B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Various bits of religious news

Clinging to Bibles and Guns

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Never Seems To Smile
Never Seems To Smile

Yowsa. I think we need to seriously consider banning churches – too much violence, too many religious-minded people are murderers. 

Braxton, a member of the church, was sitting in a back overflow area when another congregant tapped him on the shoulder and told him he had taken an already-occupied seat.

Ushers and others chose to clear the area and let Braxton cool down. But Storms, who is a church member but has no official role at Keystone Fellowship, approached him.

Storms asked Braxton to step outside with him, and Braxton punched him in the face.

Storms told police he was “trying to stop him because I was afraid he was going to hurt me and other people,” according to an arrest affidavit filed in the case.

But firing a gun in a crowded church is “unreasonable,” Steele said Thursday, as is the suggestion that Storms acted in self-defense.

“This is a situation where a gun is introduced into a fistfight,” he said.

The arrest affidavit filed in the case noted that Braxton came to church “only armed with his Bible.”

(click here to continue reading Montco man charged in church-service killing – philly-archives.)


First Stop Guns
First Stop Guns

And on a serious note, Trump, and the rest of the NRA/GOP want to remove gun free zones from nearly everywhere, except in the halls of Congress and other similarly creepy places.

Written by Seth Anderson

June 1st, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Posted in religion

Tagged with , , ,

Christopher Hitchens and the Christian conversion that wasn’t

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Christopher Hitchens gets waterboarded

I was no fan of Christopher Hitchens’ politics, post-1998, especially as he became a cheerleader for George Bush’s illegal and immoral wars, but Hitchens was a clear-headed writer about religion, so count me among those skeptical of Hitchens suddenly converting to evangelical Christianity on his deathbed.

Our Lady of Perpetual Decay
Our Lady of Perpetual Decay

Matthew d’Ancona agrees:

In this respect the trail was blazed by the world’s great religions, which routinely claim recruits among the dying. Indeed, the faithful have form when it comes to falsifying deathbed conversions – notoriously so in the case of Darwin. In 1915 the evangelist Elizabeth Cotton, better known as Lady Hope of Carriden, declared that the great scientist, readying himself for the end in April 1882, had repudiated his life’s work (“How I wish I had not expressed my theory of evolution as I have done”) and asked her to gather an audience so he could “speak to them of Christ Jesus and His salvation”.

This was preposterous, and quickly dismissed as such. Darwin’s daughter, Henrietta Litchfield, was with her father at his deathbed and insisted that Lady Hope had not even visited him during his last illness. None of his family believed a word of her testimony.

Almost as flimsy is the Catholic church’s claim that Antonio Gramsci returned to the faith and died taking the sacraments. Though a former Vatican official maintained that the Marxist philosopher embraced Catholicism afresh shortly before his death in Rome in 1937, none of the official or personal documents relating to his last days support this extraordinary account.

It is in this context that one should consider the meretricious new book by Larry Alex Taunton, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist.

The religious knew that it was worth claiming the spiritual scalps of the founding father of evolution theory and of Italy’s pre-eminent Marxist. In our own era, a resourceful Alabamian evangelist is exploiting his friendship with Hitchens, who died in 2011, to allege that the author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything was, in fact, on a secret spiritual journey and halfway to embracing Jesus.

(click here to continue reading Christopher Hitchens and the Christian conversion that wasn’t | Matthew d’Ancona | Opinion | The Guardian.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 30th, 2016 at 9:26 am

Posted in religion

Tagged with ,

Bill Maher and Michael Moore discuss The Kings of Atheism – A New Film-in-the-making

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I forgot to write this up yesterday, but Bill Maher and Michael Moore discussed their new film idea on Overtime With Bill Maher (you’ll have to skip ahead about a minute to hear the beginning of Michael Moore’s response which leads to discussion of the film, or jump ahead to about the 3:30 mark to hear the exact discussion begin)


Watch ‘Overtime’: May 13, 2016:

Bill and his roundtable guests – Michael Moore, Jack Hunter, Katty Kay, Fmr. Sen. Bob Graham, and Jeremy Scahill – will answer viewer questions after this week’s show.


(Via Real Time with Bill Maher Blog)

The idea for The Kings of Atheism is simple: Michael Moore will follow around several atheist comedians as they tell religious-themed jokes in the Bible Belt area of the South. Bill Maher, Sarah Silverman, Ricky Gervais, Seth MacFarlane, and possibly others. Michael Moore says he is not an atheist, and playfully joked about a vengeful god sending down thunderbolts directed towards them, and not wanting to be there for that. 

I’d love to watch this film: make it happen guys!

Ricky Gervais has one of my favorite god jokes, paraphrased thus: “I don’t believe in any gods, if you are Christian or Muslim etc., you are nearly the same, you don’t believe in most of the gods humankind has created either.”

Ricky Gervais tells it better of course 

The dictionary definition of God is “a supernatural creator and overseer of the universe.” Included in this definition are all deities, goddesses and supernatural beings. Since the beginning of recorded history, which is defined by the invention of writing by the Sumerians around 6,000 years ago, historians have cataloged over 3700 supernatural beings, of which 2870 can be considered deities.

So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say “Oh which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra?…” If they say “Just God. I only believe in the one God,” I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me. I don’t believe in 2,870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2,869.

(click here to continue reading Ricky Gervais: Why I Don’t Believe in a God – WSJ.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 14th, 2016 at 9:43 am

Posted in Film,religion

Tagged with , ,

Nonreligious Americans Are Not Properly Represented By Government

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Getchyer Kitschhere
Getchyer Kitschhere.

Americans who are not religious have long been marginalized and ignored by politicians. And yet our numbers keep growing. When will the nonreligious get a representative who respects us? The opposite of Christian Taliban like Ted Cruz, in other words…

Susan Jacoby writes:

THE population of nonreligious Americans — including atheists, agnostics and those who call themselves “nothing in particular” — stands at an all-time high this election year. Americans who say religion is not important in their lives and who do not belong to a religious group, according to the Pew Research Center, have risen in numbers from an estimated 21 million in 2008 to more than 36 million now.

Despite the extraordinary swiftness and magnitude of this shift, our political campaigns are still conducted as if all potential voters were among the faithful. The presumption is that candidates have everything to gain and nothing to lose by continuing their obsequious attitude toward orthodox religion and ignoring the growing population of those who make up a more secular America.

The question is not why nonreligious Americans vote for these candidates — there is no one on the ballot who full-throatedly endorses nonreligious humanism — but why candidates themselves ignore the growing group of secular voters.

