Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rick Warren, Jesus, money and heaven's gate

Joan Walsh, erstwhile commentator for Salon. com, tells about a tweet sent by the Rev. Rick Warren following the debt-ceiling commentaries by President Obama and Rep. Boehner.  The Rev. Warren, in godly guise, wrote thusly (in support of the Republican plan to zap the elderly, the poor, the disenfranchised and to support his many wealthy friends in high places):

"HALF of America pays NO taxes. ZERO. So they're happy for tax rates to be raised on the other half that DOES."

Ah, it's tough to be rich.  It's tough to be the only group in this country that pays taxes!  And isn't it terrible that the poor people get by without paying any taxes whatsoever? It's just not right to see people on or below the poverty line laughing and singing and dancing on their way to the unemployment office because it's only the rich that have to pay taxes!

Except the Right Rev. Warren is the Wrong Rev. Warren. As Ms. Walsh points out, Mr. Warren's comment is "absolutely false." She explains:

"Thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit, a bipartisan innovation adopted under President George H. W. Bush and expanded under President Clinton, it's true many low-wage workers pay no taxes and may even get government subsidies to bring them above the poverty line. As many as 47 percent of workers today pay no income tax, a number that jumped substantially during the recession. They do, however, pay payroll taxes and of course the regressive sales tax, which disproportionately burdens the poor, so it's false to say they pay no taxes. ...

"The low-wage workers aren't the moochers; in fact, the subsidies [under EITC] benefit industries that profit from low-wage workforces."

Now, Ms. Walsh bends over backward to give Mr. Warren some credit for his "caring about poverty issues and his sometimes bipartisan posture." I don't and won't!

Even though Warren twitted this private message to Ms. Walsh: "I take zero salary & we feed over 2000 families a wk. ... "

Ok, they feed some families. That's a good thing. But the no salary thing is no biggie as Walsh points out. The guy is mega-rich from his "publishing empire."

The Wrong Rev. Warren is also anti-gay and anti-choice.

I wonder what Bible he reads. I wonder if he's ever read the Synoptic Gospels. In a letter to Salon, I wrote the following:

"So often so-called Christians neither know nor care about what their legendary Jesus said [or didn't say] much like the Apostle Paul, who never refers to the Jesus of the Gospels to make a point. He never knew the Jesus of the Gospels, of course, because that Jesus hadn't been created at the time Paul went about preaching his heavenly, mythical Christ and writing about this Christ in his letters to the 'Christ' churches dotting the Med. area.

"Warren is like most so-called Christians on the 'right' side of things: they worry excessively about matters which Jesus never addressed in any form or fashion and ignore those things he is reported to have felt strongly about.

"Warren is anti-gay. The Jesus of the Gospels said not a word about 'gays.' And it should be clear to Warren that if he had he would have been sympathetic as he was to all those who were abused by the system.

"Many right-wing Christians are opposed to abortion. Jesus never spoke about abortion.

"But Jesus did speak about wealth and riches and rich people." The bit about a rich man finding it harder to get into the kingdom of Heaven than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle should give us a clue. Hyperbole, certainly, but it is very clear that so far as Jesus is concerned, rich people people don't have a chance to enter Heaven's gates.

Not a chance. In hell!

So, I've got to say, "Sorry, Mr. Warren. Your religion sucks, no matter your 'good' works of which you are so proud, much like the Pharisees who stood, in Jesus' day, preening on the street corners."

Maybe you ought to take Jesus seriously:  Go ahead!  Do exactly what Jesus told the rich, young man:  sell all you have, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow him.

Nah, you don't really believe that crap, do you?

Why don't you quit the Catholic Church?

Thanks to Atheist Cartoons.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The GOP (God's Own Pissants) and the No Religious Test clause

There is, in our Constitution, a clause which says specifically that there shall be no religious test for anyone wishing to hold any public office in the United States of America.  It is found in Article VI and reads thusly:  " religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Unfortunately, there are many ignoramuses in our nation, and not a few of those ignoramuses belong to the Republican Party.  The so-called tea party faction is comprised of 99.9% ignoramuses.  But worse than ignorance is the increasing tendency among the extreme right (which has successful co-opted the Republican Party and the political discussion in our country) to ignore the clear meaning and intent of the Constitution when it serves their purposes.

