On Being A Small Blue Dot In A Dark Red, Theocratic State

Just for fun, since I am doing some long-overdue digital housekeeping, here’s an article from 2007. This is, you’ll note, before Barack Obama was elected President. You may want to keep that part in mind when you read (that, and this is dated; I don’t get newspapers dumped on my lawn anymore–if you stop paying them, they do eventually cut it out–and those unwanted Pennysaver rags can’t be stopped by anything short of a very, VERY high wall).

HERE’S THE OLD STUFF:

I’ve also been catching up on the massive pile of newspapers–the newspapers I didn’t want and which rarely arrive (or which get swiped before I go fetch them from the puddles in the driveway, where they always end up)–and which are 90% adverts. Somehow a WTOC “news” paper ended up in the reading spot instead of being pitched, unread, into a bin. Each time I have attempted to read it, it makes me develop frown wrinkles.

WTOC 11 is one of a handful of local “news” channels, and, I’m 99% sure, they are responsible for the advert I groused about previously, which involved a rich white guy standing behind a White Baby Jesus nativity scene and reading ponderously from The Bible, which started airing in October, thus earning two frownie marks at once. October is for Hallowe’en (and my birthday), but not for pushing Christmas down my throat before I’m out of overpriced, undersized Tootsie Pops. Also, not everyone down here is Christian, though it sometimes sure seems like it. Maybe I’m grumpy, but it seems foolish for a supposedly unbiased news channel to air religious propaganda. Since they are FOX NEWS-lite, though, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

To my surprise and delight, though I couldn’t find the original article online (their website is terrible), I did find a comment from someone at Fort Stewart (military, of course) who grumped about another article Bill Cathcart (the article writer, and The Highest Muckity Muck at the station) penned wherein Cathcart misinterpreted Dennis Kucinich’s recent nay vote (unrelated to the article I’m grumping about, but intended to spark discussion about the “real” reasons behind the Iraq war and 9/11 and so on, from what I gathered) and wound up talking about Christianity for the last 2/3 or the article, which had fuck all to do with anything. The military guy patiently posted the more accurate details about the Kucinich vote and then complained that the pro-GOP and pro-Jesus stuff was really unnecessary. Word. And all the more “word” because, lo and behold, it proves that at least one of the many military d00dz in Jesusland is capable of having a lick of sense, and thinking for himself. (Imagine how popular he must be among his peers. Poor guy.)

Enjoy the article, which I have transcribed for your pleasure, and which would otherwise be lost to the mists of time (even the Wayback Machine failed me):

“Like the continual drip of a rusted faucet, ridiculous actions never cease. Two more servings of compost scooped from the heap. Several high school students in ever-progressive Boulder, Colorado, walked out of their classrooms to protest the daily recitation of the Pledge Of Allegiance, which includes, of course, our much-cherished tribute to God’s guidance. These left-ward youngsters chose to recite, instead, their own secular version, claiming that ours violates the Constitution’s “separation” clause, which, as you well know, does not exist.”

ZOMG! Two teenagers not wanting to pray at school! The horror! How “ridiculous”! What “compost”!

Shall we take bets on where Cathcart stands on the Creationism v. Evolution battlelines? No?

And when did “progressive” become a BAD thing? Honestly?

“Look, you want to write your own wedding vows, have at it. But you do not edit the American citizen’s pledge of loyalty to suit your own Mother Earth needs. Chalk up another one to social studies replacing history classes, and our trendy micro-focus on self. Forget our country; it’s me that counts. And, oh, by the way, God, thanks for the earth and stuff, but we’ve got it handled, so we’re cutting you loose.” 

First, let us applaud Cathcart’s generous offer to allow people to write their own vows without his disapproval. What a great guy!

Whereas I do agree that “micro-focus on self” is a problem a lot of kids seem to be afflicted with these days, and it is something I might fuss about in the future, I disagree that it runs hand in hand with Gaea worship (or that this might be wrong, as religion is a personal thing, thanks). I also resent the constant reminder, by fundies, that they take the whole Genesis thing really, really literally.

“Colorado requires its schools to read the Pledge daily over the PA. Students may either recite or stand quietly. So, with their Constitutional objection bogus, kids opting out, or even refusing to simply listen to our Pledge, must either be confused about where they are, or prefer to commit their allegiance to some other nation or galaxy. Ah, the sweet arrogance of youth.”

You can bet that if the school recited a “Gaea pledge” every morning that Cathcart would be railing against this just as strenuously as he is railing against the students who are trying to find a middle ground where they can still pledge allegiance to America without bringing someone else’s religious beliefs into it. Because they don’t want to pledge allegiance to someone else’s God, they are automatically bad kids. I don’t agree.

Some “other nation or galaxy”? What the eff?

“And speaking of professing allegiance to a nation other than America, according to a just-released Opinion Dynamics voter poll, 5% of Republicans, 7% of Independents and 19% of Democrats feel that the world would be better off if the United States lost the war in Iraq! Incredible and despicable. Talk about being self-possessed, or more likely, just plain possessed. While they have a right to that opinion, they should be absolutely ashamed to have it, given that this foolishness is just all about punishing President Bush. Our country and its future be damned.”

Note the TINY percentage of people who disagree with Cathcart’s point of view, here, and it is STILL pissing him off, though he graciously allows that they have the right to disagree. Even so, he just knows that they feel this way because they are out to punish Bush. There could be no other reason for their opinion. Furthermore, since they are so wrong-headed, they should be ashamed! SHAME on them for holding a different opinion, because clearly that also means they don’t give a crap about Amurika and where it is going.

Or, conversely, maybe they care A LOT, and didn’t like seeing tens of thousands of people dying for a trumped-up war that has produced no WMDs and where the trigger point was ostensibly 9-11, something NO Iraqis have been tied to, ever. (But the Saudis are our political buddies, you know.)

He can NOT stand it that even a small handful of people, of all political persuasions, disagree with him (and Bush). How can they not see the WISDOM and RIGHTNESS of the war? How can they say it would be okay to LOSE? How HORRIBLE and un-American!

GAH! People like this drive me crazy.

“By the way, those ex-patriots might want to remember that wish when the center of their city is in ruins, since a loss in Iraq clearly beckons further attacks here.”

Oh, CLEARLY. Because Iraqis flew planes into buildings, you know. And killing as many of them you can get your hands on will stop the random handful of nutburgers who embarrass their less-crazed neighbors by kamikazi-ing into stuff for the promise of seventy virgins and a mess of figs and honey in the afterlife.

Maybe losing the war would be unpleasant, but since we foolishly got into that mess on false pretenses in the first place, I don’t know that sticking it out is going to magically make things all better.

