Tag Archive: religion

Apr 28 2016

How To Make A Satanist Angry

This stuff just keeps coming this election season. During an interview at Stanford University about his tenure in the House, former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was asked about the 2016 election, specifically Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). Needless to say, the Orange Man didn’t hold back: “Lucifer in the flesh,” the former speaker said of Cruz, …

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Sep 15 2015

Our Lady of Perpetual Exemptions Has Closed Its Doors

As quickly as it opened its doors and our eyes to fraudulent televangelism, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemptions has closed. John Oliver, pastor and host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” announced the end of his church’s mission not because they had to, they were perfectly legal, but because, as his “wife” Wanda Jo put it, “when someone send you jizz in the mail, its time to stop whatever you’re doing..”  

Warning the video below contains NSFW material.

Aug 18 2015

Welcome to the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption

We are all familiar with the televangelical  preachers that flood the airways telling their believers that they have the cure for everything from cancer to a hang nail if you just send them your money. They prey (pardon the pun) on those who can least afford to send them money while they live in the lap of luxury.They also don’t pay any taxes on their bounty.

To demonstrate the absurdity of these charlatans, John Oliver, host of “Last Week Tonight,” opened his own church with the assistance of a tax lawyer.

To expose the industry’s fraudulent activity, his team got close with leading celebrity televangelist Robert Tilton of Word of Faith Worldwide Church. After mailing Tilton $20, with a request to be added to his church’s mailing list, a correspondence was reportedly struck up, which resulted in the televangelist requesting larger and larger sums of money.

As Oliver said: “As of tonight, I’ve sent him $319 and received 26 letters – that’s almost one a week. And again, this is all hilarious until you imagine these letters being sent to someone who cannot afford what he’s asking for.”

Oliver wrapped up the segment in fitting fashion: he formed his own church. He claims to have filed paperwork for establishing Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption last week, a process he called “disturbingly easy”.

The church is now open to the public and has its own site. On it, Oliver encourages people to send cash, check or money orders to a New York PO box. The fine print states that should the church choose to wind down and dissolve in the future, “any assets belonging to the Church at that time will be distributed to Doctors Without Borders, a non-profit charitable organization that is tax-exempt under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (EIN: 13-3433452) and which provides emergency medical aid in places where it is needed most”.

Bless you, John Oliver

Jul 15 2014

The 5 Male Catholic Justices Declare War on Women

In 1960, the country was set to elect its first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy. Many conservative protestants in Southern states were wary of JFK’s faith and ties to the Vatican, questioning whether as president he would be able to make important national decisions independent of his faith and Vatican influence. In September of 1960, he gave an historic speech in Houston, Texas before a group of Protestant ministers, on the issue of his religion, declaring, “I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party candidate for president who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me.

Now, fifty-four years after that speech, there is a predominance of Catholics on the Supreme Court, mostly men and mostly very conservative. The five conservative male Catholics are voting in lock step to restrict the use of birth control, a necessary part of women’s health care, and income equality by siding with ant-union groups to limit union representation for some health care workers who are mostly low income women and minorities.

After Hobby Lobby

by Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

The Supreme Court term wrapped up nice and neat last week. Unless you are a woman.

For the first time in my memory as a reporter, there was a men’s term and a women’s term at the U.S. Supreme Court. The men’s term ended last Monday, with a pair of split decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn, and a lot of mumbling on both sides of the political spectrum about the fact that-as Supreme Court terms go-this was a fairly uncontroversial one, marked by high degrees of agreement and consensus-seeking by the justices, and minimalist, incremental changes where there might have been tectonic shifts.

Not so, for women, who-almost a week later-are still reeling over the implications of the Hobby Lobby decision for contraceptive care in America; still parsing the emergency injunction granted in the Wheaton College case only three days after the Hobby Lobby ruling came down; still mulling whether the Hobby Lobby decision may prove a boon for women in the long run; and generally trying to understand how a term that was characterized as minimalist and undramatic by many male commenters, even liberal male commenters, represented a tectonic shift not just for America’s women, but for the three women who actually sit up there and do their jobs at the high court. [..]

It almost doesn’t warrant explaining yet again why the term was such a disaster for women’s rights and freedoms. One need look no further than the trifecta of the abortion buffer-zone case, McCullen v. Coakley; Burwell v. Hobby Lobby; and Harris v. Quinn, which determined that for purposes of the “agency fees” rule, home health care workers – 90 percent of whom are women v] and [minorities – are not really public employees, because the home is not really a workplace. And the fact that the female justices dissented from two of the above cases in the strongest terms is rather remarkable. But looking at the three cases together, it’s difficult not to notice something almost more remarkable: In the majority opinions in all three, there is scant attention paid to real women, their daily lives, or their interests, and great mountainous wads of attention paid elsewhere. It’s almost as if the court chose not to see women this term, or at least not real women, with real challenges, and opted instead to offer extra protections to the delicate women of their imaginary worlds. [..]