Thus, although the Constitution demands that there be no religious test for public office, a religious test has become a litmus test for anyone wishing to be elected to almost any position. There is not a chance in hell that an atheist or agnostic could win any election!

For Republicans, that poses no problem for they do not take the Constitution seriously anyway. In fact, they proudly shout out their religious credentials for they know the religious test is the most important test among a large percentage of American voters. Their god trumps the Constitution every time!

One of the latest to proclaim a calling from God to run for public office (in this case, the presidency) is good ol' Rick Perry, the moronic governor of Texas. Perry's been coy about his ambitions, but it's been obvious for some time he plans to throw his Stetson in the 2012 presidential ring. Just a week or two ago Perry said "he's getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what [he's] been called to do." He is, he said, "... what America needs."

Even for a Texan, that takes a lot of gall. "I am what America needs"? Let us invoke the Lord: Jesus H. Christ! Perry's run the state of Texas into the ground and he thinks he's what America needs?

Here's some of what Perry believes: The graduated income tax was the first step toward socialism; the direct election of U.S. senators was very bad; Social Security and other such programs upon which people depend for their very lives, were the second step toward socialism. Socialism, obviously, is bad, but we have no clue what Perry means by the word!

Perry and his cohorts in the Texas Legislature passed, at the last minute, bills which 1) makes a photo ID necessary to vote; 2) forces a woman contemplating an abortion to have a sonogram; and 3) gives local police the right to enforce national immigration laws.

This wacko governor is also a climate change denier and believes the theory of evolution is false. But there really was an Adam and Eve!

Most importantly, Perry believes that there is a god up there somewhere who can be conned into fixing all that's wrong with the good ol' U.S. All you need to do is pray. "There is hope for America," claims Perry, "It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees."

Then there's Michele Bachmann. It's hard to conceive of anyone as stupid and as confused as is this woman. God has called her to run for president, says Bachmann. And this is not the first time she's heard the deity's voice. Back in 2006, she proclaimed she had been in touch with God and after fasting and praying God called her to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.

As Matt Taibbi said in a Rolling Stone article: "Bachmann is a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions. She believes that the Chinese are plotting to replace the dollar bill, that light bulbs are killing our dogs and cats, and that God personally chose her to become both an IRS attorney who would spend years hounding taxpayers and a raging anti-tax Tea Party crusader against big government."

Bachmann's old friend and ex-governor of Minnesota (now not such a friend), Tim Pawlenty, is also running for president on God's say-so. The mythical Jesus H. Christ is Tim's "political hero." And God is "going to lead the way every day."

Let us not forget Herman Cain. Stop laughing! Cain is a pizza mogul. He's also a black man. Somehow he has forgotten the fact that a black man running as a Republican has about as much chance getting elected as Karl Marx!

Nevertheless, Cain last April, said God wants him to be president. In fact, God cured him of cancer so he could run president. Yes sir. Now ain't that somethin'?

Although it may appear that God has deserted dear Sarah Palin from Arizona (formerly of Alaska), that is not the case. I remember when a cult bishop from Africa laid his hands on Sarah which meant that in the world of goofy Pentecostalism, she had been designated God's choice for the Oval Office. And that designation has never been rescinded. Unless Sarah gets a last-minute notice from the deity, she's also gonna be running around claiming God wants Obama out, out, out and her in, in, in!

There are others contestants, too, who would have us believe that God is backing their plans to ruin the country. Newt Gingrich is one, but old Newt doesn't have much of a chance these days even though he says he's given up philandering and joined the Roman Catholic Church and become a right-wing zealot with no clear idea as to what the hell he believes. Gingrich is an afterthought, a flicker off in the distance getting smaller and smaller with each passing day.

Rick Santorum is another and is a fool, but a fool with a small following. Santorum actually looks as stupid as he is. And every time he opens his mouth, he proves it. The American left, says Santorum, hates Christians and the Christian church. Not only so, but he's talking to God and he's running in 2012 because he wants to defend "God's truth in the world," because God told him to do so! Notice, this pissant actually says, in public, that he intends to violate his oath of office which requires him to defend, not God, but the U.S. Constitution.

