Posts Tagged ‘theocracy’

Repent Amarillo guy will run for mayor of some town

March 7, 2011

Hey, remember those distinguished gentlemen from Amarillo, Texas who like to execute Santa Claus in effigy and harass patrons of swingers’ clubs? Their leader is running for mayor of Amarillo. Here is a video of him in what looks like a church, announcing his candidacy:

At the 1:47 mark, you can hear him say this (emphasis mine, factual and grammatical errors his):

“It is time that Christians rise up and start taking responsibility of their civic duties seriously and start running for office.”

Yes, the time has come for Christians to start running for office. They must start doing this. For too long, only non-Christians have been running for office.

He prefaces all this with a long reading from Romans 13, which I initially thought was the one the KKK likes so much. But after checking back to where I heard that, it turns out it was actually the 12th chapter of Romans. So it’s totally different! Oh, except he has the exact same “Christian flag” as the “Grand Wizard” of the Klan in the Safran video.

KKK Grand Wizard Chris Johnson showing off their Christian flag

David Grisham of Repent Amarillo announcing his mayoral candidacy

I don’t think this means Grisham is a secret Klansman, or even that he’s necessarily racist. The Christian flag seems more like a dog whistle than the established flag of any particular Christian extremist organization. If you go to the Focus on the Family HQ in Colorado Springs, you will see it there also:

According to Wikipedia, it was first designed in early 20th century Brooklyn, probably by Satanic hipsters trying to be ironic. So again, Grisham’s not necessarily a Klansman just because he and the KKK share a flag, just like he’s probably not a communist just because he seems to strongly imply in his campaign video that he’s going to try to use government power to shut down what I’m sure is Amarillo’s totally happening bar scene. But still, very creepy, especially if he ends up winning.


Violence at an Indonesian blasphemy trial

February 9, 2011

This article from the Jakarta Post is very short and concise, but it has an M Night Shayamalan-ish twist. Here’s the lede:

Violence broke out on Tuesday at a blasphemy trial in Temanggung, Central Java, immediately after prosecutors read out a five-year prison sentence demand for defendant Antonius Richmond Bawengan.

I was kind of hoping that this would mean the people watching the trial started attacking the prosecutors for suggesting such an absurd sentence for this “crime.” But here’s the twist:

Trial spectators suddenly attacked the defendant, prosecutors and judges, while a group of people outside the courtroom broke windows and set parked cars on fire, reported Tuesday.

The fact that they attacked everyone instead of just one or the other side leads me to believe that they probably thought that five years in prison was too lenient of a sentence. Which is just so crazy that it makes me want to lie down for a while to let this headache pass.

Of course, it could just as easily be that the spectators weren’t a uniform group all sharing the same opinion. It was probably just a heated environment, which tends to happen when the government panders to idiots by keeping and enforcing ridiculous laws.

Nobody who reads this should be allowed to vote

January 26, 2011

Let’s all listen to this nice young man explain why only “virtuous” people should be allowed to vote, if we’re even going to bother with that old voting thing anymore. If we keep letting just anybody vote, we’re all going to die of cancer. Or something.

Everybody must get stoned

July 7, 2010

This is just a very depressing story and I really don’t even know how to find a joke in it. Apparently that power belongs only to Monty Python.

In Iran, they of course have capital punishment. And there are still some pretty brutal practices used, even within the context of capital punishment. Unlike in Utah, the convict doesn’t get to choose to use an older means. Even in that case, the convict chose to die by firing squad, which only goes back at most as long as we’ve had guns.