All this would be difficult enough, were it not for the fact that the five-justice majority at the court seems determined to offer all this help and chivalry in the face of the strenuous objections of their female colleagues who seem, at the close of this term, to have spent a good deal of energy howling into the wind that women need less delicate handling and more basic freedoms. The final irony is that the quality of “empathy”-the much maligned, squishy solicitude that is so often associated with female justices-is the quality that seemingly drove each of the decisions above. It wasn’t so much a clash of rigorous constitutional values that determined the outcomes in Harris, McCullen, and Hobby Lobby. It was simply a strong identification by the majority justices with the values that were arrayed in opposition to women’s freedoms and economic equality: the poor home-care worker, forced to support the speech of a union; the beleaguered sidewalk counselor denied the opportunity to counsel and persuade; the sympathetic religious employer, forced to pay for something his religion cannot tolerate. Nobody disputes that in each case those values are heartfelt and compelling. But the almost complete erasure of the values on the other side is a constitutional hat trick if ever there was one. It’s bad enough that the term ended so poorly for women. That it happened because of an abundance of empathy-the quality that allegedly makes us women bad judges and justices-is kind of the icing on the cake.

The Supreme Court Has a Favorite Religion, and That’s a Big Problem

by Charles Pierce, Esquire’s Politics Blog

Jesus H. Christ on a three-month bender, if they’d just let Al Smith use his peyote the way he believed his supreme being meant it to be used, we all might have been spared this trainwreck.

Back in the early 1990’s, Smith and another man were denied unemployment benefits by the state of Oregon because they had tested positive for the active ingredient in peyote, which has been a sacrament in various Native American religions since before bread and wine became sacramental in Christianity. Smith pursued his case all the way up to the Nine Wise Souls then sitting on the Most High Bench, who ruled against him. Not yet short-timing his day job, Justice Antonin Scalia who, of a Sunday, takes bread and wine instead of peyote as part of his own religious rituals, wrote the majority opinion in the case, [..]

Almost everyone from the religious right to the ACLU popped their corks over this and, in purported response, the Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993. (And yes, you are still entitled to ask, “Restoration? Where’s it been?”) Bill Clinton, just beginning to triangulate himself toward re-election, signed the thing. Since then, a gradual slippage regarding that act has been quietly underway. The RFRA is no longer about peyote. It has become a Trojan Horse, sliding the country toward a de facto kind of established religion, which today’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby makes eminently clear. Religious freedom exists in the realm of medicine only to those religions that the Court finds acceptable-and, I would argue, only to those religions to which the members of the Court belong.  Much will be written, and rightly so, about the boneheaded social subtext of the following nut paragraph in the 5-4 decision read today by Justice Samuel Alito. It is so obviously discriminatory toward ladies and their ladyparts that no explanation seems necessary.

Charlie up dated that article because of objection by some about his Papist take on Justice Alito’s majority opinion:

UPDATE — If you’re thinking that I’m hitting the whole Papist thing too hard, look at these two passages from different documents:

The belief… implicates a difficult and im-portant question of religion and moral philosophy, namely, the circumstances under which it is immoral for a person to perform an act that is innocent in itself but that has the effect of enabling or facili-tating the commission of an immoral act by another.

And…

Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good,” it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it.

The first is from Alito’s opinion today.

The second is a section of Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical from Pope Paul VI that restated the Church’s opposition to artificial birth control and pretty much blew up the Vatican’s teaching authority among a great percentage of the Catholic laity in the United States. I would guess that the percentage in question does not include Samuel Alito.

This begs to question: is this Supreme Court out of Control?

Supreme Court’s out-of-control spiral: Ideologues rewriting their own laws

by David Dayen, Salon

It may be incremental, but make no mistake: This court is using absurd eccentricities to legislate from the bench

John Boehner wants to sue the president for pursuing executive authority without congressional input? He may want to file a copycat suit against the Supreme Court, who have executed plenty of extra-legislative rule making of their own.

On Monday, the court established multiple new distinctions in the law, inventing them largely to satisfy ideological whims. If any branch of government is engaging in de facto legislating and overstepping the bounds of authority, it’s the Roberts court.

As you probably know, the court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that closely held corporations, where the top five shareholders control more than 50 percent of the company, must be given an accommodation for providing birth control in their employer-based insurance coverage, if they say it violates their religious beliefs. The decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, explicitly argues companies like Hobby Lobby could be granted the same accommodation as churches and religious nonprofits, where the government effectively provides direct access to contraception coverage. (I didn’t know the court’s majority exhibited such [strident support for single-payer v] healthcare!)

