Churchgoers forced to pay parking gods to pray

Poor, poor Christians, forced to pay the city a pittance. Not forced to pay property taxes or anything like that, but even contributing nickles and dimes is apparently too much of a burden.

No Parking


Churchgoers forced to pay to pray: Ever since the steeple of Chicago’s First United Methodist Church went up across the street from City Hall in the 1830s, worshippers have sought a place to hitch their horse or park their station wagon to pray.

But since the city privatized its parking meters last year, more churchgoers have encountered unanswered prayers for parking. Pricey meters and restricted curbside parking now surround historic houses of worship in the Loop, forcing the faithful to pay to pray or get free parking by volunteering for soup kitchens, tutoring or other ministries.

Some pastors are pushing the city to consider what churches contribute to city life and ease parking restrictions for congregants, especially on Sunday mornings when commercial and government traffic is light.

(Via Churchgoers forced to pay to pray.)

Fixing Another Parking Meter

If churches whine themselves into special treatment, I’m petitioning various businesses I frequent to become churches too; restaurants, bars, retail, whatever. Only makes sense, right? Food can be a transcendent experience, better than any bible thumping, at least for me. In fact, I’m declaring that I am a Church, so I demand the right to park anywhere in the City of Chicago for free, at any time.

Religion and Sex Quiz


Nicholas Kristof has a great quiz for you students of Christianity and its Holy Book. You’ll be surprised by a lot of the answers, such as:

The Bible suggests “marriage” is:

a. The lifelong union of one man and one woman.

b. The union of one man and up to 700 wives.

c. Often undesirable, because it distracts from service to the Lord.

(click here to continue reading Religion and Sex Quiz –

What did you guess?

The answer(s):

A, B and C. The Bible limits women to one husband, but other than that is all over the map. Mark 10 envisions a lifelong marriage of one man and one woman. But King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (I Kings 11:3). And Matthew (Matthew 19:10-12) and St. Paul (I Corinthians 7) both seem to suggest that the ideal approach is to remain celibate and avoid marriage if possible, while focusing on serving God. Jesus (Matthew 19:12) even seems to suggest that men make themselves eunuchs, leading the early church to ban enthusiasts from self-castration.

Don't Outlive Your Money

Or what about:

The people of Sodom were condemned principally for:

a. Homosexuality.

b. Blasphemy.

c. Lack of compassion for the poor and needy.

What did you guess? The answer was c.

C. “Sodomy” as a term for gay male sex began to be commonly used only in the 11th century and would have surprised early religious commentators. They attributed Sodom’s problems with God to many different causes, including idolatry, threats toward strangers and general lack of compassion for the downtrodden. Ezekiel 16:49 suggests that Sodomites “had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”

Hmm. “Did not aid the poor and needy.” Who knew that that’s what the Bible condemns as sodomy? At a time of budget cuts that devastate the poor, isn’t that precisely the kind of disgusting immorality that we should all join together in the spirit of the Bible to repudiate?

Kinda rules out most of the holier-than-thou Republicans running or considering running for president in 2012, no?

There’s more here, about abortion (not mentioned), homosexuality (conflicting information), pornography (Umm, read much of Song of Songs lately?), and more.

Wordle: Rapture Ridicule Week

Best Songs for The Rapture

The End of the World Is Nigh

I’m sure I’m missing a few songs since this playlist took about ten minutes to compile, but here’s a good start for an End of the World Party soundtrack.

