Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"The West Wing" and Religion

A short while ago I was watching The West Wing while getting ready for work.  I like The West Wing - it is one of the few shows I have all the DVDs to.  One of this morning's episodes (Bravo shows two episodes most weekday mornings) was one of my favorites.  I did not realize that it was the pilot, but based on that one show, it is easy to see how it got picked up.

The show centered on a gaff made by Josh Lyman on a Sunday morning show, in which he stated "you're god is too busy being indicted for tax fraud" to an evangelical, and the political fallout from "insulting millions of christians."  At one point, to coddle the outraged evangelicals, the White House staff holds a meeting with some of the evangelical leaders.  After Josh apologizes (sincerely, it seemed) things get heated, leading to the following exchange:

John Van Dyke (one of the evangelical leaders): The First Commandment says Honor thy father.
Toby Ziegler: No it doesn't
Josh Lyman: Toby...
Toby Ziegler: It doesn't.
Josh Lyman: Listen...
Toby Ziegler: No if I'm going to make you sit through this preposterous exercise, we're going to get the names of the damn commandments right.
Mary Marsh: Okay. Here we go.
Toby Ziegler: Honor thy father is the Third Commandment.
John Van Dyke: Then what's the First Commandment?
President Josiah Bartlet: I am the Lord your God. Thou shalt worship no other god before me. Boy, those were the days, huh?

The President then goes off on the evangelicals for not speaking out against radicals, one of whom had just sent his granddaughter a Raggedy Ann doll with a knife in its throat.

During the entire show, respect was shown for people's belief systems, but little respect was granted to those who wished to abuse the power of their religion, or force it on to others.  This was true for any faith - if you want to watch a scene with anger, check out the episode where CJ announces that a girl's school in the Middle East was allowed to burn with children in it because radical muslims refused blocked access due to the school's unholy teachings.

The President Bartlet character was a catholic with very deep faith, but his religious beliefs were never forced on anybody else.  They guided his actions, but never predetermined them.  All of his actions and decisions were based on reality, not a book.  The show even handled his crisis of faith when Mrs. Landingham died well.

"The West Wing", the product of that damned liberal commie atheist Hollywood elite, showed religion and faith in better light than anything Pat Robertson could possibly dream of.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Separation of Church and State - Not Just a Good Idea, It's the Law

In addition to the christianists pushing for the merger of their god and our Constitution, we have dozens of lawmakers presenting the National Day of Prayer as Constitutional, even though a Federal judge just ruled otherwise.  Paliban Daily posts this entry from the Secular Coalition for America discussing the issue.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Separation of Church and State" is Beneficial To All

A couple of weeks ago Sarah Palin, failed/abandoned half-Governor of Alaska, started spewing nonsense about this country being a christian country and that the founders wanted their flavor of god to be the basis of all we did.
(Please see: Palin rejects notion that God is separate from the statePalin denies church-state separation, acknowledges Prayer Warriors affiliation, Sarah Palin Says We’re a Christian Nation — She’s Wrong, and Palin & the Religious Right: A Trojan Horse in the GOP)  

She's even prompted other christianists to add their two cents worth, including Chuck Norris.  After all - who should we listen to concerning the American government than a B-list actor who makes hyper-patriotic movies based somewhere JUUUUUSSTTT a bit outside of reality, a TV series that spends quite a bit of time on Indian affairs concerning Indians that are no longer in Texas, and certainly nowhere near Dallas, and is most recognized now for touting his exercise machine...

Anyways - Palin and her ilk are again doing the combined declaration of "cry for us for we christians are oppressed" and "this is a christian nation and god watches over us".  Any inkling of "Separation of Church and State" is met with "quit oppressing the 70-80% of us god-fearing christians", followed by playing loose with facts concerning the founding fathers' beliefs.  Read "Yeah, What She Said" and "...and What He Said, Too" for some thoughts on the founding father's beliefs...

The christianists have been kind of getting their way lately.  They are 2-1 in recent judicial rulings, with their only loss being a Federal justice ruling that a portion of the law that set up the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional. Christianists did win two cases - one in which the words "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance was declared "patriotic, not religious", and the other declaring that a cross is not a religious symbol.  Talk about activist judges!  Declaring "god" is not religious, and the cross is not a religious symbol!

So the christianists are getting what they want - official recognition and interpretation of the bible as it pertains to the United States.  Based on those rulings and interpretations, I may need to change some habits I've built up over the years.  You see, I had a good friend in high school that was a good catholic, and he took offense to my exclamations of "god damn (it)".  Since that time, I have tried to refrain from using that phrase as it is unnecessarily offensive.  But a Federal court has ruled that god is not a religious term - so I think I will feel less self-conscious about using the phrase "god damn (it)" - how can it be offensive to religious people if "god" is not a religious term?  I might even create some art using bodily fluids and a cross.  Again - no offense should be taken due to the cross not being a christian symbol...

