What ISIS is, and is not…

There are two things many people get wrong about ISIS, and these misunderstandings could produce failure in the West’s efforts against it. The frustrating thing about this is that the facts are readily available if we simply read what its founders and leaders have written and said, and take them at their word.

  1. ISIS is a terrorist group, and can be defeated using normative anti-terrorist tactics: In fact, ISIS is a nation-state. It occupies a set geography, which it seeks to expand, has a standing army of more than 20,000 fighters, has a set government structure, engages in foreign trade, provides basic services such as water and electricity, and supports a welfare state within the areas under its control. While it utilizes terror as a tactic, it is far different than al-Qaeda and similar groups who prefer to remain hidden, emerging only to strike a target and then retreating into the shadows. ISIS will need to be cleared from the territory it holds in order to subdue it. And
  2. ISIS is “unIslamic”: On the contrary, ISIS is deeply rooted in Islam’s original medieval form. It takes all of the Koran and Hadith literally, and seeks to fulfill Islam’s apocalyptic prophesies by bringing about a conflict with “Rome”, which will usher in the end times and the return of Jesus (yes, really) who will lead Muslims to a final glorious victory in a battle for Jerusalem. It is this part of the ISIS program that attracts Muslims from around the world to its ranks, and the only way to defeat its appeal is to inflict a total and ignominious defeat to its forces on the ground. The loss of its Caliphate would serve as evidence to Muslims everywhere of the illegitimacy of its claims, and is the only way to bring the threat it poses to an end.

The information I reference above is readily available, although our President, along with many other government officials in our nation and others, doesn’t seem to get it. Which is why a year of flailing at windmills has achieved nothing but the strengthening of ISIS’s hold in Syria and Iraq. (The lone exception to this sad state of affairs seems to be the Kurds, whose Peshmerga have sought to engage ISIS fighters and drive them from territory they hold.)

I do not, before I am so accused, suggest sending American ground forces to undertake this task. France, Turkey, and Iran, among others, are far better suited, and have more at stake at this time, than do we. But, sooner or later it will need to be done, and it would probably be best if it were done before the number of fighters under ISIS’s command is in the hundreds of thousands.





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My favorite memories of Allen Patterson include neither politics nor beer, even though we engaged in a reasonable amount of both over the course of the decade I knew him.

I cherish most the 30 minutes or so Allen and I spent discussing Lucretius, sitting outside a hall where Gary Johnson was holding forth. We’d both heard Gary’s stump speech numerous times, and a few weeks earlier I had given Allen a copy of The Swerve, a book about how Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things had been rediscovered, copied, and preserved by a former Papal secretary.

The book had motivated Allen to read On the Nature of Things, and we spoke about how that work’s preservation had contributed to the Enlightenment and Western thought. We shared our wonder as to how a Roman devotee of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, sometime around 70 B.C., could have hypothesized on the existence of atoms, and a limitless universe, while finding no need for the supernatural to explain the world he observed. If we had only had a sixpack, we may have talked all night.

Then there was the time Allen, guitar in hand, pulled me aside to sing and play a song he was writing, a song that expressed humorously his meandering journey to Atheism. He wanted me to hear it because he felt comfortable opening up to me about his beliefs, or lack thereof, due to knowing I had traversed the territory he was exploring several decades earlier. I smile every time I remember that.

Allen was the kind of guy you didn’t have to spend a great deal of time with to create lasting memories. He was warm, kind, and funny.

I miss him already.

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Disappointed With America

As I age, I become increasingly concerned for the America my grandchildren will inherit.  An exploding national debt which, when combined with astronomically high unfunded liabilities, can never be repaid and which already is destroying growth and future prosperity, combined with a policy of perpetual warfare, makes their futures far less promising then mine was at their age.