  1. MinutemenGod Bows to Math
    Double Nickels on the Dime
  2. Jimi Hendrix Experience…And The Gods Made Love
    Electric Ladyland
  3. Sun Kil MoonJesus Christ Was An Only Child
    Tiny Cities
  4. Dandy WarholsGodless
    Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia
  5. Big StarJesus Christ
    Keep an Eye on the Sky
  6. PoguesIf I Should Fall From Grace With God
    If I Should Fall From Grace With God
  7. Billy Joe ShaverJesus Christ, What A Man
    Old Five and Dimers Like Me
  8. Fahey, JohnIn Christ There Is No East Or West
    John Fahey, Peter Lang, Leo Kottke
  9. SloanIt’s Not the End of the World
    Never Hear the End of it
  10. A.A. BondyWorld Without End
    American Hearts
  11. Jello Biafra Mojo NixonJesus Was A Terrorist
    Sky Is Falling & I Want My Mommy
  12. Count BasieDark Rapture
    Ken Burns Jazz: Count Basie
  13. Rolling StonesI Just Want To See His Face
    Exile On Main Street
  14. MinutemenJesus And Tequila
    Double Nickels On The Dime
  15. Stills, StephenJesus Gave Love Away For Free
  16. ByrdsJesus Is Just Alright
    Live At Royal Albert Hall 1971
  17. Of MontrealRapture Rapes the Muses
    Satanic Panic in the Attic
  18. Josh WhiteJesus Gonna Make Up My Dying Bed
    Uncut – April 2008 – When The Levee Breaks
  19. CAKEJesus Wrote A Blank Check
    Motorcade Of Generosity
  20. Sonic YouthDo You Believe In Rapture?
    Rather Ripped
  21. Johnson, Blind WillieJesus Is Coming Soon
    The Complete Blind Willie Johnson
  22. Drive-By TruckersToo Much Sex (Too Little Jesus)
    Alabama Ass Whuppin’
  23. A.A. BondyRapture (Sweet Rapture)
    American Hearts
  24. Cash, JohnnyPersonal Jesus
    American IV: The Man Comes Around
  25. Nick Cave & The Bad SeedsJesus Of The Moon
    Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
  26. Little FeatBrides Of Jesus
    Little Feat
  27. Johnson, Blind WillieIf It Had Not Been For Jesus
    The Complete Blind Willie Johnson
  28. The Velvet UndergroundJesus
    The Velvet Underground
  29. Super Furry AnimalsIt’s Not the End of the World?
    Rings Around the World
  30. Costello, ElvisWaiting For The End Of The World
    My Aim Is True
  31. Friedman, KinkyThey Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore
    Old Testaments & New Revelations
  32. Sun RaIt’s After The End Of The World
    Soundtrack To The Film: Space Is The Place
  33. The Blind Boys of MississippiJesus Gave Me Water
    Theme Time Radio Hour – 23 – Water
  34. ZZ TopJesus Just Left Chicago
    Tres Hombres
  35. Vaselines, TheJesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam
    The Way Of The Vaselines
  36. Sill, JudeeJesus Was A Cross Maker
    Judee Sill
  37. Rivers, BoydJesus Is On The Mainline
    Living Country Blues – Mississippi Moan
  38. Kurt VileJesus Fever
    Smoke Ring For My Halo
  39. WilcoJesus, etc.
    Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
  40. Waits, TomChocolate Jesus
    Mule Variations
  41. Norman GreenbaumSpirit in the Sky
    Spirit in the Sky
  42. R.E.M.It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
  43. Lennon, JohnGod
    Plastic Ono Band
  44. Elton JohnWhere To Now St. Peter?
    Tumbleweed Connection
  45. U2Until The End Of The World
    Until The End Of The World
  46. Green DayEast Jesus Nowhere
    21st Century Breakdown
  47. Dandy WarholsHard On For Jesus
    Dandy Warhols Come Down
  48. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds(I’ll Love You) Till The End Of The World
    Until The End Of The World
  49. Circle JerksKilling For Jesus
  50. BeulahMe And Jesus Dont Talk Anymore
  51. Rebirth Brass BandGlory, Glory/Jesus On The Mainline
    We Come To Party
  52. Depeche ModePersonal Jesus
  53. BlondieRapture
  54. Spacemen 3Walkin’ With Jesus (Sound Of Confusion)
    The Singles
  55. Prine, JohnJesus The Missing Years
    The Missing Years
  56. Cohen, LeonardThe Future
    The Future
  57. CoupMe And Jesus The Pimp In A ’79 Granada Last Night
    Steal This Double Album
  58. Jethro TullMy God
  59. Flaming LipsJesus Shootin’ Heroin
    Hear It Is The Flaming Lips
  60. Green DayJesus Of Suburbia / City Of The Damned / I Don’t Care / Dearly Beloved / Tales Of Another Broken Home
    American Idiot

What it is

What else should I add?

Wordle: Rapture Ridicule part 2

Science explains the end of the world

The End of the World Is Nigh

Richard Dawkins writing about those silly May 21sters, the end of times, and science, begins:

Q. Family Radio evangelist Harold Camping believes that he has calculated the exact date of the rapture: May 21, 2011. While many are laughing at the suggestion, Camping’s followers are taking him seriously, bringing his message of impending doom to billboards and public spaces around the country. What does your tradition teach about the end of the world? How does end time theology impact real world behavior?

A. Why is a serious newspaper like the Washington Post giving space to a raving loon? I suppose the answer must be that, unlike the average loon, this one has managed to raise enough money to launch a radio station and pay for billboards. I don’t know where he gets the money, but it would be no surprise to discover that it is contributed by gullible followers – gullible enough, we may guess, to go along with him when he will inevitably explain, on May 22nd, that there must have been some error in the calculation, the rapture is postponed to . . . and please send more money to pay for updated billboards. So, the question becomes, why are there so many well-heeled, gullible idiots out there? Why is it that an idea can be as nuts as you like and still con enough backers to finance its advertising to acquire yet more backers . . . until eventually a national newspaper notices and makes it into a silly season filler?

I won’t waste any more time on that, but I do want to mention a less trivial point arising from the question posed by the Washington Post: ‘What does your tradition teach about the end of the world?’ It’s that word ‘tradition’ that should raise our critical hackles. It refers to a collection of beliefs handed down through generations – as opposed to beliefs founded on evidence. Evidence-free beliefs are, by definition, groundless. What my ‘tradition’ (or your ‘tradition’ or the Dalai Lama’s ‘tradition’ or Osama bin Laden’s ‘tradition’ or the bad-trip ‘tradition’ of whoever wrote Revelation) says about anything in the real world (including its end) is no more likely to be true than any urban legend, idle rumor, superstition, or science fiction novel. Yet, the moment you slap the word ‘tradition’ onto a made-up story you confer on it a spurious dignity, which we are solemnly asked to ‘respect’.

