Sunday, October 30, 2011


Quote Mining the Bible

William Lane Craig carried out his stunt at Oxford of "debating" an empty chair instead of Richard Dawkins, who had refused to do so, purportedly because of Craig's defense of genocide.

Apparently, according to this report of the "debate," by Sarah Gashi in The Oxford Student, not everyone in the audience was buying Craig's bullhockey:

[U]ltimately one question exposed Craig's alarmingly questionable moral principles: "Dawkins has refused to debate you because (he says) you think genocide could be acceptable in some contexts. Have you ever said anything which warrants this view, and what do you actually think?" He started with the straightforward denial that we expected – "I have not in any way ever said that God commanded, or could command, human genocide". However, the following ten minute explanation of Numbers 33:50-54 (look it up) did not involve a justification of genocide, merely a justification of the mass displacement of an ethnic group; the kicker at the end was his summary that if this forced displacement did involve killing some Canaanites, well the adults deserved it because they were sinful, and it's alright because the children went straight to heaven. Seriously?

The widespread applause this statement extracted from the audience was possibly more alarming than the statement itself. Somewhere up in the wings a lone voice was shouting "Boo"; the news editor and I stared gormlessly; the rest of the spectators seemed to find this little speech all fine and dandy. I am a religious person, and as a person of faith (not in spite of it) I was morally repulsed by this analysis, and deeply concerned about the intellectual and moral fibre of the believers who found it commendable.

The only benefit of the doubt that I can possibly extend to Craig (and I am scraping the barrel) is that under pressure he grasped at the nearest explanation for Biblical injustices which came to mind, and would – hopefully will – qualify his extraordinary comments at some later date. I shan't hold my breath.
As well you shouldn't, Ms. Gashi, since Craig has invested a lot of "thought" and effort into this apologia for what the Bible says Yahweh is like. It was no grasping at straws under pressure but his "considered" argument to rescue his God from what the Bible clearly portrays him as.

But Craig focuses on Numbers 33, where he can play with the semantics of "ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you." But what about Numbers 31?

Let's review the story of the Midianites, shall we?

1And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

2Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites ...

7And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males. ...

9And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. ...

12And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses ...

14And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.

15And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?

16Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.

17Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

18But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
Let's pretend, as far as the virgin girls are concerned, that "keep alive for yourselves" doesn't mean what it seems to mean. There can be no doubt that the God of Israel, through Moses, ordered the cold blooded murder of the male children of Midian, which naturally included infants. How many? In the list of the booty in Numbers 31, there is this:

35And thirty and two thousand persons in all, of women that had not known man by lying with him.
Assuming a roughly 50/50 sex ratio among prepubescent males and females (and we're told how wicked the Midianites were, so the majority of the "women that had not known man by lying with him" were doubtless prepubescent), that means that approximately 30,000 young boys and infants among the Midianite "little ones," after having seen their fathers killed and their homes destroyed and being dragged away to a strange place by soldiers, were then killed long after the heat of battle was over. And, since the ancient Israelites didn't have the benefit of gas chamber technology, they were doubtless put to the sword ... or worse.

And that doesn't even count the older women who were also killed in cold blood.

Of course, the real ... um ... moral of this story is to be found in Plato's dialogue Euthyphro:

Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?
In other words, are moral actions moral because God commands them or are they moral because God only orders us to do what is moral? If the latter, as Plato points out, that would mean that there is an objective morality that God is subject to, meaning He is not omnipotent. Craig's "divine command ethics" specifically rejects that:

[O]ur moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn't issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill.
Let's not forget that Craig's argument is supposedly one in favor of the existence of God:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.
But Craig has just admitted that there are no objective morals when it comes to humans killing others. Genocide and infanticide are sometimes wrong but sometimes right based on nothing more than God's ineffable decision to, as Craig puts it, "give and take life as He chooses."

Craig's answer to this either contains much more stupidity than Craig otherwise displays or is dishonest:

[I]nsofar as the atheist thinks that God did something morally wrong in commanding the extermination of the Canaanites, he affirms premise (2).
No, the issue is Craig's claim that there are objective morals when, in turn, he argues that morality is merely what God commands and God is free of any objective moral standard.