But in Iran, they occasionally use methods of capital punishment which go back literally to the Stone Age. In Islamic criminal jurisprudence, stoning or lapidation is called Rajm. Typically, the victim (when female, such as is the case here) is buried up to their chest and then people throw rocks at them until they’re dead. The rocks are supposed to be smaller than one’s fist, which reduces the chances that the victim will receive a mercifully quick fatal blow. The punishment as it’s applied for adultery is prescribed in Islam in the Hadith, Book 17, Number 4192:

[W]henever Allah’s Apostle received revelation, he felt its rigour and the complexion of his face changed. One day revelation descended upon him, he felt the same rigour. When it was over and he felt relief, he said: Take from me. Verily Allah has ordained a way for them (the women who commit fornication),: (When) a married man (commits adultery) with a married woman, and an unmarried male with an unmarried woman, then in case of married (persons) there is (a punishment) of one hundred lashes and then stoning (to death). And in case of unmarried persons, (the punishment) is one hundred lashes and exile for one year.

Now fast forward to the present day and we have the case of Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani, a Turkish-speaking mother of two from the northern Iranian city of Tabriz who was convicted of adultery in 2006. Human rights attorney Mohammed Mostafaei claims that Ashtiani’s confession to adultery may have been due to language barriers, since she does not speak Farsi. If that’s true, then it would echo the case of Fawza Falih, an illiterate women who was coerced to sign a confession to being guilty of “witchcraft” by the Saudi Arabian Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, a.k.a. the “religious police” – a confession which, of course, she could not even read. The religious police refused to even read the accusations to her in that case.

Amnesty International is pushing hard against this miscarriage of justice, but as far as the Iranian courts are concerned it’s a done deal. Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani could be stoned to death at any minute. The only thing that could prevent it is a ginormous international campaign on her behalf, which even in the case of Iran is not unprecedented. Maybe it’s not plausible to expect the Iranian government to have a deconversion experience and suddenly realize that their legal system is bullshit and based on ridiculous mythology, but at least we can maybe help out the most egregious victims one at a time.

UPDATE: Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani will not be stoned to death, but she still faces the death penalty for adultery.

UPDATE II: The Iranian government has banned the media from covering this case.

UPDATE III: The Guardian reports Ashtiani’s cellmate’s account of the initial verdict.

UPDATE IV: The President of Brazil has made a call to grant asylum to Ashtiani. I have not yet heard of a similar call made by our President, unfortunately.

UPDATE V: Iran’s government rejected President da Silva’s offer.

UPDATE VI: The International Committee Against Stoning is reporting that Ashtiani’s attorney was arrested in Turkey yesterday

UPDATE VII: Ashtiani is now facing 99 lashes for indecency because a newspaper published a picture of her without her headscarf.

UPDATE VIII: The secretary general of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights said that there is a “good chance” that Ashtiani will not be executed.

UPDATE IX: A German group is reporting that Ashtiani is free, but the Iranian government has not yet confirmed.

UPDATE X: The Iranian government released a video of Ashtiani confessing to her husband’s murder, which they claim is “contrary to a vast publicity campaign by Western media that confessed murderer Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has been released.”


America is not a Christian nation

June 12, 2010

First I should probably clarify what I don’t mean by the title of this post. I’m not denying that the authors of the Constitution were mostly Christian. And I’m not denying that the majority of Americans are Christian and always have been.

What I’m attacking here is the idea that our laws and government are based on “Christian values” or “Judeo-Christian heritage” or any other vacuous phrase theocrats invent. And what’s more is that it’s very easy to determine that this was the clear intention of the people who founded the country.

Anyone can dig up diary entries and letters by individuals involved in the founding of America to sell whatever kind of historical interpretation they like. And there’s no shortage of people attempting to do that on this issue. But our country isn’t based on diary entries and letters. You kind of have to wonder why, if these people were so insistent that this be a “Christian nation,” they neglected to mention that fact anywhere at all in its founding charter.

There are, however, some mentions of religion itself in the Constition. Let’s go through all of them right now. It won’t take long.

Article VII, Section II

Done in convention by the unanimous consent of the states present the seventeenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven and of the independence of the United States of America the twelfth. In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,

This is followed by the signatures of the delegates.

This one I can cover pretty quickly. The day I’m writing this is Saturday, which is named after the Roman god of agriculture. Does the fact that I call it Saturday mean that I’m a pagan? “In the year of our Lord” was, and in some ways still is, a dating convention of the time. Even “AD” is still used often when people are talking about ancient history.

