Hip-Gnosis: July 2008: Archives
What is it with these holier than thou theocrats and breaking the rules...and the law? Does an education at Pat Robertson's Regent University include a course called "Crime and the Christian - The Ten Commandments of Theocracy Building"?
Not only did the Bush administration fast track the barely thirty year old Monica Goodling to one of the most powerful positions in the Justice Department, it gave a total of 150 appointments to graduates from the same Regent University. Then again, if one seeks to remake government into a God and GOP lovin' theocracy, the more the merrier, eh?
From The Washington Post:
Former Justice Department counselor Monica M. Goodling and former chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson routinely broke the law by conducting political litmus tests on candidates for jobs as immigration judges and line prosecutors, according to an inspector general's report released today.
Goodling passed over hundreds of qualified applicants and squashed the promotions of others after deeming candidates insufficiently loyal to the Republican party, said investigators, who interviewed 85 people and received information from 300 other job seekers at Justice. Sampson developed a system to screen immigration judge candidates based on improper political considerations and routinely took recommendations from the White House Office of Political Affairs and Presidential Personnel, the report said.
Goodling regularly asked candidates for career jobs: "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?" the report said. One former Justice Department official told investigators she had complained that Goodling was asking interviewees for their views on abortion, according to the report.
Taking political or personal factors into account in employment decisions for career positions violates civil service laws and can run afoul of ethics rules. Investigators said today that both Goodling and Sampson had engaged in "misconduct."
The Justice Department IG's report, released this morning, cites several other workers who may have engaged in misconduct by using political or sexual orientation to screen candidates for immigration judgeships.
OK, it's time to rant. Frankly, this is exactly the kind of behavior I would expect from those who are awash in religious ideology and absolutist dogma. Cloaked in their inviolable righteousness, there is little these individuals see as off-limits in the pursuit of their messianic mission.
These zealots are the product of incessant indoctrination who have been encouraged to operate mindlessly, absent a modicum of restraint or reservation. They are taught to be soldiers of God in the likes of Jesus Camps...convinced that they should stop at nothing less than a full-scale institutional transformation to the tenets of Christian teachings.
In my opinion, those groups that are promoting this blind allegiance are the virtual equivalent of cults. They have been able to avoid that characterization because of the prevalence of so many like-minded individuals...but that does nothing to abate the countless similarities. It is extremism no matter the permutations employed to describe or defend it.
Like Pat Robertson, some of these individuals have no hesitation to apply Biblically inspired judgments to the random events of daily life...indicting those they disagree with and glorifying those who share in their shamanic superstitions. This fanciful obsession with their own self-centered ideations has become the prototype for a political pathology that must be excised and extinguished if we are to maintain any semblance of separation of church and state.
If these people want a Christian kingdom, they will need to construct it outside the gates of government. Further, if they continue to usurp established law in order to achieve their divine domain here on earth, I suspect that they will eventually find that the gates of heaven they gleefully glorify have been locked...with a sign attached that states..."Christianists need not apply, admission is reserved for those who lived a Christian life; not those who appointed themselves as Christ's earthly executioners."
Tagged as: Bible, Christianity, D. Kyle Sampson, Discrimination, George W. Bush, GOP, Justice Department, Monica Goodling, Pat Robertson, Regent University, Religion, Theocracy
Daniel DiRito | July 28, 2008 | 12:33 PM |
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John McCain, a former critic of Christian extremists, has suddenly become a seemingly born-again evangelical in conjunction with his 2008 presidential bid. Sadly, his run to the right is hardly evidence of a man who has made a career of portraying himself as a straight-talking maverick.
Those who contend that a McCain presidency won't be a third term of the policies of George Bush need look no further than the fence upon which slick John is perilously perched. If it isn't embracing the Bush administration's simplistic cowboy diplomacy, it will undoubtedly be the sleight of hand that comes with a carefully crafted claim of compassionate conservatism...couched, of course, as a commitment to the constitutional construct of states rights.
Truth be told, with regard to gay adoption, John McCain continues to sound like a man who has yet to realize that the fence he's riding has a limited number of sides. Perhaps the Senator believes he can finesse the fence...but from my vantage point, it looks more like he's a trick rider whose too clever by half. In fact, I don't think McCain has the political dexterity to simultaneously succeed at being both a pole jumper and a pole sitter. In the end, he's apt to find himself painfully impaled by the inconsistency his campaign continues to impart.
The Arizona Senator's latest attempt took place during today's appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
From ABC News:
STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your position on gay adoption? You told the "New York Times" you were against it, even in cases where the children couldn't find another home. But then your staff backtracked a bit.
What is your position?
MCCAIN: My position is, it's not the reason why I'm running for president of the United States. And I think that two parent families are best for America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what do you mean by that, it's not the reason you're running for president of the United States?
MCCAIN: Because I think -- well, I think that it's -- it is important for us to emphasize family values. But I think it's very important that we understand that we have other challenges, too.
I'm running for president of the United States, because I want to help with family values. And I think that family values are important, when we have two parent -- families that are of parents that are the traditional family.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But there are several hundred thousand children in the country who don't have a home. And if a gay couple wants to adopt them, what's wrong with that?
MCCAIN: I am for the values that two parent families, the traditional family represents.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you're against gay adoption.
MCCAIN: I am for the values and principles that two parent families represent. And I also do point out that many of these decisions are made by the states, as we all know.
And I will do everything I can to encourage adoption, to encourage all of the things that keeps families together, including educational opportunities, including a better economy, job creation.
And I'm running for president, because I want to help families in America. And one of my positions is that I believe that family values and family traditions are preserved.
UPDATE: The following is the video of the above transcript:
Huh!? So he's for the values that traditional two parent families represent? Well, I'm for the commitment to excellence the Oakland Raiders espouse...but I've also seen how the Raiders play football these days. In other words, just where does McCain think these orphans come from...the anti-family values stork?
