Today’s found on Facebook – Matthew McConaughey’s thoughts on religion

June 23, 2016

He has a new movie out (Free State of Jones) where he plays Newton Knight, a Confederate soldier who rebelled against the Confederacy. The Daily Beast provides this quote from the actor talking about the film and explaining what he thinks is wrong with America (and everything else):

“It is my personal belief that mankind has bastardized religion,” he says. “Religion actually means, if you look up the Latin root, ‘re’ which means again, and ‘ligare,’ which means to bind together. It means exactly the opposite of what and how we are often practicing it these days!

“All of this, the abolition of slavery in the Civil War at this time, they were almost all led by religious movements—Christian movements—that were trumping the ideals that everyone else had. They went further into it and said, ‘No, this is not right—because of the Bible.’”

Sigh. First, we’ll sort out the etymology of “religion” – turns out a few different thoughts on its origin are around. Related to monastic vows, belief in divine power, piety, respect for the sacred, etc…

However, popular etymology among the later ancients (Servius, Lactantius, Augustine) and the interpretation of many modern writers connects it with religare “to bind fast” (see rely), via notion of “place an obligation on,” or “bond between humans and gods.” In that case, the re- would be intensive. Another possible origin is religiens “careful,” opposite of negligens. In English, meaning “particular system of faith” is recorded from c. 1300; sense of “recognition of and allegiance in manner of life (perceived as justly due) to a higher, unseen power or powers” is from 1530s.

So, I’ll just throw a minor correction at Mr. McConaughey: mankind invented the idea of religion and, as evidenced by its changing definition, people have been changing their minds for centuries on what it means on a personal level and what it means culturally. It stands for different things at different points of history.

Much the same way as people for all of written history have reinterpreted the Bible and rewritten the so called Word of God for “modern” audiences. Tyndale Archive lists a shit ton more than a hundred of the ones in English alone. Old souls love to stick to the King James (1611) but I know the New International Version (1978) is also commonly quoted.

I love how he’s pointing to the Bible as the reason Newton decided to go against his compatriots and for the reason people aboloshed slavery. Have you read a Bible lately, Mr. McConaughey? Or thought to Google how often slavery is condoned and encouraged in there? The guys who wanted slaves could also point to the Bible as proof they were right to be White and continue to mistreat anyone who wasn’t. A couple easy finds right here:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. (Peter 2:18:)

However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46)

It’s called cherry picking, and everyone can use it to point to the Bible and claim they’re correct in whatever manner of thinking they feel is correct, all because they found a line or two in one of the books they happen to agree with.

The Smithsonian has a great article explaining the history of Knight and how the film got made, and what people around Jones County have to say about this man and this bit of local history. Sounds like his descendants are still struggling under his name and legacy. At least, the black ones.

Dorothy Knight Marsh and Florence Knight Blaylock are the great-granddaughters of Newt and Rachel. After many decades of living in the outside world, they are back in Soso, Mississippi, dealing with prejudice from all directions. The worst of it comes from within their extended family. “We have close relatives who won’t even look at us,” says Blaylock, the older sister, who was often taken for Mexican when she lived in California.

Both women appear in the film in a courthouse scene.

This is probably not a movie I’ll watch. I’m not much for historical drama. I will be listening to The Dollop later today, though, because they have a piece on this guy and if it’s anything like what they did for the story of Hugh Glass from The Revenant, it will be terrific.


Swiss tunnel opening ceremony deemed “satanic”: features guy dressed as goat

June 13, 2016

You should be listening to No Such Thing as a Fish and watching No Such Such Thing as the News, the QI Elves’ foray into television. I just learned a very interesting fact in a recent episode. Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland ran a very unique opening ceremony.

I don’t know what’s going on here.

Breitbart attempts to explain:

The ceremony was intended to represent various aspects of Swiss culture. But, men in masks, others in costumes made of long brown grass, weird angels descending from the ceiling, even a man in a goat mask that others seem to be worshiping are all said by some to be from the pits of hell…

The part that has most galvanized the worldwide web is when a goat man emerges and appears to be worshiped by the dancers, some dressed in grass costumes, others wearing horrifying masks.