Never Seems To Smile
Never Seems To Smile


Freedom of conscience for all — which exists only in secular democracies — should be at the top of the list of shared concerns. Candidates who rightly denounce the persecution of Christians by radical Islamists should be ashamed of themselves for not expressing equal indignation at the persecution of freethinkers and atheists, as well as dissenting Muslims and small religious sects, not only by terrorists but also by theocracies like Saudi Arabia. With liberal religious allies, it would be easier for secularists to hold candidates to account when they talk as if freedom of conscience is a human right only for the religious.

Even more critical is the necessity of reclaiming the language of religious freedom from the far right. As defined by many pandering politicians, “religious freedom” is in danger of becoming code for accepting public money while imposing faith-based values on others.

Secularists must hold candidates to account when they insult secular values, whether that means challenging them in town hall meetings or withholding donations. Why, for example, would any secular Republican (yes, there are some) think of supporting the many Republican politicians who have denied the scientific validity of evolution? Politicians will continue to ignore secular Americans until they are convinced that there is a price to be paid for doing so.

“God bless America” has become the standard ending of every major political speech. Just once in my life, I would like the chance to vote for a presidential candidate who ends his or her appeals with Thomas Paine’s observation that “the most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason.”

(click here to continue reading Sick and Tired of ‘God Bless America’ – The New York Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 6th, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Johannes Kepler Had An Interesting Life

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Johannes Kepler 1610

Johannes Kepler had an interesting life; not only was his mentor the infamous silver-nosed drinker, Tycho Brahe, but his mother was tried as a witch…

More than 300 years after Salem’s famous trials, American popular culture remains preoccupied with the supposed witches of 17th-century Massachusetts. But we do not hear much about the women accused of witchcraft across the ocean during the same period in Württemberg, Germany. In “The Astronomer and the Witch: Johannes Kepler’s Fight for his Mother,” Ulinka Rublack, a professor of early modern history at the University of Cambridge, introduces us to one of these witches, Katharina Kepler, who was tried in Württemberg in 1615-21.

Katharina was the mother of Johannes Kepler, a key figure in the Scientific Revolution that had begun to sweep Europe. In 1609, as court astronomer to Emperor Rudolph II of Prague, Johannes used the remarkable naked-eye observations of his predecessor Tycho Brahe to discover that the planets orbit the sun in paths that are elliptical—overthrowing the belief in circular orbits that had held since Aristotle’s time and strengthening the arguments for a heliocentric universe. Johannes was a deeply religious Lutheran whose scientific work was imbued with spiritual beliefs. He cast horoscopes, listened to the “music of the spheres” and understood the cosmos to be a living organism possessed of a soul. Like most people of his time, he believed in the existence of witches.

Witchcraft trials in Germany were family affairs. A woman prosecuted as a witch had to rely for her legal defense on her husband, if she had one, and on her brothers and sons, if she did not. Widows were frequent targets of such accusations, because their right to engage in commercial activities—denied to other women—gave them an independence that went against the social order. Many widows, including Katharina, earned money as healers, using strange herbs and incantations. People feared the power of these women.

Katharina’s first accuser was her own son Heinrich, a ne’er-do-well who had returned home after 25 years of fighting as a mercenary throughout Europe. Angered that she did not have enough food on hand to satisfy him, he “publicly slandered her as a witch,” as Ms. Rublack recounts, and died soon afterward. His comment would come to haunt the trial, which was prompted by a persistent neighbor of Katharina, who claimed that she had become lame after drinking one of Katharina’s potions. Once Katharina was charged, other disturbing facts came to light, such as her request that a gravedigger exhume her father’s head so that she could fashion the skull into a drinking vessel. Hearing this, even Johannes wondered if there was something to the allegations.

What happened to Katharina Kepler is a morality tale about the dangers faced by independent, strong-willed and sometimes disagreeable women in Germany in early modern Europe. It is also a valuable reminder that the Scientific Revolution was made by men with deeply held spiritual, religious and metaphysical views, including the belief that there were witches all around them—even, perhaps, at home.

(click here to continue reading Science, Sorcery and Sons – WSJ.)

More grist for the biopic…

Stop The Witchcraft
Stop The Witchcraft

Written by Seth Anderson

January 29th, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Books,religion

Tagged with ,

You Should See the Film Called Spotlight (2015)

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I’m a lazy film reviewer, but I very much enjoyed seeing Spotlight, and you probably would too. 

Netflix will have it soon, or see it in the theatre

SPOTLIGHT tells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the city and cause a crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper’s tenacious “Spotlight” team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world. Directed by Academy Award-nominee Tom McCarthy, SPOTLIGHT is a tense investigative dramatic-thriller, tracing the steps to one of the biggest cover-ups in modern times.

  • Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes
  • Michael Keaton as Walter “Robby” Robin
  • Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer
  • Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian
  • Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron
  • John Slattery as Ben Bradlee, Jr.
  • Billy Crudup as Eric MacLeish

(click here to continue reading Spotlight (2015) – Rotten Tomatoes.)

Spotlight doesn’t resort to typical Hollywood clichés, there are zero car chases, there are no weapons being brandished, there isn’t a heart-pumping scene where a villain is just around the corner about to catch the hero as dramatic music swells, there is not even a heavy-handed monologue from some powerful higher-up at the Boston Globe trying to shut down the whole investigation. The reporters who make up the Spotlight team aren’t presented as larger-than-life super-humans, there are zero scenes about someone coming in drunk and belligerent, zero scenes about love-interests that have nothing to do with the plot, but simply exist to give “depth” to the character. The journalists slowly, methodically practice journalism, a dying art form. 

Instead, the film follows what actually happened as an investigative journalism team composed of Roman Catholics discovers how the institutions fail to protect the vulnerable. Cardinal Bernard Law doesn’t even get his comeuppance (in this lifetime, anyway). 

Wow. Highly recommended.

Written by Seth Anderson

December 8th, 2015 at 10:35 am

Quick Hitters – November 17th, 2015 Edition

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Well since the great Reeder / Delicious experiment failed, maybe I’ll try just posting this manually. If I had more mental energy, I’d craft responses to all these; instead I’ll leave that as an exercise to you, the reader, to imagine what I might have said…


 Rolling up on stage after HRC, O’Malley got in on the action himself. “Last night in the debate, Secretary Clinton, to try to mask her proximity to Wall Street and the huge amount of contributions she has received personally from the major banks of Wall Street, sadly invoked 9/11,” O’Malley said. “She doesn’t have to mask it. It is what it is. That is the sort of economy, that is the sort of economic advice she would follow.”

So far, so ordinary. A lot of the audience, and most of the media, had filtered out after HRC had finished her spot, so there was a corporal’s guard of largely white, largely elderly folks remaining when Cornel West took the stage to pitch Bernie Sanders, and then the day stopped being ordinary for everyone.