This argument by Craig is no better:

The problem, it seems to me, is that if God could not have issued such a command, then the biblical stories must be false. Either the incidents never really happened but are just Israeli folklore; or else, if they did, then Israel, carried away in a fit of nationalistic fervor, thinking that God was on their side, claimed that God had commanded them to commit these atrocities, when in fact He had not. In other words, this problem is really an objection to biblical inerrancy. ...

If we Christians can't find a good answer to the question before us and are, moreover, persuaded that such a command is inconsistent with God's nature, then we'll have to give up biblical inerrancy.
Not quite. If the Bible and revelation in general are not trustworthy, then we can never objectively know what is moral, if morality is solely dependent on God's command. Craig can't even appeal to our intuition of what is right and wrong precisely because we now intuit that genocide and infanticide are wrong but the Israelites who "claimed that God had commanded them to commit these atrocities" failed to see them as wrong.

Anyway you slice it, humans are unable, even under Craig's own view of morality, to determine if there are "objective" morals and his argument for God on that basis collapses of its own weight. We humans have to muddle along morally as best we can ... though we would probably do better without the likes of apologists like Craig.

There's more that could be said but I have to go take a shower and scrub myself down thoroughly.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Palm Saturday

Oh, well.

Jerry Coyne is "doing" philosophy again. More correctly, he is doing the Templeton Foundation again for bestowing what I take to be a lavish grant on a philosopher/theologian, by the name of Patrick Todd, to explore:

... a core Ockhamist thesis about foreknowledge. William of Ockham was a 13th century philosopher.

"The central contention of the Ockhamist concerns a point about the order of explanation. According to the Ockhamist, it is because of what we do that God long ago believed that we would do these things. That is, God's past beliefs depend in an important sense on what we do, and thus, says the Ockhamist, we can sometimes have a choice about God's past beliefs," he explained. "The overarching goal of this project is to develop and assess this core Ockhamist thesis along two underexplored dimensions: the philosophy of time, and the metaphysics of dependence – both of which have seen an explosion of recent interest."
Coyne proudly proclaims:

This is an area about which I'm completely ignorant, and happy to remain so, because it sounds like a godawful cesspool of theological lucubration.
So much for the rational and evidence-based consideration of the world. What a single paragraph in a press release sounds like to Coyne (coupled with his dislike of the Templeton Foundation) is enough for him to pronounce judgment.

Daniel Fincke, a professor of philosophy, takes exception to Coyne's know-nothingism and, citing to a blogger called The Verbose Stoic, points out that, without defending the actual merit of the Todd's work, it could well touch on legitimate areas of academic philosophy, making Coyne's criticism of it, to put it charitably, unfounded.

But what I found amusing was the very first comment at Fincke's blog, by "NewEnglandBob," who also comments at Coyne's blog website:

Coyne talks about what 99.9999999% of people care about. Verbose Stoic might as well be fourteen galaxies over, because hardly anyone cares about the kind of things modern philosophy delves into. I get headaches trying to understand some of it. ...

Sorry, but to me and a lot of people, philosophy does not matter.
I swear I once read something very much like this from a creationist:

Ken Ham talks about what 99.9999999% of people care about. Jerry Coyne might as well be fourteen galaxies over, because hardly anyone cares about the kind of things modern biology delves into. I get headaches trying to understand some of it. ...

Sorry, but to me and a lot of people, evolution does not matter.

Update: Daniel Fincke's first follow-up.


Update II: More from Daniel Fincke in "On The Supposed Irrelevance of Philosophy to Most People (Defending Philosophy."


Update III: Re the nature of knownothingism:

Wow, if this is PMH's idea of how to rebuild the newspaper business and increase readership....

I guess I was out of town and missed the clamor of people wanting to read about evolution.

— jimmymack


Objectively Hypocritical

The Discoveryless Institute in general and its repeat offender of Godwin's Law, Richard Weikart, in particular have been stung to the quick by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Faye Flam's revealing, in the popular press, that which anyone remotely familiar with the actual study of history already knew: that Weikart's "history" bears the exact same relationship to actual historical research as the DI's "science" bears to actual scientific research ... i.e., none.

Instead of answering the criticism of his "work," Weikart attacks the "worldview" of Flam and "Darwinists."