It is all a mishmash that is odd and confusing to any casual observer, modern dance that is likely not the taste of the men who built the tunnel, some of whom lost their lives…

Google “Demons of the Alps” and you will see the most troubling part of the show, the men in grass consumes and others in scary masks and even the goat man, are part of Swiss Christmas tradition.

Every year on the December 6th Feast of St. Nicholas of Bari (a Catholic saint who provided the dowries of poor girls so they could get married rather than end up in prostitution and upon whom Santa Claus is based), St. Nicholas wanders around town giving out gifts and money. He is followed by Krampus (Demons of the Alps) who try to scare the children, not unlike what happens at Halloween.

So if you come across anyone claiming it’s demonic, it’s not. It’s just a different culture showing off how they celebrate notable things. Weird as hell, but think about what other cultures must be thinking of yours around Turducken time…


Question of Atheist Scruples – student atheist edition

June 7, 2016

Nice!

Your 15-year-old refuses to stand and repeat the Lord’s Prayer at school. She says she is an atheist. Do you support her right to refuse?

Fuck yeah.

I’m reminded of a news article from earlier this year here in Saskatchewan regarding this very thing:

Dusti Hennenfent’s children go to Lindale Public Elementary School in Moose Jaw. The school plays the Lord’s Prayer over the PA system every morning.

Under the Education Act, Saskatchewan schools are allowed to have mandatory prayers for students, even in public schools.

Should prayers be included in classroom time in public schools?

“I’m concerned that it really doesn’t have respect for the individual beliefs of the students,” said Hennenfent. “I don’t understand the purpose of having religious worship for one religion at a public school.”

Exactly. If a public school can’t or won’t give equal time to acknowledge the religions of other students, it’s unfair. Better to remove the prayer rather than give preferential treatment to one group of kids over the rest. It’s not like those Christian kids can’t pray on their own without an official prompt. Nobody’s saying kids can’t pray in school. The problem comes when the teachers and principals and other people in authority positions force kids into praying and possibly/likely create an uncomfortable feeling for those of other faiths, or none.

“When I originally called the school and discussed this, at the very initial part of this process, I called the principal and she said that kids did have the option to leave the classroom [during the prayer],” said Hennenfent.

However, she said she was never made aware of that option, nor were her children. She also canvassed parents from seven different classrooms and learned that none of those children had been told that they had the option of leaving the classroom during the prayer.

The school has said that it will continue with the Lord’s Prayer because the majority of parents, about 90 per cent, are in favour of it.

I hate to counter with, “Well, a lot of people were in favour of slavery, too, but it’s still wrong.” It’s true, but it’s trite.

David Arnot, head of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, said Friday that he agrees with Hennenfent.

“What you can’t do is choose one religion over another,” Arnot said. “A dominant religion, like Christianity, doesn’t get preference to other religions.”

He added that, in his opinion, the section of the law that allows for prayers in schools is outdated (it dates to 1995) and would likely be re-written if challenged in court.

There was a similar story in 1999 – “Saskatchewan told to pull prayer from schools” – but since it was a Commission making a recommendation, no one was under any obligation to change anything then. There was an earlier one from 1996 regarding bible readings in public school in 1993 The Board of Education was very pro Bible then, as well as now, apparently.

I haven’t found any updates on the current story, unfortunately. I thought I did, but it turned out to be a different prayer problem – Saskatoon’s public prayers at civic events. “The city has since decided not to adopt a prayer policy at civic events.”

Whatever that winds up meaning.

Now, to throw two book suggestions in – The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide: Helping Secular Students Thrive and The Young Atheist’s Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life without God. Buy copies for your kids if you can or want to and then put in requests for your local library to own copies as well for those families that can’t afford to buy books but can still benefit from the information.


Watched Expelled today

June 5, 2016

Saskatoon’s CFI affiliate watched the film Expelled – No Intelligence Allowed this afternoon. The whole film is available on Youtube if you want to put yourself through it.

