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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  • “I’m not aware of too many things.
    I know what I know, if you know what I mean.”

  • “I’m not aware of too many things.
    I know what I know, if you know what I mean.”

  • I took summer classes at a local Jesuit college in high school, so I had lots of opportunity to experiment with this sort of thing. My preferred response to “Do you love God?” was “Yes, but we’ve agreed to see other people,” to “Have you found God?” was “Oh shit, is He lost again? Here, God God God God…” and to “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior?” was “No.”

  • Magic_Cracker

    Another fun approach to the “Have you accepted Jesus Christ…” or “Have you heard about Jesus…” etc. approach is to pretend to be totally completely ignorant of everything about Christianity, the Bible, etc.

    “Jesus? Who’s Jesus?”
    “The Son of God!”
    “Which God?”
    “THE God! Of the Israelites!”
    “Who were the Israelites?”
    etc. etc.

  • “How do you get to Israel without falling over the edge?!”

  • Magic_Cracker

    “Wait, you mean Pharaoh gave them jobs, food and shelter, and they walked away from all that?”

  • aunursa

    You can wish “Happy Holidays” almost any time of year, as Jewish holidays fill almost every month of the calendar. Last Sunday was Lag B’Omer, and Shavuot begins on May 14th.

  • Was holding my tongue because you seemed to be talking about aunursa – but now that you’re making it general, can I once again take a moment to point out that you’re generalising from America to the rest of the world?

    I am in Australia, and, as such, am not in a privileged position because of my Christianity. Over here, my atheist friends will rarely if ever hear “Deep down you know that Jesus is God”; those of us who are Christian will regularly hear “Surely you don’t believe that rubbish?” – and not just from internet trolls, but from people in our daily life.

  • Jamoche

    “you know nothing”

    Jon Snow: zen master of Westeros.

  • Jamoche

    Some people’s Clarke’s Law threshold is astoundingly low.

  • Actually, you still are. The de facto secularized-Christian holidays are probably enshrined in your federal or state statutory holiday acts, and your society is still influenced by Christian religious beliefs and traits.

    Canada is similar: you might not be *as* discriminated against due to atheism, but the statutory holidays here include the major Christian ones and none of the Jewish or Muslim ones. Also, until recently in my province it was de facto accepted that teachers in secular schools could lead students in prayer.

    I would also say that if you were to dig into how adoptions of children are handled, people who profess a broad mainstream religious faith often get a bit of a ‘leg up’ in getting first call on a child.

  • Jenny Islander

    Somebody once wrote a dystopia in which the U.S. was being run into the ground by an unholy alliance of loopy New Age types and the kind of “environmentally conscious” person whose “green” opinions never go deeper than “house bad, tree pretty.” There was also a developing ice age. There had been a fledgling space colonization effort, but the government had managed to get people to riot and smash every bit of their on-planet infrastructure, marooning them up there, on the grounds that their annual trips to scoop up a tankful of Earth’s upper atmosphere with two space planes had caused global cooling.

    I thought it was a bit hard to believe when I first read it. Now I think the authors were being too kind. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a fundamentalist Christian, a libertarian, or a member of Earth First: if you start with the premise that science = magic, you’ll believe all kinds of foolery.

  • Valancy Jane

    If evangelicals (and Catholics for that matter) *could* force everybody to at least go along with the motions of pretending to be Christian, they’d do it. Barton would LOVE it if government endorsed a religion and pushed it onto people. It’s the entire thrust of his writing and speeches. It’s downright revolting how straightforward they are about demanding privilege and power over others.

  • AnonaMiss

    Prohibition was enacted in the US almost a hundred years ago, and it wasn’t the Muslims who pushed it through congress. You’d have to go back way more than a hundred years to find a time when Christians would be terrified by that thought.


  • Madhabmatics

    Give me a few days to declare Prohibition as cultural appropriation

  • Yes, I know. And indeed, the entire period of the Omer can count as a holiday, if one is in the mood.

    But at least the way I was raised, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and the period between them are more significant than, say, Lag B’Omer or Tisha B’av or Purim. (Or even Hanukah, though that one gets an artificial popularity boost due to Christmas.)

