Friday salmagundi

• Christianity Today praises a new state law in Kansas expanding religious exemptions due to “a sincerely held religious belief.” CT’s Melissa Steffan says the bill is similar to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

RFRA was passed to protect the freedom of religious minorities. Specifically, it was a response to a state law prohibiting the use of peyote in Native American religious rituals. Will the “religious liberty” laws recently passed by Kansas and Kentucky protect the rights of religious minorities the way RFRA was intended to? Will it protect the right of Native American religions to use peyote? The right of Rasta believers to use cannabis?

I will be very surprised if these new laws wind up protecting the rights of religious minorities and not just the privileges of the Christian majority. But even more surprised will be the religious tribalists who sponsored and voted for those bills.

Is this a form of religious discrimination?

• Kristen Rosser offers 10 categories of statements used to silence others — with an impressive, and uncomfortably familiar, set of examples for each.

• Baby steps. Baby steps.

• You gotta believe. Yogi Berra: still awesome.

• David Barton’s plan for universal health care: “Why didn’t we pass a bill calling on people to be more religious and therefore help health over all?”

Two out of three ain’t bad: Ed Stetzer (who posted the wonderful pic here) earns kudos for debunking two recent urban legends spread by the kinds of privileged Christians who enjoy fantasizing that they’re a persecuted minority. At the end of his Snopes-for-Southern-Baptists post, unfortunately, Stetzer mistakes the Christian Post for a credible source and winds up reinforcing a third such urban legend. (Hemant Mehta debunks that one neatly: “No, Christian Post, Mikey Weinstein Was Not Hired by the Pentagon.”)

• Prooftexters get confused when the question requires more than prooftexting. All questions require more than prooftexting.

• Interview fail: Out of Ur says:

How do Christians display courage and civility? We asked the author of Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce.

That would be Eric Metaxas — a guy who makes his living telling white evangelical Christians that they’re Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce and that, therefore, everyone who disagrees with them is a slave-owning Nazi. That’s not courageous or civil. Or true.

Or good, smart, edifying, helpful, or non-dickish.

If Out of Ur is going to interview Eric Metaxas about courage and civility, it should at least show some balance by also interviewing someone who isn’t out to destroy those very things.

•  This is what small-government conservatism looks like. And so is this. And this.

• Here’s Maine Gov. Paul LePage lying about wind energy:

Now, to add insult to injury, The University of Maine, Presque Isle — anybody here been up there to see that damn windmill in the back yard? Guess what, if it’s not blowing wind outside and they have somebody visiting the campus, they have a little electric motor that turns the blades. I’m serious. They have an electric motor so they can show people that wind power works. Unbelievable.

Not true. There is no “little electric motor.” Gov. LePage is just making stuff up.

The remarkable thing about this lie — apart from the absurdity of the claim and how easy it is to disprove — is the way LePage feigns exasperation over such “unbelievable” behavior.

That’s what separates the really skilled liars from the wanna-bes. It’s something I learned last year during the whole “You didn’t build that” extravaganza of dishonesty from the Romney campaign. Romney deliberately and painstakingly twisted Obama’s words into the opposite of what Obama actually said. And then Romney recoiled in horror and dismay that Obama ever said such a thing.

LePage is using the same maneuver. It’s not enough just to bear false witness and accuse others of things that aren’t true. To be a top-tier liar, you have to take the next step and express your disappointment that the neighbor against whom you’re bearing false witness has stooped to such disgraceful behavior.

• Teresa Nielsen Hayden links to this story with the only thing that needs to be said about it: “Lady, that’s the imprint of a Phillips head screw.”

Bonfire list update: Now at 1,409 blogs. Let me know of any I’m missing.

• Do the Math: The Movie

• Homeschoolers Anonymous. Because immersing your child in an alternate reality is unsustainable once that child encounters real reality.


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  • learningthrougherror

    If you’re still looking for Bonfire links, Fred, do you mind if I do some self-promotion? I recently started a tumblr devoted to old Christian textbooks.

    Thanks for the opportunity, and now I’m going to run and hide because I’m shy.

  • AnonaMiss

    That turbine bit is hilarious, in a sad way. Strikes me as Napoleon’s course of action if he hadn’t been able to run Snowball off the farm.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Look, if those poors didn’t want cancer, they shouldn’t have been born in a toxic stew.

  • Vermic

    Can you imagine David Barton’s reaction if Barack Hussein Obama, secret Muslim, actually took his advice and gave a speech calling on Americans to be more religious? Far-right pundits would melt down so hard, it’d be visible from space.

