106 Books of Pretension? April 29, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in Uncategorized.
Via Stranger Fruit, I learn about an interesting book meme: “106 Books of Pretension,” which is really “the top 106 books most often marked as ‘unread’ by LibraryThing’s users.” I don’t think these books, as a group, are particularly pretentious. There is a surprisingly wide range represented, though I’m disappointed at the lack of poetry. Anyway, I’m not as well read in fiction as I should be, and I’m particularly poorly read in non-fiction, but here goes. Books I’ve read are in italics, books I began and never finished are struck through:
Tony Zirkle: for all your hilarity needs April 29, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in bigotry, Humor, wingnuts.
I’ve been swamped with end-of-the-semester craziness, so I’m behind on my blogging, but I couldn’t resist pointing you to Tony Zircle: he’s seeking the Republican nomination for Congress in Indiana. While this wouldn’t ordinarily be newsworthy, he recently appeared on K.O.’s Worst Person in the World segment for appearing at a neo-nazi event, and now he’s defending himself. His website is full of what one Sadly, No! commenter hilariously dubbed right-wing political Dada. A few examples of his particular brand of batshit crazy:
I’ve been getting a flood of e-mails and phone calls, some of which include death threats, about my attempt to raise awareness of how the great porn dragon inspires Jews into pornography and prostitution and then, like the snake he is, turns the public against the Jews. [...]
Unfortunately, those Web sites are just a small fraction of evidence you can find on a Google search of combinations of “Jews” “pornography” “sex slavery” “Israel” and “prostitution.” Let’s save our Jewish brothers and sisters from this tyrant king porn dragon before we get to another world-wide pogrom after a war with Iran or some other conflict and after the Jews get blamed again.
Some other gems:
As a former prosecutor who has served in Elkhart, Lake and St. Joseph Counties as a drug dealing prosecutor, I can speak with some degree of first hand experience here: Drugs lead to about half or more of all crime.
The Great Porn Jihad War Tax: Prolific Porn Mule Serial Woman-Womb Slaughterers
The Nazis murdered on a previously unprecedented scale; however, the efficiency of the porn industry’s womanslaughtering is rapidly becoming its rival. If we had accurate metrics to calculate the current porn slaughter of what is very often busty blond white “Christian” women, who often dangle a cross below their necks, we might be able to argue that one of the most efficient contemporary international genocidal operations abounds in this particular white flesh market. The Internet is full of info about white slave trafficking of Eastern European and Russian women. The trade even caused Amnesty International to protest Israel’s mass prostitution rings a couple of years ago because many white women were being enslaved there where, unbelieveably, it wasn’t even illegal to own prostitute slaves there as of a few years ago.
And that doesn’t even touch his hilariously horrifying statements on his forums. So a challenge for my readers: what is the most hilariously batshit crazy statement on Zirkle’s website? The best submission will win the internet, or at least my virtual applause.
I’ve recently finished reading God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer by Bart D. Ehrman. Central to Ehrman’s argument is that too many of us have disappointingly shallow responses to the problem of theodicy, the branch of theology that attempts to defend God against the problem of evil. We either attribute evil to free will and call it a day, or perhaps do not consider it at all. Furthermore, Ehrman argues that theologians careful treatises on this subject gloss over the true scope and emotional impact of evil, and that their bloodless responses cannot address the full scope of the problem.
Ehrman was on my mind when I stumbled across this explanation of “natural evil”–that is, evil not caused by humans, but by our natural world.
Where was God during the terrible tsunami of 2004 that killed over 150,000 people in Southeast Asia? People like Martin Kettle say that religious people cannot explain this tragedy.1 Kettle asks the question, “What God sanctions an earthquake?” He seems baffled to find an answer based upon a religious worldview, in which a God of love is said to preside over the universe. The answer is surprising simple, but lost to those whose worldview precludes integration of earth sciences principles taught in elementary school with the existence of God.
What could we find in the natural sciences that could explain how God would allow the deaths of 150,000 people? Well, I’ll give Rich Deem, the piece’s offer, credit: he actually does try to bring some science into this question, and at least he isn’t a Young Earth Creationist. But his attempt does not reflect well on his understanding of the monumental problems posed by the problem of evil.
Making sure marriage is a trap April 16, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in Religion, sex, wingnuts.
When trying to “defend marriage” against the evils of people who love each other, Fundies often tout the idea that marriage is a “sacred institution,” one that is meant to mirror God’s relationship to humanity. And many people genuinely believe that. But the leaders of the Religious Right exploit well-intentioned intentions on this subject, as with so many others, for political gain. Take for example the case of “Marriage Savers,” a group dedicated to the proposition that marriage should be a trap, not a blessed union of souls:
Basing its implied equation of liberal divorce laws with unjust war, McManus justifies the term “Unilateral Divorce” because “in four out of five cases, one spouse did not want the divorce, but had no choice.” In a press release announcing the new Reform Divorce website, McManus argued that one spouse’s freedom to divorce the other without permission was the reason behind America’s high divorce rate.