There are two other folks running for president in 2012. They come last 'cause they are both Mormons - members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They are Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney. Now, if you know anything about the beliefs of the Mormon religion, you know that anyone who actually believes that nonsense should be automatically disqualified for the presidency. The whole schema of Mormonism is even more bizarre than normal Christianity; it is completely irrational and unjustifiable. And even though Huntsman and Romney can claim to be Christians 'til the cows come home, the great majority of "evangelicals" won't believe them! Mormons are NOT Christians so far as most Christians are concerned!

So, ultimately, the religious test which should not apply, will sink both of their campaigns. I think. It's hard to know with the religious right, though, 'cause they are noted for changing their beliefs at a moment's notice if such change helps them meet their goals. The end almost always justifies the means for the religious right wing zealots.

Not so long ago the United States was finally rid of an ignorant Texas clown who claimed he spoke with God and was told that God not only wanted him to be president but to wage war on a country in order to obtain it's oil for his rich friends. Well, he didn't actually say that. At first he said the unprovoked invasion of Iraq was to take away Saddam's bad war toys - WMDs. But he lied. He knew Saddam didn't have any WMDs. So then he said it was to make Iraq free. That was a lie, too. It had to do with oil.

We don't need another such clown talking to his/her god whose "call" always seems to justify whatever it is the clown wants to do at the moment.

Our Congress is filled with additional clowns who believe in Jesus and God and the Holy Ghost but can't find it in their hearts to cooperate with others for the good of the country and who love to wage war all over the world because God, they believe, wants us to spread our peace and freedom to all peoples even if it kills them!

In spite of what the Constitution says, it is obvious we do have a religious test for political office. But maybe we can turn that around. Perhaps we could establish the following process:  Any candidate for political office who claims to speak with God or hear God speaking to him or her is automatically disqualified on the grounds of suspicion of insanity. Said person is then to be wrapped tightly in a white jacket and put in a rubber room until the election is over.

Thanks to Atheist Cartoons for the cartoons!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Why does anyone remain a member of the Roman Catholic Church?

Two thousand years of abomination and degradation, torture and murder, misogyny and sexual deviance have marked the Roman Catholic Church.  Its history is soaked in blood.  Still, it remains one of the largest religious institutions on earth.

The religious beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church are so irrational, so far from common sense, so soaked in religious hocus-pocus that sane and sensible people cannot comprehend its attraction to the masses.  Here's a sampling:    1) Babies are born in sin because of the mythical Adam and Eve who committed the "original" sin.  If a baby dies before it is baptized, it is doomed to eternal punishment.  2)  The Pope, who is just another priest elected by his fellow priests, is thought to be the voice of some eternal god and thus has the ability to determine right and wrong on earth.  3)  When the priest says the magic words during the Mass, the bread and wine actually turn into the physical body and blood of the legendary Jesus.  4)  A priest can forgive you of your sins.  5)  Non-Catholics are in danger of eternal hellfire.  6)  Abortion is a greater sin that pederasty.  7)  People who have committed "mortal" sins which they have not confessed go straight to eternal hellfire when they die, whereas people who have committed "venial" sins go to an imaginary place called Purgatory where they can work their way into heaven.  Their relatives can also buy their way out of Purgatory.  8)  Women are inferior to men and therefore cannot be priests.  9)  Celibacy is a worthier lifestyle than marriage.  10)  Contraception is wrong because God wants all sperm to have a chance to become a living being.  11)  The Bible can be interpreted properly only by Roman Catholic clergy.  And there's so much more of this kind of nonsense.

We wonder again, why do people remain in the Catholic church?

But it just gets worse!  In recent years, we have become aware of the fact that another mark of the Roman church is pederasty or child sexual abuse.  Literally thousands of priests, nuns and bishops all over the world have been involved in the sexual abuse of children.  What makes this even more difficult to deal with is that the Vatican - the headquarters of the Roman church - has been instrumental in covering up these horrific crimes.