Shouldn't our political leaders be focused upon finding stable and loving homes for these children regardless of the sexuality of the adoptive parents? Just what does the Senator know about the experiences of children reared in families consisting of two same-sex parents? Has he bothered to explore the number of children that are orphaned from same-sex couples? I suspect he'd have to reconsider his definition of family values if he took the time to step beyond his efforts to insure the votes of his biased and bigoted base.
So McCain's position on gay adoption is "to encourage all of the things that keep families together, including educational opportunities, including a better economy, job growth. Yep, that will undoubtedly encourage family values and convince straight couples to stay married, to stop cheating, to stop getting divorced, and to stop viewing children as possessions and parenthood as little more than a rite of passage.
Then again, the goal of many on the religious right has little to do with insuring happy children. They view anything that prevents the substantiation of homosexuality to be worthwhile...even if that means a few hundred thousand children have to remain the wards of the state. Shifting orphaned children from one foster home to another like chattel is beneficial if it supports the anti-gay agenda. How compassionate and how Christian is that?
The only claim John McCain can make to straight talk is that he's learned the talk needed to win the votes of those who favor a world that is exclusively straight. John McCain may see himself as a maverick...but I suspect his maverick status is more like the role James Garner played in the television series with the same name...an unintentional hero presented with fanciful aplomb that is little more than the guise for a man who, when push came to shove, elected to avoid any of the risks associated with actually being a straight talking maverick and a political hero.
In the meantime, I hope the good senator is enjoying his ascendency to the pinnacle of political expediency. Come to think of it, he's simply mastered the metaphorical equivalent of riding a horse side-saddle...he knows that if you're going to ride the fence, you need to be a skilled side-stepper. Senator McBush, you're ability to parse words is an inspiration to orphans everywhere.
Tagged as: Divorce, Evangelical, Foster Care, Gay, Gay Adoption, George Stephanopoulos, John McCain, LGBT, Marriage, Orphan, Parenting, Religion, Religious Right, This Week
Daniel DiRito | July 27, 2008 | 1:30 PM |
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I have a suspicion that the culture wars are merely the means religious leaders use to distract the faithful from the slow but steady onslaught of science in undermining the historical basis of the Bible. You see, if science continues to progress, the practice of taking scripture literally will no longer be sustainable...which would allow the faithful to break the bonds of religious dogma and diminish the power it imparts to religious institutions and their leaders.
In the following videos, Hector Avalos, a former child evangelist and Biblical scholar from Iowa State University, offers a detailed presentation on some of the research that has been unearthed to undermine the assumption that the Bible is a valid and verifiable historical document. As a Biblical minimalist, Avalos and his associates have spent their careers attempting to substantiate or refute the history contained in the Bible...and they've been quite successful.
It is that success that serves as a threat to those who promote the Bible as the irrefutable word of God and the inviolable template for the mores and values of society. Avalos points out that the notion of a text serving as the ultimate authority for our behaviors is a relatively new construct in human behavior and a testament to the success of those who have sought to promote and preserve the power it provides.
The beauty of listening to a man like Avalos is found in his willingness to adhere to facts rather than engage in the hyperbole of histrionics that so often accompanies the Biblical pronouncements made from the pulpit. In other words, Avalos isn't an ideologue intent upon making the facts fit his preferred beliefs. Conversely, many people espouse their faith as fact and challenge science to disprove it. Truth be told, science is succeeding in doing just that, which is why it is viewed as such a threat by those who prefer that we view the world through a theological template.
One particular observation caught my attention and made me think of the criticism that has been leveled at the Da Vinci Code by the religious establishment. Avalos is asked about the evidence for Nazareth and he quickly acknowledges its existence. However, he proceeds to point to the accounts of King Arthur as evidence for the prevalent intermingling of fact and fiction. In other words, while King Arthur archaeology contains accounts of many things that existed at the time, that evidence does nothing to substantiate King Arthur.
Returning to the uproar against The Da Vinci Code, one can argue that those religious leaders who criticized Dan Brown's self-admitted intermingling of fact and fiction in the book are guilty of supporting a book that does the very same thing. In other words, as to historical accuracy, The DaVinci Code may be no more inaccurate than the Bible...with the primary difference being that Dan Brown admits that he has melded verifiable history with story telling, while religious ideologues refuse to acknowledge that the Bible is also filled with stories that lack the necessary verifications.
There is little reason to believe that religious institutions will voluntarily acquiesce to science. In fact, I suspect that the closer science comes to disproving the fundamental foundations of faith, the louder the protestations will become. There is a growing body of evidence that religious leaders believe their best defense against the advances of science is to characterize themselves and their followers as victims of intolerance and state sponsored discrimination.
While having faith is an acceptable endeavor that should never be prohibited, at some point we're going to be forced to confront the fact that it is no more scientific than a belief is astrology. I contend the resistance to that moment has more to do with an affinity for worldly riches than the promise of an eternal existence.
Tagged as: Archaeology, Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, Eternity, Faith, Heaven, Hector Avalos, History, Ideology, Religion
Daniel DiRito | July 25, 2008 | 12:05 PM |
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The following video contains many of the elements that inspire me. It is a compilation of thought provoking quotations...from a who's who list of skeptics...set to trance music. Need I say more?
Tagged as: Atheism, Faith, God, Religion
Daniel DiRito | July 24, 2008 | 9:09 PM |
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In the first of the following videos, Riz Khan discusses Darwin's legacy with Dinesh D'Souza and Richard Dawkins. I'm not usually a fan of D'Souza, but I can at least appreciate his willingness to accept evolutionary theory...especially given his history as a religious apologist. Beyond that, D'Souza quickly moves into a lengthy diatribe on the things evolutionary theory can't explain...which is the means by which D'Souza attempts to reinsert God into the equation.
When Khan speaks with Dawkins (second video), the discussion focuses upon the misconceptions about the theory of evolution, the point at which children should be introduced to the concept, and the attempts by creationists to posit a designer without offering any plausible explanation for the origin of the creator...or the complexity he or she would have to possess to have set the universe and our existence into motion. In other words, the assertion of a creator does nothing to refute the evolutionary process nor is it a testable hypothesis.