“What a blessing it is to be here,” West began. “All of my brothers and sisters of all colors here in central I-O-WA!”

Suddenly, the whole atmosphere of the day changed. Some of the people who’d stuck around looked on in something like awe. Some of them laughed and cheered. And, admittedly, more than a few of them looked as though they’d been hit over the head with a shovel. For West it didn’t matter. He’d started at a higher altitude and he very quickly lit the afterburners.

(click here to continue reading Cornel West Stumps for Bernie Sanders in Iowa.)


Indeed, it’s not clear that the talk of Christian refugees is meant, even by the loudest Republicans, to translate into the appearance of Syrian Christians in America, as opposed to being an acknowledgment that some of the crowds that cheer when they hear anti-immigrant rhetoric might have qualms of conscience. The problem, they can be told, is just that our Muslim-sympathizing, cowardly leaders would bring in the wrong refugees.

Christians are in danger in Syria. Their danger is distinct but not unique. The Yazidis, an even more isolated religious minority, has been a particular target of ISIS. Shiites and Alawites have been targeted, too. Refugee policies have at times rightly recognized the urgent danger that certain religious or otherwise distinct groups are in, and have properly responded. This is something quite different than saying, as Cruz does, that being a Muslim should be a basis for exclusion. Would he let in atheists, for that matter? It seems strange, when moderate Muslims are trying to distance themselves from a milieu of terror, that we would insist that such a thing is impossible. There are international and American laws that recognize people who need protection. There are principles of common decency which do the same. What they do not do is use faith, or the lack of it, as a basis for rejection. (America should have let in more Jewish refugees during the Second World War; that wouldn’t have meant turning away Thomas Mann.) And it is a brutal insult to Syrians who have gone through four and half years of carnage to say that the fact that they are Sunnis gives them some sort of immunity from ISIS or from the Assad regime. There are four million Syrian refugees outside of the country now, and many more inside it. There will likely be some bad people among them. That fact does not obviate their suffering. Taking more of them in can be an unpopular position at a moment when the news is full of speculation that one of the Paris attackers had passed through a refugee camp in Greece with a Syrian passport. But their desperation will not disappear if we lose interest in it; it may just take a different and more destructive form. We have a role in deciding where they will go next.

One of the more dishonest aspects of Cruz’s comments on Fox was his characterization of who the Syrian refugees are. He mentioned an estimate that, in the “early waves” of refugees entering Europe, “seventy-seven per cent of those refugees were young men. That is a very odd demographic for a refugee wave.” Perhaps it would be, if the number were accurate. A bare majority of the Syrian refugees are women, as FactCheck.org noted in September, when Ben Carson and Scott Walker raised similar alarms. About twenty-two per cent are men between the ages of eighteen and fifty-nine—a broad definition of “young.” Cruz is smart enough to know this. He may be referring to a number given for migrants who arrived in Europe, from nine different countries, by taking a specific, dangerous Mediterranean sea route in 2014 (seventy-two per cent). Among the two million Syrian refugees the United Nations has registered in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, a full thirty-eight per cent are under the age of twelve.

(click here to continue reading Ted Cruz’s Religious Test for Syrian Refugees – The New Yorker.)

“States lack legal authority to refuse to accept refugees (or any other immigrants) that are admitted by the federal [government],” [Adam Cox, a New York University Law School professor who is an expert in immigration and constitutional law] wrote in an email.

* And, of course…

“There are no barriers, no requirements in the Refugee Act of 1980 that indicate a governor has to give permission to resettle in a state,” [Anna Crosslin, the president of International Institut] said. “That’s all a federal process.”

That’s pretty obvious. We can’t just shut our state borders.

(click here to continue reading Capitol Fax.com – Your Illinois News Radar » Missing the point.)


He’s part news anchor, part gleeful nerd—a formula that’s almost scientific in its ability to deliver hard-core information with chasers of wit. In this, however, he was just giving us a kind of release.

“So here is where things stand. First, as of now, we know that this attack was carried out by gigantic fucking assholes, unconscionable, flaming assholes, possibly, possibly working with other fucking assholes, definitely working in service of an ideology of pure assholery,” he said. His audience began to laugh. “Second, and this goes almost without saying, Fuck these assholes!” The audience began to cheer. “Fuck them, if I may say, sideways!” He made some definitive hand gestures. Third, he said, nothing these assholes attempt is going to work. “France is going to endure. And I’ll tell you why. If you are in a war of culture and life style with France, good fucking luck!” More cheering. “Go ahead, go ahead. Bring your bankrupt ideology. They’ll bring Jean-Paul Sartre, Edith Piaf, fine wine, Gauloises cigarettes, Camus, Camembert, madeleines, macarons”—images of these appeared behind him as he spoke—“Marcel Proust, and the fucking croquembouche!” An image of what looked like a glazed-cream-puff Christmas tree popped up. He waved his hands and pointed at it. “The croquembouche! You just brought a philosophy of rigorous self-abnegation to a pastry fight, my friends. You are fucked! That is a French freedom tower!” The crowd howled with delight.

(click here to continue reading Vive John Oliver – The New Yorker.)
Funky Funky Christmas

During a press conference this morning, President Obama used the term “pop off” in reference to people making uninformed and patently ridiculous claims about what should be done with France and ISIS. And, unless I go outside today and witness a Sojourner Truth hologram double dutching with Marilyn Mosby, I’m very confident in declaring that the Black president dismissively referring to his haters the exact same way Loretha Lyon or Draymond Green or your barber or your best friend or you would have will be the Blackest thing that ever happened this week.

So Black, in fact, that instead of attempting to determine and assess exactly how Black it was, I’m more interested in how “folks wanna pop off” found its way into the President’s lexicon. Does he possess a reservoir of culturally relevant slang terms and colloquialisms that he employs when White people aren’t around? We know he code switches — we see it with every seven-step handshake, and his rendition of Amazing Grace during Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s eulogy is a first-ballot entry in the Code Switch Hall of Fame — but he’s also a 54-year-old man who hoops in Sam’s Club Nikes and tucks his shirt into his sweatpants. (No. seriously. He does.) He is, and will always be, cool in a macro sense. But, in micro sense, he, again, is a 54-year-old man who hoops in Sam’s Club Nikes and tucks his shirt into his sweatpants. This is not what cool people do. Cool people do, however, reflexively use “pop off” to address haters. President Obama is a paradox.

(click here to continue reading President Obama’s “Folks Wanna Pop Off” Is The Blackest Thing That Ever Happened This Week » VSB.)


ANTALYA, Turkey — President Barack Obama is sending a message to critics he says “pop off” with their opinions about the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State.

