Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Sol Invictus

I like a good solstice as much as anyone. And in that spirit I shall toss back some eggnog to toast the victory of the sun god.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Republican Irony Alert

Republican Orin Hatch just denounced opposition to the new FISA bill as based on an "irrational fear of government." Odd for a member of a party that supposedly champions small government.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Romney's character

Why didn't Romney disavow his church's official racism until they repealed it in 1978? Frank Rich offers a succinct answer:

Mr. Romney didn’t fight his church’s institutionalized apartheid, whatever his private misgivings, because that’s his character. Though he is trying to sell himself as a leader, he is actually a follower and a panderer, as confirmed by his flip-flops on nearly every issue.

A nicely distilled assessment. Romney comes from a family with quite a lot of pull in the LDS cult, and it might have meant something. And even if it didn't he could have simply left it. After all even though I doubt my departure would make much difference I would certainly make it a point to leave were I to find myself a member of a racist organization. But Romney is a follower and a panderer, and his life is a story of seeking approval from the most proximate authority figures. How else could he believe the insane teachings of the LDS church, or keep a straight face when denying he's a flip-flopper?

Arkansas Fashion

Love the suede arm patches.

Post Script on Huckabee

I just realized that the popularity of Huckabee somewhat vindicates my long held belief that the Christian wing of the Republican Party cannot properly be called conservative, if you understand the term to imply favoring free markets, opposition to social libertarianism, commitment to civil liberties and property rights, low taxes, fiscal restraint, and sparing use of military power. Read the statements of Barry Goldwater regarding the key issues of the religious right if you think my definition lacks a pedigree. Whatever a platform including faith based programs, a Human Life Amendment, and a marriage Amendment, is, its not conservative as I understand it. I always thought American conservatism had some affinity for classical liberalism but I may be out of it. Their platform is nothing more than a bit of Christian utopianism with a bit of identity politics mixed in to get people riled. Christian Bolshevism is a term of my own coinage that has never caught on but which I like. Huckabee is its epitome. Tagging himself as a "Christian leader" and displaying knowledge of not much more than his religion, he has a spending record any liberal would need to run from and a willingness to do anything to soothe the wounds of the "Values Voter" contingent.

I Heart Huckabee

But apparently few others in his party do. I for one would love to see him nominated. The ensuing contest would be essentially an execution and for once the evangelical base would be responsible for the humiliation of the Republican Party rather than being its lifeblood. Those in the right wing blogging community know this and their tone is beginning to resemble northern liberal secularists. To my mind the most entertaining was Lisa Schiffen's at the National Review:

You're not in Little Rock anymore. It's hard Huck, when your decisions matter.

Like back home, you were just trying to be nice to that castrated guy who had raped a few women. He had served some time. Why couldn't they forgive him? You could. You have a good heart. Lots of Christian love. So you pardoned him. And what did he do then, Huck?

What if you make a call like that on Iran, Huck? Or Iraq? Or Osama? Or some guy from China who is very civil and polite at the State dinner, and has a little plan for dominating Asia? Everything that happens, Huck, all those reporters are going to want you to say something, everywhere you go, 24/7. And lots of people will act based on what you say. And not all of them have lots of love in their heart, Huck.

and the priceless round up conclusion:

That bait shop on the lake — it's looking good. You'll be surrounded by nice neighbors, real Christians, and you can be the smartest guy in the room. You can go out running every morning. Remember Huck — Jesus wouldn't be dumb enough to go into politics.You were right on that one. Maybe it's not what he wants from you either.

Oh, that's fun to read. This was the post that Ross Douthat said may as well have been titled "Go back to dogpatch you stupid hillbilly!" John Cole has a compilation of similar reactions to Huckabee, and Kevin Drum's reaction gives a pretty good outsider's perspective:

There are a variety of ostensible reasons for this: lack of foreign policy bona fides, too compassionate for their taste, too willing to consider spending money, etc. But I think the real reason is simpler: as with blogosphere conservatives, mainstream conservatives are mostly urban sophisticates with a libertarian bent, not rural evangelicals with a social conservative bent. They're happy to talk up NASCAR and pickup trucks in public, but in real life they mostly couldn't care less about either. Ditto for opposing abortion and the odd bit of gay bashing via proxy. But when it comes to Ten Commandments monuments and end times eschatology, they shiver inside just like any mainstream liberal. The only difference is that usually they keep their shivering to themselves because they want to keep everyone in the big tent happy.

But then along comes Huckabee, and guess what? He's the real deal. Not a guy like George Bush or Ronald Reagan, who talks a soothing game to the snake handlers but then turns around and spends his actual political capital on tax cuts, foreign wars, and deregulating big corporations. Huckabee, it turns out, isn't just giving lip service to evangelicals, he actually believes all that stuff. Among other things, he believes in creationism (really believes), once proposed that AIDS patients should be quarantined, appears to share the traditional evangelical view that Mormonism is a cult, and says (in public!) that homosexuality is sinful. And that's without seeing the text of any of his old sermons, which he (probably wisely) refuses to let the press lay eyes on.