    Now that I think about it, Obama really should do this. Done subtly enough, with just the right dogwhistles, it’d be the troll of the century.

  • P J Evans

    I’d like to take LePage out into one of the big wind fields in California, and let him look at the hundred of turbines all around him, then ask him if he *really* thinks there’s a little motor driving each one. (Especially if it’s one of the days where 15-to-20 is the low end of the wind speed.)

  • Reading that goldfish story, I kept having to check that it wasn’t on The Onion. And now I may have a concussion from repeated facepalming.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    Trivia: BT Caberet used to be called T&A Caberet.

  • Jenny Islander

    Our local electrical co-op just reported that because we were able to add a new wind farm to the existing hydroelectric dam, we are now producing 95 percent of our electricity without the need to buy fuel from off-island. Result: a projected delay of years before the next rate hike, even if the cost of fuel continues to rise. So, what, the little electrical motors inside the turbines are printing money?

  • As always I would like to remind everyone that 61% of Maine voters voted not-LePage. The problem is that Maine only requires a plurality (you need the most votes, not a majority) and the not-LePage votes were split by region. In some places not-LePage was equal to Cutler, a lesser asshole and independant, in some places not-LePage was equal to Mitchel, the Democrat who had some problems of her own. Add it all up and even though LePage lost to not-LePage either everywhere or nearly everywhere (I don’t remember which anymore) the not-LePage vote was split just right for 39% of the vote to be enough to elect LePage.

    It was fear of the same thing that is the reason the new Senator from Maine is Angus King instead of Chellie Pingree. King and Pingree would have split the “Not-LePagealike” vote and the Republican (LePagealike) would have won. So when King (independent former governor who is worse than Pingree but was better than the Republican) jumped in Pingree jumped out.

    Anyway, if you want to understand Maine politics right now the first thing you need to know is that LePage is an utter asshole. Even the local Republicans caught onto that eventually and had to smack down some of his bullshit policies. It’s not surprising that when he left the state to DEMAND that a member of the Cabinet do something that was both illegal and impossible the local response was to write her an open letter begging her to keep him out of state for as long as possible.

    Also, one last thing about LePage. As the run up to the election drew to a close LePage disappeared. He was there and then suddenly not. His campaign realized that the thing drawing it down more than anything else was LePage himself, when he opened his mouth his numbers went down. Sure enough his disappearance toward the end did cause a rebound in his numbers.

    It seems that the people who voted for him liked the idea of LePage more than LePage himself. As soon as LePage himself disappeared leaving only his name on the ballot, voting LePage got more palatable. Apparently.

    And this is the asshole running my state.

  • aunursa

    10 categories of statements used to silence others

    A good list.

    I’ve been told by atheists: “Deep down you know that there is no God.”
    And I’ve been told by Christians: “Deep down you know that Jesus is the Messiah.”

    And my response is either one is the same: “Deep down you know that you are not in a position to probe my innermost thoughts.”

  • JustoneK

    I concur. My initial snark response tends to be “Please, tell me more about myself!”
    sometimes “Will I meet a tall, dark stranger or a hot alien man who wants to whisk me away?”

  • Carstonio

    While both are inappropriate in principle, in practice the atheists have much less power to silence others because there are far fewer of them. It’s the distinction between a store clerk wishing a sectarian “Merry Christmas” to all customers, even the ones who belong to minority non-Christian ones, and the clerk wishing a nonsectarian “Happy Holidays” and the customers to belong to the Christian minority getting huffy about it.

  • No, they’d probably come back with, “Obama was actually encouraging Muslims in this country to become more religious, institute Sharia, and blow all of us good, hard-working Christians up.”

  • Without a doubt. That’s exactly how they took “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

  • This interjection doesn’t seem appropriate. I may be reading it wrong, but it seems to be an attempt to diminish how insulting and inappropriate an atheist telling any religious person what they actually feel is. I don’t understand the example either; a store clerk wishing either of these to customers is more likely just imparting well wishes and at worse is speaking from the privilege of majority, not attempting to silence anyone of a different faith.

  • JustoneK

    On an even field, it would be. But there is a definite problem with christian supremacy, and atheists in general are part of that marginalized not-christian-enough group.

  • In practice, the silencing power I have as an X is a function of how powerful Xes are in my community. I hang out in normatively atheist communities where I can easily silence religious expression, for example.

    I do agree, though, that such communities are much rarer than analogous sectarian communities, and those global power differentials affect my judgments about how much support the community itself should get when it chooses to silence people who violate its expressive norms.