I'm happy, of course, that Flam thinks that charity and goodwill are better than violence and selfishness. I'm also glad that she thinks human life is precious. Her inconsistency rescues her from the nihilism implicit in her worldview. I much prefer such inconsistency to those who follow their nihilistic ideas with ruthless consistency. However, it would be even nicer if she were to embrace Christianity, which actually provides us with reasons to believe that human life has value, that loving your neighbors is superior to hating them, that acts of kindness are superior to acts of violence, and that Hitler was objectively evil. Then she would have a real reason to condemn Hitler. "I don't like Hitler because my evolved instincts run contrary to his" just doesn't cut it.
But wait a minute! Here is William Lane Craig, a "famous" (infamous might be a better word) Christian apologist, who the DI has championed, on how "objective" those reasons Christianity has to believe that human life has value and that Hitler was evil:

According to the version of divine command ethics which I've defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn't issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses. We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as "playing God." Human authorities arrogate to themselves rights which belong only to God. God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second. If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that's His prerogative.
Craig, in an attempt to ... um ... apologize for his God, was willing to state that his God could even go so far as to order the Israelites to perform the 'blessing' of brutally killing children and infants while remaining "moral":

… the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven's incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.
Then there is John Hagee, who appeared to say that Hitler was, in initiating the Holocaust, doing God's work no less than those baby-killing Israelites, but who, when the political brown stuff hit the proverbial fan, suddenly decided that an omnipotent "God was powerless to stop the Holocaust."

Uh, huh.

I'm sure that Weikart would be quick to distance himself from Hagee (and maybe even Craig) but if Christian apologists can't agree as to what God might or might not order ... which is the only moral code they can muster ... in what way is that code "objective"?

I'll take millions of years of evolution, imbedding in us a need to live with each other in some sort of harmony based on our own and our kin's self-interest, as a surer moral guide than the purported "Word of God," as originally promulgated by Bronze Age shepherds and "interpreted" by any loon, charlatan and mystic who might come along.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011




Tom Toles


Monday, October 24, 2011


Intellectual Fail!

Now, I've been known ... once or twice ... to have criticized Gnu Atheists. But this particular form of it, by Daniel Came in the Guardian, is really stupid. Naturally, Bruce Chapman, the person who can't even get his own constituency to understand that they should lie, has seized on Came's confusion.

According to Came, the recent refusal of Richard Dawkins to debate William Lane Craig is "fundamentally ignoble and potentially harmful to public intellectual life."

Give me a break!

You don't have to think that there is much in the way of "serious argumentation in the New Atheists' dialectical arsenal" (though, if there isn't, how could the "failure" of the Gnus to engage Craig be "harmful to public intellectual life"?) nor think that the real reason Dawkins refused the "invitation" was because Craig defended genocide, to still think that Dawkins had good reason to refuse to be chivvied into sharing a stage with Craig.

Would Came think that it was harmful to intellectual life if Dawkins refused to dignify, say Duane Gish, and his galloping young-Earth creationist nonsense, with a "debate" against a prominent scientist? If Craig's defense of genocide, and worse, is galloping nonsense, as Came seems to acknowledge, is there any chance that there will be anything but an exchange of rhetoric that will do nothing but reinforce the beliefs of each side's proponent's? Certainly, since Came has already declared Dawkins bereft of intellectual heft, he could not expect anything from that side. By Came's own standards, what is the point ... except to dump on Dawkins?

And just when has a "debate" of this sort ever truly added to intellectual life? About the closest I can think of is the Lincoln-Douglas debates. But they involved seven debates of three hours each which were then widely published and debated in the press and had a definite objective: which man was best suited to be the next senator from Illinois and the larger political question of the fate of slavery.

Dawkins and Craig have published their views about God(s) widely already and there is no chance of a political resolution (short of a theocracy or anti-theocracy, neither of which is desirable or likely). The only objective of a limited debate between the two would be, at most, entertainment a few people for an evening and bragging rights by one side or the other (most likely both!) over who was the rhetorical "winner ."

I can't imagine a more sterile intellectual exercise.

Saturday, October 22, 2011



PZ Myearshertz has already noticed this but a little digging found some more information.

A Baptist minister in Florida has been holding weekly prayer sessions underneath the flagpole at Clay Hill Elementary School and three other Clay County schools. That may be, depending on the circumstances, problematic in and of itself but then the principal of the Elementary School raised the ante. Larry Davis sent a memo to his 40-member staff promoting the prayer session:

In the memo, Davis quoted from an article by Pastor Steven Andrew, which was published on the website USA Christian Ministries.