McManus and his group would have us return to the days when spouses conspired to feign infidelity to end their marriages. Aside from the expected “What About the Mens!!1!” pandering, this is telling: they’re actually arguing that people should be forced to stay in marriages until their spouses let them leave. This is not a winning argument for the Right, especially since many of their politicians depend on no-fault divorce. But it does illuminate nicely what they really want: that marriage be a trap that people–and especially women–can’t escape.
Given that cynical view, it’s particularly ironic that they’re so freaked out by gay marriage.
Creationist quotemining of Darwin: moral relativism edition April 16, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in Expelled Exposed, quote mining, Religion, Science, wingnuts.
Over at Uncommon Descent, Richard Weikart is bragging about the “meticulous detail” in his book about how Darwinism is responsible for the Holocaust. But in typical Creationist fashion, he can’t even get through a summary of his points without blatant dishonesty. Writes Weikart
3. Darwin and other Darwinists recognized that if morality was the product of mindless evolution, then there is no objective, fixed morality and thus no objective human rights. Darwin stated in his Autobiography that one “can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones.”
Before I address Weikart’s shameless dishonesty, I should reiterate that the moral implications of evolutionary biology, not to mention Darwin’s own views on morality, are absolutely irrelevant to the question of whether evolution is true. Even if the Creationists were right–and they’re not–about Darwin’s supposed influence on Hitler, that would not change the fact of evolution one bit. And so their honesty is, at best, nothing more than “some people misuse facts; therefore facts are bad.”
But that point aside, they’re hideously wrong about their connection, engaged in Jonah Goldberg-style cherrypicking to create a false impression. And not content with that, they’re also deliberately distorting Darwin’s words to try to paint him (falsely) as a moral relativist. Sure, Weikart’s quotation of Darwin does make it seem that Darwin doesn’t believe in morality, but a quick look at that passage in context tells us Darwin’s real position:
A man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones. A dog acts in this manner, but he does so blindly. A man, on the other hand, looks forwards and backwards, and compares his various feelings, desires and recollections. He then finds, in accordance with the verdict of all the wisest men that the highest satisfaction is derived from following certain impulses, namely the social instincts. If he acts for the good of others, he will receive the approbation of his fellow men and gain the love of those with whom he lives; and this latter gain undoubtedly is the highest pleasure on this earth. By degrees it will become intolerable to him to obey his sensuous passions rather than his higher impulses, which when rendered habitual may be almost called instincts. His reason may occasionally tell him to act in opposition to the opinion of others, whose approbation he will then not receive; but he will still have the solid satisfaction of knowing that he has followed his innermost guide or conscience.
Darwin’s suggestion that human morality rests on a combination of rationality and social sanction. That is a far cry from Weikart’s claim that Darwin is a denier of “objective human rights.” Darwin just saw as the objective basis of morality human rationality and experience, not the edicts of a strangely silent God.
Weikart would no doubt argue that this is still “subjective” in a sense, and might have a point, if he were really concerned with how to best define a moral code. But he isn’t–he’s trying desperately to make it appear that Darwin rejected the idea that we could know right from wrong. He’s implying–though cleverly avoiding stating–that Darwin was the dreaded moral relativist, when the passage in question indicates the opposite: that Darwin thought humans were all guided by a common moral compass; he definitely did not believe that all moral codes were equally valid, which is the claim of moral relativism.
So Weikart is a dishonest, quote-mining scumbag. I just wish it still surprised me when Creationists were revealed as such.
[For more on Expelled and Creationists lies about the Holocaust, check out Expelled Exposed.]
A perfect example of the dangers of fundamentalism April 14, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in Religion, wingnuts.
…comes from our old pal Rand at A Form of Sound Words:
“No,” I told the young man, “you and I are not talking the same language my friend. You see, you’re trying to make the world a better place through carnal means such as being sweet to your neighbour, picking up trash, and promoting some sort of benevolent socialism. That totally isn’t what I’m about. I’m not trying to make this fallen world a better place… it will never be a good place… that is, not until the Lord Jesus Christ returns. Then, and only then will the Earth get cleaned up, men will live in peace with their neighbours, and the Lord will rule over all in righteousness. What I’m about tonight? I’m preaching the Gospel of Life so that God’s sheep could be saved out of the ways of this evil and perverse world.”(emphasis added)
And that, my friends, is why I worry about those who believe life is toil and death the reward. It’s why we see Fundies pushing for “support” of Israel–in order to hasten the return of Jesus, not to make people’s lives better. Those who believe the world is evil and corrupt and beyond help have little reason to make it a better place.