Science is not a tradition, it is the organized use of evidence from the real world to make inferences about the real world – meaning the real universe, which is, in Carl Sagan’s words, all that is, or ever was, or ever will be. Science knows approximately how, and when, our Earth will end. In about five billion years the sun will run out of hydrogen, which will upset its self-regulating equilibrium; in its death-throes it will swell, and this planet will vaporise. Before that, we can expect, at unpredictable intervals measured in tens of millions of years, bombardment by dangerously large meteors or comets. Any one of these impacts could be catastrophic enough to destroy all life, as the one that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago nearly did. In the nearer future, it is pretty likely that human life will become extinct – the fate of almost all species that have ever lived.

(click here to continue reading Science explains the end of the world – On Faith – The Washington Post.)

Huckabee pal Janet Porter believes Obama is a Soviet Spy


Tim Murphy of Mother Jones reports:

Obama’s a mole, gays caused Noah’s flood, and other hits from one of two Janets that Huck says he “answers to” (the other’s his wife).

Mike Huckabee’s close ties to far-right activists helped propel him to a second-place finish in the race for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. But as the former Arkansas governor mulls another White House run, the incendiary remarks and outright paranoia of one of his close advisers serve as a reminder that Huckabee’s greatest asset—his relationship with the religious right—may also be one of his greatest vulnerabilities.

Huckabee has joked that he “answers” to “two Janets.” One is his wife, Janet Huckabee. The other is Janet Porter, the onetime co-chair of Huckabee’s Faith and Values Coalition. And Porter, the former governor has said, is his “prophetic voice.” But that voice has said some weird things over the years: Porter has maintained that Obama represents an “inhumane, sick, and sinister evil,” and she has warned that Democrats want to throw Christians in jail merely for practicing their faith. She’s attributed Haiti’s high poverty rate to the fact that the country is “dedicated to Satan,” and she suggested that gay marriage caused Noah’s Flood. And there’s this: In a 2009 column for conservative news site WorldNetDaily, Porter asserted that President Barack Obama is a Soviet secret agent, groomed since birth to destroy the United States from within.

(click here to continue reading Huckabee Adviser: Obama is a Soviet Spy | Mother Jones.)

Mike Huckabee is the scariest GOP candidate. He hides his evangelical extremism behind an aw-shucks facade so successfully that even normally astute people like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are fooled by it. There is nothing friendly  about Huckabee’s beliefs, nor in his advisors like Janet Porter. Scary, scary people who wouldn’t think twice about sending liberal, secular humanists like myself to re-education camps.

Philadelphia Church - No time like right now

More Janet Porter:

“Brace yourself for what I am about to say next,” Porter began one column, published shortly after the inauguration. She then detailed an email that had been forwarded to her raising questions about the president’s status as an American citizen. But that was the least of it: If the email were correct, the president was a Soviet agent—and so were his parents. He had been conceived, in other words, with the sole purpose of destroying the nation from within.

As Porter explained, the letter had originally been composed by a software developer named Tom Fife. “All I know is that Tom Fife is a real guy—not some e-mail scam,” she wrote. “I’ve talked to him.” In the email, Fife recounted a dinner-party conversation he’d had with a Soviet scientist in Moscow in the early 1990s.

“Since I had dabbled in languages,” Fife wrote, “I knew a smattering of Arabic. I made a comment: ‘If I remember correctly, ‘Barack’ comes from the Arabic word for ‘Blessing.’ That seems to be an odd name for an American.’ [The Soviet scientist] replied quickly, ‘Yes. It is ‘African,’ she insisted, ‘and he will be a blessing for world Communism. We will regain our strength and become the number one power in the world.'”

From there, Porter’s rhetoric only escalated. Last summer, she lost her syndicated radio show after organizing a rally at the Lincoln Memorial to urge Christians to take over the United States government. And this spring, she made headlines by summoning a fetus to testify on behalf of an Ohio measure banning abortions after a heartbeat has become detectable. (Huckabee has endorsed the bill).

Sarah Palin is The GOP Standard Bearer

dreidel dreidel

I’ve been pretty successful at ignoring Sarah Palin for a while,1 in the vain hope that she would stop being the GOP standard bearer if nobody paid attention to her, but Palin’s latest hateful egocentrism was too much. Since I’m not a paid pundint (sic), I couldn’t bear to watch her entire seven minute hate, so have instead relied upon professionals who have more intestinal fortitude to parse her half-truths and slanders.

Such as:

so let’s just lead off with Sarah Palin’s video response to critics who alleged that her crosshairs map and no-holds-barred rhetoric contributed to a political climate that may have helped lead to the Arizona massacre:

Sarah Palin: “America’s Enduring Strength” from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.

A few quick things to note. First, the obvious care that went into making this video — the pre-written script is over seven minutes long; she clearly rehearsed the reading at some length; and the backdrop includes an American flag on the right flank — demonstrate once again that Palin and her advisers knew this was a potential make-or-break moment. Palin, of course, has long taken her case directly to supporters via Twitter and Facebook, while not permitting herself to be exposed to any journalistic cross-examination. Utilizing a pre-taped video message is a new twist on that strategy, and a reflection of how high the stakes have become.

