Things they would have difficulty believing in Salt Lake City XXXI

9 04 2009

The week in whackaloonery:

1. A Catholic priest in the UK is shocked SHOCKED at the notion that the primary function of a hospital is the provision of medical care, and claims that if taxpayers don’t continue to foot the bill for “spiritual care” (chaplains, organ players and such), “hospitals could be reduced to mere workshops where you get your biological parts fixed.” Fancy that. (The Freethinker)]

2. The New Zealand Family First organisation is crying foul over a very funny billboard ad depicting a woman who, it is intimated, is privately deriving pleasure from anal beads during a church service. Given that “the church setting simply adds to the offensive nature by offending a sector of our community who would find the ad in particularly bad taste,” and given that said sector of the community has a right not to be offended, and given that nobody is thinking of teh children, NZ Family First has lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority. (The Freethinker)

3. In the recently fundy-ised Swat Valley region of Pakistan, a 17-year-old girl was publicly flogged by the Taliban. Swat was once a haven for tourists and was known as the “Switzerland of Pakistan,” until the Taliban took control in late 2008, torching schools and banning female education. (AsiaNews)

4. In Nepal, a woman accused of witchcraft was forced to eat human excreta by a primary school principal. (MYREPUBLICA)

5. Unfortunate article heading of the week from New Vision Online: “Catholic Church probes gay priests.” Homosexuality is teh evil, according to Ugandan Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, because “homosexuality is a sin,” and because “God created a woman for Adam, to be his helper.”

6. In liberated Iraq, in the wake of anti-homosexual sermons by clerics in Sadr city, six gay men have been murdered, their bodies discovered bearing a sign reading “pervert” in Arabic on their chests. (Reuters)

The Wonderful World of Magical Thinking XXXV

5 12 2007

The week in fundie . . .

  1. The Unintentional Irony award goes to the opponents of the International Baccalaureate curriculum at a high school in Upper St Clair, Pennsylvania, who appear to be of the view that it comes straight from Chairman Mao:
    “The IB program is anti-American. It does not teach the basic patriotic values of the United States,” said Judy Brown, 64, a retired merchandising and sales representative who has a daughter that attended Upper St. Clair schools. “It’s almost like brainwashing.”

    A hostile board member was heard to utter:

    “Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie;” and, “Jesus Christ as the redeemer of man is the center and purpose of human history. That is why all authentically religious tradition must be allowed to manifest their own identity publicly, free from any pressure to hide or disguise it.”

    Got that? Not forcing Jeebus and flag-waving patriotism down the throats of students constitutes “brainwashing.” (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

  2. A Catholic bishop in Chicago is seeking legal changes that would shield Church institutions from having to pay out “excessive damages” in sex abuse lawsuits, on the grounds that they “jeopardize the mission of the church” and hence “place an excessive burden on the free exercise of religion for American Catholics.” Oh, please. If the Catholic church wishes to minimise the damages resulting from sex abuse lawsuits, the answer is absurdly simple: it needs to stop engaging in or sheltering the perpetrators of sexual abuse. (Chicago Tribune, via the Atheist Experience)
  3. Sherri Shepherd, who is proving herself to be someone you want in your corner should you ever find yourself playing team Trivial Pursuit, opines: “I don’t think anything predated Christians.” The Greeks? The Romans? “Jesus came before them.” Shepherd is quite the polymath: not only is she full-bottle on world history, she’s also formidable on the earth sciences. (The Huffington Post, via Pharyngula)
  4. Florida’s Palm Beach Community College refuses to provide health benefits to same-sex partners of its employees. It is more than willing, however, “to offer workers insurance for their pets.” (, via
  5. A Saudi appeals court judge has threatened to sentence a rape victim to death if she appeals against her current sentence of 200 lashes and six months in prison for “illegal mingling” with an unrelated male. (via Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion)

Just to make it worth your while . . .

Pat Condell on Catholic morality

The videos of this year’s Beyond Belief conference are now available online.

The Wonderful World of Magical Thinking XXXIV

27 11 2007

The week in fundie . . .