"Pastor Steven Andrew states: 'Our children need God back in schools,' and he is calling Christians nationwide to bring back the Holy Bible and Christian prayer to schools," the memo said. "The First Amendment was for Christianity, not other religions."
Even School District Superintendent Ben Wortham said Davis went too far:

I think we're over the line in terms of what is allowed in the public schools for an administrator to be, in a sense, promoting this.

... Wortham last week asked Baker to stop the prayer sessions. Baker initially agreed but changed his mind and has continued the prayer sessions at the four schools.
But insubordination wasn't enough for Davis:

Despite quoting the article from the Christian Ministries website, Davis told the Times-Union he didn't believe the First Amendment applied only to Christians.
Uh, huh! Then he takes it all back!

Davis also said he didn't see why a non-Christian would have a problem with the memorandum's language.

"This is his opinion and what he says," Davis said about Andrew's article. "To me it just looked like it all went together with the morals. I don't think it was a stretch at all for him to make those comments or for me to share them."
No one should have a problem with the notion that the First Amendment only applies to Christians? It's not a "stretch"? It's not about morals?

It's only a direct attack on the Constitution! The Law of the Land!

And does anyone ... this side of delusional ... think Davis believes anything other than that the First Amendment applies only to Christians?

Does anyone believe Davis isn't lying through his teeth?

But it's all about "morality" ... if only they could recognize it when it smacked them in the head.

Thursday, October 20, 2011



It's time to go Camping again.

Our old friend Harold is back in the news as we creep ... um ... come up on THE END OF THE WORLD!

In case you missed it (along with everyone else on Earth), May 21, 2011 was supposed to see rolling earthquakes and the Rapture.

A slight revision was in order:

What really happened this past May 21st? What really happened is that God accomplished exactly what He wanted to happen. That was to warn the whole world that on May 21 God’s salvation program would be finished on that day. For the next five months, except for the elect (the true believers), the whole world is under God’s final judgment.
And it's not just a revision of the "facts" but of tone as well:

I do believe that we’re getting very near the very end … we’ve learned that there’s a lot of things that we didn’t have quite right and that’s God’s good provision. If he had not kept us from knowing everything that we didn’t know, we would not have been able to be used of Him to bring about the tremendous event that occurred on May 21 of this year, and which probably will be finished out on October 21, that’s coming very shortly. That looks like it will be at this point, it looks like it will be the final end of everything. ... We must believe that probably there will be no pain suffered by anyone because of their rebellion against God. This is very comforting to all of us, because we all have children, and have loved ones that are dear to us that we know are not saved; and yet we know that they’ll quietly die. We can be more and more sure that they will quietly die and that will be the end of their story.

I really am beginning to think as I restudied these matters that there’s going to be no big display of any kind. The end is going to come very, very quietly probably within the next month. It will happen, that is, by October 21.
That's a far cry from his "infallible proof" of the date of the Rapture.

Maybe it's to be expected.

Still, it's comforting to know that it'll be quiet, instead of with great cataclysms, maybe while we're sleeping.

As Woody Allen said, "I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Lion's Den

British philosopher Stephen Law took on William Lane Craig and left his notes hanging around. Based on them, he seems to have done a good job, though I'll admit I'm not enamored of his evil god argument.

Opening speech - Craig debate
The opening speech from my debate with William Lane Craig last night. My criticism of his moral and resurrection arguments are posted immediately below. Interestingly, Craig ran only three arguments instead of the usual five - those two and his cosmological argument. Possibly he dropped the fine-tuning argument because it would be as irrelevant as his cosmological in dealing with the evil god challenge. Possibly he dropped the appeal to his personal experience - "I just know" - because of this.

My criticisms of Craig's Moral and Resurrection arguments
This is what I used against Craig's moral and resurrection arguments for the existence of God in last night's debate. His only other argument was the cosmological, which I ignored as irrelevant to Craig's showing that his good god exists as opposed to say, an evil God (for which a "cumulative case" based on the cosmological argument could also be based, and which we all nevertheless know can be justifiably rejected on the basis of observational evidence) Craig pretended that this was an amazing concession that it was a good argument and that my view was deism was true!

My closing statement
From yesterday's debate with William Lane Craig.