Generally speaking, I'm of the opinion that the bickering over the theories of evolution, creationism, and intelligent design is merely a symptom of the larger issue confronting us fully flawed humans. The bottom line - our capacity to contemplate our mortality leads us to seek the meaning of our existence.
While I understand man's discomfort with the unknown, I am equally fascinated by man's need to explain it outside the realm of what can be tested and proven from the scientific method. There is a level of arrogance attached to the presumption that we, in our virtual ignorance of the origin of things, can postulate that there must have been a supreme being. Ironically, though evolutionary theory is well-substantiated, even those who work in the field refrain from speaking in absolutes. Yes, they defend the theory and the evidence which supports it, but they also realize we have a limited capacity to offer all encompassing explanations.
In other words, the body of evidence we have doesn't rule out the possibility of a creator, so long as our belief in a creator doesn't negate the scientific evidence we possess. At the same time, nothing in the existing scientific evidence can be construed as evidence in support of a creator. Those who leap to that conclusion are free to do so as a matter of faith...but their assertions have no basis in fact.
Unfortunately, the scientific community is put in the precarious position of defending against those who would prefer to ignore the evidence or the lack thereof. All too often this defensive stance is viewed as an affront to the beliefs of the faithful, when in fact it is merely an insistence upon drawing the proper distinctions between fact and faith...all the while refusing to allow religious ideology to dictate the means and the interpretations of scientific discovery.
In the end, there is little reason to believe that anyone living today will be alive when we're able to fully explain the universe and its origin. What this means is that people are left with limited choices. One, they can accept that their lives will come and go without any real answers and the process of advancing awareness will likely cease upon death (the most logical conclusion given what we know). Two, they can draw their own "big picture" conclusion from the available data (a best guess if you will) and take comfort in it...despite an awareness of its persistent uncertainty. Lastly, they can embrace any belief they choose, absent any real evidence, or exploration thereof, and insist that it is the absolute truth regardless of their inability to substantiate it (faith in a higher power and an afterlife).
In identifying these choices, one also sees how science and religion approach our lack of knowledge from completely different ends of the spectrum. To a degree, this divergence is a predictable source of conflict. As each of us seeks an understanding of our existence, we rarely want to accept the existential angst that accompanies uncertainty. The means by which we each seek to resolve that angst is certain to pit some of us against each other...and that may actually be the only thing we can know with certainty at this point in time. As such, I believe it's safe to state that everything else is white noise designed to mask the terror of our pending mortality.
Tagged as: Creationism, Creator, Darwin, Death, Dinesh D'Souza, Evolution, Faith, God, Intelligent Design, Richard Dawkins, Riz Khan
Daniel DiRito | July 23, 2008 | 11:51 AM |
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Heaven help us! PBS is going to air a documentary, The Bible's Buried Secrets, which explores the factuality of the Bible...and Donald "Wingnut" Wildmon's American Family Association has already launched an action alert. The AFA is asking its supporters to sign a petition urging congress to halt all government funding of PBS. You can view the alert here.
From The Orlando Sentinel:
The Bible's Buried Secrets, a new PBS documentary, is likely to cause a furor.
"It challenges the Bible's stories if you want to read them literally, and that will disturb many people," says archaeologist William Dever, who specializes in Israel's history. "But it explains how and why these stories ever came to be told in the first place, and how and why they were written down."
The Nova program will premiere Nov. 18. PBS presented a clip and a panel discussion at the summer tour of the Television Critics Association.
The program says the Bible was written in the sixth century BC and that hundreds of authors contributed.
"At least the first five books of the Bible come together during the Babylonian exile," says producer Gary Glassman.
The program challenges long-held beliefs. Abraham, Sarah and their offspring probably didn't exist, says Carol Meyers, a religion professor at Duke University.
"These stories are unlikely to represent real historical events, but rather there's some kernel of ancient experience in there which has survived and which helps give identity to the people at the time the Bible finally took shape centuries and centuries later," Meyers says.
OK, so I understand that some believers won't like what the PBS program has to say and I can even understand that they would rather not be presented with any evidence that might shake their faith. However, I've always understood that true faith should be able to withstand challenge. Hence, is the effort to shut down funding to PBS a demonstration of faith or evidence of its precarious hold upon those who embrace it?
Frankly, the effort to punish PBS is another in a long string of attempts to purge rational and reasoned dialogue while granting deference to ideological intransigence. These are the same people who insist that creationism be taught in science classes because the theory of evolution lacks the certainty they demand. In other words, they believe intelligent design warrants a place in science, but any single attempt to put the Bible into historical and sociological context elicits an instantaneous effort to end to all government sponsorship of PBS.
Mind you, in the case of the former, we operate under the edict of separation of church and state...while in the case of the latter, there are no such restrictions. On the one hand, the religious right wants the government to accommodate untestable speculation (in a science course, no less), and on the other, they want the government to cease funding any researched examination of Biblical history...the very basis of their demand for the former.
Of course, the spin that will come from the right is that the government is funding the ongoing assault upon people of faith (they are being victimized). It's a clever strategy for a group that routinely seeks to vilify those it opposes. Then again, it fits perfectly with the self-righteous certainty that they've adopted. SImply stated, if one believes one can never be wrong, one is therefore never wrong. Consequently, only when all others adopt one's beliefs, adhere to them accordingly, and are prohibited from dissenting, will the world be acceptable and will one's mission have been accomplished. Science, history, and facts be damned.
Such is the nature of fanaticism and religious intransigence. There will be no good order until the only order that is good is the one they dictate. When democracy furthers their agenda, democracy is idyllic; when democracy conflicts with their agenda, it is an insidious interloper between man and the laws set forth by God.
Take a look at how Wildmon actually views the culture war.
From Religion Dispatches:
The "culture wars" will be irrevocably lost, said Wildmon, if Proposition 8 (the "California Marriage Protection Act" which states that "Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California") loses on November 4.
"If we lose California, if they defeat the marriage amendment, I'm afraid that the culture war is over and Christians have lost," said Wildmon, "I've never said that publicly until now--but that's just the reality of the fact."
