Wait…Wasn’t The World Supposed to End (Again) Today?

According to Christian numerologist David Meade, verses in Luke 21:25 to 26 are the sign that recent events, such as the solar eclipse and Hurricane Harvey, are signs of the apocalypse.

Conspiracy theories about a rogue planet impacting the Earth and bringing about armageddon have been circulating online for more than two decades, with the latest dubious prophecy predicting the apocalypse happens today—September 23, 2017.

And since it’s now September 24th in Australia and Asia, well…

A Guide to Christian Clichés and Phrases

Stolen many years ago from Unreasonable Faith and always worth reposting, especially when I’m feeling especially snarky:

“Save sex for marriage.”

Translation: “If I can’t have consequence-free sex, neither can you.”
Acceptable Response: “I pledge myself! Give me a promise ring!”
Unacceptable Response: “So how did that work out for you?” Or, “Where exactly does the Bible say that?”

“All you need to do to go to heaven is ask Jesus into your heart.”

Translation: “You’re going to burn in hell if you don’t say this prayer, little boy.”
Acceptable Response: “Dear Jesus, thank you for coming into my heart and saving me…”
Unacceptable Response: “Dear Jesus, where in the Bible do you tell us to ask you into our hearts? That seems kind weird. And why did the ancient world think the heart was the kidney? Hello? Can you hear me? I guess this is just a one-way intercom. How can I know if you’re still around if you don’t say anything back? Okay, if you’re really there, appear to me right now in person like you did to Paul.” Or, “What exactly does Jesus do in my blood-pumping organ?”


Translation: “Say ‘amen’ back to me!”
Acceptable Response: “Amen” or “Preach it!” combined with vigorous head nodding.
Unacceptable Response: “No!” Or, “Hmm…. That doesn’t sound right.”

“What can I pray for you about?”

Translation: “Any juicy tidbits about your life I can spread through the prayer gossip grapevine?”
Acceptable Response: “Thanks for asking. You’re so kind. My wife is having an affair, my brother is a drunk, and my dog can’t control his sexual desires.”
Unacceptable Response: “Have you ever kept a prayer journal to see if you get more unanswered prayers than answered ones, or if your unasked prayers get answered just as much?”

“I’m not a racist, but…”

Translation: “I’m a racist asshole who attends an all-white church and is uncomfortable around most black people. I love racist jokes and am about to tell you a good one.”
Acceptable Response: Laugher followed by telling a slightly more racist joke.
Unacceptable Response: “You’re a hypocritical racist asshole.”

“God is in control.”

Translation: “I only believe this about overwhelming situations. The rest of the time, I believe things are up to us and I act that way.”
Acceptable Response: “Amen.” Sometimes followed by an anecdote about some unexplained or coincidental experience that you attribute to God.
Unacceptable Response: “If God’s in control, then relax and don’t do anything about it! In fact, you don’t have to do anything at all ever, right? But that’s not right, and people still have to do everything, so what does it mean for God to be in control and why does it matter?”

“I believe this because the Bible says so.”

Translation: “I have no clue about the history of that big book I’m in love with, and I don’t care either, because it’s God’s Word, and if God said it, it must be true.”
Acceptable Response: “Amen.”
Unacceptable Response: “It also says to kill homosexuals.” They might heartily agree to that one, which in case the unacceptable response becomes, “It also says to kill your children when they talk back. Have your children ever talked back?” Or, “Explain to me the authorship and transmission of the Bible, and why you think it’s God’s Word.” Or especially, “Jesus said to give anything to those who ask of you – and not only to give what they ask, but more. So please give me your wallet and your car.”

“What’s God doing in your life?”

Translation: “I’m getting ready to judge you.”
Acceptable Response: “I’m conquering pride and lust!” Or, “Oh, Jesus, Jesus, I love Jesus my beautiful King and Savior!”
Unacceptable Response: “God’s been teaching me about how much evidence there is for evolution.”

“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

Translation: “I’m a flaming fundamentalist.”
Acceptable Response: “Amen.”
Unacceptable Response: “That’s a relief, because I’m a homosexual transvestite in an interracial relationship.”

“We’re in the end times.”