In addition to the very real threat referenced above, I am disappointed with:

* Political leaders, who continue to not only stand by while our Constitution is shredded, but at times gleefully assist in its shredding;

* Business leaders who, rather than innovate and battle competition, continually turn to government for protection, favors, and taxpayer subsidies;

* Religious leaders who, rather than celebrate their freedom to worship as they see fit, seek to impose their own interpretation of ancient books on their fellow citizens, thereby denying them the very liberties they claim for themselves;

* A citizen population that intentionally remains blissfully ignorant of its heritage and the basic workings of economics and finance, preferring to trade personal responsibility and even liberty for unattainable levels of security mixed with unparalleled access to the intimate details of celebrities’ lives.

* But what disappoints me most, is the present generation of college students/graduates (and professors), who no longer rally in support of such (classically) liberal ideals as equal rights, peace, or free expression, but instead wallow in self pity or even outrage over being exposed to ideas they don’t like or with which they don’t agree. College used to be an opportunity for growth, for exploring differing, even contradictory, ideas, and for learning the critical thinking skills necessary for sorting through them and arriving at truth. Sadly, no more.

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Old, But A Point Worth Considering……

The following is based on a usenet posting by Robby Berry more than two decades ago.  I have shortened and brought it up to date, but it rings as true today as when first published.

I’m glad Christians have found the courage to stand up and speak out about all the ways that America discriminates against them. The anti-Christian bias in our society has reached absurd proportions, to wit I offer the following 108 proofs:

  1. During the 2000 election campaign, George Bush said that Christians should not be considered patriots or real American citizens.
  2. Prior to that, Bill Clinton steadfastly refused to give any speeches at local churches.
  3. Both major political parties are dominated by anti-Christians. The Republican Party, for example, is influenced by such hardcore atheists as Pat Buchanan, Dan Quayle, Phyllis Schafly, Tom DeLay, and George W. Bush. Not to be outdone, the Democrats have given us such personalities as the Rev. Martin Luther King and the Rev. Jesse Jackson both noted for their vicious attacks on all forms of Christianity.
  4. On Sunday mornings, our airwaves are filled with pro-atheist shows, but it is nearly impossible to find religious programming during that time period. Christians such as Pat Robertson and other evangelists have been unable to obtain an outlet for their views.
  5. Most major newspapers run a special weekly section devoted to Atheism. There are no equivalent sections for religious news.
  6. Anti-Christian shows such as the American Atheist Forum are broadcast by major national networks. Meanwhile, Billy Graham is only able to get on the air through public access TV, which is watched by few people.
  7. It is almost impossible to find a shopping mall with a Christian book store, while Atheist Book Centers are featured prominently on every corner.
  8. While atheist couples who marry rarely have any difficulty finding a place to do so, it is nearly impossible for Christian couples to find a church where they can marry.
  9. For that matter, churches themselves are extremely rare, while atheist meeting centers can be found every few blocks.
  10. Recently, several atheists have shot and killed Christian priests as they were going to work in their churches. Similarly, atheists are well-known for blockading churches on Sunday mornings.
  11. Nearly all of our elected public officials are atheists; they even have to swear on a copy of Darwin’s “Origin of Species” in order to take office.
  12. In a similar vein, jurors must take an oath upon a copy of the Skeptical Inquirer before they can serve. There have even been court cases thrown out because one of the jury members was a Christian who insisted on swearing on a Bible.
  13. And of course, people are free to wear pentagram jewelry, but those trying to wear cross-shaped earrings or pendants to work will be politely told to remove the jewelry or lose their job.
  14. Speaking of the workplace, Christians often find it nearly impossible to get time off work for religious holidays such as Christmas or Easter.
  15. Even our language reflects the radical anti-Christian bias that pervades our society. For example, when somebody sneezes, most people say “Darwin bless you.” Similarly, “Voltaire dammit!” is a common cussword.
  16. All of our money has the atheistic slogan “There is no God” printed on it.
  17. In school, our children are made to recite the pledge, “One nation, anti-God, indivisible….”
  18. One cannot rent a hotel room without finding a copy of Nietzsche’s The Anti-Christ in the room.
  19. Organizations such as the Boy Scouts deny membership to Christians.
  20. Christians are forced to pay substantially higher taxes to make up for the tax-free status of non-christian organizations and meeting places.
  21. You can’t drive anywhere without seeing a Darwin fish or a “Jesus Was a Fraud” bumper sticker stuck to a car.
  22. Common on college campuses are groups of students handing out copies of Bertrand Russell’s “Why I Am Not a Christian”; some even force people who don’t want these books to take them.
  23. People look at you funny and wonder if there’s something wrong upstairs if you admit to being a Christian in public.
  24. Many Christians are afraid to admit their Christianity to their parents and friends, for fear their kin will consider them immoral Christian scum and want nothing to do with them.
  25. At presidential inauguration ceremonies, a well-known atheist or humanist is always chosen to present a few anti-Christian comments.
  26. “There are no Christians in foxholes” is a popular slogan in our society.
  27. Atheists have established brainwashing facilities, and apply social pressure to citizens to report to these facilities every Sunday morning. Furthermore, attendees are expected to contribute money to support these facilities, and to build others through “outreach” programs. Many parents even force their children to attend.
  28. While atheists hold huge rallies in 25,000-seat amphitheaters, Christians are so few in number that they can only dream of holding such rallies.
  29. At football games, you can often spot a guy carrying a sign that reads “Origin of the Species, page 34.”
  30. Hospital waiting rooms usually come equipped with children’s copies of Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time,” complete with order forms so that parents can send off for their own copy.
  31. Atheist magazines such as “Atheism Today,” “Today’s Atheist Woman,” “Atheist Homeschooler,” “The Atheist Century,” “Atheist Ministry,” “The Atheist Archeological Review,” “Atheist Parenting Today” and “The Atheist Science Monitor” are featured prominently in newsstands across the country.
  32. The Fellowship of Atheist Athletes has local chapters on college campuses throughout America.
  33. According to recent Gallup polls, approximately 86% of Americans do not believe in God.
