Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A new post! Yay!

I've been neglecting the blog for the last bit... And I'm still doing it. This is really just a post to move the last one on the Oaks speech down the page, because I'm tired of the whole affair.

That's all from me today! :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

A closer look at Dallin Oaks' sinister speech

"Sinister?" A bit of an overstatement?

Maybe. Maybe not.

I think we all zoomed in on the absurd claim that Mormons are akin to the blacks during the era of the civil rights movement. That's a claim so baldly ridiculous that it's easy to, well, ridicule.

But as C. L. Hanson explores over at Main Street Plaza, that derision allowed some of the more insidious language of Oaks' speech to go unrebutted. For instance:
But unless the guarantee of free exercise of religion gives a religious actor greater protection against government prohibitions than are already guaranteed to all actors by other provisions of the constitution (like freedom of speech), what is the special value of religious freedom? Surely the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion was intended to grant more freedom to religious action than to other kinds of action. Treating actions based on religious belief the same as actions based on other systems of belief should not be enough to satisfy the special place of religion in the United States Constitution.
In other words, Oaks is claiming that when people speak out against the LDS church from a secular position, their opinion should be automatically devalued, because religious "actions" by default carry more weight than secular ones.

Positions based on one's faith certainly are given deference in ways I think are often inappropriate, such that as long as someone can say a hateful belief or immoral action is faith-based, it should be immune to criticism. But to hear a high-ranking religious leader put it so plainly is troubling.

Oaks puts it even more plainly here [emphasis mine]:
Those who seek to change the foundation of marriage should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights.
Is he just saying that the faithful should call people who they disagree with on the carpet and tell them they're wrong? Maybe. And if so, that's all fine and democratic — as long as he does not expect religious people to be immune from criticism, which he clearly does...

If his text is taken literally, Oaks believes the gay rights movement (in particular) should be censored, that they should not even be allowed to express their opinion, simply becuase it contradicts religious tradition.

Ugh (for the second time today).

More analysis of Oaks' speech at Main Street Plaza. and here's the full text of the speech.

Picking cherries

I've been talking a lot about cherrypicking on this blog lately; that is, picking the bits you like out of something (let's say, oh, the Bible) while disregarding the bits you don't. It's one of the biggest reasons why I think one's personal religious perspectives in many ways form to fit the way they already see the world, rather than than one's worldview being shaped by religion.

Anyway, here's a terrible story: a gay man was brutally attacked and beaten on the streets of Queens. All of this was caught on security video. Disgusting. The two attackers have been apprehended, which is a good thing.

The news report below (WARNING: it includes video of the vicious attack) features an interview with a friend of one of the assailants who claims that the atatck was not a hate crime, as the victim had it coming for propositioning one of the attackers. Ugh. So, if a woman he wasn't interested in had propositioned her, she would have deserved such an attack too, according to his logic...

So, now to the cherrypicking part (as picked up on by the Friendly Atheist):

The interviewed friend features a tattoo of Leviticus 18:22 on his arrm. You know, the "thou shalt not lie with a man as with a woman" passage. Yep, that's in the Bible all right. But you know what else is in the bible? In some Bibles, probably even on the same page as LEV 18:22? This:
"Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord."
A prohibition against tattoos. Yet, he does not not seem to live in fear of being beaten nearly to death as a result.

Of course, his friends (assuming they were religious. Who knows?) were cherrypicking too: they're ignoring the "love thy enemy as theyself" parts.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

ATTENTION FUNDAMENTALISTS: Stop depriving us of all opportunities to satirze you

Right on the heels of this,

and this,

and countless other bits of paranoia and extremism from the far right and religious extremeists, comes this:
Pastor Marc Grizzard [of North Carolina's Amazing Grace Baptist Church] and his church’s members will be banning “Satanic” books… Like all non-King-James versions of the Bible...

They’re also burning books by Billy Graham, Rick Warren, and (really?) James Dobson, Bill Bright, and Tim LaHaye.
Seriously? The likes of Tim LaHaye, and James dobson are too pinko-liberal, lefty-revisionist for these guys? Serioulsy?

Yes, seriously:

I give up. I just don't know where to go from here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Irony, thy name is Dallin H. Oaks

Who was it that said "irony is dead?" I mean, originally. Whoever it was was either very, very wrong or was, ironically, trying to be ironic... or something.

Anyway, Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve (this quorum of twelve, not that one), is one of the highest-ranking officials of the LDS church.
(An aside: a few days ago, I found myself — bizarrely, for the second time — in a local diner in the company of Thomas S. Monson the president and prophet of the LDS church. For better or worse, I can't say the story was nearly as entertaining as the first such event.)
Oaks recently spoke to students at Brigham Young University- Idaho, remarking that "The extent and nature of religious devotion in this nation is changing... The tide of public opinion in favor of religion is receding, and this probably portends public pressures for laws that will impinge on religious freedom."