Second, her core accusation on the video, the one that was clearly selected with an intent to drive headlines, not only accuses critics of “blood libel,” but actually accuses them of expressing concern and outrage about the shooting in bad faith, as if they are doing so in an effort to do nothing more than damage her politically:

(click to continue reading The Plum Line – Sarah Palin and `blood libel’.)

I don’t know if Palin’s teleprompter told her to slip in the phrase “blood libel” to discuss Arizona’s only Jewish Congressperson, or if Palin freelanced it, but since the 7 minute hate was obviously not an off-the-cuff production, perhaps someone might have done a bit of research:

Blood libel (also blood accusation) refers to a false accusation or claim that religious minorities, usually Jews, murder children to use their blood in certain aspects of their religious rituals and holidays.

Historically, these claims have–alongside those of well poisoning and host desecration–been a major theme in European persecution of Jews.

The libels typically allege that Jews require human blood for the baking of matzos for Passover. The accusations often assert that the blood of Christian children is especially coveted, and, historically, blood libel claims have often been made to account for otherwise unexplained deaths of children. In some cases, the alleged victim of human sacrifice has become venerated as a martyr, a holy figure around whom a martyr cult might arise. A few of these have been even canonized as saints, like Gavriil Belostoksky.

In Jewish lore, blood libels were the impetus for the creation in the 16th century of the Golem of Prague by Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel. Many popes have either directly or indirectly condemned the blood accusation, and no pope has ever sanctioned it.

These libels have persisted among some segments of Christians to the present time.

(click to continue reading Blood libel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

I’m a firm believer in free speech, even for maggots festering on the political body such as Sarah Palin, but enjoying free speech doesn’t preclude others from criticizing your words if they are as inflammatory as Palin’s.

“Instead of dialing down the rhetoric at this difficult moment, Sarah Palin chose to accuse others trying to sort out the meaning of this tragedy of somehow engaging in a ‘blood libel’ against her and others,” said David Harris, president of the National Democratic Jewish Council, in a statement. “This is of course a particularly heinous term for American Jews, given that the repeated fiction of blood libels are directly responsible for the murder of so many Jews across centuries — and given that blood libels are so directly intertwined with deeply ingrained anti-Semitism around the globe, even today.”

“The term ‘blood libel’ is not a synonym for ‘false accusation,’ ” said Simon Greer, president of Jewish Funds for Justice. “It refers to a specific falsehood perpetuated by Christians about Jews for centuries, a falsehood that motivated a good deal of anti-Jewish violence and discrimination. Unless someone has been accusing Ms. Palin of killing Christian babies and making matzoh from their blood, her use of the term is totally out of line.”

U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head Saturday and remained in critical condition in a Tucson hospital, is Jewish.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said “it was inappropriate at the outset to blame Sarah Palin and others for causing this tragedy or for being an accessory to murder. Palin has every right to defend herself against these kinds of attacks, and we agree with her that the best tradition in America is one of finding common ground despite our differences.

“Still, we wish that Palin had not invoked the phrase ‘blood libel’ in reference to the actions of journalists and pundits in placing blame for the shooting in Tucson on others. While the term ‘blood libel’ has become part of the English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history.”

(click to continue reading Blood libel: Jewish leaders object to Palin’s ‘blood libel’ charge –

And contrasting Barack Obama’s speech, Halmark-esque as it was, with Palin’s vitriol reminded a lot of folks why Obama won the election.

Wednesday was bookended by two remarkable — and remarkably different — political performances that demonstrated the vast expanse of America’s political landscape.

The day opened at 5 a.m. with Sarah Palin, whose seven-and-a-half minute video statement captured with precision the bubbling anger and resentment that is an undercurrent of the national conversation about our public discourse.

Sarah Palin issued a forceful denunciation of her critics in a video statement posted to her Facebook page. It ended with President Obama, whose plea for civility, love and compassion — for us to all be not just better citizens but better people — exposed for the first time the emotions of a leader who has spent two years staying cool and controlled for a nation beset by difficult times.

The tone of the two speeches could not have been more different. The venues were a world apart — the smallness of a rectangular video on a computer screen and the vastness of an echo-filled basketball arena.

And they both served as a reminder of the political clash to come when the 2012 presidential campaign gets underway in earnest next year.

(click to continue reading Obama and Palin, a Tale of Two Speeches –


In the span of a single news cycle, Republicans got a jarring reminder of two forces that could prevent them from retaking the presidency next year.

At sunrise in the east on Wednesday, Sarah Palin demonstrated that she has little interest—or capacity—in moving beyond her brand of grievance-based politics. And at sundown in the west, Barack Obama reminded even his critics of his ability to rally disparate Americans around a message of reconciliation.

Palin was defiant, making the case in a taped speech she posted online why the nation’s heated political debate should continue unabated even after Saturday’s tragedy in Tucson. And, seeming to follow her own advice, she swung back at her opponents, deeming the inflammatory notion that she was in any way responsible for the shootings a “blood libel.”