  34. Politicians often refer to America’s “Agnosto-Atheist heritage” when trying to woo voters.
  35. Atheists are beginning to subvert the American political process. For example, in a recent national election, the American Atheists recently published over thirty million voter’s guides for distribution at atheist meeting-houses. These guides gave specific instructions not to vote for those who oppose atheist values.
  36. Businesses often refuse to admit that they are Christian-owned and operated, for fear of being boycotted by their atheist customers. Meanwhile, atheist-owned businesses often feature Darwin-fish logos in their ads.
  37. There are large networks of atheistic private schools in America, while it’s nearly impossible to find a private Christian school.
  38. Most gravestones in America are engraved with pentagrams; those few graves which are engraved with crosses usually end up being vandalized.
  39. Atheists have often invented “deathbed de-conversion” stories about famous Christians, claiming they became atheists just before they died.
  40. Around the time of Darwin’s birthday, Christians have to put up with songs about Darwin, which are played in shopping malls, restaurants, and even public restrooms.
  41. We number our calendar years according to the number of years that have passed since Darwin’s birthday. (Hence the terms “B.C….Before Charles, and “A.D”… “After Darwin.”)
  42. Christian gatherings and funerals are often disrupted by atheists shouting slurs and holding signs that read, “Nature hates Christians.”
  43. Books which promote Christianity are often removed from library shelves in response to atheist pressure groups.
  44. Atheists constantly threaten television and movies producers with boycotts whenever they portray Christianity in a positive light.
  45. Atheists have been known to hold bonfires at atheist meeting centers, where Christian literature can be thrown into the fire.
  46. Gambling is freely legalized for secular purposes, yet churches have to have their bingo halls in Las Vegas, Atlantic City or on Indian reservations.
  47. New military officers are expected to say “God does not exist” at the end of their commissioning oath.
  48. Well-known atheists like Michael Martin and Quentin Smith have set up ministries to witness to Christians, but it is virtually impossible to find Christians who specialize in debating atheists.
  49. Congress starts each session with selected excerpts from Michael Martin’s Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Each house of Congress also has its own “Atheist Chaplain.” No Christian prayers are ever made in Congress and no Christian chaplains are available.
  50. The word “Christian” is recognized as a term which represents the worst of human attributes: cynicism, pessimism, selfishness, and moral turpitude. The word “atheist,” on the other hand, is used to signify all that is virtuous, as in, “That’s mighty atheist of you!”
  51. Many American cities are named after noted atheist figures; for example, there is Corpus Darwini, Texas, and San Voltaire, California.
  52. Historically, most private colleges and universities in the US were founded by atheists; while some have become religious over the years, many of them retain close ties with atheist organizations, and some of them still use hiring practices that exclude Christians from their faculty and staff. (And this discrimination against Christians is permitted and protected by law!)
  53. Atheists who convert to Christianity are often told by their parents “It’s just a rebellious phase. Once you move through this stage of life you’ll realize that you never really believed in God.” Similarly, people who are raised as Christians are condescended to, and told that if they would give Atheism a chance, it would fill the empty hole that Christianity must be leaving in their lives.
  54. Atheists regularly go door-to-door on Sunday mornings asking people to not go to church with them.
  55. Atheist cults are masters at luring lonely, young, disenfranchised people into their rational circles to brainwash them with reason so that they will give their lives and all worldly possessions to the atheist leaders.
  56. In general, Christians are considered to be less-than-honest. If you are a Christian, you must have no reason or rational judgment; therefore, you cannot be trusted to tell the truth.
  57. The Humanist Left and the Immoral Majority influence voting patterns in the Humanist Manifesto Belt states.
  58. Most people assume everyone else is an atheist and are unbelievers as they are. It makes for uncomfortable social situations for Christians and other religious types.
  59. Bookstores have entire sections filled with atheist literature while “spiritual” and “religious” books are almost impossible to find, except through specialized distributors.
  60. Despite the overwhelming number of atheists in the general population and in powerful legislative positions, when they don’t get their own way, atheists whine that this is an anti-atheistic country.
  61. Atheists do everything possible to get laws passed that will prevent irrational Christians from making their own choices in matters of sex, procreation, life-styles, family units, etc.
  62. Until recently, atheists had passed laws (Green Laws) that require all businesses to stay open on Sundays, forcing Christians who wished to practice their religious beliefs to work, just like everyone else.