This isn't the ironic part. I do happen to believe Oaks is wrong about that, though: perhaps the tide is changing as he says, but there is no hint of any campaign to impinging on religious freedom, and indeed secularists and most nonreligious people would vehemently oppose any such proposed laws.

But wait, irony is on the way! You ready? Here it comes! [from Fox13 News]
In an interview Monday before the speech, Oaks said he did not consider it provocative to compare the treatment of Mormons in the election's aftermath to that of blacks in the civil rights era, and said he stands by the analogy.

"It may be offensive to some -- maybe because it hadn't occurred to them that they were putting themselves in the same category as people we deplore from that bygone era," he said.
Wait, did he really just say that? Yes he did: Oaks just compared the campaign to pass Prop. 8, which denied basic civil rights to an oppressed minority, to the 1960's Civil Rights movement. It's an apt analogy, of course... except in Oaks' metaphor, the LDS church is akin to oppressed African Americans, and gay people and progressives are akin to the oppressors denying people their rights.


No one is trying to deny Mormons civil rights. No one is preventing Mormons from getting married, forcing them to the back of the bus, or dispersing their services with fire hoses. This is absolute lunacy.

Oaks cites a few threats against Mormons and incidences of vandalism of LDS church property. A few such acts did happen just before and after the passage of Prop. 8, and they were wrong and deserve to be condemned. But for every such incident, there are scores and scores of incidents of violence against gay people and their property. Oaks is so far off-base here, it's past "funny" and into "shocking" territory.

Today, this "oppression" Oaks is talking about consists of gay (and straight!) couples making out in protest near their property; a few people campaigning for the revocation of the LDS church's tax-exempt status (as they have been acting a lot more like a PAC than a church when it comes to political items such as Prop. 8); and, yes, some undeserved hostility to rank-and-file Mormon people — even to liberal Mormons who may have opposed Prop. 8 — that would be better directed at the church leadership and policies. (I will say this to any liberal Mormon's reading, though: remember, your tithing money is funding these hate-based campaigns.)...

But no one here is trying to infringe on the religious freedom of Mormons or any other religion. No one is now or will force the LDS church to perform gay marriages if they wish to become more and more irrelevant.

Oaks' statements — despite his claim that they should not be "provocative" — are not just laughably backwards, they are outright offensive.

[hat tip to PZ]

Monday, October 12, 2009

RE: Bill Maher

Regarding my previous post (and by "post," I mean "linking to a video with a snarky comment"), Orac has a great takedown of Bill Maher's recent comments, and why it's frustrating and ironic that the Atheist Alliance International would give him the 2009 Richard Dawkins Award (named for Dawkins, not given by him). Sure, Maher's film Religulous was entertaining, if mostly shallow, but his endorsement of cancer and flu death is every bit as dangerous, faulty and antiscientific as the rhetoric of the religious extremists he chronicled in Religulous. As Orac beautifully put it:

He's an anti-vaccine, quackery-supporting font of flaming moronicity every bit as bad as Ken Ham, Michael Behe, or any flak from the Discovery Institute. His views on medicine are every bit as much ideology driven as any view on evolution from a creationist. Indeed, the vitalism from which Maher's germ theory denialism derives is every bit as much a mystical, religious viewpoint as that of the worst hard core young earth creationist. And he's the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award.

Good going, AAI.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Conservative Bible Project

Ugh! It has been a busy couple of weeks. After spending all of last week on a work trip, I came home... But guess where I am now? That's right, on a work trip. Busy busy busy...


The Conservative Bible Project. I can't not comment on this utter ridiculousness.

I can't not comment on this. Do you remember a few posts ago where I talked about how religious people cherrypick the bits of their holy books that illustrate their own philosophies? Both religious liberals and conservatives do this.

But few are so brazen about it as the people behind the Conservative Bible Project.

Andrew (son of Phyllis) Schlafly's Conservapedia has started a the CBP because, and I shit you not, they feel that the Bible has a liberal bias. their solution is, much as Conservapedia is to Wikipedia, to edit out all of the hippy dippy parts about not stoning adulterers but keep all the parts about guns and miniature American flags. Okay, maybe I'm being a TAD facetious on that last part, but only ever so slightly.

Jesus. H. Christ. On a bicycle.

This, of course, is quite frustrating, as the fundamentalists are swiftly depriving us of any opportunity to satirize them by going so much further than any satire could possibly imagine. (Indeed, Slactivist has a great post on that very topic. Check it out.)

Okay, now back to work for Patrick.