“Beyond un-American and pro-terrorist, defeat-at-any-price is imbecilic. Our loss there would be catastrophic, for Iraq, for the Middle East, for Europe, for the United States. To actually embrace defeat, people have to be out of their minds. Oh, wait, that’s it. They are! And they don’t belong in this country.”

ARGH ARGH ARGH!

Translation: “You disagree with me? You are crazy, and you need to leave the country.” Sir, if you will pay for my relocation, I will gladly take you up on your kind non-offer.

Now, let’s discuss.

Separation of church and state is a political and legal idea usually identified with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

The phrase building a wall of separation between church and state was written by Thomas Jeffersonin a January 1, 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. (Wikipedia)

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” (Thomas Jefferson)

… no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. (James Madison)

What Cathcart is saying (which is actually true) is that the exact phrase “separation of church and state” itself does not appear in the Constitution, but, on the other hand, he’s a bit wrong-headed as well, as it has been quoted in several opinions handed down by the United States Supreme Court.

The phrase “separation of church and state” became a definitive part of Establishment Clause jurisprudence in Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947), a case which dealt with a state law that allowed the use of government funds for transportation to religious schools.

While the ruling upheld that the state law (allowing federal funding of religious schools) as constitutional, Everson was also the first case to hold the Establishment Clause applicable to the state legislatures as well as Congress, based upon the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In 1962, the Supreme Court extended this analysis to the issue of prayer and religious readings in public schools. In Engel v. Vitale 370 U.S. 421 (1962), the Court determined it unconstitutional by a vote of 6-1 for state officials to compose an official school prayer and require its recitation in public schools, even when it is non-denominational and students may excuse themselves from participation.

As such, any teacher, faculty, or student can pray in school, in accordance with their own religion. However, they may not lead such prayers in class, or in other “official” school settings such as assemblies or programs, including even “non-sectarian” teacher-led prayers. […]

The court noted that it “is a matter of history that this very practice of establishing governmentally composed prayers for religious services was one of the reasons which caused many of our early colonists to leave England and seek religious freedom in America.”

In short, Cathcart is both right, in that the exact phrase does not appear in the particular document he cites, and wrong, in that he seems to be wilfully ignoring what our Founding Fathers intended and what more enlightened laws have underscored since.

What always boggles me is how Righty Whitey Christian Americans, generally speaking, are not in favour of other theocracies world-wide, but are all in favour of having one here. When Kennedy was running for office, a vicious tide of anti-Papist / anti-Catholic rhetoric spewed forth like sewage from a leaky pipe. Guess what? Since the majority of rich white people in charge of things at the time were not Catholic, suddenly they became more amenable to the idea of separation of Church and State, because they genuinely feared that Kennedy’s religious beliefs would interfere with his Presidential duties. They were more amenable, because their idea of religion was not shared by, arguably, the then most powerful man in the country.

Now that the arguably currently most powerful man in this country is a Born Again ex-cokehead Righty Whitey idjit who feels the need to inflict his religion on the country as a whole, the rich white dudes in power think separation of Church and State is now a BAD idea. Wonder why.

My prediction: we are going to be hearing how separation of Church and State “doesn’t really exist” or it is a bad idea UNTIL, by a miracle, some non-Protestant person is elected as President. And with the level of political corruption in this country, do you really think that will happen any time soon? Honestly? Right now, generally speaking, it supposedly “looks pretty good” for Democrats. This, I am telling you, will bring out some of the most vicious, underhanded, pro-Jesus flagwaving xenophobic mutts you ever saw during the next Presidential campaign.

What I’d love is a President who gets into office (without help from governor brothers, denying African Americans their vote, or friendship with the guy who OWNS Diebold) as a WASP-acceptable candidate and then converts to Judaism, which is a religion most of my sane friends practice, or something else that would make the rich white Jesus freaks go bananas. We might even get some “no backsies” laws that might actually stick that make it crystal clear that the State has no damn business dabbling about with religion of any stripe or type.

Last time the issue went before the Supreme Court, they punted, all the better to avoid truly clarifying the damn policy once and for all.

Sadly, I can not predict with certainty that we’ll have a Dem in office next go ’round, because the frontrunners, last I checked, are either female or black, and there are enough folks out there who are uncomfortable with both or either to potentially jigger the election for whoever the Repubz decide to nominate.

Do I personally think Jesus is “bad”? No, actually. I also know plenty of people who are devout and not hypocritical about it, and they don’t see the need to convert everyone else to their point of view, because they have the sense to understand that religious belief is deeply personal and private.

Some websites you may find interesting:


Americans, generally speaking, do not like or want to try to understand other theocracies, often nattering on about how wrong-headed and foolish those beliefs are, and comparing their own flavour of (usually) Christianity favorably to those other beliefs. As has been done for centuries, a particular type of Christian is really not into “live and let live” when it comes to competing religious beliefs. Not satisfied with their own personal salvation and religious beliefs, they feel the need to force everyone else to think and feel the same exact way, and to accept the same view of God as they have. I never understood that.

I especially don’t understand it when it involves two earnest, buzzcut-sporting, zitty teens in neckties (riding bikes) who insist on waking me up on the weekend.

I don’t understand the kind of mind that condemns the entire Muslim religion based on the actions of a handful of fanatical Muslim assrods, while conveniently neglecting to recall offenses a handful of fanatical Christian assrods have perpetrated throughout the ages.

I don’t understand the kind of mind that is so xenophobic and jingoistic as to say things like “America! Love it or leave it!” while forgetting that America is about preserving personal freedoms and rights, as long as those do not infringe upon other people’s freedoms and rights. Technically. Officially. Well, that’s what they keep telling us.

And meanwhile they are also forgetting that a lot of other countries sincerely hate our American guts, and don’t want any of the average American personality types to soil their country. Given that I don’t like the average American and average American interests (including political ignorance, dislike of reading, spelling and grammar, choices in mostly crap entertainment, their mostly crap musical preferences, their mostly crap etiquette, especially their crap dating behavior, overly indulgent or completely hands-off parenting, pro-tanorexic fashion, anti-intellectualism, false piety combind with judgmental behavior when faced with anyone who falls into the “other” category, materialism, use of animals / babies as accessories, and so on and so on) much myself, I can’t really blame them.


I guess I am incredibly angry that, say, Paris Hilton merits even one line of press, whereas actual NEWS news is considered too “unsexy” to bother with at all. (Example: I’m irritated that I even know “New York” is a person as well as a place, though what she does or contributes to the world, well, THAT I do not know.) And we’re infecting the rest of the world with the same crap values (though, to be fair, the UK has us beat where it comes to the “build ’em up then tear ’em down” trivial non-news “reporting” and publishing).