The Establishment Clause

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

What I like about this one in this context is that it’s so clearly against the first of the Ten Commandments. In one the order is to not have any other gods before one in particular, and the other says that you can have other gods if you want. Killing people that don’t worship one specific god is a pretty extreme version of prohibiting the free exercise of religion. I can’t even believe this needs to be pointed out.

Article VI, Section III

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Now there are religious tests for public office in a pretty informal way here in the US in that most voters will take a candidates’ religious views into consideration when voting. But whatever those views are won’t officially disqualify anyone from holding whatever public office they like. That’s what this refers to, and we know this because unfortunately Jefferson’s attempts to develop an 18th century functioning MRI which could monitor voters’ religious feelings while they cast their ballot were eventually de-funded.

Article VI, Section II and the Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11

These two tie together.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

So the important thing to remember about this is that treaties signed by the US are equal to the Constitution in that they are both “supreme Law of the Land.” That’s half of this particular argument. Now even if you’re not convinced by the earlier mentions of religion in the Constitution, we’d have to ask whether or not there are anything more specific in a treaty made by the United States, since that would clarify the issue of whether or not America is a Christian nation.

The very first treaty signed under the authority of the United States was the Treaty of Tripoli.

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

It doesn’t get any clearer than that. It’s as if these guys are screaming from beyond their graves at Pat Robertson and similar douchenozzles that they’re wrong. But before you get all mad scientist-y and try to resurrect them for that purpose in a castle on a mountaintop during a thunderstorm, just remember that all we have to do to prove the “Christian nation” types wrong is to just go through our laws.

Blasphemy law follow-up

March 14, 2010

Earlier this year I mentioned that Ireland’s anti-blasphemy law went into effect on January 1. After being made fun of on the internet and in other media for the past few months, the guy who proposed the law is now trying to get rid of it. Here is the justice minister Dermot Ahern from the report:

“There was a lot of nonsense about that blasphemy issue and people making me out to be a complete right-winger at the time,” he said. “There was an incredibly sophisticated campaign [against me], mainly on the internet. I was only doing my duty in relation to it, because clearly it is in the constitution. The attorney general said ‘there is this absolute, mandatory thing… it is an offence, punishable by law.”

I don’t remember anyone saying anything about the right wing. In fact, most of what I heard when it came to the politics of this was that was a part of a European trend of letting Muslims use existing, mostly secular government institutions in order to codify some of their religious beliefs into law, and that that was taking advantage of what might be too much political correctness in those countries. If anything, that itself is more of a right wing position.

And the whole reason we have elected officials in democratic countries is in order to interpret these laws and constitutional mandates. Obviously blasphemy laws are outdated. Anyone working in the government of a country like Ireland should be aware of that.

But it is nice that he called us sophisticated.

Islam news

January 23, 2010

There have been a couple of interesting stories dealing with Islam and its impact on the law, and there’s really not much to say about either so I decided to cover them both in one post.

Muslim Clerics Seek Ban On ‘Funky Hairstyles’ in Indonesia


Dreadlocks and mohawks are all the rage in religious boarding schools throughout Indonesia these days, and so it must therefore be sinful and therefore needs to be banned according to some unnamed clerics in East Java.

Not all Muslim clerics are so enthused about this, though. There’s something called the Fatwa Commission, and its deputy secretary Aminudin Yakub had this to say:

“So far, we have not seen strong evidence to ban it… It could be discussed in future but right now it is not a priority.”

What’s funny is that this same institution found such immoral practices as yoga and failing to vote to be a priority, since they’ve already banned those, too. At least that’s what’s implied by the Telegraph article cited above. The wording in it is a little funny so it’s not clear if that’s the same Fatwa Commission or some other separate fatwa commission. Don’t you hate it when you confuse one fatwa commission for another?