Translation: “My pastor said we’re living in the end times.”
Acceptable Response: “God will punish America for our sins!” Or, “America isn’t mentioned in the Bible because we’re going to crumble soon!”
Unacceptable Response: “Did you know that out of the millions of times Christians have claimed this throughout history, they’ve always been wrong?” Or, “If you’re so confident, I’m sure you’ll be confident in putting some significant money towards a bet on that.”

“He is risen!”

Translation: “It’s Easter! Let’s eat!”
Acceptable Response: “He is risen indeed!”
Unacceptable Response: “Where? I don’t see him.” Or, “Do you have any evidence for that statement?” Or especially, “Like yeast?”

“Jesus loves you.”

Translation: “Jesus does, but I don’t.”
Acceptable Response: “Amen.”
Unacceptable Response: “If that were true, why doesn’t he tell me himself?”

“Do you know where you’re going to go after you die?”

Translation: “This is the question they told me to ask in my evangelism class.”
Acceptable Response: “To heaven to see my sweet, precious Savior!”
Unacceptable Response: “How can you know that before you’re actually dead?”

“What would you say if you stood before God after you die?”

Translation: “I’ve got you now, sinner!”
Acceptable Response: “Please forgive me! I was so fracking stupid! How blind of me not to see you in everything you created!”
Possibly Acceptable Response: “Oops.”
Unacceptable Response: “If you wanted me to believe in you, why didn’t you show some kind of evidence? Why create everything through the painful process of evolution? Why did you let your creation suffer through hunger, neglect, disease, and war? Why incarnate yourself and then commit deicide/suicide? Why were you so bloodthirsty in the early years? If you’re God, you’re not a very good one.” Or, “Which one?”

“Thank you Jesus!”

Translation: “It’s easier to thank Jesus than the people who deserve it.”
Acceptable Response: “Amen!”
Unacceptable Response: “I’m not Jesus.” Or, “You’re welcome.”

“Have you found Jesus?”

Translation: “Are you also a Jesus-lover, or must I convert you?”
Acceptable Response: “I’ve been walking with the Lord since I was two years old, Praise Gawd!”
Unacceptable Response: “I didn’t know he was missing.”

“I’ll pray for you”

Translation: “This conversation is over. My mind exploded.” Or, “I refuse to believe you won this argument.”
Acceptable Response: “Thanks, you’re so kind.”
Unacceptable Response: ”Instead of praying, why don’t you read a non-Christian book?” Or, “I’ll think for you.” Or especially, “Liar.”

Continue reading…

You’re Doing It Wrong

A Christian group that is planning a “fast” in opposition to same-sex marriage has claimed that members don’t actually have to stop eating food to take part.

The Virginia-based Family Foundation announced a coordinated fast earlier this month, in order to influence the US Supreme Court into rejecting same-sex marriage when it hears the first of a series of appeals cases in October.

The group had said previously: “The Supreme Court begins their session on October 6th. We fully expect them to take a marriage case sometime in the next year.

“Join us for 40 Days of Prayer, Fasting and Repentance for Marriage from August 27 through October 5, 2014.

“Our 40 Days will culminate on October 5th just before the court begins their session.”

However, the group has since told members that they don’t actually have to give up food at all to take part in the “fast.”

They wrote: “We are asking the entire Body of Christ to join us for this feast – giving up physical food isn’t necessary – but feeding on the spiritual food provided is vital.”

As people don’t actually have to give up food to take part, the group opposed to re-defining the definition of marriage seem to be re-defining the meaning of a fast.


Worth Repeating

In light of the recent Hobby Lobby ruling, I think this excerpt from Robert Boston’s book Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do bears repeating:

Certain words should not be tossed around lightly. Persecution is one of those words.

Religious Right leaders and their followers often claim that they are being persecuted in the United States. They should watch their words carefully. Their claims are offensive; they don’t know the first thing about persecution.

One doesn’t have to look far to find examples of real religious persecution in the world. In some countries, people can be imprisoned, beaten, or even killed because of what they believe. Certain religious groups are illegal and denied the right to meet. This is real persecution. By contrast, being offended because a clerk in a discount store said “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” pales. Only the most confused mind would equate the two.

Far from being persecuted, houses of worship and the religious denominations that sponsor them enjoy great liberty in America. Their activities are subjected to very little government regulation. They are often exempt from laws that other groups must follow. The government bends over backward to avoid interfering in the internal matters of religious groups and does so only in the most extreme cases.