But the ruling also makes a number of novel assumptions. First of all, Alito found that, for the purposes of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, corporations are not just people, but people with religious beliefs, granting them the right to free exercise of that religion, which the contraception mandate “substantially burdens.” But Alito clearly worried about a slippery slope, where suddenly religious corporations would ignore all sorts of laws by invoking their conscience. So he drew a completely arbitrary line. [..]

This has become a familiar pattern for the Roberts court, using an initial ruling to indicate eventual overturning of precedent, and then employing a subsequent case to finish the job. It perhaps makes the court look more moderate and judicious, treading ground carefully to reach their desired end state. But since there’s no real distinction under the law between the initial “signal flare” ruling and the second, deeper one, it amounts to making up the rules as it suits the conservative majority, either for public relations purposes or to better carry out their agenda.

And that’s the real point. The Roberts court has a history, as shown in these recent cases, of basically legislating from the bench, of making idiosyncratic, agenda-driven choices about which parts of laws to uphold and which to strike down.

Linda Greenhouse, a New York Times columnist and Dahlia Lithwick spoke with Bill Moyers about the latest decisions>



Transcript can be read here

The latest session of the US Supreme Court was especially contentious, with important decisions on the separation of church and state, organized labor, campaign finance reform, birth control and women’s health, among others, splitting the court along its 5-4 conservative-liberal divide.

On the other hand, nearly two-thirds of the court’s decisions this term were unanimous – the first time that’s happened in more than 60 years. But there’s more to that seeming unanimity than meets the eye: in some instances, conservative justices went along but expressed their wish that the court had gone even further to the right, and many believe that some of the decisions might simply be a preliminary step toward a more significant breaking of legal precedent in years to come.

One more word on this court and future vacancies, there are those on the so-called left who will say we must vote for Democrats because of, omg, “It’s the Supreme Court.” Yet, Democrats failed to filibuster their nominations and, while only four Democrats voted for Alito, 22 voted for Roberts, Scalia was unanimous (98 – 0) (pdf), as was Kennedy (97 – 0) and 10 voted for Clarence Thomas. Even if the Democrats manage to hold onto their Senate majority, so far the Republicans have successfully used the filibuster to stop the body from dong its job. Unless, the Democrats are willing to ditch filibuster of SCOTUS nominees, I don’t see any Democratic president getting a nominee on the court that is as left as Ginsburg or Breyer

Mar 29 2014

Parallelogram

“Voting is to politics as praying is to religion”

— Yours. Truly.    

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Nov 11 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Some Thoughts on Poverty and the Social Welfare State by NY Brit Expat

When the term poor is used and when we discuss poverty, there are commonplace definitions that we always rely on. To be poor relates to a lack of money or income. But that is a tautology in many senses; a definition that already presumes that poverty relates solely to income and while commonplace is essentially misleading. A far more useful definition of poverty relates to a broader range of things within a social context. Let’s begin with some definitions of poverty in the context of the modern debate on poverty:

Let’s start with that advanced by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation:

“Relative Poverty – When we talk about poverty in the UK today we rarely mean malnutrition or the levels of squalor of previous centuries or even the hardships of the 1930s before the advent of the welfare state. It is a relative concept. ‘Poor’ people are those who are considerably worse off than the majority of the population – a level of deprivation heavily out of line with the general living standards enjoyed by the by the majority of the population in one of the most affluent countries in the world (http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/poverty-definitions.pdf).”

Additional definitions address the impact of poverty on ensuring accessing fundamental notions of rights, like the European Commission definition. In its Joint Report on Social Inclusion (2004) the EC defined poverty in the following way:

“People are said to be living in poverty if their income and resources are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living considered acceptable in the society in which they live. Because of their poverty they may experience multiple disadvantage through unemployment, low income, poor housing, inadequate health care and barriers to lifelong learning, culture, sport and recreation. They are often excluded and marginalised from participating in activities (economic, social and cultural) that are the norm for other people and their access to fundamental rights may be restricted (http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/poverty-definitions.pdf).”

Jul 07 2012

Popular Culture 20120706: The Hateful American Family Association (With Poll!)

I am not ready to start a new, long series about music just yet, so tonight we shall discuss the hate filled, venom spitting American Family Association (AFA).  This is one of the most conservative, evangelical groups that exists and qualifies as being termed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I go back a very long time with the AFA.  When I lived in Arkansas, their radio stations were everywhere (as they are now) and they had also started a website, afa.net.  They also run a radical news organization, onenewsnow.com (ONN).  It is interesting that this could be pronounced either “one news now”, or “one new snow”.  I like the latter better because their “articles” are a big snow job for the most part.  It is ironic that ONN is also the acronym for Onion News Network, and their stories are often more realistic that the AFA ones are.  I commented on some of their news articles and drew the wrath of the son of the founder.  I wish I still had the emails that he sent me; they were mean spirited and nasty.