Obama, speaking at a memorial service at the University of Arizona, summoned the country to honor the victims, and especially nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, by treating one another with more respect. “I want America to be as good as Christina imaged it,” he said.

It’s difficult to imagine a starker contrast.


(click to continue reading Barack Obama takes opportunity Sarah Palin missed – Jonathan Martin –

Can we all take a vow to ignore Sarah Palin for a while now? At least until she announces she is running for president in 2012?

  1. Since 9/2010 on my blog []

Strapped Cities Hit Nonprofits With Fees

And yet, the US govt is fine with two active wars, and bases in hundreds of locations, and military budgets for planes, warships, SDI, etc., and tax-cuts for billionaires. Priorities, I guess. Though, religions are a business, and should be treated like a business. Small non-profits shouldn’t bare the burden alone.

Facing budget gaps and an aversion to new debt and taxes, states and local governments are slapping residents with an array of new fees—and some are applying them to nonprofits.

That marks a sharp departure from long-standing tax exemptions mandated by state law or adopted on the theory that churches, schools and charitable organizations work alongside governments to provide services to the community.

The issue is on display in Houston, where some flood-prone roads are in such disrepair that signs warn drivers, “Turn around, don’t drown.”

Houston’s taxpayers in November narrowly voted to adopt a “drainage fee” to raise at least $125 million a year toward the cost of improving roads and storm-water systems. The city will charge fees to property owners, and it won’t grant exceptions to churches, schools and charities.

The city has been tightening its budget. “We’re cutting up the city’s credit cards,” says Mayor Annise Parker. “Everyone who contributes to drainage issues has to share in the cost of correcting those issues.”

A number of groups—including schools, businesses, churches and senior citizens—are demanding exemptions. “We’ll defeat this,” says David Welch, of the Houston Area Pastor’s Council, who plans to lobby state legislators in January. “This is really a tax. It is the first time that churches would not be exempt from property taxes,” he says. Some opponents have filed suit claiming the ballot wording was misleading.

At a group called the National Council of Nonprofits, Tim Delaney, chief executive, says, “Governments are taking their public burdens and putting them on the backs of nonprofits, at a time when the demand for our services is skyrocketing.”

Some cities are charging religious groups property taxes on buildings no longer used for worship. Other localities are soliciting voluntary contributions. Albany, N.Y., recently passed an ordinance asking schools, hospitals and other nonprofits to contribute to city services.

As municipalities try to bridge budget gaps with fees that also hit nonprofits, some residents are kicking up a storm. Chicago and Dade City, Fla., scrapped proposals for drainage fees after protests from these groups. Cleveland suspended its proposal after community groups and businesses sued.

(click to continue reading Strapped Cities Hit Nonprofits With Fees –

Since the Republicans won the 2010 election with the help of the anti-tax know-nothings, let’s see how many more stories like this one we’ll read.

Hospital Loses Catholic Affiliation

Sin will find you out

Sad, doctrinaire rulings judged to be more important than human life to the Church; the mother’s health weighed as less important than her fetus. At least St. Joseph’s Hospital had the strength of its convictions

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix announced on Tuesday that St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center could no longer identify itself as Roman Catholic because it violated church teachings by ending a woman’s pregnancy in 2009. Hospital administrators said the procedure was necessary to save her life, and stood by their decision even after Bishop Olmsted excommunicated a nun on the hospital ethics committee. The hospital, which receives no money from the Phoenix diocese, can no longer hold Masses.

(click to continue reading Arizona – Hospital Loses Catholic Affiliation –

Why I’m An Atheist

European Totem

Ricky Gervais consistently delights me with the turns and twists of his logic. For instance, a comedic bit that begins thus is brilliant:

Why don’t you believe in God? I get that question all the time. I always try to give a sensitive, reasoned answer. This is usually awkward, time consuming and pointless. People who believe in God don’t need proof of his existence, and they certainly don’t want evidence to the contrary. They are happy with their belief. They even say things like “it’s true to me” and “it’s faith”. I still give my logical answer because I feel that not being honest would be patronizing and impolite. It is ironic therefore that “I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what I’ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe”, comes across as both patronizing and impolite.

Arrogance is another accusation. Which seems particularly unfair. Science seeks the truth. And it does not discriminate. For better or worse it finds things out. Science is humble. It knows what it knows and it knows what it doesn’t know. It bases its conclusions and beliefs on hard evidence – ‐ evidence that is constantly updated and upgraded. It doesn’t get offended when new facts come along. It embraces the body of knowledge. It doesn’t hold on to medieval practices because they are tradition. If it did, you wouldn’t get a shot of penicillin, you’d pop a leach down your trousers and pray. Whatever you “believe”, this is not as effective as medicine. Again you can say, “It works for me”, but so do placebos. My point being, I’m saying God doesn’t exist. I’m not saying faith doesn’t exist. I know faith exists. I see it all the time. But believing in something doesn’t make it true. Hoping that something is true doesn’t make it true. The existence of God is not subjective. He either exists or he doesn’t. It’s not a matter of opinion. You can have your own opinions. But you can’t have your own facts.

Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer. You started all this. If I came up to you and said, “Why don’t you believe I can fly?” You’d say, “Why would I?” I’d reply, “Because it’s a matter of faith”. If I then said, “Prove I can’t fly. Prove I can’t fly see, see, you can’t prove it can you?” You’d probably either walk away, call security or throw me out of the window and shout, ‘’Fucking fly then you lunatic.”

(click to continue reading A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I’m An Atheist – Speakeasy – WSJ.)

I want to copy the whole rant for your amusement, but I’m restraining myself. I’ve heard part of this bit before, maybe it will be part of his live act that’s currently running on HBO?

Conclusion, with a sentiment I can believe in:

So what does the question “Why don’t you believe in God?” really mean. I think when someone asks that; they are really questioning their own belief. In a way they are asking “what makes you so special? “How come you weren’t brainwashed with the rest of us?” “How dare you say I’m a fool and I’m not going to heaven, fuck you!” Let’s be honest, if one person believed in God he would be considered pretty strange. But because it’s a very popular view it’s accepted. And why is it such a popular view? That’s obvious. It’s an attractive proposition. Believe in me and live forever. Again if it was just a case of spirituality this would be fine. “Do unto others…” is a good rule of thumb. I live by that. Forgiveness is probably the greatest virtue there is. Buts that’s exactly what it is – ‐ a virtue. Not just a Christian virtue. No one owns being good. I’m good. I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. “Do this or you’ll burn in hell.”

You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway.

Rebuilding Noah’s Ark Tax-Free

Wages of Sin and a Pink Caddy

Tax breaks for 6,000 year old Earthers is a travesty. Tax breaks for any religious organization is absurd, actually, but especially for the Christian Taliban who want to overthrow the U.S. Constitution and institute a theocracy in its stead.

On Dec. 1, Kentucky Gov. Steven L. Beshear announced that the state would provide tax incentives to support the construction of Ark Encounter, a sprawling theme park on 800 acres of rural Grant County. Under Kentucky’s Tourism Development Act, the state can compensate approved businesses for as much as a quarter of their development costs, using funds drawn out of sales-tax receipts. It’s a considerable sweetener to promote development and jobs.

But in this case, say critics, it may pose a constitutional problem. The developers of Ark Encounter have close ties to a Christian ministry called Answers in Genesis, which promotes “young-earth” creationism—the belief that the account of creation provided in Genesis is scientifically accurate and that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

More seriously, civil libertarians’ are concerned that the park would involve an unconstitutional advancement of religion. But over the past two decades federal law has moved toward nondiscrimination against religious organizations. This began with the “charitable choice” provisions in Bill Clinton’s welfare-reform package, which sought to allow religious groups to receive government-funded social services. The trend continued with the Bush administration’s promotion of faith-based initiatives, which the Obama administration has extended in barely modified form. The constitutional argument therefore seems tired, supporting a form of discrimination that the government is abandoning in other quarters.

Should the promotion of tourism be subject to this kind of discrimination? The legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky has stated that he objects to the park receiving state funds because it “is about bringing the Bible to life.” But why is that different, legally speaking, from Disneyland bringing Pirates of the Caribbean to life? At what point did the planners of Ark Encounter go too far in their concerns for religious authenticity?

(click to continue reading Wilfred M. McClay: Rebuilding Noah’s Ark, Tax-Free –

I wouldn’t be surprised if, despite the outcry, Kentucky gives in to these fanatics.

Family version I Ching – Richard Wilhelm translation

I Ching, Family version of Richard Wilhelm translation

This is the inscription on the hardback version of the I Ching I have, and have carried around for most of my adult life.1 Originally printed in 1966, Bollingen Series. There is a lot of subtext here, but I won’t bore you with a description.

The Chinese characters below my name are the transliteration of my last name, as assigned to me when I studied Beijing Hua at UT-Austin. An De Sen. Quiet Virtuous Forest, as my first Chinese teacher told me. The other character is “sheng” which translates into “born”. Again, there is subtext out the yin-yang, but I won’t bore you with a delineation of it. If you really want to know, bring me a couple of bottles of red wine, and drink them with me: I’ll tell you more than you want to hear.

This edition of the I Ching has a forward by Carl Jung, oft read, oft quoted. I suspect that more modern translations of the I Ching might speak to us more clearly, but that doesn’t matter. My Chinese was never proficient enough to make my own translations.

For over ten years, I kept a dedicated journal where I wrote down the questions and answers related to throwing the coins: my last entry was years ago, but I keep my spidery prose on my shelf. Just in case. Has it helped me? Probably. Part of the charm/mystique of the I Ching is the oblique meaning of the text. One can interpret meaning as it applies to one’s own life; sometimes even accurately.

I am an atheist, and have been as long as I was sentient, but the I Ching isn’t religion, it is aided contemplation. Part of the procedure of throwing the I Ching coins is thinking deeply and seriously about whatever the question of the moment is. I consider the I Ching results as tapping into the subconscious mind, that part of the brain which is active while sleeping, or otherwise occupied. Do you ever wake up in the morning with a perfect answer to a problem you’ve faced? This is that.