He says they should present a specific plan. And if his critics think their advisers are smarter than Obama’s, the president says, “I want to meet them.”

Obama says his sole interest is in keeping the American people safe. He says he’s not interested in doing what works politically or will make him or America look tough.

(click here to continue reading Obama decries critics who ‘pop off’ with opinions on IS – The Washington Post.)


It seems like it has taken an eternity, but the Roosevelt Road raised bikeway is finally getting the green paint and bike symbols that will turn it into a functional cycling route. This Chicago Department of Transportation initiative is part of a streetscaping project that involved widening the sidewalk along Roosevelt between State Street and Michigan Avenue to make room for the two-way bike lane.

(click here to continue reading Eyes on the Street: Roosevelt Raised Bike Lane Is Almost Ready to Ride | Streetsblog Chicago.)


Directly across the street stood a house painted in bright, horizontal rainbow stripes. The house had been bought, in 2012, by Planting Peace, a nonprofit group whose mission, according to its Web site, is “spreading peace in a hurting world.” The Equality House, as it’s known, is home to a group of young L.G.B.T. activists. Planting Peace has worked with former Westboro members to spread its message of tolerance. Megan first visited the house in 2013, after her cousin Libby encouraged her to visit. She sneaked in the back door, for fear of being spotted by her family.

Today, Megan and Grace’s only connection to Westboro is virtual. Although Phelps-Roper no longer believes that the Bible is the word of God, she still reads it to try to find scriptural arguments that could encourage Westboro to take a more humane approach to the world. Sometimes she’ll tweet passages, knowing that church members will see them. After they left the church, Megan and Grace were blocked from Westboro’s Twitter accounts, but they created a secret account to follow them. Sometimes, when her mother appears in a video, Megan will loop it over and over, just to hear her voice.

Fred Phelps died in March, 2014, at the age of eighty-four. Former members of the church told me that Fred had had a softening of heart at the end of his life and had been excommunicated.

(click here to continue reading Conversion via Twitter – The New Yorker.)


In some ways, his story mirrors that of Lassana Bathily, a young immigrant from Mali who hid a group of frightened shoppers from the assault at the Kosher supermarket in January. Both were Muslim, and both risked their lives for others while men claiming to represent their faith caused so much carnage. A contrast that perhaps illustrates the complex nature of Muslim relations in France. I asked him what he thought about the killers claiming their actions in the name of Islam. “This has nothing to do with religion.” “Real Muslims are not made for killing people,” he said. “These are criminals.”

(click here to continue reading Paris attacks: Restaurant worker who saved two women – BBC News.)


Governors of at least 20 U.S. states have now said they won’t accept additional refugees from Syria after the attacks Friday in Paris, which French officials say were masterminded by a Belgian who fought for the Islamic State in Syria. As of Monday evening, governors in five other states said they would welcome refugees as part of President Obama’s plan to accept 10,000 people in 2016 who are fleeing the Islamic State and Syria’s civil war.

That means at least half of governors have weighed in, even though they can’t block refugees from entering the United States (though they could complicate settlement within their states’ borders).

There is one stark, obvious difference between these two groups of states: the party that controls the statehouse. Just one of the 20 governors who oppose taking in more refugees is a Democrat: Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.

(click here to continue reading Governors Who Want To Ban Syrian Refugees Have Something In Common | FiveThirtyEight.)

Doonesbury - Texas Secession
Doonesbury – Texas Secession

Californium is an upcoming first-person game inspired by science fiction author Philip K. Dick. It seems to be about a writer who “slips” between different realities as his life falls apart.

If you’ve any familiarity with Dick, you’ll know that most of his fiction — which has been made into movies like Total Recall, Through a Scanner Darkly, and Blade Runner — deals with the conflict between paranoid characters and the world around them, which may or may not confirm their darkest fears.

Californium is vividly illustrated by French artist Oliver Bonhomme, wh may be the perfect fit for this sort of surreal story about Elvin Green, a sentimental writer with not too many prospects. You become Green in the story, discovering a break up letter from your wife, an editor who fires you, and other such travails.

(click here to continue reading Upcoming Philip K Dick-inspired game is appropriately bizarre | Cult of Mac.)

For most of U.S. history, cities and towns were not eligible for bankruptcy protection. But during the Great Depression, more than 2,000 municipalities defaulted on their debt, and they pleaded with President Roosevelt for a federal bailout. “All they got was sympathy,” reported Time magazine in 1933. Instead, Roosevelt pushed through changes to the bankruptcy laws that allow towns and cities to file for bankruptcy. They even got their own section of the bankruptcy code: Chapter Nine.

(click here to continue reading What Happens When City Hall Goes Bankrupt? : NPR.)


The long-rumored Apple store at the gateway to the North Michigan Avenue shopping district won’t be a 2.0 version of the famous glass cube that forms an iconic entry into the retailer’s Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan. It would be more like a high-tech version of Frank Lloyd Wright’s quintessentially Midwestern Prairie Style homes, with river views to boot.

Soon-to-be-unveiled plans for the store call for a glass-sheathed temple of computing near the historic Michigan Avenue bridge and grand flights of stairs that would cascade from street level to the walkway along the Chicago River’s north bank. These details are outlined in a report from the city’s Department of Planning and Development, a draft copy of which was obtained by the Tribune.

(click here to continue reading Apple store on Chicago River: An exclusive first look at plans – Chicago Tribune.)https://farm1.staticflickr.com/531/18578039911_eff2134bb6_n.jpg

Written by Seth Anderson

November 18th, 2015 at 9:44 am

We don’t go to church, we go for a walk

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There's A Place From Where I Came
There’s A Place From Where I Came.  

Speaking of silence, this quote from Björk is my favorite thing I’ve read this week…

I was brought up in the suburbs of Reykjavík,” says Björk, sitting in a small cafe in the heart of the Icelandic capital while the rain skitters about outside. “I lived next to the last block of flats, and then it was moss and tundra. I used to walk a lot on my own and sing at the top of my lungs. I think a lot of Icelandic people do this. You don’t go to church or a psychotherapist – you go for a walk and feel better.”

Iceland’s most celebrated musician is feeling particularly impassioned about her homeland: she had just held a press conference to raise awareness of the threat to the Icelandic highlands, an area of extraordinary beauty and ecological diversity that may be irreparably damaged by plans to lay a subsea power cable to the UK, accompanied by above-ground power stations and infrastructure.

(click here to continue reading Bjork on Iceland: ‘We don’t go to church, we go for a walk’ | Music | The Guardian.)