  1. The Opus Dei wing of the Liberal Party is being blamed by moderates for the fall of the Howard Government. (While they’re at it, they might also throw some blame at Howard himself for backing Silas in Mitchell.) (Sydney Morning Herald)
  2. The Australian Christian bookstore chain Koorong (along with other Christian book retailers) has indicated that it will be unlikely to stock a new Bible study guide challenging the notion that the Bible excludes same-sex relationships. (The Age)
  3. A British primary school teacher in the Sudan faces a maximum of 40 lashes, six months in jail and a fine for the dastardly crime of “allegedly insulting Islam’s prophet by allowing children to call a teddy bear Mohammed.” You have got to be fucking kidding me. (AFP; see also Pharyngula)
  4. I’ll let this grab from a Cutting Edge radio transcript speak for itself:
    The demons of Satan’s army will soon physically manifest themselves as Aliens, arriving in armadas of space ships which we have heretofore called UFO’s. The plan calls for them to suddenly appear at many places on Earth simultaneously. Some will appear at the White House to confer with the President; some will appear at the United Nations; other aliens will appear at key governmental buildings all over the globe. Aliens will appear in some people’s homes or on their front yards. The world’s peoples will literally be shocked out of their minds. This is the Plan. This may occur before the worldwide Rapture of the Church; we must be prepared to deal wisely with this planned phenomenon.

    (Via Fundies Say the Darndest Things)

  5. “Nice soul you have here. Awful shame if something were to happen to it.” More standover tactics by Catholic clergy (obviously from the Pell wing) in the US. (The story comes via Fundies Say the Darndest Things. The mobster reference should be credited to Denis Loubet of the Non-Prophets)
  6. I just had a look at the Australian Christian Lobby’s list of what it considers are the strengths and weaknesses of the Australian Greens’ policies. Among the “weaknesses” the Lobby identifies are the Greens’ support for a Bill of Rights, and their support for the extension of anti-discrimination legislation to (partially-taxpayer-funded) private schools as well as public schools–a reminder, if any were required, of how the ACL and the Religious Right in Australia generally are no friends of liberal democracy.

UPDATE: Off-topic, but Phillip Adams really sums up why Labor’s victory is so sweet.

Humor via Atheist Media:

The Wonderful World of Magical Thnking XXXIII

18 11 2007

The week in fundie . . .

  1. God hearts Howard’s policies: Howard. (Sydney Morning Herald)
  2. Nothing restores my faith in the intersection of faith and politics than another heartwarming story from Saudi Arabia. Last week an appeals court increased the punishment meted out to a gang-rape victim (perfectly understandable, of course: she was in a car with males who were not her relatives) to 200 lashes and six months in prison. (via Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion)
  3. And nothing restores my faith in the willingness of certain Christians to follow the example of the central figure of their religion than the openness and tolerance displayed by the North Carolina Baptist State Convention, which last week expelled a congregation for welcoming gays and lesbians. Fundies. If they’re not lying for Jesus, they’re hating for him. (via
  4. Meanwhile in Britain, women are queuing up for a kind of cosmetic surgery known as “virginity repair” to appease their future spouses and in-laws. All in the name of Islamic fundamentalism. All taxpayer-funded. (Daily India)
  5. The response to PBS’ Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial is worth the price of admission (so to speak). (via Pharyngula)

Secular Believers:

The Bill Muehlenberg Trophy: Joseph Massad

21 10 2007

Joseph Massad, Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University, has published a book in which he argues that

there are no homosexuals in the entire Arab world, except for a few who have been brainwashed into believing they have a homosexual identity by an aggressive Western homosexual missionizing movement he calls “Gay International.” [. . .] According to the author, “It is the very discourse of the Gay International which produces homosexuals, as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist” (emphasis added).

The claim is advanced in the third chapter of Desiring Arabs, based upon an earlier paper of his (“Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World”).

TEH GAY AGENDA is a familiar Christian Right meme, and
the idea that gays and lesbians do not exist in the Middle East has most recently been put by one Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Massad simply presents the homophobic ravings of Christian and Muslim fundies and expresses them in the idiom of postcolonial studies. As former Guardian Middle East correspondent Brian Whitaker observes in a review of Desiring Arabs,

Massad talks of a “missionary” campaign orchestrated by what he calls the “Gay International”. Its inspiration, he says, came partly from “the white western women’s movement, which had sought to universalise its issues through imposing its own colonial feminism on the women’s movements in the non-western world”, but he also links its origins to the Carter administration’s use of human rights to “campaign against the Soviet Union and Third World enemies”.