Wildmon pointed out that If the "homosexuals" were "able to defeat the marriage amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, then the culture war is over and we've lost--and gradually, secularism will replace Christianity as the foundation of our society."
There's a perception that American patriotism, democracy, and religiosity are innately linked. I suspect that if the American electorate comes down on the side of cultural secularism (e.g. gay marriage), the patriotism of many religious ideologues will be shown to have been conditional.
If one were to project the trajectory of men like AFA's Donald Wildmon and the dogma they espouse, it will likely be he and his followers who abandon their paradoxical patriotism, in favor of their inviolable ideology, should democracy fail to install and impose it. In the end, I believe it will be those they sought to subjugate who will continue to fight to uphold the constitutional integrity upon which this nation was built. When push comes to shove, the true patriots have always been those citizens who cherished the ideals of this nation...even when the will of the people precluded them from partaking in them.
Should there be any doubt as to the tenuous loyalty to country I'm suggesting may exist, one need look no further than the recent assault upon the judiciary. I contend that those who have embraced the meme of "judicial activism" are the same individuals who benefited from the past inaction of the judiciary and simultaneously used it as the righteous means to restrict and restrain others. American history is littered with persecution and injustice...but very little of it has ever been directed at men of Donald Wildmon's ilk.
What we're beginning to witness is the unraveling of the status quo and the fruits of a revolution born of a commitment to rational and reasoned thought...a movement that maintained its respect for the system while quietly working to transform it. I don't expect my Christian counterparts will be willing to demonstrate the same discipline that my gay brethren have exhibited in the face of having their expressions of love characterized as criminal and their identities classified as mental illness. To call Christians victims is to denigrate the ongoing commitment to a civil society of those who would have been arguably justified to rebel against it.
I wouldn't count on the Donald Wildmon's of the world acting accordingly. As a matter of fact, I fear that history has shown us, time and again, that an allegiance to an almighty is, ironically, the very antithesis of both rationality and reason. As such, it can easily become the quintessential mechanism for mayhem. Heaven help us!
Tagged as: AFA, American Family Association, Bible, Donald Wildmon, Evangelicals, History, LGBT, Literalism, PBS, Religion, Religious Right, Science
Daniel DiRito | July 22, 2008 | 1:36 PM |
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Having to jump up and down for attention must be pure torture for James Dobson. Faced with the prospect of being irrelevant in the 2008 election has led the leader of Focus on the Family to announce that he may rescind his prior refusal to vote for John McCain.
In the following video, a few of the faithful explain the dilemma confronting their dear leader. They want us to know that their leader is a man of principle...and that supporting John McCain would only happen out of his concern for the unborn and the protection of the family. [Shed tears now]
What the folks at FOF don't want us to conclude is that Dobson's ginormous ego has emerged and that his need to be the center of attention has led him to reconsider. In other words, when no one followed him over the political cliff, he climbed back up, dusted himself off, and crafted a new message...one that says he'd have to do whatever it takes to save the children and defeat the homos.
I guess the man that felt it was important to teach the GOP a lesson (translated as I demand to be more important and I'm happy to throw the election to do so) for failing to follow through on the issues that are important to evangelicals has decided his stint on the sidelines could spell the end of the Dobson dynasty. Hence, he's rolled up his sleeves and he's ready to lead. [Send checks now]
Alas, the curtain is removed! What Dobson really fears is that his irrelevance could also mean an end to the cash FOF has been able to generate by portraying itself as one of the most influential organizations on the religious right. That brings us back to principles...and there's no doubt that Dobson knows it takes a lot of "principal" (cash) to garner significant "interest" (income). Welcome back James Dobson...we missed you!
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Abortion, Barack Obama, Family Values, Focus on the Family, James Dobson, John McCain, LGBT, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage
Daniel DiRito | July 22, 2008 | 11:07 AM |
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Hold onto your hats...I sense a boycott's a brewin'! Yes, the American Family Association better step up and call upon outraged Americans to stand up support family values. Why, you ask? Well, because an appeals court has just overturned the $550,000 fine levied against CBS for forcing America's unsuspecting families to witness a traumatizing frame or two of Janet Jackson's almost fully exposed breast.
In a decision that clears CBS of any wrongdoing for airing the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show that featured Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction," a federal appeals court overturned the $550,000 fine that the Federal Communications Commission levied against the station, calling the fine arbitrary and capricious.
The decision was handed down Monday by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which found that the fine was unfair because the commission, in imposing it, deliberately strayed from its practice of exempting fleeting indecency in broadcast programming from punishment.
The controversy surrounding the incident yielded a record-breaking 540,000 complaints to the commission in the weeks following the show.
I don't know about anyone else, but I find myself longing for the good old days...the one's when evangelicals could shout jump and George Bush would get on a plane and rush to Washington to save a woman, in a vegetative state, from the evildoers. I miss the days when a half million family values voters could cause a knee-jerk reaction by a "Christian friendly" government agency.
Sadly, ever since our dear leader sat idle for four days while New Orleans became a toxic public swimming pool, we seem to have lost our zeal for all things pompous and pious...and that really troubles me. Why should a little old flood (not "The Flood", mind you) be allowed to spell the end of a conservative Christian crusade against all things secular?
What's the world coming to? It won't be long and scientists are going to succeed in shutting creationism out of our children's public school curriculum. No doubt Ford will soon announce the production of a rainbow colored car. How long will it be before McDonald's starts putting Tinky Winky dolls in their Happy Meals? When will Heinz start selling Kweer Ketchup? Who will battle the likes of Marriott - insuring that they don't sell pornographic movies to ministers having affairs with hookers and doing lines of coke in their hotel rooms?
Yes, the times they are a changin'! Where will it end? We've gone from leveling a huge fine against CBS for "allowing" a black woman to expose her breast, all the way to having a black man being celebrated for leading his pasty white patriot opponent in the race for the presidency. I fear it's just a matter of time before white folk are pickin' cotton. Oh, the humanity!