(Note: there are plenty of Christians, including evangelical Christians, who believe, as I do, that such an outlook is foolish and dangerous. I’m not talking about them. But I think the dangers of fundamentalist thinking on this issue is perfectly clear.)
Denyse O’Leary is unintentionally revealing April 14, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in Religion, Science, wingnuts.
add a comment
Over at Uncommon Descent, while busy working on her link farm, Denyse O’Leary thinks the Expelled Exposed website isn’t very cool:
But wait … maybe they can’t come up with something better. Does that mean they are losing the culture war?
Given the amount of mockery directed at Expelled, it seems that O’Leary might be projecting. But she should be more careful about admitting her real agenda. While the Discovery Institute tries to separate itself from the Wedge Document, it’s probably a good idea that they don’t admit that they care far more about the “culture war” than they do about actually doing science. Of course, if they actually did science, rather than spend her time trying to blame Hitler on Darwin, then they wouldn’t have a problem with being oppressed by people who demand actual science from science curricula.
But, bereft of ideas, the proponents of creationism Intelligent Design can only hope to win the culture war. And since they can’t win on the strength of their ideas, they have to try for religious indoctrination in schools. And, of course, whine about being “expelled.”
Christopher Hitchens: Yes, still a complete ass April 7, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in bigotry, wingnuts.
SULLIVAN: Again, you keep playing with that quote. We’re happy to have it on the record. And now you’ve made me forget my second point, which is –
HITCHENS: Oh, well, don’t be such a lesbian. Get on with it.
No doubt Hitchens will respond that only he is clever enough to know why that’s funny. I swear, every time that man opens his mouth, I detest him more.
Martin Cothran on homosexuality April 1, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in bigotry, sex, wingnuts.
I enjoy it when ID advocates make clear their stances on other issues, because I think a number of well-meaning, scientifically uninformed people tend to be sympathetic to ID, yet when ID advocates make their real agendas and beliefs clear, they demonstrate what they really want. And of course, they establish their credibility.
Plus, it’s too often hilarious. In example, check out Martin Cothran’s latest shot at Ed Brayton. Cothran seems positively obsessed with claiming Brayton is obsessed with anything gay.* But Cothran can’t help but display his ignorance and his privilege (emphasis added):
In case you hadn’t noticed, activist homosexuals take it as a personal affront that you disagree with them. Why? Heterosexuals do not take it as a personal affront if homosexuals disagree with them. So what gives? Why do homosexuals have this deep-seated need to be agreed with? And why the violent reaction when you disagree with them? It has nothing to do with anything you might want to do to them. You may very well want to mind your own business and prefer them to mind theirs (and, possibly, not want their homosexuality waved in your face every five minutes). It’s not what you might do that bothers them: it’s what you believe. They simply can’t stand the fact that you won’t accept what they do.
The irony, it burns! I guess Cothran has never heard of Matthew Shepard. Or maybe Shepard’s killers aren’t the heterosexuals who Cothran is discussing. Or maybe he’s thinking of the vicious gangs of lesbians that Bill O is so afraid of. Cothran loves rhetoric, so I have to wonder how he could be so blind to the realities of homophobia that he would accuse gay people of being “violent” in their disagreement–and this in a world where actual violence against homosexuals is a very real, very horrific problem.
Given that Cothran thinks that its gay people who are violently shoving their lifestyle in his face, I can’t be surprised that he’s obviously never considered what it might be like to be gay, to have heterosexuality “waved in your face” all the time, to be told you’re different and evil, to be told you can’t marry the person you love; to be at risk of assault because you like the “wrong” gender. Cothran lives in a world of heterosexual privilege, and he’s so blind to it that he actually accuses homosexuals of perpetuating the acts they are victims of.
Despite Cothran’s protestations, it isn’t what people think that concerns me, it is the way that bigots try to make their bigotry enshrined by law and culture. Cothran claims that he wants to “mind [his] own business,” yet he does so while breathlessly worrying about those mean homosexuals who desperately want his approval, and who get all violent when they don’t get their way, so somehow I doubt he’s going to join in the calls to stop legislating anti-gay bigotry. I doubt he’ll help push for a world where people don’t face discrimination due to the gender(s) they’re attracted to. No, he’s much more likely to go on complaining about those mean gay people shoving their fashion sense in his face.
On the plus side, Cothran’s stellar reasoning is much easier to see here than it is when he defends ID. No need to know anything about science to see how ludicrous is his position: you just need to observe how the world actually works, and compare it to the Land of the Oppressive Gays that Cothran apparently sees.
*Naturally, for Cothran this is an insult. Cothran obviously doesn’t see why protecting the rights of the minority is a problem. I wonder why a straight Christian man like Cothran would feel that way. Hmm.
[Edit: fixed typos. Sorry about that!]
[Update: Cothran has responded on his blog by creating and refuting a strawman and failing to address my actual argument. But he did call me "hysterical," which is awesome. I can feel my uterus wandering!]