Like the major US- and European-based human rights organisations (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International) and following the line taken up by white western women’s organisations and publications, the Gay International was to reserve a special place for the Muslim countries in its discourse as well as its advocacy. The orientalist impulse … continues to guide all branches of the human rights community. (p 161)

Oddly, since this is central to his argument, Massad offers no evidence to substantiate his claim. There are plenty of reasons other than an “orientalist impulse” why gay rights activists might justifiably pay attention to Muslim countries (punishments for same-sex acts, for instance, tend to be heavier there, on paper if not always in practice, and the only countries in the world where the death penalty for sodomy still applies justify it on the basis of Islamic law) but that is not the same as reserving “a special place” for them in the discourse.

Then again, I suppose the demand that extraordinary claims of the kind Massad advances be supported by empirical evidence may be written off as another manifestation of Western imperialism. It gets worse:

State repression against gay people happens on a frequent basis across the Middle East. Massad, however, who claims to be a supporter of sexual freedom per se, is oddly impassive when confronted with the vast catalogue of anti-gay state violence in the Muslim world. Massad, unlike Ahmadinejad, does acknowledge that “gay-identified” people exist in the Middle East, but he views them with derision. Take, for instance, his description of the Queen Boat victims as “westernized, Egyptian, gay-identified men” who consort with European and American tourists. A simple “gay” would have sufficed. He smears efforts to free the men by writing of the “openly gay and anti-Palestinian Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank” and the “anti-Arab and anti-Egyptian [Congressman] Tom Lantos” who circulated a petition amongst their colleagues to cut off U.S. funding to Egypt unless the men were released. He then goes onto belittle not just gay activists (one of whom, a founder of the Gay and Lesbian Arabic Society, referred to the Queen Boat affair as “our own Stonewall,” in reference to the 1969 Stonewall riot when a group of patrons at a New York City gay bar resisted arrest, a moment credited with sparking the American gay rights movement) but the persecuted men themselves. The Queen Boat cannot be Stonewall, Massad insists, because the “drag Queens at the Stonewall bar” embraced their homosexual identity, whereas the Egyptian men “not only” did “not seek publicity for their alleged homosexuality, they resisted the very publicity of the events by the media by covering their faces in order to hide from the cameras and from hysterical public scrutiny.” Massad does not pause to consider that perhaps the reason why these men covered their faces was because of the brutal consequences they would endure if their identities became public, repercussions far worse than anything the rioters at Stonewall experienced. “These are hardly manifestations of gay pride or gay liberation,” Massad sneers.

Joseph Massad: you are a disgrace to academia. Your brand of unscholarly and unsubstantiated rubbish feeds the hysterical paranoiac fantasies of the Horowitz crowd and their puppets in the Republican party–people who seek to restrict academic freedom and stifle the views of those with whom they disagree, and are just salivating for a cause celebre like yourself. Furthermore, it gives a free pass to the persecution of gays and lesbians in the Arab world, by coding any criticism of such persecution as “Western imperialism.” Lift your game.

The Wonderful World of Magical Thinking XXIX

19 10 2007

The week in fundie:

Chris Hedges: “American Fascism”

(Part 2 over the fold)

  1. Creationism 1, Evolution 0: Russian Orthodox Christians burn a toy monkey in effigy. Now that’s how you do science. (Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion)
  2. Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy has officially become Harry Potter for whinging conservative Catholics, such as the Catholic League., who call it “atheism for kids.” (Whereas indoctrinating kids with religious dogma is perfectly acceptable.) (Monsters and Critics)
  3. In that apogee of human civilisation, Saudi Arabia, two men have received 7000 lashes for sodomy. (via Dogma Free America)
  4. Still in Enlightenment Central, a maid has been arrested by religious police (religious police, people) for allegedly casting a spell on her employer, after a complaint by his wife. The wife had noticed that her husband always “fiercely defended the maid from criticism every time she neglected her work,” and reached the parsimonious conclusion that witchcraft was involved. (via Dogma Free America)
  5. More on US soldiers being force-fed Christianity. (Alternet)
  6. WingNutDaily releases its “Christmas-defense kit.” Now you too can vanquish the heathen atheist commie pinko evilutionist homersexual grinches with magnets and bumper stickers, and then make like a whiny fundie with a persecution complex.

Chris Hedges, Part 2

Here’s Joan Bokaer of Cornell University’s TheocracyWatch. (Ignore the blatant turtleneck.)







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