    Of course, there are plenty of Christian holidays that aren’t in December, also.

  • You’re thinking of Fallen Angels.

  • P J Evans

    When the JWs would come by the laundromat, my roommate would stop them with something like ‘I’m a druid’. Which is also pretty close to the one I met as a freshman in college: since it’s none of their business what religion you are (it was a state school), tell them something like ‘Olympian Zeus’.

  • P J Evans

    I will say that it isn’t easy to understand without a lot more time in math and science than most people are wiling to give it.

  • CharityB

    You should ask them where you forgot your car keys. If they can scan your subconscious like that, it should be a piece of cake.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Oh, that’s excellent! I may steal it, should the opportunity present itself.

  • Mark Z.

    Chuang Tzu and his friend were walking by a lake, and Chuang Tzu pointed to a fish, and said “See that guy, just swimming around in the lake? That’s the good life, for a fish. That’s what makes them truly happy.”

    His friend replied, “How do you know what makes fish happy? You’re not a fish!”

    Chuang Tzu answered, “How do you know if I know what makes fish happy? You’re not me!”

  • P J Evans

    It would certainly be an improvement over walking around saying ‘Here, keys! Here, keys!’

  • ReverendRef

    When the JWs would come by the laundromat, my roommate would stop them with something like ‘I’m a druid’.

    Damn . . . I need to remember to do that when I’m wearing my collar.

  • When someone asks me if I have found Jesus, I do actually answer “I didn’t know that he was lost.”

  • “Lady, that’s the imprint of a Phillips head screw.”

    Obviously it’s a sign that God is screwing with her.

  • I got ran out of a store and threatened for explaining the Mithras story (and why the whole “war on chirstmas” thing was BS) to a friend of mine, in a quiet voice. I was kicked out of the store, and had my life threatened. This was in MIchigan. Anti-non-christian bias is far more of a problem in this country than the reverse.

    It always amuses me when Christians threaten to kill me, or beat me. I point out that the Old Testament prohibits murder, and that Christian theology prohibits violence against, well, anybody. Not that it does any good, it just seems to make them madder. I wish I could say that it only happened once or twice, but then again, I have a problem with authority, and it’s happened multiple times throughout my life.

    I’m glad that I left the Church. I’m much happier as a Hare Krishna.

  • I know a guy who wore a collar… as a pagan priest. He has since quit that vocation (a combination of demands on his time and personal doubts) but his day job both then and now was working at company that made things like pillows and comforters. Occasionally their material suppliers would send them free stuff that the supplier makes, like a few bundles of high quality ropes made from the same fibers as the pillow cases.

    Anyway, this guy was driving across the Canadian boarder at one point, and is stopped at a customs checkpoint. He is wearing his priest collar during this drive and had a bunch of those sample ropes in the rear of his hatchback. The customs inspector did the usual thing of looking in the back of the car, and saw the ropes there, and asked him, “Oh, are you into rock climbing?”

    My friend straight-faced replied, “No, I’m a bondage freak.”

    The customs inspector decided to shut up and rush him through the rest of the process.

  • The worst bit about that goldfish story is that the reporters apparently could not find a single person who could explain the significance of the fish symbol to Christianity! How many Christians have that symbol on their cars?

  • If that is the case, their threshold for giving up on comprehension of this is disturbingly low. Like I said, this is high-school level stuff. Sure, you need a good grasp of math if you want to actually engineer something like this, but only a rudimentary knowledge of electromagnetism to grasp the principal on which such devices operate.

    Short version: you move a magnet near a conductor (like common copper wire) it generates an electric current in the conductor. Conversely, you run a current through the conductor and it will cause a nearby magnet to move. If you put a freely-rotating magnet inside a coil of wire, you get an electric generator / electric motor. If you do something that spins the magnet in place, it produces electric power. If you instead run a bunch of electric power through the coil of wire, it makes the magnet spin.

