marriage. Brushing aside millennia, thousands and thousands of years of wisdom, tradition, culture and setting in motion what we have. …
It’s not the contraception, everybody thinks it’s about contraception, but what this court case said was young people have the right to engage in sex outside of marriage. Society never gave young people that right, functioning societies don’t do that, they stop it, they punish it, they corral people, they shame people, they do whatever. The institution for the expression of sexuality is marriage and all societies always shepherded young people there, what the Supreme Court said was forget that shepherding, you can’t block that, that’s not to be done.
Points for honesty, I guess, but this attitude is pretty astounding. Two major problems present themselves. First, Fagan's depiction of cultural mores on sex is laughably ahistorical. In the United States alone, as the Guttmacher Institute points out:
The vast majority of Americans have sex before marriage, including those who abstained from sex during their teenage years, according to “Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States, 1954–2003,” by Lawrence B. Finer, published in the January/February 2007 issue of Public Health Reports. Further, contrary to the public perception that premarital sex is much more common now than in the past, the study shows that even among women who were born in the 1940s, nearly nine in 10 had sex before marriage.
The new study uses data from several rounds of the federal National Survey of Family Growth to examine sexual behavior before marriage, and how it has changed over time. According to the analysis, by age 44, 99% of respondents had had sex, and 95% had done so before marriage. Even among those who abstained from sex until age 20 or older, 81% had had premarital sex by age 44.
“This is reality-check research. Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades,” says study author Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute. “The data clearly show that the majority of older teens and adults have already had sex before marriage, which calls into question the federal government’s funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12–29-year-olds. It would be more effective to provide young people with the skills and information they need to be safe once they become sexually active—which nearly everyone eventually will.”
(You can read the full study here. And as the joke goes, it's not "premarital" sex if you never get married.)
Consider Victorian Britain as well. It's was one of the most outwardly prudish societies of the past few millennia, especially regarding sex and female sexuality, and yet prostitution was rampant. The image did not match the reality. Similarly, Utah, the most Republican state in the nation, and outwardly socially conservative,consumes the most porn in the nation, and "those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption." We won't even delve fully into the Greeks and Romans, or the history of marriage, including polygamy or the concept of women as property (which continues somewhat to this day).
Second – Fagan really, truly thinks he should get to control sexual activity, whether it's through "society" or his church or the government. He's outraged by the idea that "single people have the right to engage in sexual intercourse." Furthermore, "society never gave young people that right, functioning societies don’t do that, they stop it, they punish it, they corral people, they shame people, they do whatever." Bluntly, Fagan believes that his fellow citizens – adults – shouldn't be allowed to fuck without his permission.
This is a recurring trait among authoritarians (looked at in most detail previouslyhere) – they truly believe that they should be able to control other people's lives and make decisions that are none of their damn business.
This attitude isn't limited to far-right social conservatives, however. Mitt Romney's campaign remarks about 47% of Americans being 'takers' focused more on economic/fiscal issues (also the idea of a social contract), but weren't that different. Like Fagan, Romney's accusations are grossly counterfactual, and like Fagan, there's a mean streak there – a sense of entitlement, and resentment, and a desire to punish his less-fortunate fellow Americans (certainly if one looked at his budget plan).
We can discuss all this in terms of the stupid-evil-crazy vortex, but the bottom line is that a significant portion of American conservatives are, well, delusional assholes. They believe things that simply aren't true, and they want some of their fellow Americans to suffer. Specifically, they want the Americans who already have less than themselves to suffer. ("Delusional assholes" may sound harsh, and use a more polite term if you like, but "jerks" seems too tame and "bastards," "scumbags" or similar words aren't that much tamer than "asshole." Meanwhile, "delusional" seems hard to contest.) Fagan is more of a theocrat and Romney more of a plutocrat, but both seek to place themselves atop a hierarchy, with most of their fellow citizens below, and they view that as the natural order. Even if one believes that they are nice or well-intentioned, people of this mindset should be prevented from gaining power over others – but I would argue that their desire to domineer others proves that they are not nice or well-intentioned. As we've noted many times before, theocrats aren't seeking freedom, which they already possess –they are seeking privilege, and power over others.
It’s a fishy story, but the woman telling it believes it's pure gold. The Florida resident says the markings she found on a Goldfish cracker are a direct message affirming her Christian faith.
“I believe that it’s a sign, a sign from God,” Patti Burke told Florida Today. “He is still in our life every day, and he wants to show that to his people.”
It's not quite manna, but in Burke's eyes it's a manifestation of her faith.
The cracker in question has two markings, or imperfections, on its surface. Burke says the first marking is of a cross with a circle around it. The second marking, near the head of the fish, represents a golden crown.
“When I picked this one up, I knew he was special,” she said. “Something I’ve never seen before out of all the Goldfish I’ve eaten.”
Burke admittedly has been working from a large sample size, consuming between two and three pounds of the crackers per week. She says she eats the small crackers individually, examining each one for the optimal amount of savory coating.
Burke now carries her special cracker in an earring box padded with gauze. But she wasn’t immediately convinced it was a sign from God. At first, she thought maybe she had won a special promotion from cracker manufacturer Pepperidge Farm.
“They called me back and said there’s no way this could have been printed like that in the factory,” Burke told Florida Today. “They said it sounds like something miraculous happened and we don’t know how it happened.”
(That comment has not been confirmed by Pepperidge Farm.)
No one can say exactly when people started seeing notable figures in their food, but it’s a phenomenon that has made headlines in the modern era. Last year, a Nebraska woman sold a Chicken McNugget on eBay for $8,100 after becoming convinced it contained the visage of George Washington.