Tagged as: AFA, American Family Association, Boycott, CBS, Evangelical, Family Values, FCC, Ford, George W. Bush, Janet Jackson, Katrina, Marriott, McDonald's, New Orleans, Pornography, Race, Religion, Super Bowl, Terri Schiavo, Tinky Winky
Daniel DiRito | July 21, 2008 | 5:32 PM |
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Christians are notorious for crafting simplified representations of their faith as well as the less than scientific doctrines they embrace (think creationism and peanut butter).
In the first of the following videos, Grandpa John uses an ordinary pickle to demonstrate the power of Christianity. To do this, grandpa zaps the pickle with a dose of electricity and suggests that the infusion of this external power source is the same as having God in one's life.
Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worst near the end of the video. When Grandpa John turns the lights back on, we get to see what the electricity is actually doing to the pickle. In the light of day, when the darkness of mysticism is removed, we realize that the electricity is boiling the pickle in its own juices...with steam pouring out of both ends. Now I don't know about you, but based upon what I saw, I'm gonna have to say no to Grandpa John.
In the second video, Lewis & Lewis, a Christian gospel music duo, offer us another little diddy about the pickle...metaphorically speaking, that is. Simply stated, the song is intended to tell the listener that being gay isn't ok...because the plumbing just doesn't work. Lewis & Lewis use a farm setting to tell us that farm animals aren't gay. Last time I checked the literature, science may not agree with Lewis & Lewis.
Anyway, the bottom line seems to be that Christians are obsessed with pickles. If they're not puttin' the juice to their own, they're worried about where the neighbor and the farm animals might be puttin' theirs.
I'm thinking one of these folks needs to see what can be learned from puttin' one's pickle in a jar of peanut butter. Then again, given the lessons we've already learned, and the level of interest in both, I have no way to confirm that they haven't already done so.
If you don't understand that last comment, you'll need to take a look at the video found in the first link.
Tagged as: Christianity, Faith, Gay, God, Homosexuality, Humor, Jesus, LGBT, Religion
Daniel DiRito | July 21, 2008 | 4:24 PM |
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It's always refreshing to witness a scholarly and informed discussion of religion...one that is able to step away from rigid dogma in order to provide some context and insight beyond the Bible.
In the following Fora.tv video, Peter Gomes, a Baptist minister and author of the book, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, attempts to draw the distinction between what Jesus taught and what the Bible states. Gomes posits that Jesus was a teacher...but not of the Bible...which therefore means that the Bible shouldn't receive the credence it is often given. In fact, Gomes suggests that the Bible is merely a number of different individual's attempting to explain the teachings of Jesus...each having their own unique perspective.
Gomes covers a number of topics in this hour long segment, including an instructive analysis of Jeremiah Wright's controversial statements (starts at 18:20)...his thoughts on what Jesus would have to say about race (starts at 26:30)and gay marriage (starts at 31:00).
Gomes sees the resolution of racial strife as a complicated issue. He suggests that dialogue between the races may not offer any real solutions and he makes reference to those who believe the best course may be for families of color to discuss race within their own homes rather than attempting a dialogue with those who have perpetrated racism. The point he's making is that change isn't apt to be a negotiated solution but a calculated transformation effected by those who have been the object of racism.
With regard to Jesus' view of same-sex marriage, Gomes offers a rather practical answer...stating that Jesus would likely find no fault with anything that promotes fidelity and loyalty...concluding it is a good thing. He also suggests that Jesus would criticize the number of failed marriages and recommend that people spend their excess energy addressing that dilemma.
Anyone interested in a rational take on religion...absent the venom and vitriol that frequently hijacks such discussions...will enjoy this excellent presentation. Gomes is far more than a minister. His grasp of history, culture, and human nature...and his ability to connect each with the evolution of religion is remarkable.
Tagged as: Bible, Faith, Fora.tv, Gay Marriage, Gospel, Jeremiah Wright, Jesus, Peter J. Gomes, Race, Racism, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage
Daniel DiRito | July 21, 2008 | 1:04 PM |
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As if it isn't bad enough that we've had to endure nearly eight years of George W. Bush, he has chosen his final months to enact one of his most intrusive policy initiatives. It seems that the president has decided to redefine abortion to include contraception. The plan would be enacted by the Department of Health and Human Services and cloaked as an attempt to prevent discrimination in government funded endeavors.
The explanation being offered by the president's operatives suggests that the goal is to insure that those individuals who have religious objections to abortion or the distribution of contraceptive products cannot be terminated from employment. Unfortunately, the administration wants to ignore the fact that such practices are already prohibited under current federal law.
From ABC News:
The draft proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which began circulating around Capitol Hill earlier this week, would withhold government funds from health-care providers and organizations that don't hire people who refuse to perform abortions or provide certain types of birth control.
Current federal law prohibits health-care providers and organizations from discriminating against people who won't provide abortions or birth control.
The Bush administration's new draft proposal would require these agencies to certify in writing their compliance with the law before getting funding from HHS.
Critics say the proposal would limit women's access to birth control, arguing that it includes "an overly-broad definition of abortion" and that in order to receive government funding agencies might have to hire employees who won't perform every-day job responsibilities due to their personal religious beliefs.
The Health department released a brief statement arguing that it's looking into various options in an effort to enforce anti-discrimination laws.
"Over the past three decades, Congress has passed several anti-discrimination laws to protect institutional and individual health care providers participating in federal programs. HHS has an obligation to enforce these laws, and is exploring a number of options," the statement reads.
The White House declined to comment.
This is the same administration that has long argued that hate crimes legislation, intended to specifically deter violence against the LGBT community, is unnecessary. So when it comes to measures to bolster the safety of gays, existing laws are sufficient because they already provide penalties and punishment for these crimes. However, when a handful of Christians want to refuse to provide contraception to a rape victim, the Bush administration thinks special rules are warranted.
I guess I've finally figured out what the president meant when he stated he was a compassionate conservative. He meant he had compassion for conservatives...and to hell with everyone else. Pardon my disgust, but the self-proclaimed uniter is a garden-variety divider.