    None of that changes the fact that it’s fucking rude of me to tell anyone what they “know deep down” as a way of rejecting what they are telling me.

  • No doubt, but that doesn’t turn “Merry Christmas” into an attempt intended to silence non-Christians or relegate “Deep down you know you don’t believe in any imaginary god” to be an acceptable statement. I don’t care if there’s only one atheist in a crowd of a million Christians, it’s still a jerkass thing to say.

  • Carstonio

    When hundreds of officeholders reject policies supported by a majority of voters, simply because Obama also supports these policies, that doesn’t speak well for their emotional maturity. Or their courage. Or their principles.

    “There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.”

    “The toughest thing to do in politics is to do the right thing when your supporters think the right thing is something else.”

  • Magic_Cracker

    The best snappy answer to a stupid question I have ever pulled off was a street preacher asking me “Look into your heart. What do you see?”

    “Lots of blood.”

  • Carstonio

    Very true. My point is about power imbalances, and yes, a non-atheist can be silenced in a mostly atheist community.

  • After comparing the Bible to an owner’s manual for a car, Barton said
    that “the more religious you are, the better your health is” and
    suggested that instead of passing health care reform legislation,
    Congress should have passed legislation “calling on people to be more

    If this is seriously the sum total of the man’s proposed solution to the problem of providing health care to everyone in the USA – I can only say…

    Wow. Just wow. (O_O)

  • Heck, atheists can be silenced in an atheist community. Just take a stroll into hardcore rationalist territory and suggest that there might be a case to be made for telepathy.

    It goes down exactly as well as a Republican suggesting that undocumented foreigners are vital to the nation’s economy.

  • That’s what still bothers me about Chris Hedges trying to equate “militant atheism” with “Christian fundamentalism” in his books.

  • Carstonio

    No disagreement that both comments that Aunursa described are insulting and inappropriate. To explain the context of my point, society as a whole is far less tolerant of such comments when they come from atheists or from other non-Christians. And comments by non-Christians about Christianity are far more likely to be perceived as inappropriate and insulting than comments by Christians about non-Christian religions. The latter is no different from feminists or black activists being accused of being angry or strident.

    That was the point of my store clerk example. The intentions behind the one saying “Merry Christmas” don’t matter – the effect is still an otherizing of non-Christian positions on religion and their adherents.

  • I guess I’m just far less concerned with the person and their individual or collective as I am the message itself. I have a tendency to get into situations where I’m defending both sides of a religious argument that way. :p

  • I had a coworker say he was praying for me today (pretty much entirely out of the blue). I just told him “Good luck” and didn’t continue the conversation.

  • Carstonio

    I’m an atheism sympathizer rather than an atheist, since I hold no position on whether gods exist. I’ve had my own unpleasant feedback in atheist communities. When I’ve suggested that lack of belief that gods exist is also a lack of belief that gods don’t exist, or pointed out that demagogues like Dobson are a minority among US Christians, I’ve been accused of being an apologist for religion.

  • Carstonio

    Of course it’s a jerkass statement, and I would never tell any Christian not to be offended by it. I just want Christians to understand that non-Christians face that kind of jerkass behavior all the time.

  • Likewise. I consider the truth (behind most religions) irrelevant as subjective experience is the only means by which I can measure their veracity, and my subjective experience is lacking in anything to show whether my believing in the Abrahamic God or Christ made the slightest difference in my life. So I lean toward “no” but my official position is “meh.”

    Nonetheless, I’m willing to bet Helena and J- have particular opinions about my failure to shout down all you gullible sheep who believe in Santa Claus, yadda yadda.

  • Yes, but that doesn’t make it any better. o.O It might be one thing if there were anyone in the group present who didn’t think they did, but as rebuttal toward a person of Jewish faith, it seems like a non sequitur with potentially unsavory interpretations.

  • Carstonio

    I can see how people who are Jewish would react equally to both of the inappropriate comments, because they’re likely to be targeted by both groups. Bad enough that there are entire denominations of Christianity (Southern Baptist, Latter-Day Saints) that still target them for conversion, so the anti-theist comment might seem like needless piling on.

  • Not true. There is no “little electric motor.” Gov. LePage is just making stuff up.

    To be absolutely fair to LePage, there is a little electric motor in a wind generator. The problem is that he has the function of the motor completely backward. And I mean that literally. A dynamo is the basis of virtually all electrical generators and motors, converting between kinetic energy and electrical energy and vice-versa, respectively. If you were to run a substantial current into the wind generator in the opposite direction the circuit normally runs, it would literally turn the turbine the opposite direction it normally runs (or try to, I am guessing most turbines have a break so they only turn one direction.)