  63. Movies that featured myths of silly miracles (like the parting of the Red Sea or the Resurrection of Jesus or other Biblical tales) never made any money. Most big movie studios rejected all proposals to make such ridiculous stories into films
  64. At every banquet, no matter the occasion, an atheist propagandist gets up and thanks Madelyn Murray O’Hair for her wisdom and insight in educating us rational beings so that we can provide the food that we are about to eat. The presence of non-atheists is not even acknowledged. No consideration is given to those who might find such a practice offensive.
  65. During the Solstice season, Atheist Army members in uniforms block entrances to stores ringing annoying bells and requesting donations to save non-atheists from their pathetic irrational lives.
  66. Atheist Army (and other Freethought) soup kitchens force homeless Christians to listen to atheist propaganda before serving them a meal. And hundreds of self-help groups replace codependence with the 12 Steps of A.B.A. (Atheist Brainwashing Anonymous); convincing people they don’t have the power to help themselves but must rely on the power of Darwin to overcome addiction.
  67. S. atheist organizations engage in ecclesiastical imperialism by sending missionaries to third-world countries to convince people to renounce their indigenous religious beliefs and become atheists.
  68. On Solstice Eve, there is nothing to watch on TV except atheist rituals from Stonehenge.
  69. Christian employees have to use personal days or sick leave to stay at home to celebrate their holidays while everyone gets the day off for Winter Solstice and the birthdays of Charles Darwin and Madelyn Murray O’Hair. All major atheist celebrations have been declared National Holidays with all government offices remaining closed on those days.
  70. Images of Lazarus Long, a fictional character in Robert Heinlein books, are frequently pretended to be seen by atheists in paint stains, in the spots of cows, in tree bark, etc., causing large groups of people to make pilgrimages to those locations to confirm their lack of belief in the supernatural. These stories are given national news coverage to promote the status quo.
  71. Christians are unfairly scrutinized for wearing t-shirts that say things such as “God’s Gym” or “Resurrection Day,” whereas atheists can proudly and without any protest wear their “Reasons Beer is Better than Jesus” or Darwin fish t-shirts.
  72. Christians are constantly questioned as to where their morals come from. People always wonder why they have a reason to live, if god is the only thing they live for. Atheists, on the other hand, are praised for their high moral standards, and it is acknowledged that they don’t need a reason to live just “being” is enough.
  73. The shows “Ignored by an Angel” and “Ultimately Illusory Highway to Heaven” are among our most popular. No similar programs promote a Christian perspective.
  74. Each year, the President lights the National Solstice Tree, ignoring the minor Christian holiday occurring at about the same time.
  75. There is an entire genre of music known as “Contemporary Atheist Music.” The notion of “Christian music” is unheard of, and most radio markets have at least one atheist radio station. There are no Christian radio stations anywhere.
  76. All prisons have a resident atheist philosopher, and inmates are encouraged to participate in weekly philosophical discussions on Bible Contradictions. This is often reported to their parole board, who consider it a good indication of contriteness on the prisoner’s part.
  77. Atheists tend to call homosexuals, lesbians, and bisexuals “abominations against nature”, and have over the last few years successfully initiated laws in dozens of states to deprive such people of basic human and legal rights, while Christians continue to accept and defend them as just slightly different children of God. Moreover, while a few “liberal” atheist organizations do not make heterosexuality a requirement for membership, most atheist organizations strictly condemn their behavior and ban them from their communities and gatherings.
  78. School children who profess their Christianity are routinely held up to ridicule and harassment by the students and teachers who make up the atheist majority in both public and private schools.
  79. According to comedian George Carlin, the “seven holy words” that cannot be broadcast on television are “God,” “Jesus,” “Christ,” “bless,” “heaven,” “salvation,” and “soul.”
  80. A political candidate who declares himself a Christian will have far less chance of winning an election than one who flaunts his Atheism.
  81. Every year in November, the President issues a proclamation for a national day of Thanksgiving, calling on Americans to spend the day thanking their parents for creating them and for all that they have done for them. No mention is ever made of the role of God in creating people, helping them achieve happiness, or keeping the country secure. (The proclamation is usually issued a few weeks before the ceremonial planting of the White House Solstice Tree.)
  82. Hordes of angry scientists picketed the movie “Young Einstein,” claiming that it depicted Einstein completely wrong, but no one cared enough to demonstrate against “The Last Temptation of Jesus Christ.” “Young Einstein” is still so controversial that it is difficult to find in the large video chains.