Fortunately, a number of Democrats have spoken out against this potential rule change.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Bush administration plan to define several widely used contraception methods as abortion is a "gratuitous, unnecessary insult" to women and faces tough opposition, Sen. Hillary Clinton said on Friday.
The former Democratic presidential candidate joined family planning groups to condemn the proposal that defines abortion to include contraception such as birth control pills and intrauterine devices.
It would cut off federal funds to hospitals and states where medical providers are obligated to offer legal abortion and contraception to women.
"We will not put up with this radical, ideological agenda to turn the clock back on women's rights," the New York senator told a joint news conference with New York Rep. Nita Lowey, also a Democrat, at Bellevue Hospital.
"Women would watch their contraceptive coverage disappear overnight," said Clinton.
A copy of a memo that appears to be an Department of Health and Human Services draft provided to Reuters this week carries a broad definition of abortion as any procedures, including prescription drugs, "that result in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation."
Conception occurs when egg and sperm unite in the Fallopian tubes. It takes three to four days before the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. Several birth control methods interfere with this, including the birth control pill and IUDs.
"If enacted, these rules will make birth control out of reach for some women. That's a sure way to guarantee more unintended pregnancies and more abortions," said Anne Davis of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.
Without doubt, this is another back door effort to impose the religious beliefs of George Bush and his minions...and to begin the process of putting an end to funding for Planned Parenthood and any other organization remotely construed to provide abortion services. When George Bush suggested that he opposed Roe v. Wade, but didn't think the country was ready to take that step, he was actually telegraphing his intentions to undercut abortion through other means. Only then, when access is virtually impossible (unless one is rich and has a daughter in trouble), would he seek to overturn the long standing Supreme Court ruling.
Frankly, as awful as this may sound, I've come to see many evangelicals as arrogant and pompous manipulators. Always scheming to find the means to instill their values as the law of the land, they have little regard for the beliefs of others...and how could they since their ideology is utterly intransigent. At the same time, they often excuse their indiscretions or dismiss them as part of their own period of darkness. What they rarely recognize is that the demons they fear reside within. Railing against pornography, sex on television, comprehensive sex education (inclusive of contraception), homosexuality, infidelity, and adultery is simply the demonstration of an external response to their own internal urges and inclinations.
At the same time, they assume that everyone else in the society suffers the same affliction...which leads them to believe that legislation is needed to prevent us from doing what we're apt to do absent laws and punishment.
The following video is an example of this mentality. Joe Sweeney is a candidate for congress in Arizona's 7th. district. Note that his view of sex is that it's a function of "genital drives" that needs to be bridled through the marriage contract and in deference to a higher authority. The construct he describes is consistent with the actions of the Bush administration. In other words, at the core of this ideology, it's acceptable to prohibit the government from participating in any action that can be deemed to promote sex for any reason other than procreation.
Tagged as: Abortion, Contraception, Department of Health and Human Services, Discrimination, Evangelicals, George W. Bush, Hate Crimes Legislation, Hillary Clinton, Joe Sweeney, Planned Parenthood, Procreation, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Sexuality
Daniel DiRito | July 19, 2008 | 8:45 AM |
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The Family Research Council is a never ending source of amusement. Unfortunately they are also rabidly anti-gay and a constant supporter of measures to deny homosexuals equal rights. To that end, FRC is a major player in the battle to pass a constitutional amendment (Prop. 8) to ban same-sex marriage in California.
The following image and hyperbole were included in a recent FRC Action Update designed to inform and incite the faithful.
Homosexual Activists Fight Free Speech
The California marriage amendment cleared its final hurdle yesterday when the same court that imposed same-sex "marriage" on the state agreed to let voters decide whether or not to overturn its ruling. In one swift, unanimous motion, the California Supreme Court refused even to hear the lawsuit brought by homosexual groups which claimed Proposition 8 was "legally flawed." Meanwhile, thousands of same-sex couples are scurrying to "marry" before voters determine the fate of those unions this fall. Local business owners-turned family advocates are doing all they can to ensure the honeymoon with counterfeit marriage is short-lived-and homosexual activists are attacking their right to speak out. Doug Manchester, a devout Catholic who donated to the ballot initiative, is the new target of Californians Against Hate. In a fundraising letter, Hate head Fred Karger called for a boycott of Manchester's Grand Hyatt and Grand Del Mar hotels. Robert Hoehn's gift to preserve marriage not only landed his Carlsbad car dealership on the boycott list but drew protests at his lots. We applaud these men for refusing to be intimidated and encourage Californians not to back down in the face of those who refuse to accept democratic rule.
The alert contains the standard fare offered by FRC. The gist of the message is that mean and nasty militant homosexuals are attempting to shove same-sex marriage down the throats of Californians and their tactics include every effort to silence upstanding Christians while flaunting their unholy marriages...which will undoubtedly lead to the demise of our society...yada, yada.
Suffice it to say that this is boiler plate pabulum used to rile the flock and separate them from some of their cash. In fact, I'm of the opinion that many of these people take great comfort in the cookie cutter mentality they adopt. It allows them to paint the "enemy" with a broad brush and it helps them avoid the confusion that comes from a realization that the human condition is far more gray than it is black and white. In other words, their beliefs are fixed and regularly communicated to them in action updates.
Rather than reiterate more of my disdain for FRC, I decided to create the following graphic to poke fun at the block headed, seemingly androgynous character found in the FRC graphic. I have no idea if the image has some larger meaning or if it was included for expediency. Regardless, as my graphic posits, it's an example of the blank slate, lock step, mind set that is so often adopted en masse by the faithful.
On the other hand, is there any doubt that the Pillsbury dough boy and the Michelin man make a cute couple? Then again, I could be wrong about their orientations. At the very least, unlike the composite "FRC he/she", they still have their own identities.
Tagged as: California, Family Research Council, FRC, Gay, Humor, LGBT, Proposition 8, Same-Sex Marriage, Supreme Court, Tony Perkins
Daniel DiRito | July 18, 2008 | 5:30 PM |
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While it's far too early to celebrate, a new poll suggests that Proposition 8, an amendment to the California constitution designed to define marriage as the union of only one man and one woman, would not have sufficient support for passage. Conventional wisdom suggests that ballot measures that fail to garner significant early support are unlikely to succeed. Unfortunately, I doubt this standard can be applied to this particular measure.