Notes for responding to Craig's possible criticism of my evil god challenge
[H]ere are my notes prepared for whatever Craig might have said in response to the evil god challenge. You can see I prepared for a much wider range of moves than he actually made. In fact, this is where I was weakest. I floundered a bit. I did nail him on his silly "evil proves there is a god" move (which he later acknowledged is not really a good objection to the problem of evil). But I failed to nail Craig him on the "earthly happiness" move, despite having it down here. Nor did I explain clearly enough that even if Craig did accept (as he did, amazingly) that there's no observational evidence at all against an evil god or good god, he is STILL stuck with the challenge of explaining why belief in a good god is more reasonable belief in an evil god, the latter being absurd (all Craig had left were his moral and resurrection arguments, which I did then go on to demolish). I should also have picked up on Craig's weak appeal to Wykstra (so weak I missed it was even supposed to an argument). The Wykstra quote is easily dealt with by pointing out it shows only the possibility of some long term higher value, not it's non-improbability given the observational evidence.


Update: Law has added a "Brief sketch of my overall argument in the debate."


Update II: Law has added a "My remaining notes from the Craig debate ."

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Scientists vs. Loonies

I pointed out the totally illogical acceptance by Ellis Washington of the preliminary results of scientists, who were appropriately tentative in their announcement, that muon neutrinos might travel a little faster than light. Of course, Washington was playing the ol' "scientists are sometimes wrong, therefore don't trust science" game.

Now there is a possible explanation of the CERN results that ... if correct ... confirms Einstein's theory.

Of course, this explanation must, itself, be confirmed ... but that's what scientists do!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011



The sun

the soil

yeast and vine

life and death

redolent in the wine

until the dregs

are tipped

into the glass

sweet and bitter

echoes of the past


Sunday, October 09, 2011


Paradigm Shift

Via Exploring Our Matrix.

Saturday, October 08, 2011


Dilemmas, Dilemmas

What to do ... what to do?

This afternoon, Rick Perry was introduced by the Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church Dallas, who lauded him as "a candidate who is a proven leader, a true conservative, and a committed follower of Christ."

After Perry's speech, Jeffress spoke with a group of reporters, who questioned him about previous statements he'd made about Mormonism. Jeffess stated, unequivocally, that he believes, as does the Southern Baptist Convention, that Mormonism is a "cult." He framed the current GOP primary race as one between Perry and Mitt Romney (who speaks here tomorrow), and the most important goal as unseating Obama. If Romney is a nominee, Jeffress contended, Obama will win reelection because evangelicals will stay home.
... what to do?

Since Mitt Romney is battling suspicion among Christian conservatives about the depth of his opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, it is no surprise that he is joining the other major Republican candidates this week to speak at the annual Values Voters Summit, a celebration of the political aims of the religious right.

The conference, from Friday to Sunday in Washington, is sponsored by the Family Research Council, the American Family Association and other evangelical Christian groups. It aims to energize social conservatives and test the fidelity of the candidates.

The conference planners have obliged Mr. Romney, scheduling him to speak right before Bryan Fischer, who is chief spokesman for the family association ...

Mr. Fischer has stood out for his harsh statements on his daily radio show, likening gay rights advocates to domestic terrorists, arguing that gay men and lesbians should be barred from public office and repeating the discredited theory that homosexuals built the Nazi Party. He has said that American Muslims should be banned from the military and that Mormons, let alone Muslims, should not enjoy First Amendment protections because these are reserved for true Christians. ...

The Romney campaign did not immediately comment on the call to distance the candidate from Mr. Fischer.
... what to do?

Let's see ... if you're a politician, you suck up to people who think you are not entitled to the same rights as "real" Americans and, if you are the people who think they are the "real" Americans, you prefer to keep that nig ... er ... Kenyan socialist Islamist in the White House rather than vote for a Mormon.

In some universe, such stupidity and cupidity would disqualify anyone from reproducing, much less being put in charge of other peoples' lives.

Unfortunately, that isn't our universe.


Update: To give credit where lukewarm credit is due, Romney did not simply lick the asses of the asses. In a rather mild and oblique rebuke to that wingnut's wingnut, Bryan Fischer, Romney said:

Our heritage of religious faith and tolerance has importantly shaped who we have become as a people. We must continue to welcome faith into the public square and allow it to flourish. Our government should respect religious values, not silence them. We will always pledge our allegiance to a nation under God.