I guess if you say “we’re the best country on Earth” often enough, some folks really start to believe it. I’d say the truth somewhere in the middle: that we do a lot of things right and our intentions are generally good, but we mess up in a lot of areas, too, and you can’t acknowledge one side, the side where we do something really right, without also admitting to the other side, the one where…hoo boy!…have we ever got some work to do.

I think I need some caffeine and a lie down.

END OF OLD STUFF.

Okay.

Did you catch that bit about how it would be hilarious if we got a President in office who announced he wasn’t Christian? Well, instead we got a Christian that the conservative nutbags among us keep swearing is really a Secret Muslim.

It is probably best that we didn’t enrage the crazy people by having him announce he was giving up bacon permanently and converting to Judaism, after all.

 

 

 

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Those Darn Jehovah’s Witnesses

Apparently we live near a hive of JWs, because they have started to regularly ignore the large posted signs that say NO SOLICITING at the entrances and exits of our neighborhood and then swarm our homes to irritate us.

I’m too annoyed to type a nice rant, so here’s a not-so-nice one. I also didn’t feel like thinking too lengthily about JW beliefs, so I cut and pasted from Wikipedia. I already know what they believe. They won’t leave me alone about it. I’ve had 20+ years of being stalked and harassed by these knobheads. It’s got to stop. I’ve read their tracts (but then again, I read instructions on shampoo bottles and nutritional labels on cereal boxes just to read ANYthing). Of course I read it. It had words on it and I hadn’t read it 40 times before. I’m a read-a-holic. I have not learned anything new after 20+ years of being irritated by these puds.

See, they think everyone but them is going to Hell. I got that point pretty quickly. If they went off and were smug about it on their own time on their own turf rather than making a point to seek me out at my own house and rub my nose in it every damn weekend, I’d be more sanguine about it. I’m sick of picking up water-logged lumps of cheap paper tracts out of my bushes, off my lawn, and off my driveway. It’s bad enough that The Pennysaver won’t go away and insists on leaving me more trash to throw away every week. I don’t live in a mobile home, so I’m not in the market for Franklin Mint plates, Precious Moments figurines, a new used motor home, a crappy bass boat, a 1970 Firebird (Frank Burham is welcome to his), splay-hipped genetic disasters of mixed-breed hound dogs or overpriced non-collectible boxes of used modern-era Barbie dolls that the owner thinks are genuinely worth more than a free haul to the dump.

The JW tracts are worse than Pennysavers because they don’t courteously pre-wrap them in a plastic sleeve, perfect for toting directly to the garbage can. Then there’s the judgmental smugness. Nothing makes your day like random strangers trying to convince you that only they can save you from fire and brimstone.

I’m getting increasingly irritated by the insensitive and bullheaded obstinacy of these people. First of all, they decide that “NO SOLICITING” signs can’t possibly refer to them. In truth, they are the ONLY reason we folks in the neighborhood posted the signs. We are now missing out on Girl Scout cookies and small kids selling greeting cards and band candy all because these religion-addled opportunists assume that their message about The Jesus is so overwhelmingly important that it’s not REALLY soliciting to wake people up early in the morning, or interrupt them during dinner, or to get the entire dog population of the neighborhood up in arms and barking because the JWs are tromping all over everyone’s front yards, or to resist polite attempts to shoo them off if they corner while you are outside on your porch attempting to relax with friends.

Nothing breaks up a nice cocktail hour gabfest like two fresh-scrubbed JWs demanding that we listen to their spiel, giving us the stink-eye for drinking alcohol (I got the stink-eye over my glass of soda pop a couple of times, which irked me even more and made me want to run home while they were still hanging about just to break out the vodka in front of them even though I’m not a huge drinker at the best of times), insisting that we take their stupid, poorly-written propaganda pamphlets even if we protest we already have a huge collection and these will just end up in the garbage unread, and attempting to engage in intellectual debate with folks who are 10 or 20 or more years older and, as it always transpires, far better-versed in knowledge about various religions and spiritual issues. Not to mention the life experience that far outweighs any that a JW brought up so sheltered as to be unquestioning about the need to harass people about their ghost and pumpkin Hallowe’en or reindeer and Santa Christmas decorations around the holidays.

So fucking rude. And presumptuous.

Next time I’m going to tell them that we’re celebrating a birthday (a big JW no-no!) and that unless they wish to explain to their elders about it, they need to scoot before we sing and break out the cake and presents and consider them invited guests.

Party cooties! Going straight to hell!

Kill ’em with kindness! And high-cholesterol baked goods!

Then again, I don’t just have cakes laying around the house. Maybe I should do, but I haven’t done, thus far. Cake is good, I should consider it. Go on an all-cake, all-the-time diet. Mmmm, cake.

But I digress.

It is rude to inflict your agenda on strangers. It is rude to assume they are heathens that require your guiding hand to save them from Hell. It is also rude to assume that they need help picking out a religion or spiritual philosophical belief without some crew-cutted dweeb in a necktie leading them to Glory (Hallelujah). I daresay that there are very, very few teenagers capable of teaching me much about life. I remember that I was not an arrogant, know-it-all teenager, and I was fairly humble and all, but deep down inside, as much as I knew from books and lectures and life itself, and as high as my IQ was tested to be, I still knew NOTHING about life. I cringe at the idea of me at that age deciding to go out and minister to total strangers. I wouldn’t have, because I’d never have the gall to be so rude as to assume everyone else was in need of my brilliant religious guidance, or feel motivated to go door-to-door with tracts.

You know, it’s not the door-to-door thing; I sold Girl Scout cookies door-to-door. It isn’t a lack of gumption. One year I supposedly outsold every other child in my age group in the entire state. I don’t recall the details, just three rooms of our house stuffed to the ceiling with cartons of cookies and the unpleasant task that cookie delivery ended up being. (I was politely discouraged from selling so many the next year.)

But, hey, I obeyed No Soliciting signs, AND it helped that people actually WANT Girl Scout cookies. 🙂

Here’s a little bit about JWs:

“The Bible is considered by Jehovah’s Witnesses to be the inspired word of God. The New World Translation, produced by the group in 1950, is regarded by the group to be the most accurate translation of the Bible to date. They believe that the use of God’s name (rendered Jehovah in English) is vital for acceptable worship. They also believe that Jesus’ death was necessary to atone for the sins of humanity, opening the way for everlasting life. They believe that the wicked will be destroyed at Armageddon, and those who survive will form a new society and live in an earthly paradise forever. Jehovah’s Witnesses differ from mainstream Christianity in rejecting doctrines such as the Trinity, eternal torment in hell, and the immortality of the soul.

Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to become involved in social, religious, or political conflicts.” 

They don’t vote, or protest social injustice, or take sides during wartime conflicts. I don’t get the impression that this is done with a Quaker-like non-violent conscientious objection. Did they protest when Jews, gypsies, gays and others were slaughtered by the millions during The Holocaust? Did they take a stand when blacks were struggling for their Civil Rights?

Oh, gosh, no. It’s far more important to annoy people who have a sheet-with-eyeholes  “I got a rock” Charlie Brown-style ghost hanging from a shrub or a cardboard witch cartoon hung on their front porch.

“They are well known for their refusal of blood transfusions. This has garnered criticism from medical and legal sources. Their search for bloodless treatment options has added incentive for the development of many bloodless surgery techniques and the codification of patient rights.”

The ends justify the means, apparently. Their bizarre taboo against using someone else’s blood (why? because it could belong to someone of another gender, race, religion or sexual preference than the recipient?) at least benefits scientific progress in a round-about way. This may sound cruel, but if the person refusing the blood treatment is legally an adult, respect their wishes. I mean, honestly. If we get pissed off that they insist on pushing their beliefs on others, who are we to press our technological and scientific beliefs on them? Let them attempt to survive without it. I mean, really! Aren’t there other people who need it and have fewer qualms about HAVING it?

“Members who are judged to be unrepentant sinners, for such actions as committing adultery, stealing or continued drunkenness, are excommunicated (“disfellowshipped”). The Witnesses view the procedure as a Biblical practice of keeping a congregation in clean moral standing before God. Members subsequently discontinue their association with disfellowshipped ones (except when it comes to business or unavoidable family matters) until they are deemed repentant and seek re-admittance. Critics have labeled this practice as cruel and arbitrary.”

Nice to see that the JWs are into doing God’s work, judging their fellow humans about things such as these, including certain things that rely on opinion. What constitutes “continued drunkenness”? Enjoying more than one beer at a picnic every year or so? Passing out in puddles of your own barf every day? I got glared at for drinking a soda in the company of people who were having a glass of red wine on their own porch on their own property at a reasonable hour of the evening. Prats.

This “clean moral standing” bunk is particularly amusing, given the stereotypes and cliches out there about religious leaders who abuse their wifes and children, who commit adultery, get caught murdering people, who steal money from parishioners, who are closet drunks or self-hating homosexuals, and so on. To become a clichè, it has to have been repeated more than a few times.

To be fair, it’s not usually the JWs who get caught. Probably because it’s a lot easier to get shunned for being a normal human with faults than it is to rise in power and achieve the inevitable judgmental moral “superiority complex” smugness within the ranks.

“Within each local congregation, elders assigned by the branch organize the congregation’s public ministry, and schedule various speakers for congregational teaching. They also decide on qualified members of the congregation for the positions of elder or ministerial servant, requiring the approval of higher leadership.”

Qualified = able to carry a few pounds worth of Watchtowers in a basket on a bicycle, and to pedal the bicycle while wearing dress shoes.

“Elders are prominent in congregational matters, particularly in religious instruction and spiritual counseling; ministerial servants generally assist elders in a limited administrative capacity. Elders are unpaid, but Circuit and District overseers receive a small financial living allowance. All baptized Witnesses are considered to be ordained ministers, and are expected to be able to provide religious instruction to others. Males are encouraged to qualify to become elders. Within local congregations, the role of women is minimal in terms of responsibility, but they carry out a large proportion of the preaching work.”

If you think that being female makes you less qualified to be a religious leader, or if you believe that being flicked with or dunked into water automatically turns callow young males into “ordained ministers” capable of tendering a rational and well-reasoned argument to total strangers about matters as personal and private as religion, then maybe you, too, can be a JW. Or a twenty-something-year-old “elder”. That just bends my brain. Since when were 20-year-olds, at least in modern times, capable of being consistently wise about anything? It’s not a condemnation of youth, it’s just a fact: the wisest teen or 20-something doesn’t have the life experience to draw on that an older person does.

“The entire Biblical canon, excluding the Apocrypha, is considered the inspired word of God. A literal interpretation of the Bible is usually favored, though it is acknowledged that at times biblical writers and characters employed symbolism, parable, figures of speech, and poeticism. The doctrine of sola scriptura is principal, that is, only the Bible should be used for deciding issues of doctrine. The codifying interpretation of scripture is the responsibility of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. God is the creator and supreme being, sovereign of the universe. Using God’s name, Jehovah (a derivative of the Tetragrammaton), is a requirement for true worship. Jesus is God’s first creation and he was used by God to create everything else. Jesus is literally the only begotten Son of God, and received his life from God. He is the one who is the means of approach to God in prayer, and is the “Chief Agent of life” and salvation for all worthy mankind. His role as mediator of the “new covenant” is limited to those going to heaven, whose number totals 144,000.”

There are between 6.6 and 7 million JWs out there. Are they going to draw straws to be one of the 144 thousand, or what?

“The vast majority of God’s faithful servants will live on a renewed paradise earth. They believe that Jesus did not die on a cross but on a “torture stake” without a cross-bar.”

Despite recorded accounts to the contrary. Though, sure, there’s a lot of room for inaccuracy when you’re dealing with a subject that has been scrutinized exhaustively for over 2,000 years. (That’s not sarcasm.)

“Mary was not perpetually a virgin, but bore more children after Jesus. The soul is the human body and consciousness, not an immaterial entity that dwells in a physical human. Death is a state of non-existence. Hell (Hades or Sheol) is not a place of fiery torment, but the designated common grave of all mankind.”

There is no mention of Hell in The Old Testament, FWIW. There’s certainly no Dante-esque or Bosch-like Hell described within the Bible, though Revelations is enough to scare the pee out of the devout.

“The period known as the “last days” began in 1914. All religions, including Witnesses themselves, will shortly come under attack by governments leading into Armageddon, banning all forms of religion.”

Thanks to the Religious Right, that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

“After religion is destroyed, governments also face destruction. Any who are not deemed faithful by God will be destroyed. The fate of some, such as small children or the mentally ill, remains indeterminate.” 

A recent film, “Left Behind,” implies that small children will be whisked up to Heaven, but it promotes the Rapture specifically, not necessarily JW beliefs. Christian prophetic themes are explored in a fictional context around the theme of the “Rapture”, an interpretation of the Book of Revelation that is not accepted by some major Christian denominations. Among those Christians who believe there will be a Rapture, there are three main theories on the timing of this event: Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, and Post-Tribulation. This book takes the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position. The story is built around such End times themes as the Second Coming, the Antichrist, the Tribulation, and the expected coming Millennium of Messiah.