What the Religious Right labels “persecution” is something else entirely: it is the natural pushback that occurs when any one sectarian group goes too far in trying to control the lives of others. Americans are more than happy to allow religious organizations to tend to their own matters and make their own decisions about internal governance. When those religious groups overstep their bounds and demand that people who don’t even subscribe to their beliefs follow their rigid theology, that is another matter entirely.

Before I delve into this a little more, it would be helpful to step back and take a look at the state of religious liberty in the United States today. Far from being persecuted, I would assert that religion’s position is one of extreme privilege.

Consider the following points:

  • Religious groups enjoy complete tax exemption, a very powerful and sought-after benefit.
  • Unlike secular nonprofit groups, houses of worship are not required to apply for tax-exempt status. They receive it by mere dint of their existence. Houses of worship are assumed to be tax exempt as soon as they form. This exemption is rarely examined again and is revoked only in cases of extreme fraud (such as someone claiming that the entity he or she has formed is a church when it’s really a for-profit business).
  • Houses of worship are free from the mandatory reporting obligations that are imposed on secular nonprofit groups. For example, secular groups that are tax-exempt must fill out a detailed financial form and submit it to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) every year. This document, called a  Form 990, must be made available for public inspection. Houses of worship and ministries are not required to fill out and submit these forms.
  • Religious entities are not required to report their wealth to any government agency. The question often comes up about how much money houses of worship raise every year or what the value of the land they hold is. There is no way of knowing this because they are not required to tell anyone.
  • The IRS has the power to audit individuals and secular groups at the merest suspicion of wrongdoing or financial irregularities. Houses of worship, by contrast, are very difficult for the IRS to audit. This is so because Congress passed a special law governing church audits that requires the IRS to show heightened scrutiny before initiating such procedures. In addition, church audits must be approved by highly placed IRS officials.
  • Religious groups enjoy a loud and robust public voice. They own television and radio stations all over the country (all tax exempt, by the way). They own publishing arms, and they maintain various outreach sites on the Internet. The ability of religious groups to proselytize and spread their theology is limited only by the imaginations of their leaders.
  • Across the country, religious groups own a network of hospitals, secondary schools, colleges, social-service agencies, and other entities that often enjoy a cozy relationship with the government. Many of these institutions are subsidized directly with tax funds—even though they may promote religion. In recent years, religious groups that sponsor charitable services have seen themselves open to a host of new taxpayer assistance through the so-called faith-based initiative.
  • Religious groups are often exempt from laws that secular organizations must follow. A house of worship or a ministry can fire employees at will if those workers violate (or are merely suspected or accused of violating) some tenet of the faith. A religious school, for example, could fire a woman who becomes pregnant out of wedlock. A corporation or a secular nonprofit would not be able to do this.
  • In many cases, religious groups are freed from following even basic laws designed to promote health, safety, and general welfare. Houses of worship are routinely exempted from laws designed to improve access to facilities for those with disabilities, for example. In some states, daycare centers and other facilities sponsored by religious groups are wholly exempt from routine inspection laws.
  • Many religious groups engage in extensive lobbying on Capitol Hill and in the state capitals. Under federal law, there is virtually no regulation of their lobbying activities. Federal law exempts from oversight “a church, its integrated auxiliary, or a convention or association of churches that is exempt from filing a Federal income tax return.” This means that, unlike other groups, religious organizations are not required to report the money they spend attempting to influence legislation or to register their lobbyists. In rare cases, some states have tried to impose minimal regulations, such as public financial-disclosure reports, on houses of worship. The religious groups often fight such laws and call them an infringement of their religious-liberty rights.
  • Many legislators are quick to placate religious groups and the clergy. The results of their lobbying campaigns are often successful. In the 1990s, when some religious groups began to complain about experiencing difficulties with zoning issues and the ability to build houses of worship where they pleased, Congress was quick to pass a special law called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. This law essentially trumps local zoning regulations with a federal fiat—even though, for many years, zoning had been considered a matter best handled by local officials.
  • Religious groups are often treated with special deference in cases of suspected law breaking. Anyone who doubts this need not look beyond the experience of the Roman Catholic Church during the pedophilia scandal. A secular corporation that engaged in such a massive cover-up and acts of deception would have found its top leaders behind bars. Yet in that scandal, only a handful of relatively low-level clergy were held accountable.