  1. I’ve moved it a dozen times or more, because I’ve moved seemingly a gazillion times []

Sharron Angle Vs. Geography

Lone Star Lame Duck

Sharron Angle is just retarded, no? What other explanation can there be? She recently said, with a straight face:

“My thoughts are these, first of all, Dearborn, Michigan, and Frankford, Texas are on American soil, and under constitutional law. Not Sharia law. And I don’t know how that happened in the United States,” she said. “It seems to me there is something fundamentally wrong with allowing a foreign system of law to even take hold in any municipality or government situation in our United States.”

Dearborn, Mich., has a large Muslim community. But Frankford, Texas? Well it doesn’t exist— it’s a former town that was annexed into Dallas around 1975. The former town was close to what is now the Bent Tree Country Club.

(click to continue reading Islamic law in Frankford, Texas —- Oh really? | OPINION Blog |

Frankford, Texas, is about a ten minute drive from George W. Bush’s new home on 10141 Daria Place, maybe that’s the connection? More from the Texas State Historical Assocation, that raging liberal organization1

FRANKFORD, TEXAS. Frankford was nine miles northwest of Richardson in extreme southwestern Collin County. Settlement of the area began around a campsite on the Shawnee Trail near a small spring on Halls Branch, used in the 1850s and 1860s as a stopping point and watering hole for traildrivers and other travelers. A small town developed after the Civil War at the nearby crossing of the Addison and Weber roads (later known respectively as the Dallas North Tollroad and Hilton Head Road), and a post office opened on May 11, 1880, under the name Frankford. By 1890 the town had a population of eighty-three, a steam gristmill, a corn mill, a cotton gin, a blacksmith shop, two general stores, and three churches.

The St. Louis Southwestern Railway bypassed the town in the late 1880s, however, and many Frankford residents moved to Addison, Plano, and other nearby communities. In 1904 the Frankford post office was closed, and in 1907 its lodge hall, which had served as a nondenominational church, was moved to Addison. A second church, built in the 1890s, continued to serve a predominantly Methodist congregation until 1924. By the mid-1930s the town was no longer shown on county highway maps. Its church building was restored in 1963 by the Frankford Cemetery Association, which arranged for the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion to worship there.

The city of Dallas annexed the area in 1975, and in 1990 local children attended the Plano schools. All that remained of the community in 1990 was the Frankford Church and Cemetery, adjoined by residences on three sides and by the Bent Tree Country Club to the south.

(click to continue reading Handbook of Texas Online – FRANKFORD, TX.)

Even claiming Dearbon, Michigan, as free from the laws of the United States is laughable. I doubt Sharron Angle could even find Dearborn on a map, much less talk for more than thirty seconds without saying something ridiculously, factually incorrect. I’ve been to Dearbon a few times, and while there is a large Middle Eastern community there, some of them are Lebanese Christians, etc.. No to mention that the headquarters of the notably fundamentalist Islamic organization2 Ford Motor Company is located in Dearborn.

It Pays to Play

Actually, the mayor of Dearborn responded by asking Angle to educate herself a little3

[Dearborn Mayor John ]O’Reilly appeared Monday night on CNN to defend Dearborn.

Today he gave Action News a copy of the letter he sent to Angle.

“This is the most absurd, inane answer I’ve ever heard. And she was led by the questioner, but should have been mature enough to say I don’t think that’s happening,” said O’Reilly.

O’Reilly said the last census revealed that only thirty percent of the population in Dearborn is Arab American.

“Nobody is trying to control Dearborn. Muslims have been in Dearborn, there has been a mosque in Dearborn for 90 years. So the notion that there’s this new phenomenon and Muslims are taking over America is certainly not substantiated in this community,” said O’Reilly.

(click to continue reading Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly takes on Sharron Angle’s comments that Sharia exists in Dearborn.)

From the comments of the above cited article:

The breakdown of religious affiliation among Arab Americans is as follows: 63% Christian (35% Catholic, 18% Orthodox, 10% Protestant)  24% Muslim 13% Other; Jewish, No Affiliation

  1. kidding, of course, but in case you didn’t catch it []
  2. kidding, again []
  3. yeah, right, that’s gonna happen []

links for 2010-09-10


  • On the commentary track of the 2004 “2 Disc Special Edition” DVD for the film Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, Terry Jones stated that to his knowledge Ireland had banned only four movies, three of which he had directed: The Meaning of Life, Monty Python’s Life of Brian and Personal Services.
    (tags: humor England)
  • Lawmakers Alin Popoviciu and Cristi Dugulescu of the ruling Democratic Liberal Party drafted a law where witches and fortune tellers would have to produce receipts, and would also be held liable for wrong predictions, a measure which was part of the government’s drive to increase revenue.


    Romania’s Senate voted down the proposal Tuesday. Popoviciu claimed lawmakers were frightened of being cursed.

    (tags: humor religion)


William Lilly – Master Astrologer


From Wikipedia:

William Lilly (1 May (O.S.)/11 May (N.S.), 1602 – 9 June 1681), was a famed English astrologer during his time. Lilly was particularly adept at interpreting the astrological charts drawn up for horary questions, as this was his speciality.