One of the countries where the most virulent sexual and physical abuse was instigated by both priests and nuns is Ireland.  Ireland is a Roman stronghold.  According to the Huffington Post, the Roman church "still owns most schools and several hospitals" in Ireland and "state broadcasters still toll a twice-daily call to Catholic prayer."

But authorities in Ireland have had enough.  The Vatican is said to have "sabotaged efforts by Catholic bishops to report clerical sex abuse cases to police."  This lead Eamon Gilmore, Ireland's Foreign Minister, to tell the papal ambassador to provide an "official response" to said accusations.  The Vatican instead recalled the papal ambassador, supposedly to consult on what the Vatican's response should be.

If past is prologue, we can guess.  The pope and his minions will play down the controversy and claim they have done all they can to mitigate the problem, which is untrue.  We have learned long ago that statements from the Vatican are to be treated like any other political statements - as lies until proven to be true.

One reason we know this is because last January, the Associated Press published a "confidential 1997 Vatican letter" that "instructed Irish bishops to handle child-abuse cases strictly under the terms of canon law.  It warned bishops that their 1996 child protection policy, particularly its emphasis on the need to start reporting all suspected crimes to police, violated canon law."

This should not be surprising to anyone who has studied the history of the Roman church.  Historically, it has always protected the institution no matter what the cost in terms of human lives or human suffering.  World War II provides a good example of just that.

The question arises again:  In light of the history of the Roman church, and in light of the terrible, ungodly evil the church has perpetrated on its children via its official representatives, why would anyone remain a Roman Catholic today?

Lots of folks have a crush on Michele Bachmann

Thanks to Atheist Cartoons.

Panera Break - a light in the darkness

 [Photo of Ron Shaich, founder of Panera Bread, from Business Week]

My wife and I like Panera Bread restaurants.  We like them enough that we patronize Panera Bread at least once a week.  The food is generally tasty and fresh, the service is generally good, and the prices are quite reasonable.

Now, we have another reason for liking Panera Bread.  Unlike many corporate leaders, the founder of Panera Bread, Ron Shaich, believes his main objective in life is not to accumulate as much money as possible no matter what the cost to those around him.  He has another vision.

Kelly McCartney has written an article for Shareable, reprinted at AlterNet, describing Shaich's vision for feeding the hungry.  McCartney notes how "Rare is the voice that speaks for the underprivileged."  Yet there is, "a little whisper out there in the distance."

Shaich's experiment began in Clayton, Missouri last year.  "He opened a Panera Cares pay-what-you-can cafe and it has been an unqualified success, so much so that he has since opened two more locations - in Dearborn, Michigan, and Portland, Oregon.  The goal, now, is to open one per quarter in diverse communities around the country - the geographical logic being that the folks with more means can help offset those with less."

Shaich says "'The vision for the Panera Cares cafe was to use Panera's unique restaurant skills to address real societal needs and make a direct impact in communities.  Thus, the Foundation developed these community cafes to make a difference by addressing the food insecurity issues that affect millions of Americans.'  More than 50 million, to be exact."

Fifty million hungry people in this country and our Congress blusters about non issues such as raising the debt ceiling.  And then, specificially, the Republicans constantly seek out ways to make it more difficult for those 50 million hungry people to find food, jobs, or health care!

McCartney goes on to detail how the Panera Cares cafes work.  And there's more.  "[...] with the Panera Cares Foundation, Shaich spreads the wealth one step further in an almost commons-based venture where food is a right, not a privilege.  Here, the stakeholders are valued alongside the shareholders.  But that's not all.  Shaich also aims to triple-leverage Panera's resources by feeding people who can't feed themselves, training and funneling at-risk youth back into the mainstream, and setting an example for other corporations to do more than simply write a check.  As a result, both private (funding) and public (people) assets are brought to bear in a successful partnership rooted in sharing."

Sounds almost too good to be true in this age of self-obsessed, self-absorbed, me-first, teapot crack-pots and other sundry crock-pots

There is much more and you can read all about it in McCartney's article here.

And you'll find background information on Ron Shaich here.