In 2004, Penn & Teller’s TV show “Bullshit!” devoted an episode to the “end of the world” phenomenon, following centuries of incorrect prophecy. The show explained that Bible prophecy is nothing new, and that the vague descriptions in the book of Revelation can apply to almost any location at any time. The Left Behind series was featured, and Jerry B. Jenkins was interviewed. Jenkins said “in my mind, in a way, we are sales people for the Gospel.” He continued, “people say money is the root of all evil, and actually it’s the love of money that’s the root of all evil. So there is nothing wrong with money if you use it right.” The host, Penn Jillette, responded, “what’s the story on money if you get it by creating an irrational fear in people?”

Word.

“After Armageddon, an unknown number of dead people will be resurrected, with the prospect of living forever on the paradise earth.”

Beam me up to Earth Two!

“Their view of sexual behavior reflects conservative Christian views. Homosexuality and premarital sex are considered sins. Abortion is considered murder. Modesty is heavily encouraged in dress and grooming.”

Which is why they all look like accountants.

“Gambling is strictly forbidden.” 

Though technically they are gambling each time they harrass people by wandering up to strange households and bothering people repeatedly about converting from their own perfectly good religious and spiritual beliefs to convert to THEIR damn religion. Gambling that someone doesn’t get sick of being interrupted during dinner, a bath, while sleeping, while working, while doing any number of things that are far more important than being preached at by pairs of earnest strangers that reek of man-made fibers, Ivory Soap and Clearasil.

“Practices that connote nationalism or false religion are avoided.”

Yup. I get pamphlets around every holiday, or when my neighbors display flags. I’m tempted to display my Union Jack on the Fourth Of July to see if it confuses them doubly.

“Weddings, anniversaries, and funerals are typically observed; however, common celebrations and religious or national holidays such as birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are regarded as unchristian and are not celebrated.” 

That’s right. CHRISTmas is unCHRISTian. Celebrating birthdays and Giving Thanks (again, who are you supposedly giving thanks to?) are also bad.

Need we add that Easter Bunny is bad? And they left tracts stuffed all around my Hallowe’en decor. I’m tired of picking up JW garbage off my front stoop every week. Worse, it’s all written on the intellectual level of your average Jack Chick comic.

“The family structure is patriarchal. The husband is considered the final authority on family decisions, but is strongly encouraged to actively solicit his wife’s thoughts and feelings.” 

I’m glad they are into feminist theory and aren’t the least bit backward or misogynist or Troglodytic with regard to their cultural and social awareness.

“The preaching work is regarded as a form of humanitarian effort by giving people a hope for the future. Aid work after large natural disasters is considered an important part of their work. Often hundreds of thousands of donated money is used in the affected areas to rebuild communities and provide aid. However, on-going aid work that some other religious groups provide, such as soup kitchens, clothing donations, or building homes for the homeless, is not focused on.”

Nice to know that it takes a major disaster to get them out in force to help clean up and rebuild. I suppose when it affect your own homes or religious halls it’s more important. But apparently the most important work of all is witnessing to the disinterested majority of strangers around them in their communties. Leaving unwanted tracts and booklets all over the city is far more important than feeding and clothing the homeless.

Do I hate Jehovah’s Witnesses? Emphatically not. I just find them rude, pushy, irritating, judgmental and arrogant.

  1. The NO SOLICITING signs apply to everyone.
  2. If you drop off tracts 200 times at a single house and never get a nibble of interest and are, in fact, told to go away and to stop bothering the people in the house, you are pushy. And trespassing.
  3. If it becomes expected that you will litter your garbage all over everyone’s lawn at the first sight of a coloured egg, pumpkin, American flag, black cat, reindeer or cornucopia, you are a killjoy jerk and I pity your kids.
  4. If you repeatedly assume that everyone you don’t know from your narrow JW-only social circle requires education and saving and enlightenment from you, you are judgmental and annoying.
  5. If you automatically assume that strangers are in need of your particular flavour of religious guidance, without which they will go to Hell, you are an arrogant prick.

I’m just saying.

People with evangelical zeal convince themselves that rules don’t apply to them because they deem their message all-important. Spreading the word about God-as-they-know-Him is, in their minds, a Good Thing. They’re just looking out for all their heathen brethren (and sistren).

I’m generally polite to them if I don’t just ignore the banging and ringing at my front door instead. I can say that I never get the same pair twice after I shoo them, but their communication skills are poor down at Jehovah Central Command because they send more out month after month.

Clearly I’m a short bike ride away from The Hive Mind.

I’ve worked with Mormons; I generally like them and have no issues with them. They haven’t been the polygamous Mormon types (as far as I know), but they all were anti-stimulants (which means no caffeine, which means no chocolate, no soda pop, and no teeeeeeeeeaaa! I’d die without my tea).

Mormons (in my town at least) and Quakers tend to actually practice what they preach and lead by example, which is the best way to impress me, personally speaking.

The only sect I am annoyed by more than Southern Baptists and JWs are Scientologists. They don’t take criticism well. I’ve been online for over a decade and could tell stories about rogue Scientologists engaging in denial-of-service attacks and personal harassment when anyone dares to comment on the loonier aspects of their beliefs. A case of “if they won’t join you, beat them.”

Then there’s the Religion-Of-One crazies I encountered in Las Vegas and Los Angeles who left photocopied and mostly illiterate screeds on my doors, the best one of which explained that Hell was your stomach after you engaged in fellatio, swallowed, and your stomach acids killed all the sperm. Every sperm is sacred, y’know. I suppose Heaven is a partner that spits. I frequently wish I’d saved them. They had cool hand-drawn art and everything. I’m not sure who these people worshiped: dread God Pornulus, probably.

I also got some “God is an ET” flyers, but gave up trying to decipher them. Picture little green men with halos and wings, though. And reptile-like ETs with horns and forked tails and tongues…sort of a Jack Chick Devil character, but it was from outer space.

Of course, here in Georgia, we have dirt-eaters and snake-handlers nearby. I’ve never known any personally, but I think Darwin’s rules, specifically those concerning adaptation and survival of the fittest, tend to keep their populations on the small side. They probably can’t recruit too many folks from outside their community.

Now that it’s getting chillier, the JW neighborhood-wide infestations will slow to a trickle. Instead of 2-3 forays a month, I’ll get maybe one or two every other month.

Last time I mentioned my annoyance with JWs, an online friend posted this:

This website summarizes 300 United States court cases and lawsuits affecting children of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including dozens of cases where the Parents refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions:

DIVORCE, BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS, AND OTHER LEGAL ISSUES AFFECTING CHILDREN OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES:
http://jwdivorces.bravehost.com/

This website summarizes 160 United States court cases and lawsuits filed by Jehovah’s Witnesses against Employers:

EMPLOYMENT ISSUES UNIQUE TO JEHOVAH’S WITNESS EMPLOYEES:
http://jwemployees.bravehost.com

Yikes.