  • The atheists are being assholes about it but do have a point in that people behave in their ordinary lives as if they did not actually believe in God.
    -They use medicine, not prayer.
    -They act with conscious self-preservation, not trusting their lives to God.
    -They do not spend their every moment afraid of any action which could possibly be a ‘sin’, a rational response to the prospect of eternal punishment.
    -They would consider insane someone who claims God spoke to them, especially if ordered by the divine to kill, in spite of such communications being seemingly commonplace in their holy scripture.

    It is not necessary to probe your thoughts when your actions speak so openly.

  • I had someone tell me once that they thought that “ichthys” was Greek for “Jesus”. It blew her mind when I told her that the Greek for “Jesus” is “Jesus,” and “ichthys” is the Greek for “fish.”

  • DorothyD

    A demo is probably better than a verbal explanation. This is a fairly good (if a bit dull) one which conveys the basic concepts.

  • ngotts

    “The only way to gain wisdom is to know that deep down, you know nothing.”

    How do you think you know that?

  • Yeah, I suppose you’d need a bit of a promotion to pull that off.

  • Chris Young

    And then you have to explain how the Greeks and Romans loved acrostics and wrote them on walls all the time, so that “Iesos CHristos THeou hYios Soter” might look a bit clunky to you or me, but it was exactly the sort of thing that would come naturally to early Christians looking for a coded badge. And by the time you’ve gone through all that, with a bit of luck she’s gone away.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Isn’t the obvious–and also true–explanation Jesus’s line to his fisherman apostles that “come with me and I will make you fishers of men”?

  • Kirala

    Wait, really? You think those points are evidence that people don’t believe God exists?

    -They use medicine, not prayer.

    Medicine AND prayer, with most believers – and more with the following point…

    -They act with conscious self-preservation, not trusting their lives to God.

    “Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test.” There are times in the Bible where God gets ticked off with people for not making good use of the resources He has already provided, whether through natural or supernatural means. That said, a lot of believers quite consciously work to trust more in God and less in themselves-over-God.

    do not spend their every moment afraid of any action which could
    possibly be a ‘sin’, a rational response to the prospect of eternal

    Christianity believes we covered by grace for pretty much every contingency, at least theoretically. There are some very warped theologies that act as though salvation were losable at the drop of a hat, as though Christ’s sacrifice were extremely limited in efficacy, but the case for an angry God in the New Testament is hard to make. The only wrath I recall seeing directly from God (well, apart from Revelation, but who understands that?) was against those who tried to use His name for their benefit while pursuing their own ends. And even then, the objects of wrath – the money-changers, the Pharisees, the scribes and lawyers, Ananias and Sapphira – are nowhere expressly consigned to hell. Christ’s blood is still presumably sufficient covering for any who seek it.

    I’m pretty sure Jewish theology doesn’t accept your premises for that statement, either, but I’m not well-versed in Jewish theology.

    -They would consider insane someone who claims God spoke
    to them, especially if ordered by the divine to kill, in spite of such
    communications being seemingly commonplace in their holy scripture.

    This is a couple different statements, but I know plenty of people who regularly claim God speaks to them and we don’t consider them insane. God speaks to me at times.

    But the statement you’re implying is “God speaking with a message that seems contrary to our morals.” The Bible regularly warns that we need to test prophecy to see if it’s consistent with God’s character. I would find it consistent with God’s character to tell Dietrich Bonhoeffer to kill Hitler; I would not find it consistent with God’s character to tell Joe to off Jill because she’s a [insert negative term of your choice here].


    So if your list is meant to be an indictment of the majority of Christianity as “deep down, you don’t really believe,” then I’m confused by a lack of congruence with the reality I’ve experienced. But am I misreading? Are you referring to a specific real or hypothetical Christian who regularly neglects prayer, relies only on zirself for strength and guidance, lives with a total lack of fear of moral consequence of any kind, and scoffs at the idea of God speaking? I would agree that this specific “Christian” would probably not believe – but I have a hard time imagining such a person placing much stake in the name “Christian” or “believer” to begin with. The ugly hypocrite “Christian” usually spends an awful lot of time in prayer, avoiding hellfire, and claiming God speaks to them.

  • Some who have been pushing the federal government to spend less on health care say this is not the right approach.