  83. Bookstores usually carry twenty or thirty versions of the Humanist Manifesto: The Children’s HM, The Study HM, The Daily Advice HM, The Murray O’Hair Version HM, The Murray O’Hair Revised Version HM, The Complete HM, The Large Print HM, The Young Couple’s Guide HM, The Living HM, The Family Reference HM, etc… The Christian bible only has one version, and it’s hard to find.
  84. “Godfull Christian” is a popular, if redundant, insult.
  85. One often sees bumper stickers like, “Thomas Paine said it, I believe it, that settles it,” but seldom sees Christian bumper stickers.
  86. Judges often rule in favor of the atheist at a custody hearing, because Reason and Freethought are considered virtues, where belief in God makes you an unfit parent
  87. Atheist Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in a speech given at an atheist anti-prayer breakfast, declared that Christians are irrational for believing in miracles and the resurrection of Jesus. Scalia also complained that atheists are wrongly deemed “simple-minded” by the “worldly-wise.”
  88. Famous atheist Madelyn Murray-O’Hair was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, America’s highest civilian award, for her decades-long devotion to Atheism and the separation of church and state. The Speaker of the House, the Senate majority leader, and the Vice President were on hand at the ceremony, which occurred on the National Day of Anti-prayer. The Congressional resolution noted Murray-O’Hare’s “outstanding and lasting contributions to morality, racial equality, family, philanthropy, and Atheism.” In her acceptance speech, Murray-O’Hair called on all Americans to cleanse themselves of irrational religion and commit their lives to Atheism. The Christian evangelist Billy Graham, of course, has never won this award and never will.
  89. Every summer, millions of children attend vacation Darwin
  90. The sale of religious items is banned on Sunday, which is considered a day of rational thought. Beer and wine can be purchased at anytime.
  91. Atheistic vandals frequently spray-paint such slogans as “Darwin Saves” and “Try O’Hair” on road signs and highway overpasses. No Christian would EVER deface public property by painting “Try Jesus” on a bridge abutment, however.
  92. Anyone who opposes any plan to impose Atheism on citizens is bombarded by hate mail and death threats, some of which are carried out.
  93. There are several incidents of groups of atheist teens beating on lone heterosexuals, and the police do nothing. They are known as “straight-bashings.”
  94. The Atheist Coalition and Immoral Minority currently have a tight grip on the balls of the Democratic Party.
  95. Atheist organizations are given tax-free status that allows them to invest billions in non-atheist interests, such as real estate, entertainment, utilities–and all these items come under the same tax-free status.
  96. For years, people in places like Ireland and the Middle East have been killing each other over the difference between Atheism and Humanism.
  97. A prominent atheist leader got his appendix removed and it received worldwide attention. The founder of American Christians (known as the most hated woman in America) has been missing for years and the media hardly talks about it.
  98. Stealth evolutionists infiltrate churches to subvert sermons with evolutionary theory; while there have never been stealth creationists who have taken over public school boards and inflicted creationism upon its students.
  99. When the interjection “By Jove!” is spoken, hordes of angry non-Christians howl about dissolute believers using Jove’s name in vain.  Similarly, “Go to Tartarus!” is a common vulgarity.
  100. Seven states in the US (Massachusetts, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island) have blasphemy laws which make culpable those who revile secular humanists and/or Darwin.
  101. The top selling book in all of history is the Humanist Manifesto. Atheist apologists use this fallacious reasoning (the fact the HM is the top selling book) as proof of the nonexistence of gods to immoral Christians.
  102. Evangelistic atheists frequently go house to house, extolling the virtues of Reason whether the resident wants to hear it or not.
  103. Atheists expect everyone to believe exactly as they do and show no tolerance, even to agnostics or humanists. Christians take a “live and let live” attitude and, as long as no one tries to force the issue, don’t care what others believe.
  104. In many courthouses across the country inverted crosses, pentagrams, and other antireligious symbols figure prominently in judges’ chambers and even in the court room itself. No one seems to consider that Christians might find this offensive.
  105. Scientists and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno who were executed by the church for their defense of reason are often held up as examples of courage and virtue, and are featured prominently in books and films. The martyrs of the early Christian church are rarely mentioned, if at all.
  106. Most public figures are WASPs. (Wise Atheistic Secular People)
  107. Atheists are strongly discouraged from marrying theists. Preferably, the theist should convert to the atheist’s particular brand of Atheism.
  108. Politicians try to win votes by declaring how strongly they disbelieve in God.