Moaz Ashhabi sentenced to 1 year for falsification of the Koran

So Moaz Ashhabi is this Yemeni journalist who decided to take part in a discussion on the claims of divine nature of the Koran, which somehow has something to do with how it’s chanted. Anywho, Ashhabi wrote an article called “They Corrected The Koran,” which then translates to a year inside a Yemeni prison. And even that seems to be a bit of a plea deal since he’s apologized to pretty much everyone since he was under investigation.

TV personality on death row in Saudi Arabia for “witchcraft”

November 29, 2009

So before Saudi media outlets were just complaining about witchcraft (in this post, I mentioned the Hajj “stoning the devil” ritual that usually results in collapsing structures, killing gullible pilgrims. This year, flooding killed 83. Allah didn’t stop the flooding for some reason. Just a quick update.), now they’re doing something about it. Well, the courts are anyway.

The Lebanese TV presenter Ali Sibat was on a trip to Saudi Arabia when he was arrested for “witchcraft.” This apparently involves making predictions on his show.

Here is video of his trial:

So let’s see, there’s no real evidence against him, he’s not even Saudi Arabian, and he’s being put to death for being annoying on television. Can’t Oprah go on vacation in Saudi Arabia?

UPDATE: Stay of execution!

Today is Blasphemy Day

September 30, 2009
OK, buddy. As long as its this God thing punishing us and not you.

OK, buddy. As long as it's this "God" thing punishing us and not you.

Four years ago today, some Danish newspaper printed some drawings of Mohammed and yada yada yada, a bunch of people burned shit down and then yada yada yada, now it’s Blasphemy Day.

The Center for Inquiry is having a Blasphemy Contest. The deadline is midnight tonight for verbal submissions (< 20 words), and the cartoon version is yet to be fully described.

There have been a lot of issues regarding blasphemy still, which is just completely fucking insane. This isn’t just about remembering some cruel past where people were severely punished or even killed because of what they said.

In the “liberated” Afghanistan, 24 year old journalist Parwiz Kambakhsh was given a 20 year sentence for blasphemy. His “crime” was in downloading an article which was critical of Islam’s treatment of women. Although, to be fair, he was recently pardoned by Karzai.

In India, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has been involved in attacks on women in pubs. They were said to be acting “obscenely.” By drinking with men to whom they were not married. That’s “obscene.” This is where you end up when you start allowing people to think they have a right to not be offended by anything ever.

The BJP then started a War On Valentine’s Day by trying to intimidate non-married couples from going out in public and maybe doing something OBSCENE like kissing or holding hands or something AWFUL like that. So some opponents of the BJP and their supporters started a campaign to send BJP leaders pairs of old ladies’ pink underwear.

And this past July, Ireland passed an anti-blasphemy law which made it a crime to cause “outrage among a substantial number of the adherents” of the religion so blasphemed. Since this is the nice, civilized western world, instead of decades in some of the worst prisons in the world, “offenders” are to be charged with a €100,000 €25,000 fine. There is now a campaign to repeal this legislation.

So celebrate Blasphemy Day today by offending someone. Not just anyone. Try to find someone who thinks they have a right to not hear about any ideas that might offend them and show them that they have no such right. Because if they did, nobody could ever say anything ever, since what we consider to be offensive is subjective. I might find the idea of another “National Treasure” movie offensive and nauseating, but that doesn’t mean I should be able to have Jerry Bruckheimer arrested.

Or should I? Does he ever travel to Ireland? Maybe these blasphemy laws have an upside after all.

Follow-up: “Faith is no reason”

Sorcery in Saudi Arabia

September 14, 2009

There’s this article in Arab News (“The Middle East’s Leading English Language Daily”) which just absolutely reeks of doublethink and the kind of problems one gets into when accepting one form of woo over another, which I wrote about earlier this month. Here’s the lede:

Hardly a day passes without a local newspaper reporting the arrest of a sorcerer in the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia], something that is indicative of the widespread meddling in sorcery.