Our values ennoble the citizen, and strengthen the nation. We should remember that decency and civility are values too. One of the speakers who will follow me today, has crossed that line. Poisonous language does not advance our cause. It has never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind. The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate. The task before us is to focus on the conservative beliefs and the values that unite us – let no agenda, narrow our vision or drive us apart.
The audience's reaction was said to be "only tepid applause."

Fischer, who followed Romney, promptly demonstrated just how mild the rebuke was:

Although he did not mention Mormonism, he did emphasize, repeatedly, that the president of the United States "needs to be a main of sincere, authentic, genuine Chrisitan faith."

In the rest of his laundry list of presidential prerequisites, Fischer veered from there to discuss the "mythical separation of church and state," the need for a president to "reject the morally and scientifically bankrupt theory of evolution," and to believe in "the same Creator" as the founders-- the "creator revealed in the pages of the Old and New Testaments." That led him to an extended anti-Muslim rant, in which, among other things, he asserted, "I believe it's important that we have a president who understands that Islam is not a religion of peace, but a religion of war and violence and death."

"The threat is not radical Islam, but Islam itself. This is not Islamophobia, this is Islamorealism." ...

Another presidential prerequisite, for Fischer: That he must "resist" and "prevent" the "implementation" of "sharia law." He got a standing ovation for that.
So can we now put away the rightwing pundits' claim that questioning presidential candidates as to whether or not they accept the science of evolution is irrelevant and their further claim that no such animal as a "Dominionist" exists?


Update II: Heh!

After his speech this morning, I asked the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer what he thought of Mitt Romney's comments about him. His reply:

I thought it was tasteless. I thought he was allowing the New York Times and the Southern Poverty Law Center and People for the American Way to dictate the content of his speech, which I think was a mistake for him to do at the Values Voters Summit. That was kind of an insult to the people in the room. ... I don't think it helped him.
It must be "insulting" to theocrats to be told that America has a tradition of religious tolerance when their whole agenda is to use the government to squash any worldview and any religion other than their own ... not to mention how insulting it is to tell people whose entire stock in trade is to use delusional fears, such as "creeping Sharia Law," to drum up political and financial support that there should be civil and respectful debate.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


The Milk of Religious Kindness

As noted, the Giles County (Virginia) School Board has been sued by the ACLU over its insistence on displaying the Ten Commandment in its schools under the micro-angstrom veneer of a supposedly "historical display."

The ACLU has made a motion to require that the names of the student and his/her parent remain anonymous (under the designation "DOE 1, by Doe 1's next friend and parent, DOE 2"). As exhibits to the motion, the ACLU has included emails it has received, as well as comments from the Roanoke Times Newspaper website.

Here is a sampling:

From: [Withheld to protect the clueless]
Sent: Friday, January 21,2011 11:23 PM
Subject: To the director

Dear sir,
I just want to tell you, after hearing your comments on WSLS-10 tonight regarding the Giles Co. School situation, Satan is very proud of you for doing what you're doing. You're accomplishing a great deal for his kingdom! You go, and get those awful "10 Commandments" away from those kids! Make sure they're not indoctrinated with those horrible things like "do not kill" and "do not steal", and especially "honor your Father and your Mother"! We wouldn't want them exposed to ANY of that rubbish now would we? Keep up the good work, you'll have a special place in Hell.
Umm ... what about those other things like "I am the Lord thy God," and "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," and, perhaps most importantly from a constitutional perspective, "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me"?

Amusingly, the Supreme Court has already addressed this in Stone v. Graham, a 1980 decision concerning a Kentucky statute requiring the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments (purchased with private contributions) on the wall of each public school classroom in the State. As the Court said:

The preeminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls is plainly religious in nature. The Ten Commandments are undeniably a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths, and no legislative recitation of a supposed secular purpose can blind us to that fact. The Commandments do not confine themselves to arguably secular matters, such as honoring one's parents, killing or murder, adultery, stealing, false witness, and covetousness. ... Rather, the first part of the Commandments concerns the religious duties of believers: worshipping the Lord God alone, avoiding idolatry, not using the Lord's name in vain, and observing the Sabbath Day.
If all the proponents of Giles County's action want is to tell kids that killing and stealing are bad and "honoring" parents is good, why is wrapping it up in a religious text necessary?