From The San Diego Union-Tribune:
SACRAMENTO - Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in California, is opposed by 51 percent of likely voters with 42 percent in favor, according to a new Field Poll.
Those results put the proposed ban in a politically perilous position in the Nov. 4 election, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the nonpartisan Field Poll.
"Starting out behind is usually an ominous sign for a proposition," DiCamillo said. "Over 90 percent of propositions that start out behind get taken down."
Typically, ballot measures start out ahead, but become less popular as the opposition campaign begins raising questions and creating doubt, he said.
The poll is the first to question voters using the measure's exact language. But the results are similar to a Field Poll on the same topic in May, shortly after the California Supreme Court overturned laws that prohibited same-sex marriage.
In my experience, polls on ballot measures that are intended to deny gay rights rarely capture the actual level of voter support. Amendment Two, passed by Colorado voters in 1992, is the best example of this phenomenon. Prior to the election, virtually every poll suggested the measure was headed for defeat. As it turned out, the measure passed by nearly six percentage points.
The following information is from the Field Poll and it offers some insight into the dynamics that may be at play in November.
From The Field Poll:
There is relatively high voter awareness of Proposition 8 among the state's voting electorate. Statewide 62% of likely voters report having seen or heard something about the proposed constitutional amendment.
There are also big differences by religion. Protestants favor Prop. 8 56% to 40%, while Catholics are evenly divided. By contrast, voters affiliated with other religions or who have no religious preference are opposing Prop. 8 by wide margins.
Evangelical Christians favor the amendment better than two to one, 66% to 31%. However, non-evangelicals are on the No side 59% to 34%.
There is greater opposition to Prop. 8 among voters who personally know or work with gays or lesbians. This group, which includes nearly three in four voters statewide, opposes Prop. 8 54% to 40%. On the other hand, those who have no personal familiarity with gays or lesbians favor the amendment by a narrow margin.
I'm of the opinion that the data is instructive. To the benefit of those opposed to the constitutional ban, voter awareness is high which may suggest it will be difficult to change minds. In other words, if voters already understand the measure, and a majority opposes it, proponents may have a difficult time turning the tide. Additionally, the fact that a solid majority of the three in four voters who "know or work with gays or lesbians" will vote against the measure bolsters the belief that coming out is by far the best means to change hearts and minds. It may also suggest that those voters who oppose the measure are doing so based upon a personal consideration rather than in keeping with their religious beliefs.
On the other hand, the support for the measure by evangelicals evidences the influence right wing religious leaders still have with their followers...and it highlights their willingness to exploit any issue that can be connected with their opposition to homosexuality. Frankly, the ideology of evangelicals prohibits them from ever viewing gays as individuals...someone worthy of consideration outside the constraints of established dogma. To do so would be the equivalent of abandoning their core Biblical beliefs.
I'll offer one last observation. I took note of the fact that Catholics are evenly divided on the issue. Strange as this may sound, I suspect that the prevalence of gay priests may serve to soften the opposition to the measure. My own experience as a Catholic suggests that there is an unspoken acceptance of gays despite the fact that it is contrary to church doctrine. In other words, the psychology posits that if the church elected to embrace gays as priests for years, why should Catholic voters not embrace the right of gays to marry?
One thing most Catholics learn...especially if they've attended Catholic schools...is that hypocrisy is part and parcel of the church...which I believe can lead to a level of tacit tolerance which might not otherwise emerge. Perhaps that's a stretch, but I think it merits consideration.
Tagged as: California, Catholicism, Civil Rights, Constitutional Amendment, Equality, Evangelical, Field Poll, Gay, LGBT, Marriage, Polling, Proposition 8, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage
Daniel DiRito | July 18, 2008 | 11:08 AM |
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While many Christians believe in the Rapture...that moment at which all Christians will simultaneously rise into heaven...I fear that the logistical preparations are woefully lacking. The following video provides a basic primer on the many safety concerns that Christians have yet to address. We can only hope that a committee will be organized to confront these concerns.
After all, I would hate to think that any of my holier than thou friends would be cheated from eternity because they failed to foresee the many risks associated with millions of individuals rising to heaven in unison.
With that in mind, I do have one suggestion for my Rapture ready friends. In order to promote the safe transport of all Christians into heaven, I propose that all air traffic controllers be atheists. Having Christian air traffic controllers could facilitate a tragedy of untold proportions as they would undoubtedly rise to heaven with their fellow Christians which would leave their control positions unmanned.
Then again, my suggestion could be a grand scheme to allow the followers of the antichrist to infiltrate the ranks of air traffic controllers and participate in a Rapture rebellion designed to pluck unsuspecting Christians out of the sky.
Actually, the more I think about it, the more I suspect that the Bible has anticipated all of these concerns and Christian scholars have already found the relevant scriptural instruction to carefully prepare an evacuation manual designed to counteract the diabolical intentions of the non-believers.
Tagged as: End of Days, Faith, Humor, Rapture, Religion
Daniel DiRito | July 18, 2008 | 9:50 AM |
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Sam Harris, the author of The End Of Faith, has argued that religion is, by its nature, a mechanism for conflict in the world. Harris contends that the belief in, and adherence to the words contained within the various religious books...supposedly written by the one divine being...are often the justification for the imposition of dogmatic laws and/or rules (Sharia law as an example).
Further, in its worst form, Harris believes these documents serve as the rationalization for the destruction and death of those whose beliefs come from an alternate source. When these conflicting beliefs are pitted against each other, there is little reason to believe that compromise is possible...and that often leads to the lack of rational dialogue which Harris finds to be so very dangerous. In other words, ideological intransigence born of an unwavering belief in a document, viewed to be incontrovertible, will invariably lead to violence couched in the rhetoric of righteousness.