Much of my childhood was spent in the wilderness of Ontario, in the magical land of Frostpocket. Frostpocket, and surrounding Machar Township, and South River, Ontario, might not have the breathtaking landscapes of Iceland, but Frostpocket has its own kind of beauty. As a kid I was lucky enough to (mostly) avoid being forced to go to church, my religion was the same as Björk: go take a walk. Singing was optional, but definitely not forbidden. This is still my religion, wherever and whenever I can take a long walk, I feel refreshed.

We just need a good name for our religion so we can get tax breaks, and convert more people to the precepts…

Written by Seth Anderson

November 16th, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Posted in religion

Tagged with

Ted Cruz Isn’t Fit To Be President, Part 234,234

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God Is Ugly
God Is Ugly

If you had any doubts, Ted “Calgary” Cruz is not fit to be President of the US. At the very least, he should be required to read the U.S. Constitution at least once.

Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Friday that he believes anyone who wants to be president must fear God and pray daily.

Speaking at the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, Cruz joined other GOP presidential candidates for a discussion about the persecution of Christians in the U.S. and around the world. After some very extreme, very weird comments about homosexuality, right-wing pastor Kevin Swanson introduced Cruz to the stage to ask him how important it was for candidates to submit to Jesus Christ as “the king of the President of the United States.”

“Any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief of this country,” responded Cruz.

Atheists are one of the most politically underrepresented groups in the U.S. According to the most recent Pew survey on religious affiliation, about 3 percent of Americans identify as atheist and 4 percent identify as “agnostic,” all part of the nearly 23 percent who say they’re “unaffiliated” with any particular religion. Despite those numbers, there are no openly atheist members of Congress, and only a handful of U.S. politicians who identify as unaffiliated, or who have chosen not to identify a specific religion.

(click here to continue reading Ted Cruz: An Atheist ‘Isn’t Fit To Be’ President.)

The video footage is here, if you have the stomach to listen to his smarmy voice…

Since Ted “Calgary” Cruz is supposed to be so smart, perhaps he just forgot what Article 6 actually says:

All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the US., shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

(click here to continue reading Article Six of the United States Constitution – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Somebody Please Tell This Machine I'm Not A Machine
Somebody Please Tell This Machine I’m Not A Machine

Maybe Cruz is just talking about oral sex? 

Written by Seth Anderson

November 9th, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Ted Cruz and Kim Davis Needs to Read the Bible Again

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Keep Your Confidence
Keep Your Confidence

Gregg Easterbrook has an excellent essay in The New Yorker about the phony Christians publicly rallying around Kim Davis and other members of the Christian Taliban who want to impose Evangelical Law which is basically Sharia Law. I’d also like to hear Mike “Sanctimonious” Huckabee answer why if his faith is so important, he is without a beard…

It’s undeniable that the earliest scripture books, the ones Christians call the Pentateuch and Jews call the Torah, don’t like same-sex relations. At the Garden of Eden, God decrees that a man will be the husband and a woman the wife. (See the second and third chapters of Genesis, ideally a scholarly translation such as the New Revised Standard; this article cites the N.R.S.V.) In Leviticus 18:22, the text states, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” In 20:13, Leviticus specifies that both parties in male-male sex shall “be put to death.”

That seems open-and-shut, though one might wonder why Davis, Cruz, Huckabee and the like seek only to deny gays marriage, rather than execute them as God decreed.

But here’s the thing. Christian theology says the New Testament amends the Old: what happened in the days of the apostles amends what came long before. Acts 13:39: “By this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” (Acts is the founding text of Pentecostalism.) Jesus overturned existing law about sin, the Sabbath, the afterlife and many other matters. His ministry proclaimed “a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” (II Corinthians 3:6.) “Letter” in this context means archaic law—that is, the law Davis, Cruz, and Huckabee want applied today.

When conservative Christians justify opposition to gay relations by citing ancient scripture, by the most amazing coincidence they don’t mention the other stuff there. The ancient passages that denounce same-sex relations also denounce eating shellfish and trimming one’s beard. The Christian who says God forbids homosexuality – then shaves before going out for dinner at Red Lobster – is speaking from both sides of his mouth.

In Leviticus, the Old Testament book that calls homosexuality an abomination, God not only sanctions but encourages slavery. Leviticus 25:44–46 , spells out rules for seizing, holding, and selling slaves. And there’s no estate tax: slaves may be kept “as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property.” In Deuteronomy 21:18–21, near the passages on the abomination of same-sex relations, ancient scripture directs that a disobedient child be taken by his parents to the city gate and stoned to death.

If banning homosexuality is “God’s authority” to a modern Christian, ritual murder of children ought to be as well. So why don’t today’s Judeo-Christians believe in slavery and filicide? For mainstream Jews, some ancient doctrine has been reinterpreted by rabbinical commentary or civil law; for Christians, premises of ancient scripture have been amended. This happened first via the middle prophets Isaiah and Hosea, who came centuries after ancient scripture—biblical tip: the key that unlocks the beauty of Abrahamic faith is the seldom read Book of Hosea—and then through the ministry of the Redeemer.

What does the New Testament say about homosexuality and gay marriage? Silence on the latter; on the former, there’s one reference. In his Letter to the Romans, verses 1:26-27, Paul observes of idol worshippers, “Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”

(click here to continue reading Kim Davis Needs to Read the Bible Again – The New Yorker.)

Either Or
Either Or

Ms. Davis and Mike Huckabee, and Ted Cruz, and the rest are not following their own religion’s text, in other words. Do they wear blends of wool and cotton? Are the men clean-shaven? Yes, so they have chosen to ignore parts of Leviticus, and commandments in other books, the parts that are inconvenient to their hypocrisy, surprising nobody. 

Furthermore, in the New Testament, Paul was pretty anti-sex – including between men and women. As Easterbrook continues:

many church-married, monogamous, man-woman, devout Christian couples engage in acts once thought perversion. Beyond this, Paul frowned on all sexual interaction, including by men and women married to each other. (I Corinthians 7:29.) The apostles evinced no interest in any form of carnality. Jesus never wed, and if he experienced erotic longing, the specifics are lost to history. The Old Testament is chock-full with lust and rape: by the New Testament, it’s as if sex has gone out of style. Those who beheld Jesus bathed in the glory of the resurrection believed the long-dreamt golden age about to arrive. Sex just didn’t seem terribly important compared to that.