It’s a “documentary” that plays fast and loose with the notion of facts and tries to claim that Intelligence Design is not only a valid theory better than evolution, but that educators and scientists who support it are run out of town, discredited and essentially thrown in ideological gulags for the rest of eternity for daring to suggest it. He does liken their treatment to gulags in the film and includes stock footage of guillotines and concentration camps and the Berlin Wall because “Darwinists” are close-cousins to Nazis, apparently.

Ben Stein and his team were unscrupulous in twisting everything to fit their agenda. A Scientific American article lists six of the most egregious ways the show manipulated its audience. I’ll include their list, but read the article for full details. (This opinion piece from NBC goes into some of this, too.)

1) Expelled quotes Charles Darwin selectively to connect his ideas to eugenics and the Holocaust.
2) Ben Stein’s speech to a crowded auditorium in the film was a setup.
3) Scientists in the film thought they were being interviewed for a different movie.
4) The ID-sympathetic researcher whom the film paints as having lost his job at the Smithsonian Institution was never an employee there.
5) Science does not reject religious or “design-based” explanations because of dogmatic atheism.
6) Many evolutionary biologists are religious and many religious people accept evolution.

Like Eugenie Scott, who was one of the unfortunates targeted for interviews for this film. She’s Catholic.

I also recall P.Z. Myers writing about his experience with it. I was a fan of his blog at the time and remember this being a topic. He wrote an amusing post about trying to go watch the film he was interviewed for. He was booted from line but his guest, Richard Dawkins (also interviewed), got in without difficulty.

We were trying to remember if this film came before or after the Intelligent Design trial. Kitzmiller v. Dover was 2005 and this film was release in 2008.

In the legal case Kitzmiller v. Dover, tried in 2005 in a Harrisburg, PA, Federal District Court, “intelligent design” was found to be a form of creationism, and therefore, unconstitutional to teach in American public schools.

As the first case to test a school district policy requiring the teaching of “intelligent design,” the trial attracted national and international attention. Both plaintiffs and defendants in the case presented expert testimony over six weeks from September 26 through November 4, 2005). On December 20, 2005, Judge John E. Jones issued a sharply-worded ruling in which he held that “intelligent design” was, as the plaintiffs argued, a form of creationism.

Ball State University in Indiana hired Guillermo Gonzalez to be an assistant professor of astronomy in 2013. He was one of the educators Stein interviewed.

In 2008 Gonzalez was denied tenure at Iowa State University, essentially a form of termination, after which he taught at Grove City College, a Christian liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, before landing at Ball State.

As of May 10th this year, they gave tenure to a guy named Eric Hedin, also for the astronomy department.

A “Boundaries of Science” class taught by Hedin reportedly promoted the idea that nature displays evidence of intelligent design, in contrast to an undirected process like evolution.

In 2013, Ball State President Jo Ann Gora decided ID was not an appropriate subject for a science class after receiving a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation about Hedin’s course. After an investigation by a panel of academic experts, Gora said ID, which some call pseudoscience, was overwhelmingly regarded by the scientific community as a religious belief and not a scientific theory.

But they gave him tenure and Gonzalez is on a tenure track. Added to that, he’s a fellow for the Discovery Institute, the biggest group pushing for ID inclusion.

Michael J.I. Brown, an observational astronomer at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, told The Star Press in 2014 it was a “remarkable coincidence” that two astronomers who believe in ID ended up at Ball State. Two ID-believing astronomers winding up in the same modestly sized astrophysics department by random chance are as unlikely as two astronomers who own chimpanzees ending up in the same department, Brown said.

Ars Technica reported in April 2016 about an Ohio school district pushing the “teach the controversy” angle.

Zack Kopplin, an activist who has tracked attempts to sneak religious teachings into science classrooms, found a bit of sneaking going on in Youngstown, Ohio. There, a document hosted by the city schools includes a lesson plan that openly endorses intelligent design and suggests the students should be taught that there’s a scientific controversy between it and evolution.