Maybe that is what it is what it is indicative of. But the author here overlooks the possibility that it’s also indicative of the insanity that results from witch hunts. Those arrested for this “crime” aren’t always even guilty of breaking this insane law. It’s just an accusation which is not amenable to any kind of testing, so it becomes a rationalization for imprisoning or even killing whoever the accuser doesn’t happen to like.

And of course they overlook the possibility that the arrests are indicative of the government arresting people for having different religious beliefs from that of the majority. Even if those arrested were “guilty” of the “crime” of which they were accused, so what? The article goes on to portray the “sorcerers” almost in a realistic way – that they’re hucksters shamming the gullible, but if that were really the problem, then there would be no need to limit the law to certain religious practices. So they have to condemn these people on entirely different grounds:

People underestimate how serious a sin magic actually is.

They don’t go into detail on how exactly the editorial board of Arab News objectively identifies the varying degrees of “sin” or anything like that. It’s just a “sin.” A very serious one. SRSLY?

Here’s some context, from just before and after the above quote:

“That was four years ago. I now only seek Allah’s help,” she said… Abeer Saleh said some members of her family are so infatuated with magic that they act strange and perform nonsensensical rituals.”

If they have some kind of reason for preferring Allah-based magic over tribal mysticism-based magic, it’s not made apparent. Just that one is a “serious sin” and the other is not. And how could these people deride acting strangely and performing nonsensical rituals without collapsing from the cognitive dissonance? Here is a good example of a nonsensical ritual.



What happens is that pilgrims on their Hajj thing go to this holy city and throw stones at three pillars which somehow represent Satan. They stampeded toward the pillars, and in 2004 and then in 2006 this led to a structural collapse which killed hundreds of people. Is that acting strange? Is that a nonsensical ritual? How could it possibly not be any stranger than writing names down on a piece of paper and then putting the paper in a bottle – or eating a cracker which is supposed to be the flesh of a man-god who died 2000 years ago, for that matter?

It’s not. The only way advocates of faith-based positions can criticize other faith-based positions is by creating some completely vacuous and meaningless concept like “sin” and arbitrarily attributing it to anything they don’t happen to like.

Sudanese woman fined for wearing pants

September 7, 2009

Journalist Lubna Hussein was fined $200 for wearing pants. And that’s the good news.

It’s good news because she was spared of the standard penalty, which is 40 lashes, due to international attention to her case.

And she doesn’t plan on paying the fine either. When threatened by the judge with a one-month prison sentence for refusing to pay the fine, she called the potential sentence “a chance to explore the conditions in jail.” Remember, this is Sudan. I have to admire her dedication to her trade, but it’s probably fair to say that it wouldn’t be the funnest assignment of her career.

There were protests at her trial, both for and against Hussein (weird sentence). Diplomats from the western European embassies showed up with some women wearing pants in solidarity, and some men showed up in pretty dresses “traditional Islamic” attire shouting “God is great!”

Oh yeah, the Sudan is about 70% Muslim and mostly subscribes to Islamic law. But I’m sure that has nothing to do with it at all. After all, it’s a peaceful religion, right?

Hussein is apparently a little more high-profile than the average Sudanese. She used to work for the UN. So if this kind of thing can happen to someone like her – someone with contacts and access to the public eye – you kind of have to wonder what is being done to others not so esteemed and priveleged.

Maybe the most revealing part of this story is that the law in question was part of the so-called “decency laws.” Apparently it is a threat to decency for a woman to wear pants, but it is not a threat to decency to flog, or even fine or imprison, women for wearing pants.

Back to school Iranian-style

September 4, 2009

A scary article appeared in the NY Times earlier this week. The Iranian government’s reaction to the protests against the alleged election fraud are carrying over into the realm of academia, with its “Supreme Leader” making statements which seem to indicate a purge of the education system. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last weekend:

“Many of the humanities and liberal arts are based on philosophies whose foundations are materialism and disbelief in godly and Islamic teachings.”