I have created this list not necessarily to criticize or call for changing these policies (although some of them are overdue for scrutiny) but to make the point that the leaders of religious organizations have very little reason to complain. Their position is an exalted one. They are well regarded by lawmakers, and their institutions are not only tax supported in some cases but are also beyond the reach of secular law. What they are experiencing is not persecution; it is preferential status.



I Guess We’re Not Moving Back to Phoenix After All

So Arizona has decided to boldly go where even batshit-crazy Kansas (in a surprising display of self-restraint) feared to tread. Onward Christian soldiers:

PHOENIX — State senators voted Wednesday to let businesses refuse to serve gays based on owners’ “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

The 17-13 vote along party lines, with Republicans in the majority, came after supporters defeated an attempt to extend existing employment laws that bar discrimination based on religion and race to also include sexual orientation. Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, said that’s a separate issue from what he is trying to do.

But Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said that’s precisely the issue.

“The bill opens the door for discrimination against gays and lesbians,” he said.

Yarbrough, however, said foes of SB 1062 are twisting what his legislation says.

“This bill is not about discrimination,” he said. “It’s about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.”

A similar measure is awaiting a vote in the House, probably later today.

Arizona already has laws which protect individuals and businesses from any state action which substantially interferes with their right to exercise their religion. This bill extends that protection to cover what essentially are private transactions.

The push follows a decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court which said a gay couple could sue a photographer who refused on religious grounds to take pictures of their nuptials. Yarbrough’s legislation would preclude such a ruling here.

But Gallardo said this legislation makes one person’s religious freedom an attack on others.

“We all have the right to our religious beliefs,” he said.

“But I do not agree that we have the right to discriminate because of our religious beliefs,” Gallardo continued. “I do not believe we have to throw our religious beliefs to others that don’t share our same beliefs.”

Sen. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma, said that, issues of discrimination aside, the legislation is bad for business. She feared Arizona state would face the same boycotts it did when former Gov. Evan Mecham rescinded a state holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1980s and after Arizona enacted SB 1070 in 2010, a measure aimed at dealing with illegal immigration which some saw as an attack on Hispanics.

But Yarbrough said foes are missing the point of why the Founding Fathers crafted religious protections in the First Amendment.

“One’s faith, at least in America, extended to the workplace, to the public square and to all aspects of our lives,” he said. And Yarbrough said SB 1062 is “aimed at preventing the rising attempts at discriminating against folks because they are sincere and serious about the free exercise of their religious faith.”

Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu, agreed.

“A person does not lose their First Amendment freedoms when they start a business,” she said. “In America, people are free to live and work according to their faith.”

Foes, however, sought to concentrate on what they said would be more concrete effects of such a law.

Sen. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix, said the measure would allow a hotel operator who believes Mormonism is a cult to refuse to provide rooms to a family who walked in wearing Brigham Young T-shirts, indicating their religion.

Yarbrough did not specifically dispute that. But he said the question of whether such an action would be allowed would be based on whether the government has a “compelling interest” in forbidding such discrimination and whether any laws were the least restrictive necessary.

Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, wondered openly whether SB 1062 would provide new license for people like Warren Jeffs, head of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, to act against those who refuse to follow his edicts.

And Sen. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, said the wording of the measure even would allow those who worship Satan to use their beliefs as a legal shield.

Yarbrough, however, said the First Amendment is broadly crafted for a reason.

“I understand that the freedom of religion can be inconvenient,” he said. “But this is what our Constitution contemplates.”

Unable to block the measure, Gallardo tried what he called a notice requirement for those businesses that want to assert their religious freedom to refuse to serve gays.

“If there is an organization or a business out there that wants to use the defense of religious freedom, I believe that consumers have a right to know,” he said. Yarbrough, however, got the GOP majority to reject the amendment.

Gallardo said opposition to consumer notice is no surprise. Any firm which openly advertises such discrimination would be boycotted and go out of business, he said.

I cannot wait to see the first lawsuit against a Muslim (or any other non-“Christian”) establishment who refuses service to these hateful, bigoted assholes. Then we’ll see how long it lasts.

“Oh, but we meant the law only to apply to Christians!”