Hewitt, on the other hand, contends that Harris is simply in favor of religious intolerance...immediately retreating to the newfangled argument of evangelicals...the one suggesting that people of faith are the victims of those who favor purging religion from the public square and installing a wholly secular system. In other words, all efforts to point out the problems with the doctrine and its application is viewed as an attempt to persecute the beliefs of the faithful.
Unfortunately, Hewitt, and many of those who embrace a particular book, have a propensity for interpreting their documents as they find most advantageous...calling for literalism where it fits their own preferences...and discounting those portions they find offensive or contradictory.
Rather than engage in an honest discussion, Hewitt moves quickly to hyperbole while Harris continues to reiterate his basic contention...stating on more than one occasion that it behooves societies to monitor and tamp down the absolutism of religious zealots in order to prevent the kinds of atrocities that populate much of our human history.
Hewitt then completes the circular argument by suggesting that God's presence prevails and enlightenment will emerge if people will simply open themselves to His message. Of course, that certain though subjective view, held by opposing religions, is the very source of the conflict Harris believes must be constrained by rationality. Unless society forces reasoned tolerance and debunks the plausibility of absolutism, we will remain a short fuse from factional fragmentation and the inscrutable and irrational violence it foments.
Tagged as: Christianity, Factionalism, Faith, God, Hugh Hewitt, Rationality, Religion, Sam Harris, Sectarian Violence, Secularism, War
Daniel DiRito | July 16, 2008 | 6:00 PM |
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In the following video, Penn of Penn & Teller talks about the prevalence of Catholics who pick and choose which edicts they follow. Penn is troubled by this updated, practical view of religion and seems to think that this modern...
Tagged as: Catholicism, Comedy, Exorcism, Humor, Penn, Penn & Teller, Pope, Religion
Daniel DiRito | July 15, 2008 | 3:38 PM |
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As you watch Todd Bentley shout bam, bam bam while laying his hands on his followers, you can't help but think of Emeril Lagasse tossing in a few extra garlic cloves into his latest culinary creation to transform it...
Tagged as: ABC, Exploitation, Faith Healers, Illness, Religion, Scam, Todd Bentley
Daniel DiRito | July 12, 2008 | 9:58 AM |
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How about a Friday afternoon chuckle? I especially like the good sister's Aussie accent....
Tagged as: Comedy, Faith, Humor, Jesus, Nun, Religion
Daniel DiRito | July 11, 2008 | 2:47 PM |
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I'm not sure what it will take for our government to admit that abstinence education isn't working. Fortunately, George Bush will soon leave office and we can hope that the next president will restore science to its proper place...
Tagged as: Abortion, Abstinence, Contraception, Fox News, George Bush, Religion, Religious Right, Sex Education, Sexuality, Teen Pregnancy, Violence
Daniel DiRito | July 11, 2008 | 12:24 PM |
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As we approach the November election, the effort to utilize the wedge issue of same-sex marriage to sway voters is in full bloom. It's also an opportunity for fundy groups to implore their followers to cut loose some of their...
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Economy, Family Research Council, Fannie Mae, Focus On The Family, FOF, FRC, Freddie Mac, John McCain, LGBT, Marriage Amendments, Massachusetts, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Unemployment, Values Voters
Daniel DiRito | July 11, 2008 | 9:58 AM |
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In the following video, an excerpt from the movie, The God Who Wasn't There, Sam Harris comments on the prevalence of those who believe in the rapture and the impact it can have on politics and global conflict. A...
Tagged as: Bible, Conflict, Death, End of Days, Faith, Politics, Random, Rapture, Religion, Sam Harris, War
Daniel DiRito | July 9, 2008 | 8:36 PM |
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Have you ever wondered what a modern day slave would look like and how he or she might behave? Ever consider who might be the owners of plantations, staffed by these slaves, if they were "permitted" to exist today?...
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Economic Opportunity, Economics, Fox News, Heaven, Jerry Falwell, Lord of the Flies, Michelle Malkin, Michelle Obama, Poverty, Race, Religion, Slavery, Wealth
Daniel DiRito | July 9, 2008 | 2:35 PM |
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Since so many creationist, intelligent design, strengths and weaknesses, academic freedoms advocates are working to deny evolution and all the science that contradicts their Biblical notion of the origin of the universe, I thought the following video offered a...
Tagged as: Big Bang Theory, Creationism, Faith, Intelligent Design, Religion, Science, Scientific Method
Daniel DiRito | July 9, 2008 | 2:13 PM |
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When we hear the terms Fatwa or Jihad, we often think about radical Middle Eastern extremists whose intention is to impose their religious beliefs upon those they define as infidels. As Americans, we find the declarations of those leaders...
Tagged as: Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, Atheism, Commander In Chief, Crusades, George W. Bush, God, Iraq, Jerry Falwell, Liberty University, Middle East, Pentagon, Religious Intolerance, Terrorism, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Military, War on Terror
Daniel DiRito | July 9, 2008 | 8:47 AM |
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I like Eddie Izzard. There is something very down to earth about his comedy. It has what I would call that "duh" practicality factor...a very simple view of the world if you will. In the following videos, he offers...
Tagged as: Comedy, Creationism, Dinosaurs, Eddie Izzard, God, Humor, Noah's Arc, Religion
Daniel DiRito | July 6, 2008 | 3:51 PM |
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"Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear." -Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787 "I concur...
Daniel DiRito | July 4, 2008 | 12:05 AM |
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While I despise the efforts of fundies to push their ideology, I have to give them credit for being so persistent. When the Bible speaks of a great pestilence, who new it could have its origin in the pews of...
Tagged as: Church & State, Creationism, Education, Evangelicals, Evolution, Intelligent Design, Religion
Daniel DiRito | July 3, 2008 | 1:31 PM |
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Some stories are too good to be true. It appears that the tax rebate checks which were part of the Bush administration's economic stimulus package have been effective...in stimulating the porn industry. An industry research firm reports an increase...
Tagged as: AFA, American Family Association, Economy, Humor, Pornography, Stimulus Package
Daniel DiRito | July 2, 2008 | 10:04 AM |
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