I think this brand of yahooism puts off mainstream urban conservatives every bit as much as it does mainstream urban liberals. They're afraid that this time, it's not just a line of patter to keep the yokels in line.

I love it. A Huckabee nomination would be the realization without the unfortunate consequences of my long held fantasy of turning the country over to the religious right simply to let them discredit themselves so we could all move on. Thankfully if Huckabee gets nominated it will accomplish this but since he will never be elected the evangelicals will be responsible for making the Republicans unelectable, and the religious right will be humiliated and abandoned by the party. This has always been the problem with the evangelical base. Their agenda appeals to almost no one outside the megachurches. Exactly how can you motivate the Charles Krauthammer's of the world to vote Republican with anti-gay hysteria, a religious persecution complex, and a spending record worse than LBJ's? Huckabee has all these things and he's going to humiliate all parts of the party. Good. Roll with pigs and you'll get covered in shit. All this and we don't have to watch what happens when a President uses the Book of Revelation as a guide to foreign policy. Grand.

Not convinced he's unelectable? Browse this post and the assorted links.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Andrew Stuttaford fires back on my behalf

At Freddoso:

Freedom, Faith, and Postwar Europe [Andrew Stuttaford]

David, you write that "one grave consequence of post-war Europe's loss of faith is its approaching demographic extinction." Putting aside the question as to whether Europe is heading for "demographic extinction" (I don't believe that it is) I think it's important to point out that birth rates are now falling just about everywhere across the globe. There is little or no evidence to suggest that this can be linked to any loss of faith in Europe, or for that matter, elsewhere. Rather it is a by-product of modernity, and it's one that's very welcome too.

Journalists should be history majors

David Freddoso:

To the debate over Krauthammer's piece, I'd add a Steynian note. One grave consequence of post-war Europe's loss of faith is its approaching demographic extinction. The Italians are on pace to be as dead as the Romans. The Russians are headed there even faster. Can you be free if you don't exist? Or even worse, if you end up under Islamic law?

I'd also point to pre-war Europe, whose loss of religious faith (it's not like it started in 1960 — try 1660) had ghastly ideological consequences — Communism, German National Socialism — that led to countless deaths.

I agree with Ramesh — Romney's statement isn't that absurd.

Typically shallow historical analysis by the religious. If communism were the result of a loss of faith then why did communism take root in Russia, the most highly religious and backward nation in Europe. Indeed its religiosity set it apart so much that many across the Atlantic didn't even consider it to be part of Europe, and its exclusion from the EU is a testament to this attitude's survival. Until 1917 it was ruled by a monarchy whose claims to divine right were supported by the Russian Orthodox Church and believed by many of the people who were kept in a kind of serfdom that despite 19th century reform efforts by Alexander II, was not substantially different from it medieval predecessor. And this monarchy had as much contempt for the lives of its subjects as the Communist regime that followed.

National socialism was never atheistic, there is no case to make that Hitler was an atheist, and it specifically appealed to Antisemitism cultivated by the Catholic Church and dominant Protestant sects. Enough of this. How much intellectual shabbiness is required to take two opposed ideologies that couldn't stand each other's existence, and attribute them to the same nebulous cause?

And while they bemoan the demographic decline of Europe they fail to mention that the Islamic world's population is increasing far faster than even America's yet is far poorer and lives under theocratic oppression. Shall we then take their example and reduce ourselves to poverty and religious backwardness for the sake of demographic expansion? It apparently has never dawned on Freddoso that poorer, less educated societies (and people) are consistently more religious and have higher birthrates. The Economist puts out a fact book that compiles these, often jaw-dropping, stats. Does this then confer some virtue on their poverty and ignorance? After all such widespread ignorance and poverty as seen in Africa and the Middle East is the quickest way to raise the birth rate, though at the expense of any semblance of freedom for women and the brutalization of men. "How can you be free if you are poor and ignorant?" will then be the question that replaces Freddoso's. Is it asking too much to expect that religious people will evince even a modicum of intellectual honesty and constructiveness on this point or will they be constantly blinded by heartache over the approaching nadir of their influence.

Ironically he pinpoints the loss of religious faith as having begun in 1660. This is incidentally a little more than a decade after the treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War, and established a rather delicate and short lived peace but effectively ended the period of international warfare in Europe on at least explicitly religious grounds. This war decimated the population in Germany by as much as 20 percent and claimed around 5 million lives in a Europe with less than 100 million people. This of course leaves out the countless wars rebellions and massacres that tore the continent apart for the preceding 300ish years, which he predictably does not mention.

Weirdly though he doesn't seem to notice that while pinpointing the beginning of religion's decline in 1660, he lives in a world where Europe's population has maybe quintupled (a conservative estimate) since then and has only started declining in the last 5 years though he still manages to claim the loss of faith since 1660 and more recently after World War II is the culprit. Religious people like Freddoso have the unseemly habit of making huge statements that make little sense but and need considerable unpacking, but have the advantage of sounding right to those who want to believe them.