Before we get very far into this, let me make my philosophy clear.  I am not a believer in any religion, but I am not one of those “evangelical atheists” who want to make it difficult for believers.  I just do not think that public funds should be expended to promote any religion, regardless of what the particular religion is.  Likewise, I do not think that public funds should be expended to suppress any religion.  I am a live and let live sort of person, unless someone threatens me or my loved ones.  The AFA, in my estimate, threatens all of us who do not agree with them.

Apr 25 2011

Pique the Geek 20110424: Easter (with Poll!)

Easter is in Christendom the holiest day of the liturgical calender, celebration the day of the rising of Christ from the dead.  The purpose of this piece is not to discuss any particular religious viewpoint, but rather to look into the history of Easter and thus to understand some of the peculiar customs that are now associated with Easter.

This is not a “hard science” piece, but rather more of an analysis of how the modern Easter came to be.  Many of you who are regular readers know that my interests are much broader than just science and technology, and history is one of them.  However, I do believe that this piece is worthy of being called Geeky.

Before we get to the very ancient traditions that predate Judaism, not to mention Christianity, we shall look at how the date for Easter is calculated.  If it seems like Easter is very late in the year for 2011, this is because it is.

Jan 06 2011

Atheists and Agnostics Need Not Apply

If you don’t believe in a “higher being” and you serve in the US Armed Forces, you may be determined to be “spiritually unfit” and forced to undergo “exercises that use religious imagery to “train” soldiers up to a satisfactory level of spirituality.” This program, Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF), was designed by, Martin Seligman, an American psychologist and author of self-help books and the director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Selgman came under heavy criticism for his involvement in the Navy’s SERE program in 2002 and his association with Notorious SERE/CIA interrogator-psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen who use Seligman’s theories of “learned helplessness” to interrogate detainees.

Since then, Seligman has managed to reinvent himself as “Dr. Happy” and devised a way using his untested “Learned Optimism” program to make a killing-$31 million in sole source funds.

From Jason Leopold who first reported this story on the Army’s “spiritual testing”

   Soldiers fill out an online survey made up of more than 100 questions, and if the results fall into a red area, they are required to participate in remedial courses in a classroom or online setting to strengthen their resilience in the disciplines in which they received low scores. The test is administered every two years. More than 800,000 Army soldiers have taken it thus far.But for the thousands of “Foxhole Atheists” like 27-year-old Sgt. Justin Griffith, the spiritual component of the test contains questions written predominantly for soldiers who believe in God or another deity, meaning nonbelievers are guaranteed to score poorly and will be forced to participate in exercises that use religious imagery to “train” soldiers up to a satisfactory level of spirituality.

Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, the director of the CSF program, has said, “The spiritual strength domain is not related to religiosity, at least not in terms of how we measure it.”

“It measures a person’s core values and beliefs concerning their meaning and purpose in life,” she said. “It’s not religious, although a person’s religion can still affect those things. Spiritual training is entirely optional, unlike the other domains. Every time you say the S-P-I-R word you’re going to get sued. So that part is not mandatory. The assessment is mandatory though and junior soldiers will be required to take exercises to strengthen their other four domains.”

But despite the verbal gymnastics Cornum seems to engage in over the meaning of “spiritual” and “religious,” it has been established that the spiritual component of CSF is deeply rooted in religious doctrine.

A press release issued by Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in January 2010 said renowned “Psychology of Religion” expert Dr. Kenneth Pargament was tapped to develop the spiritual portion of the test in consultation with Army chaplains, BGSU ROTC cadets, graduate students and officials at West Point.

In examining this issue that bases a soldier’s fitness on his/her religious beliefs, Jeff Kaye, makes this observation and wonders what’s next?

The fact the Army is enforcing religious ideology upon soldiers is already outrageous enough, but the piquant irony by which the primary theorist of the program is also one of the primary theorists behind the use of certain techniques to break down and torture people, and whose theories were used by DoD/CIA psychologists to devise a diabolical torture program, well… one’s head could spin for days processing the internal contradictions. But that’s America today, a torturing country that uses huckster psychology to promote ersatz spirituality in soldiers sent to invade foreign countries for the purpose of selling arms and controlling oil and gas supplies.

What’s next? Will atheism be pronounced a new form of “material support to terrorism”? Will Elmer Gantry replace Robert Gates as next Secretary of Defense? Gates has been President Obama’s Secretary of Defense nearly as long now as he served as same in the administration of George W. Bush.

Truly, nothing can be considered strange anymore.

First they went after the gays . . . .

h/t to emptywheel at FDL

Oct 17 2010

Rant of the Week: Bill Maher’s New Rules

New Rule: The Only Difference Between DeMint and Fred Phelps is DeMint is Afraid to Carry the Sign

h/t Video Cafe @ Crooks & Liars

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