Friday, May 7, 2010

... and What He Said, Too

Adding to PalibanDaily's comments on the U.S. not being a Christian nation, here are 2 cents from Bad Astronomy.

Bad Astronomy is a neat site that has a mixture of Science (with a capital "S", no less!), hack demolition (specializing recently in demolishing idiots in the Anti-vaxxer community), and poor examples of astronomy and science in TV and movies.  Definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Yeah - What She Said

Jenny Donati runs a very nice site called Paliban Daily, and this post for May 6th, 2010, in reference to the unconstitutional National Day of Prayer, presents some great quotes from the Founding Fathers and other sources concerning the separation of church and state.

The post and Paliban Daily are both worth checking out...

You might also want to jump to Paliban World - a page on Paliban Daily that accumulates numerous atheist blogs, including NoYourGod.  You can find work from a LOT of fine bloggers there.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


A nice relaxing song by Axis of Awesome.

h/t UnreasonableFaith

And for some unrelated fun from Axis of Awesome, check out this ditty played in Four Chords.

*What Would the Zombie Wizard Do?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Dangers of Blind Faith

There is faith all around us, in everything we do.
 - Every time I pull out a dollar bill, I am reminded that the currency is backed by the "full faith and credit of the U.S. government".  I have faith that the system designed to handle finances in this country and the value of that bill are valid - there is (ironically) a theoretical solid foundation to that dollar and every other one flying around;
 - When I am driving through an intersection and I have a green light, I have faith that the folks with the red lights at the intersection will actually stop and grant me my right-of-way;
 - When I drink some milk (or Silk or similar product), I have faith in the system that has been put in place to make sure that the food I eat is safe to eat;
 - When I turn on the TV and watch the evening news (ABC, NBC, NBC, or PBS), I have faith that the information being broadcast is true.  There may be varied opinions mixed in with that information, but the basis of those opinions are facts.

Faith is a wonderful thing - when based in reality.

Blind faith, however, is neither a wonderful thing, nor based in reality.  It does not matter if that blind faith is in a supreme being, a driver's ability or willingness to grant right-of-way when they should, the financial system, or even the food delivery system.
 - I have the skills and tools needed and the ability to protect myself should our financial system collapse.  (No, I am not a survivalist nor do I believe in any sort of armageddon - but I do believe in personal protection);
 - While I may have faith that the next guy will stop at a stop light, I still purchased a vehicle with many safety features in case some fool has had too much to drink, is IM'ing on their cell phone, or their brakes fail;
 - I give my food a quick sniff-test (for what that is worth), and have my doctor's phone number on speed-dial;
 - I double- and triple-check the data that is the basis of news reports, and filter out the bullshit.

Those that have blind faith are doomed to failure.  Those that foist that blind faith on the rest of us doom us.

A common refrain during Bush the Second's administration was that business was capable of regulating itself.  This was not limited to W's administration - it has been a factor in many administrations during my lifetime - both Democratic and Republican.  In the late 90's some new financial instruments came about (well, they existed prior to that, but started being used widely during that time).  Some financial geniuses decided that the market was the best regulator of, well, the market for these instruments.  In fact, a law was passed specifically prohibiting the governmental regulation of the market.  Those who had blind faith in the ability of the financial industry to regulate itself were wrong.... very, very wrong.  They failed to take into consideration that people controlled those markets, and that those people may consider their own selves and their own short-term needs and desires over the market's long-term well being.  The cost of that blind faith?  Trillions of dollars.

Another arena where blind faith by a few has failed many is the current oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  5,000 barrels of oil per day are being discharged into the Gulf.  The Deepwater Horizon was a reasonably new rig - built in 2001.  Those in charge of the rig, and of regulating the rig, had blind faith that a major catastrophe could not occur.  In fact, up until the April 20th explosion that killed 11 and led to the oil spill, some people responsible for the safety of the rigs, workers, and environment mocked the possibility of a major spill (see "Landrieu mocks offshore drilling safety concerns" at Daily Kos).  A U.S. Senator, sitting with a BP executive, deriding the concerns of those who feared a disaster... See what blind faith can get you?

It doesn't matter if that blind faith is in technology, markets, people, mythical creatures, or a church leader's connection to that mythical creature.  Accepting anything as gospel (so to speak) without any question will simply lead to trouble.  And if the person doing that is a leader, they are simply leading their people into trouble - and those people deserve better.