Joe Nelms, Baptist creature, preys at NASCAR

Another title for this post might be "Why Many Folks Consider Christianity to be Bullshit!"

Joe Nelms, who is said to be the pastor of Nashville's Family Baptist Church, gave the invocation at NASCAR's Nationwide Series in Nashville last Saturday night.

Joe Nelms should have stayed in bed.  Along with his "smokin' hot wife, Lisa"!

I looked for a Biblical passage to describe this "prayer" and finally found it:  "Jesus wept."

A false equivalency

The mainstream press, as usual, has failed miserably to do its job relative to the so-called "debt ceiling crisis."  Rather than report on what is actually going on, they simply restate Republican talking points, creating a false sense of equivalency.

The two parties are not the same.  They are not doing the same thing.  The Democrats are not failing in bipartisanship.  The Democrats are not bringing us to the brink of financial disaster.

We have today a Republican party that is insane.  Certifiably so.  It is a party willing to throw our country under a bus in order to make ideological points that are totally irrelevant because the debt ceiling crisis is a manufactured crisis by the Republican party.

There is no debt ceiling crisis.  There is no budget crisis.  We do not need, at this point in time, a balanced budget.  Government spending is not out of control (excepting as it pertains to the Pentagon and our ongoing Middle Eastern wars).  Social Security is not in crisis. 

Furthermore, what financial problems we do have could be solved by simply 1) reversing George W. Bush's tax cuts for the rich, 2) hiking the minimum amount of income subject to FICA, 3) closing the numerous loopholes which allow corporate entities to avoid paying any income tax whatsoever.

The Democrats led by President Obama are willing to do all of the above.  That is not equivalent to the Republicans who, like spoiled children, insist on special privileges for their rich friends; who demand the middle-class and the poor bear the brunt of our financial burden; who show clearly that their loyalty is neither to our Constitution nor to their constituents, but to the corporations who own them.

In the past, raising the debt ceiling has not been a partisan issue.  Congress has routinely raised the debt ceiling over 70 times.  Furthermore, reasonable and responsible people do not threaten the financial well-being of the entire country (and the world!) by withholding approval to raise the debt ceiling by holding the country hostage to their whims as directed by the lobbyists and by the crackpot teapot members who have hijacked the Republican Party.

Republicans, in spite of all their protestations, don't give a damn about our debt or our deficit or whether or not we raise the debt ceiling.  It is all a pretense.  They want to save tax cuts for the wealthy.  They want to cut the social safety net in our country, a net that has been built by blood, sweat and tears over the years.  The Republican Party has always fought social programs that benefit regular human beings.  If the Republican Party had its way back in the 30s and 40s and 50s, we would have no Social Security, no Medicare, no Medicaid.  Another obvious sign that the Republicans are not concerned with our debt or a balanced budget is their blanket approval for the Bush spending spree between 2000 and 2008.  Bush came into office with a huge surplus which he promptly decimated by cutting taxes for his rich friends and his war-mongering.  We have thrown over a trillion dollars down the toilet in Iraq and Afghanistan for no reason whatsoever.  That's why we have a huge debt at the present time.  It's a Republican problem caused by a Republican president and his Republican cohorts in Congress. 

Now, that we have a Democratic president who is also "black," the deficit suddenly becomes a problem.  And yes, I am calling much of the Republican opposition racist!  Racism in the Republican Party has raised its ugly head over and over again over the past two and a half years! 

Hypocritical is too nice a word to describe the Republican Party today.  Insane is more correct.  Dirty also fits.  Unconscionable is right on target.  Ignorant describes most Republicans. 

But we don't hear any of this from our news media.  Instead, we hear how bipartisanship has failed.  We hear how the Republicans AND the Democrats can't work things out.  We were told that weepy Boehner walked out twice on the president, but the sense was that he had no choice because the president was so intransigent.

The parties and their representatives are treated as if their discourse and demands are equivalent.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  For the Republicans, it's "my way or the highway";  it's "if I can't win, I'll take my marbles and go home."

We should let them do the latter.  One cannot come to agreement with people who have already lost all their marbles!