Biblical Accuracy
Biblical Accuracy

and the Bible is so contradictory to our modern society, most practitioners pick and choose which parts to ignore, and which to follow:

Of course, believers of all stripes pick and choose. Liberal Christians avert their eyes from Christ’s near-absolute ban on divorce, in Matthew 5:32. Wealthy Christians ignore their Redeemer’s warning that the rich are barred from heaven, in Matthew 19:24. Most Christians would rather not know that Jesus said to give to panhandlers, in Luke 6:30. Right now, the mainly Christian leaders of the European Union don’t seem concerned that Jesus said that only helping the destitute counts in the eyes of God. (Christ says, in Luke 6:33, “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.”) Republican candidates thumping their chests about how admirably Christian they are skip the fact that Christ banned exactly such puffery. (Matthew 6:1 reads, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”) The Israeli right pounds the table about ancient scripture, but skips Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

Iota Eta Sigma
Iota Eta Sigma

Parenthetically, Kim Davis broke another commandment and is breaking it every day she stays married to her current husband, as noted by Steve Wells:

But there is another fact that isn’t as well known: Kim Davis’s current husband is one of her former husbands, which means that her current marriage is an “abomination before the Lord.”

When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. Deuteronomy 24:1-4

The Bible says nothing about same-sex marriage.* But it clearly says that Kim Davis’s current marriage is an abomination to God. Maybe she should rescind her own marriage license, rather than refuse to give them to others.

* It just says that sex between males is an abomination.

** I wonder which abomination is worse to the god of the Bible? Kim Davis’s marriage or sex between males?

**And that Bible-believers should kill men who have sex with men. (Rather than just refuse to give them marriage licenses.)

(click here to continue reading Dwindling In Unbelief: Kim Davis’s marriage to her former husband is an “abomination before the Lord.”.)

Bottom line, the members of this sect should read their own sacred texts a bit more closely, or else just shut up. Preferably both…

Written by Seth Anderson

September 13th, 2015 at 9:44 am

Posted in politics,religion

Tagged with

Those Who Despise The Constitution Should Not Remain In Office Nor Run For President

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Jesus Hoards
Jesus Hoards

You’ve probably heard about Kim Davis, an elected official in KY who has unilaterally claimed the extra right to decide which biblical injunctions people should follow, based on her interpretation of particular verses, and not others. Note that Kim Davis swore an oath to her god to uphold the Constitution, the same document that does not mention God. In other words, she is sinning when she breaks her oath. 

As Noah Feldman puts it:

Whom you swear the oath by is different from what you swear to do. Officials in the U.S. definitively don’t swear to uphold God’s law. They swear to uphold the Constitution, which never mentions God at all. And they swear to uphold laws enacted under the Constitution — which means laws that are in compliance with the establishment clause that prohibits any established or official religion.

That’s the main reason the framers didn’t include God in the oath of office. It would’ve contradicted the proposition in the Constitution that said no religious test would ever be required to hold office under the Constitution.

But by saying she won’t issue the marriage licenses while serving in office, Davis is also, if I may humbly say so, committing a sin: violating an oath she made before God to uphold the Constitution and laws of the U.S. The Constitution requires her to issue licenses for gay couples. Every moment she disobeys the Constitution, she is violating her oath. The Bible doesn’t look kindly on oath-breaking. The only way for her to emerge from the state of sin is to resign.


(click here to continue reading What the Oath of Office Means to a Kentucky Clerk – Bloomberg View.)

Wages of Sin and a Pink Caddy
Wages of Sin and a Pink Caddy

and as Andy Ostroy writes in his open letter to Kim Davis:

You have no inalienable rights here under the United States Constitution. In fact, the Constitution protects the very people you are discriminating against, not you. The Supreme Court has affirmed that fact, despite your ignorance, intolerance and ill-advised protestations.

We have laws in America which we all must abide by. We can’t arbitrarily decide which laws to follow and which ones to ignore. That’s called chaos. Let me ask you this, Kim: in a country founded on the principle of separation of church and state and religious pluralism, would any of the following situations be acceptable to you?:

-can an Orthodox Jew refuse to issue marriage licenses to reform and conservative Jews because, according to his religious belief, these are not “real Jews?”

-can a radical Mormon insist on issuing licenses to polygamists?

-can a devout Catholic county clerk refuse to issue you a marriage license after your next (4th) divorce because he believes that marriage is sacred and considers you a sinner?

-can an Atheist refuse to issue licenses to Christians because her religious belief is that organized religion is the root of all evil?

These situations are as absurdly unconstitutional as your attempt to deny gays their legal right to marry because of your personal religious beliefs. The irony is, as a thrice divorced “traditional marriage” proponent, you have degraded this institution more than any gay couple likely ever will. No one’s stood in the way of your choice to marry four times. How dare you prevent others from marrying?

(click here to continue reading An Open Letter to Kim Davis | Andy Ostroy.)

 Don't Ask Me To Believe In Too Many Things

Don’t Ask Me To Believe In Too Many Things

More troubling to me than Christian Taliban like Ms. Davis are the candidates for the GOP nomination who gnash their teeth at the US Constitution, and who would rather have their Evangelical Law supersede the American government. A variant of Sharia Law, but one that elevates right wing Christian precepts and theology above established jurisprudence. These radicals should lose their citizenship and be deported. Bomb throwers like Ted “Calgary” Cruz:

Today, judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny,” [Ted Cruz] said. “Today, for the first time ever, the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith. . . . I stand with Kim Davis. Unequivocally.”

Tyranny? Our system of government gives the Supreme Court final say over constitutional matters, and, though Cruz doesn’t like it, the court ordered states to recognize same-sex marriages. In fact, the high court specifically declined to give relief to Davis, and the federal judge who ordered her jailed for contempt of court is a George W. Bush appointee and son of a former Republican senator.

Now Cruz, who took an oath of office to “support and defend the Constitution,” wants people to defy the Supreme Court’s authority? Who is the lawless one?

Cruz isn’t the only Republican candidate seeking the nation’s highest office while encouraging people to ignore its laws. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, declared: “I thank God for Kim Davis, and I hope more Americans will stand with her.”

(click here to continue reading Lawbreaker Kim Davis and the lawless Ted Cruz – The Washington Post.)

These morons should be banned from running for president, at least under the auspices of a major party. Let them run as an independent on the Destroy the United States and All It Stands For Party. Hmm, maybe they already are…

These morons too:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, too, supported Davis, and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) called her jailing “absurd” and said stands such as Davis’s are “an important part of the American way.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said that “you have the freedom to practice religious beliefs out there. It’s a fundamental right.”

 Our system of government allows for freedom of speech, mostly, and freedom of religion, mostly, but if you are an official of the government, you have a clear obligation to support the system itself. You’ve taken an oath, remember? 

Here is the oath Kim Davis took:

“I, ….., do swear that I will well and truly discharge the duties of the office of ………….. County Circuit Court clerk, according to the best of my skill and judgment, making the due entries and records of all orders, judgments, decrees, opinions and proceedings of the court, and carefully filing and preserving in my office all books and papers which come to my possession by virtue of my office; and that I will not knowingly or willingly commit any malfeasance of office, and will faithfully execute the duties of my office without favor, affection or partiality, so help me God.”

and here is the Senator’s oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

(click here to continue reading 5 Briefing on Oath of Office.)