This is the problem with these so-called “people of faith.” They can’t see beyond the very limited boundaries of their own particular brand of invisible-friend-in-the-sky. They obviously don’t realize how easily their laws can be turned against them. “But, but, but…!”

Fine. If you want to attach your little Jesus fish to your business, go right ahead. At this point all it’s doing is showing the world what a hateful fuck you are. So don’t be surprised when I (and I dare say, the vast majority of Americans who don’t ascribe to your brand of batshittery) refuse to patronize your business and you’re forced to close. Shut up and play the role of good Christian martyr like you’re supposed to.

And frankly, any state that passes these sort of bullshit laws needs to be boycotted as well.

I mean seriously. This is the twenty-first century, goddamnit. We’re supposed to be going forward, not sliding back into the Middle Ages.

This planet needs an enema.

The Batshittery is Strong in this One

“This is a full-scale assault against Christianity and the followers of Christ. When prayer is banned from the public square, when our President fails to defend biblically defined marriage, and he openly and zealously advocates for gay rights; when legislators rush to overrule existing laws to promote gay marriage; when schools and courts consistently suppress religious freedoms; we know we are locked in a war against the Christian faith, not culture. The architect behind this offensive is none other than Satan himself. The Scripture says that the devil, our archenemy, is bent on as much destruction as possible. Satan knows that one day very soon, he will be cast into the lake of fire and sulfur in hell (Revelation 20:10). As that day draws near, his malicious, hellish activity is intensifying.” – Franklin Graham, writing on his daddy’s website. (Via Good As You)

I don’t know about any of you, but I stopped having invisible friends when I was 4 or 5 years old, and the monsters living under my bed and in my closet also disappeared only a couple of years later.  This guy, however…

The Centurion Shall Not Be Mocked!

Another Day, Another Butthurt Christian

You thought you’d get a break from teh st00pid after the Mayan Apocalypse came and went without winged beasts marauding our cities or fleets of UFOs attacking from space, right? Guess again dear readers, and get ready to reboard the crazy train. Apparently the folks over at a well known right-wing wacko website have their already over-tight panties in a twist because in their fevered minds, CBS is mocking has-been footballer Tim Tiebow, Jeebus’s chosen emissary on earth (and by extension, all of Christianity) by running an ad for the Super Bowl featuring outspoken homosexual actor Neil Patrick Harris.

Apparently because Mr. Harris has the date of the game, “Feb 3” and “2013” on his eyeblack, this is somehow mocking Tiebow, who felt the need to put bible verses under his eyes (perhaps as a reminder to not grope grab other players’ asses too tightly).

I have several friends who consider themselves Christians. These friends are not, however, the foaming-at-the-mouth “I’m being persecuted for my faith!” type who seem to find offense at every turn in modern society. No, these friends are who I consider “good” Christians, people who quietly live their lives, personally practicing their faith without feeling the need to shove their belief system down the throat of everyone they encounter. I respect their right to believe; they respect my right not to.

Perhaps if more of these publicly butthurt whiners like the ones finding offense at this Super Bowl ad would spend more time actually practicing the words of their savior (y’know, doing good works, feeding the poor, loving their neighbors, etc.) and less time playing the martyr while trying to make their faith the law of the land, the rest of society might take a more favorable view of them.

In other words, they need to get a life.

Teh St00pid, It BURNS

To be filed under Religion Spoils Everything

From TUAW:

And now for your daily dose of overreaction.

Extreme Orthodox Christians in Russia have upped their complaints about Apple’s iconic logo, according to CNet. This specific group of Orthodox Christians say that Apple’s logo represents a “blasphemous” attack on the church since it can be seen as a representation of the Christian mythology of Satan tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden.

As CNet points out, the uproar correlates to other religious/political issues happening in Russia right now — namely the jailing of punk band Pussy Riot for its protest against the Russian Orthodox Church and its (and other secularist’s) assertions that the Church has the goal of creating a clerical police state.

This isn’t the first time Apple’s logo has been associated with Satan, and there’s plenty of other crazy examples out there (jump to the 2:40 mark in this video) but this is something that Apple should conceivably be worried about. Anti-blasphemy laws are currently being proposed in Russia which, should they pass, could theoretically bar Apple from selling products with its logo on them in the country.