Coda: Notice again that apologists for religion advocate for it without mention to whether or not it is actually true.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

No room for the atheists

Jacob Sullum joins the secular dissenters from Romney's speech.

I have joined the atheist blogroll!

My first attempt at publicity. Must keep up the posting.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What do Muslim girls do for prom?

If this is what they have to deal with just to leave the house?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Going to Church can make you kill people

Ii must confess to breathing a sigh of relief when I found out that the maniac who shot up Pastor Ted "I'm completely straight" Haggard's former flock was not a secular Jew atheist biologist. Instead as one may have been prone to guess, he was the product of a strict, religious upbringing and home schooling. No quicker way to drive someone crazy with hate for their religion than force it on them as children. This is admittedly a rather dark example of schadenfreude, but I don't care. Sorry flymorgue.

"A neighbor, Cody Askeland, 19, said the brothers were home-schooled, describing the whole family as "very, very religious."

See how necessary religion is for morality!

Matthew Murray lived there along with a brother, Christopher, 21, a student at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.

Oral Roberts University! Another fine example of the high ethical and educational standards of Christian education. I suggest a Google news search. It will keep you busy for a month reading tales of stupidity, graft, and sleaze. All under the auspices of Jesus Christ Savior of Mankind. (JCSM)

"I was just expecting for the next gunshot to be coming through my car. Miraculously — by the grace of God — it did not," she told ABC's "Good Morning America."

Solipsism is never very becoming. Unfortunately for two sisters the next bullets went through their bodies, ending their lives. But I am sure God withheld his grace to fulfill his mysterious, inscrutable plan, which we filthy mortals can't hope to understand. If I were the mother of one of these victims I might be inclined to administer a good kicking to this twit.

About 7,000 people were in and around the church the time of the shooting.

7,000! What a waste of man-hours.

New Life, with a largely upper middle-class membership, was founded by the Rev. Ted Haggard, who was dismissed last year after a former male prostitute alleged he had a three-year cash-for-sex relationship with him. Haggard admitted committing unspecified "sexual immorality.


This story is a sad example of the stifling morass of stupidity surrounding religion. From the home schooled and brainwashed gunman to the almost victim spouting selfish grotesque drivel about how she escaped by the "grace of god" while two people lay dead, to the pathetic life story of the victim Phillip Crouse, a former skinhead who probably felt saved from plotting his own spree against the cursed people of Ham by this ridiculous melange of consumerism, spirituality, self-help, and mawkish bourgeois sentiment.

What would have been prevented this was not more faith in public life but a bit of education. Instead of locking their children up to be homeschooled, isolated, inundated with superstitious, mind shrinking nonsense, and forced to endure personality engineering with all the compassion of Paris Island, it might have helped to try and teach them not to fear and loathe the entire modern world so they would have been able to see a place worth going to when the comfort of fantasy land they were living in disappeared.

Oddly enough they won't release his sermons anymore

"It doesn't embarrass me one bit to let you know that I believe Adam and Eve were real people." -Mike Huckabee 1990

Mitt, I knew John Kennedy. John Kennedy was a friend of mine. And you're no John Kennedy.

Not that I have any great love for JFK but I must say Romney's insipid speech on his religion didn't exactly meet that standard. I can't help but resent being told the requirements of freedom by a man who believes it somehow credible to think that Joseph Smith, a serial polygamist, rapist, fraud, demagogue, theocrat, and fantasist is a latter day prophet and revelator of the will of the creator of the universe. Apparently we need a person of faith in the White House but to even deign to wonder what that faith entails is hideousl un-American and tears at the fabric of our society. I can't help but notice a parallel between this and the importance Romney believes should be placed on the record of his entire political career before he began running for president This might be a clever way of preempting any questions on why a grown man in his late twenties and early thirties couldn't find it in himself to leave what was an officially racist cult until 1979.

Steve Chapman at Reason says it better than I, though I will have more to say so maybe I can gain ground.

Daily ejaculation of stupidity

No not Christians breeding, but a column by Pat Boone. Notice how easy it is to be welcomed by the religious right webzines as a commentator. No qualifications in journalism or even anything to recommend his intelligence. Just a washed up shitty singer willing to shill for the logically deficient and paranoid. What does Pat nominate as the number one threat facing the country? The ACLU. I would have gone with SARS but maybe he's more with it than I am. Nonetheless, for a lesson in how to ignore history, science, the Constitution, logic, and even the basic rules of causality, check it out.

I liked this little nugget of wisdom:

It's not just "happening." Somebody's got it in for us, and doesn't intend to stop until we are no longer the America we've been for 250 years.

Yes 250 years. I guess if you placed the founding at 1776 (the earliest possible date) 231 might equal 250 if you are either looking for a nice number that will melt warmly with a quartile ring into the ears of believers, or can't do second grade math.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Religion is child abuse

For those who take such objection to the notion that religious instruction constitutes child abuse I do wonder how they would answer two questions. If this had happened as a result of anything but religious belief would the judge have allowed it, and would there be any reason not to label the boy's indoctrination as child abuse. Its a filthy lie that kills and, unlike history's other great fantasies, we applaud it.