Sounds to me like Senator Cruz and his craven pals are breaking this oath, and thus should be impeached themselves, and barred from running for public office in the future…

Written by Seth Anderson

September 5th, 2015 at 9:35 am

Ganesha of the Wine Corks was uploaded to Flickr

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embiggen by clicking

I took Ganesha of the Wine Corks on May 22, 2015 at 11:36AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on May 22, 2015 at 04:37PM

from Wikipedia:
Ganesha is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom. As the god of beginnings, he is honoured at the start of rituals and ceremonies. Ganesha is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions.

Written by eggplant

May 22nd, 2015 at 10:09 am

Going Clear and the Ridiculousness of Tax Exemption for Religious Organizations

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Ideas and Not Battles…
Ideas and Not Battles…

I hope you’ve seen, or plan to see, the documentary by Alex Gibney called Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Besides the whole insanity of Xenu, and thetans and Suppressive Persons, a big question raised is why exactly did the IRS classify L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction stories as a religion, entitled to evade taxes? Was it a result of Operation Snow White? Or some other reason?

The latter half of Going Clear delineates how David Miscavige uses the above dogma to create a financial empire built on celebrity outreach, with the organization’s Celebrity Centre being a major landmark, and Hubbard’s directive of “fair game” (i.e., harassment and threats to enemies labeled “suppressive persons”). The result is extensive research and testimony based on the experiences of former church members, some of them former senior members, with allegations of torture, labor camps, re-education camps, human trafficking, and a non-profit religion that has at least $1.5 billion in the bank. If you or I paid someone who worked for us 40 cents an hour or forced someone to mop a bathroom with their tongue, we would probably be looking at spending some time in a courtroom.

However, because Scientology has tax-exempt status as a religion, these practices are protected by the First Amendment as “self-inflicted” punishments by adherents of a religion.

That tax-exempt status was also important in saving Scientology from bankruptcy. Going Clear asserts the church was looking at a $1 billion tax bill in 1993 after fighting the IRS for decades. Not only was the tax debt forgiven, but the classification of Scientology as a religion also means sales of Dianetics and other Hubbard books are not taxed either, since they’re considered “religious texts.” And all of this is supposed to be given a happy face by trotting out celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and others so they can peddle Scientology in other countries and attempt religious recognition in Europe and elsewhere. However, Cruise is shown to be the equivalent of manipulated royalty within the church. Church insiders paint a picture of him as pampered and coddled to be Scientology’s ambassador to the world, with his every whim attended to, but Miscavige dictates who can be close to Cruise and is jealously protective of his own relationship with the star. And Travolta is implied to be either indifferent to the religion’s abuses or a “captive” who stays in his place because of the threat of blackmail.

(click here to continue reading ‘Going Clear’ offers a devastating exposé of greed and abuse.)

Truthfully, I don’t understand why any mega-rich church gets to be tax exempt. My taxes partially go to support schools, I don’t object to that despite me having no children of my own. I understand the idea of the public good – a well educated society is better for all of us. I pay for the park district, and I don’t object to that. I use the parks, I am happy to see others using the parks, families, dogs, whatever. But what good to society is Scientology doing? or any of us who aren’t Tom Cruise or John Travolta?

I don’t think the Catholic Church should be tax-exempt either, but at least they seem to do a small amount of good for the public – soup kitchens, outreach, etc. What is Scientology doing for the community? Other than separating rubes from their money? 

The Nonprofit Risk Management Center reports that more than 100 501(c)(3) organizations are stripped of their tax-exempt status each year. The reasons can vary, covering the violation of laws that govern private benefits, lobbying, political campaign activity, unrelated business income, the obligation to report annually and maintaining operation in accord with stated exempt purpose.…

According to the film, Church of Scientology Chairman David Miscavige ordered the organization’s members to file individual lawsuits against the IRS for its failure to recognize it as a church. Overwhelmed by 2,400 individual suits and the prospect of defending itself against all of them, the IRS agreed to grant Scientology tax-exempt status in exchange for the withdrawal of the cases.

A 2011 tax filing reveals that the three organizations comprising Scientology claim a combined value of $1.5 billion, a sum that has allegedly been built on the backs of members who pay thousands of dollars to rise within the organization, are paid 40 cents an hour for labor and have been tortured for dissent, combined with the organization’s vast international property portfolio. “This issue is not about whether Scientology is a religion,” Gibney told TheWrap. “The issue is whether or not Scientology is pursuing policies that are not in the public interest.” The government simply needs to determine whether there’s a “fundamental overriding interest” in declassifying an organization involved in the above activities as exempt from taxation.

According to the IRS website, to be tax-exempt, an “organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.” An IRS representative told TheWrap he’s unable to comment on whether there’s currently an investigation into any organizations or individual cases.

(click here to continue reading HBO’s ‘Going Clear’ Triggers New Scrutiny of Scientology’s Tax-Exempt Status.)

Church of Scientology London
Church of Scientology London

So how exactly did the Scientologists get the IRS to reverse itself? There are many still unanswered questions:

For 25 years, I.R.S. agents had branded Scientology a commercial enterprise and refused to give it the tax exemption granted to churches. The refusals had been upheld in every court. But that night the crowd learned of an astonishing turnaround. The I.R.S. had granted tax exemptions to every Scientology entity in the United States.…The landmark reversal shocked tax experts and saved the church tens of millions of dollars in taxes. More significantly, the decision was an invaluable public relations tool in Scientology’s worldwide campaign for acceptance as a mainstream religion. On the basis of the I.R.S. ruling, the State Department formally criticized Germany for discriminating against Scientologists. The German Government regards the organization as a business, not a tax-exempt religion, the very position maintained for 25 years by the American Government.

The full story of the turnabout by the I.R.S. has remained hidden behind taxpayer privacy laws for nearly four years. But an examination by The New York Times found that the exemption followed a series of unusual internal I.R.S. actions that came after an extraordinary campaign orchestrated by Scientology against the agency and people who work there. Among the findings of the review by The Times, based on more than 30 interviews and thousands of pages of public and internal church records, were these:

*Scientology’s lawyers hired private investigators to dig into the private lives of I.R.S. officials and to conduct surveillance operations to uncover potential vulnerabilities, according to interviews and documents. One investigator said he had interviewed tenants in buildings owned by three I.R.S. officials, looking for housing code violations. He also said he had taken documents from an I.R.S. conference and sent them to church officials and created a phony news bureau in Washington to gather information on church critics. The church also financed an organization of I.R.S. whistle-blowers that attacked the agency publicly.