No comment.

Tales From Grad School: The ‘Double Dunkers’

In 2006, I was in the process of earning my Master’s and ended up bonding more with the professors, who were closer to my age, than the other students, many of which were undergrads.

My prof and I were discussing an Amish school shooting (the shooter was not Amish) and that led to discussions about the difference between Mennonites and Amish (as far as I can figure, the Amish are slightly more strict than the Mennonites, but outsiders would easily confuse the two sects) and the similarities. They are both Anabaptist sects. That led to this conversation:

Prof: What’s that? Anti-Baptist?
Me: No, ANAbaptist. And I am not positive, so I must invoke the power of the Internet…hold, please. *wikipedia search*
Prof: ‘kay.
Me: Ah, I get it. They are double dunkers.
Prof: *laughs* What?
Me: You get dunked once as an infant, and re-dunked as an adult. Apparently the original dunking comes with a limited warranty.
Prof: “Double dunkers.” Holy crap.
Me: Well, sort of, yeah.

Then we both had a good LOL over that. It was nice being a grad student.

I’m back in school working towards getting an AS Paralegal (you may have noticed the paralegal-related stuff I post on Mondays), and it is mostly online and my classmates are mostly very, very young or very, very old. It’s weird.

My grad school prof  that I had that chat with had a class of undergrads after my class and if I was hovering about doing work on a project, the children would say the most entertaining things. Apparently I missed some real doozies on Tuesday. The prof started discussing current events and polling the class about films that they thought were culturally significant and important and so forth. I tuned out when I overheard half the class ask what “Citizen Kane” was. Even if you haven’t SEEN it, it’s culturally illiterate not to even have heard of it. AT AN ART SCHOOL.

Then again, this art school has a football team and tons of conservative Christian Republican activists. Yay, Georgia. It’s a way to rebel and be non-conformist at an art school, I suppose, where the default settings / stereotypes are liberal, culturally-cognizant youths who are far more interested in the fine arts than in chasing the pigskin around. A few quarters back, there was a big kerfluffle over whether or not the art school should have fraternities and sororities. NO! Go to a party school if that’s what you want. For chrissakes. They don’t make art students like they used to, people.

Also, most of my professors were in a semi-permanent state of despair because hardly any of the children knew how to speak or write using proper English, and few of them read. Anything. Ever. Even if it was an assigned article. On the plus side, most of these kids did get weeded out after tackling the core courses they had to take as undergrads…those who were stubborn about remaining illiterate and those who decided that going to art school would be the equivalent of getting a degree in Advanced Basket Weaving (even the Fiber Arts program requires its students to be able to communicate clearly) were quickly disabused of that fantasy.

Twenty years ago, the school was desperate for applicants and it let pretty much anyone in who could stomp their hooves on the floor to do basic maths, but now only 20% of all applicants are accepted, and far fewer manage to make it through the various hoops and obstacles involved. Ha, joke’s on you, this particular art school is actually FREAKING DIFFICULT. Who knew?

In the meantime, my professor and I would sit and chat, and that particular day the newbies hadn’t had their first midterm yet, and they were actually all being rather gleefully ignorant and lazy, and acting as if The Olds in the corner were stone deaf and unable to hear them…and I am guessing that my professor probably took a lot of Tylenol every day.

We’re still friends on Facebook and LinkedIn. I am not friends with any of the children.

Creationism as conspiracy theory, and the teaching of the Urey-Miller experiment

I can’t improve upon this. An excerpt:

Some time, you may want to start a conspiracy theory. If you want to learn how to do this, you cannot do better than study the antics of the creationists, and especially their Discovery Institute (DI) think tank.

Creationists absolutely need to have a conspiracy theory. That is because their position contradicts everything that scientists has been telling us for the past 200 years, or even, in its Young Earth version, the past 300 years. If creationism is true, the entire intellectual establishment has been lying to you.

All conspiracy theories work the same way. Like the most unpleasant kinds of religion, they divide humanity into two groups, the illuminated and the benighted, and offer membership of the illuminated, if you will only accept their central doctrine. To qualify as a conspiracy theory, that doctrine has to pour scorn on the most obvious or scientifically validated explanations of the facts, and replace them with the belief that these explanations, or indeed these facts, are fabricated by a close-knit group of wicked people (in this case, the Wicked Evolutionists, or WE), cynically manipulating the evidence for their own disreputable reasons. Once this belief is in place, it is self-sustaining, since all evidence to the contrary is tainted, coming as it does from the Unscrupulous Scientists (US).

The next step in setting up your conspiracy theory is to find a group of people who already want to believe you. Most of us, after all, spent most of our thinking time on looking for evidence in favour of what we want to believe. So find a group of people who already have reasons to want your claims to be true. They might, for example, wish to believe that the Government is hiding evidence of UFOs, or that NASA is a giant scam, or Barack Obama should not be President of the United States, or that Government should not interfere with the operations of industry.

Then give them an excuse, however flimsy, for believing. Believing that aliens landed at Roswell, or that the Moon Landings were faked, or that Obama was born in Kenya, or that there is no such thing as man-made global warming. Or, at least, for believing that the topic is controversial. If all else fails, your own voice raised in denial of reality can be used as evidence that the controversy is real.

You’ve now got US in a cleft stick. If WE ignore you, you can continue unchallenged. If WE reply to you, that proves that there really is a controversy. And if WE try to explain that there is nothing worthy of a reply, you can claim, as William Lane Craig claimed when Richard Dawkins refused to debate with him, that WE are scared of you.

Enjoy the rest of the article here: Creationism as conspiracy theory, and the teaching of the Urey-Miller experiment.

Lawrence Wright’s Book on Scientology — Going Clear — Hits Bookstores January 17

Via Tony Ortega’s blog:

“Ever since Wright’s epic February, 2011 story “The Apostate” showed up in The New Yorker we’ve been looking forward to this book. That magazine story was about the defection of longtime Scientologist and Oscar-winning film director Paul Haggis. But with this book, Wright’s going deep on what’s tearing apart the church today.

Not long ago, January was also announced for the publication of Jenna Miscavige Hill’s tell-all. The niece of church leader David Miscavige made major waves in 2008 when she appeared on Nightline, describing the harrowing life of kids growing up in the church. We expect her book to be a devastating expose of her uncle’s organization.

However, just yesterday we learned that the copy we pre-ordered was moved back a month, to February. We hope that’s just a minor distribution glitch and not a sign of bigger problems.