After becoming convinced that the cracker in fact possessed a deeper, spiritual message, Burke brought her sign of faith to her pastor, D. Scott Worth.
“I think it’s a sign,” Worth told WKMG. “I think it points to, I would hesitate to call it a miracle, but I think it points to the miracle, which is Jesus Christ defeated death. And that’s what Easter is all about.”
Of course, not every piece of food contains divine inspiration. Just pray you don’t end up with a toaster possessed by the Devil.
Televangelist Pat Robertson on Monday explained to his viewers that “sophisticated” Americans received less miracles because they had learned “things that says God isn’t real” like evolution.
On Monday’s episode of CBN’s The 700 Club, Robertson responded to a viewer who wanted to know why “amazing miracles (people raised from the dead, blind eyes open, lame people walking) happen with great frequency in places like Africa, and not here in the USA?”
“People overseas didn’t go to Ivy League schools,” the TV preacher laughed. “We’re so sophisticated, we think we’ve got everything figured out. We know about evolution, we know about Darwin, we know about all these things that says God isn’t real.”
“We have been inundated with skepticism and secularism,” he conintued. “And overseas, they’re simple, humble. You tell ‘em God loves ‘em and they say, ‘Okay, he loves me.’ You say God will do miracles and they say, ‘Okay, we believe him.’”
“And that’s what God’s looking for. That’s why they have miracles.”
Nate Silver, who did such a great job predicting the last Presidential election, has a long time until the next one. So what is he doing? How about odds on who's going to be the next Pope? Angelo Scola (Italy) and Peter Turkson (Ghana). Four of the top six frontrunners are Italian to no surprise.
Or, more mundanely, bracketing.
Researchers at Keele University, UK, and Amridge University, USA, have discovered that Genesis uses an early example of a technique known as 'bracketing', which sandwiches one theme between two mentions of another theme. The technique is commonly used today, such as when bad news is sandwiched between two bits of good news. The new analysis of Genesis reveals a striking pattern between the two key themes of 'life' and 'death'. The opening and closing verses of the book contain frequent mentions of life, whereas mentions of death are only found in clusters in the middle.
Informally dubbed by researchers the 'Genesis Death Sandwich', this pattern offers the first clear example of this common rhetorical structure being used in the text describing the creation of the universe. The discovery was made thanks to a new tool for analysing texts developed by Dr Gordon Rugg, senior lecturer in Computing and Mathematics at Keele University. The text-analysis tool, called Search Visualizer, represents entire texts as a grid with each square representing a word and coloured squares representing search keywords. When used to examine the words 'life' and 'death' in the King James Version of Genesis, the new pattern emerged.
Dr Rugg explains: "This is a significant discovery for historians and theologians interested in the Old Testament, and shows that whoever wrote the version of the text that been passed down to us was clearly employing this rhetorical structure. Whether this was done consciously or subconsciously will probably remain a mystery, although possible reasons for the pattern might be to soften the negative messages of death, or perhaps to juxtapose life and death for greater impact.
"Our new method for visualising texts means an entire book can be represented on a single page of A4, allowing you to see patterns very easily. It offers a quick and simple way for researchers to identify patterns, or see which of their ideas might be red herrings, which is an important insight for researchers dealing with large texts."
Dr Gordon Rugg from Keele University and Dr David Musgrave from Amridge University, USA, have also used Search Visualizer to explore other significant texts including the Iliad. They have uncovered a pattern in the text that provides new evidence supporting a theory that one section, 'The Catalogue of Ships', is in fact an older poem incorporated into Homer's epic story.
As well as exploring patterns in historical texts and literature, the new tool has a wide range of other potential applications. One such use is re-examining cold-case police investigations by analysing old witness statements to identify correlating stories. Using Search Visualizer, patterns can be seen that might have been very difficult to identify by reading through large numbers of documents manually. The software can also be used as a new way of searching the web.
There's a bill in Missouri that requires that college students study creationism (of course) and "destiny".
How do you teach about what is going to happen in the future?
The utter stupidity of religionists should be embarrassing. It isn't but it should be.
A pastor in Connecticut has apologized for taking part in a vigil for the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School because his church does not allow worshiping with other faiths.
Rev. Rob Morris of Newtown’s Christ the King Lutheran Church offered a letter of apology after he was reprimanded by church president Matthew Harrison for “joint worship with other religions,” according to the Religion News Service.
King Lutheran Church is a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which bans ministers from praying alongside Muslims, Jews or even other Christians.
Morris had provided the closing benediction at the Dec. 16 vigil in Newtown.
“There is sometimes a real tension between wanting to bear witness to Christ and at the same time avoiding situations which may give the impression that our differences with respect to who God is, who Jesus is, how he deals with us, and how we get to heaven, really don’t matter in the end,” Harrison wrote in his letter of reprimand. “There will be times in this crazy world when, for what we believe are all the right reasons, we may step over the scriptural line.”
Harrison argued that “the presence of prayers and religious readings” meant that Morris should have not participated in the Newtown vigil.
In his apology letter, Morris explained that he had spoken to his supervisor before participating in the vigil but “I made my own decision.”
“I believed my participation to be, not an act of joint worship, but an act of community chaplaincy,” he said.
Missouri Synod’s Rev. David H. Benke was also suspended for about two years after he participated in an interfaith service with a Muslim imam, a rabbi, a Catholic cardinal and others 12 days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.Anyone ready to argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?