*The decision to negotiate with the church came after Fred T. Goldberg Jr., the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service at the time, had an unusual meeting with Mr. Miscavige in 1991. Scientology’s own version of what occurred offers a remarkable account of how the church leader walked into I.R.S. headquarters without an appointment and got in to see Mr. Goldberg, the nation’s top tax official. Mr. Miscavige offered to call a halt to Scientology’s suits against the I.R.S. in exchange for tax exemptions.

After that meeting, Mr. Goldberg created a special committee to negotiate a settlement with Scientology outside normal agency procedures. When the committee determined that all Scientology entities should be exempt from taxes, I.R.S. tax analysts were ordered to ignore the substantive issues in reviewing the decision, according to I.R.S. memorandums and court files.

The I.R.S. refused to disclose any terms of the agreement, including whether the church was required to pay back taxes, contending that it was confidential taxpayer information. The agency has maintained that position in a lengthy court fight, and in rejecting a request for access by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act. But the position is in stark contrast to the agency’s handling of some other church organizations. Both the Jimmy Swaggart Ministries and an affiliate of the Rev. Jerry Falwell were required by the I.R.S. to disclose that they had paid back taxes in settling disputes in recent years.

(click here to continue reading Scientology’s Puzzling Journey From Tax Rebel to Tax Exempt – NYTimes.com.)

Xenu dot Net
Xenu dot Net

From the IRS manual, your organization only needs to check these boxes off to be classified as a religion, and not even check all the boxes:

The Service considers all the facts and circumstances in determining whether an organization is a church, including whether the organization has the following characteristics:

  • a distinct legal existence
  • a recognized creed and form of worship
  • a definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
  • a formal code of doctrine and discipline
  • a distinct religious history
  • a membership not associated with any other church or denomination
  • a complete organization of ordained ministers ministering to their congregations
  • ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study
  • a literature of its own
  • established places of worship
  • regular congregations
  • regular religious services
  • Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young
  • schools for the preparation of its ministers

The above list of 14 church characteristics (first published by the Service in 1978 as a news release, IR–1930) is not exclusive—any other facts and circumstances that may bear upon the organization’s claim for church status must also be considered.

An organization need not have all of the characteristics (few churches do, and newly-created churches cannot be expected to); thus, no single characteristic is controlling.

Some of the characteristics may be given more weight than others in a given case.

(click here to continue reading Internal Revenue Manual – 7.26.2 Private Foundations Defined – IRC 509(a)(1) Exlcusions (Other Than IRC 170(b)(1)(A)(vi)) and IRC 509(a)(4) Exclusion.)

Church of Scientology
Church of Scientology

Written by Seth Anderson

March 31st, 2015 at 11:46 am

Posted in News-esque,religion

Tagged with , , ,

Yes, I Judge Your Politics

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What Have We Done Wrong?
What Have We Done Wrong?

Jonathan Chait has a nice piece in the New York Magazine responding to David Brooks’ latest bit of twaddle (which you can read here if you are bored or a masochist)

American politics may have been much less partisan in the 1960s, but it was not lacking in hypermoralization. Indeed, it was far more violent. You had white supremacists murdering civil-rights activists in Mississippi, police brutalizing protestors in Chicago, and construction workers beating up hippies in New York City. That angry, hypermoralized politics took place outside of, or within, parties rather than between them.

There are millions of Americans who think it’s okay to deny legal citizens their voting rights or force them to go without health insurance. Those people live in a different moral universe than I do. They’re not necessarily bad people. (Lord knows the people who agree with me on those things are not all good.) But, yes, I believe their political views reflect something unflattering about their character.

(click here to continue reading I’m a ‘Partyist,’ and Yes, I Judge Your Politics — NYMag.)

Yes, count me in the camp that believes in small “d” democracy. If a political party can only seize power by disenfranchising voters through poll taxes, or other duplicitous means, than that party is corrupt. Even dudes who make a living collecting scrap metal have human dignity, and should have a say in their own governance, however small their participation really is in practice. One person, one vote, not one dollar, one vote.

And to Mr. Chait (and David Brooks) larger point: would I want my daughter to marry a Tea Party friendly, Rush Limbaugh reciting, mouth breathing, 6,000 year old Earther who believes the Rapture is approaching? No, I would not. I don’t think they would be worthy of continuing my DNA’s long journey to Alpha Centauri. But, because I am a liberal, if I had a daughter, I wouldn’t get to choose who she loves, I just wouldn’t have to like it.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 31st, 2014 at 7:54 am

Posted in politics,religion

Tagged with ,

Cardinal Dolan and extravagant lifestyles

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Cardinal Dolan (and the New York Times) have a much different idea of what an extravagant lifestyle than I do. Maybe since Cardinal Dolan spends so much of his day appearing on Fox News to fulminate against the Affordable Care Act and related topics, he’s been influenced by their corruption and hypocrisy. Or else, he’s just clueless. Probably the latter

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan lives in a 19th-century Madison Avenue mansion that connects to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. A cook and two housekeepers serve him and three other priests. A driver chauffeurs him around, though in a Chrysler minivan.

It is a comfortable, if not necessarily extravagant, lifestyle, one in keeping with that of past archbishops of New York. But in the age of Pope Francis, who has captured the world’s imagination by rejecting many luxurious trappings of the papacy, is the cardinal’s lifestyle humble enough?

(click here to continue reading In Era of Humble Pope, Earth Shifts Under Cardinal Dolan – NYTimes.com.)

Dom Sub Invoc S Hedwigis
Dom Sub Invoc S Hedwigis

What do you think? Is having a driver, a cook, and two housekeepers who live in your house normal? I wish I had the financial wherewithal to afford one live-in housekeeper. Not to mention living in a mansion: the New York Archdiocese owns the entire square block from 5th Ave to Madison, and from 50th street to 51st, and of course everything the Church owns is tax free. Doesn’t quite fit the model of Christ, does it? How is that unbridled opulence helping to feed the poor, comfort the afflicted? Perhaps you recall the biblical parable about the rich man, a story so important it is told in three New Testament books (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) – copyright rules were much different in those days:

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

(click here to continue reading Matthew 19 NIV – The Rich and the Kingdom of God- Bible Gateway.)

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is[e] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

(click here to continue reading Mark 10 NIV – The Rich and the Kingdom of God- Bible Gateway.)

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

(click here to continue reading Luke 18 NIV – The Rich and the Kingdom of God – Bible Gateway.)

I could go on, but you get the point…

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.

(click here to continue reading Luke 6 NIV – Blessings and Woes – One – Bible Gateway.)

5 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.

3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.

4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.

(click here to continue reading James 5 KJV – Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl – Bible Gateway.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 27th, 2014 at 4:20 am