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A Look Back, and a Look Forward

In the Spring of 2016, American Atheists and a dozen or more other secular organizations will hold Reason Rally II in D.C.

In 2012 I had the privilege of attending the first Reason Rally with my son and roughly 20,000 of our closest friends. Of all the great speakers and entertainers who participated that day, perhaps the one who stood out to me the most was Tim Minchin, largely because he enunciated best a key reason why I am an Atheist. Instead of telling you however, why don’t I show you…

BTW – We didn’t realize it but Tim was trying this song out on us before including it in his 2012 tour, which included performances at the Sydney Opera House.

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Tyranny of the Asses

I have spent much of the day sparring with opponents of marriage rights. Almost to a person they claim it’s their rights being violated, as Christians, and citing the Bible as the source of our Constitution and nation.

In the hours since SCOTUS handed its decision down, I have not seen (read) one Christian use the words “love”, “tolerance”, “understanding”, or “equality”. All I have seen is vitriol directed at SCOTUS, Gays, Liberals, and Secularists. In my home state of Texas, County Clerks are in open defiance of the Court’s Order, as is the Governor and Attorney General.

Governor Abbott, Mr. Attorney General, and Christians everywhere, I have a mind experiment for you: In your statements, comments, and the like, substitute the word “equality” for the word “marriage”. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Sense anything wrong, or embarrassing? If not, you should.

You see, much of the language and and most of the arguments being put forth against equal marriage rights today are little more than a rehash of things we have heard before, and from many of the same circles. Two generations ago it was the outrage over another SCOTUS decision, Loving v Virginia. Same comments, same resistance, same excuses.

A generation earlier it was Brown v The Board of Education – identical howls, identical reliance on tradition and scripture in support of hatred.

And, lest we forget, a bit over 150 years ago pulpits across the South resonated with scriptural justification for slavery, along with the natural superiority of the “White Race”.

So Christians, and I single you out because you are the only ones screeching like stuck pigs, look in a mirror and understand this:

You are on the wrong side of history. Again. You are fighting a battle you will not, cannot win, a battle in support of injustice and hatred. You wrap yourself in the blanket of righteousness, but there is nothing at all righteous about your cause.

A certain segment of our populace has failed to learn the lessons of the Enlightenment, has failed to grasp the essence of our Constitution, or the rights which adhere to all simply by way of their humanity. They would deny to others that which they demand for themselves. It is sad, it should be embarrassing, and it must not be tolerated. Not today, not ever.

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Another Day of Delusion

Another of America’s really bad ideas, the National Day of Prayer, has come around again.

That prayer doesn’t work has been amply demonstrated, both practically and scientifically, so I thought this time I would take a different approach and examine the practice from an (almost) purely religious perspective.

Assume I am religious or, if you are religious, feel free to substitute yourself for me if you like. I (or you) have defined a need for prayer, I’ll make one up, you may choose a real life situation if it simplifies the process.

By entering into prayer, what are we actually doing? I would submit, correct me if I’m wrong (Note: Not if you would like me to be wrong, but rather if you can actually present a reasonable argument for same), but it seems to me prayer is the practice of recognizing a mistake your deity has made and then asking him (her/it) to correct it.

I know what you’re thinking, but yes it is. Aunt Millie has cancer, and has been told she has six months to live. I therefore enter into a dialogue with the almighty and point out that when he was apparently busy with something else, perhaps knocking down the Himalayas and burying 8,000 or so men, women and children, he seems to have forgotten to take care of Millie and now she’s in really bad shape. So, lord, could you please refocus and correct your oversight?

The problem is, god is omniscient, he knows everything. Not just what happened yesterday or what’s going on at present, but what will happen tomorrow and next month and a thousand years from now. It’s all in his grand plan, you see.

Now is the problem clearer? God has a plan, Aunt Millie succumbing to cancer in agony is part of that plan, but I’m going to talk him into changing his plan just for me. (And Millie, of course.) If he responds and Millie gets better, was that part of his plan all along? (In which case my prayer was sort of narcissistic and a complete waste of my and god’s time.) Or did he change his plan because of my intervention, which begs the question how firm of a plan he has and just how omniscient he really is.

In conclusion, prayer is a rather self-serving claim that I (or you) know better than our all-knowing deity. Which, I believe, comes pretty close to clarifying who really created whom.

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