All we know is, the Bunker can’t wait to get review copies of both books. So send ‘em already, PR folks!”

Read more: Lawrence Wright’s Book on Scientology — Going Clear — Hits Bookstores January 17.

Athena In San Francisco Shares The Top Five Myths About America

Swiped shamelessly from a poster in the Bay Area (San Franscisco) who called herself “Athena”. (It might not be safe to assume that a female deity pseudonym = female person in “real life”, but I’m willing to go there if you are.) Swiped because the ranting is heartfelt and well-researched. Impressive. (NOTE THE AUTHOR before yelling at me for writing something you didn’t like, please. It’s not original.)

Top 5 Myths About America
Date: 2006-05-22, 9:25AM PDT (NOTE THE DATE before fussing that some data is not current, please.)

MYTH 1: The US was founded on Christian principles.

TRUTH:

This is incorrect.
The Constitution never once mentions a deity, because the Founding Fathers wanted to keep their new country “religion-neutral.” Our Founding Fathers were an eclectic collection of Atheists, Deists, Christians, Freemasons and Agnostics.

George Washington, the Father of our country, and John Adams (Second President of the USA) CLEARLY stated in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli: “The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion.”

G.W. rarely attended church and instead followed a popular 18th century philosophy called Deism—a Star Wars-esque philosophy that believed in a cosmic energy or big-ass universal “Force.” The dictionary says that Deism is “a system of thought advocating natural religion based on human reason rather than revelation,” that had nothing to do with Christian principles.

James Madison, original mastermind of our Constitution, was an Atheist to the core who loved skewering Christianity. In 1785 he wrote, “What have been [Christianity’s] fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

Thomas Jefferson, who sat down and authored The Declaration of Independence, rarely missed an opportunity to laugh at Christianity. In a letter to John Adams in 1823, he wrote: “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus…will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”

More ammo: In 1814, Tommy J. wrote about the Bible’s Old and New Testaments, “The whole history of these books is so defective and doubtful — evidence that parts have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds.”

In fact, it was President Jefferson himself who first wrote (to a Baptist church group in 1802), “The First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between Church and State.” Therefore, when Jefferson talked about “Nature’s God,” the “Creator” and “divine Providence ” in the Declaration that he wrote, he was being a hippie and referring to a general cosmic energy– not the Christian God.

America is not a Christian nation. Period. Our Constitution derived from the post-Christian Enlightenment values of reason and truth…never from the paranoid yammerings of that otherwise compassionate cult leader who fucking died in the Middle Eastern desert 3000 years ago.

MYTH 2: US Conservatives tend to be patriotic, ethical Americans; liberals tend to hate America and are immoral.

TRUTH:

Liberals aren’t the traitors to America. In fact, conservatives who insist on sending American troops into the Iraqi slaughterhouse to watch some blood-n’-guts “towelhead” ass-kickin’ are the traitors. Most of them could care less about our troops, no more than Mao or Stalin cared about the safety of their own soldiers. In the neocons’ view, these young boys and girls are expendable test dummies. They’re dying for virtually nothing, so that the hicks in the Bush Admin can make good on their campaign promises to their buddies from the petroleum and infrastructure-rebuilding industries. By revving up the Arab threat, these MFs can scream “national security” and “freedom” as smokescreens, while getting their hands on a diminishing resource: Middle Eastern fossil fuels, which power everything from your lightbulbs and computer that you leave on all night, to your stupid gas-guzzler pickup truck.

Pro-war conservatives are the traitors to America. With only 29% of the public approving of Bush’s policies now, it took a full 5 years for America to finally wake up in bed next to this disgusting fact.

Do liberals hate America? No, in fact they care so much about the USA that they fight so aggressively to make it better. They’re not anti-American; they’re just anti-stupidity. Do liberals hate American policies? Sometimes, but only the self-destructive ones that threaten human rights, liberty, democracy, justice, inquiry, excellence and reason– the values that our country was founded upon.

As for conservative moral superiority? Frauds. Think of the child-molesting priests, money-scamming televangelist preachers, Jack Abramoff’s friends in the Bush Admin, gay-hating Jesus lovers, the Christians who beat up the professor who opposed intelligent design, human rights violators like Lynndie England and her Abu Ghraib hick officer pals, Tommy “Scandal-icious” Delay, Scooter “Leaky” Libby, the entire K Street Project meant to hire only Republicans, FEMA’s Michael “Yer doin’ a heckuva job” Brownie, and so on.

Oh and by the way, conservative Red states have a divorce rate 27% higher than the liberal Blue states, the per capita rate of violent crime in Red states is 49 per 100,000 higher than in Blue states, the top 5 states with the highest rates of alcohol abuse are Red states, and the per capita rate of gonorrhea in Red states was 41 per 100,000 higher than in the Blue states. Time to unshelf the antibiotics for our “ethical,” “God-fearing” conservative friends with their “traditional family values.”

MYTH 3. The US has a liberal media.

TRUTH:

This is a paranoid Republican myth.
Reality check: the US media is a mix of liberal, centrist and conservative voices. Also, the US media is largely owned by 10 corporations who frequently push pro-conservative agendas to the American public. Evidence:

1. Even Republican Pat Buchanan confessed, “For heaven sakes, we kid about the liberal media, but every Republican on earth does that.” Neo-conservative pundit Bill Kristol also said, “I admit it: the liberal media were never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures.”

2. A 2005 study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics found that “coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media.” Why? Partly because only four major corporate networks control American TV news– up to 75% of the audience share. The “Big 10” media conglomerates who control the bulk of the entire US media are: AOL Time Warner, Disney, General Electric, News Corporation, Viacom, Vivendi, Sony, Bertelsmann, AT&T and Liberty Media. Yes, we have National Public Radio, but compare its public reach to that of Canada’s CBC and the United Kingdom’s BBC.

3. Eighty percent of all US newspapers are owned by corporate chains.

4. Liberals are virtually non-existent on talk radio stations nationwide. Rush and Dr. Laura, eat your hearts out.

5. Conservatives are very well accomodated for across FOX News, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, the New York Post, the American Spectator, the Weekly Standard, the Drudge Report, the National Review, etc. Even so-called “bastions of liberalism,” e.g. the NY Times, MSNBC, WashPost and NPR make a concerted effort to be “fair and balanced” by bringing in right-wing views like those of David Brooks, Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson, Charles Krauthammer and Cokie Roberts to have their say in these forums, respectively. This is in stark contrast to FOX News’ claims to unbiased objectivity, which were easily demolished by Robert Greenwald in 2004.