    His problem (if he is not indeed plausibly lying as Fred suggests) is that he does not seem to understand the direction the current is running here. Hell, hydro-electrical dams, nuclear reactors, or even coal plants run on the same principal (driving a turbine by some kind of kinetic force like water or steam.) How does he think those things generate electric power, and why should wind-driven versions of it be any different? This is high-school level science and physics. Did this guy ever even graduate?

  • ReverendRef

    Ed Stetzer (who posted the wonderful pic here) earns kudos for debunking
    two recent urban legends spread by the kinds of privileged Christians
    who enjoy fantasizing that they’re a persecuted minority.

    Along those lines . . . I have a parishioner who is constantly sending me hysterical satanic baby killing muslim president stuff. Normally I will go to the work to snopes it out (so to speak), send her the link and explain that, no, the president is not going to put a chip in your brain forcing you to marry gay men.

    I must have had a bad day last week, because I simply sent her a reply that said, “Dear L, please remove me from your e-mail list. I no longer wish to receive untrue and paranoid claims like these. Thank you.”

  • Carstonio

    If LePaul really does believe that wind turbines are a hoax, what would he see as the motive behind it? Public image? Government grants? Either would probably be negated by the cost of electricity to artificially turn the turbines.

  • I’ve been told by atheists: “Deep down you know that there is no God.”
    And I’ve been told by Christians: “Deep down you know that Jesus is the Messiah.”

    They say that the zen mind is the beginner’s mind. The only way to gain wisdom is to know that deep down, you know nothing. All other knowledge is built on top of this.

  • Madhabmatics

    You know, a hundred years ago I could have made a really funny joke about how sure, we’ll be more religious, and then we will ban alcohol and terrified all the Christians, but now evangelicals have stolen teetotalling from us. You can’t have a “The Flying Inn” in 2013 :(

  • ReverendRef

    I was at our diocesan clergy conference earlier this week. One of the presenters had a great answer for the, “Are you saved?” question.

    “When someone approaches me and says, ‘Are you saved?’ I take two steps back and reply, “Well, I’m feeling much safer now. And if you take a few steps back, I’m sure I’ll be saved.”

    That may not have the same impact here, but at the conference it resulted in a good laugh.

  • Carstonio

    The BT Cabaret sign reminds me that in my travels, the areas with the most adult establishments also seem to be the ones with the most fundamentalist and Tea Party billboards. Free admission with a church bulletin? Imagine a church in the same neighborhood holding a dinner and offering a free meal with a BT Cabaret admission ticket.

  • “Are you saved?”

    “Yes, I made a backup last night.”

  • “Dear L, please remove me from your e-mail list. I no longer wish to
    receive untrue and paranoid claims like these. Thank you.”

    If that’s you on a bad day, then you must be a real sweetheart.

  • P J Evans

    I know that, and you know that, but LePage apparently doesn’t understand what a ‘generator’ actually is. And, far worse, doesn’t want to know.

  • aunursa

    Bad enough that there are entire denominations of Christianity (Southern Baptist, Latter-Day Saints) that still target them for conversion

    I distinguish between those who seek to convert all non-Christians, including Jews … and those who prioritize the conversion of Jews, who therefore specifically target Jews. I’m more irritated by the existence of the latter.


    When magnetism is treated as almost black magic by a large portion of the populace I’m really not surprised that the linkage between electricity and magnetism isn’t understood very well in those same people.

  • Lori

    Indeed. Anything nicer than “Stop sending me is idiot crap” is nicer than those right wing email deserve. I can’t get my dad to stop sending them to me so I just don’t open them any more.

  • Lori

    In case anyone didn’t catch the news—-Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed Rhode Island’s marriage equality law today, officially making RI the 10th state to deem equality before the law more important than enshrining bigotry. That means that all of New England now has marriage equality.

  • ReverendRef

    If that’s you on a bad day, then you must be a real sweetheart.

    Yeah, well . . . the priest can’t exactly tell his parishioners, “Bugger off!!”

  • j_bird

    My favorite is:

    A: Have you found Jesus?
    B: No, have you?

    A: Yes, and I can help you begin—

    B: Well give him back already, he’s been missing for weeks!

  • Completely off-topic, I sometimes go about in mid-September wishing folks “Happy Holidays!” It amuses the Jews and bewilders the goyim.