    “I don’t think there was an intention to disrupt care or move it into
    a more expensive setting,” said Cathy Schoen, senior vice president of
    the Commonwealth Fund, which recently released a plan for cutting $2 trillion in health spending. “If that’s the case, we’re being penny-wise and a pound-foolish with these cuts.”

    I swear to god, people like this–

    (>_<)B Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  • Kirala

    That too. Also, the graphic was really easy to copy. Also, loaves and fishes. It worked on a number of levels. The cross, not so much. There’s a reason it didn’t catch on till crucifixion stopped being widely used…

    But I’ve always heard that the fish was a combination of the fishermen and the ICHTHYS acrostic.

  • Heh, my parents yelled at me by proxy for atheists waging war on Christmas — despite the fact that they are atheists. I’d say it made relative sense since they were using a “don’t rock the boat” style of argument (“It’s always been this way, so why do some people have to ruin everything for people?”), but they then went on less than 10 minutes later to declare that religious people should just be shot and how great it would be if being Christian were a crime punishable by vigilante death, so I guess they’re not afraid to sink the whole damned ship when it suits them.

  • The easiest explanation for all of that is that their interpretation of their god (not necessarily even a Christian god) is completely unlike the one you have described, or that their religion enshrines modern thought and attitude. It would be foolhardy to try and hold, say, a Neo-Pagan to the standards of Old Testament Christianity beliefs.

  • “I think the only way to gain wisdom is to know that deep down, you know nothing… but I’m not sure.”

  • Jenny Islander

    So does the Commonwealth Fund think people are just frivolously traipsing into clinics hither and yon for dialysis? Absent-mindedly developing cancer? Where the blazing blue hell did they think the cuts were going to come from?

    Do these people even understand that folks without the long list of options available to chancellors of this and chairmen of that (seriously, Google them, the board of directors is probably worth a cool quarter billion all told) already voluntarily don’t go in unless things have gotten life-threatening? Do they realize that if they actually want “high performance health care,” it would save a hell of a lot of money if they made it possible for people to go in the day they felt the pain instead of gambling that it was nothing and coming up snake eyes?

    Look up their Wiki page. They talk a good game about appropriate care and availability and this and that, but then they congratulate themselves for meeting the needs of “low income, uninsured, and other minority populations.”

    If you intend to meet the needs of people who will never in their lives make as much as you made last year, perhaps you should first find out how many people live outside your cushy comfort zone.

    “Minority populations.” I don’t often cuss, but holy shit.

  • Could’ve gone badly for him if the Customs inspector wanted to make something of it. Customs officers generally seem to have a hard-on for being fascist turds in their little mini-kingdoms.

  • SIngle-payer health insurance would fix a lot of those problems, too. :(

  • Wednesday


    Here’s hoping Minnesota follows suite in the next few weeks.

  • Lori

    I’m not sure what the betting line is on which state will be 11th. Last I heard folks seemed to expect it to be Delaware, but Minnesota and Illinois are also in the running. It’s nice to watch a bit of a band wagon effect for something positive for a change, as opposed to crap like states trying to one up each other in how shitty they can be to women.

  • Lori

    I have a very dear friend who was diagnosed 14 months ago, which obviously resulted in him paying a higher insurance premium. Six months ago he moved to a new house and his new address resulted in his premiums going up again. His monthly insurance payment is now nearly as high as my rent was when I lived in LA and higher than most people here in Nowheresville pay for their mortgages.

    We rarely talk about it because a conversation between a person paying way the hell too much for insurance he simply can’t be without talking to a person who is uninsured because the only coverage she could get was more than she could afford and basically covered nothing is way too depressing.

    IOW, yes we need single payer.

  • chocolate covered cotton

    Now I’m having a great time imagining if a car repair manual were written like the bible. Picture a gaggle of mechanics standing around a car with the hood raised, each with differing opinions about which section of the manual applies, how each direction is to be intrepreted, whether the solution lies in Transmission 4:17 or Engine Management 2:12 and whether one can truly ignore the implications of Brakes 6:34, then someone points out that the wording and illustrations have been superceded by a later edition, and can a Haynes or Chilton’s manual truly substitute for the original manufacturer’s Dealer Service Manual? And all of them thanking God that they’re paid by the hour.