The document focuses on the “Diversity of Life” and is a bizarre mix of normal science and promotion of intelligent design. Most of the first page, for example, is taken up by evolution standards that have language that echoes that of the Next Generation Science Standards. But the discussion is preceded by a statement that’s straight out of the “teach the controversy” approach: “The students examine the content of evolution and intelligent design and consider the merits and flaws of both sides of the argument.” In fact, elsewhere in the document, teachers are told to host a debate where students take turns arguing for evolution and intelligent design.

For a science class I think that’s a colossal waste of class time. Setting up both sides as if they’re in any way on equal footing does a great disservice to actual scientific advancement and understanding. Sure, there are gaps in the knowledge. It’s to be expected. Every year we know more but we’ll never know everything and while the ID side may think it’s somehow egotistical for scientists to claim their theories for origins are valid ideas (from mineral starts to panspermia), it doesn’t make any logical sense to slap a creator into the gap instead and consider the whole thing solved that way.

Thoughts?


Today’s found on Facebook — bare bum spanks for God?

June 4, 2016

Via Rawstory we learn of a Little League coach taking dubious advice from a Bible-based child-rearing book. Jonathan Shawn Russell was in court in North Carolina accused of spanking his players, ages 8 and 9 at the time. The book’s called Shepherding a Child’s Heart, written by Pastor Tedd Tripp and:

He read a passage from the book aloud on the stand that said, “If you fail to spank, you don’t take God seriously and don’t love your child enough.”

One of the children told his mother he was spanked for saying “dang it.”

He also admitted to spanking his own kids, but that’s not the issue here.

Arrest warrants obtained by the paper [Citizen Times] say he was accused of “pulling down child victim’s pants and his underwear and spanking him on his buttocks multiple times with his hands.”

The assaults happened in 2014 and 2015.

He gets 60 days in jail for this and 18 months probation prohibiting him from being alone with any children for any reason under the age of 18.

I wonder if this goes for time with his kids, too. Seems like it should.

From the original article:

When Russell took the stand, he told the families of those he abused he was wrong after allegations surfaced and was charged by authorities.

“I recognized the misapplication in the sense that these weren’t my children and this wasn’t my place,” he said. “I never tried to hide it from their parents, but I didn’t have their permission either.

“I’m sorry,” he continued. “I want to seek forgiveness … I understand the affect it has had on everyone and from the bottom of my heart I did not mean to do any damage.”

Russell’s actions would not have been illegal had he been given permission for the spankings by parents of the boys, Newman said.

Alarming last sentence there.


When parents pick prayer over health care

June 4, 2016

Children die, of course. This tragedy occurred in 2013 but is in Calgary court now. According to testimony, Emil and Rodica Radita returned from church to find their 15-year-old son not breathing. They waited 2 whole fucking hours before calling EMS, opting to pray over the boy instead. Apparently other church members were in the house at the time, doing the same.

Shauna Mitchell, an investigator from Medical Examiner’s office reportedly heard conflicting stories from witnesses and thought it was possible the boy was already dead before the parents left for church that evening.

The boy, a diabetic, died from bacterial sepsis due to complications from starvation and neglect.

Both Mitchell and Const. Larry Pugliese, the first police officer on the scene, said the boy was nothing but skin and bones when they saw him dead in his bed.

Pugliese said Alexandru was “like a skeleton.”

He said it was clear to him the teen was dead.

“The boy was extremely thin,” Pugliese told the Court of Queen’s Bench murder trial.

The parents also claim the boy didn’t want to go to a hospital earlier that day because he had a “bad experience” when he was 3.

The murder trial continues later this week so hopefully I’ll remember to update.

Back in May, the CBC reported on this story, mentioning the fact that the family once lived in British Columbia but left. Why, I wonder…

[They] had their son seized by social services in that province in 2004 after he nearly died from untreated diabetes — the same allegations they now face in relation to his death, according to prosecutor Susan Pepper.

So, this poor kid suffered for a hell of a long time. It’s appalling, to say the least.

The other story that was making the rounds lately was also from Alberta: 19-month-old Ezekiel died of untreated meningitis. That had nothing to with picking prayer over hospitals; that was all naturopathic bullshit masquerading as health care. (Although naming a baby Ezekiel probably means David and Collet Stephan are fairly familiar with the Bible as well.)