He’s right about those studies being secular. If done properly they do not automatically presume the existence of the Abrahamic deity, and they don’t presuppose Koranic infallibility. What he’s wrong about is that that is a horrible thing which “ardent defenders of Islam” must stop or co-opt.

And when he says that teaching these subjects “leads to the loss of belief in godly and Islamic knowledge,” he’s right in the sense that learning more makes one less inclined to accept religious doctrine – especially ones invented by some power-hungry sociopath 1400 years ago. But it’s not exactly clear that there is such a thing as “Islamic knowledge” in the first place. When someone who claims to be inspired by their religion makes a discovery, it’s not acknowledged and respected simply because they make that claim. It has to be tested using the same evil secular methods Khamenei is decrying here. If a purge like the one described is implemented in Iran, respectable Muslim scholars will be left with no way to demonstrate their findings to a larger audience because they will have to go out of their way to make sure certain mullahs are convinced that such findings are based on “Islamic knowledge” – whatever that means – and not the secular methodology which we know actually works.

State-Church separation win in Kentucky

September 2, 2009

American Atheists recently won a lawsuit against the state of Kentucky regarding certain language in some 2006 legislation which Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. At first, the judge was all like NUH-UH:

“The statute pronounces very plainly that current citizens of the Commonwealth cannot be safe, neither now, nor in the future, without the aid of Almighty God. Even assuming that most of this nation’s citizens have historically depended upon God, by choice, for their protection, this does not give the General Assembly the right to force citizens to do so now.”

Bad advice is bad.

Bad advice is bad.

And then the “Democratic” Party’s state Representative/”Christ is King Baptist Church” Pastor Tom Riner of Louisville, who originally inserted the language into the bill in 2006, was all like YEAH-HUH:

“They make the argument … that it has to do with a religion,” Riner said, “and promoting a religion. God is not a religion. God is God.”

It just kills me when believers talk about their particular religious position (which are always and inevitably an incredibly small minority amongst the rest) as if it were just a simple fact of life, like death and taxes. That’s the only way one could possibly justify thinking that talking about a deity is somehow “not religious.” It is as if Riner thinks the question of whether or not he’s right about God is just a settled matter, with no consideration for others whose ideas about a god might be slightly, or even very, different.

It’s not even about just pleasing us cranky, litigious atheists. Deists believe in God just as much as the fundamentalist Christians, but they would also object to the idea of God being something upon which we should depend. Even other Christians could object to that based on their own beliefs. If he wants to ignore objections others might raise to his theology, he’s going to have to keep that kind of approach in the pulpit and in his private life, and leave it behind in what is supposed to be the modern civilized world of government under our secular Constitution.

And I have to wonder, if this God is supposed to be so all-powerful, why would it even need to know that we’re depending on it? Is it keeping tabs on the Kentucky State Office of Homeland Security to make sure people are thinking of it? If people were so dependent, wouldn’t it just know that fact? This thing supposedly created the whole Universe, and it’s acting like an uber-insecure teenage girl, according to Riner. This kind of crap makes me feel bad on any deity’s behalf, if it turns out there really is one.

Kook of the Week

August 29, 2009

This guy is running for city council in Livonia, MI. I have never been there and know nobody from that region, but I feel very sorry for all of them if this guy wins. That will probably not happen for reasons which should be all too apparent from watching his little announcement here. Watch the whole thing too, because the last few seconds are just amazing.

Marital Rape

August 19, 2009

New law in “liberated” Afghanitan allows Shia men to starve their wives who refuse to fuck them. ReutersLondon Times

The Bahamas going the other way: Bill to outlaw marital rape stirs controversy. The Bahama Journal

It is ridiculous for them to try to make that a law, because I don’t think a man can rape his own wife. After two people get married, the Bible says that they become one – one flesh. How is it possible to rape what is yours?

It is ridiculous for them to try to make that a law, because I don’t think a man can rape his own wife. After two people get married, the Bible says that they become one – one flesh. How is it possible to rape what is yours?

And the worst part: That last one – well, it’s from a woman.