Lilly caused much controversy in 1666 for allegedly predicting the Great Fire of London some 14 years before it happened. For this reason many people believed that he might have started the fire, but there is no evidence to support these claims. He was tried for the offence in Parliament but was found to be innocent.

“William Lilly’s History of His Life and Times from the Year 1602 to 1681” (William Lilly)

I had not heard the term, Hoary Astrology before

Horary astrology is an ancient branch of horoscopic astrology by which an astrologer attempts to answer a question by constructing a horoscope for the exact time at which the question was received and understood by the astrologer. There is disagreement amongst horary astrologers as to whether to use the location of the person who asks the question – the querent – or the location of the astrologer. Normally they are in the same place, but in modern times many astrologers work online and by telephone. These days the querent could be in Australia and send an email with the question to an astrologer in Europe. The horoscope would in this case be radically different. Many European practitioners take the location of the querent, but there are strong voices in traditional English schools who advocate using the location of the astrologer. The answer to the horary question might be a simple yes or no, but is generally more complex with insights into, for example, the motives of the questioner, the motives of others involved in the matter, and the options available to him.

(click to continue reading Horary astrology – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

How Fox Betrayed Petraeus

Frank Rich has a good overview of the laughably transparent manufactured outrage the Rethuglicans are spewing over the creation of an Islamic prayer center in lower Manhattan. A few choice paragraphs:

Trio of musicians

These patriots have never attacked the routine Muslim worship services at another site of the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon. Their sudden concern for ground zero is suspect to those of us who actually live in New York. All but 12 Republicans in the House voted against health benefits for 9/11 responders just last month. Though many of these ground-zero watchdogs partied at the 2004 G.O.P. convention in New York exploiting 9/11, none of them protested that a fellow Republican, the former New York governor George Pataki, so bollixed up the management of the World Trade Center site that nine years on it still lacks any finished buildings, let alone a permanent memorial.

The Fox patron saint Sarah Palin calls Park51 a “stab in the heart” of Americans who “still have that lingering pain from 9/11.” But her only previous engagement with the 9/11 site was when she used it as a political backdrop for taking her first questions from reporters nearly a month after being named to the G.O.P. ticket. (She was so eager to grab her ground zero photo op that she defied John McCain’s just-announced “suspension” of their campaign.) Her disingenuous piety has been topped only by Bernie Kerik, who smuggled a Twitter message out of prison to register his rage at the ground zero desecration. As my colleague Clyde Haberman reminded us, such was Kerik’s previous reverence for the burial ground of 9/11 that he appropriated an apartment overlooking the site (and designated for recovery workers) for an extramarital affair.

At the Islamophobia command center, Murdoch’s News Corporation, the hypocrisy is, if anything, thicker. A recent Wall Street Journal editorial darkly cited unspecified “reports” that Park51 has “money coming from Saudi charities or Gulf princes that also fund Wahabi madrassas.” As Jon Stewart observed, this brand of innuendo could also be applied to News Corp., whose second largest shareholder after the Murdoch family is a member of the Saudi royal family. Perhaps last week’s revelation that News Corp. has poured $1 million into G.O.P. campaign coffers was a fiendishly clever smokescreen to deflect anyone from following the far greater sum of Saudi money (a $3 billion stake) that has flowed into Murdoch enterprises, or the News Corp. money (at least $70 million) recently invested in a Saudi media company.

…After 9/11, President Bush praised Islam as a religion of peace and asked for tolerance for Muslims not necessarily because he was a humanitarian or knew much about Islam but because national security demanded it. An America at war with Islam plays right into Al Qaeda’s recruitment spiel. This month’s incessant and indiscriminate orgy of Muslim-bashing is a national security disaster for that reason — Osama bin Laden’s “next video script has just written itself,” as the former F.B.I. terrorist interrogator Ali Soufan put it — but not just for that reason. America’s Muslim partners, those our troops are fighting and dying for, are collateral damage. If the cleric behind Park51 — a man who has participated in events with Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes, for heaven’s sake — is labeled a closet terrorist sympathizer and a Nazi by some of the loudest and most powerful conservative voices in America, which Muslims are not?

(click to continue reading Frank Rich – How Fox Betrayed Petraeus –

The GOP and their ally, the Christian Taliban, will not stop until America overturns the Constitution and Bill of Rights America was founded on, and the GOP has the right to crucify the non-believers. Why don’t they leave and start their own country somewhere far far away since they hate the US so much?

And as Frank Rich explains, kind of hard to “win hearts and minds” in Iraq and Afghanistan when the GOP wants to strip Muslims of religious freedoms here.

Poor General Petraeus. Over the last week he has been ubiquitous in the major newspapersand on television as he pursues a publicity tour to pitch the war he’s inherited. But have you heard any buzz about what he had to say? Any debate? Any anything? No one was listening and no one cared. Everyone was too busy yelling about the mosque.

It’s poignant, really. Even as America’s most venerable soldier returned from the front to valiantly assume the role of Willy Loman, the product he was selling was being discredited and discontinued by his own self-proclaimed allies at home.