6. Contrary to what some paranoid Republicans claim, most journalists are centrists, not liberals. A representative sample of 141 US journalists and bureau chiefs were asked in 1998, “On social issues, how would you characterize your political orientation?” Answers: Left 30%, Center 57%, Right 9%, Other 5% . Next question, same sample: “On economic issues, how would you characterize your political orientation? ” Answers: Left 11%, Center 64%, Right 19%, Other 5%. Also, look at the total number of think tank citations in major newspapers, radio and TV transcripts: Conservative TTs: 7792, Centrist TTs: 6361, Liberal TTs: 1152.

7. Eric Alterman summarizes a 1999 research study from the academic journal Communications Research: “Four scholars examined the use of the ‘liberal media’ argument and discovered a fourfold increase in the number of Americans telling pollsters that they discerned a liberal bias in their news. But a review of the media’s actual ideological content, collected and coded over a twelve-year period, offered no corroboration whatever for this view.”

MYTH 4. The US doesn’t need improvement compared to other countries; it is the greatest country in the world.

TRUTH:
Wrong again. I’ll only cite the statistics here.

USA Ranking on Adult Literacy Scale: #9
(#1 Sweden and #2 Norway)- OECD

USA Ranking on Healthcare Quality Index: #37
(#1 France and #2 Italy)- World Health Organization 2003

USA Ranking of Student Reading Ability: #12
(#1 Finland and #2 South Korea)- OECD PISA 2003

USA Ranking of Student Problem Solving Ability: #26
(#1 South Korea and #2 Finland)- OECD PISA 2003

USA Ranking on Student Mathematics Ability: # 24
(#1 Hong Kong and #2 Finland)- OECD PISA 2003

USA Ranking of Student Science Ability: #19
(#1 Finland and #2 Japan)- OECD PISA 2003

USA Ranking on Women’s Rights Scale: #17
(#1 Sweden and #2 Norway)- World Economic Forum Report

USA Position on Timeline of Gay Rights Progress: # 6 (1997)
(#1 Sweden 1987 and #2 Norway 1993)- Vexen

USA Ranking on Life Expectancy: #29
(#1 Japan and #2 Hong Kong)- UN Human Development Report 2005

USA Ranking on Journalistic Press Freedom Index: #32
(#1 Finland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands tied)- Reporters Without Borders 2005

USA Ranking on Political Corruption Index: #17
(#1 Iceland and #2 Finland)- Transparency International 2005

USA Ranking on Quality of Life Survey: #13
(#1 Ireland and #2 Switzerland)- The Economist Magazine …Wikipedia “Celtic Tiger” if you still have your doubts.

USA Ranking on Environmental Sustainability Index: #45
(#1 Finland and #2 Norway)- Yale University ESI 2005

USA Ranking on Overall Currency Strength: #3 (US Dollar)
(#1 UK pound sterling and #2 European Union euro)- FTSE 2006….the dollar is now a liability, so many banks worldwide have planned to switch to euro

USA Ranking on Infant Mortality Rate: #32
(#1 Sweden and #2 Finland)- Save the Children Report 2006

USA Ranking on Human Development Index (GDP, education, etc.): #10
(#1 Norway and #2 Iceland)- UN Human Development Report 2005

So much for those “socialist” Europeans and those “backward” Asians, hm?
We can do better than this.

Miscellany:
*Only 18% of Americans own passports and bother to travel outside of the US.
* 85% of US soldiers in Iraq believe that they are there to get revenge for 9/11.
* New international student enrollment in US grad schools has decreased by 6%, because of xenophobic post-9/11 US visa restrictions, jacked-up tuition fees and better educational opportunities in the EU and Asia. So no, not everyone wants to come here anymore, because it’s become a land of incredibly limited opportunity, and we’ve lowered our educational standards.

MYTH 5: The US government loves to help other countries.

TRUTH:
This is a myth. The US government tends to be motivated by interests, not humanitarian principles.

Denmark gives the most amount of its GDP (1.01%) to developing countries; Norway gives 0.91%; the Netherlands give 0.79% and so on until the end of list, where the USA sits. Yes, America ranks DEAD LAST in foreign aid at a pathetic 0.1% of its GDP, compared to the other 21 nations listed as developed nations. The idea that the US government is a heroic bunch that runs around the world helping the poor and the disempowered is not backed up by the evidence. We have one of the stingiest governments on earth.

Most Americans believe the US spends 24% of its budget on aid to poor countries; the actual amount is well under a quarter of 1%. Our country also ranks #5 on asylum-seeker acceptance rates (#1 is Denmark and #2 is Canada).

For you self-congratulatory, redneck-inspired conservative fuckwads who will start to say, “B-b-b-but you’re anti-American! M-m-m-moonbat! G-g-g-god bless the USA!” I answer, “Go fuck yourself. We can do better.” Stop blindly believing everything your president tells you. Come back to us only when you start realizing that the $400 billion your president has allocated to his Roman Empire-style military overstretch could be better spent on correcting the sociopolitical and economic problems in the arenas that I’ve listed above.

For you liberal shit-heels who will start to say, “Yeah! Right on!” I answer, “Grow some fucking balls.” That goes for women and the LGBT community too, and don’t call me a sexist either: I’m more than comfortable with being a female, but I believe balls can be useful in situations like these. Instead, stop apologizing for being the “liberal elite,” and start championing un-abashed excellence in everything, not mediocrity. Help your reps and senators take back Congress, and stop dithering while the political tides are turning in your favor right now. The conservatives are terrified now; TAKE advantage of that. And don’t waste time trying to explain rational things to any homophobic Christians, or hyper-patriotic losers who wave and cheapen our American flag only for a self-esteem buzz, or those testosterone-filled, gullible, culturally-ignorant military recruiter robots who lack even a basic intelligence. THEY CANNOT BE REASONED WITH. They don’t understand statistics, elaborate charts, legislative proposals or complicated scientific explanations. Just let them go. Let them go.

In the meantime, stop being SHEEP and get up and do something before some bright and ambitious Chinese, Indian and the European students grow up to be international leaders and make your lazy, self-absorbed kids irrelevant on the world stage.

If this is a reasonable manifesto, click “best of,” upper right-hand corner.

Athena

You Know You’re A Fundie If…

Swiped shamelessly from “Best Of Craigslist (Phoenix)”:

Top Ten Signs You’re a Fundamentalist Christian
Date: 2006-06-02, 1:10PM MST

10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 – You feel insulted and “dehumanized” when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the “atrocities” attributed to Allah, but you don’t even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in “Exodus” and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in “Joshua” including women, children, and trees!

6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs — though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most “tolerant” and “loving.”

3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in “tongues” may be all the evidence you need to “prove” Christianity.

2 – You define 0.01% as a “high success rate” when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.