Despite the conviction, they remain unrepentant, painting themselves as persecuted and warning that the parenting police are out to get us all.

Hardly.

The message in the conviction is consistent with what our laws and courts have said over decades in cases with similar philosophical underpinnings – parents who refuse blood transfusion, vaccination, cancer treatment and other demonstrably beneficial medical treatments for their children in favour of prayer or other nonsense: As an adult, you can have beliefs, religious or otherwise, and you can raise your children according to those beliefs, no matter how wacky, but that does not obviate the obligation to provide the necessities of life. When a child’s health and well-being are compromised, the rules change, because a guardian has responsibilities as well as rights.

Exactly.


Can’t your god make a better miracle than poop stains in a diaper?

May 25, 2016

It was making headlines recently, a poop smear in the shape of a cross in a newborn baby’s diaper. Big poopie whoopie. Wonkette reports via Patheos that the mother, Katy Vasquez, took to Facebook to show the world this miraculous discovery.

This sign came in the oddest form. My babies poop. I went to change his diaper, and he pooped a cross. It might not be the prettiest sign, but he put it where he knew I’d see it. In my babies diaper. Lol. Hard to miss what’s right there in front of you.

If you can, or want to, feel free to share the message. That God is with us. And he gives us signs to let us know that things will be OK. It’s not always the prettiest sign, but he puts it where he knows we’ll see it. We’re good most of the time, but God is good all the time.

I’m sharing, all right — not because of gods, but because of belief in gods and how far gods appear to have fallen in terms of making themselves known to their believers. A poopy diaper? Really? Is that the best trick he’s got? Taking advantage of fabric and natural wrinkles and bodily functions?

While looking for this particular news story, my search also highlighted Yahoo Answers where the question is asked, Did Jesus poop on the cross? The “best” answer comes from someone going by the handle of Non-Believers are Dead Inside (spelling errors kept as found):

Well first of all the crucifixes are actaully censored they have Jesus wearing a loin cloth but actually He was naked as a form of public embarisment for the crucified prisoners. And yes they went to the bathroom hanging upon their crosses. In fact when a person is dying it’s not uncommon for that person to wet and soil themselves.
You make fun of things like this now but one day when you get old or when your dying your going to have accidents yourself. There is a reason why companies make diapers for adults.

No sources cited to verify any little factoids here regarding loincloths but I did find an abstract at the National Library of Medicine:

Death, usually after 6 hours–4 days, was due to multifactorial pathology: after-effects of compulsory scourging and maiming, haemorrhage and dehydration causing hypovolaemic shock and pain, but the most important factor was progressive asphyxia caused by impairment of respiratory movement. Resultant anoxaemia exaggerated hypovolaemic shock. Death was probably commonly precipitated by cardiac arrest, caused by vasovagal reflexes, initiated inter alia by severe anoxaemia, severe pain, body blows and breaking of the large bones. The attending Roman guards could only leave the site after the victim had died, and were known to precipitate death by means of deliberate fracturing of the tibia and/or fibula, spear stab wounds into the heart, sharp blows to the front of the chest, or a smoking fire built at the foot of the cross to asphyxiate the victim.

So, really, pooping yourself would have been the least of your worries.

Back to gods and miracles, though. I’ll have to invoke The Great God Om now. As a Terry Pratchett fan from way, way, way back, I highly recommend his book Small Gods.

The one true god of Omnia has gone through a bad time. Om transformed himself into a tortoise at some point in the past but, due to the lack of true believers now, he’s stuck in this low form. The loudest, most obnoxious religious folk don’t believe in him as much as they pretend they do so they don’t hear him call for help, or writhe in agony as he curses them. In fact, the only real believer he has left is Brutha, a pathetic novice at the temple who can barely hoe the lettuce but knows the books of Om upside down and sideways and Believes in him completely. Om must take Brutha on the path to becoming the next prophet, no matter how difficult a task it may be.

The Turtle Moves. And it should move into your bookshelves immediately.