From: [Withheld, etc.]
Sent: Saturday, January 29, 2011 3:35 PM
Subject: Ten Commandments in Schools

In such a beautiful world that God has created for us, why does there have to be a minute group of oxy morons [sic] who try to dictate to those of us who maintain our strong beliefs? We don't dictate to you because your path is clear. Continue on my friends. Perhaps one day there may be a plane that travels to "you know where" and ! would gladly buy each of you a one way ticket!

Leave the people of Giles County alone. They are not bothering you so take a ride to where somebody wants you, perhaps...."you know where!"

As the song goes, Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus!

Please slither back under your rocks! May God Bless!
Well, the "people of Giles County" includes the plaintiffs in this case and the government is dictating to them that their tax money will be used to impose other peoples' strong beliefs on them. Why is that okay? But that "Please slither back under your rocks! May God Bless!" is a nice touch, I have to admit.

But even better is this:

From: [Withheld, etc.]
Sent: Friday, January 21, 2011 11:14 PM
Subject: Back off of Giles schools

Your position is nothing more than an atheist position. Back off the Giles County schools.

Why must you always get involved in these matters when there is nothing that concerns you all.

It is our GOD that allowed you to be on this earth. You realize that our Lord is watching all that your group is doing to his name in these matters.

One day when you are near your end days, I can only hope that you pray and ask GOD for his forgiveness.

For now, I will pray that the one day comes sooner for you all rather than later. Let our prays be answered dear Lord.

If your God exists, do you suppose he/she/it is watching while you pray that someone dies sooner than later?

Then there is this from a woman who is a teacher at the Eastern Comb School in Giles County:

From: [Withheld, etc.]
Date: January 20, 2611 7:16:28 PM CST
Subject: Giles County Schools

You folks are allowing Satin [sic] to rule you!!! I praise God that in the end He will win and I will be right there with Him. My prayer for you is that you and your followers will come to Jesus. Shame on you for treating our students in the manner you are treating them. Back in my school days we prayed in public schools and we discussed God in public schools we didnt have bullies., we didnt have students killing students and teachers! Again shame on you, I hold your organization responsible! Again I am praying that you will be strong enough to run Satin [sic] out of your life, because we will fight for Jesus in Giles County. You might win the battle, but I promise you, without Jesus you WILL NOT win the war! Following Satin [sic] is such and easy out following Jesus is the challenge and thus makes us Christians stronger. Praying for you.
Did we have teachers who couldn't spell even simple words back then? If I thought it would do any good, I'd pray for your students.

Some of the newspaper comments:

I think it is a shame that out of thousands of people 350 of them find it offensive to see "Love thy father and mother" and "Thou shalt not steal" posted somewhere that our children will see it daily. That is what is wrong with this world now, people trying to impose their beliefs on everybody else. Isn't that what America is about? I am totally behind the school board in placing these "commandments" back where my son can be reminded daily of the true values that are so important in these times that we live in now. If people don't want to see them, don't read them!!!
Surely this is the irony meter destruction leader! If you want your son to see the Ten Commandments every day, why not put them up in his room or on your front door? Why insist on imposing them on everyone else's children and make them close their eyes if they don't want to see them? Or maybe that's what he means by "what America is about."

Maybe we should ship these "families" overseas to play in the sand with al-Quaida [sic] for a little while ... maybe then, they would seek God's word!
Naturally, it is really in the best tradition of America to deport anyone who disagrees with us ...

Of course, there are even more direct methods:

Sure sounds to me like non-Christians ought to move out of Giles County before things get ugly over there.
There is a long tradition of how to deal with the uppity!

Besides strongly supporting the need to protect the plaintiffs in this case, these expressions are also evidence that the fig leaf of calling the display "historical" is just a disingenuous attempt to evade the law.

Under the "Endorsement Test" of the constitutionality of government speech, first proposed by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the issue is whether the school board's action creates a perception in the mind of a reasonable observer that the government is endorsing religion or conveys, in Justice O'Connor's words, "a message to non-adherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community."

While none of the people quoted above could remotely be called "reasonable," it is clear that their perception is that the school board has, all along, been endorsing religion -- and a rather narrow, sectarian religion at that -- and that anyone who disagrees is an outsider and not a full member of the political community, unlike those who feel they are entitled to denigrate, deport or do even worse to those who don't share their beliefs.


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